The colorful market at Otavalo, Ecuador.
Crossing the border from Colombia into Ecuador took only an hour or so- much less than than any Central American border. I was excited to be on my way to Otavalo and the city's famous Saturday market. Upon crossing the border a cold and steady rain began to fall. Soon, I was thoroughly soaked and very cold. The promise of a hot shower, tall glass of Scotch and a thick cut of beef acted as my carrot for the day. By nightfall my wish came true.
Ecuador isn't a large country by South American standards. It's the towering mountains that make the place seem so huge. As I cruised through the Andes I felt absolutely dwarfed by the many high peaks. Day after rainy day, Ecuador wowed me with its powerful mountainous landscape. The people were as friendly as any I've met on this trip. Not since Guatemala have I seen more American flags: American flags hung from rear-view mirrors, flags were painted in large scale on public buses, people had US flags on their clothing and caps- I even saw an "I luv NY" sticker on a large truck. A car had a "This vehicle protected by Smith and Wesson" sticker on the bumper.
The world famous market in Otavalo didn't impress me so much. Guess all the hype made it difficult to do so. The hotel Ali Shangu made up for it though. Run by an American couple, Frank and Margaret, the place was just fantastic. I stayed a day more than I'd planned and spent my time riding through the mountains- often chased by barking dogs.
Next stop was Banos. I spent three nights here thanks to a remarkable French fellow named Michele. At this mans restaurant I enjoyed some of the finest food of the trip- and never spent more than $7usd. I ate there twice a day for three days. Michele fell in love with an Ecuadoran woman and moved there quite a few years ago- luckily for me. Feed me French and Italian cuisine for the rest of my life and I'll die a happy man.
Steak, 3 roasted veggies, potato/cheese gratin and a glass of wine, $3.50usd.
The ride from Banos to Loja was a rough one. The road has been closed for a long time due to volcanic activity. Lava flows had destroyed the road in several places and some of the repairs were primitive to say the least. Crossing some of the bridges provided some real excitement. Several of them were quite high- with rushing rivers awaiting a clumsy rider and his bike!
A scary bridge on the road to Riobamba, Ecuador.