Every day of this trip was amazing! *except for…… We laughed many times at that statement, it seemed like every day there was at least one thing that wasn’t ideal & sometimes it was definitely lousy, but thankfully every day was full of amazing views, good health & great weather!
Our first day started out a bit rough. Our driver showed up at our apartment in one small car, not the minivan we were in yesterday…. so he took me and the luggage to Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental, then went back for Rob, Staci & Shawn. Some of the challenges this morning were my fault for not seeing the detail in the fine print (the credit card needed for the bike deposit had to have raised numbers so they could carbon copy it – of course my debit card & my primary credit card do not have that feature…..) and there was some confusion over the deposit amount. Somehow, Staci & I were both missing some info. But, after just a couple of hours of banking calls & creative thinking, we were ready to pack & go through orientation!
There were quite a few things I did not anticipate in Ecuador. The driving style is different & at first it seemed crazy & dangerous, but after a bit, we all really enjoyed the flow. There is a 3rd lane that runs right down the center line on every road (it’s imaginary, but everyone uses it). When someone flashes their lights, they are moving into the 3rd lane to pass. The cars move to the edge & create room for the person passing. If we didn’t want them to pass, we would simply flash back to tell them no. This handy extra lane meant we did not get stuck riding behind slow moving cars, everyone passes & traffic flows well! We also learned that there are some strict penalties for accidents. There is an automatic 3 day jail sentence for any driver involved, regardless of fault. Apparently fleeing the scene of an accident is common! There is also mandatory jail time for exceeding the speed limit by 30+ km and they impound your bike. No thank you!
We were given some excellent advice: Don’t eat at restaurants that don’t have soap in the bathroom. Yeah, it’s way more common than you would think. I didn’t find a single public restroom with warm water to wash, none had paper towels, maybe 2 or 3 had hand dryers, most didn’t have toilet paper, and quite a few combined the men’s & women’s stalls into a single, tiny room. Sometimes with the urinal next to the sink. One restroom had a big rain barrel with bowls so you could fill the back of the toilet to flush.
After orientation & packing, we finally headed out, close to 2pm and without lunch. Our first stop was just 28km into the trip. It drizzled just a bit, but quickly the sun came out so we could enjoy our time at Inti-nan Museum at the equator. We had a great time learning about the people who discovered the Center of the World and we participated in some fun experiments. I even balanced an egg on the head of a nail! We took some fun pics at 00’00’00”!
The drive was pretty, but we did not arrive to our hotel until about 8:30pm so we rode 2 hours after dark. The Guayllabamba River Canyon was pretty! We didn’t get a chance to visit the market in Otovalo, but thankfully the people at Hacienda Pinsaqui waited for us so we were able to enjoy dinner at the amazing hotel. The hacienda was so beautiful! The property was used as a textile manufacturing facility originally, and has been fully restored & is now a hotel. Our room was clean, comfortable, and very beautiful. It had a big fireplace, and although it wasn’t lit, they did put warm water bottles in our bed to warm it up for us. The temperature was comfortable! This was the first stop on our journey & the first time I learned that you can’t flush toilet paper here. (oops!)
Day 1 on the road was amazing! The landscape is beautiful, we had great roads, not so great roads, old cobblestone, a bit of mud, and lots of good times! Except for the late start, credit card issues, muddy road that we attempted after dark, and the late arrival, it was flawless. Overall, a huge success! The bikes are awesome, we were all safe! We were on the road about 6 hours including stops. We went up to an elevation of 12,234 ft. and dropped down to 5,144 ft. We ended the day a bit nervous about our adventure, but it turned out that the rest of the trip would be a bit easier than day 1!