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Old 02-11-2015, 11:38 AM   #1
infinityjellyd OP
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There Are No Straight Lines in Ecuador

THERE ARE NO STRAIGHT LINES IN ECUADOR
4-Day Quilotoa Loop with Ecuador Freedom Bike

I am a street rider who has been looking to get into ADVing. Problem is, I live in NYC and am not uber-wealthy so having a garage full of bikes isn't really an option. I park my Duc on the street, cover it, and hope for the best (backed by full insurance coverage). Anyway, getting started in off-roading is tough when you have to travel and rent every time. So when I found EFB during a google search, it seemed spot on and the positive reviews sealed the deal and I booked it a month ago.

Lots of pictures and I hope you all don't mind---I always enjoy picture-heavy ride reports so I'm following in the same vein. I'll post a summary of each day on the trip and then edit this post to include direct links below. I'll also comment on EFB on the end in case anyone is considering using them for a trip. Cliff notes is that they were great and I had a blast, so I fully recommend them. I also fully recommend Ecuador as a vacation destination and/or bike trip.

1. Exploring Quito (i)
2. Exploring Quito (ii)
3. Quito to Alluriquin
4. Alluriquin to Sigchos
5. Sigchos to Angamarca
6. Angamarca to Salinas
7. Salinas to Guaranda
8. Guaranda to Quevedo
9. Quevedo to Pucayacu
10. Pucayacu to Quito
11. Epilogue: Montanita
12. Color Pictures!

A note on BLACK & WHITE: so I am not a photographer and bought my first camera ever for this trip. My plan was to shoot in B&W JPEG because it's just easier and then I'd set up the camera to save a RAW copy that I could use for color once I got home and had time to play with images. Well, the RAWs were saved in B&W as well, and consequently no color in this report. So I guess you just have to use your imagination: everything natural is a vivid green; everything bike or rider related is a dusty or muddy brown. [EDIT: I managed to figure out how to get to the color copy image after I completed the RR, so I posted a few of them at the tail end of the thread. See link #12 above to jump there.]

Here are ten teaser pics:




















infinityjellyd screwed with this post 03-03-2015 at 07:32 AM
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:49 PM   #2
De Oppresso Liber
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Very much interested! Nice pictures, B&W or not!

I too am in the same boat as you.... wanted to go somewhere and ride and i discovered Freedom Bike Rental on Google and ADV! After doing a lot of research and reading, i couldnt find a single negative thing that would indicate not to go with them!

Im heading down at the end of April with my wife and doing a self-guided tour of the Pacific, Andes, and Amazon. Planning on staying on mainly paved roads because the wife doesnt do any real dirt riding... which at first I was kinda bummed about, but then I figured it'd save the good stuff for a return solo visit!

Subscribed! I'd be happy to hear about everything from the food, to the people, and anything else you would care to share! Most importantly, though, HAVE FUN!!!
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:51 PM   #3
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Oh, what the heck is up with the BMW and what looks to be a rider down?! Hope all are safe!
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Old 02-11-2015, 01:30 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by De Oppresso Liber View Post
After doing a lot of research and reading, i couldnt find a single negative thing that would indicate not to go with them!
Yeah, me too. This actually made me suspicious since there is always SOMEONE that is unhappy with a business and eager to rant. But I signed up anyway and they ended up living up to the reviews.

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Im heading down at the end of April with my wife and doing a self-guided tour of the Pacific, Andes, and Amazon.
You and your wife will have a blast! The only thing I regret is that it ended too soon. So much awesome in that country that you really could never run out of places to go and things to see. Plenty of great tarmac, so don't lament the lack of off-road. Our day 4 was one of the best riding days I've ever had, and we spend 90 minutes zig-zaging around empty mountain roads on pavement with views that would take even John Muir's breath away.

My one key recommendation is to learn Spanish if you don't know it. Even if you only have time to study basic phrases that will help. Ecuador (and from what I hear, all of S.America) is not like Central America and definitely not like Mexico, where everyone speaks at least a little English. People are friendly, so no worries there, but the other members of our group were limited in how they could interact with locals since they didn't speak any Spanish. And of course we benefited further from a guide that was fluent and knew the culture.

