Ecuador ...the centre of the earth!
At a brief stop for water I noticed Bec was a little subdued; maybe it was the altitude? On further investigation I found out she had just realised we had already passed the equator...400kms ago!
Another border to ticked off, eleven countries so far I think the oracle (Bec) said.
It was almost 6 months since we had started... where did that go? All 43,000kms on the odometers of our bikes!
We decided on crossing the border at Ipales as reports had said it was easy…. Yes and no, but we made it through.
Onto Quito which was about 3 hrs away. We had been delayed longer than expected at the border so had to ride fast before dark. The roads again were stunning as was the scenery, a little bit cooler too, making for a comfortable ride.
Ecuador is similar in size to NZ, but with a population of nearly 18million people compared to the 5 in NZ.
It’s split more or less into 3 with the Andes down the middle and lots of volcanoes, then jungle to the right and drier plains leading to the sea on the left (they also own the Galápagos Islands but that’ll have to wait for another day).
Agriculture is prominent as is horticulture with large swathes of area under sun/ wind cloth and paddocks that looked vertical all the way up mountain sides.
Elevation had increased with an average of 2500 metres but peaking at over 4.
Quito (the capital) was our overnight stop and Bec had managed to find a great little hotel in the middle of the city where we were greeted by a young guy who was beside himself when he saw the bikes (they do love their motorcycles here) and reminded me of Manuel off Faulty Towers the way he excitedly directed me where to put the bikes.
Time to eat, and we were starving after not having time to stop for lunch. The decision was made to treat ourselves to a high end to a Peruvian Fusion restaurant and have a slap up dinner; that was until the girl at the door physically looked us up and down and told these two Scooby Doo lookalike’s (who’s Shaggy and who’s Thelma ...I’ll let you decide) that they would have to sit at the bar …nope!
The Italian next door it was then, and as we’ve found numerous times on this trip, turned out for the better when the waiter provided us with a free Spanish lesson for the evening and friendly banter all night.
I have nothing to really report on the capital as we were on the road again early to beat the traffic and head for our next stop at the town of Banos via the long route over the Andes and through the jungle.
The road took us through some stunning areas, up and down mountain passes; cold one minute and sweating the next as we trundled through jungle at lower elevations and misty rocky outcrops higher up.
National dress (like you see in books as a kid of South America) was becoming more apparent in the country side, with women in red or black skirts (some embroidered and sequinned), Clint Eastward blankets, and pork pie hats. The men were similar, but wore trousers.
These people had a darker complexion and looked weather beaten but fit and gnarly, true workers of the land.
No tractors to harvest the maize here as most of the ground it was grown on was too steep, so it is all cut by hand dragged on a tarp to the bottom of the hill/mountain to the waiting truck and loaded again by hand before been taken to a modern facility for processing.
We had already become professional dog dodgers but now had another thing to contend with, regular rock falls, which were usually spread across the road on a corner exit. Some of the slips had been sufficient in power and size to flatten barriers and gouge large holes in the road surface!
The following day we decided to have a day trip and left Banos minus luggage, around the bottom of the snow capped Chinazoo volcano.
Stopping for fuel about halfway into the ride saw us having a coffee at a small cafe where the lady cooked (well fried actually) the most delicious cheese filled empanadas using wheat flour, they were about the size of half a dinner plate, we made the mistake of ordering 4 and two maize flour spinach chicken filled empanadas abtly named “empanadas verde”.
This took us up to 4400metres making for some hard breathing, but the landscape was immense.
I made a wrong call at one point going past a big mound of earth in the centre of the road down a track only to be met half way down by two diggers clearing a large slip ...and I thought the people waving on the way were just been friendly!
We saw our first llamas, one on the high mountain pass and another just sat in the middle of the road in the middle of a village; some wayward cattle been led, or not as the case may be, by their owners, complete sides of pork been butchers and then cooked at the roadside together with… wait for it..Guinea pigs on a rotisserie!! (I will try some and let you know).
Roadside stalls with vendors all vieing for business next to each other, they sell everything in blocks of the same produce, from candy to fruit to BBQ'd corn of the cob. Not sure how that works?
Another highlight was stumbling on a village with the most intricate topiary I’ve ever seen with hedges clipped into all manner of things from a train through to a hippo.
At a brief stop for water I noticed Bec was a little subdued, maybe it was the altitude, on further investigation I found out she had just realised we had already passed the equator upon entering Ecuador ...some 400kms away! Poor girl had desperately wanted to photograph the moment doing the water experiment. I reasoned that it wasn’t going anywhere so we were likely to cross it again on another continent, did that help… nope!
There are pluses and minuses to our "non planning strategies of following our noses each day after consulting the locals and this was definitely one of the disadvantages!
After many hours in the saddle and sunburn; I had ridden most of the day with my visor open and got some strange looks when only the front of my face was red but the rest was white where my helmet had covered it, Bec said it was fine but walked about 10 paces in front of me with a silly grin !!
And so onto Cuenca…..