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Ecuador #2 Daily Journal
Travel Writing, Blog, Travelogue
Riobamba to Macara, (the
Peruvian border), Ecuador
(July 9 - Aug 4, 2003)
||Riobamba - Columbe. We started our climb out of
Riobamba a little late. We had a few things to fix before we left.
The water filter needed to be lubed and the stove had to be completely
disassembled. Apparently the gasoline in Ecuador is the worst we
have encountered. The carbon builds up and clogs the jets.
We have cleaned the fuel line twice. The road out of town headed
west and we had a good tail wind. We climbed steadily and the road
went from bad to worse to recently paved. We had lunch in the only
restaurant we could find. We were again at high altitude and we
rode over a pass of 3,350 meters (11,150 feet) It began to rain as
we coasted down the other side. We decided to look for a place to
Tim stopped and asked a man if we could camp near his yard and
he said no it is not safe, please stay inside the house. That is
when we met Enreano and his family, they are Quechua Indian.
Enreano is 20 years old, his wife Rosia, is 18 years old, and their son
Kevin, is 2 years old. They invited us to take a shower, the shower
house looked like it had recently been put up and it even had hot water.
When Enreano told us that he had a computer we could not believe it.
He took us to a room and showed us his computer and said that it was
only 5 months old. Tim and Enreano sat down for hours working away
on the computer. Tim showed Enreano what he could do with the
computer, they both were delighted. I on the other hand
entertained the ladies. I made dinner of pasta with mushrooms and
tomato sauce. They did not like pasta and did not even want to try
the sauce. They preferred potatoes and chicken. We all
gathered together in the computer room and we took some photos of the
family for Enreano. It turns out the Enreano is going away to
school in the fall. He is going to Cuba for university. I do
not think he is taking his wife and child, Tim does. He was very
thankful to have the photos of his family.
They asked us how old we were, how much money did we make and how
much our things cost. We played down the cost of things and how
much money we made when we were working but we were truthful about our
age. They told us that a teacher makes $150 per month and that is
three times as much as everyone else. Wow, no wonder they live so
||Columbe - Alausi. We woke up to rain, this made
it hard to pack up. I was talking with the ladies in the yard and
asked them about some jewelry that they were wearing. They like to
wear beads of all kinds. Before I knew it I was wearing a couple
of strands of beads. I could not resist and bought a strand of red
beads from them.
As we packed up we had the entire family as an
audience. The women specifically asked me about my seat, they all
had to touch it. I told them that it really was comfortable to
ride on. They just marveled over everything we had. I felt
like a spoiled brat that had every thing. My instinct was to give
them something, I guess I was trying to make myself feel better.
In the end I gave them some tea I had, they did not even have that.
They told me that they never buy anything from the store. Hmm, it
puzzles me how Enreano got a brand new computer that he said cost $1200
We were fully dressed in tights and jackets when we left, it was
chilly outside but at least it was not raining. We stopped in the
town of Guamote, just 10 kilometers (6 miles) down the road for lunch.
We met a couple of Americans, who were doing community development.
They told us that there is a program supported by the World Bank to
assist the local indigenous Indians. They said that there was a
leadership program where they would train future leaders of the
indigenous. Maybe that is where Enreano got his computer.
We rode on and again climbed over a pass of 3,400 meters (11,400
feet) and descended back down to 2,800 meters (9,300 feet). I
thought Alausi was right around the corner. Ahgh. We turned
the corner and there was another up hill climb, I could not even see the
top because it was covered in clouds. I was not sure if I had the
energy to get up and over that hill. On top of that the hill was
very steep. As we were climb ever so slowly, you can guess what
happen, I heard the hissing sound of not a snake but Tim's tire.
Great, just great. Tim had a
flat tire, on the hill. So the
sun is going down, it is getting cold and Tim is wrestling with that
damn Continental Town and Country. Unfortunately, we had to buy
it, we prefer Continental top touring. The reason we do not like
the town and country is because it is extremely difficult to get off the
rim and we (Tim) have bent many tire levers trying to get it off.
