La Avenida de los Volcanes (Volcano Avenue)
Date: 5th June – 14th July 2012
Where: Quito – Machachi – Cotopaxi – Ambato – Banos – Ambato
Distance: 3718 to 3954 miles
Our three days in Quito proved to be an odd experience for us with Geoff spending a large proportion of the time on the toilet. Luckily on the middle day we were able to get out and see some of the city. A park high above the old town afforded us a view of what was to come with churches and squares dotted all over the place. The rest of the day was spent looking round these streets culminating in views of Volcan Cayambe from the top of the gothic-looking Basilica de Quito. We bumped into Dominik again (German cyclist) and spent the rest of the day with him, That evening a pizza triggered another day of toilet-sitting for Geoff, and frustrated and anxious to get moving, we finally left Quito the day after. Coincidentally it was another Sunday so we could use the ciclo-via once again, like in Medellin.
The Pan-American out of Quito gave spectacular views of snowy volcanoes in all directions. We never have quite understood why so many cyclists reflect on the Pan-Am in such a bad way. That night we stayed with the bomberos in Machachi and they recommended a different route up to Cotopaxi to the original loop we planned. With Geoff still not feeling 100% we took their advice. The next day and 9 miles later we called it a day in a petrol station at 1pm. Geoff was now feeling very bad and the afternoon’s rest did us good. As evening approached the clouds cleared, and suddenly the bulk of Cotopaxi loomed above us. That night was probably the coldest so far, not surprising considering we were at about 3700m. The following day after much heartache we decided it to be best to avoid a trip into Cotopaxi National Park and continue to Ambato at a much lower altitude and let Geoff rest completely for another day.
The day’s rest worked and was a useful time to fix bikes at Leonardo’s ‘Casa de Ciclista’. These houses are all over South America and provide a place for cycle tourists to relax and prepare their bikes for the next leg. We also went to the local natural history museum where they had lots of badly stuffed wildlife including freaks like three-horned bulls and two-headed calves. It also gave us a chance to see our first condors, we look forward to seeing them alive and wild sometime.
To compensate for our failure to visit Cotopaxi we then decided to go on a little touristic excursion to the Amazon. So we set off firstly for a place called Baños armed with 2 front panniers and a handlebar bag. The ride was mostly downhill and we soon found a cheap hotel and set off for the baths. Baños is renowned for its thermal baths (being right below an active volcano: Tungurahua), and we went to most popular ones for the evening. 3 hours of relaxation in baths ranging from 39 to 45oC sorted out a lot of aches and pains. Once again we bumped into Dominik and Amy (from our sailing boat across to Colombia). The ride from Baños to Puyo is a popular cycle route for everyday tourists too who all rent bikes. We could see why it was so popular as we zoomed predominantly downhill past countless waterfalls until finally we saw the Amazon basin open up before us. Satisfied with our trip we sat munching sugar cane all the way back to Ambato on the bus.
Next up: the hilly bit!