2015 Columbia/Ecuador

March 2

 We went to Ingapirca, it is Ecuador’s best preserved archeological site. It is small in comparison to Machu Picchu in neighbouring Peru, but still part of the Incan Trail and very important to the Canari people who control the administration of the ruins and the museum. 

 We arrived first thing in the morning by taxi from Canar, it cost 10 dollars and was a very pleasant and scenic drive on a sunny morning. There was a restaurant open ran by an Indigenous family. We had eggs, bread, something resembling ham and a coffee and Tea. I took a picture of 2 elderly Canari women sitting on stumps taking in the morning sun. As we ate we could see the semi intact temple, Llamas grazing in an open field, and Canari people in their colorful dress working away.

 The ruins were originally used by the Canari as an observatory. The Temple of the Sun was used to decide when to plant, when to harvest, all this decided by the angle of the sun. Our guide was very informative and you could tell by talking and listening to him what a spiritual place this was to him.

 In the 15th Century the Incas came and took over the site and developed it as a stronghold . Then the Spanish came and took a lot of the stone and built nearby cities with it. What is left of the site is now controlled by the Canari. We could feel the energy as we walked around. I am glad we stopped here.

 March 3

 WE left early in the morning heading for Chunchi 76 k away. The ride started off downhill on a cold damp morning it had rained all night but was clear in the am. It didn’t take long for the road to go up. We climbed for about 25 k with dogs barking and chasing us all morning. On one stretch we had five dogs chasing us up the road. We were up in the 3500 meter zone and as I yelled and spit at the dogs it took my breath away. It was very irritating. I had to get off my bike a couple of times after the chases just to get my heart rate back down.

 At about 40 k we stopped on the side of the road and ate bananas and pumpkin seeds. In Ecuador there is not many road side Tiendas or restaurants, so we bring our own much needed snacks. The view was amazing we had ridden above the clouds and we could see below us clouds blanketing the valley. We continued to ride up and down, the sun had disappeared and the temperature cooled quite a bit. As we flew down into Chunchi, I hit 72 k an hour at one point. It was very nice and green, what we could see because the clouds had engulfed us.

 We found a room at The Imperial Hotel, right across from the main park downtown. Chunchi is a small town. When we first pulled in we were hungry so we stopped at a place and ordered the standard, chicken with rice and whatever side they gave you. As we were sitting there an old man with a hard hat over his toque came up to us and tried to sell us some kind of religious cards. I said no but he just stood there as our food came. We ignored him for a bit but he did not leave. I turned to him and asked him if he would like some soup, he smiled and nodded his head. I directed him to sit at the table beside us and Candra went and told the waitress to bring him a meal. He sat down and kept smiling at us and when they brought him his soup he took off his hard hat and went to work on the soup.

 Our meal had come when we were done our soup and as I tried to cut my chicken my knife would not go through the meat. I picked it up with my hands and tried to bite it. Not only could I not bite it, it was cold. I looked at Candra and she was staring at her meal too. I said “ I am not eating this” she agreed and we paid our bill and left. The old guy was chewing away on his meal as we rode away. Later as we were walking around we saw him and he gave us a big thumbs up. It made us feel good.

 Later on after we showered we walked back and found a pizza place and ate, it was very good and filling. We went for a walk and headed back to our room. Tomorrow we will catch the bus to Rio Bamba, Rio meaning river, Bamba meaning Valley. We were catching the bus because the blogs Candra had read on this stretch suggested that the trip was long and very windy, with way to much climbing, and no lodging in between.

 March 4

 We slept in and had breakfast, packed our bags and rode to the main road where the buses pass. We hit the main drag as a bus went by us and Candra said “there it is”. We chased after it and it started to pull away and Candra yelled, a guy standing there ran and waved at the bus and it pulled over. We loaded our bikes underneath and were on the road in minutes. Perfect!! It was about a two and a half hour ride and we couldn’t see much along the way because of the clouds. The road twisted and turned the whole way, it seemed like we were going the wrong way sometimes, I was glad I was on a bus for this one. We pulled into Rio Bamba thinking we would go to the Terminal when all of a sudden the bus pulled over and the guy said “Rio Bamba” so we got off and he pulled our bikes and bags out and the bus took off. We were still about 10 k away from downtown we discovered and it took us about an hour of riding until we found our Hotel. Hotel El Libertador. We checked in, nice place 30 bucks a night, and headed out to look for a place called Pro Bici. We are going to do a Mountain bike ride down Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak. Chimborazo is a sleeping volcano that is 6000 meters plus high.

 We found Pro Bici and booked our ride, it will start at 7 am tomorrow, they will pick us up at a bakery 1 block from our Hotel. This is where they make the sandwiches we will eat during the day and it opens at 6 am and has cappuccino which made Candra happy. We will be riding Specialized Rockhoppers. The cost is 110 bucks for the 2 of us and it is 40 k downhill ( 2 up).

 We roamed around town and checked things out. Found a Schwarma place to eat and headed back to get ready for the big ride.

