Climbing south from Otavalo, I had my first encounter with the Ecuadoran traffic police. Simon was a few hundred metres in front, and upon seeing me pedalling slowly up the hill as well, curiosity won out. They were nice lads – they didn’t ask for ID – just friendly chat about where I was from and going, and the inevitable mention of whisky and kilts. (My luggage mercifully perhaps contains neither)

We stopped for lunch (we had started rather late) at the northern edge of Pinchincha province, a few kilometres north of the equator. We were joined by three other panamericanistas – Nacho, Romina, and Germán from Argentina – heading in the opposite direction. What might have been a brief stop became an extended exchange of stories about the road ahead and behind. Different objectives, destinations and backgrounds, but there is always a warmth and camaraderie in meeting other cyclists with overloaded bicycles.

Further down the road past Tabacundo, faced with rapidly fading daylight, we pulled into Rancho ‘G’, hoping for a quiet spot to pitch our tents. We were greeted incredibly warmly by the Vallejo family – they very kindly allowed us to camp, and insisted we accompany them to the Festival of San Pedro…

The streets of Tabacundo were filled with thousands of people- the musicians were organised into eighty or so groups of men, each with their own embroidered shirts, and accompanied by women dancing in traditional dress. Germán is the leader of one such group – Fuerza Tabacundo – so we had an excellent and privileged view of the preparations. Singing and dancing carried on much later into the night the night than I lasted.
The following morning, the scene was similar, though the music more traditional,and the groups of musicians and dancers organised along more geographic lines. These celebrations extend over two months, though we were lucky enough to be there for the most important weekend.
Don Germán also generously allowed Simon, Carolina, and myself to ride some of his horses (I haven’t yet got hold of a suitable hat..)

A relatively short day’s ride took us into the southern hemisphere- to the town of Tumbaco (just east of Quito), and the welcoming environs of Santiago’s Casa de ciclistas.