Leaving Ecuador

23 12 2009

I’ll miss Ecuador. The landscapes, my friends, my students, the food…

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Near the Colombian border: My world is changing. I don’t know exactly what to expect from Colombia but I suspect the changes I’m seeing here in Northern Ecuador are influenced by Colombia.  I’ve been climbing steadily and so the weather is colder. People are unbelievably polite, buying me drinks and offering me gifts more than usual. Bicycle repair shops are everywhere, and more cyclists too. The Lonely Planet travel guide says soccer and CYCLING are the most popular sports in Colombia. I have also heard from other touring cyclists that Colombians love both cycling and the cyclists that tour their country. I have been advised to expect plenty of generosity. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but they are up. Like Machu Picchu (which was out-of-this-world amazing) tourists over and over guarantee me Colombia really is as amazing as everybody says. So I have high hopes for this country, and like Machu Picchu, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

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It was great having company on the ride. People always ask me, “Why are you riding alone?” I respond, “Would you like to join me?” They laugh and say I’m crazy. I say, “I’ve been told that a few times.” But Lucy was crazy enough to spontaneously join me for a few days. It’s good practice too, because I’ll have another riding partner in about a month, if all goes as planned. Normally I just leave whenever I wake up, eat whenever I feel like it, pack my gear how I always pack my gear. But now that I have a friend joining me I am adapting and planning with her, and it’s a small price to pay. I miss my friends and family more than I can describe… I wish you could all find a way to join me for a few days! Thanks for being the first brave soul, Lucy!

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WHY ECUADOR IS SPECIAL: You already know it is home to the Equator and Darwin’s Galapagos Islands, now here are some observations less widely know.

“Saben comer pollo” (They know how to eat chicken) means “Suelen comer pollo” (They usually eat chicken).

“Tenga la bondad” is my favorite… they say it when they give you your change, which means “Have the goodness.”  After receiving my change I often say, “Tengo la bondad” (I have the goodness).

“Mande?” (roughly translated to “Send it?”) simply means “What?”

Soup. I could live on Ecuadorian soups forever. Sometimes unusual combinations like plantains with fish, or potatoes with chicken feet, typical Ecuadorian Soups have plenty of veggie chunks to fill a cyclist’s expanded belly.

Roads. The roads are steep, windy. In peru the roads followed valleys, while Ecuador bumbles through the middle of the mountainous madness. The geology affects the road planning, of course. Peru has valleys carved by glaciers and rivers. From what I have seen, Ecuador is more volcanic and mountains have sprouted everywhere, blocking what would otherwise be valleys and forcing highway routes that make one think “Why in God’s name do we have to go 20 kilometers up and around that mountain, just to drop down to the river, cross a small bridge and climb back the way we came on the other side of that river?”

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