 March 5

 We were up at 5:30 got ready and headed to the bakery for breakfast. We assumed that we were the only ones booked for today but a women showed up and asked us if we were part of the bike trip. We said yes and she said she was too. Her name was Sally and she was from Edmonton. She told us that a French couple had also signed up., this was good because if you had 5 in the group they sent a guide with you. Candra and I thought we were alone.

 We all loaded up in a Nissan Pathfinder with the bikes on the roof. Five clients and two guides, one to drive the support vehicle and one to ride with us. We stopped many times on the way up as they showed us different landmarks. We would drive up to 4800 meters and then those who wanted could climb up over 5000 meters to a high refuge. There was 3 refuges for acclimatizing for those who were climbing to the top, it was a 9 hour accent from the high refuge. There was a 100 meter thick glacier on the top. The air was thin, breathing was laboured. Candra went up past the high refuge to about 5200 meters, I only made it to 4850, I thought my head was going to explode.

 The group was back in about an hour, we had hot chocolates and sandwiches in the middle refuge and then got on our bikes and started our descent. It was so cloudy and cold for the first half an hour we thought we would freeze. Slowly we rode out of the cloud and it warmed up. We stopped and listened as our guide spoke of the Incan trail as we rode past pieces of left over history. We saw flora and fauna foreign to us. Like our guide at Ingapirca you could feel Jose our guides passion for this trail.

 We had started riding at about 10 am, we rode thru moon like terrain in the beginning, then single track in the middle and onto dirt grass roads in the afternoon. We stopped many times to talk and keep the group together. We finally hit an asphalt road with 5 k left to go at 4 pm. We all coasted down the final 5 k to our finish point. It was a 6 hour ride and we covered 40 k. It was a great day.

 We all got together and gave our guides a tip, and then decided we would all clean up and meet for supper.

 March 6

 We were supposed to bike our last 2 days to a town just short of Quito and then take the bus into Quito. We decided to stay in Rio Bamba to check out the weekend market because we liked it here and because I was tired of climbing. There is a 27 k climb out of Rio Bamba and I am tired of climbing. We will go into Quito and do another Mountain bike ride to Cotpaxi. It is about 6o k which will put us over 1700 k on this trip. We have been roaming around Rio Bamba taking in the sights, people watching and eating different foods cooked in various ways. There is a picture of a women standing over a whole cooked pig on the sidewalk of a restaurant. She is tearing it apart with her bare hands. We walked over to have a look and she rips off a piece of pork and hands it to me after dipping it in a pail with salsa in it. I eat half and give the other half to Candra. We look at each other and decide to go for a plate. I nod and she says 5 dollars. She reaches down in front of her and pulls a plate out of a tub of water, shakes of the dripping water, grabs a ladle and scoops some boiled corn onto my plate. Then she turns around with her hands and pulls some nice looking pieces of pig from the corpse, puts them on top of the corn. Then she rips off some off the pig skin that is fried and puts it on top. Lastly she dips the ladle into the dirty 5 gallon pail and puts a scoop of salsa over the whole meal and hands it to me. She then grabs a dirty looking rag cleans the counter with it, wipes off her hands and repeats the process for Candras plate. We sat down looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said “Sue wouldn’t eat this” laughed and began eating. It was very, very, flavourful.

 Every meal isn’t that dramatic. We went to a really nice Italian restaurant for supper and had a really good, wood fired oven pizza, with a couple of beer. So far neither of us has been sick. Knock on wood.




Feb 23

  It was a great night sleep in Puerto Cayo. Samuel the host was a great guy, he loved to talk and show his yard off. It was absolutely beautiful. I know i use that word a lot but the flowers here are so color full they just make you sit and stare. Even when we are riding down the highways the wild trees and bushes that grow in the ditches are color full. Yellows, reds, orange it is constant. Samuel made us a really nice breakfast. Eggs, lots of toast with butter, papaya, pineapple, and some ham that looked like real ham!! Along with 2 kinds of cheese. Fresh squeezed orange juice and a Tea and Coffee (strong) for Candra. He took our pictures with our bikes, we were going to be on his wall of fame.

  We hit the road with full bellies and started our ride to Puerto Lopez. Puerto Lopez is a small fishing village with a handful of Hotels and some tour agencies catering to Whale watchers. The smell of fish lingers in the air where ever you go, frigate birds and vultures fill the sky scavenging for anything the fishermen leave.

 This is where the boats take tours out to Isla de la Plata an Island about an hour boat ride away that has hiking and snorkelling. We walked to the end of the dock and watched for awhile, the boats departed every 30 minutes with about 15 to 20 people on each boat. We decided not to go, it looked crowded.

 We were staying at Hosteleria Mandala, www.hosteleriamandala.info. It is worth looking at!! They are a couple from Italy and Switzerland. This place had 26 cabins scattered in a plush garden/jungle. We had a big deck with 2 hammocks, hot water and a king size bed. The food was top notch, home made bread, good coffee and great service all sitting on a beach front property. The workmanship on the Cabanas was very well done, the wood work was art, I don’t know how else to describe it, each Cabana had a name , ours was Iguana. Our key had a foot long Iguana attached to it and the entrance to our Cabana had a chain across the gate with an Iguana on it. Very well thought out.

