Fiesta and fights at 3900 metres: Laguna de Quilotoa, Ecuador
There was much debate about which way to go leaving the Amazon. Completing the loop and returning to Quito via some hot springs was the initial plan. However, weÂ´re riding with a bit of a schedule as Kelly would really like to make it to Macchu Picchu before she has to fly home, and would like to get some beach time in before she returns to the grey skies of a Vancouver winter. Eventually we decided to gain ourselves a couple days, skip the return to Quito and head up. Waaaay up. From 400 metres in the Amazon to almost 4000 metres at Quilotoa lake, an old, cold volcano crater. But first we had to stop for a late lunch.
Discussion again within our helmet intercoms about where to eat, with a request to go back into BaÃ±os for something “nice”. Time was a concern with our late start, so highway shack it was. Tom, without an intercom, has little say. Mwhahaha.
Full of energy post lunch, we were really moving along the great road out of BaÃ±os. At one point Jayne said I should “slow down a bit” as I was getting away from them. So I did slow down… when the nice officers asked me to. The speed limit was 60km/h, absurdly too low as it seems to be throughout latin America. After the policw waved me in, I heard our descriptions coming in over the radio from the man with the radar gun back up the road. Yep. ThatÂ´s us! We had all been well over the limit, but got let off without a ticket “because we are tourists”. DidnÂ´t have the girls try to flirt, no bribe, no discussion even, the Police just said please slow down a little. Like an echo of Jayne moments earlier translated into Spanish. I would hear about that for awhile too.
More bikers! At the turn-off for Quilotoa, we met these kind folks on their Suzuki. Had a quick chat, got a heads up on the cold that awaited us, then rode onwards. They were excited by our trip and exchanged numbers. They might call us to come join in the ride for a ways south…
Fantastic roads curve higher and higher. The views were so stunning I only mildly noticed the dropping power.
On arrival we split up and each scoped out a hostel, then came back to report our findings. They were all the same price, not unexpected. For 12.50$ they included dinner AND breakfast though. More importantly, both meals were satisfactory in size and quality.
3900 meters doesnÂ´t contain a lot of oxygen, especially for those coming straight up from the lowlands. For the first time this trip I was feeling the effects of oxygen deprivation. Tom and I bought some TERRIBLE aguadiente moonshine, but drank it anyways while we all went exploring. One discovered benefit of low oxygen: everything is more funny!
Turns out there was a big bull fight and fiesta this weekend, so it was a good call to ride straight here.
Twas a great fiesta, with a huge band playing, cheap beer, terrible moonshine, dancing and six year olds fighting for five rounds.
It started with some gentle goading from the older kids, pushing them together and telling them how much stronger they were than that other jerk. Next thing you know the kids were flying at each other, a big flurry of dust, then get pulled apart and taken to their “corner”. then it got hilarious. Kids were giving them water, which they spat out, others were fanning them or massaging their shoulders. Time up, the 6 year olds would littlerally roll up their sleeves, one even did a bull hoof-the-dirt bluff charge.Â Â I couldnÂ´t look away. None of the 40 people watching could. And since neither of the kids were really throwing damaging blows, everybody wins right?
The next, morning Kelly and I got up early and went for a walk around the lake.
I was so quickly out of breath, a 1 km out-and-back became the much preferred hiking route. Certainly not in the shape I once was.
None of us really had much interest in the bullfights, especially after the children entertainment the night previous. So we decided to head off. The lake was quite incredible. The ride to and from equally so.
The cloud was quite thick at times, and with a general latin dislike for the use of headlights, some surprises along the way.
ThereÂ´s a moment, when you drop so much altitude in one day (in this case 4 kilometers!), that you suddenly realize you once again have power! It is a great moment.
“How long to ride the road from Quilotoa to the coast?” we had asked our hostel lady. “1-3 hours”, she replied.
Try 7 or 8. The last hour was getting dim and we were battling the worst kind of rain: light mist. You just cant keep your visor clear!
We battled through slowly and found a hotel in Peurto Cayo.
Once again the bolts holding down my rear rack had sheared. Speedbumps, combined with having Kellys bag strapped on top of my top box, eventually proved too much for the undersized bolts. This had happened before in Costa Rica, anouncing itself with the telltale clunk and smack in Kellys back.
To lessen the stress on the poor little bolts, I removed the “happy-trails” extension plate and moved the top box forward 3 inches. 3 inches is quite a lot it turns out, and made things quite cozy. May have to re-evaluate this plan again later. But for now, weÂ´re on the coast!