Finally the tire is fixed and up we go back to 3,100 (10,300 feet).
There is a down hill somewhere around here. We topped the hill and
we dropped like a rock down to Alausi elevation 2400 meters (8,000
feet), we passed trucks going down the hill. I also could see that
we had a frightful climb out of this hole. Ah well we can save
that for another day. All and all it has been a good day, I always
say, "It is better to ride on your birthday then not".
We got a room at Hotel Gampala, we negotiated $10 per night for a
double room with a private bath (original price was $14/ night).
We reluctantly left our bikes in a down stairs closet.
||Alausi. Rest day. We took the
train through the
"devils nose" today. It was suppose to be an hour and a half ride
from Alausi to Sibambe and back. The roof of the train was already
crowded with passengers from Riobamba, it had taken 4 hours to reach
Alausi and it had rained half the time. We squeezed between a
couple of people and next to a vender who was an absolute blast all the
way down and back. The vender pointed out different crops and was
pleasant the entire time. He even held on to me while I stood up
while the train was racing down the tracks. A little thrill is
As we were zig zagging through the devils nose the train
derailed off the track. We were stuck for some time. It was
not a planned event but still entertaining. They got the wheels
back on the track the old fashion way, with rocks and creosote leaves
for lubrication, ingenious I thought. With the train back on the
track we were again on our way.
We arrived back in town at 2:45 pm, many of the other riders were on
their way to Cuenca, a five hour ride on a bus. What a long day.
I wish I could check my email and see how the
tour de France is going,
but there is no internet in this town. Too bad. Today is the
team time trial.
||Alausi. Rest day. We spent the day reading
and repairing various equipment.
||Alausi - Chunchi. We left Alausi on
market day. Right off the bat we had a 400
meter (1300 feet) climb. When we got to the top to take a break
and some pictures of town we noticed Tim's tire was going flat again!.
We inspected his front tire and found a huge piece of glass in it.
I had to dig it out with the leatherman. We fix the tire and
headed down the road. Fifteen minutes later Tim stopped to take
some video. Suddenly I hear Tim yelling my name. His front
tire had gone flat again. This is getting tedious. So again,
Tim changed the tire and we started to roll again when again, the tire
went flat, apparently the valve went bad. It seemed like hours
later we back on the road. Before long we were looking for a place
The road turned from paved to dirt. Tim decided to
video tape me going down the road so naturally I went first. I
turned the corner and I saw a man holding a rope across the road.
This brought back memories of Chiapas, Mexico, usually they want money
and are not very friendly. As I approached the rope the man
dropped it and lunged at me, yelling siete, siete, (7, 7,) he wanted 7
dollars for me to pass. I shifted in high gear and stepped on it.
Luckily, Tim saw what was happening and came barreling down the hill to
protect me. The man saw Tim coming and ran off never to be seen
again. The road remained rough for a little while longer. By
the time we hit pavement again my insides were rattled beyond belief.
A few more kilometers down the road we picked up some water from a
cement block and picked a place to
camp. Little did I know it was
an area infested with mosquitos, yes we happen to be camped near a
spring, not a good choice. I had about 20 bites on my legs before
we had the tent up.
||Chunchi - Santa Rosa. We had breakfast in Chunchi, we
were overcharged, then we bought gas and the attendant tried to over
charge us again. Some towns are just not friendly to tourists.
The day was clear and warm we quickly set into a routine. We would
climb around a ridge only to descend back down to the base level of the
next tributary canyon. The scenery was incredibly breath taking.
High mountain peaks to the east and the cloud covered coastal plain to
the west. On one of the tortuous climbs a pick up truck pulled
over and asked us if we wanted a ride to El Tambo. It was very
tempting, but we did not want to start taking rides yet. We needed
to get in shape from all our time off.
We climbed on and on and
finally found a place hidden from the road. We could see
Chimborazo off in the distance. At night we could see the big
dipper, the ladle appears ready to scoop water, and the north star is
directly over head. I believe that it was one of our most
scenic and comfortable
camp sites ever.
||Santa Rosa - El Tambo. The morning sun was hot so
we packed up quickly. While we were back in the
States we bought a new watch that happen to have a compass, altimeter,
and barometer on it as well. Today was the first day that I attempt to record
our total ascent and decent in meters. So when I remember to turn
the log on I will summarize the data from it.
