11. Sep, 2015
Our last couple of days in Ecuador were spent on the outskirts of Quito. The bus ride back to Quito from Banos was left all my hair intact and a renewed faith in Ecuadorians bus drivers. The passengers played drums, played local and popular music over the bus's radio. No chickens this time just people passengers. With each stop arrived a new set of vendors selling anything from diet pills to home made snacks or locally grown fruit. The journey lasted several hours but the bus was comfortable. Bus companies in Ecuador are a free enterprise. There are two ways for drivers to drive one. Lease one from the companies and take a cut of the earnings you make from the number of passengers you take or be hired by a bus company. This in itself brings problems as the drivers which lease the buses go faster on the roads causing multiple deaths on a daily basis. There should be no underestimating the dangers of the narrow roads and proximity to steep inclines! The inclines claimed coupled with careless bus drivers eager to make more money claim many lives on a daily basis. Whilst there over 60 people were killed in bus crashes, 42 in one bus which took our route - Banos to Imbarro via Ambato - http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=364652&CategoryId=14089
We arrived to unexpectedly find the friendly face of our host of our next lodge at the bus stop. He had estimated our arrival and was there to meet and greet us.
Hungry after the 5 hour journey he took us to his wife's pizza restaurant, yes Ecuadorians love Pizza. After a scrumptious meal we went outside to find fireworks going off! Lots of them. It seemed we were never far from a celebration of some kind in Ecuador and this was our third impromptu celebration we had seen in just over a week - fireworks, changing of the guard and the Christian parade at the Equator.
We slept well and needed to as we were up with the crowing cock ready for the planned 40km bike ride. Arie, our host, assured us that we would be fine, maybe a little saddle sore the next day, but would be able to make the journey which would take us all day.
We drove to and through Quito for about 20 km and climbed in the jeep to a place called Nono, a cloud forest. Off came the bikes from the rack and off we pedalled. At first we were a little cautious on this single track road where we were to encounter buses, learner drivers and several cars. Being a Saturday the families were out to share this single track road only designed for mountain or scrambling bikes.
Arie travelled behind in the jeep and we cruised through the sidewinding corners and hills for about 4 KMs where we met him for a cup of tea! This time I got back on the bike with renewed confidence and went faster stopping occasionally to wait for John. At the 12 km point we stopped and ate lunch - a huge coleslaw and egg sandwich the size of my head - man sized for a man, I thought, but I kept up with the best of them and although finished last, I finished.
We next stopped at a trout farm. A fascinating sight. The trout swam in 3 different ponds. I am unsure if they were in different ponds because of their size, age etc, but you were invited to get a bamboo cane of about 5 ft and a nylon line and a hook attached to it. Then the punter would literally hold out their rod and wait for the fish to bite. So much more fun than the trout farms we have in the UK where the farmer gives you a net. This way you actually felt like you were fishing! You felt that you were being much more successful. Inevitably because there are over hundred trout in each pond 3mx3m you could catch 3 in 2 minutes. The only delay came from you taking the hook out and then re bating it.
Onwards to the next challenge. John too had grown in confidence and we rode side by side for the remainder of the journey. The rocks were large and we had to trust that our bikes could cope with the novice riders and the terrain. They did so excellently. I rarely used the brakes on downward parts but had to pay close attention to the road so as not to put myself in danger and fall down one of the hundreds of ravines which lay closeby. The scenery again was dramatic. I really was torn between looking at it and hurtling down a hillside! I rode out of the saddle most of time to prevent muscle fatigue and finally stopped to stretch; the first 24 km was in reach and we were feeling good.
Further up into the cloud forest we came upon a bird sanctuary - Ecuador is full of these places, Interested tweeters looking for an opportunity to save the planet. They had done an excellent job and hummingbirds flew around whistling literally past our ears and eyes, thrilling us again and again. If you have ever been thrilled by the British butterfly houses you will get the gist of how this quiet haven above the clouds captured our imagination.
The rest of the journey was like the first, dramatic scenery, an exhilarating thrill on the downward parts over aggregate laden and treacherous roads.
Homeward bound we went straight to sleep knowing we were flying at 6 the next morning. Ciao Quito, bustling, energetic and full of welcoming clouds and people. Would highly recommend a visit peeps!