Week 32 & 33 - Heading to the Pacific
We got up and rode out of Pelileo with Steve, following the PanAm highway to Riobamba. We then had to say our farewell's as Steve (motorcycle.diarrheas) needed to head South and we were heading to the coast. It had been an absolute pleasure riding for the last week with Steve.
We head westwards, again taking in the sights of Chimborazo as we went and with a route of mainly tarmac, but great scenery we ended up in the town of Guaranda, where we had been previously. We found a place to stay on good old iOverlander called Hostal Marquez. The guy was super friendly and gave us a room which had a view of the volcano Chimborazo...or at least should have had if it wasn't cloudy the whole time we were there. Luckily we had seen it several times on our travels so we weren't too upset.
The next day we set off again in the direction of the Pacific coast. We had no idea how far we would get so decided just to wing it. It was a great day and as we lost altitude, the temperature started to increase. We stopped in a little village for a break just outside of a town called Caluma. We were definitely feeling the heat after being at altitude in the cold for quite a while so we splashed out on an ice cream each. A lot of the route was tarmac, or off-road tarmac as have started calling it, with some great dirt road sections, and again, some beautiful scenery.
We had planned to stay in a town called Balzar but it was quite a grubby, hot town and we didn't get the best feel for the place so we decided to crack on a bit further. This is where the off-road really started! We had about 40km or so to do and we had a couple of hours of daylight left. Luckily most of it was gravel track, and we only took one wrong turn. We had a couple of river crossings to do and a bit of mud, however all-in-all it was quite manageable. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky when we hit the last water crossing and it made everything look so beautiful. We were in the middle of nowhere and it was lovely. After a little more dirt road fun we finally made it to Olmedo. We couldn't see any places to stay so I want into a local pharmacy and the lady behind the counter was really friendly. She and a couple of intrigued locals pointed me in the direction of a hostal a little out of town and we managed to find it on the first attempt. It was a great place called Hotel Carolina and the owner was amazing. He showed us our room and the swimming pool. He switched on the water fountains and lights at the pool for us and we went for a swim which was very rewarding after a long day of sweatiness. We asked him if we could use some wire we found lying around and explained it was to help hold my exhaust in place. He also found an allen key and proceeded to tighten my exhaust header pipe where it enters the cylinder head, then gave me the allen key so I could keep it in my tank bag to tighten on route...how nice is that. We walked into town and got some food in a basic place on the main square and watched the people go by. That night we slept well and it was actually quiet.
The next morning we headed on the last leg to the coast. The tarmac was on/off with quite large holes in places, but it was a nice ride. Our destination was Puerto Lopez, however we got to the coast at Puerto Cayo so we had a quick look around as we knew we would be ending up there for our up-coming work-away. We then took the coastal road to Puerto Lopez and found a lovely hostal in a quiet part of town away from the main tourist area called Bella Napoli. The Italian-Ecuadorean owners were very accommodating and we had a nice safe place for the bikes. We took a stroll into town, found some good pizza and enjoyed a cocktail on the beach front. When we returned to the hotel we booked a trip to Isla de la Plata, aka 'Poor Man's Galapagos...slightly cheaper at $30 per person than over $1000 per person...definitely not in our budget!
The next day we were met by a guide and taken to the boat for 9am. A 1 hour boat ride out to the island and I wasn't queasy...woohoo! We then went for a hike around part of the island and saw loads of Blue-Footed Booby's and Frigattes. It was really interesting. Then after a bit of lunch it was snorkel time and this was the best part. Even though my mask had seen better days and wasn't exactly water-tight, I managed to see a lot including a large sea-turtle swimming under me, some sting rays, a tonne of beautiful fish and more turtles all around. It was great and if I hadn't have had a snorkel in my mouth my grin would have been huge! The final thing was to see some huge sealions sitting on the rocks...yet again, another animal I had only seen in an aquarium previously. I was a happy bunny. It was another hour boat ride back, again no sickness and then we headed back to the hostal for some dinner and sleep.
The next morning, whilst at breakfast, there was an earthquake tremor and we got evacuated outside. It only lasted about 6 seconds or so, but it was a very wierd sensation. The only tremor I have ever experienced was in Norwich about 9 years ago at 1am lasting about 3 seconds, but this was much more real. The glasses all tingled the stuff on the table shook...Kelvin just thought I farted! After a few minutes wait we went back to our breakfast, packed up and got on the road to Montanita. It was a straight forward ride down the coast, and we decided to go for a small place just outside of town again, especially as Montanita is known as a party town. When we got there we were met by a Colombian motorcyclist called Gulliermo. He was volunteering and was really excited about our bikes. The parking was a little obscure and obviously hadn't been used for a while as it was overgrown and the track that want past was muddy and rutted. Sadly, having stopped, I tried to get going and cross the muddy rutts, but I made a mistake and the bike just went. I wasn't going to try and catch it! Oops, nice introduction! Oh well, with the help of Kelvin and Guillermo I got it back up and got it into the parking space. The place was nice and we went off for a walk into town. It was very busy and very touristy. Not a pretty town but a very chilled vibe in places. We went back to the hostal to cook some food and then headed out for the evening. We had contacted a fellow traveller called Kevin who was on a work-away in Montanita and also travelling long-term by bike. We met up with him for some cheapy cocktails and lots of travel-biking talks...my favourite. We were out until about 2am, which was very unlike me being a sloth-like creature, but it was a great evening and the time just flew by. The huge club in the middle of town called 'Alcatraz' was just getting going, however we gave it a miss and headed back to the hostal for some sleep.