We climbed and descended
all day. At the top of the first summit we met Luis, who was
waiting for a bus. He is a radio announce, he had a great voice.
I have to say that the people in Ecuador have been extremely friendly
and a joy to meet. We stopped at Zhud for lunch. It was the
climb after lunch that really tested me, I was beginning to wonder if we
were going to make it to El Tambo. We finally arrived in El Tambo
and I checked out the only place to stay in town. Residential Estefania.
The room was acceptable but oh the bathroom was nasty, it smelled so bad
when she opened the door that I had to run. I convinced Tim that
we should look for another place. We spent the next 45 minutes
riding around town and to no avail, we did not find anything else. So
back to the Estefania we went. They charged $6 for the room.
I highly recommend that you do not stay in El Tambo.
Today we ascended 955 meters ( 3150 feet), and descended 750 meters
||El Tambo -
Canar. We got out of town as quick as we
could. The weather is changing and it is very windy. On our
way to Canar Tim got
another flat tire. When we inspected the tire
we found a bone, yes I said bone. Strange. It took an hour
to ride to Canar from El Tambo. The wind was wearing me out so I
convinced Tim to stay the night in Canar. Of course we had to ride
up cobblestone streets to get to the center of town. I could not
make it up the hill but Tim rode on, by the time he reached the top he
had a crowd cheering him on.
I on the other hand I had to push my bike
up the hill. We stayed in Hotel Ingapirca. It was just the
opposite of El Tambo. The room had a TV, one large bed, a private
bath with hot water. We were also in luck. ESPN had a recap of the
Tour de France, in spanish, and a half hour show on Lance Armstrong.
What an inspiration. I was ready to ride tomorrow.
||Canar - Cuenca. The windy weather yesterday must
have been a front coming through because it rained last night and it was
very cloudy today. We decided to ride today anyway. Ten
minutes up the hill and it started to
rain. We waited until it let
up and began to ride again, at this point it was warmer to keep
riding. As we approached the top it began to rain hard and there
was no where to stop and take cover. So we rode on. I
thought that the weather would clear once we went over the top, but I
was completely wrong. The clouds were so thick we could not see.
We put our lights on and rode on. We descended for about an hour
and stopped at the first restaurant we saw. We were both cold, wet
and hungry. Lunch was unimpressive but warmed us up. We
continued to descend and had to stop when Tim's front brake was not working.
We dried out by the time we arrived at the town of Azogues, this lifted
out spirits and we decided to roll on into Cuenca. As we
approached Cuenca it began to rain again. By the time we arrived
at the Plaza we were again very wet. I went in search of a hotel
Hotel, $14 per night includes breakfast, comfortable room, cable TV, and
unlimited hot water. The hotel is a comfortable place and the
staff are very friendly.
We ascended 925 meters (3050 feet) and descended 1480
(4800 feet) today.
||Cuenca. Visited the
today. It is a beautiful church made of pink and white marble with
at every alter. The interior of the Cathedral is lit by natural
sun light through the stained glass. At night the exterior of the
building glows a pinkish hue. Just a block away there is a square, I
call it flower square, they sell tons of
I try to go by here everyday.
We went in search of internet cafes
today. All that we have found are very slow.
||Cuenca. Explored the river walk today. This
is one of the first Latin American cities that has a river going through
it that does not smell like sewer. Explored other parts of town.
Found a great Internet Cafe called Bapunet. It is faster than any
other connection we have had in Ecuador.
||Cuenca. Took the day off and watched movies and
the Tour de France highlights on ESPN.
||Cuenca. We originally were going to leave today
but we still have chores to do around town so we will leave tomorrow.
Our stove is not working well and we spent three hours looking for a
replacement, we did not find a stove we liked so we are going to try and
keep our original going. Maybe it will get better when we get to
Peru where we can use white gas.
