After spending almost five months in Peru, I anticipated Ecuador with great excitement. It welcomed straight away with a great sunset from my camp spot near a football and volleyball court in a tiny village a few kilometers from the border.
It wasn’t easy riding though. Other cyclists I met, who were coming down from Ecuador, always told me, that the roads are super steep compared to the rather long and steady climbs in Peru. Exactly that was directly the case after I crossed the border. The gradients went up and I saw myself pushing a couple of times up the dirt road.
The first 50 km were quite low before it went back up to over 1500 meters altitude. Thus it was still damn hot and humid and at plenty shady spots I needed to stop to cool down before tackling the next hill.
Rivers were even better than shade to cool down. Eventually swimming in a river was enjoyable again compared to the freezing mountain river in the Cordillera Blanca.
Like almost everywhere the people and hospitality has been great as well. On my second night I asked Andres if I could camp next to his house. No problema. The next morning he got ready to hunt an showed me proudly his rifle, while his dog Luis was jumping around. Before he left he gave a whole pineapple for lunch. Of course I accepted it, but a heavy bulky pineapple isn’t the most practical fruit to carry on a bicycle.
One night I couldn’t really find place to camp and I haven’t seen people I could ask too. Just before sunset I passed this house. No one was there, but a few hundred meters away on the same property was a family living in a much more simple house. I asked them if there was somewhere space for my tent. The father of the family just pointed to that house on the photo and meant it wouldn’t be a problem to sleep inside, it was empty for the moment. More than happy about this situation I didn’t asked more questions and pushed my bike there. Indeed the house was completely empty, but the shower and electricity worked, everything a cyclists needs.
As I got further north and higher again the landscape changed from green to brown again. At least it was much cooler than in my first days in Ecuador.
The fire brigade or in Spanish bomberos have a reputation for being very friendly to cyclists. One night I tried it out. I even haven’t had to ask some on. As soon as I pushed my bike on the yard of the station one guy walked straight to me and told me I could sleep inside in a bed. Awesome hospitality.
This is Jesse from Australia. He’s started as well riding his bike in Ushuaia and the first time we met in a hostel in Huaraz. I knew that he was just a little bit ahead of me and it was great to run into him in a village. As we both had the same plans and haven’t been riding with someone else for a while we decided to cycle together for some time.
Camping in the middle of plazas in villages is usually no problem at all, if you can deal with a curious crowd of kids the next morning. While packing up our tents the kids fired thousands of questions to us. Questions we both have already answered a million times, although it’s not always easy to stay patient, generally it’s fun and interesting to joke with the kids.
Somewhere in the middle of Ecuador I finally had to retire my front tire. It is still the first one I got with the bike in Bangkok. Incredible that it lasted that long, over 30,000km and lots of countries on three continents. I hope the new one will do the same job.
Banos is a quite touristic little town and we wanted to stay a little bit to climb the nearby volcano Tungurahua. As we just want to pay for accommodation if it’s really necessary, we were really happy about the ground keeper of the local stadium letting us sleep four nights on the grass. On the Sunday though we had to make room for a football match.
From Banos we hiked up to a refugio on the slopes of Tungurahua. It was raining and foggy, we didn’t have any views and I was skeptical if it would make sense at all to attempt to hike up the 5000m peak the next morning.
Of course I had to it, regardless of the weather and so I got up at 3am to start walking up alone the steep slope. Surprisingly it was not that cloudy and I could see the lights of Ambato down in the valley and when finally the sun got up I was surrounded by an incredible panorama.
The Volcano Chimborazo is with 6,268 meters the highest one in Ecuador and also the farthest point away from earth’s center, even farther than the summit of Mount Everest, as it is closer to the equator.
Tungurahua is an active Volcano and erupts still frequently. Near the summit the rocks were warm and the fresh snow was steaming away. Before it got more active again in the recent years, the peak was covered completely in ice, but now it’s melting away, some rests of the glacier is still there though.
Cotopaxi, probably Ecuador’s most famous volcano.
Darren, another cycle tourist, Jesse and myself. Darren met us the day before in Banos and joined us spontaneously for the hike up to the refugio. He put a video of the hike on his Youtube channel.
One last view back on Tungurahua before we were heading further north.
Secondary roads in Ecuador are often neither properly paved or simply dirt, we encountered quite a few old cobblestone roads. This kind of road surface turned out to be the most annoying surface I’ve ever ridden on. We’ve always been more than glad, when the road turned into dirt or tarmac.
The majestic Cotopaxi in beautiful weather conditions. The only time we should see this mountain so perfectly.
At Laguna Quilotoa we pitched our tents straight at the rim of the caldera. It was so great, that we spontaneously decided to stay for two nights at this spot.
Unfortunately the good weather didn’t last long and when we got to the Cotopaxi National Park, it was already raining and foggy. We ended up camping three nights under a shelter at a free camp spot inside the park in the hope for a good view on the volcano. But only for a few hours the thick layer of clouds were opening a tiny bit, so that we could the see summit. The rest of the time we were hanging out with some other travelers next to the fireplace at the shelter.
That’s how good it got. Despite the clouds it was still an amazing place. At the moment it’s not allowed to climb up to the summit, as the volcanic activity increased during the last year and eruptions seem to be too unpredictable. Everywhere in the park as well as further down in the villages were emergency and evacuation signs.
The orange dot is Jesse, riding back to our camp.
Into the fog.
After a long rest over Christmas in the Casa de Ciclistas in Tumbaco near Quito, it was time to leave the southern hemisphere behind. From Ushuaia till the equator I made it up 57 degrees. The same amount again and I will be already somewhere in Canada. Over two years on the southern side of the planet were enough anyways.
Altogether we stayed nine times at fire stations in Ecuador. A big thanks to all of them!
Espeletia, an endemic high altitude plant in Ecuador and Colombia.
The view down into the green valley.
The last kilometers in Ecuador towards the border town of Tulcan had some surprises for us. The day before heavy rain forced us to stay in a mountain refuge. It wasn’t raining anymore the next morning, but the road was partly flooded and we had to cross several large puddles. A great last riding day in Ecuador.
While Jesse crossed into Colombia the same day, I still had to wait for parcel, what should have arrived already weeks before, but the post service in South America is everything than reliable. I ended up taking a bus back to the Casa de Ciclistas in Tumbaco, where I stayed another two weeks before my parcel arrived.