2016-11-17 – Day 67 – Quito, EC to Quilotoa, EC (166 km – 3:30 hrs)
2016-11-18 – Day 68 – Quilotoa, EC to Baños, EC (157 km – 3:30 hrs)
2016-11-19 – Day 69 – Baños, EC to Cuenca, EX (336 km – 5:30 hrs)
2017-11-20 – Day 70 – Cuenca, EC
Leaving Quito, I am once again agreeably surprised with the quality of the road and in spite of the intense rush hour traffic, exiting the big city is done without too much stress.
In spite of easiness to circulate on the nice highways of the Equator, I not here to visit motorways therefore I plan to follow a rural road to get to Quilotoa, where a nice hiking opportunity around a lake in a crater is found.
Just outside Quito, here is the show which presents itself to me. The Cotopaxi volcano.
The small road is called Via Sigchos – Quilotoa. This was a very good decision.
Even if itinerary adds one hour driving, landscapes are incredible with high green hills, passing from the high mountain areas to farmlands, providing number of curves and some loneliness which I had not had for some time.
I come across more farmers on foot or on horseback than vehicles. The road is perfect, no hole, perfect inclines always calibrated property what it allows me to have a good time driving, and of nice surprises at every curve exit.
As everything is never perfect in Latin America, I am slowed by major building construction sites for some kilometres before arriving at destination. I am impressed by the magnitude of the works performed on a road that is very secondary. Our elected representatives should come to spend some time here! The engineers and workers have an obvious talent to construct high quality infrastructure in very difficult conditions.
En arrivant dans le village qui est un peu, disons, piteux, je visite un premier hostel pour lequel je pourrais utiliser le même qualificatif pour finalement déposer mes sacs dans le second endroit qui est un peu moins de ce même adjectif!
The reason why I stay in this village is that I want to go for a walk on a trail which goes around a crater filled with water.
I need to do a little bit of sports and this itinerary will not disappoint me! Here is the view when I start the walk…
I thought to be able to go around in an hour, but in the end, it is a rather demanding trek and the perspective of an easy one hour tour becomes hard work, with rises just under 4000 metres in altitude, almost always on a narrow ridge which gives vertigo! The show is unforgettable and I probably took the same picture of the hole of water hundreds of times!
At one moment, I was even surprised by the presence of a small makeshift kiosk held by a 12-year-old kid at 3900 metres of altitude. He climbs from his village every morning of the week to sell the work of his family and drinks. He explains that he’s been doing this for past 2 years. He goes to school on Saturdays and Sundays and passes the rest of the week here.
I can only respect effort, but I also question myself on the perspectives for the future of young people like him who are called to play this type of role for their family.
I dine with a hybrid couple (girl from Ecuador, fellow from Germany) in the hostel I stay at. We will exchange good travel stories and retreat at the end of the party in my room trying my best to stay warm, because he it is 5 degrees outside and the room is nor insulated nor heated!
The small bug that I must kill before being getting under the thick covers doesn’t give me great confidence, but I really do not have much accommodation choice at this time of the night in such lost in mountains. I hope that Lyme disease will not take me as a client tonight!
Breakfast was also including in the price of the room, but since all the plates from the night before were still on the table, I passed my turn and left fast towards another mountain called Baños.
I must take my heating jacket out as it is 5 degrees! What happiness I get from this artificial heat source! The first kilometres are spectacular, but the rest of the road is rather uninteresting.
I have a little bit of time on my hands and I use it to drive slowly (and nobody pushes me from behind!). I even help a fellow BMW rider stopped on the side of the road. He had overestimated the capacity of his gaz reservoir and I gave him a little bit of the precious liquid by using a small tool which I always carry, that is a tube which I attach to the connector cable of my own tank. By operating the starter, the petrol is flowing out without any other effort! Cool!
The city of Baños is supposedly a dream place for the outdoor amateurs, but I must have been to Mount-Tremblant or Whistler too often and there is nothing too impressive for me there. I am going to have a nice walking in mountain, but leave the following day.
The small centre is nevertheless active and I had the chance to have a nice evening with a couple from Paris. How agreeable it is to be able to speak your own language event if it is only for a few hours! I even taught our cousins some small expressions from Quebec!
Some portions of the road to get to Cuenca are without interest, but for the great majority time, I am presented with mountain landscapes and very little presence from other vehicles.
Cuenca (Hi Daniel!) is an important and very nice city and with a colonial aspect. I choose to spend 2 days and got myself a bit of luxury. I stay in one of the nice hotels in town and treat myself to a meal in an extraordinary restaurant.
