(May 14 – written by Nancy)
I don’t think either of us slept too well last night, with the late return to our hotel room from the border and being a little shell-shocked over the whole experience. We actually set the alarm for much later than we usually do – 7am, but we were both awake and ready to get up by 6:30. Dave said he had to get up as he was dreaming about having a fight with a French immigration gendarme – obviously he was getting ready to do battle with someone this morning.
We had heard from someone in line last night that the Colombia border might be ‘closed’ today due to a national holiday, so weren’t sure how that might affect our ability to get across. Well, that turned out to be a non-issue as it was clear as we reached the Colombian migration post a little after 8am that everything was open – and the lines were massive already. We rode through and pulled over to change our remaining Colombian pesos to US dollars, the currency used in Ecuador. Then we crossed the bridge to the Ecuador side (that we had walked back over last night) to see that the line at the Ecuador migration office seemed to be even longer than it was last night when we were there – wow, you really have to feel for those people who wait hours and hours like that. We were briefly stopped at the police check where a policeman asked to look in our bags. We both opened one of our front bags, he took a brief look and waved us on – I think he had no interest in looking through the rest of our bags! Interestingly though, there were no passport checks on either side – so I think the way we completed the formalities worked the best for us, given the circumstances.
Shortly after leaving the border we pulled into the town of Tulcan, the first town on the Ecuadorean side, to try to get a new sim for our phone. We found a shop with a helpful young lady who sold us a new sim and an additional package for data so we think we are set for a little while anyway.
We made our way back to the main highway and worked our way up for a bit over 20 kilometers. We topped out at 10,850 feet (3,300+ meters) – Dave says that this may be the highpoint of the trip so far. From there we had lots of ups and downs for the next 40k – enough to hurt, even though Dave had told me today was ‘mostly downhill’. I think we were both pretty stiff from standing in lines for 6 hours yesterday!
About noon we came upon another touring cyclist who had stopped at a bus stop on our side of the road. Joris, from the Netherlands, has been on the road for a year, and has ridden through Europe, Africa and is working his way up the Americas. It was fun to have a chat with him on the side of the road, but we couldn’t stay too long as we still had a ways to go and we could see some rain off in the distance behind us. We passed along our hints on the border crossing to him – hopefully he will be able to get through quicker than we did! And hopefully he didn’t get too wet this afternoon.
The landscape today seemed to be used mostly for agriculture – it was farmland for as far as we could see. There were some distant mountains, but most of the land from the road was under some sort of cultivation. We spotted (and smelled) lots of onions, beans, snow peas, and squash of some sort. We stopped a couple of times to get some bread to eat (cheese rolls and sweet bread). Dave had boiled some of our remaining eggs yesterday but they didn’t quite set up – he said they were more like soft-boiled eggs. We ended up tossing them – not worth taking the risk.
We knew we had a decent amount of downhill in the last 25k or so and it did not disappoint – it felt great to get some kilometres clicking off without too much struggle. For a little while it looked like we might run into one of the big rainstorms we could see sweeping the mountains, but we only got a few sprinkles despite the dark clouds. We stopped at a gas station about 5k before our planned destination to do a map check and treated ourselves to ice cream.
We had a pretty strong headwind the last bit and were happy to finally reach a couple of hotels/hostals on the highway outside Ambugui. We stopped to check out the first one, the Oasis Hosteria, and decided to stay there in one of their little cabanas – only $26. We are at the back of the complex, away from the highway so I think it will be a nice quiet night here. The wifi doesn’t work in our cabana but they do have it in the restaurant and we are headed there shortly for dinner.
It started to rain after we got our things in our cabana and is still raining now. Let’s hope this blows through tonight. Tomorrow we have a shorter day, only 65k or so, but about the same amount of climbing as today. I am sure going to be ready for a good rest once we reach Quito!