Riding into Peru at La Balsa

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Mudholes everywhere, climbing up from Namballe to San Ignacio
Mudholes everywhere, climbing up from Namballe to San Ignacio (View on flickr)

They master riding early in this part of Peru
They master riding early in this part of Peru (View on flickr)

We are now in Peru. Another country! This is the 11th country we have entered with our bikes. With something like 11,800 miles (19,000 kilometers) we crossed the Ecuador border into Peru at La Balsa. This was the quietest and most rural border crossing we have done to date. As the immigration officer stamped our paperwork, a chicken roamed the room pecking at crumbs, a herd of cows passed out front and the money changers sat on the bridge enjoying beer on this late Saturday. No one came up to us asking if we wanted to change our money from dollars (which they use in Ecuador) to Soles (Peru's currency). That was a first.

From the border we started off following a river and actually had a flat road for 7 kilometers. Yes flat. We heard that Peru is flatter then Ecuador but we could not believe it. Of course, we found out otherwise in the morning, as the road rose above the village of Namballe. The people were so friendly on our ride from Namballe to San Ignacio! We feel like rock stars once again. Everyone waves and beeps and everyone says hello and "welcome to Peru". We even got filmed by a couple passing by on motorcycles. He explained it is for marketing material promoting tourism in the town of San Ignacio. Along the route a young boy ran after us with two papayas in his hands to give us as a present. His name was Carlos and he had no shoes but he had a wonderful smile to go with his kindness. We have found the people much more outgoing and less intimidated than the reserved folks of the highlands of Ecuador. We like it when people think we are special. We make more contacts and find out more about the people we see along the way.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Cuenca to the Peru Border

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Indigenous boy posing for us near Saraguro
Indigenous boy posing for us near Saraguro (View on flickr)

Randy showing the kids what it's like
Randy showing the kids what it's like (View on flickr)

The ride from Cuenca to the Peru border was one of the best and most beautiful (and hardest) rides so far on this trip. We rode on quiet roads, some paved but most dirt. The landscape was gorgeous and the views amazing. We rode through small indigenous villages where the women wore colorful traditional dresses, jewelry, and felt hats. The traffic was almost non-existent as soon as we left Cuenca. It picked up a little as we rode in and out of Loja. In Loja by chance we met Chaski, a Peruvian man who is walking the Inca trail, learning about the traditional ways people grow potatoes. He is an educator and he is connecting the indigenous people of South America together. We had met him in the far north of Ecuador and got to have dinner with him again.

The next day we rode to Saraguro, a pleasant village with proud and friendly people. The people seem to have a nice life, a sense of community and continue with the traditional Ecuadoran Indigenous life style. Many of the indigenous villages we had passed through seemed reserved and hardship seems to weigh on their shoulders. This village was strikingly different. It was a much happier place. The people more open and had smiles to share. We wanted to stay for the Sunday market but Vilcabamba was calling us.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Ecuador route notes for touring cyclists, including map and GPS info

We finally got a clear view of a volcano (Volcan Sangay)
We finally got a clear view of a volcano (Volcan Sangay) (View on flickr)

Some notes about routes in Ecuador that are probably only interesting for people planning to tour here:

  • Our Route, Trip Log, Notes, and GPS Tracks: Our complete maps and notes are now up..
  • Maps: We carried the ITMB Ecuador Map. Although I hate the ITMB maps, this one worked. In addition, we bought the excellent book of strip maps published by the Instituto Geografico Militar, which is available in good bookstores in Ecuador, like Libri Mundi in Gringolandia in Quito and at other sites. There is also a general tourist map available in tourist offices. Its biggest benefit is the extensive charge of distances between cities.
  • GPS Maps: We were unable to find any GPS maps at that time to download into our Garmin GPS, but since has come into existence. If you know of others, please send us a note or leave a comment here.
  • We came in from the north, at Tulcan, which is where most cyclists coming from the north would get to. By the time we got to Ibarra, the traffic started to get irritating on the Pan-Am.

Down into the Amazon basin and back up to Cuenca

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Skirts of Tungurahua volcano showing mudflows
Skirts of Tungurahua volcano showing mudflows (View on flickr)

We have surfaced again and now are in Cuenca, Ecuador. After riding the Pan-American highway south from Quito for a hundred kilometers or so we decided to go to Baños to soak in the hot springs. Well, we liked that route much better than the Pan-Am, we continued down to the eastern Amazon region of Ecuador on the edge of the jungle and followed the roads south. Most of the time the roads were brand new and magnificent and other times dirt and pretty bad but the jungle lowlands were enchanting with wild bird sounds all around, exotic flowers, low traffic. The rain would would come and go most of the day and most times we found somewhere to sleep in a town. Actually the fanciest hotel we have slept in on our whole trip was in the delightful little town of Sucúa. It was our 3rd wedding anniversary and we felt we had found the honeymoon suite for $16 and just in time because we were like drowned rats arriving there in a big rainstorm.

A good part of the first part of the trip was around huge volcanos. We stopped in Baños for some hilly walks, soaking in hot springs and a visit to the local zoo. We then dropped down to the jungle on the way to Pugo. The road from Baños to Puyo was a mountain biker's dream come true. Though there were 7 tunnels along this road, the cyclists were diverted around on dirt roads and through wonderful forest.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Our Trip to the Galápagos Islands

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perfect picture for a  postcard
perfect picture for a postcard (View on flickr)

Note: You can see all the pictures of the Galápagos trip here.

