Mompiche -> Quito -> Riobamba -> Cuenca -> Vilcabamba
Total Miles Covered So Far: 1900
2/17/17 - 2/24/17
Riobamba was probably the furthest I’d been off the Gringo Tourist trail up to that point. It was the first place I’d been where people stared at me for being white, and kids would point and yell Gringo. I honestly think it’s fun to be in really different envirnoments though and I don’t mind that stuff at all. It was Carneval, one of the biggest holidays of the year that day, but I was exhausted from the 4 hour ride from Quito in the Pouring rain and ended up going to bed at 8PM with fireworks going off in the background.
As it turns out, the end of February and March is by far the rainiest month of the year in most of the Andes. I think I maybe saw rain once in Colombia and I really didn’t appreciate the perfect weather enough because from that ride on, the sunny days were few and far between.
Riobamba has a huge beautiful volcano outside of it, Chimborazo, which I was going to visit in the morning but it was so cloudy that I literally could not see it at all so I ended up packing up and heading out early to Cuenca for another very wet, very cold, 4 hour ride.
During the drive I went through a bunch of small mountain towns and passed several processions of indigenous people celebrating carneval, wearing masks, and dancing in the street. The other much less cool way carneval is celebrated is by pouring water on peoples heads and throwing brightly colored chalk bombs at people. Luckily I didn’t get chalk bombed but i did get sprayed with hoses a couple times that day which really sucked while on a long motorcycle ride…
Cuenca is the entire reason I am on this trip. When I was originally thinking about travelling, I would sit around on Google Maps for hours and drop the street view pin on different roads and cities. When I saw how beautiful Cuenca was I decided I needed to go there but it’s really just out in the middle of nowhere. I was thinking about how I could realistically get there and I realized that if I had the bike, I’d have the freedom to go pretty much anywhere I wanted. From there it was just finding other cool towns and things I wanted to see and connecting the dots
Cuenca is aproximately 500 years old and the ~8 square block historical section of town is almost entirely original Spanish Colonial Architecture. Definitely the most beautiful city I’ve seen on the trip so far.
I accidentally booked my hostal for April instead of March so when I got there, soaking wet and freezing I found out I had no where to stay. The original hostal recommended another hostal, alterNative which ended up being really lucky because it was one of my favorite hostels so far. It had a really relaxing feel, was super clean, and had private rooms for $13 a night. I ended up meeting a ton of cool people here and staying for about 10 days.
One of the volunteers, there was Eish, a Taiwanese girl who was travelling South and Central America solo for a year. Within 10 minutes of meeting her she mentioned that there was a really famous hike through a mountain right outside of town and voluntteered me to drive her there on the motorccle. We ended up going a couple days later and again got absolutely dumped on on the ride over. We were so cold and wet by the time we got there, we sat in the ranger station in front of a tiny fire for an hour instead of hiking. We walked out to the unbelievably beautiful lake that was right outside the station, took some pictures and drove back.
Besides that I just spend the week being lazy and exploring the town and taking pictures. There’s not that many hostels where you can feel really comfortable so I decided to spend more time there than I’d originally planned and just enjoyed it.
There are also some really amazing incan ruins right in the middle of the city and I spent a day checking that out as well as the mini aviary that was next to it.
The next stop I’d planned was Loja about 5 hours south but I’d heard from a bunch of people that a small town outside of Loja called Vilcabamba was much cooler so I went there instead.
Bad idea. Vilcabamba was the dumbest place I’ve visited so far. There is a legend that the people in Vilcabamba live upwards of 120 years which has been debunked many times, but a bunch of new agey spiritual people heard about it and decided to setup camp there. There are more expats than locals it seemed like. Every restaurant is vegan, every building is a yoga studio, every person is a sad washed up hippy who wants to sell you a dream catcher or some holistic healing bullshit. They have a reputation for settling there permantly and refusing to speak spanish. A couple invited me out to dinner and after I ordered something with meat, they told me they don’t sit with people who eat meat and moved away so I ate my overpriced curry alone. The hostel had a pool at least.
I left for Peru the next morning.