Oh, and the BMW pic was indeed a get-off from one of our group. And yes, it no doubt hurt. But all was good. All just part of the adventure---while bruising to both the body and ego in the present, makes for good reminiscence in hindsight and none lost an eye (although stitches were involved ).
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Old 02-11-2015, 02:20 PM   #5
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I will be eagerly following your RR as I actually plan on moving to Ecuador within the next 5 years. Hoping to head down sometime during winter of 2015 / 2016 to ride with EFBR and get a good feel for my not-so-far-off future.
Please don't hesitate to throw in any criticisms or negatives that you may come across - a well balanced review in the form of a great RR is almost too much to hope for, lol.

Enjoy
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Old 02-11-2015, 03:17 PM   #6
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I will be eagerly following your RR as I actually plan on moving to Ecuador within the next 5 years. Hoping to head down sometime during winter of 2015 / 2016 to ride with EFBR and get a good feel for my not-so-far-off future.
Please don't hesitate to throw in any criticisms or negatives that you may come across - a well balanced review in the form of a great RR is almost too much to hope for, lol.

Enjoy
Will do. I actually stayed with a friend on the coast who moved down there from LA 4 years ago. He regrets nothing and says he misses nothing about the US (although he still enjoys visiting). Ecuador has good land rights, which was a factor in his decision. Universal healthcare as well (as I will mention in my report). And even though it is not a wealthy western country, it didn't come across as downtrodden---people in the most remote areas appeared well fed, healthy, happy, and generally busy. Of course, my experience was very limited, so I'm sure there are blemishes there, but overall impression was it's a solid place to live. Correa (president) has been generally good for the development of the country and they have stability and growth for the first time in a long time (of course, the discovery and harvesting of oil didn't hurt). Anyway, I had a nice long chat with my friend over 3 days on the subject since I may do a NY -> Buenes Aires moto trip next year and wanted to scope out potential long-term destinations. Verdict in favor of Ecuador seemed clearly in the affirmative.

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Old 02-11-2015, 08:52 PM   #7
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Exploring Quito (i)

Note: Motorcycle trip didn't begin until my second day, so if you only care about two wheels, rubber, oil, and steel, wait til I post Day 2.

So I planned to arrive a day early because leaving from airports in the NE United States in Jan/Feb introduces the risk of delays and missed connections. Luckily I got out safely, which left me with a full day in Quito to explore.

First point: I loved my KLIM Latitude and my SIDI Adventure Rain Boots on this trip. Both were brand new and both met and exceeded expectations in just about all conditions and climates. However, one thing they are NOT good for is sitting in an airport for 4 hours. C'mon KLIM, get on that! I like to travel light, so that meant I had to wear my jacket/boots and ended up sweating like a stool pigeon wearing a wire. This picture also confirms how clean and new everything looks. (It will be used for comparison later.)



I had a connection in Houston, whose airport is named after Bush 41. I love this statue. It's like the male equivalent of a Pantene shampoo commercial when the girl flips back her perfect shiny hair.



Nice modern architecture:



After boarding, it was just 5 hrs of snoozing until Ecuador. I'm an expert plane sleeper and can do that in my...er...sleep. This lady got the jump on me, though. Fellow Jedi sleeper, she is. Out before we even took off.



So I arrive at midnight and it's 1:30a before I get through customs, gather my luggage, and reach my hotel. Quito just built a new road to the airport that was completed just 30 days ago, so luckily the taxi ride wasn't that long. There was a problem with my room and at 1:30 no maintenance guy is around to help, so it wasn't until 2:30 before I hit the hay exhausted. When I wake up, I saw this out my window:



Not a bad way to wake up. Good looking mountain-y backdrop. I approve. Time to go explore. First I found a castle that specialized in electronics, internet, and copies. You know, like all castles do. And in case the castle-ness of it didn't catch potential customers' attention, they painted it a bright garish green (trust me on that).



One thing I noticed about the city was that there were a lot of diversity in architecture between old and new. This old building was abandoned, which is a shame since it had really cool moldings and details. Would be a gorgeous hotel if fixed up.



There were of course more modern buildings of glass and concrete.



...and tall ones standing erect and alone.



...and ones that seems to be abandoned in the middle of construction.



All in all, Quito seemed like a city in transition. Old European-style buildings next to subtler, mid-twentieth century constructions in decay, next to sleeker modern developments. It was all very eclectic and created a nice dynamism throughout the city. Oh, and certain neighborhoods had a lot of power lines. A lot. Put those things underground, man. You're ruining the view.





