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Awesome Bike Tour

The length of South America by bicycle

05.27.2011 Brooklyn, NY

I am home. The bike tour is over, but the cycling continues!

05.19.2011 - 05.26.2011 Cartagena, Colombia

To celebrate the end of my trip, I flew to Cartagena from Quito to meet my girlfriend Valeria for a week.

We rented a really fancy apartment. It was quite the change of pace from my normal digs. It was awesome!

The tropical fruit on the Caribbean coast is absolutely amazing. I hadn’t seen any of these ones elsewhere in South America, and certainly not in New York.

Pool top roof!

Sunsets!

The old part of Cartagena is loaded with beautiful historic buildings. It’s quite small, and we covered most of the streets after a couple days of lazy exploring.

We found an Ice Cream shop that had the best Sorbet I’ve ever had in my life. It was all made from local fruits.

It was really great to relax with Valeria for a week before my return to normal life in New York. It did make me a bit sad that I wasn’t able to cycle in Colombia at all, since so many other riders have spoken so highly of it, but I’m sure I’ll be back at some point.

05.16.2011 - 05.18.2011 Quito, Ecuador

Another long bus ride and I made it to Quito. This ride wasn’t as treacherous as the one from Zumba to Loja, and I was able to sleep a bit. Unfortunately after my over night jaunt I still had to get myself from the station to my hostel in the touristy Mariscal Sucre neighborhood.

I arrived a couple hours before dawn. I decided to wait for the sun to come up, since I had been warned repeatedly about crime in Quito. The other problem, was that I had no city map or GPS map. How hard can it be to get to the center? I got soooo lost. I rode around for about five hours in all directions in this moutainous city until I finally made it to my hostel.

I cycled by this park with a big globe sculpture on the way. When I passed it a bunch of kids were climbing all over it, and I vowed to do the same later. When I came the next day nobody was around and I got shy.

The old town in Quito is really beautiful. It’s full of old winding colonial streets to get lost in. Mariscal Sucre, the backpacker haven part of town where I stayed I could do without. It’s full of night clubs, bars, and restaurants. It’s not very unique, or interesting, and it’s full of tourists. If I were to do it again, I would stay in the old part of town.

Basically I was done with exploring new places by the time I got to Quito. The bike part of the trip was now over, and I was anxious to get on with things. In a few days I was flying to Cartagena, Colombia to meet my girlfriend for a week. And then I was going home. 

I had a great vegetarian meal at this Hari Krishna place in the old town. I forget the name. In fact, most of my 3 days in Quito were spent taking advantage of the great (for me) food options.

I’m stealing this font at some point. 

I did go up this awesome Basilica in the old town.

Where I found awesome views of Quito’s undulations.

I got to walk the plank through this scary section to climb up to the towers.

The crazy steep stairs plus heavy winds were a bit nerve-wracking. 

"What should we do with the ground floor of this ancient city monument?"  Apparently sell furniture. 

05.14.2011 - 05.15.2011 Bus from Zumba to Loja, and then to Quito, Ecuador

I showed up bright and early this morning for my 7am bus ride from Zumba to Loja. This was to be followed by an overnight ride to Quito. Fun times.

The trip to Loja was supposed to be 6 hours, but it was closer to 8. I don’t where this term came from, but certain buses in Central and South America are called “chicken buses” by travelers. This was definitely a “chicken bus”. What this means is that the bus stops every 5 minutes to let somebody off, or to pick up the family on the side of the road. People bring all sorts of stuff on board. Sometimes they bring chickens, hence the name. The driver was blasting reggaeton the entire time, so I couldn’t really listen to my ipod without experimenting with mashups.

I had about three hours to kill in Loja before my over night bus to Quito, so I headed to the center to get some lunch. There is an excellent vegetarian restaurant near the plaza called Alivinuta (10 de Agosto btwn Validivieso and Olmedo). One of the guys working chatted with me about bikes for awhile. He’s really into downhill mountain biking, as am I. He has a really nice bike, a Santa Cruz Nomad. Those things cost a fortune in the US, I can’t imagine what he paid for it here.

The idiot that I am, I got super lost heading back to the bus station. I just barely made my 6:30pm bus. I then spent 11 hours smooshed next to a rather large lady. She took her shoes off, and her bare feet kept brushing against my leg. I didn’t like that. I managed to sleep from about midnight until the bus arrived in Quito at 5am. Luckily there were not many stops this time around. Still, 11 hours on a bus is no fun.

05.13.2011 San Ignacio, Peru to Zumba, Ecuador 77km

Today marked my first day in Ecuador, and sadly, the last full riding day of my bike tour. My head was all jumbled up with reflections and relief at the idea of my 7 month bike tour finally coming to an end. I had hoped to ride all the way to Quito, but I simply ran out of time. I have a flight out of Quito May 18 that can’t be missed. So my revised goal was to simply get through Peru, and then take a bus from Zumba, the first town in Ecuador, to Quito.

 

Tarps covered in peanuts, coffee beans, etc laid out in the sun to dry by the side of the road. This is a very common sight in Peru, and Ecuador. I guess they are not worried about all the street grime going into their food.

The first 50 kms of the day involved a lot of up and down on a rough dirt road out of Peru. But it wasn’t too tough. The border crossing at La Balsa was super quiet, and quick. I don’t think many people use this very rural route. As soon as I entered Ecuador the road turned into a dirt wall. It was the most insanely steep grade I have seen in South America. I know this because it was the first time I was not able to ride up something. The first 2km I couldn’t physically turn the pedals, so I had to push. Pushing a loaded touring bike up a steep road is completely exhausting. After a bit I was able to ride, but it was hard. The entire 30km ride to Zumba was like this. Most of it I had to do standing. There were some descents, maybe 10km of the ride, that were equally steep. Actually when I arrived at the first descent it began to pour. This turned the road into a slippery muddy mess. It was dicey.

My knees were on fire by the time I reached Zumba. I know I am going to be sore tomorrow. Well, it doesn’t really matter, since I’ll be sitting on a bus. I have to say, finishing my tour in Zumba is extremely anticlimatic. I hate not meeting goals I set out for myself. I also hate skipping sections via bus. I guess I will have to be content having rode 10,700km through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru.

So I am going to spend a few days in Quito. After that I am flying to Cartagena, Colombia, to meet a very special friend for a week long vacation. Then it’s time to go home.