In Pasto (Colombia) I reunited with Martin from Switzerland. We traveled together for a few days in Mexico and met each other again in Antigua. Since then we staid in contact and after almost three months we’re now riding together further south. We both had planned to take some alternative roads in Ecuador and avoid the busy Panamericana. So it was easy to agree to take the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route (http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/trans-ecuador-dirt-road/).
But first we had to cross the border to Ecuador which took quite some time since so many Venezuelans are trying to get into Ecuador at the moment. Luckily for us, there are special lines for non Venezuelans but still it took us more than 2 hours to exit Columbia and get our entry stamps for Ecuador. We cycled on till Tulcan, the next bigger city and stayed in a hotel. The next morning we spend some time to organize some fresh money and get new Sim cards.
It was already after 11:00 am when we finally pushed our bikes out of the hotel. For the next few km we enjoyed the paved streets leading out of Tulcan before we turned right onto small road leading to the Reserva Ecologica El Angel. In the beginning the road was still in very good ride-able condition but the further we climbed it turned into a real off-road adventure. Big stones, potholes and big puddles required full concentration to keep the bikes in balance. The scenery we were enjoying was just breathtaking. Since Baja California I haven’t been able to experience riding through a solitude and wide landscape.
The night we spend at 3700m directly at a trail head to a lagoon of the reserve. It was freezing cold and we were lucky that there was a little cabin were we could park our bikes and cook our dinner. Martin was even able to pitch his tent inside. Since mine is not free-standing I had to camp outside – luckily I found a spot which was protected from the wind.
Next day we cycled down again and when we hit the Panamericana again we were down at 1500m and the sun was burning hot. We only stayed on the paved highway for a few km until we again turned onto a another dirt road which lead us through desert-like but mountainous terrain to Ibarra. Unfortunately there are a lot of cactuses in such areas. And after 2/3 of the climb we had to stop as Martin had a puncture. It turned out to be a very difficult one and it took him several tries to fix it and finally I had to help him out with my spare tube. Due to this incident we had to cycle the last 10km through the dark and it was 8:30 pm when we reached the Finca Sommerwind – a campground which is run by a German couple. Luckily they had cold beers in the fridge and the best hot showers I enjoyed since Mexico.