For whatever reason I was expecting Ecuador to be very poor similar to central America. There seems to be plenty of ongoings, nice cars, lots of MX riders on the street which is pretty cool, hostpitals, etc…. Combine that with $3 meals, $1 beers, and $2/gallon of premium gas, you really can’t go wrong in Ecuador. I won’t go on and on about the landscape because as of right now it is identical to Colombia. The road is quite nice but it no longer circumnavigates the cities….it plunges right through the heart which is rather unfortunate.
However the buses are “Full Retarded”
About 4:00 we rolled into Otavalo and then climbed another 500 ft. to our campsite right out of town. And guess who was waiting for us at the campsite………Marnix and Lisan!! What a surprise. We were planning to meet them in southern Ecuador but they decided to stick around and wait unbeknownst to us. So back into town we ran to grab a shitty bottle of whiskey and a jug of water so that I could change my oil. With the tent setup, oil changed, and drinks mixed we exchanged stories and had enough fun to require a healthy dose of IBProfen for breakfast.
After finishing the bottle “Old Times” whiskey nobody was feeling too great in the morning. After some pears and granola I fell back asleep on a concrete pad for an hour or so. We didn’t get picked up and out of the area until just before noon. The plans was to head for a crater lake (Quilotoa) up around 14,000 ft. We drove very slowly, got lost in Quito (gps maps not updated and Marnix’s unit was broken), got caught in the rain, so time was short.
We stopped for lunch at 4:00 because the restaurant sign said it had Guinea Pig (which Marnix and I want to try) but they were all out. We settled for chicken and discussed the plan. In the end we decided to head for Banos instead of the Crater.
Dropped the 4,000 ft into Banos in the pitch black which is very unfortunate. You could tell it was a fantastic rode but at night it was full of traffic and my headlight makes night riding less than comfortable. Quickly ascertained a hostel dorm room just for the 4 of us for $30. I wish I had more time in Ecuador because the prices are very very appealing. (Diesel is $1/gallon for all you big rig fanatics).
Hostel had a great beds so we slept in and then went to the roof top for pancakes and fruit. It is always interesting to driveinto a place in the dark and then see where you ended up in the morning. Banos did not disappoint. Sharp rocky mountain faces sticking straight up all around the city.
After breakfast we took a cab about 8 miles out of town to a “troll/gondola” that supposedly goes between a couple of waterfalls. We are expecting some glass enclosed carriage that took you up a mountain side. That was not the case. It was an open air job that just flys off a cliff at about 25mph and shoots you over to the other side where the waterfalls are at which point it screeches to a halt and while you dangle back and forth and you snap some photos before you haul ass backwards to the center of the ravine where you screech to a halt and swing around staring down about 600 ft while I contemplate browning myself because heights are not my friend. We made it back safely but I have no intention to ride another one of these diesel powered roll cages hanging by twine.
Then roamed the streets and landed in a little shop for a typical lunch (another epic fail on the guinea pig….they only serve it on Saturday and Sunday here….must be special).
Spent some time uploading and typing and then headed for the grocery store for dinner. Marnix and Lisan have a different time frame than us so this is our last evening together…..at least on this journey. We bought dinner supplies and they got the rum and we had a great evening together.
During dinner we also met Fritz from Portland, OR who is riding south to north. He is one tall dude.
For whatever reason we decided to deviate from the PanAm and head east into the outskirts of the amazon. This turned out to be a fantastic decision. A little rain early on but I would say it is the best paved road I have ever been on. Literally 150 miles of twisting turns not overly tight but enough to make you down shift for each one. The road was also brand new so no potholes…..just a few construction surprises. Then to top it all off the following 150 miles was packed full of waterfalls gushing from the mountain sides. Swollen rivers and epic scenery for the entire 370 mile trip to Vilcabamba! I fricken love Ecuador!!!
At one point we deviated a little and found a sketchy suspension bridge to cross….oh what fun!
Vilcabamba to San Ignacio…..Ecuador to Peru:
We have opted for a “less traveled” border crossing knowing that a portion of the road is not paved. In reality, 90% was unpaved, there were 6 small river crossings, a portion of the road at 10,000 ft. in the cloud forest with heavy construction and wet muddy conditions.
We climbed out of the bowl that is Vilcabamba, snapped a photo, then dropped off the backside twisting and turning on a lovely paved road. 30 miles later the pavement ended and the real fun began. 60 miles of Mud, dirt, gravel, water crossing, rain, construction, etc…. and we made it to the border. This was far and away the best ride of the entire trip. That is pretty impressive to have back to back days in the top 3 of the whole adventure. It is so unfortunate that I don’t have more time for Ecuador.
Covered in mud we pull up to the Aduana and exit the bikes. Next door the passports are quickly stamped…..all in 15 minutes. Needless to say there was no line here.
Across the border bridge we get our passports stamped and then off to the Aduana. The customs guy was an older gentleman and quite the character. Every 5 minutes or so he would belt out an Italian Opera line as loud as he could (pretty good too). This process took about 90 minutes because the internet kept going down. The old guy actually let me sit next to him and type in the VIN number so there weren’t any mistakes. He was very nice and the delay was not at all due to SBS.
The road to San Ignacio was primarily paved with only a few miles of dirt. The town itself was shit.