  Feb 24

  Had another very good breakfast at Hostel Mandala and got on the bikes later than usual. We had many options of places to stay according to the Lonely Planet guide book. It didn’t take long for the road to go up. We had heard from a local that these hills were called “The Group of Five” we were on the fourth one. It is where the road turns inland because the shoreline is a cliff. The climbs are 2 to 5 k long through jungle and are very humid and hot with no wind. You had to drink lots of water!!!!

 We rode through Salango were u could rent a boat in the small fishing village and go see the Blue footed Boobie, then on to Olon which had a long beach. This is a point on the road that marks the beginning of a departure from the dry scrublands further south. This lush cloud forest is part of the Cordillera Chongon-Colonche a low coastal mountain range. It is one of the few places in the world with a cloud forest and a beach so close together, Jaguars, Howler Monkeys and the endangered Great Green Macaw reside here.

 After the fifth climb and 54 k we rode into Montanita,  a surf town full of dreadlocks. We rode into town trying to find The Balsa Surf Camp that was recommended by Lonley Planet. No shirts, no shoes, no service does not apply here!! There was 2 blocks of Hotels, and restaurants jammed together. Street vendors selling jewellery, food, hats, sunglasses, it was like downtown Banff in mid July with an age limit….under 30. Music coming from every place, it was full of life.

Thankfully we found our surf camp about 1 k back were we had come from. It was very nice, it had a beach with all the restaurants we needed and the music was from the 70s a little more layed back and the Age group was 25 to 70. We could walk into town along the beach whenever we wanted it was perfect. Our room was a lovely hideaway of hand crafted two-story thatched roof bungalows set in a lush garden. We had 2 balconies 1 overlooking the beach and 1 into our jungle/garden, it was great. The beach was 25 meters away. The owner rented Bulsa Wood handmade surf boards for 10 bucks a day. I was excited to hit the surf. We got settled in and went for something to eat, hamburgers and beer, and went for a beach walk. It was a nice long flat beach with lots of people surfing. We got back and I rented a board, a 9 footer, it is supposed to be easier to get up on.

 I spent 2 hours battling the waves to get out and then getting washed back into shore. I stood on the board 3 times for about 2 seconds and then rolled in the waves. I finally gave up when I stood after falling, I was  wiping the salt water from my eyes when the surf board slammed me in the chest knocking me over and I swallowed a huge amount of salt water before I could get back up……..time for a coke, I deserved it, I was exhausted. Tomorrow is another day.

 We walked into the edge of town for supper because we had seen a couple eating a really good looking Pizza and that looked like a good change. We got there ordered Pizza with 2 beer and it was good. We had one piece that was cheese and tomatoes, and another that was cheese and onion. The crust was really good too. They looked like they had good empanadas of different flavors, chicken, pork, or vegetarian. I think we will have to walk back tomo. 

 Feb 25

  Woke up this morning and had a good breakfast, went for a beach walk and rented a board again. To make a long story short it was much the same, after 3 hours I was done with surfing, it was a great experience but I think it takes a lot of practise. I will stick to body surfing, I had more success hahaha.

 We had a great relaxing day in the sun swimming and tanning, the day seemed to slip away. Before we knew it we were hungry, time to walk into town again. I got to a phone and with a little effort finally got through to my Dad, it was his Birthday so I wanted to call him. It was good to hear my Mom and Dads voices, hadn’t talked to them for a month.

 Now we found our way to the Pizza place, I had a ham and cheese and 2 chicken empanadas, Candra had the Tomato again. It was just as good as yesterday and the Empanadas were every bit as good as I thought they would be. To celebrate Stans birthday, Candra suggested we go to the bakery and have a piece of cake. She had a piece of chocolate cake and I had a crape sot of thing covered in caramel. Happy Birthday Dad.

 We walked back and got ready for bed because tomorrow we were back on the road again. 

 Feb 26

 I woke up to the sound of rain at about 11:30 pm, it continued through the night and into the morning. We had breakfast and numerous coffees before taking off just before 10 am. It was a nice cool ride along the coast, we saw lots of fisherman coming in from their night on the water. I think this was the flattest ride we have had on the entire trip. We were coming to the end of The Ruta del Sol, The Road to the Sun. We were headed for Santa Elena, it is the beginning of a Peninsula that goes out to Salinas which is a port city, we could see all kinds of ships as we rode along the coast. We stopped and had another fish feast knowing it was to be our last one of the trip. We rode to the bus station in Santa Elena and there was a bus leaving in 20 minutes so again we headed for the Banos and cleaned up and changed into street clothes and were on the bus headed for Guayaquil. It was a 3 hour bus ride. We wil bus to Guayaquil and spend the night there and catch a bus to Cuenca the next morning.



