Friday, 25 August 2017

Cycling to Quito plus some side trips from Quito.

After 3 nights in Ibarra, my legs finally stopped aching. Of course I had to carry on doing something stupid like pack up all my stuff, get back onto the bicycle and make my way to Quito. The owner of Hotel Imbabura definitely did not make it easier by recommending that we take a bus out of Ibarra to avoid the ascents since Ibarra was surrounded on all sides by mountains. In fact, during the side trip where we took a bus to Cotacachi, I couldn't help but notice that the initial 20-30mins of the bus ride was all uphill. It was probably a 200m ascent just to get to San Antonio de Ibarra, a short 4km away, where there were many artisan wood carvers. Needless to say, I struggled while trying not lag behind by too much. I have to say that just like in Colombia, the Ecuadorian people have also been very welcoming to us. One of the owners of a wood carving studio invited us to have coffee and even bought bread for us. When we went up to his house above the shop, his mother had also prepared juice and cheese. A second breakfast is always welcome for hungry cyclists! After spending a bit more time looking at the other shops, it was time to get back on the road as we still had a few more kilometres to cover. We'd decided to use a different route and avoid the highway, instead cycling on the smaller roads and going through some of the small towns. This was a different experience from just sticking on the Pan-American highway. We barely had any vehicles on the same road, maybe at most a truck or 2 every hour, we also got to see a lot more indigenous people as the main highway mainly went beside any towns.
Lagoon near Cotacachi

Lagoon near Cotocachi
Making ice cream the traditional way

Artisan from San Antonio de Ibarra

Being about 120km from Ibarra to Quito, we decided to break the journey into 2 cycling days. We'd been given a recommendation for a camping site near Cayambe where it was only 3USD to camp including shower and WiFi. The site was run by Valentin and his family and we were warmly welcomed by Valentin's son who also invited us to visit his sisters cafe which was just near the Quitsato Sundial, near Cayambe (Fun fact, the Mitad del Mundo monument in Quito isn't actually on the equatorial line). Originally we weren't too keen as it had been a hard ride to get there and we were a bit worried about how late it'd be when we got back and had to prepare dinner. Shouldn't have worried though. They were really nice and kind enough to make up a plate of potatoes with avocado and cheese for all of us. Additionally, we were also treated to a special drink, Colada Morada. This normally is only prepared during "Dia de la Muerte" or Day of the Dead, but it can be found during other times as well. (I did see it in Otavalo when I visited the market a few days later and definitely made it a point to have another mug!)

Packing up after spending a night at Campng Valentin

50% in the Northern hemisphere, 50% in the Southern

Taking a short breather after entering the outskirts of Quito. 

Made it into Quito! Cathedral in the old city.

After another round of Colada Morada and Torta back at Valentin's farm as he was back and his son had brought back a pot for his faily who had stayed behind, we turned in for the night sated. After all it was still about bit of a cycle( approx 40km) to get to Quito from Cayambe and we did want to see the sundial before we left. Entrance was $2 which included a short description about how the sundial worked as well as a bit of history of the Quitsato organisation. By the time we had breakfast and were ready to go, it was already 12 noon. If only we'd known just how hard it was to cycle into Quito. Getting to the edge of town was easy, but it took me 3 hours just to cover the remaining 10km. After taking the wrong turn, I ended up having to push the bicycle 6km uphill on a crappy narrow road as it was too dangerous for me to cycle and cars to pass. By the time I cleared that section, I decided to take a taxi as it was already dark and I did not really want to cycle at night. Surprisingly, despite having split from the couple at the entrance, they'd only reached 30mins before me, which just shows how tough it was to get in. Thankfully we did have 4 nights booked at Hostel Revolution, which was a lot of time to recuperate. We also took the opportunity to visit the Otavalo Saturday market, the largest in South America, which we had missed on our way down as we had stayed an extra night in Ipiales.

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