Looking down for a change, I saw lots of dogs. But unlike some other countries, the 4,749 strays I came across in Ecuador seems mild manner, well nourished, and generally clean. Seems like they have a good life. This guy said, "Screw it, I'm taking a nap right in the middle of the sidewalk. You bipeds can just you walk around me."



At some point I reached Old Town (Centro Historico), which has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. It consisted of lots of old buildings with a European flare. This gothic church (Basilica de Voto Nacional) creeped above the building tops as I approached and then it kinda just immediately appeared big and bold in all its splendor as I reached the top of an intermediate hill.









You can see from these shots that I'm usually looking up at a steep angle. That's because the hills in the city make it hard to get any wide viewpoint and buildings kinda jump out at you from around a corner. But sometimes, you walk past a structure and BAM! you're hit with an expansive view of the city and its cradle of mountains.



On the way to the heart of the Old City, I picked up a grilled banana from a street vender. It came with grated cheese that tasted like it was maybe goat(?) cheese. It was good, but not something I'd crave at my 11pm crave hour.



Oh, and this incident happened, which brings me to a larger observation about Ecuador and its people. So I turned around after throwing out my banana wrapper and see this woman holding her son's penis as he peed in the street. What I liked about this was that, probably with no immediate option, she raced him to the street rather than let him pee his pants or just pee on the sidewalk. It was a tender moment, and the kid was just chilling like a boss enjoying life.

But the larger point I wanted to mention was that in my albeit limited experience I found Ecuadorians to really care about their environment. Fun fact: Ecuador is actually the first country to legally ascribe rights to the ecosystem (called Rights of Nature), which is understandable since it has over 1,500 species of birds (15% of global total), 16,000 plants species, and so on. Oh yeah, and the Galapagos Islands. There was lots of signs all over the country with the theme of don't litter, respect the environment, water is life, etc. And even in the poorest or most remote places, I really didn't see much trash on the street or dumped in some smelly corner---certainly not more than I see on my way to work in midtown Manhattan. Hence the mom bothering to drag her kid to edge of the curb so his emergency pee went into the street and not the sidewalk. It's the little things. I approve!



Anyway, I passed more old buildings on my way to the center of Old Town. Loved this old theater that was, sadly, closed down.





And I tried more street food. This was a bowl of meats over a bunch of off-white vegetables. The vegetable was really good, wish I remembered what they were called. Sausage was good too. The thing that looked like bacon was a little chewy and intense for my liking.



Next post: Exploring Quito (ii). Then the bikes.

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Old 02-12-2015, 01:09 PM   #8
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Exploring Quito (ii)

So eventually I wander into Plaza Grande, which is full of people. And I mean full. See:



And everyone is doing everything---kids playing on the grass, old guys in old suits sitting on benches and watching life happen, vendors selling food, guys and girls flirting with each other, cops patrolling, etc. People were really just out and about interacting on a beautiful Sunday. And in the middle of it all were these guys playing music:



They had some fans dancing around, and this kid just staring at their power cord:



But eventually the crowd was getting restless because the band was deep into some Ecuadorian version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Extended Version) that just wouldn't end. Meanwhile, these dudes were patiently waiting their turn:



Look at them. Who wouldn't be uncontrollably curious to see what weird show they are going to perform?? Ultimately, the situation boiled into a large argument with 30-40 people in animated discussion over whether Ecuadorian Iron Butterfly or the Troop of Clowns had rights to prime performance space in front of the steps. I distracted myself by observing some kind of religious revival on the other side of the steps. By the time my soul was cleansed, the situation was peacefully resolved and the clown show had begun.



My spanish wasn't good enough to really follow the plot, but people were laughing and enjoying the show, so they must have been funny. Good work, clowns! And good work on not looking creepy. Clowns here in the US all look creepy to me. This kid was more interested in the bearded tall guy with the camera than the clowns. But in any case you can get a sense from the background how full and busy the park was.



So the other main plaza in Old Town is San Francisco. You have to walk past a cool old church to get there from Plaza Grande, adding another frequent reminder that Quito is indeed a very Catholic city. San Francisco is much larger than Plaza Grande but with fewer benches and steps, so it was much more sparsely populated.





This guy looked dead...



...but nope. Just taking a nap.



In fact, the dogs of Quito seems to use San Francisco as a communal spa where they could unwind and get away from the family for a few hours. Sleep well, buddy, you deserve it.



