Ecuador

From Popayan it was a fast trip to Ipiales by bus. As now I had decided to head home earlier to get the shoulder fixed I must take a few short cuts from now on. It also started raining a lot. I really don’t enjoy riding the Panamericana, because of the traffic and the exhaust fumes. I wouldn’t ride the Autobahn in Europe either! I’m much more off an adventure and off road biker and prefer traveling light. In Ipiales, last town in Colombia before heading to Equador, I got stuck for an extra day because of heavy rain. I visited the impressive Cathedral in Las Lajas Sanctuary, 7km east of Ipiales, in the morning. The Cathedral was built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River and is the second biggest pilgrimage site in the world after Lourdes in France. In the afternoon I made a recce trip to Tulcan, Ecuador. You can cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador as far as Pasto (Colombia) and Ibarra (Ecuador) without needing a passport. In Tulcan I visited the cemetery which is a sculpture garden of tress and a pleasant place to hang out. I also was on an impossible mission to find a road map of Ecuador. In the visitor center they told me that the  road through the ecological reserve to El Angel has been recently tar-sealed and would be a beautiful ride away from the busy Panamericana. That made my day and I was looking forward to what would be my first day of decent riding in South America. Well things always turn out differently: first I missed the turn off and climbed a big hill before realizing, than caught a truck back which left me up the apparently right road. Meanwhile I had found out that the tar-seal story was a big joke. I pushed my 40-50kg up a very steep and bad cobblestone road and when I finally met a man on a horse he told me that I was on the wrong ridge. By than I had made the hill climb twice and didn’t have the energy to have a third go. I continued up the hill and cut back to the Panamericana. I got out exhausted mid afternoon were I had picked up the truck in the morning. I guess that’s were one needs a GPS and a decent map! The locals don’t even know the road they live on. I’ve seen the Paramo from afar and had an adventure anyway …..and caught a bus to Ibarra. The next day was a short 20km to Otavalo, a largely indigenous town famous for its markets. I found my first dark chocolate here since the start of the trip and was happy again…. it’s the simple pleasures in life! Since the big market is on saturday I decided to stay till than before heading to Quito next.

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