Our time in Ecuador concludes with visits to Lake Quilotoa and Cuenca. In this episode I am able to figure some gas statistics, but am unable to figure how Rosita folded my underwear so neatly.
Thursday, April 12th
The last day with my Ecuafamilia. Though I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible, I had a number of Annie projects to complete before I hit the road. I’d had a few issues with my electronic accessory circuit, so I dug into it for the first time in Latin America.
My voltage monitor had been out for some weeks. The fuse was shot, as was the monitor. It appeared to have been shorted out by water. I ordered another one to pick up when I fly home.
Though I have had some issues, I’ve been fairly pleased with how my slip-shod electrical engineering has worked out. A casual observer might even believe that I know what I’m doing.
I also installed the new rear brake pads that my parents had brought me. I found that one of the “keepers” was a little bent, causing some uneven wear on the pad.
I think I got it fixed, but will keep an eye on it.
Our last hours together were bittersweet. Rosita did my laundry again. Try as I might, I was unable to reverse engineer the interesting way she folded my underwear.
We went to church…
And took a family portrait.
Friday, April 13th
Time to get back on the road. My flight from Lima was on the 20th and I wanted to allow myself ample time in case of delays. The main goals for the day were to visit the scenic Lake Quilotoa and make some southward progress.
Rosita and I had one last breakfast together, then she signed Annie and I was on my way.
Another blessing was finding a nice note and cash from my Uncle Arden who had dropped off my new riding pants in Ecuador. Thanks, Uncle!
Here we go!
Gaby decided to join me for one last adventure, so we met up a ways down the road.
Our first stop was at the Toachi River Canyon.
I’ll post a couple photos, but I don’t think it is really possible to take a good picture of a canyon.
The route to Quilotoa was more wonderful roads and fun riding. I even caught a glimpse of a couple of other moto-travelers:
Lake Quilotoa was formed from the crater of a collapsed volcano. It is really a spectacle. I first remember seeing a picture of it when staying with my friend Mitch in New York. He had visited it on his southern adventure.
I’ll let the pictures talk for a bit.
Hiking down to the lake is nice, but the ascent can be described as “a slog” at best. The site sits at around 12,000 ft. of elevation. It took us quite awhile to make it back to the top. Mules and pedestrians take the same path, so it is pretty rough footing for a two-legged individual.
(mules are for gringos)
Up at the top it was Gaby’s turn to sign Annie.
It was late in the day, but since I had an escort vehicle I decided to push on to Latacunga.
(Conduce y filma es legal en Ecuador, Gaby?) 🙂
It’s a real rarity that I see a sunset while riding.
Gaby and I went out for one last meal, then said our sad goodbyes.
She did so much for me during our time together. I think she put about a months worth of miles on her car in just a few days. 🙂 We had some wonderful adventures and really got to know each other well.
I found a place to stay called Hostel Sendero de Volcanes. It was another jackpot: $10 a night, with breakfast, fast wifi, secure parking and a router right outside of my room. What else could you ask for?
Saturday, April 14th
So, my trip is pretty ambitious, right? A lot of miles over a long time….But sometimes you meet someone who makes you feel like an amateur. Staying at the hostel was one such person named Andy from England.
He is about a year and a half into his three year bicycle ride from Usuaiah (the tip of Argentina) to Alaska. We had plenty to talk about 🙂
Next stop Cuenca:
Leaving town I saw something being sold at a stoplight that I actually wanted to buy: A large, plush Sonic the Hedgehog doll. (No picture or video, unfortunately. I tried!) It was probably for the best that I didn’t buy it. First of all, it would have been hard to fit in. Second of all, my Sonic didn’t like the proportions of its torso.
I had another nice day of Ecuador riding.
A young boy at a gas stop was really interested in Sonic. I bought some of the chips that he was selling. How could I pass up a free packet of mayonnaise?
Let’s talk about gas
No not that type of gas….stop giggling. Today was an interesting milestone for Annie. After over 34,000 miles traveled, she’s now averaging over 60 miles per gallon for the trip. Early on that number was lower, most likely due to higher average speeds and alcohol in gasoline in the US and Canada. Since entering Mexico, my efficiency has been trending upwards.