At the far end of Old Town the tight streets relaxed into a modern concrete park. Good place to take a break and enjoy the views.



There is a natural park there, too, called Parque Panecillo, with a large statute on top. I deleted my photo of that, though. Sorry. Anyway, it was time to get back to my hotel and so I started towards home when I heard signing. Basically, a bunch of teenagers(?) had gathered under an overpass to practice choral work, using the concrete of the overpass to act as a sound chamber. It sounded really cool so I just sat there and listened. This guy---a waiter I think---came to the window of his restaurant and just watched. He doesn't know it, but we shared the moment. Stop and smell the roses, I think, is the proper expression. It was a nice moment.



So in addition to nice plazas, Quito also has nice parks. This one had a small pond for boats, with a man made river around its perimeter (think Lazy River at a waterpark). Lots of families.



This kid was playing some hide 'n seek game with his friends. Sorry, bud, I don't think you get it---just because you can't seem them doesn't mean they can't see you.



Families really seemed to like to play together. Whether it was riding a bicycle:



...or playing soccer (er, football):



In fact, soccer was common everywhere. But, duh, I kinda expected that. These guys were playing amongst the various species of trees even though there was plenty of open space near by. I think they wanted the extra challenge. Good idea. I now fully support adding trees and briars to major league sports fields.



Oh, and I grabbed some fresh coconut juice supped right from the nut itself, because why wouldn't I?



I made it back to the hotel just in time to catch a colorful sunset over the city (trust me, it was colorful). Then watched a nail-biting SuperBowl over a plate of ceviche, and hit the hay.





Day 1 conclusions:
- Quito is a pretty laid back city
- Ecuadorians like being outside
- Family seems important
- Tom Brady is an unflappable comeback machine

Next up, the adventure begins: Quito to Sigchos (i)

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Old 02-12-2015, 05:22 PM   #9
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Ecuador is great. Quito is beautiful but high in altitude. Did you fell the affect these first days?
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Old 02-12-2015, 06:19 PM   #10
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I haven't read all of your narrative - I am taken back by the pictures... Outstanding!!! The b&w pics are fantastic. Along for the adventure, mi amigo.
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Old 02-12-2015, 06:28 PM   #11
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Incredible photos! keep up the good work! The shot of the old church ? In San Francisco looks like something out of a gothic movie set like Batman or something! Stunning....

Let us know in the next few days how the street food is treating your gut
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Old 02-12-2015, 07:58 PM   #12
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Thanks all for the kind words re: my pictures. I really like the camera and think I made a good choice (Ricoh GR). It's compact enough to keep in my pocket but has enough advanced features and detail to take quality shots.


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Ecuador is great. Quito is beautiful but high in altitude. Did you fell the affect these first days?
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Yes, some. Shortness of breath, especially when walking up an incline or stairs or exerting myself in any way. But luckily I was spared the headaches and nausea that some people experience. By the second day I already felt more comfortable and by the third, I hardly noticed the altitude at all.


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Let us know in the next few days how the street food is treating your gut.
I am back one week already and can say that I had no ill effects of eating street food or drinking shower water. I think people overreact to concerns on stomach viruses, although they do exist (I know people personally who have gotten Montezuma's Revenge, etc. on such trips so the concern is no doubt real). But my view is that it kinda doesn't make sense to say "I'm going on an adventure; I'm exploring" and then hedging the experience by only visiting "safe" places, eating "clean" food, talking to "outgoing" people. So I dive head first into pro-street meat and take full responsibility for the ill effects if and when they come.
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Old 02-13-2015, 10:12 AM   #13
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Quito to Alluriquin

So the ride was 4 days, 3 nights on the Quilotoa Loop---basically a oval around the mountains in central Ecuador. Our group had five guys (including me) all from the US, with one guide. Everyone was cool and I told them I'd probably post a ride report somewhere, which they didn't mind. However, since I generally like to keep a low online profile myself, I thoughts I'd be sensitive to that in others and so I'll use nicknames instead of real names of the other riders.

