The first couple of days after my Dutch visitors Tom and Nina returned to the Netherlands, it was a bit quiet to be alone again. I had to get used to being alone again and to continue my journey. One week and hundreds of kilometers further, you’re already in the right rhythm and it feels like you’ve regained all your lost muscle power. The amazing time in Colombia unfortunately had a bitter end, but that didn’t stop me from continuing. In the meantime, I’m already in Ecuador.
The day before I continued to cycle, after my Dutch visitors left, I noticed that I was going to cycle towards a giant valle. I was convinced that I wouldn’t have any flat surfaces for months, so that was a nice surprise. It was a good way to start cycling again after a long brake, because I was advancing like a rocket over the flat landscape. I spent an extra day in Cali to get to know the city. I wasn’t really impressed by the city, to be honest.
After a couple of flat days, it was time to start the real work and I had to climb into the Andes mountains again. The first week of climbing was one of the most beautiful ones, I will show you some pictures as proof. The first day of climbing was towards a city called Popayán, a bright white colonial city. It’s known for its color and that makes it a bit touristic as well, meaning that there were several cheap backpack hostels for me to stay in. Popayán was the last touristic place, but the surroundings remained beautiful anyway.
I decided to divert from the panamerican highway because I’d heard that there was a beautiful and quiet alternative (paved!). That was an easy choice to make and it was a very good one indeed! It wasn’t the easiest road, a lot of climbing, but it all went surprisingly smooth and you feel yourself getting stronger every day.
Een rare flat section in a mountainous area
La Unión, Colombia
The beginning of the Andes mountains
The only disadvantage is that you arrive soaking wet at your destination and that you smell, I’m using Nina’s words here, like death. Staying in hotels doesn’t cost me more than 5 euro’s, I’m able to afford this luxury of a nice bed and a necessary shower. I’m convinced that I will pass through areas where I don’t have this choice, and then it’s easy for me to adapt to that situation as well.
Not a bad hotel :-)
I have had a great time in Colombia but it unfortunately has a bit of a bitter end. After a long day of climbing towards the border town of Colombia, Ipiales, I stopped at the side of the road to check the address I needed to go to. A motor suddenly passed me by and skillfully snatched the phone out of my hands before taking off. There were actually two motors and 4 people involved! I didn’t even notice the second motor, it was probably standing behind me in case the robbery didn’t go as planned. Don’t ask me why, but I went after them. No chance, of course. But! About twenty seconds after the robbery, there was a police car passing by. I desperately waved at them and pointed towards the direction of the motors and tried to communicate that they robbed my phone. They understood the message and went after them. The motors went towards a steep and unpaved rocky road. A terrain that is much more suitable for the motors, they must have known the area well. The police car had no chance and returned empty-handed after a couple of minutes. I will never see them again.
I eventually arrived just before dark at the ‘casa ciclista’, the ‘cyclist house’. A place where bike tourists can stay. The next morning, I immediately went back to the location of the robbery to check if there were any cameras. About 100 meters from the exact location, there was some kind of health institute with good cameras towards the road. I talked with the security guard and we checked the videos. The cameras were of pretty good quality and he gave me the images of the three cameras that captured the four robbers. One and a half day of administrative hassle later, I successfully made my declaration including the evidence I had gathered. It’s amazing how some organizations work here, but that’s a story for another time. I did everything I could and hopefully the investigators will do the same.
I quickly bought a new smartphone in Ipiales. Luckily, my Dutch simcard was not in the phone (always prepared 😊), so I could easily recover my Whatsapp account with all my messages and contacts. A couple of days later, early in the morning, I went to the border crossing with Ecuador. Many people recommended me to go early to avoid long queues because of the Venezuelan migrants going to Ecuador. It was not busy at all and the border crossing went smooth and quickly. It’s so easy with a bicycle! No administration involved, you get your stamp and you can go ahead with the bike.
Welcome in Ecuador
I could easily forget about the robbery, mainly because there was no violence involved but also because I didn’t have the time to think about it. My journey continued and I immediately met many people in Ecuador. The literal highlight of my first couple of days was the hike on the Cayambe volcano. I met David in the village of Cayambe, he is a mechanical engineer and also a car lover. Besides his Volkswagen classic, he owns a small 4x4 jeep to be able to conquer the rough roads. And that is exactly what we did, we conquered a very rough road towards the refuge of this volcano, it took is 2,5 hours to get there. Once we had parked above, we could go even higher and hiked to almost 5 km of altitude and we reached the snow and ice. You could clearly notice the difference in oxygen level, a special and cool experience.
On our way to the refuge, with the volcano in the background
Going up like a monkey
Together with David
And time to go back!
The next experience was Quito. On my way to Ecuador's capital, I passed the equator, an important milestone of my trip. Quito is the highest capital in the world on a very strange location. It’s located between two mountains ranges, like a bad tub. So it’s narrow, but very long. I wasn’t very impresse by Quito, either. I’m just not a big fan of big cities. A lot of contamination and chaos.
I suddenly passed the equator, an obvious spot to take a picture
Quito. Narrow and long. And chaotic.
After a couple of climbing days over the Andes mountains, I descended into the Amazon region and you could immediately notice the difference! I cycled ten hours in the pouring rain, but I had experience with arriving soaking wet already so no problem! I’m glad that at least my ortlieb panniers kept the inside dry. I really enjoyed the ride despite all the wetness, the area was truly amazing. I was descending between the mountains on a bicycle route that is called the ‘waterfall route’. The rainy day gave extra shine to all the waterfalls, the water was coming from everywhere!
The waterfall route towards the Amazon area
Enough text for now, I’m trying to keep it readible for everybody.