The next day we met up with a lovely lady from Michigan called Kristine, who was on a course to teach english in the town over the following weeks. She had kindly brought us some things we ordered from the USA including a lens for our little camera and a replacement jacket (as I stupidly lost mine in Colombia), which I had got sent to my cousin Ben in Chicago, and he kindly sent it on. It was so much easier and cheaper than the hassle of shipping. We wandered around Montanita, had a look at the beach, got some cooking supplies and hung out in the hostal. We opted for an early night however our new neighbour had other plans. She was a middle-aged lady from the USA who decided that from about 10pm to 1am she was going to have a full-on, very loud Skype conversation with what appeared to be a long-lost friend. To use the word inconsiderate would be an understatement. She had a booming voice and the following the conversation, she decided that it would be ok to play some music! Thanks. We would have stayed another night but we knew she was staying so we travelled a whole 3km up the road to Olon. Olon was much more chilled, a lot smaller and the place we found to stay was quiet. Hostal La Mariposa was not far from the beach and the lovely Italian owners bent over backwards to get our bikes into their garden so that they were off the road. What was meant to be a one night stay turned into three nights and we enjoyed not having to pack up quite so quickly. On the beach were several little restaurants, quite cheap and I had my first proper seafood meal of fresh garlic king-prawns and no dodgy belly to follow. It was nice eating and watching the sea, and then we took a long walk down the beach before heading back to the hostal. The next day we went for a beach walk again but in the other direction. We saw hundreds and hundreds of red crabs, all popping in and out of their holes, rolling balls of sand and scarpering the second they felt us coming. Sadly we also saw quite a few dead puffer fish...maybe due to the El Nino phenomenon, however I thought it may be that they got caught in the nets, and not being a desirable catch they got thrown back into the sea dead. Who knows. Basically our few days in Olon was mainly about beach walks and relaxing...hard life!
So, on to Puerto Cayo and picking up Kelvin's new Klim pants. Having had his zip go on his badlands pants, and sadly not having our Rukka gear yet, Klim offered to replace his pants for him and send them to Ecuador Freedom bike rental (thanks Court) in Quito, astonishingly they made it through customs. Luckily Ecuador Freedom bike rental had a tour out near Puerto Cayo and we were able to arrange a meet. When we arrived in Puerto Cayo we found a place called Jandin Suizo (Swiss Garden) owned by a great guy called Samuel. For only $5 per night we were able to camp on the rooftop, undercover, with bathroom and clothes washing facilities...bargain! Samuel even gave us soup and bread on our arrival which was yummy. He was a really interesting guy and told us all about his past and showed us all of the caps he had collected from other travellers, all hung up with names and year he met them. He also had a long wooden bar with photos of all of the travellers that had stayed at his place. It was great. Having sorted our camp, we went 5km down the road to where the Ecuador Freedom bike rental tour was going to be staying and it was definitely not a cheap place. It was very nice with a pool and access straight onto a small private beach. Not within a long-term travellers affordability but it was nice to see and drink a cup of coffee while we waited for them. When they arrived they were busy with working out rooms, unpacking etc so we didn't stay long. We headed back and cooked some food in Sam's huge kitchen. After that we had a few drinks with him, chatted and then went to sleep.
The next day, a Polish couple called Igor and Luiza arrived to do a work-away with Sam in his garden's. They were really friendly and we all got on straight away. Sam took us over the road to buy some fish and that evening I attempted to cook one including descaling, gutting and prepping. I then fried it. Igor and Luiza did not come down as they were shattered after a mammouth journey from Peru by bus so we were not suprised. The next day, Igor and Luiza started their work and we met some American guys travelling around Ecuador in a car. They asked us a whole load of questions about our trip and we chatted for a while. In the afternoon we got a few things ready for the evening and then prepared the fish together, this time baking it. It turned out really well and we invited Sam to join us. I was quite chuffed as the evening before was my first time prepping a fish from scratch, and this evening it even tasted great!
It was then time to leave. We had to travel a whole 400m down the road to our 'Work-Away' at Pasatiempo del Sur, so we bid a temporary farewell to Sam, Igor and Luiza, but we would see them a lot over the next two to three weeks.