Dramatis Personae

Colorado - brother of Illinois. He ran a Harley dealership for many years before semi-retiring. Spends his winters moto-ing all over the place. Has done dirt biking, touring both domestically and overseas, and even ice racing!!
Illinois - brother of Colorado. Like his brother, lots of riding and travel experience. Smoked like a chimney. Drank coffee with the same regularity and necessity that the rest of us breath air.
Cleveland - been riding since he was a teenager. Has a GS1200 at home, though had not really done any off-road with it. Like me, was looking to get into more ADVing style two-wheel fun. Tough guy, too, as you will see.
Atlanta - Ducatista who did some MX as a kid but really has been a street rider his whole life. Lots of track days and a skilled rider---in 4 days I saw him loss rear grip maybe twice. He had a pronounced Georgia accent and all throughout the trip exuded "southern gentleman".
France - our tireless and ever-diligent guide. From Normandy but living in Ecuador 4-5 years. He has ridden all over South America.


So at 7:30 we met at Ecuador Freedom Bike and the thumpers were all lined up nice and pretty. That is France with the mop haircut putting some final touches on one of the bikes.



Here is my horse: a Husky TE630. The other riders were on DR650s, except Cleveland who wanted to ride a GS650 since he had a 1200 at home. France chose a KLR650, as his personal bike is also a KLR. I picked the Husky because I was seriously considering getting one (that, or a TR650) in advance of a long tour next year (probably the TAT and maybe then some Central America riding). I saw this as an opportunity for a thorough test ride.



After packing our panniers and getting a brief intro lecture, we were off. We spent about 20-30 minutes getting out of the city onto half-constructed roads on the outskirts, and then right into dirt roads and tall green mountains. The transition was not slow or subtle. Here we parked for a moment to look back on Quito and say a brief farewell.



Here is the view we endured for the next hour. On the hill in the foreground you can see tiered fish farms. France said it was most likely trout or talapia, since those species were commonly farmed in the area.



With views like this, it was hard not to be distracted. And we were. Cleveland got a little wide in a turn and caught the mud gutter whereupon the bike lost it. He held on and almost recovered except that there was a BIG ditch in his path, which effectively stopped him and the bike dead. Didn't go over the bars, though, but when he took of his helmet, there was some blood. Turns out, his head hit something on the front of his bike (windscreen? GPS mount? who knows) and it caused the mouth guard section of his helmet to split his lip. Pretty bad. We all agreed he needed stitches. But he's a tough ol' bird, so he took it all in stride.



We got the bike out of the ditch, checked parts, France did a test ride for safety, and we all double and triple checked that Cleveland was alert and able to ride. Check check check check check. Good to go.

The next hour or so was spent in some of the most beautiful country I've ever seen. Sadly, no pics because we didn't stop. I definitely need a goPro for my next trip! Mountains and rivers and clouds and animals and rugged but charming houses every km or two. There was a moment when I was riding on a relatively straight path and two horses were racing along the grass field next to us, keeping pace as if they wanted to join our posse. It was like out of some weird dream sequence. The only thing missing was a rainbow and Alessandra Ambrosio.

Eventually, though, it rained. That statement could really apply to any part of the trip, because no matter how clear and sunny the day started, eventually it always rained. One thing about Ecuador is that the geography, climate, and elevation change so much and so often across its landmass, that a change in weather is never far off. So after the drizzle turned into downpour, we stopped for a well-deserved break at the appropriately named Tienda La Isla (Island Store). It was indeed an island oasis to us already weary travelers.



Some of us took the time to relax and stay dry...



...some had a much needed cup of coffee and cigarette...



...some took artsy photos with their new camera...



...and some reflected on the harsh start and the road ahead.



Speaking of the road ahead, it was pretty dang inviting. Love those curves, girl!



Eventually, we needed gas. This station had a small collection of bikes and trikes(?). Love the eagle tank logo. Bad ass!





At some point, we needed to find some medical attention for Cleveland, which we did in a town called Alluriquin.



Ecuador has free healthcare: no paperwork, no ID, no charge. Just walk in and get fixed up. Heck of a system. Meanwhile, the rest of us took the time to explore the area while our partner was getting mended. We chatted with the locals who enjoyed the presence of 6 strangers in their quiet neighborhood.



I killed some time by taking beauty shots of my bike.



Then went exploring the neighborhood. Not but 50 yards from the medical center at the end of the street was this park:



Look at that! It's a kids playground with a gorgeous natural river flowing right next to it and beautiful lush forests all around. Sure, there was a slide and some swings.



But there was also a gorgeous natural river flowing through it!



I would have had so much fun playing in that if I were a kid. Illinois---a amateur fisherman---took the moment to contemplate the river's potential as a fishing spot. Or maybe he was just looking for another cup of coffee.



