Ecuador

by Bicycle

Tulcan to Quito

Ecuador uniquely welcomes us. Since we crossed in a high season – Christmas time – there were a lot of people on the border. We had to go to the border the night before and wait for 4 hours before we got the stamped out. After that, we went back to Ipiales – to our Warmshowers.org host before we actually go to Ecuador the next day. In this route, we cycled from Tulcan to Quito in 3 months!

ROUTE DONE IN December 2017 - March 2018

Distance

235 km

days

97

Difficulty (1-10)

3

When was your first time cross a country by bicycle? We had our first-time experience in this route, Tulcan to Quito, Ecuador. A short stretch from the Colombia border until the capital of Ecuador, Quito. However, we took more than two months to complete this route as we stopped in Cotacachi for a while to finish our adventure video in Colombia.

Ecuador uniquely welcomes us. Since we crossed in a high season – Christmas time – there were a lot of people on the border. We had to go to the border the night before and wait for 4 hours before we got the stamped out. After that, we went back to Ipiales – to our Warmshowers.org host before we actually go to Ecuador the next day. And when we crossed, no one checks our passport. Ha!

Tulcan was the first town we visit in Ecuador and the cemetery is home to a jaw-dropping topiary wonderland. So, after we crossed the border and rode our bicycles for 7 km away, we decided to have our lunch over there and enjoy those bushy sculptures.

Christmas Eve

On the second day of our journey in Ecuador, Victor and Ali, our travel buddies, wanted to reach Cotacachi as they had an appointment with a Warm Shower’s host. We decided to travel together until Ibarra since Cotacachi was way too far for us. From San Gabriel – where we started – It was more than 100 km away with almost 2 km going up. That number was too much to do in a day!

But… it all changed for all of us. When we were having lunch near Ambuqui town – that was already halfway to Ibarra – we met a guy who got impressed with our way of traveling by bicycle. Before he left, Luis came up with a crazy idea and asked him: “Can we put all of our bicycles on your truck and you could give us a lift until Cotacachi?”

“…Yes, why not!” He said!

On the truck, Victor helped us if we could stay in the same Warm Shower’s host so we would have accompanied to share on Christmas Eve! When there is a special event like Christmas, being far away from home like we are, sometimes isn’t easy.

Cotacachi

The Cotacachi town itself is known for leatherwork. It’s a home to the only high school in Ecuador that teaches leatherwork. The town lies between Cotacachi Mountain and Imambura mountain that we could see clearly from our place. It was right on the new year when Cotacachi mountain froze her peak and also the first sketch that Luis did in 2018. Such a pretty start, isn’t it?

When we came here, we didn’t have any plan to stay too long. Yet, we stayed here quite a while to create our adventure video of Colombia. So, in this route, Tulcan to Quito, Ecuador, we spent most of the time in this indigenous town.

During our stay, we visit Otavalo town that is famous for the biggest indigenous market in Ecuador. It’s an impressive market, with vibrant colors, where the indigenous dress beautifully for the occasion. While there, we understood some kind of proudness on their way to preserve their culture of dressing and hairstyle. One of the reasons is that they are, among all Ecuadorian indigenous, the most successful for being the best workers.

La Linea

After almost two months we stopped and made our documentary movie about our bicycle touring in Colombia, we finally could move on from Cotacachi and continue our journey Tulcan to Quito, Ecuador.

We always plan our destination, but we never close ourselves to what is coming. With that said, the day we were supposed to go to a campground called Mitad del Mundo in Cayambe, we changed our minds after we talked with some locals. We asked them if there was any alternative way to avoid the boring Panamericana road and they told us about La Linea.

That road used to be an old train line that apparently would go until Quito. Although we just heard about this road, nowadays, it is a famous road among the Bikepacking-cyclist: Trans Ecuador.

With the excitement of being back on the road on a new adventure, we decided to find a nice place to camp instead of going back to the civilization on that day. However fun to ride our bicycles through La Linea, the worms in our stomach screamed and protested because we didn’t feed them enough in the night. So, we left the hill where we slept and we went down to the village to have breakfast. At that time, we didn’t have enough experience to cycle through the wilderness for days. So, we went back to the chaos again, and head to Cayambe.

