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Crossing the Equator: Peru to Ecuador

Once back in full physical order, we felt confident enough to leave Lima and head on to Ecuador. After three days of watching Netflix and literally chilling, we were looking forward to making progress on the journey and camping again. Two hours outside Lima (it took 3 to leave the city thanks to the creative driving skills employed by Peruvians), we rode through high sand dunes cascading into the Pacific, eventually making it to Caral where we hoped to camp in the local campsite and see the sacred city of Caral-Supe. The sun had not long disappeared when we were pulled over by two cops on motorbikes. The usual questions followed and the inspection of our papers when one asked where we were headed at this late hour. We explained that we were intending to camp in Caral and his eyebrows shot so far up his head they merged with his hairline! He shook his head and said only delinquents frequent Caral at night and we’d be likely to get shot- indicating this with a hand pistol gesture. We took his word for it and found a motel down the road. In fact, we used this strategy for the subsequent 3 nights to Quito. One night we ended up in Paradisse Motel (purely as it looked clean and had a convenient garage attached to the suite) which discreetly provided two menus – one for food cooked on site and one for sex products available. Apparently these are very common in this part of the world as after sleeping in Paradisse, we saw Cupid’s hotel, Love Motel, Romance hotel and variations on the same theme all the way to Colombia!

Wishing to avoid the main border crossing which always takes an extra hour and has the most disinterested staff, we took the less frequented El Alamor crossing and enjoyed one of the swiftest exits from a country ever! Entering Ecuador was a different experience which, for some inexplicable reason took 2 hours in the midday heat and despite urging us to double check the importation papers and us finding them riddled with mistakes (Simon had become French on his papers) they said the mistakes didn’t matter and we could just go. Once past Zapotillo, we entered lush jungle bordered with banana plantations on both sides. Men with machetes waited on the side of the road (we hoped for banana related business) and we were soon passing fruit stalls laden with all colours and types of fruit. After the ninth or tenth stall it was too much to resist so we pulled over for a sugar cane juice (not a new favourite) and some fresh fruit. We scientifically tried one of every kind of banana on sale to gauge the difference: tiny yellow ones, rounded red ones, more recognisable yellow ones and more tiny yellow ones as they were the best. In the middle of our feast, we caught sight of a GS rider going in the opposite direction. A Brit named Neil was the rider! The first Brit we’d met and only the 4th GS rider so far.


Paddies in Southern Ecuador


Obligatory second breakfast!


Cane juice and a British GS rider- funny what you find in Ecuador

Refreshed from our second breakfast we carried on towards Quito. We passed through small towns and open plains making good time. That was all cut short by the policemen who stopped us. We sensed trouble as they looked our bikes almost lasciviously and one came over with his gold encrusted tooth glinting in the afternoon light. The usual questions- “These are fast bikes yeah?” and “Where are you trying to get to?” they then claimed a speeding related problem and said it would result in Simon going to jail for 3 days if we didn’t happen to have $40 each handy. We tried to argue and said we were following the speed of the other traffic but to no avail. They then came up with a new tactic and said it would cost us $800 per bike if we go to the station. After some to-ing and fro-ing where the $40 deal had apparently expired we ended up having to part with $150 and promises to not speed ever again. We finally made it to Quito despite the reduced speed and spent some days visiting the almost intact colonial city. Missing the teleferique from La Paz, we decided to take the one in Quito which carries you all the way to the top of the volcano park and offers a panoramic view of the city.


First amazing coffee of the continent – Quito coffee shop


Quito cultural centre and library


One of Quito’s 17 churches (we saw them all)


The cool interior of the church


Volcano park (via TeleferiQo- our new favourite form of transport in South America)


Indiana Reddaway making the crossing to the Volcano


Clouds over Quito

Quito was an interesting city and despite a handful of unpleasant surprises – arriving in Quito at night to find the airbnb we’d booked was a hoax, finding a last minute hostel to house us, being hungry on arrival and all being shut, ordering a single pizza which cost us $35(!) and seeing armed security guards at any late night establishment (armed with assault weapons- not a mere pistol) we enjoyed walking around and the coffee in particular. An old man urged us to take him as a tour guide, citing his past as a lecturer in Bristol university. It was a decision we regretted within the following half an hour when it became clear that he knew little about the Inca history he’d claimed to specialise in and the tour consisted mostly of him pointing out local shops and reading out the titles of information plaques. We cut short the disappointing tour and consoled ourselves with a Coca-Cola company provided fruit juice. Colombia seemed more promising and more importantly, Alex’s upcoming birthday held the assurance of a good meal and some relaxation.


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