Pasto to Ipiales to Ecuador!!! 3-6 September 2014

Pasto to Pedregal 40km
Pedregal to Ipiales 37km
Ipiales to San Gabriel, Ecuador 55km

996km in South America

Country 22 done! We have left Colombia and crossed into Ecuador, country 23!

We didn’t love Pasto much. The city was busy and lacked character or anywhere very nice to sit or walk around. It was a shame. The setting, flanked by mountains and even a volcano is amazing. The koala inn hostel was pretty good though with decent wifi. We left it until a bit late to eat but found a restaurant, “la española” fully decorated with Spanish flags and pictures of bullfighters but the menu had nothing to do with Spain. Just the same stuff.
On our rest day, it was great to see so many Colombians standing at a cafe so they could watch cycling (la vuelta de españa). Sadly and dramatically, Nairo Quintana, who was in the lead, crashed and dropped down to 18th only to retire the next day after a multiple crash resulted in a fracture of his collarbone. Colombia still had Rigoberto Uran in 3rd, and the Brits have Froome in 5th. It was looking like it would be an exciting climax.

Pasto to Pedregal wasn’t very tough, which was very useful as we were both feeling A bit ill, starting to struggle with colds. We climbed 750m over a distance of 14km, and then dropped 1500m down a gorge for over 30km. At over 3000m it was very cold at the top, with a decent restaurant to stop and refuel, and we enjoyed sensational views all the way down, past Tangua, to Pedregal, which is the junction between the Pan American highway and the road going west towards Tumaco on the coast.

Another day of climbing to Ipiales was exhausting, and very cold. We lost the morning after a loose connection left is sitting by the side of the road calling the bike shop back in Bogota. Hugely frustrating. But we met a nice Canadian couple cycling North and we stopped to chat for a while. With the limited time that was left, the afternoon was all climbing upwards to reach Ipiales. We had to walk the last couple of km of hills as Paola was just exhausted and had no battery left to assist her. We found a hotel about 5km before the actual centre of Ipiales.

Ipiales wasn’t beautiful and the “famous” indigenous market that they have on Fridays wasn’t on the Friday when we were there, but we took a taxi (very cheap) to Las Lajas, a sanctuary built into a gorge. Quite incredible, and without doubt, not to be missed.

Crossing into Ecuador was easy. The immigration officials thought that travelling by bicycle was “Muy chevere” (very cool).
We avoided the money changers and stopped in Tulcán to withdraw some US dollars (very wierd!)
There were two tough climbs, and the rest was downhill. After saying hi to a Czech couple who had cycled from Buenos Aires and were camping in a field (brrrrr! It is very cold at night up here!), we carried on to San Gabriel to find a hotel for the night. 26 dollars including breakfast was pricey but there was little choice in this small town.

The plan from here is to get to the coast for a break from mountain climbs, and down to sea level to warm weather.

Thanks for reading,