Northern ecuador &
The transecuador mountain bike route
cuenca to tulcan (via cotopaxi)
Bolivar to tulcan
A day of mainly uphill and headwinds. Many small places to buy food and water en route. Tulcan in a large town with many hotels but not the nicest place to stay. The border crossing is very busy on the Ecuadorian side - it took us about 3 hours of cuing to get through. The system they use means that everyone has to leave their bikes or back packs outside, unattended - only people wanting to cross are allowed inside the building without their luggage!! Laura cued while I stayed with bikes. When she was at the front of the cue, she got her stamp, ran out and I ran in to the same window... a very retarded system and not safe for your things! On the Colombian side, we could keep our bikes very close to us (not in the cue, but insight at all times). The Colombian border took less than one hour. We made it to our last country!!!
finca summer wind (Ibarra) to bolivar
A big downhill out of Ibarra followed by a huge uphill. There are some small villages and roadside shops every 10km (or shorter). We left pretty late and so stopped in the small town of Bolivar which has one small and cheap hotel.
mitad del mundo camping to finca summerwind camping
The family at Mitad Del Mundo told us of another campsite 62km away (Finca Summerwind) - a german owned campsite for overlanders, so we headed there. We stopped in Otavalo for lunch and to buy a poncho - for which this small town is famous for. Getting past the bigger town of Ibarra was a little sketchy due to the traffic but the Panamericana was certainly the fastest route. Finca-Summerwind Campsite is very well equipped with many overlander passing through. We met a swiss couple who we had initially met in Bolivia an so decided to stay an extra couple of days... drinking beer and having barbecues. A nice change for a day or two.
el quinche to midat del mundo camping
over the equator!
Today, we crossed the official equator! There is a monument 7km north of the town Cayambe and our GPS showed 0"0'0N. The guys at the monument gave us a short talk and then told us of his fathers campsite just 1km down the road. As you head north, down the hill from the equator, look out for the poster of the deer on the right which marks the start of a cobble road. Follow the cobbled road for about 400m until you see a blue camping/tent sign on the left - this is their campsite. The campsite is an extension of their house but very good for overlanders. The set up is unusual in that you can use their house and toilet/bathroom. We were planning to leave the following day but at the last minute decided to stay 2 more nights in order to create a website for them (mitaddelmundocampi.wixsite.com/camping) which they appreciated. They cooked an amazing meal for us and showed immense hospitality.
tumbaco (Quito) to el quinche
Back on the road after a long stop but a late start. The Panamericana is pretty busy but much quicker and with our time being short, we headed north on the tarmac road. Lots of places to stop for lunch en route. Stopped in a small town - El Quinche, which has plenty of hostels to choose from.
pintag to tumbaco (Quito)
We decided to try and get to Tumbaco, a suburb of Quito, as quickly as possible and so took the highway. There was a huge hard shoulder the whole way and suprisingly litt;le traffic. We stayed at a pet friendly hotel run by a nice women who made great food and pizza (La Morita Guest House, $25/night). We stayed for almost 2 weeks, sorted out Pacha's rabies blood test, applied for jobs in the UK for August, had a great rest and then hit the road again.
hacienda los mortiños to pintag
Mainly downhill on gravel roads with great views of Volcan Cotopaxi. The road was very muddy in parts (half way up the tyres!) which involved a lot of pushing. The last 15km to Pintag is all cobble with potholes so very uncomfortable, even on fat bikes. We lost a few screws and broke one pannier on this road!!! There is also a steep climb into town which involed a lot of pushing. We felt pretty fatigued by this point and need a good long rest. In Pintag, we stayed at the only hotel (Hostel Vista Hermosa, $20).
wild camp 4 to hacienda los mortiños
Started the day with pushing the bikes through more wet, boggy fields and getting a little off track at times. Made it back on the road which is very rocky and uncomfortable. Another climb before descending down and out of the national park via the north entrance/exit. Stopped at an very expensive hacienda - but we were pretty tired so welcomed the hot shower and food.