Having cycled all this way, we decided since we were kind of in the neighborhood, we should visit the Galapagos Islands, which are part of Ecuador and 600 miles west of the Ecuadorian coast. We made the reservation for an 8 day tour of the Galapagos through the Happy Gringo travel agency in Quito, which had been recommended by another cyclist. Not knowing exactly when we would get there we communicated through email for a few days prior to our arrival in Ecuador. I was very impressed with their quick and thorough responses to our thousand questions.

When we finally got everything arranged, we had reservations on a 100-year-old twin-masted ship called the Sulidae (built in Denmark at the turn of the 20th century). They call it the pirate ship because of its age, style, and because it's painted black as night. Seeing the ship for the first time, I knew we would have a unique experience.

We flew out of Quito and arrived at the San Cristóbal airport where we met most of other passengers we would share this experience with. Right off, I knew we would all have a great time together. They seemed like similar folks with similar interest and all choosing to do a similar medium cost adventure.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

The ride south from Quito

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Working the mud for the tiles near Saquisili
Working the mud for the tiles near Saquisili (View on flickr)

Molding the clay for the roof tiles (tejas)
Molding the clay for the roof tiles (tejas) (View on flickr)

Watching the whole process
Watching the whole process (View on flickr)

We rode out of Quito heading south on Sunday morning to miss the busy traffic. But we did not succeed in missing the polluted buses that blew thick black exhaust straight into our taxed lungs. We had just been at sea level for 10 days and the re-aclimation back to 10,000 feet was taking me a few days. Chest pains, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate was not helped by the pollution emitted by almost all vehicles that passed us as we climbed to higher elevations. The city landscape was replaced with green pastures, cows, llamas, sheeps and small pueblos with amazing markets. I started to breathe a little better but about 20 miles outside of Quito, I called it quits for the day and we stayed overnight in Machachi. I spent the afternoon roaming around the markets where I bought a pair of high socks made of wool and looked at the traditional felt hats which ranged according to quality from $10-$50 and wool ponchos for about $15. Randy who can't tolerate shopping for a whole 5 minutes headed to the internet.

The next day we rode the Pan-American highway for about 20 miles and then found a back road that headed south through much quieter, farmlands. This road is what I like about bike touring. No traffic, no painted line, fresh air and rural folks who waved at us as we pedal past their adobe homes. It felt good to be on the bike again and feeling much better.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Nuestro libro sobre Las Mujeres de Puente de Amistad en Guatemala

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Portada de nuestro libro: Las Mujeres de Puente de Amistad
Portada de nuestro libro: Las Mujeres de Puente de Amistad (View on flickr)

Hemos terminado la traducción a español de nuestro libro que trata de las increibles mujeres de Puente de Amistad, quienes conocimos trabajando en Guatemala en Junio y Julio del año pasado. Esas mujeres fueron tan impresionante y admirable. Por eso escribimos el libro, pero nunca tuvimos bastante tiempo para traducir a español y revisarlo. ¡Y las mujeres del libro nunca lo han visto! Pero en Quito pasamos casi una semana estudiando en el Cristóbal Colon Spanish School, y Randy tomó como su objetivo la traducción y revisión del este libro.

Usted puede leer el libro en forma PDF aquí. También es posible comprar una copia imprimida (a nuestro costo, sin ganancia) aquí en (Desfortunadamente no ofrecen pedidos a muchos paises, pero si a México y Argentina.)

Click here for the English version of the book.

Donde Estamos: Quito, Ecuador! Junio de 2008

Miller, Pablo, and Nancy making Ajiaco soup for Mother's Day
Miller, Pablo, and Nancy making Ajiaco soup for Mother's Day (View on flickr)

¡Saludos a todos nuestros amigos que hablan español! Ya estamos en Quito, Ecuador después de un recorrido montañoso desde Medellín, Colombia.

Al contrario de todo lo que ustedes han oído sobre Colombia, hemos conocido nada mas que buena gente. Y no tuvimos problemas con la delincuencia ni narcotraficantes ni la guerrilla. Nos quedamos también en las casa de cuatro familias muy agradables que abren sus casas a ciclistas. Nunca olvidaremos la amistad y el cariño de esta gente. (Gracias a Jon y Ivo en Manizales, Gonzalo y toda la familia en Armenia, Miller y su familia en Cali, y a Santiago y su familia en Popayán. Ustedes nos dieron una experiencia increíble en Colombia.)

De Medellín pasamos a Manizales (que queda muy alto) y Armenia, Cali, y Popayán. De Popayán tomamos un bus para visitar al sitio arqueológico de San Agustín. Allí vivían desde 2000 A.C. hasta 700 D.C. una cultura increíble, y su esculturas nos hizo recordar la escultura de los Olmec del este de México.

Antes de Popayán habíamos experimentado montañas y grandes cuestas, pero de Popayán h la frontera con Ecuador fueron increíbles subidas y vistas, valles, y barrancos enormes. En un solo día tuvimos que subir hasta 3000 metros o más, bajar a 900 metros, y empezar a subir de nuevo. Pero el paisaje fue de lo mas bonito que hemos visto en nuestro viaje. (En todo nuestro recorrido desde Canadá decíamos que todo era práctica para las Andes, y ya que estamos aquí reconocemos que decíamos la verdad!  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

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