After crossing the border at Ipiales we went on a dirt road after Tulcan which leads to the national reserve El Angel. The landscape changed drastically from farmlands to desert-esque with unique flora. On our map we saw two lakes and we were determined to camp there. The elevation was tiring and despite a very gradual uphill we had to push our bikes on occasion. The road was tough but made us appreciate having fatbikes very much.
As we reached the point from where a hiking trail went up to the lakes we spotted a house with a guard. He told us that we were welcome to camp here or up by the lakes, and that in fact all reserves in Ecuador were free. We went for a stroll around the beautiful lakes and then set up camp by the huts. There we were at our highest point so far, 3800 metres!
Now that’s what a dirt road looks like!These interesting plants are everywhere in the park
A long downhill in the morning we continued on dirt to the town of El Angel, then we were back on asphalt. We detoured around the Panamerican on a secondary route via Mira. An oncoming bike race slowed our 1000m descent, as we had to stop whenever we saw cyclists coming towards us. Once down by a river we had to climb up again some 700 metres on the Panamerican highway. It was getting late, the sun was hot, the traffic busy, the wind strong, and blackflies were swarming us. With music in our ears we kept pushing – there were no houses or spots we could’ve camped on the road. In Ibarra the police told us we could camp at the Laguna, and that there was a fire station we could ask to camp at, too. The fire station was right by the lake with a huge garden in which they let us pitch up.Trying new foods.
Our tent at the fire station by the lakeSome fellas invited us for a freshly squeezed morning juice.
We kept the next day short and cycled to Otovalo, famous for it’s market. We enquired in a hotel about prices as we wanted internet to figure out where to go next, but the cost of $20 wasn’t too inviting. A young employee at the hotel spontaneously said that we were welcome to stay at his parents’ place. We gladly accepted, dropped our bikes off and went to the market for a couple of hours. When we returned his parents were home and his dad, Mariano, introduced us to his instruments. He is a musician and lived in Germany for many years playing his music. In the morning he gave Dan an indigenous flute, crafted by his own father. It was very nice and interesting staying with the family and experiencing Ecuadorian hospitality. We felt very welcome and we hope we can welcome people like this one day!Dan with his new flute. Poor Gina for months to come!
After a back and forth whether we should go into Quito or not we decided to bypass it as we were dreading cycling on the Panamerican. We went back onto dirt and when we stopped in a town around lunch we stumbled upon two other cyclists, Karin and Flo, who are heading north. After a long chat we kept going to Perucho. It was 3pm and we were considering continuing to San Antonio. That meant another 1000m climb over 20k. The town was so welcoming and friendly that we quickly decided not to keep going. Caesar, the football stadium’s ward, invited us to his place after we had set up camp at the stadium and had dinner. He served us herbal tea and then led us though his garden, filling up a plastic bag with fruits (guavas, mandarins, oranges) for us. He said if we ever came back, we were welcome to stay as his guests in his home. How nice of him.Nice quiet backroad.
With Karin and Flo
View of Perucho
…not bypassing Quito
After the 1000m climb to San Antonio and glimpsing at the Mitad del Mundo statue we soon went back on dirt to get to the small town Nono. We were tired and exhausted when we got there in the evening and set up camp at their stadium. We had climbed almost 2000m. The following morning we wanted to continue our Quito-bypass by climbing up to 4700m (from 2700) on dirt to get to Lloa. Diego, a shop owner who knows the area quite well, said it was possible but difficult. We managed 3km with several breaks before we called it off. It was steep and our bodies were still exhausted from the day before, and particularly I was terrified of how another 2000m higher would make it even harder on our bodies. We were both disappointed about giving up, but in retrospect it was the right decision. We went back into town to talk to Diego. I started pumping up the tires since we were going to go back on asphalt to go into Quito after all. Diego said he had wifi we could use, we should just stay the day and camp next to the police. Tired as we were we gladly agreed that we (desperately) needed to do some emailing (while two of the parcels with tires and tubes arrived in Peru and Chile, the last one, also to Chile, is still being held by customs) and wheeled our bikes 10m up to his house. We forgot our pump on the sidewalk, and when we went back 15min later, it was gone. This confirmed our decision to go into Quito.Diego made us some sweet “gringo” empanadas
Having tea at our campspot with Diego and some local kids.
Quito and the Casa de Ciclistas.
We spent around three hours going from bike shop to bike shop in Quito to find a descent bike pump. Unfortunately there are no dealers for Lezyne in Ecuador. In the end we got one of the cheaper ones which will hopefully last us until someone visits us and brings along a lezyne ;). We continued to the Casa de Ciclistas in Tumbaco. A very friendly place with big garden in which we set up camp for two nights. We badly needed (another rest day and) a day to clean our dirty clothes and bikes! Thanks to Santiago for letting us into his home and for helping us with our endless bike queries.