Feb 20

 I looked back on my last entry and saw that I did not do a spell check. I also made a few mistakes. The Hotel Vista was 35 dollars a night but compared to everything else we have been to it was worth 100 dollars a night. The place was spectacular the rooms were clean, they changed the towels and sheets every day and the fan worked awesome. We sat out on the deck with our hammock and enjoyed the scenery and people watched. Our neighbour was from London his name was Mark and he taught English in Vietnam. He was a very interesting and humorous fella, we had some great conversations.  The beach at Canoa was really good, in the mornings we would walk from one end to the other, it was nice and flat, the tide would be out. Then we would head to Candras favorite restaurant because they made a great cup of coffee and had a Muesli and fruit breakfast. Then we would head back to Hotel Vista and read or nap until the tide came in and we would go for a buggie board and swim. After that it was time for lunch and there was about 30 places to choose from.Lots and lots of seafood. Fish, shrimp, lobster, squid, cooked in every way you could imagine.

 Another session in the Pacific, I took a Surf lesson and headed out to test my skills, it is a lot harder than it looks. It takes a big effort just to get out to were u surf bashing and crashing fighting your way thru the waves to reach a place where the good waves are, I guess. Then you try to surf one with no luck and the waves wash you and your board right back to where you started, then you do it all over again. On my third attempt I managed to get up and surf for about 7 seconds, and then I was done I needed a rest. I took my board back after 2 hours it was time for a fancy drink, my mouth was full of salt. Tomorrow is another day.

 I think I am getting my days mixed up. We arrived in Canoa on the 18th and spent the 19th and 20th there and on the 21st we left for Manta.

 The 20th was another day of relaxing, I was going to Surf again but it was really windy and the tide was way out for a lot of the day and when it came in the waves were big and the water was really coming in high on the beach. We walked around and swam had some fancy drinks and ate and chatted it was a relaxing day. We were in a beach bar and a local came in with his guitar and sang songs for money, after a couple tunes he asked for requests. I asked him if he knew The House of the Rising Sun, he started strumming it but didn’t know the words so I started singing, I sang the whole song and he had great rhythm he played right along with my version. When we were finished I got or should I say we got a round of applause from the 7 people sitting there. It was fun.

 So supper and off to bed for tomorrow we are off to Manta.

 Feb 21

  We set off for Manta at 6:15 it is a nice cool cloudy morning. To make a long story short after 6.5 hours of riding with a couple of long climbs in 34 degree temps we arrive in the huge City of Manta 116k later. We find a Hotel next to the Malaccan right near the water with air con. We find a place to eat, buy snacks for the next day and we are in bed. It was a long day in the sun.

 Feb 22

 We are riding to Puerto Cayo, it is 75 k away. We don’t set off till about 8:15 because we had breakfast included. There is 2 roads to take to Puerto Cayo, one goes inland and one stays by the Pacific or so it looks on the map. Of course we choose the Pacific road for the scenery. Well for about 10 k it is beautiful and then it turns inland to go around this big valley and we climb and climb and when we get to the top we cruise along on a windy road it is the first time we have ridden into wind for any prolonged period of time……… it sucked, even on some of the downhills we had to pedal and again it was warm. We finally came back to the Pacific and stopped at a little road side restaurant for a fish feast, it was really good, just what the doctor ordered. Full of energy we carried on until we arrived in Puerto Cayo. Stopped at the Hotel recommended by the books, it was bad so we went to the next one, bad too, what I mean by bad is dirty, just lazy people with a great spot. Finally we pulled into a great little spot not ocean front but clean. The guy that owns it is from Switzerland, small world aye. So we are staying here tonight and on to Puerto Lopez where we hope to stay for a few days and rest and surf. Cross your fingers.



Feb 17

  We went to the Terminal (bus station) early this morning to check things out. Yesterday we looked around upon arrival in Santa Domingo to see what time the bus went to Pedernales. We went to the Pedernales booth and had a very hard time communicating with the lady behind the window. She finally stuck a schedule up against the glass and it showed the first bus was not until 2:30 pm. We rode our bikes down the street to look for a Hotel and there was lots to choose from. We picked one and went in and got settled. We decided we didn’t want to go out for supper because of the relaxed day sitting on the bus. We had snacked on some potato chips at a bus stop with a coke, and then had a lady hop on with some nice warm corn on the cobb with cheese. The corn was pre buttered and the cheese went with it nicely, it was a salty cheese, I wished I had gotten 1 more after she had left. At another stop a guy got on and he had Pan de Juca which is a bread baked and made from the Yuca which is like a potato. That was really yummy too, it almost tasted like it had cheese in it but it didn’t. There was 6 of them in the bag so we had 2 each and shared the other 2 with two young sisters sitting in front of us. They shared it wth there brother too. They had been staring at us since the beginning of the trip and giggling. It is Carnival time right now so everyone is running around throwing water at each other and spraying what looks like shaving cream at each other. They were thinking about spraying us but I shook my finger at them and said no no no. The young brother was 2 seats ahead of us and at one point he turned around to show his sisters, he had given himself a mustache and sideburns out of the foam and they laughed hysterically.

 So instead of supper we sat in the air con in the Hotel Lobby and drank beer and utilized the WiFi.

Feb 18

 We woke up early as usual and I said to Candra “ Lets go to the bus station and confirm that there isn’t a bus until 2:30. So we walked over and as we entered I saw a guy that looked like he might speak English, so I approached him “ Hablo English”? He said yes a little, so I asked him to come with us to the ticket booth and ask them when the next bus to Pedernales was. He turned to me and said that they  left every 25 minutes all day long!!!! Wow did we have that one wrong.