You can stay with us!

When we were searching for a room in Cayambe, there was an Ecuadorian couple, Daniel and Veronica, that said ‘hi’ to Luis. After a short conversation, Veronica said, “You can stay with us!” We were touched by her offer and genuine trust and we agreed to her conditions: we wouldn’t harm their children. Hmm… It’s a hard compromise, isn’t it?

During our stay here, we pedaled our bicycles up to Cariacu Waterfall with Sam, a German shepherd. At the time we posted this route, Sam is no longer with us and we are glad that we had a great time with him.

After 4 days with Daniel and Vero family, we feel energized for the road again. Along the way, we came across Mitad del Mundo monument! We got stooked with the idea of being at the Equator line for the first time.

In this route, Tulcan to Quito, Ecuador, we passed Quitsato Sundial Mitad del Mundo Monument. It is a cultural-tourist place. Built in 2006 and inaugurated in 2007 as an independent, non-profit project. Its main goal is to share crucial aspects of the astronomical knowledge of the prehispanic cultures of the region. The expositions are carried out by community members as a self-sustaining project. According to Google Maps, the central pillar is 4 meters below the true equator.

Casa de Ciclista

It’s was 4 pm when we arrived in Tumbaco that was 20 km away from Quito, which was supposed to be our destination on that day. Tired, we decided to find a cheap room and stay in Tumbaco instead.

When we searched places to stay on the map, I saw Casa de Ciclista not too far from where we were. In the beginning, we were unsure to go there because we didn’t know if they would receive us without any notification, and we have never been to any Casa de Ciclista before to know how it works. Anyhow, we tried. When the gate open, we saw two big smiles when they saw two bicycle travelers ringing the bell. They were Santiago, the owner of the house, and Carola, a solo bicycle traveler from Venezuela.

They welcomed us with their warm-hearted and apparently, Santiago and his family have been hosting countless cyclists from all over the world for more than 20 years!

It is a house with a large garden that is enough to set up up to 20 tents. There were already a few tents when we arrived. Carola showed us around and introduced us to the other bicycle travelers. They came from various countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, Poland, etc.

Urban Sketchers Quito

Every time Luis travel to a country he tries to meet the urban sketchers, so he can share his passion, creative processes and sketch the cities together. We took the tram to the city center of Quito and we walked around. We met the urban sketcher Mauricious on a very bright and sunny day. Luis was super excited with all the colonial buildings and the number of cultures in them. Mauricious was the perfect guide since he would love to explain all the historical details and the best points of view to sketch the city.

Mauricious asked Luis if he would be interested in giving a talk to other Urban Sketchers Quito and a workshop teaching his sketching technics. Luis immediately said yes. In the end, it’s more than just talking about technics, we end up talking about life choices. Drawing and living the life we are living is a decision that not everyone wants or can make it. Finding a way to balance a life that is totally unruled is the key. Most of them are searching for comfort and on the opposite, we are stepping out of it. You can imagine how fun it was the exchange among a community that is already moving in that direction but is confronted with a society that pushes them to be grounded and passive.

Sketchbook

click on the image to see the sketches of this journey
  • Tulcan cemetery
  • Cuicocha Lake in Cotacachi
  • Cotacachi town
  • Otavalo: It has animal live market and the biggest indigenous market in Ecuador on Saturday.
  • Quitsato Sundial Mitad del Mundo Monument in between Cayambe and Tumbaco
  • Quito: Ecuador capital that has beautiful colonial buildings.
  • Ecuador currency is US Dollar
  • Crossing border in a high season isn’t recommended. We had to wait for 4 hours in the middle of the night to stamp our passport. How about during the day? Worst!

In this route, we only paid a room once which was in San Gabriel. The rest we stayed with Warmshowers hosts and Casa de Ciclista in Tumbaco. Ecuadorian mostly welcome us to camp inside their properties.

  • Food in Ecuador normally cheap yet has smaller portion than in Colombia.
  • Restaurants are quite easy to find along the route.
  • Water isn’t potable here so we had to buy bottled water.

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