Annie reached the mark in style, cranking out a full tank at 85 miles/gallon on the the winding Ecuador roads.
I thought some people (read: nerds) might find it interesting to see my numbers, both for efficiency and cost of gasoline. I’ll rank them in order of country.
Average price paid for gas (in US$ per gallon)
Ecuador: $1.64 (another reason why riding in this country is great)
El Salvador: $3.28
Costa Rica: $4.02
Average fuel economy by country (in Miles/Gallon)
El Salvador: 73.2
Costa Rica: 64.2
(Yes, this took me awhile. Yes, I know I’m way behind and should focus on getting caught up on the narrative. Yes, I have a thing for numbers.)
I’m not going to draw too many conclusions from these numbers (we already know ethanol is bad, right?). Still, it’s nice to see my efficiency numbers trending upwards, even as my engine continues to age (Annie currently sits at 57k lifetime). Moving on….
I made it to Cuenca and checked into Hostal 4 Rios. My host there was very complimentary of my Spanish and made me feel welcome. There was secure parking and I had a dorm room all to myself.
Sunday, April 15th
(Wait…was I supposed to do my taxes?)
Though I was short on time, I wanted to at least take a quick walk around Cuenca. This city is renowned for its colonial architecture and is a major tourist attraction. I knew I wasn’t going to do it justice in just one morning.
I was on my way before noon. My goal for the day was to reach Macara which is right on the border with Peru.
The most major border (where all of the Venezuelan buses cross) is towards the coast near Tumbes. I elected to cross at Macara since it appeared that it would be less congested.
It was a tough day on the road, beginning with dense fog, driving rain and plenty of wind.
The skies cleared during the middle of the day, but I knew it was just a clever ruse. I kept my rain gear on. 🙂
Ecuador was yet another country in which the quality of the roads deteriorate as one goes further south. It got pretty bad at some points. Welcome back to Guatemala:
There were quite a few land slides. The one below had almost completely swallowed up the two southbound lanes:
The next one had regrown quite a bit of brush on top, so I knew it had been there for awhile.
Additionally, this day might have featured the highest amount of animals in the road that I have seen so far. I counted ten unique species in my path: Dog (dozens), cow, horse, mule, llama, sheep, goat, chicken, big vulture-type bird, iguana. Only once did they make me feel uneasy. A cattle herd forced me to a stop and a large bull began staring me down. It did a couple of 360 degree spins, indicating that it was perhaps less than pleased with my presence. Thankfully, it eventually lost interest and I used the opportunity to speed by it.
By the end of the my ride, the conditions were actually pretty nice.
I reached Macara and filled up with cheap gas one last time. It is about 3x more expensive across the border in Peru. I ended up staying at what appeared to be the nicest hotel in town (Hotel Arrozales). It set me back $18 (my most expensive night of lodging since my $23 campsite in Bangor in September), but I needed fast internet that night.
Monday, April 16th
I rode the short distance to the border and began to feel a bit confused. Where were the rows of vendors? Where were the pushy “helpers”? Where were the throngs of people? Instead, there were just a few humble offices and a bridge.
I was allowed to leave Ecuador after less than 10 minutes of activities. I was approached by a gentleman selling insurance in Peru who told me where his office was. He met me again as I was crossing the bridge.
(I don’t know why, I just love videos of people pointing)
He told me that his insurance was $3 cheaper than the other shop down the road. I did verify later that he was telling me the truth. I rode up to the aduana to do the paperwork.
I walked back to the guy’s insurance shop and bought my mandatory insurance. One month was $30.
Last chance for cheap gas!
I was all set to go in probably less than an hour. It was my easiest crossing since the last US-Canada border.
Bittersweet. I was excited to enter the 12th country of my journey, but sad to leave Ecuador. Though I did spend a good amount of time in this country, there are so many parts that were left unseen: The jungles in the west, the coast, Guayaquil and perhaps most notably, the Galapagos Islands. Additionally, I was not able to see a blue-footed booby, the undisputed champion of animal names.
I really hope me path leads me back to this splendid country soon!
Keep slogging, everybody!