 We went and had breakfast, went back to our Hotel packed and went to the Terminal, it was 8 dollars for the 2 of us and the bikes. We were on the bus and rolling within 15 minutes it was awesome.We drove on the bus for about 3 hours through the cloud forest. It was a windy road and you could hardly see anything out the windows it was so cloudy. The roads were wet from all the mist. We finally came down into the sunshine and we were driving through a plush green jungle. After a couple more hours we could finally see the Pacific Ocean.

 We pulled into Pedernales and got our bikes going and it was warm. We wanted to find a place to stay right away so we rode down the main street. It was still Carnival and the beaches were packed, people everywhere dancing in the streets, throwing water at each other, it was a big party. We decided to head out of town and find something down the road that was a little more peaceful. We rode about 5 k down the road and found a sign that said Playa, a beach, so away we went. It was another 3k before we came across a Hotel, we were soaking wet from the heat and were riding in our sandals. Candra went up and checked out the room and came out with a frown on her face. It’s a bed with a shower she said. We put the bikes behind a fence and took the panniers up to the room. It had a double bed with 18 inches on one side and 2 feet on the other. It had an old rusted fan and an almost finished bathroom with no door or shower curtain, they were just about finished it. One night!!! We unpacked our bathing suits and headed for the beach. It was awesome to jump into the Pacific. We cooled down and went nand had a beer. There was definitely a party going on here too. The beach was full and the music was blaring, we were the only gringos on this beach. We had our pictures taken many times. It was after 6 so we went to our restaurant and had a nice meal. I had a huge plate of battered fish and chips and Candra had Ceviche. The sun was going down as we finished supper so we headed up to our room. It was hot with only 1 1ft x 2ft window. We put the fan right on us and read for awhile as we listened to the pounding music……. This went on til 5 in the morning. 

Feb19

 After a sleepless night we were up and packed by 6am, we had to pound on the door and wake the owners up. They had put our bikes inside and locked the doors. We finally got going as the sun came up.

 It was nice to ride on the flats. We rode 45 k to Jama which was going to be our destination but it was only 10 oclock so we carried on. We stopped a couple times . Once for watermelon and once to have some coconut milk. It was an overcast morning but cleared up after lunch and started warming up. After 86.8 k we pulled into Canoa, a little beach community that was full of Hotels right along the beach. We chose one called La Vista. #5 dollars a night and we had a beautiful room on the second floor with a balcony and hammock overlooking the Pacific, this is magnificent, high fives all around. 30 restaurants down the main drag, seafood heaven. We have decided to stay here for a few days. I will keep u posted.



 Feb 13

  Cycling to Ipiales was a 4 hour and 40 minute journey. Along the way there was lots of great scenery but did not stop to take pictures other than a couple of really nice waterfalls right along side of the road. It was a lot of climbing, our average speed was 10.4 k an hour. It was one of those days where you just kept pushing because that is what was going to get you to the end. We were on the road at 7 am and it was chilly, the sun didn’t come out until about 10. With all the climbing we were wet and sweaty and cold, we would stop on the few descents we had and put our jackets on and then take them off at the bottom because it was too hot to have them on to climb.

  We finally rode into town with a nice little downhill. We didn’t know where we were going to stay but as we rode along there was a nice looking Hotel so we pulled in and they had a room, 35 dollars and it was brand new.

  We showered up and got something to eat, chicken, rice and some Simpson Seeds lentils, and a bowl of soup. Fresh as Daisies we headed out to look for the Sanctuary Los Lajos, which is this amazing feat of architecture. A young girl supposedly saw the Virgin Mary in the rocks so they built a huge Sanctuary in this huge Valley, it took them 20 years to build it and is was quit spectacular, the stone work is simply amazing. People flock to it from all over, it has now become a big tourist site. It was worth seeing. I only made it half way down, there was about 2000 stairs down and after a good days ride the old knee said stop. So I watched Candra go all the way to the bottom. I got a picture of her deep in the valley. By the time we got back to the top it was time for a Cervaza.  

  We felt like something different for supper so we walked to the local Exito, which is there grocery store. We bought a loaf of French bread, a tomato, 2 avocados, a purple onion and some bananas. Then headed back to the room and had a sandwich feast.

  Tomorrow we cross the border into Ecuador.

 

Feb 14

  Up early and got all packed, passports ready for the crossing. It was a chilly morning and a downhill ride to the border. Right away the money changers were on us. We didn’t bother with them right away because we wanted to get in the line up to leave Colombia. It took about 45 minutes and they let us bring our bikes in the building. We finished and then went out and got our money exchanged, Colombian Pesos for American dollars. Then rode 200 yards and got in line to get into Ecuador. I got in line Candra filled out the forms. This one took about an hour and we were finally on our way.. right into a 4 k climb. We weren’t cold any more by the

 time we got to the top.