Oh, and check this out: they built a concrete wall encompassing part of the river. From where I took this picture, there was a gap that allowed the river to flow through. All they needed to do was plug the gap and the river would fill up to the walls and create an pool. Simple engineering and pretty cool idea.



Once all stitches were applied, we sought out a much needed lunch. This place had a rice and meat combo that was delicious. Sorry, no pics. I was too busy stuffing my mouth.



From here we were well behind schedule due to the accident and the medical stop, so we had to book it to make it to the hotel by dark. Not sure we'll make it...

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Old 02-14-2015, 11:06 AM   #14
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Alluriquin to Sigchos

So we got back on the road with a full belly. This was the terrain: hilly dirt roads weaving through wet forests with the occasional stunning waterfall.





Eventually, we began climbing up the mountains and into the cloud forest, so the air was wet and visibility was low. It was actually very quiet and peaceful riding, and the views (to the extent I could see them) reminded me of the rolling farmlands of central PA & northern MD. We stopped for a break in a small mountain town. You can see how foggy it was:



We hung with the locals.



And some of them came up to introduce themselves. Like this guy who really just wanted a vigorous head rub. Colorado happily obliged.



Sorry little one, if I could I'd adopt you.



Our tumultuous start to the day put us behind schedule and we were forced to ride well past sundown. The next 2 hours was an ascent in the clouds along a windy dirt road well lit by a full moon. We ultimately made it over the peak of the mountain and in the cloudless valley below we saw the lights of a small city. The site of our destination provided a second wind and we picked up the pace down the mountain, so much so that I boiled the hydraulic fluid in my rear brake from overuse and had to rely solely on the front for the last half hour of our descent. A quick stop in town for some medical supplies and then off to our hotel on the outskirts. Here is the only pic I took in the dark---a garbage can. Don't know why I took it but I don't have any images of the beautiful dark mountain night, so it'll have to do.



3 km outside of town was our respite: Hosteria San Jose.



Hosteria San Jose is one of a handful a haciendas on 1400 hectares piece of property owned by a local from Sigchos who made his fortune as a businessman in Quito. San Jose was opened in 2012 as the only hotel on the property. It has a nice old spanish look, no?



...and a beautiful courtyard...



...and a well-manicured garden entrance, complete with snow-capped mountains...



...and of course, alpacas.



They looked a little guilty to me, like I was catching them in the middle of some nefarious act. I especially don't trust that guy on the right.



And what hacienda would be complete without a dog? Actually, they had two. This guy's name was Gringo and this picture is highly misleading since he spent pretty much our entire visit diligently pursue butt rubs from all of us.



This girl got jealous every time you pet Gringo and would butt in to steal attention.



The estate has farm lands and tons of cattle. There are some 800 cattle on the whole property, including 87 on the San Jose portion of the estate.



The wood for the house all came forests on the property. Pretty cool. And the inside was nicely decorated with an old hacienda look. Things like fake game trophies...



...old timey guns...



...and an old fashioned camera...



...and a collection of old keys. Very cool.



They fed us a warm and hearty meal and we reminisced over our eventful first day. France shared some Pajaro Azul---a local liquor made from sugar cane that has a slight licorice taste. Me gusta! Not much hanging out as everyone was exhausted. Except me. I relaxed in the jacuzzi and took a dip in the pool before giving my muscles rejuvenating 20 minute steam in the sauna. Yes, the place had an ample jacuzzi, pool, and sauna.




Time for bed. Things learned on Day 1:
- When losing traction on dirt, increase throttle.
- Free heathcare is pretty awesome.
- Alpacas have something to hide.

Oh, and to end here is a handy chart to help tell the difference between alpacas and llamas. Interesting..."can learn tricks"??


infinityjellyd screwed with this post 02-15-2015 at 08:41 PM
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Old 02-15-2015, 07:22 PM   #15
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Day 2: Sigchos to Angamarca

After a solid night's sleep and a full breakfast that included some kind of smoothly-like milky white fruit drink that was delicious (dang, I need to write down these names next time), we said our goodbyes and prepared for another long day on the road. This is the dueña of Hosteria San Jose. Really sweet and friendly woman.



And of course the pups wouldn't let us leave without providing some affection.



