January 20th, Went to Quito today on the recommendation of the hotel owner in Ibarra, he gave us the name of a hotel to stay at with the name of three streets to follow which would take us directly there. Well, it's improbable that we would find the hotel with no GPS or city map in a city of 2.5 million people. We were totally lost and because I normally avoid large cities where ever possible and I quickly become overwhelmed with the traffic which was now at a standstill, it's hot and the oil cooler is belching hot air into my face. We found a lady who understood where we wanted to go, and she was able to convey to us which direction to go. All roads lead to more confusion and we pull up beside an air force officer and when I ask for directions in Spanish he says "do you speak English?" Carlos proceeds to inform us of the route to take and we are okay until there are too many choices where a bunch of roads and overpasses intersect. I realize we're going the wrong direction, do an illegal U-turn, go the wrong way on a one way street, and then notice a police truck directly beside me. I'm thinking here comes my first ticket but it doesn't happen. At the next traffic light I ask the police man for directions to Ambato and he directs us to an exit which we take but there are two ramps and of coarse we select the wrong one, the policeman throws on his siren to alert us and waits for us to take corrective action before moving on himself.
The Basilica del Voto Nacional, the largest gothic basilica in Quito, Ecuador and all Latin America
While checking the Government of Canada's website we come across this travel advisory for tomorrows destination:
Regional Advisory for the area south of Cuenca
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel in the southern provinces bordering Peru (Zamora-Chinchipe, Morona-Santiago and El Oro) due to the presence of landmines and unmarked minefields in the Cordillera del Cóndor, near the Peruvian border.
Although we find most of the advisories to be based on old statistics and not at all what we have experienced or witnessed first hand we will ensure we stay on paved surfaces while traveling through this area.
Ecuador is one of the most affordable countries so far with supreme gas costing $2.00 USD per gallon, (diesel $1.03 USD per gallon) very nice hotels at $31.00 including breakfast and a large dinner with soup and drink for under $6.00.
January 21, We flag down a cab at our hotel in Ambato, Diana hops in and I follow on the bike, the 10 minute ride costs $1.05. We are on our way to the Tourism office to get a map and some local information.
Our day starts off great, 12 degrees C. and bright sunshine, we come upon Ecuador's tallest volcano, Chimborazo at 6268 meters it's top is covered with glaciers which flow down to 4600 meters. It is higher than any more northerly summit in the Americas. The photos we took were from an altitude of 3625 meters, you can defiantly feel it in your lungs when you walk any distance.
Open market at the transit depot, you can purchase every part of most animals at this one along with baked goods, fruits and vegetables.
Ecuadorian's certainly like their statues as every town has them, mostly religious, political or military related.
By noon we are driving in some serious clouds and with visibility at less than 15 meters it's becoming somewhat dangerous as there are all kinds of cows, sheep, goats and pigs tethered to the shoulder of the road and most of them can still make it to the center of our lane. We've already had a close call when a cow decided to take its owner for a run down the highway, his 100 lb. frame was no match for the cow. For the next three hours we drive through the clouds and rain at an altitude of around 3000 meters on roads that are in good condition but you are constantly changing gears and braking due to the winding road with lots of hairpin corners. British Columbia's roads will forever be boring after traveling Columbia and Ecuador's spectacular roadways.