I never realized how easy we have it
in the USA. When we want something, anything, we either go buy it
in the store or order it off the internet. Here, we are lucky to
find half the things we are looking for. Since this is our second
year on the road our equipment is starting to have wear and tear.
It seems we are constantly fixing something these days.
||Cuenca. I decided to color my hair today, the amount of
gray is on the rise. I went to the store and found the color I
thought would work. I looked at the directions and pulled out my
dictionary. Half way through the instructions I thought, should I
be doing this. Ah what the hey, I do not know anyone here.
45 minutes later I have a new color, Wella Kolston tabasco mediano
number 773. I think it came out all right, Tim did not complain so
that was a good sign. Then again, Tim does not complain about
We have been having problems with our charger for the computer.
The wire has twisted to the point where it has come apart. It was
either fix it our not be able to charge the computer. This was
quite the task, we went to the internet cafe, they could not help us,
they sent us to the radio and TV store, they could not help us. We
were walking back to the room, I felt defeated, when we saw a sign for
copies and a technician sign. We went in, made some copies of our
flyer and spoke to the technician about the charger cord. He took
a look at it and said he could fix it. Tim was nervous the whole
time he was working on it. It took him about an hour to fix it, he
was very meticulous with the whole process. We tried it out and
wha la, it worked. Of course this will be a temporary fix until we
get another one sent from the States. Total cost of the fix was $5.00,
||Cuenca - Cumbe We left Cuenca late, we usually do
when we stay somewhere for a long time. We got gas for the stove
and headed out for Cumbe. It seems that Ecuador is having more
problems with gasoline shortages, they did not have Super, the entire
country does not have Super. I would hate to put this crappy gas
in a new car.
The road was relatively flat to Cumbe, a novelty to us. I felt
like I could ride all day. We stopped in Cumbe for lunch, there
were no resturants so we had our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
funny but I have not gotten tired of them yet. We asked for water
but it seemed that the city pump was off so no one in town had any
water. We bought 5 liters at the store, the clerk charged us
$1.50, I knew we could buy it for a $1.00 in Cuenca and when he left his
mother tried to charge us $2.00. We said no thanks and were ready
to leave the water when she accepted $1.50. It is not the money
that upsets me so much, it is the discrimination of sorts. You are
not from around here, I think I will take advantage of you! That
is what I do not like. However, I should not let one bad apple spoil the
The road turned up after Cumbe and 3 km out of town it started to
rain. We were riding up a canyon and there were homes everywhere,
therefore, no where to camp. We turned a corner and saw a group of
men building a house. Tim decided to ride across the street and
talk to the man about camping. Lauro, the owner of the new house He checked with his
neighbor and said we could put out tent under the front porch. The
house was just built and they were working on the inside. The
floors were not even in yet.
while we set up the tent. We also cleaned Tim's crank and bottom
bracket. The rain was hard on our equipment and Tim's new
crank was clicking when he rode.
It was nice to be out of the rain and all of our gear clean and dry.
||Cumbe - Loja. We woke up at 6:00 am to children
outside our tent. I think they wanted to play, I wanted to sleep.
We had breakfast and left knowing our road was going to climb over a
3525 meter (11,600 foot) pass. After 30 minutes of riding, it
started to rain and rain hard, we found a store overhang to stand under
to keep out of the rain. We stood under the overhang for over an
hour thinking about what to do. We decided to wait and if the
weather was still bad then we would hop on a bus. We did not want
to ride the bus but we knew that this area was high and desolate, so a
hotel room would be out of the question. The thought of
hypothermia was not pleasant. We got a break in the weather and
jumped on our bikes, if we ended up wet and freezing we would flag down
So we climbed and climbed for 2 hours. The sky was
overcast but the road was dry. We topped our
pass in a wall
of mist. What else is new. As soon as we descended 200
meters (600 feet) it was clear and we could see that we were on a ridge
bound by very steep canyons. The riding was pleasant so we pushed
on. The road again turned up, the clouds rolled in and it began to
rain again. We knew if we just descended some it would clear.
We descended and came across a restaurant in the middle of no where.
