First off, a HUGE thanks to Chris I. from Omaha. I've received several donations through PayPal recently, but this one, from someone I don't know, was quite large and very generous. Chris, I hope my journey has inspired you to take off and see the world on the back of a bike someday for yourself. Thanks again! The donation will keep me going for a little bit longer, which means the world to me. :)
...Last night I woke around 2am and couldn't go back to sleep. I noticed a bright unread message notification, so decided to roll over and check e-mail. I found a concerned message from a blog reader Veronica. She has been following along, but hadn't heard anything for a couple of weeks and was concerned. Interestingly, I've received more than a few of these, which for me is pretty neat. Not the worry of course, but that people (complete strangers for the most part) are actually interested and following along, and of course concerned enough to reach out to check-in when things go dark for a bit. When I reached Canoa and started 'work' I put up an 'out of the office' message on ADVRider to let people know I'd be away for a bit, but forgot to do the same on the blog, sorry about that. Anyway, I'm fine and have decided to post a bit this morning to get everyone up to speed...
The border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador was painless and relaxed. Aside from an hour'ish delay due to some paperwork issues (stemmed from arriving on the boat and things being filed incorrectly apparently). The border itself was chill on both sides, but I'm also surprised at how much more experienced one gets at dealing with travel stress after being at it for awhile. A friend of mine Dyann back in Denver is currently planning a similar moto trip and was asking me about border crossings yesterday. I was looking back on the first few in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, etc, and thinking/comparing it with this latest experience. In the beginning I was fumbling with gear, sweating bullets, accepting help and overpaying 'handlers', paying for insurance and sprays when they weren't needed, and missing out on them when they were. Now it's a totally different story, I'm waving away helpers in fluent Spanish like the pesky insects they are, laying down and napping when there is a delay, going with the flow, and all the gear has its perfect place. Turns out, it all seems to work out in the end regardless of the stress level you choose to live in... an interesting realization for me, and probably many, many Americans.
Since I have quite a bit to catch up on, I'll leave the Quito portion brief. The riding all through Ecuador between cities is fantastic. The mountains gorgeous with roads carving through like twisty veins of asphalt lifeblood. There is also a huge amount of back road and dirt riding if you choose to partake. If so, I would recommend hooking up with the boys at Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental. They can show you all the best routes that Ecuador has to offer. I didn't stray too far off the beaten path and ended up staying at Casa Helbling in the city, which is two blocks from Freedom. Plenty of adequate secure parking, beautiful private rooms (starting at $20USD), and a choice location in Mariscal Sucre made this a good choice for a few days. Interestingly, the longer I'm on this trip, I'm really starting to dislike being in large cities. When I was younger, and even at the beginning of this adventure, I craved the action and nightlife only a larger city can provide. Now, after a few days of being in a city, I yearn to throw a leg over the bike and get the hell out, which usually takes at least an hour (what is it about LatAm cities and trying to exit?!?!).
Quito itself is nice, and there are plenty of sights and activities to explore. Interestingly, it was one of the more dangerous places (from a petty theft/robbery/assault perspective) that I've been in quite sometime. Then again, I had no issue, but kept hearing people tell me not to go here, not to walk here, not to ride this bus, etc. As referenced above, Mariscal Sucre (Plaza Fuch specifically) is the area to be if you want to get hammered, see a blend of incredibly overpriced/incredibly cheap food options, sing karaoke, dance, hook up with a gringo and/or a local, or generally cause a raucous throughout the night. The old town, a short taxi ride from Mariscal, houses the majority of Quito's historic/famous architecture and sights, and also provides a path to explore El Panecillo, which is an ever-present hill to the south topped by the overpowering statue of La Virgen de Quito. You can grab a map of the old town and check off the sights one by one (i.e. Cathedral, etc), or you can throw it away, grab a cup of coffee, and get lost for hours strolling around, which is what I recommend. It really is a beautiful old city with a fair amount of charm. However, I'm not sure I would want to spend more than a few days there (maybe that's just my recently discovered distaste of larger cities).
After three nights/days exploring Quito, I pointed the front wheel of the F8 southwest. I was drawn to get out of the city and back to the coast. I ended up in the incredibly sleepy fishing/surfing village of Mompiche. I rolled up to Hotel Gabeal after a long, but beautiful day of riding through the mountains out of Quito and then blasting out down through the coastal roads. Ok, now here is where you might call me hypocritical (probably not the first time!), but Mompiche was too sleepy. Yeah yeah, I know, I just called Quito too busy... I'm not sure if I was there during some sort of 'off week', but there was literally nobody around and nothing going on. Don't get me wrong, it was nice for a day or so, but I literally explored the whole town, and essentially knew everyone after half a day. There are a couple of good restaurants in town, and a few places to grab a drink, but other than that, not much going on. If you inquire with the locals however, there are several options for day trips around Mompiche. For example, one afternoon I took a 1hr hike over to Playa Negra, which is a very secluded beach with the blackest, silkiest, mud-like, unique sand that I've ever seen (and pasted all over myself). There are also severel small caves and waterfalls surrounding the beach to explore. It's definitely a very nice way to spend an exploratory day.
Along my journey I have been hearing a lot about a website called WorkAway. It's a site set up to promote fair exchange between budget travelers, language learners, and/or culture seekers, in an effort to match them with families, individuals, and/or organizations who are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities. In summary, a traveler can provide a few hours of honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings. The 'aims' are to...
- Promote cultural understanding between different peoples and lands
- Enable people traveling on a budget to fully appreciate living in a foreign environment
- Promote cultural exchange, and give a chance for volunteers to contribute to a cause
- Enable language learners to experience different countries and language immersion
- Give opportunity to projects to receive skilled support and real immediate impact
- May 2nd: Leave for Cuenca where I'll stay for two nights w/ a friend who I met here
- May 4th: Head for Huaquillas at the Ecuador/Peru border
- May 5th: Cross border and ride northern coast south
- May 7th: Head inland to Cajamarca
- May 8th: Huamachuco
- May 10th: Canyon del Pato to Caraz
- May 11th: Huaraz
- May 12th: Huanuco, via La Union, where I'll be meeting my buddy Sam