Another journey down some twisty dirt roads...

Looking at our map we wanted to stay away from the busy Panamericana to get to the Pacific coast. We were anxious to get sunshine, beaches, warm, no rain, no fog, and surf...
We enjoyed the nice views from the road out of Banos since we missed it all riding in dark when we came to Banos. Almost got to see Tungurahua Volcano, but the clouds never left.
When we got to Riobamba, we saw on our map that we could cross the mountains via Guaranda (they call it the Rome of Ecuador because it is built on 7 hills - believe me... it's nothing like Rome!)
The 40 some kms road from Riobamba to Guaranda took us over 3 hours.
Again twisty, muddy, crazy drops to our right, foggy, rainy, cold... all in a short 40 kms. But hey... no traffic!
The scenery was spectacular.
I could tell in Angela's face that she didn't enjoy that stretch of road more then I did. It was a good test to her new riding ability.
She past the mud test with an *A* - as the fog started to lift, we could see the lights of Guaranda. A city in the middle of No mans land.
As we were riding down the hill towards the city, we nearly got bombed by water balloons by some kids above us. They missed us by inches.
Stopping downtown to take a look at our book for a good place to stay, a man asked us ... " Habitacion?" si senor.
Angela waited with the bikes while I checked out what he had to offer us.
Scored once again in a quality cheap - 5 dollars - TV, 3 beds! and perfect parking at the front of our door.
Starving, we walked around to find a descent place to eat.
After filling our hunger, we were looking forward to a good night sleep.

At 2 in the morning, Angela wakes up with a bad food hangover! straight for the Banos - (not the town... but the toilet!) she spent most of her night hugging the bowl.
The fancy restaurant ( well we tough it was fancy, high class) but no wonder why we were the only ones there. It wasn't so fancy after all. Giving Angela food poisoning.

Not wanting to spend another day in Rome... we hit the road. Instead of continuing along the mountain roads to Quevedo and eventually to the Pacific coast. We took the *easier* way out towards Guayaquil ( Ecuador's biggest and major port city )
The road wasn't as bad until torrential rain came down on us in a high pass over 3500 meters. Foggy, rainy and cold, we started to go down elevation until we were almost at see level. The sun dried us up, now roasting hot. We were just happy to be finally riding in warm sunshine. We hadn't seen the hot sun since Panama. All the way from Colombia we had been riding at high altitude with lots of fog and cold temps.
This was now Paradise, cruzzing along flat, perfect paved road... we were finally on our way to the Pacific coast.
We could already fell the salty air (or maybe that was my sweat from the hot sun). Dreaming of surfing while listening to my ipod.
Montanita.... here we come!

Banos - what a weird name for a town?? *toilet?*

Fun twisty dirt road to a view point of Tungurahua Volcano (but we never saw it)

Town of Banos

We arrived in Banos a little later then expected. We needed to get there since there was no place to camp along the road.
Finally a sign appeared - 15 kms - aaaahhh. But it was a long 15 kms! Especially after we just finished riding 100kms of dirt twisty, foggy road from Quilotoa.
We didn't want to spend the night in Latacunga, ( a major, loud, busy city after we got back to the Panamerican) We asked at the restaurant how far to Banos, lady told us...
* mas o menos * una hora! On the map it didn't look far.... 3o km kms to Ambato then 30 or so to Banos. Good roads, ahh.. peace of cake.
We are sometimes confused about the KMS sign here. 30 kms can be 50kms. or at least seem like it.
100kms later, we arrived in Banos. Fully exhausted, riding around town trying to find our cheapest best accommodation - with parking for the bikes - we finally settled at *Jireh* at $6 each, hot shower, parking, clean room, TV - couldn't go wrong.

We spent a few days in Banos ( not the toilet - the town) recovering for our Dirt Loop. Walking around the very "Gringo" town nestled between the Rio Pastaza and the (active) Tungurahua volcano. It was a pleasant place to rest. Great restaurants (we still looked the cheapest!) Natural Springs and many water falls along the "Carratera de Cascadas" like the famous - El Pailon del Diablo (the Devil's Cauldron)

We figured a great way to relax was to get a nice relaxing Chinese massage. ( we got suckered into it when we saw the sign - chinese massage - 1 hour - $10 )
It was nice & relaxing, until we got back to our Hostel and Angela asked me what happen to my back... " what do you mean?
" You got big burnt circles! " ( my chinese lady had put some suction cups to release my tight back muscles and left me with 4 big burnt circles for the rest of the week )

It was time to leave Banos and start heading toward some warmer weather. I was anxious to surf again and Angela wanted so sunshine and beaches...

El Pailon del Diablo Falls (the Devil's Cauldron)

San Pedro Falls

Not sure if we should trust this guy!

The Quilotoa Circuit... 200kms of dirt!

Thru Colombia, we had to stick to the Panamerican Hwy for our own safety. Getting off the beaten track was out of question.
A good way to look for trouble.
But once in Ecuador, we were looking forward to have some dirt under our rubber. After the chaos of Quito, we needed to get out of the Panamerican and get into more remote roads.
The Quilotoa Loop was what we were looking for... 200kms of high altitude dirt road from Latacunga to Saquisili.
We had our first taste of chilly riding when we reached an altitude of almost 4000 meters. It wasn't so bad in the sunshine, but once the sun started going down, we started to look for camp.
We knew we didn't have far to go before reaching *Zumbahua* a small village with - a few - *warm* hostels. Sometimes, a small distance can take hours. We finally pulled in town just after dark. Thank God cause we were started to get cold.
Riding down the main street of this ghost town, a lady stopped us to ask if we needed a place to stay. it didn't take long before we followed her to a guest house down the dead end street. Our room was as cold as our tent would of been, but lots of warm blankets led us to a good night sleep.

The next day we set off to visit Quilotoa, a volcanic crater filled by a beautiful emerald lake sitting at 3850 meters.
After snapping a few photos, we continued our journey towards Chugchilan and eventually to Saquisili. Riding dirt twisty roads at an average of 3000 meters thru some of the most amazing scenery of Ecuador.
After 6 hours of dirt, we finally joined once again the panamerican Hwy and started to make our way to Banos.

Latitude ZERO

We are now officially in the middle of the world!!

Otovalo Ecuador

Arriving late in Otavalo. The last stretch of the ride was getting very foggy and wet, so we were happy to get there.
While Angela was getting our paper work done at a the border, a man approached me with a business card about a place to stay in Otovalo. He was the owner of "Los Ponchos" and he offered us a better deal then usual. - at $16 a night, with TV, great location, parking for our bikes, free WiFi, the price was right.
We spent a couple days walking around the lovely town with its very colorful market.