  We had heard that the dogs in Ecuador, were ferocious. Well, 20k into Ecuador, a pitbull looking thing silently came flying out of a yard and bit Candra on the ankle drawing blood. I was about 200 yards behind her and didn’t even see it. Candra  yelled at me. I looked over and it was coming. Jumping off my bike,I put it between me and the dog.I pulled my pump off,  waved it, and started yelling.It stopped. Dam that thing looked mean!!! Candra was shaken.  She hadn’t  seen it, just felt pain in her ankle,thought maybe she had run over a branch. Looking down, saw this dog on her in full attack mode. We will be more aware from now on!!!!!

 We have noticed fewer road side Restaurantes and Cafeteria’s. We rode for about 40k before we finally stopped and had a chocolate bar and some peanuts from our panniers. At about the 50 k mark Candra spotted an Helaldo ( ice cream ) shop. We pulled over for another break and ice cream. It was only 5 k to San Gabriel where we were going to stop for the night. 

  The terrain had been rolling hills almost all day after the first climb. The highway was good. 

 

  Arriving into San Gabriel it was only 11:15, so we decided to carry on to the next town which we thought was about another 20k. It ended up being about 30k. El Juncal and it was pretty grubby, the only Hotel did not look very inviting. We had come downhill for the last 15k on a road under construction. It was dusty so we stopped for a quick drink and carried on. We rode down some more not seeing any places to stay, I was starting to get worried. We rode up to another little town and asked a fellow if there was a Hotel, he said not here but 5k over that hill there is one. We were at 86 k for the day now and were both getting tired. We climbed this steep 2k hill and finally could see a string of Hotels. This brought smiles to both our faces. We pulled into the nicest looking one we were going to treat ourselves after a 96.8 k day. It was full, so we went to the next good looking one……full to the third full. I was getting worried again. Finally the fourth said they had one room but we had to wait for them to make it up. Great we thought a broom closet with a bed. Well it wasn’t a broom closet but it was right beside the highway, no fan and the bathroom smelt like sewer, we opened the window and the mosquitos started buzzing in we had to close it. This was ok because it stopped some of the booming music from a road side chicken place that ended up playing it full bore until 4 am. This was along with the music blasting from our own place where the party went until about 5:30, We didn’t get much sleep. We did walk over to the nicest place where we first stopped and had supper. 

  Feb 15

  Got up tired, headed downstairs to get our bikes and everyone was asleep. I understand why they were up all night partying. We kept banging on the door until finally someone came. We got our bikes loaded up and headed to the nice restaurant for breakfast.

 Back on the road we had a 40k ride that was a slight uphill for 28 k and then finished with a 12 k climb. The sun had come out and it made for a hot climb. No road side spots here in Ecuador so we stopped and had peanuts and chocolate bars the we had with us.

  We rode into town and went to the bus station we wanted to see when the bus left for Santa Domingo, we are going to bus to there and then switch to another to Perdinales. We will be riding along the coast now. It will be interesting to see how hot it will be. 

  Feb 16

  Excited to have a few days off. We are heading to the bus station for our 5 hour journey. Will post again when get wifi.












Blog #3

  We left Altamira at 6:30 am it was cool and cloudy. We had a fairly good sleep considering we were right beside the highway, the traffic slowed at about 2:30. Had scrambled eggs and dried bread for breakfast. The highlite was our first drink of fresh squeezed grape juice it was delicious.

  The day started off with a long downhill after climbing to Altamira which of course turned into a good up hill and this went on for 40 k. It took us three and a half hours to climb those Mountains, arriving in Pitalito at 10:15 at the bus depot. We had planned to bus from Pitalito to Popayan. Columbia is divided north to south by three cordillas of the Andes. They are the east,cental and west. We chose to begin the trip running down the cental and west cordillas. They told us the bus was leaving in 15 mins!! We took turns changing in the bathrooms ( of course cost a peso ) we sat,  ready for the bus, and it didn’t leave until 11:45 haha. I had to strip down the bikes and jam them in the back behind the rear seat  that was an extra 10 dollars for the driver ). There was a mix up with the seating and as luck would have it they stuck Candra and I up front with the driver…. Best seats on the bus.

   The trip of 120km is supposed to take a bone shaking 5hrs over steep rocky single lane dirt road way. We climbed to an altitude of 4000 meters. Sheer drop offs and no guard rails. So, why in heavens name would semis take this route???We were stopped for hours as one big rig tried to maneuver his way over this. The line up of vehicles going our way had to back up, go forward,wiggle over,get out and direct traffic. Damn I wished I spoke more Spanish. I really wanted ask the bus driver if this was a regular occurrence. The driver just smiled and replied,”no hay problema”. Which makes me think it’s a regular occurrence!

 Arrived in Popayan 7hrs later. So much for showing up in daylight. The bus stop is on the busiest street in Popayan. The driver and his cronie throw out luggage into the street and bolt. The bikes have taken a beating, too many sacks of potatoes placed on top. Damn. As Bryan begins reassembling Candra eagle eyes the gear. The usual crowd of on lookers gather. Honey is a bit stressed so I keep reminding him to find some humor in this. Assembled and off into the chaotic traffic without any sense of direction we grab the first hospedajae (hostel) that looks decent.