We stopped and had a good hot lunch. I was wet and starting to get
cold. We decided to stop for the day. Tim asked the cook if
there was a hotel around, of course there wasn't, it does not hurt to
ask. She said that there was no hotel around. The closest
was in Ona some 36 kilometers (23 miles) away. At about this time
a truck pulled in and the driver got out to buy some cigarettes.
He heard our conversation and said he would give us a ride to Ona.
We could not turn him down, it was raining hard. So we put our
bikes in the back of his truck, and we were off on to another adventure.
It turns out he was driving all the way to Loja so we just stayed in
the truck. We spent the next 4 hours riding through beautiful
scenery. We were either going up or down. At about sunset
Freddie our driver informed us that he had not slept in two nights.
He then asked Tim to drive. Tim hesitantly said OK, it has been a
while. Now this truck was a pretty large Hino Cargo truck.
So Tim took the wheel and Freddie went to sleep. The going was
slow because it was raining, the road narrowed to a single lane and the
road was muddy. I personally would not have liked driving but Tim
did not seem to mind. About two hours later Freddie said that he
could drive again, he said we were close to Loja and would get there
soon. After meandering through a river valley for at least an hour
more we arrived in Loja.
Freddie dropped us off at an intersection and said el central was
less than a kilometer away. As we pulled our bikes from the back
of the truck we noticed yet again that Tim had a flat front tire.
I am beginning to think that that tire is old and soft. Since we
had less than a kilometer to go we decided to walk. Forty five
minutes later we were still walking. It seems that we were farther
from El central then we thought. The first hotel we came upon was
Hostel de Bus. An expensive room at $29 per night but hey it
included breakfast. We decided that this was an emergency
situation, it was dark, we had a flat, and it was 9:30 at night.
So we reluctantly took the room.
175 km by truck
||Loja. We had breakfast in the expensive hotel, it
came with the room. Why is it you pay more and get less? We
were on the street ready to go at noon. Of course it was raining.
We rode the 3 kilometers to the center of town.
I looked around at 4 different hotels. We decided to take the
cheapest we could find at Hostel Londres for $6.00 per night. It
had a shared bath, but at least it was clean. We met a group of
English high school students at the hotel.
In the middle of the night Tim woke up and said he heard mice.
We went to sleep with the light on for about two hours, that kept them
away. I guess you get what you pay for.
||Loja. It rained on and off all day. We
walked around town and got acquainted with the place. A large group
of English High School students had rented out a number of rooms for the
night so the Hostel was lively to say the least.
When we went to bed
we put all our food in one heavy bag and tied it high off the floor.
Tim slept better. I never did hear any mice.
||Loja. We woke up to more rain. We were
planning to leave today but decided against it. The last three
days of riding have been in the rain and neither one of us was willing
to leave in the rain.
We hung out in the room, took a nap, read, wrote ect. I was
getting antsy, I felt like we were taking to much time off the bike. Ah
||Loja to Catamayo. The road turned up immediately
from Loja. We topped the pass about 2 hours later. At the
top the wind was blowing so hard it almost knocked me off the bike,
luckily it was more of a tail wind then head wind. I was cold and
ready to drop some altitude.
We zipped down the other side to
Catamayo. The road was pleasant, the gradient good and the wind
strong enough so we did not have to brake much. In fact, we passed
a couple of trucks on the way down.
Lunch in Catamayo was good. We needed to decide whether we were
going to keep going or stay the night. I really wanted to ride but
we also knew we had a 2,000 foot climb in front of us and we were not
sure if there were any towns along the way to get water. We
decided since water was an issue and we were getting near the border so
camping may be risky it was time to stop for the night. We stayed
in Hotel Reina del Cinse for $6 per night.
||Catamayo to Km 970. We set off thinking we had at
least a 2,000 foot climb it was warm in the valley at 9:00 in the
morning. We steadily climbed for almost 2 hours and took a short
break. We continued to climb and always thought that the next turn
was the top. The scenery was breathtaking, and very dry.