This color shot was taken by France: the Midnight Cowboys on a slightly older mode of transportation. France had taken to calling our group that because, as you'll see, we kept arriving at our destinations after dark.



First stop that day was a tour of a cabinetmaker shop and local school founded by a priest. To get there, we had to make it past grueling views like these.





Sigh. How were we going to survive??

In this one there is a Quechuan woman milking the cow on the left. Nice day for milking, if I might say so myself.



We pulled over to soak it all in.



This shot makes me think of an astronaut in some sci-fi film exploring a new world, which was in some way analogous to our adventure.



Oh, and this is someone's backyard. I mean really. If this were my view when drying clothes I'd do laundry every day and twice on Sundays!



We arrived at our location: a school started by a priest named Don Bosco. That is his picture graffiti'd on the house.



We were greeted by a few dogs, one of which was a St. Bernard who was tied up. Why he was tied up, we asked. Too aggressive? Nope, tied up because we was too FRIENDLY. He wanted to jump on everyone, which at his size, was an issue. A few people were knocked down by his aggressive love. Here is Cleveland getting smothered.



He has a smaller (that is relative of course, St. Bernard's are all big) sister. And there was this guy, who was as furry as the others were big.



So Don Bosco created this place decades ago to help the community. It had a school to educate local kids and he also built a furniture workshop with the intention that kids could learn real technical skills that could be used for a career. At its high point, it had 30-40 people working in the shop. The school has since closed and the shop is no longer filled with kids but instead employs 5-7 adults making high end custom furniture. Here is our enthusiastic host leading us to the shop.



And here is one of the cabinetmakers putting the finishing touches on a chair.





The final product looks like this:



The lines across the wood are tiny scallops done by a small handplane. As a former woodworker myself (my first job after college was working for Taylor Guitars on acoustic bodies), I really love the look and smell of a good woodshop. This bag of shavings was coincidentally (and appropriately) heart-shaped; I saw that as a reflection of the care these guys put into their craft.



The school football team was pretty good, apparently, when it existed. A collection of trophies from its glory days.



Here is the football field where they won those trophies. Another spectacular backdrop.



Back on the road again and off to Quilotoa Lake---the namesake of the Quilotoa Loop or 4-day trip was traversing. We hit some newly laid tarmac. Ecuador is growing fast and part of the process, as with any growing country, is investing in infrastructure. So we came across a lot of half-finished roads in our four days, showing that the country really is modernizing quickly. The particular patch of pavement from the workshop to the lake was AWESOME. Literally the best 30-40 minutes of street I've ever ridden. Curvy as a 50's pinup model and the sharpest curves were banked like a Nascar track. They were build for riding on two wheels! The problem was the wind. It was very very very windy. So much so that coming around one turn I cleared the corner and was immediately hit by a 40-50 mph gust that threw me back and send my suspension in a crazy wobble that almost took me down. My experience was not unique, as many of the other riders shared similar tales when we reached our next stop. Anyway, here is a moment we paused to snap a picture of the valley.



And down below there was a gnarly looking dirt road through the hills. Looks fun!



Eventually, we pulled off onto a sandy loom stretch and parked at its terminus...



...walked past a house with some chickens and ducks...



...down a narrow path...



...looked down...



...and BOOM! A gorgeous crater lake. The water was a beautiful turquoise (google "quilotoa lake" and you'll see!).



There is a 6 km trail along the perimeter that would have been fun (and windy) to hike, but we had miles to go before we sleep, so we got back on the road. Not before I snapped a pic of my horse. Gathering a little dirt I see!



We then did some more asphalt through a pretty flat valley. It reminded me a lot of Napa Valley, for those who have been: flat as a board but surrounded by mountains all around. Very open with wide expensive views and (almost) straight roads, but there really are no straight lines in Ecuador, so...

We had to stop for gas. Our gas attendant had on this shirt, so I asked if I could take a picture. Reminded me that no matter where you are in the world, home is never far away. You'll also notice her hat. Quechuans really like to wear these hats. Interesting fact: the Panama hat is actually Ecuadorian in origin. Somehow Panama got credit and the rest is history. But for the record, Ecuadorians know a thing or two about stylish hats!



This guy wasn't much help.



But I could sympathize. I mean, why work when it's beautiful and warm and sunny out. Oh, and this was across the street from the gas station. Literally, 30 ft across the street a giant hill/mountain of tiered beauty. I could never get enough of this stuff!!


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