Riding out of Otavalo in good company

17 12 2009

Near Otavalo, Ecuador

After riding two days from Quito to beautiful Otavalo, Ecuador, I got to meet up with an old friend from Paraguay.

Lucy, an English biologist, had just finished studying butterflies in the San Rafael Reserve (the forest Ride for the Trees supports) when I met her. Now, she is a volunteer coordinator with World Vision in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest. Coincidentally, her three week vacation began just as I was leaving Quito, so I invited her to join Ride for the Trees for a few days. This section of the blog will be seen through Lucy’s eyes, in italics.

Thanks for the writing break, Lucy!

Imbabura Volcano and San Pablo Lake

Finally leaving Quito I followed in Sam’s tracks North to catch him up in Otovalo, an indigenous market town.  Looking out of the bus window the views of the mountains were amazing- Pichincha, Cayambe and Imbabura’s summits were unusually clear of cloud.  The green mountains rising to grey rocky summits set against a blue sky- the perfect Andean view. Checking out the view from a bumpy bus, an indigenous lady in traditional dress asleep against me and some local snacks in my hand; this is my normal mode of travel in South America. I tried to imagine the trip through the eyes of a cyclist.  It looks hardcore and the mountains ahead imposing.  Did I really say I was going to join Ride For the Trees for a few days?!!

My biking experience is pedaling around Oxford and the summit being Magdalene Bridge.  I didn’t just think it was a good idea after meeting in Quito though, I have thought a lot about Sam’s Epic Ride ever since he told me his idea in Paraguay, and I can’t wait to join for a few days.

I catch up with Sam in the main market square of Otovalo and we head to our sleeping quarters for the night.  I’ve never slept in a fire station before so that’s another first.

Next thing to sleep, find a bike and see how my legs survive a first morning cycling through the Andes clad in some rather swanky spandex Sam has kindly loaned me.

We head off kind of late after an athelete’s breakfast of cake, bread, dulce de leche and mate.  Heading out of Otovalo we take the busy PanAmerican Highway for a short while which is a bit of a shock to me as it is so busy and there is a digger which I have to try and avoid.

We turn on to a quieter road in Peguche and follow this to San Antonio de Ibarra.  This was a lovely road going through small quiet villages, past smiling indigenous children and folk working in the fields and selling cow’s heads in markets.  We arrive in Ibarra earlier than expected, not because I beasted the journey but because it was largely downhill.  We made a quick stop in Ibarra as I insisted that Sam had to try the delicious fruit sorbet Ibarra is famous for (mostly of strange tropical Ecuadorian fruit that isn’t even translated in English).

Lucy riding a road that appears to cut through dry lava flow in the background

Heading North out of Ibarra we had to climb a short distance past Yahuarcocha (Lake of Blood).  Then we continued downhill for the rest of the day passing down through the canyon gorge of magnificent  scenery and sights of (dried) lava flow down the volcanoes.

Zooming downhill the surroundings were becoming more subtropical with roads lined by sugarcane and cactus and lots of annoying biting insects.


After lots of lies from people we asked about the next town we finally arrived to our destination and found a hostel with some really hospitable owners and even went down a broken slide into a freezing swimming pool to cool off after a hot day riding some 60 km.  Great first day riding!!!!


Today we climbed out of the other side of the canyon we had sped down with such ease yesterday.  Do I still like cycling? I don’t know- best ask me tomorrow!  We stopped for an enormous lunch near a sign claiming it for 10km to our destination, Bolivar. Sure, we know we can’t trust what people tell us, but surely a highway sign must be reasonably accurate? Well don’t rely on it in Ecuador! Bolivar didn’t appear for around 30 km of winding continual uphill struggle! I felt fairly beaten and flagged down a police van probably around half way, so  I had my first ride in the back of a police pickup… with detainees no less!


more coming soon… stay tuned!!




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