This is familiar territory for us, it certainly was a desert with
cactus, cat claw, and even sage plants. The wind was usually at
our back but around some of the turns it was a strong head wind.
I was riding ahead of Tim looking for a place to take a break, when I
began turning a corner the wind began to pick up. Luckily it was a
tailwind, suddenly a huge gust hit me and I went from 3 mph to 8 mph in
a split second. I had to shift up to keep pedaling and my balance.
I had a difficult time controlling my bike as well. Finally, we took
another break and I was beginning to wonder where the top was. We
took a break where a small dirt road lead away from the highway.
We thought it was a great place to camp but we did not have enough water
to camp. We pushed on and soon found a house to get water.
We decided to go back to the first camp site. We set up camp and
enjoyed the view.
It turns out we climbed 1345 meters (4,400 feet) and descended 355
(1,100 feet) meters today.
||Km 970 - Catacocha. We had visitors this morning,
they were actually locals that lived on top of the near by mountain.
I could see the path wind its way up but I could not see any dwellings.
How in the world do they get their belongings up there.
It was windy
and a bit chilly, again the wind was at our back, most of the time.
We stopped in Verlacruz for some lunch but we were too early. We
pushed on thinking we could get something to eat in Catacocha. The
terrain felt familiar to me, dry and arid with cactus and colorful
We decided to stay the night in Catacocha, a town build on the side
of a hill. As we rode into town it felt like we were riding into
the wild west. People rode by on horses, walked by with burros in
tow, and the buildings were adobe with tile roofs. A very
picturesque town. The town was a good 400 feet above us but the
road meandered up nicely until the very end where it was steep.
Much to our surprise there were a number of hotels in town. The
first one we went to was over priced. The hotel we stayed at is
across from the church, hotel Tombebamba, the redeeming factor is it had
hot water. I recommend checking out the other hotels in towns
before choosing one.
We ascended 585 meters (1,900 feet) and descended 1015 meters (3,350)
||Catacocha. Decided to take a day off and visit
this unique town. It is definitely off the tourist trail.
The people are friendly and pleasant.
After dinner my stomach started
feeling queasy. In the middle of the night I tossed everything
from my stomach. In the morning I felt awful, so much for leaving
today. Tim forced me out the door to have some soup. Every
time I ate something my stomach would hurt so my appetite was very low.
At dinner I still had a hard time eating. In the middle of the
night my fever broke. I think that I had a stomach flu or virus
rather than Montezuma's revenge.
||Catacocha. I felt better this morning but still
weak. However, I did wake up with a fever blister. We decided to stay one more night for me to regain my
strength. We can not seem to get into a rhythm of riding.
Hopefully we can scoot through the desert quickly and back into the
highlands where it is cool.
||Catacocha - Km 45. 2 Rolling again. Ten minutes
down the road Tim got a flat tire on the front again. We cruised
down from Catacocha to the valley floor quickly, we dropped 750 meters,
(about 2,500 feet) in 20 minutes. We were now down in the desert.
Burros and goats seemed to roam freely
everywhere. We passed an intense game of volleyball, I am
sure they play for money. The temperature started to rise and
still we were dropping in elevation. Suddenly we came to the
immigration checkpoint. I was suffering in the heat and needed
some shade to sit out the hot part of the day. We sat with the
customs officers. They could see we were hungry and feed us papaya, bread, cheese,
coke. I could stay all day. The papaya was the best I ever had, it
did not have the bitter taste at all. We filled our 10 liter water bag
and was prepared to ride on. This is when we found that I had a
flat tire. Flat tires are the curse of cyclists.
We found a
great place to camp in a gravel pit out of site of the road and any
||Km 45 - Macara. We had yet another good climb today.
As we meandered up the canyon the wild life was abundant. There
were more trees with a dark green bark that looked like hands reaching
up to the sky, maybe the heat of the day was getting to me.
||Macara. Rest day. did laundry. Tomorrow Peru.
6-3-03 to 6-17-04
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Sept. 14, 2003
The Ecuador border to Huallanca, Peru
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November 1 - December 8, 2003
Copacabana to Villazon,
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