Crossing the border into Ecuador wasn’t particularly problematic – it took a little time queueing on each side, and a few moments when it turned out that my passport number apparently matches that of an American..

Heading south from the frontier, the road briefly climbed up to 3200m again. We stayed in San Gabriel, a small town around 50km from Ipiales. Compared to further north, people are a little more distant – at first.. underneath, however, there is great friendliness and tolerance for eccentric extranjeros with overloaded bicycles. We spent the evening with Carlos, who lived in the same building as our hotel sampling beer and talking of many things.

80km the following day- the road descends steeply and dramatically down to the Rio Chota, crossing at El Juncal (where we each acquired a pink rose, thrown by a little girl from a rooftop). The valley is very dry and dusty, with imposing peaks north and south. The altitude makes the air a little cooler than it might be, though the sun is very strong.

The road turn south and follows the path of the Rio Ambi, carving deeply into the valley floor. There was an excellent view of the Imbabura volcano for much of the way. A stiff climb in the heat up to Ibarra, perched between the volcano and the RioTahuando.

We were lucky enough to bump into Chantal and Toni as we sought somewhere to sleep – they are proprietors of an (as yet) unopened and unnamed hostel, and very kindly put us up.

The biggest town so far in Ecuador, Ibarra has an excellent market, and a cheerful, friendly atmosphere- more relaxed, it seems, than Colombia. I haven’t yet sampled cuy– there were many live specimens for sale, though I have yet to eat anywhere with it on the menu. Soon enough, I suspect.

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