San Blas Hotel & Suites
Mariscal Sucre & Manuel Vega, Cuenca, Ecuador
8-27, Calle Larga, Cuenca, Ecuador
The city is really very nice, but what I appreciate the most is the quietness in spite of its size. The cathedral is huge, the streets are possibly the cleanest that I have seen since the beginning of my trip and restaurant offer is good. I spend my 2 days jogging, walking, visiting, but also planning my passage and my first days in Peru.
When I read some of the people who made this journey, I realize that what I did to this day is quite small potatoes compared with what awaits for me in the next country.
I appreciate the beauty of roads in Ecuador and the easiness of getting from one place to the other, but it seems more and more obvious to me that Peru will be a real logistical navigation and driving challenge.
Mike from ADVRider.com strongly suggests not taking the Panamericana, which follows the coast, but to concentrate on the road 3N which goes thru the Andes. I agree with this suggestion, but I am a bit concerned as sections of the road risk being difficult, maybe impossible on a motorbike, or I should say, alone with my big motorbike.
The fact that I am alone makes getting to some places impossible and although I am comfortable with it, I am nevertheless obliged to make my duties and study carefully my routes!
La Gorda is still in perfect shape. No mechanical problem to be mentioned, if only a small water presence in the final drives. I consulted my chief mechanic in Montreal (thank you, Geoffrey) as well as on the site ADVRIDER.com (http://advrider.com/index.php?posts/30815408/) and came to the conclusion that it is a miner. I cleaned a small part (the breather) and replaced adequately on the drive. I will see if the problem is gone during the next oil change in Santiago.
It is nevertheless strange mention a city in Chile.
When I look at the route for the next weeks, I realize to how much distance I have driven, but what is in front of me seems so much more complex, huge, and far!
With all the detours, I estimate a distance of about 8000 km between Ecuador and Santiago, in Chile. And every kilometre in Latin America demands much more work than in the north. There is no way to drive 3500 km (like I did in the United States) in 2 days. On a straight line, it would not be too complex. It would be possible to make it in some weeks, but I want to pass by mountain regions, Cusco, Bolivia, the north of Argentina, the Atacama Desert, the vineyards of Cafayate and more importantly, getting to Ushuaia, at the end of the world, in Patagonia. Another 4000 km… Minimum! It is huge! And to a certain degree, intimidating.
I therefore try to concentrate on one stage at the same time and to try to cut the route up in smaller fragments, easier to be managed.
I must also make peace with the fact that I will not see everything.
I take the country in which I am now. A lot of people tell me not to miss the Galapagos islands. Unfortunately, this detour will not be done during this trip for two reasons. The first one is that I came here on a motorbike. I have the chance to have complete autonomy and to be able to move fast and easily.
The second is that it is easy to return to Ecuador and Islands will still be there during my next visit. All that to say that I have no intention of parking La Gorda for 2 weeks and go for a cruise. When I am going to visit this place, I will concentrate on the place.
For the moment, every morning that I have chance and privilege to get on my motorcycle, I am completely motivated to go on southward, and to discover the horizons that this means of transport, with its advantages and disadvantages, allow me to see and to live.
And this, even if I miss my girlfriend, my family and friends, my professional life at Solo… And so on.
To be continued! And the next post will come to you, I hope, from Peru!
Coup de coeur: Quito
Disappointment: Many of the small villages seen on the road lack beauty
Most welcoming city: Quito
Best atmosphere: La Zona in Quito
Where I would spend a full month in winter: None
Where I will not return: Baños
The surprise: The nice roads and how easy it became to drive in just a few minutes out of Colombia
The nicest road: The first 2 hours when entering the contry and driving towards Otavalo
The ugliest roads: The first part between Baños and Cuenca
If I had to do it again: A few more days to visit the coast but because my rear tire is quite worn out, I didn’t want to add a 1000 km the the journey
Next time: Visit the Galapagos Island
What I missed me most: My girlfriend who left me in Cali!
Number of days: 9
Distance: 1300 km
2016-11-21 - Day 71 - Cuenca, EC to Piura, PE (529 km - 9:30 hrs) 2016-11-22 - Day 72 - Piura, PE to Cajamarca, PE (472 km - 7:30 hrs) 2016-11-23 - Day 73 - Cajamarca, PE to Huamachuco, PE (222 km - 7:30 hrs) When I mentioned a contrast between Colombia and Ecuador, ... Read more
2016-11-13 - Jour 63 - Popoyan, CO à Otavalo, EC (493 km - 10:00 hrs) 2016-11-14 - Jour 64 - Otavalo, EC à Quito, EC (101 km - 2:00 hrs) 2016-11-15 - Jour 65 - Quito, EC 2016-11-16 - Jour 66 - Quito, EC My last hours in Colombia were ... Read more