80km from San Gabriel to resort “hidden paradise”
60km to Lita
77km to San Lorenzo
97km to Atacames
5km to Sua
70km to Mompiche
87km to Pedernales
55km to Matal beach, Jama
1527 in South America
23,035km so far
From cold windy mountains to hot humid and tropical coastline, (at sea level, duh), after San Gabriel, instead of heading to Quito, we opted for a road heading Northwest to leave the mountains and drop 3000m to see the other side of South America, to enjoy warmer weather and let’s face it, give our poor tired legs a break from all that climbing.
All downhill? Easy? Not quite but we are now on the coast. It’s still not flat but it’s definitely not so tough and enjoying a beach or two! Yay!
We met a very dirty American called Robert who had cycled from Alaska and was going in our direction. He told us that his mud-spattered face was simply because he didn’t have mudguards. We cycled with him for a while but lost him after Paola and I followed a diversion. This ‘Desvio’ turned out to be huge and in fact was not just a diversion, it was a total change of route, and we were heading towards El Angel. I decided to turn back, and ignore the diversion. The guy just waved us through. I guess Robert had been smart and ignored the diversion first time so would now be way ahead of us.
The route south towards Ibarra involved some spectacular views as we descended but also hit us with climbs too and wind that often stopped us dead in our tracks even when descending.
Before Ibarra, we turned off at Salinas, to head towards the coast instead. Salinas was a tiny nothing of a town and we asked some people where there might be a hotel. The only option anywhere nearby was a resort called “Paraiso Escondido”. We had to cross a rope bridge and push the bikes up a super steep hill. The place was lovely, but I had to squash 4 giant cockroaches. It was a good thing Paola checked her shoe as it had another big cockroach in it. Clearly my shoes are so bad even the cockroaches won’t live in them!
Lita was a small town with a musty hostel. And although many people had warned us that the port San Lorenzo wasn’t safe, we had to go there to withdraw some dollars. We were in the “red zone” of Ecuador, so to be safe, we didn’t leave our hotel after dark. The rest of the coast was much nicer.
Atacames was the first big beach resort and we had a rest day there, celebrated Paola’s birthday. For her birthday present, we went whale watching, or rather, whale-chasing.
Just imagine it…. After an hour in the boat heading out to sea…”There they are!”….five motorboats speed towards them…. Photos, photos, photos, “They’ve disappeared…. No! There they are !” Motorboats speed towards them…. Etc. It wasn’t quite as magical as I might have hoped, but seeing the big grey backs and fins arching out of the water was a pretty cool experience.
We then moved on to a succession of wonderfully underdeveloped beach resorts. I loved surf haven Mompiche with its hippy vibe, and veggie cafe, Chocolate. And we had a real treat when a guy doing South America on a Vespa moped told us about the Bocana hotel in Pedernales where the owner Patricio let us stay for free, something he does quite often for people on similar adventures.
The town’s head of tourism came to meet us and gave us a map of this coastline, which has a beach about every ten to fifteen km.
Yesterday we crossed the equator. It’s the first time Paola has been in the Southern Hemisphere. What a pleasure it is to share moments like this together.
To put it simply, we are in a wonderful part of the world, and will be taking our time as we cruise southwards towards Peru.
Finally, as the thirsty cyclist, I must say that beer in Ecuador is the most drab affair. But generally they are BIG so can’t complain! For a dollar and a half (about £1) you get a half litre. Your options are Pilsener or Club. Pilsener is a bit watery so I prefer Club. There has also been a huge choice of Fresh fruit juices, and a lot of coconut juice. Lovely!