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The one where Chris finds a friend, but not the Equator

And this week, the route shall be here

And this week, the route shall be here

With all the sweet treats and joy now removed from my life owing to my newfound diet, we took to examining the map of Ecuador only to discover that it isn’t actually possible to cycle into Colombia via the coast.  Our abject lack of planning had come back to haunt us, so with the coastal route no longer an option, we decided to take a bus to Quito.  Yet catching buses everywhere is far too easy, so after leaving Mel and her bike in the rarefied air of the Ecuadorian capital, I returned back to Manta to fulfil my masochistic and/or stupid idea of riding up and over the Andes back to Quito.

I had decided to swap my stupid spoke shearing wheels with Mel’s to hopefully prevent the endless mechanical problems I had been suffering, and headed out of Manta at 6am for my four days of solitary cycling.  Yet for the first 4 hours it seemed as if the bike was going to fight me every inch of the way.  Exhausted, I stopped for a bite to eat only to realise that I had spent the last 70km riding with the front brake on, so after some minor adjustments I had my wheel rolling freely again, and I headed away from the coast toward the hills of the interior.

As the day wore on, I noticed a touring bike propped up further along the road, which upon closer inspection appeared to have a man asleep next to it.  I introduced myself to the comatose cyclist, and a rather groggy Nic proceeded to tell me his story.

Nic had begun his trip with a friend in Buenos Aires, but the relationship had turned sour when his companion met a girl, which led to an acrimonious split in Lima, Peru.  He was now riding alone with the intention of finishing his trip in Quito, so we decided to ride together and pedalled off into the afternoon sun.

Two blokes, two bikes, and a waterfall

Two blokes, two bikes, and a waterfall

Whether it was the 70km of riding with my brakes on, or the massive dehydration I was suffering, when we hit yet another steep gradient, I was spent. Desperate to camp, we began scouting for spots but our efforts were foiled by the endless barbed wire that abutted the road.  Eventually I found what appeared to be an abandoned house, so after a little encouragement, Nic joined me in a spot breaking and entering, and we began to set up our homes for the evening.  We were not alone for long.

Minutes after committing our heinous crime, what can best be described as a mob, led by a man carrying an antiquated shotgun, turned up.  Being fluent in Spanish, I immediately dispatched Nic to calm the situation, and after a number of handshakes, smiles, and quite a lot of bad Spanish on my part, the gang dispersed, allowing us to continue assembling our tents.  Still, we weren’t to be left alone as 15 minutes later we were interrupted again, this time by two members of the local constabulary.  They informed us that the locals in these parts have a “shoot first, ask questions later” policy, which seemed odd as the locals we had just encountered had opted not to brutally murder us.  After the police eventually departed, we managed a good nights sleep, and woke in the morning to find neither of us riddled with bullets.

We continued onwards with our ride, over Ecuador’s exceptionally steep roads, but as the humidity dissipated, the scenery became glorious and we followed the meandering river Tanti through the valley toward Santo Domingo.  With our goal almost in sight, we had an arduous 1500 metre climb to the summit.  Averaging an impressive 5 km/h, it took us 6 hours to grind our way to the top, before we spied the volcanoes that surround Quito and following a rapid descent into the Guayllabamba valley, I was reunited with Mel.

The top!  Well sort of, the actual top had a crap view

The top! Well sort of, the actual top had a crap view

On the way down to Quito someone had tied up their cow. In the road

On the way down to Quito someone had tied up their cow. In the road

Quito is a beautiful city, and we spent a couple of days exploring the marvellous UNESCO listed old town, but once again, it was time to temporarily part ways with Mel.

This was inside the religious iconography museum. Quite why we chose to visit the religious iconography museum we still aren't sure

This was inside the religious iconography museum. Quite why we chose to visit the religious iconography museum we still aren’t sure

And me grinning at the top of El Panecillo, Quito

And me grinning at the top of El Panecillo, Quito

With our trip having begun in the world’s most southerly city, Ushuaia, and with the imaginary line that marks the middle of the world sitting just 25km north of Quito, I wanted that all-important photo of me grinning inanely in front of a giant orange column.

This picture has been shamelessly stolen from someone else's blog. This was my intention

This picture has been shamelessly stolen from someone else’s blog. This was my intention

Sadly, as we were above the 2000 metres (Mel finds it exceptionally difficult to cycle at this altitude), I would again be cycling alone, so with Mel 130km away in the town of Ibarra, I set out to find the monument.  It was another early start to avoid the morning rush, and the road was unnecessarily steep as ever, yet after 40km the mysterious pole was nowhere to be seen.  I cycled further north, and still, nothing.  Even the cyclists heading south told me there was no indication of an impending equator, and it wasn’t until I arrived in Ibarra and checked the web that I realised that the monument itself wasn’t even on that road, and I had cycled for 12 hours for nothing.

And this is as close as I got. Note the latitude in the top left hand corner

And this is as close as I got. Note the latitude in the top left hand corner

So having now crossed into the northern hemisphere, we were a mere 100km away from the Colombian border.  We had learnt our lesson in Manta, so checked a route planner which revealed even more hills that I had neither the time nor the inclination to ride over, so we made an executive decision to bus to the border town of Tulcan, and cycle across the frontier into the sixth country of our trip, Colombia.

Mel rides across no-mans land

Mel rides across no-mans land

And then there was Colombia

And then there was Colombia

Ecuador had been an amazing country to cycle, full of generous, smiling people, but now we find ourselves in Colombia, with just 1500km left to cycle before we finally depart South America.

Next stop the Caribbean.

Chris – 18/11/2013


  1. ellie hussey
    November 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Hi both

    Glad to know that you are both okay.

    Also very relieved that you are not riddled with bullets Chris. Good job you had Nic with you when the shotgun gang turned up!!!! Must have been quite unnerving. Did you life flash before your eyes at that point?

    You certainly have lived through a few perilous situations.

    Trust you to miss a big orange fallic symbol. You would have thought it would have been very well signposted for such an important milestone to photograph.

    Hope you enjoy the next part of your adventure and if we don,t hear from you before hope you both have a great festive time with Matt, Phil and Elaine.

    Both of you take care and we look forward to your next exciting installment.

    Have a fantastic break for Christmas and merry Christmas to you both, may the new year bring you many new adventures.

    Love auntie elaine and uncle David. Xxxx

    • Chris
      November 23, 2013 at 4:43 am

      After seeing the guns carried by your average security guard, a slightly bemused farmer with his antique shotgun doesn’t seem to faze me anymore!!

      Sadly, the equator symbol wasn’t even on that road, but I think my photo in front of that magnificent sign more than makes up for it no?

      We’ve got another blog coming out to cover Colombia, and a couple of pieces to come out over Christmas and New Year, so look out for those.

  2. ellie hussey
    November 23, 2013 at 10:17 am


    You should have photo shopped yourself in Chris!!!! Lol

    Antique shot gun or no, you still might have got peppered.!!!!!

    We shall look forward to the next installments if your adventure and your musings over Christmas and the new year.

    You and Mel stay safe.


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