From Loja it would be about 750km to Quito. I could have gone on a shorter route through the mountains, but I decided instead to drop down to El Oriente, the foothills of the Andes where they drop into the Amazon. I figured it would be flatter than the mountains, and also I wanted to visit my friend Nick, who had not only hosted me on my first day in Mexico, but also I’d ridden with in Cuba.
There was a climb into the clouds out of Loja, on rather steep roads (as seems to be the Ecuadorian way), and then a big drop down into El Oriente. I definitely noticed the heat and humidity of El Oriente, and as soon as the sun came out it did a fine job of trying to burn me. On my first night I made it to a small town and asked a local guy called Jorge where the bomberos were located. He was confused why I wanted to find the bomberos, and when I explained invited me to his house instead. I of course accepted, and we walked back to his simple place where he shares a room with two sisters, a brother-in-law, and a nephew. Even though I’d already eaten, they insisted on sharing their dinner with me, and then I helped him with his English, and he was thrilled to hear about Guyana – a country so near where he can speak English!
The next day ended even better. After a long day, struggling with the heat and climbs, I was on my final climb of the day and having to push. It was a bit sore for my foot, and was glad when a truck pulled over to offer me a lift up. I jumped in the back with my bike, and got taken the rest of the way up the steep hill and then down the other side to San Juan Bosco.
When I got out, a guy who had hitched from the previous town jumped out too. He pointed down the road and told me that that was where the hotels were, and I thanked him but said that I’d be just looking for a place to put my sleeping mat for the night. Hearing that, he immediately told me to follow him and told me I could stay at his place. Perfect!
We got to his place, I dropped off my bike and he pointed towards the toasty shower. When I’d done with that, we went to a restaurant run by a family member, and I was invited to dinner, before going to a family party where I was introduced to everyone as his adopted son. Then everyone else in the family introduced themselves to me as my uncle, aunt, cousin, grandmother and grandfather. Such warmth!
The kindness didn’t end the next day, when I was told to go back to the same restaurant and was given a giant breakfast to make sure I had the energy I needed for the hills ahead. While riding along, the guy who had picked me up the night before stopped and offered me a lift again, which I accepted but this time sat up front so we chatted away and I shared my story.
Another day of riding through the humid rolling green hills was broken up when I was again offered a lift, this time by a German guy who has been living abroad for 15+ years. He was full of stories about his time working around the world, with everything between a hamburger seller in the dangerous streets of Santo Domingo to the owner of gold mines. We went out for dinner, and he hooked me up with a friend for a place to stay, but I pushed on to get to Macas, that little closer to Puyo and so I could stay with the bomberos.
My last day on the stretch to Puyo, where Nick was waiting for me, was 130km of nothing but steep rolling hills and few communities. I again managed to get myself a lift, not completely intentionally, as a guy called Israel stopped to pick me up and drive me all the way to town. He wasn’t intending to, but his brakes were barely working so instead of going to fix the photocopiers he was meant to, he went straight to a mechanic.
*I thought I’d copied my pictures for these days, so deleted them. I was wrong.