 Popayan, founded in 1537, is the second most important colonial city after Cartagena in Columbia. It is called Ciudad Blanca (White City) because all the buildings were once painted white. This morning, having got our bearings, we biked to the old colonial center. Absolutely beautiful. Our new hotel is a 200 year old building beside a church built in the 1500’s. Walking outside we can hear the masses inside. 

 Today we visited the Museum of Natural History on the university campus. It is very well done. I was able to find out the names of many of the birds we have been seeing while cycling. Columbia has the most species of birds on the planet. The parrots and parakeets we have seen are very colorful. There are 132 varieties of humming birds. I think we’ve seen two!

 Tomorrow will be another day for sigh seeing, bike repair, clothes washing, and letting bodies repair. I did not take into consideration the intensity of the equatorial sun or the ferocity of the South American mosquito. My skin looks like leprosy has set in. Arms and shoulders have broken out in heat blisters (a first), they have drained (gross), and now are peeling. My calves are so covered in bug bites Bryan thought I was coming down with measles. Bryan’s nose has fried and is now peeling. Hairy legs seem to stop these small mosquitos from biting. There is no use in applying sunscreen and bug juice, which we have, because we are sweating so much it won’t stay on. The next week will see us ascending and escaping mossies and their threats of Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and Malaria.

  We had a really good supper tonight with Beef , Pork and Chicken on a stick with veggies and potatoes. It was so good we are going back there again tomorrow night mmmm it had flavor. As you can probably tell Candra has joined in on the blogging .  Talk to you tomo, thanks for reading

                    





Boh & Candra, South America Cycling Adventure   

Blog #2

Feb 1/15

 Got up at 6am again and it was raining. We packed and went for breakfast because we were leaving regardless. Our host and Hostess couldn’t believe we were going to leave they both had sweaters on and were freezing. It was probably 16 or 18 degrees still, I thought it was perfect. We had our tea and coffee with a mixture of fruit and bid our far wells. Our host ( I cantremember his name ) hopped on his motorcycle and guided us to a short cut out of town. It was 3 k shorter. It rained on us for about an hour and stayed over cast for the whole morning. It was a nice change being cool. It was a fairly flat ride with rolling hills through some beautiful country , the Andes are colorful, the red rock and plush vegetation on both sides of the road keep the eye entertained. I should have been watching the road closer because I ran over a branch and it sucked my rear fender under itself and ripped right off the frame. I skidded to a stop, not knowing what had happened. Dam!!!! I pulled it out and it was not totally pooched, this is why I bring duct tape. Zip zap zoopand we were on the road in 10. The fender still works, but it doesn’t look the same.

 We rode for 50 k without any more problems or any big hills and then boom an 18 k climb . Our pace slowed substantially. I am calling them hills but they are actually mountain passes, it went on and on until the 75 kilo mark we were getting pooped and the sun had come out. Because of our altitude the temp was in the mid 20,s. We finally rode into Gigante. There was an old Colonial Hotel right on the main drag and it had a pool. We got a room, had a shower and went looking for food. In the town square there is always food. I spotted one that said Pizza. It was thin crust with cheese and ham with shredded chicken. The pieces were huge, it was so good I had 2 mmmm. We walked around and found some snacks for tomo. 2 chocolate bars and some street peanuts, these will be good for energy because tomorrow will be climbing up and down most of the day. We will be heading to Altimira ( I think it stands for high view ). Today we rode for 76.5 k, tomorrow is supposed to be about 54. 

Went back to the Hotel with a full belly and had a beer and a swim it felt good to cool off, I love these places with pools. Off to bed to read for awhile, hope fully the trucks don’t go all night, we are right on the main drag.

Feb 2/15

 Well the trucks went ALL night long along with the music. We got up at 6:15 packed and found a place open and had eggs toast and coffee and tea and were on the road by 8. Garzon was 30k away and we were going to stop there for lunch.

 We finished 2 long passes by about 10 and pulled off to a road side stand , we got a coil of pineapple and a quarter of a watermelon and sat in the shade and ate. Man this fruit is tasty, right off the vine. Back on  the again and into Garzon. It is climb descend climb descend over and over. Got to Garzon and found a restaurant. I had a big bowl of soup with potatoes and veggies and Candra had the Scrambled eggs and plantain with lots of water and fresh Lemonade, just what the doctor ordered. Back on the bike and up down up down intil we finally climbed into Altimira after 56.74 k. It was hot and I broke down and had my first coke…. Man was it good and in a glass bottle. We got a room and went looking for a restaurant we were starved, it was the first time I have heard Candra say her legs were tired. Candra had a pork supper with beans, beets, plantain fried and a bowl of soup. I had the chicken fried with beans and beets and a bowl of soup. We finished off with a couple beer and headed back to our Hotel. This place is a little building off the side of the road, it has a restaurant and nice and clean. Really small with a double bed and a pipe coming out of the wall for a shower with no hot water. All this for 15 dollars, not bad. Just had the pee scared out of me by a trucker on his horn going right by our window. Ok going for a drink an off to bed.