wild camp 3 to wild camp 4
Another gruelling day of pushing the bikes through wet mud, fields and rivers. It was very difficult to find the route and had to use our GPS frequently. Finally made it to the 'road' again and camped by a river about 1km from a farm. The farmer was the first person we had seen for 3 whole days.
wild camp 2 to wild camp 3
A very tough day. We followed the 'road' until it became just faint tracks in the grass. We had to push the bikes up hills too steep to cycle. By the end of the day, we were exhausted from the tough terrain, especially from crossing so many small muddy rivers. At the end was another river but the bank on the other side was more like a wall - 6ft tall. We crossed the river, unloaded the bikes and had to pass everything up one at a time. We camped there on the north side of the river - completely worked.
wild camp 1 to wild camp 2
The road turned from gravel to firm mud and the clouds came in. We were unable to see more than 50 meters and climbed in the rain all day. We missed the turn off for our original route and had to turn back a few times. Once we were back on route, the road disappeared and with the dense fog, we couldn't see where to go. We decided to stop early and pitch the tent. In the morning, the clouds had lifted and right beside us was Volcan Cotopaxi in all her glory!
latacunga to wild camp 1
From Latagunga, we followed a bike-packing route all the way to Quito. The road is tarmaced for about 3-4km, then cobble for a further 10km and then gravel. There are farms all along this first section but no shops (except one - which is actually a house and only sells CocaCola). We camped by the road, in the forest. A day of climbing.
san miguel de solcedo to latacunga
A short days cycle to Latacunga along some rough, some tarmac roads. We stayed in Hotel Cotopaxi ($20/night) and took a rest day before cycling around the east of Volcan Cotopaxi. Good restaurants & supermarkets in this small town - we stocked up for a tough few days ahead.
patate to san miguel de solcedo
A fairly uninspired section of road with little traffic and many shops and places to eat. We stayed in a small hotel before hitting the road the next day with a plan to cycle around Volcan Cotopaxi.
baños to patate
We left Baños after a long stop for New Year and also to start Pacha's 'GoFundMe' campaign. We left late in the day and headed towards Patate, avoiding the Panamericana along quiet tarmaced roads. there were many small shops en route and Patate is a small town with all mod-cons. We stayed at an organic farm (La Casta, $30) at the far end of town - really good homemade jam and bread.
chambo to baños
A day of mainly downhill but still found it tough (?). We stopped in Penipe for lunch. e went into the town and at the left side of the main square, we found a small family run restaurant and ate a 3 course meal for $2.50 each. The women even gave a bit to Pacha which was very kind. On our way out of Penipe, on the main road, we saw many more restaurants and grills - but I think the little one we ate in was nicer. From Penipe, after the second river, we turned right onto a gravel road. It was a short distance to Baños but with some short steep climbs. Nevertheless, this short section of road was very beautiful and virtually no traffic. We made it to Baños and stayed there for New Year.
guamote to chambo
Leaving the market in Guamote, we soon turned right off the road to Riobamba and towards Baños instead. It is still tarmac but much quieter. Occassional small shops for drinks and snack but nothing substantial. We decided to stay in a hotel (Hosteria El Troje) which is an old resort (peeling paint work, 1980's design) but still expensive. We haggled the price down to $40 (from $80) as it was off season - but still too expensive in our view.
cuenca to guamote
We hitched a lift out of Cuenca to avoid the traffic and highway (which did not have a hard shoulder). We got off when we were far enough not to be troubled by the traffic and started cycling uphill. We were pretty unlucky with the weather with regular short showers and made the top of climb fairly soaked. At the top there was a small village with shops and restaurants right on the road. From here, all downhill to Guamote. Guamote has about 4-5 hotels of varying prices (from $25-$60/night). It has many shops and places to eat but is otherwise fairly uninspiring - except for the Thursday market which is famous in the region. You can find all sorts of traditional foods, drinks, clothes, hats and more.