Santa Rosa, Pasaje, Cuenca, Riobamba, Ambato, Quito
Atravesando Fronteras is the Spanish for Crossing Borders and I’ve crossed another border this time into Ecuador one of South Americas hidden gems and one of the smallest countries that I will have ridden through. It’s less than a 1000kms from north to south so much smaller than any other country in South America.
It’s been a very beautiful country to ride through but tough as the standard of driving is awful and dangerous so for safety’s sake I stay as far over to the right of the shoulder as possible. People here love to throw glass bottles out of their cars and the shoulder is absolutely covered in broken glass. After only having three punctures since leaving London I have had five here and three of them were in one day.
The country has a diversity of landscapes that is staggering and I’ve gone from beautiful pacific coast beaches to lush green mountains in the south and fields full of dairy cattle that made me think of England.
Getting closer to the capital Quito I’m following the valley of the volcanoes with their snowy peaks although difficult to see at this time of year because it’s a little cloudy. As in many other South American countries poverty and inequality remain major challenges especially in the rural villages but as always the people have been happy and friendly helping me find my way through a country that has almost no road signs. I’ve climbed one or two major passes at around 3500mts and I’ve slowly come to realise that climbing hills and mountains although good for my fitness levels can also break my spirit as can riding in the rain for a couple of days but cycling around the world is work and it’s not always easy but fortunately I haven’t had to deal with the huge climbs I had in Bolivia and Peru that had me lying at the side of the road gasping for breath.
One thing Ecuador does offer is a variety of different food; bored with the staple of chicken and rice in Bolivia and Peru it’s great to be able to eat a number of different dishes. They have a soup here called Locro made with cheese, avocado and potato which is delicious and of course there is loads of fresh seafood which is always very spicy and served with rice and the country has the best freshly baked pastries and Ecuadorian hot chocolate.
Quito is one of South Americas most beautiful Colonial cities, full of cobbled streets, people and sunshine and a leafy Grand Plaza at the heart of it all surrounded by the Presidential palace and the Cathedral.
It’s a trendy lively city and although I was told that it was dangerous to stay in the old town I had no trouble at all and picked a hostel just a few minutes walk from all the action. The city is full of churches and most have managed to survive countless earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
I visited one and saw a sculpture of the dead Christ; the artist allegedly killed one of his students to get and exact representation of a dead person. From the top of the Basilica I had a great view of Quito which this year has been nominated the South American city of culture.