Once I arrived in Lima I made a beeline for Touratech, Peru. I wanted to get my pannier repaired and I wanted to buy a few odds and ends for my bike: new handles for the side panniers, a new helmet, thermals for the cold weather. I also wanted to get some off-road training.
Once I left Cuenca, Ecuador it was just a short ride to Peru. The lush green mountains and twisty roads fell away and I entered a land that of dirt and sand, gusty winds, and a horizon that seemed to stretch out forever. I was facing the first of many days in the desert.
Arriving in Quito felt a bit like coming home. Almost two years ago to the day my friend Lex and I landed in Quito, we planned on staying in Ecuador for three days and loved it so much we stayed for three months. We spent a lot of time in Quito, Mindo, Baños, the Galapagos Islands, and Guayaquil. As much as I’d love to visit all of those places again I’ve decided to explore a part of Ecuador I haven’t seen yet, Cuenca – and if possible, El Cajas national park.
I left Manizales on a foggy wet morning. I’d gotten word from friends in the south that the Pan-American highway would be open for 36 hours. Now was my chance to get to Ecuador. The roads down the mountain where curvy but devoid of the normal onslaught of killer semi trucks. It was a beautiful ride that would only get better. In a short time I found myself on a two lane divided highway. I was actually able to ride at speeds above 100kmh. The day was absolutely spectacular.
Things are a bit sketchy right now. I’m sitting in a hotel room in Manizales, Colombia looking for the safest route to Ecuador. There are protesters blocking the Pan-American highway and there have even been reports of violence and a few deaths. I’m not sure how real the danger is, but I’m taking no chances. All of this is happening in the southern part of Colombia, down by Pasto, but that’s exactly where I need to go to make it to Ecuador.
After a fun week in Cartagena I rode south to Medellín. This was my first taste of the twisty congested roads that were in my future. I passed 18 wheelers, dodged smaller bikes, and discovered that the weather can change quickly in Colombia. At one point a trucks back doors flew open and two giant containers of gas and oil smashed down on the road. This shut the highway down for almost an hour as everyone scurried to figure out how to get them off the road (with a rope tied to the truck).
Just over a year ago I spent a few weeks in Cartagena and loved it. I’d made some great friends, Oscar and Daniella, and they invited me to come back and stay for a while on this trip. When I was in the US I’d talked to a few friends about the possibility of joining up for a few stops along the way. My friend Keith thought Cartagena sounded pretty good and he decided to fly down.
I have a confession to make. I didn’t shoot any video (or many photos) from San Jose to Panama City. I realized that every border crossing was pretty much the same, and the hours on the road didn’t make for very interesting video. So I focused on making the miles and getting to Panama as quickly as possible so I could set sail. So for those of you waiting to see photos from that section of the journey, I apologize.