Saturday, August 20, 2011

Segment 41: Riobamba, Ecuador to San Ignacio, Peru (July 12 - August 10, 2011)

In the Riobamba fire station, turns out one of the firemen is a guitarist and singer, so we exchanged several songs.  He taught us some Ecuadorean and Bolivian folk songs, and we taught him some American ones.  That is Craig on the mandolin, which he has just brought back from New York.

From Riobamba, Jeff travelled south through the high cordillera of central Ecuador (Alausí-Cuenca-Saraguro-Loja); Jason and Sonia travelled down to Macas and went south through the Orient (Macas-Gualaquiza-Zamora-Loja).  We would meet up again in Vilcabamba... unfortunately, this segment remains largely undocumented, due to ongoing camera problems.  Some words of advice: NEVER PURCHASE NIKON CAMERAS; they have consistent failures, and the worst customer service of any company we have experienced. 

Jeff with the friendly firemen of Tambo, up in the high sierra of Ecuador.  On this occasion, the bomberos really came through, as it was a cold, rainy, windy night in Tambo, after a hellacious nearly-100km day of
riding in very mountainous terrain... (photos by Renso Montalvo, Tambo fireman)...

(the following 8 images courtesy of Mohamed Zuñiga, Nabón fireman)
agriculture in the high cordillera

... a common sight, fog rolling in over the páramos...

... Nabón, a lovely town between Cuenca and Loja...

... traditional festival in Nabón, which proudly preserves its cultural heritage...

late afternoon in the cordillera near Nabón

Now in Vilcabamba, in far southern Ecuador, on a day hike with two friends: Stephane and Laura... (following four photos courtesy Laura Thomson)
... here we are climbing nearby Mandango Mountain, fantastic scenery...

 view from Mandango summit

view of Vilcabamba below

(the remaining photographs in this post thanks to Craig Caparatta)
reunited now, the four of us head out of Vilcabamba heading for the border of Ecuador-Peru.  This is Craig with a rainbow in the background, rainbows being near-daily events in the hills around Vilcabamba.

serious road construction

climbing up high, on great dirt

... vegetation in the highlands bordering Podocarpus National Park...

Craig taking in the scene

this was the road we were to descend from the highlands around Podocarpus

Sonia lovin' it

this route has plenty to recommend it, most of all low traffic and insane scenery

approaching Vallodolid
this guy was hanging a few feet from our lunch table in Vallodolid

...dropping down past Palanda, we cruised through lush green scenes...

... and climbed back up again; here Jason fights a long tough grade

...incredible, really...

this shrine reads "Jesus of Great Power".  Jesus of Great Power is found all over Ecuador, but we're still not sure how he's different from normal Jesus.

some great descents on this road... here heading towards Isimanchi...
... where we cooled off in the river

looking back at Zumba as we head towards the border

a look at the third major climb in less than 24 hours facing us

view from the top, near the border now

 awesome scenery for our last day in Ecuador descending towards Peru...

 this river forms the border; we celebrate with a cool dip on the Peru side

... our first night in Peru, we camped on some land where the people were harvesting coffee for export... this was dawn the following morning...

...the road on the Peruvian side of the border is even better than the Ecuadorean side...
mildly graded, great surface; we had a good time here

arriving in Namballe, Peruvian border town

...Namballe's principal export is coffee, and here they are drying their recent harvest in the town soccer fields...

on our way to San Ignacio now, Jeff entertains a group of curious local kids

one obvious difference in Peru is the use of moto-taxis (ubiquitous), here seen in San Ignacio