Our last couple of days in Ecuador were big days - I mean they were filled to the brim with adventures. Our bicycle day was probably the best day of the whole vacation. If you remember where I left off, we had spent the night at the hotsprings/waterpark in all its craziness and had our morning coffee at the funky roadside cafe with the local color. We did eat breakfast at the hotsprings restaurant a little later, and it was good, too. Breakfast in Ecuador was never anything to write home about - usually eggs and toast or a roll - but the juice that they always offered was something special. With all the fruits that are grown in Ecuador, they make some awesome juices and smoothies and they offered them at every meal wherever we ate. So, now we were pumped to take a bicycle ride on the back roads of Ecuador.
Santiago, a young Afro-Ecuadorian man from Salinas, picked us up along with a couple of other guys in a little Nissan four-door truck. None of the guys spoke English, but all were friendly. They took us up and down the valleys until we got to a little village high on a plateau. On the way there, Toby and I joked about the steepness of the drive hoping that we did not have to ride our bikes up some of those mountains. Famous last words! Take a look at this photo. See the village on the plateau and the road running along the bottom of the photo? We started in that village, road our bikes down that hill and into that canyon - quite fun. But then we were expected to ride our bikes up and out of that canyon - a couple of miles of serious up-hill. My back tire was almost flat when we started up that hill. I did not make it very far. At an elevation of about 7000 feet with a flat tire, going up hill, I nearly puked. When Santiago stopped to air up my tire with a little hand-pump, I could not go again. Instead, I got in the truck with the guys. Here is another shot of the village and the road along the bottom of the pick - just think of us riding back up the road on the other side of the valley. Eventually, Jesse, Toby and Santiago made it to the next village - without puking - but Toby was one tired old man.
We got some fruit at this little stand and they rested. Then we started a long down hill back to Salinas, which was miles away. I can do downhill. The views were incredible and the day was gorgeous. You can see why we loved this area - reminded us of NM. Look at that blue sky, those mountains, that valley!
I took some very paintable pics. Take a look at some of these homes - these were some of the larger homes - maybe for several families. Most of the homes were similar but much smaller. The roads we were riding on were made of round river rock (not pictured). I wondered how old those roads were and if they were built with slave labor? Saying that they were rougher than a cob was an understatement. We were riding bicycles downhill on those rough roads. My tire kept going flat, and then I had no brakes. Now and then, we would stop and Santiago would air my tire up. Eventually everyone including Santiago had a flat tire - due to stickers and cactus - and we had to give up our ride a few miles from the cafe in Salinas. The truck took us the last miles and we ate lunch at the same restaurant as we had the day before. After lunch we walked around Salinas, sat in the shade at the train station, and hung our legs in the local swimming pool. No one was at the pool in the middle of the day. Although it was a warm day, it was still a bit chilly for swimming. Eventually David, our guide, met up with us and we moved on.
David took us to a crater lake, Cuiocha (guinea pig lake?) It was beautiful. Although lots of people come there for the hike around the lake, we did not have time (or energy) for that. We did a bit of walking, then caught a tour boat out to the two islands in the middle of the lake. From close to the backside of the islands, you can see bubbles coming up in the water reminding you that this is an active volcano. In the far background, you can see another volcano, Cotacachi.
After our little tour of the crater lake, David took us to our homestay. We went to a little village near Otavalo where we stayed with an older couple. They had a very nice house with several extra bedrooms for guest.
The living area was opened to the outdoors and quite nice, although it was a cool night and we were all wearing long sleeves. We had a great meal and then all went to bed. There is not a lot to do other than visit or read a book. The couple did not speak English and I'm sure they had a life outside of their tourist guests and had to work the next day.
The house had a shower, but we could not get the warm water to work and the cold water was just a trickle - not good after riding bikes and hiking all day. Fortunately, I had packed some wet-ones. But the next morning we were able to get the water fixed and we all had a quick shower. Then our guide picked us up and took us into Otavalo to the market. The market was something else. When we met up with David after an afternoon of shopping, I told him we were going to need several burros to get our stuff home - this made him laugh. David then took us to the equator for some fun pics (notice the volcano in the background) before taking us back to Quito and to the airport for our return trip.
Here is a photo including David - isn't he cute?
We had a very long night at the airport. Due to the altitude and temps, flights take off and land at night and early morning. The airport was a hopping spot at midnight. There were lots of people sleeping on the floor or wherever to wait on flights. Quito's airport is new and nice, but expensive. This was the end of our grand adventure.