Blog #1

Just brought home some Schwalbe Marathon tires for Candra, sounds like they are flat free!!! We will see for 80 bucks they should do something. I bought myself a Brooks saddle, a B 17, I have been riding on it in the garage, they say you need to put a 100 miles on it to break it in…. I hope  they are right!!. I also picked up fenders today, I think we will need them in the Andes, it rains on and off…. I hate wet feet. I also picked up a new tool, The Stein mini Cassette Lock, it is from J.A.Stein Co. This will save me taking a chain whip and a crescent wrench and it only weighs as much as 3 toonies!!!

 We also orders 2 new sets of wheels, we got Alex rims 36 hole, with new cassettes. Mine is a 7 speed now but I am going to an eight speed ( I have Deore thumb shifters and I can make it work ) I am also putting on a new cassette, a 11-34 instead of a 32, I think it will help on the long climbs. Candra is getting a 34 also but in an 8 speed. New handlebar tape with gel under the wraps, this helps with the road vibrations a lot and helps with hand numbing. Speaking of numbing we are also taking Butt Butter from Cycles Lambert, I had never used it before our trip around Cuba, I will never go on a trip without it again!!! It is night and day how your bum feels after riding for 6 or 8 hours…. Amazing stuff!

  I am writing on a Surface Pro 2 which I picked up for this trip. I will be sending reports on our trip back to Donavan and he will be putting it on our Web Site so if anyone is interested they can follow along . I have downloaded maps of Ecuador and Columbia that we can access off line, this will be nice option to have with us. We took some Spanish lessons (Candra is much better than I am) this time to help communicate, some things get lost in the translation so the maps will really help. This Google Maps program is awesome, it gives Hotels, Hostels, Restaurants, Entertainment….. it is packed full of information that will be very helpful along the way, I am looking forward to using it on the trip.

 I took my trusty Rocky Mountain Metro down to the store to give it an overhaul before we venture out again, I changed my handlebar tape, doubled it up this time { two layers of cork no gel} .  Cleaned and shined the whole frame, and when I was cleaning my chain rings I discovered my middle ring, the 40 tooth was getting pointy which means it was wearing out. Because of this I also measured the chain and discovered it had stretched past the acceptable length, so I am replacing the chain with a new Sram  power link which is supposed to be easier to replace on the road. I am putiing a 36 tooth middle chain ring on instead of a 40, this should give me a higher cadence, which will let me stay in my middle ring longer, not having to shift to the little ring so soon. While I was cleaning I went to take my bottle cages off and snapped the head off of the screw in the braze on and could not get it out, They had rusted in from all the salty air and spray from our Cuba trip. I had to take it too a welder and get him to weld an extension on the piece so we could clamp on to it with vice grips and remove it from the braze on. It all went well, the heat from the welder did not screw up my paint…..he did a wonderful job I was worried it would leave burn marks, it didn’t and the threads where still great, lucky!! So my bike is sitting waiting for new wheels and a 12-34 cassette, new sram chain, this should all give us a bunch of trouble free miles!!!

 So now I have put Candra,s bike into the bike stand and gave it a really good cleaning. It was dirty she has been riding it all summer. Her bike is a newer Rocky Mountain Metro and is made out of Aluminium, mine is full chro=moly  hers has Shimano Rapid fire, compared to my Shimano XT thumb shifter. Hers has replaceable drop outs and mine is fixed. When we checked her drop out it was worn, so we replaced it with a new one and am going to take the old one for a replacement just in case we need it, mine can be welded but I don’t know if we could find another drop out if we had too, 700 c are not as popular around the world as 26 inch bikes. Other than that Candra,s bike was in really good shape, new tires and new wheels a new cassette and a new chain should give us a lot of trouble free miles!!  Gup mounted the rear fenders on both of our bikes before we box them and we will put the front fenders in the box for shipping and they will get put on in Columbia. I have to thank Gup our mechanic at the store he is awesome, he saved me a lot of time and when he does things I know they are right. Thank You!!!!

 So here we are Thursday the 22nd everything is packed , we are only taking 2 rear panniers ( 40 litres ) and a handlebar bag that is 15 litres and have shoulder straps so they will be our purses ( for lack of a better word ) We are carrying a pannier and the handlebar bag on the plane and put the other 2 in a duffle bag to go under the plane. We arrived at the airport 2 ½ hours ahead so we could make sure we had enough time to check the bikes, they get pulled out of the box and schwabbed ( checked for explosive residue or drugs). All went well of course and we where on our way to Toronto. We overnighted there and flew to Bogota at 8 am. We arrived there 6 hours later made our way through customs and headed to the Hostel. Casona del Patio, it is a nice little place in a safe part of Bogota. We walked around and found a market and bought some snacks and a couple Columbian beer, we where going to walk to a restaurant but it started raining so we went back and had supper and headed off to bed.

 Jan 23/15

   Got up and built the bikes while Candra went to the bank, it is about 2000 pesos to a dollar. We went and took the bikes for a test ride to make sure everything was ok, there is a little more traffic than in Cuba, Bogota is 8 million people. All went well so we came back and hopped in a cab and went to the La Candelaria where Bogota was born. It is the center of downtown, and the home of politics in Bogota. There was lots of people on the street selling there product. We ate lunch at a place cooking pork on an open fire pit, it was really good. We walked around a little more and headed back to our hostel. It is a bustling City with lots to see and do.