Report about Ecuador

Contacts to the people
In Ecuador we profitted a lot of nice people. Firstly as I had  been here three years ago and already had some contacts and secondly also just because of their culture-based hospitality. We remember a couple of stays with the fire fighters where we were welcomed with open doors. In Ibarra, when there was no space in the central station, the fire fighters even took us and our bikes on a pickup to a desolated station just by the little lake beside the city. This was a great gesture of hospitality – we will never forget.
Generally the fire fighters are always first class guys. As they work as professionals  in every larger town there is always someone present in the station and quite often a little bored for lack of work. Cyclists are a welcome change; our mutual talks create a nice atmosphere and we profit of the safety around them as they are honest people. Of course we can stay there for free. You see fire fighters and cyclists build a great team.

The time in Atuntaqui
The area around Atuntaqui was the first place I had already visited in the past. For one year I have been travelling in foreign countries, now I reached a place I knew and a family, the Fuentes-Klaus, whom I knew. I felt a bit like coming home and enjoyed our stay in their house.
José even arranged a television interview, but as both sides where not really prepared I had a hard time to say anything constructive, and when I was asked already in the first few questions about the money I even more told anything around the point but not what they were interested in. Over all it was a funny experience.

Side trips to Cotopaxi and Amazonas
In Quito we spent some days with the family Lara. I knew them already from my trip three years ago and enjoyed a lot coming back to them. From here we did the side trip to the volcano Cotopaxi which we climbed with Diego an experienced guide: The expedition took a lot of effort as we were not used to the climate up between 4600m and 5900m. Sleeping on 4800m was very difficult and the hike through all the night was very hard as we had always a little headache and every step took a double portion of power. Nevertheless, we were happy and finished successfully.

As I am an Amazon freak I wanted to go down to the basin at every cost. From the last trip I knew a guide in Coca, Sandro, who took us again down the River Napo, to the little lake Paña Cocha and to the National Park Yasuní. The visit was awesome and the impression again gigantic but also sad: Since the 60ties the oil industry is soaking oil from the huge forest. Systematically they take it out. Three years ago the National Park Yasuní was the pride of the nation. Recently oil was found in its center and enterprises and state are pressing to take it out. This would mean death to the park as they are planning to build roads through the whole park. What a shame. And the situation is even worse: Since the park is just at Peru’s border Peru also intends to drill on their side as they know that the oil flow under the earth makes no stop at the border. The faster driller will soak also a part of the neighbour country. This explains why the state is so urgently pushing to drill after the oil.

The Panamerican Highway
Ecuador is a steady up and down if you choose the official Panamerican highway, the road through the mountains. Between Riobamba and Cuenca the countryside is very beautiful while you are crossing many little villages with farmers. During the downhills in this rather wild area we often had to pay attention that we did not hit cows or sheep or even a local crossing the road. Especially the scenery around Alausi is very beautiful and recommendable to visit.

The try to camp ahead of Loja
As it was always Stefan’s desire to camp more often wild we intended to do this in the mountains ahead of Loja. As there are farmers and people living all over the desolated places looking for their animals you never know if anyone sees you. A wise advice is: Make sure nobody has seen you setting up your tent. Only like this you are safe at night.
We thought that we had found a quiet place and set up the tent when immediately a local sheep pastor showed up, having observed us, he advised us to leave the place as he knew about strange people being around here. We should not take the risk of being robbed. Ok, after just having set up the tent we broke it down five minutes later.

Ambience and political background
Over all I had a very safe impression of Ecuador and its people. It is a country with a little more wealth than the average of the other Latin American countries and the image of North American influence is often remarkable in the cities as e.g. there you see huge shopping malls.
Sandro, our guide in the Amazons, told us about their political background and its history. Their president, Raphael Correa – voice for the poor people and head of the “new left”, is very popular and from what I heard he is doing a good job (except for protecting the Amazonas). The money is spent to give the people a base for better development as e.g. for schools or better roads to desolated places. For the money’s source we were told he turned around the contracts between the state and oil/mining enterprises who in the past had taken the majority of the profit. This money now flows  primarily into the state’s pocket. Oil export is the biggest income of Ecuador.

The choice of the road makes the difference:
We were both happy when we could leave in Loja the main road  which is the main traffic line and ride on towards Peru on a remote road. Although it was hilly and humid with steep climbs we absolutely enjoyed the ride: The gravel road led through the cloud forest and down into the rain forest. The jungle ride surprised us with a special impression: It was as if we had escaped the present time to go a hundred years back. I appreciated to see how content the people were with their simple life in simple houses made of soil, how they dry their coffee beans in the streets and how honestly they accept you also as a foreigner. It seems to me the people are not stressed at all, they are very even-tempered and keep calm. We were offered to camp in a back yard, sleep in a church and once in a college even with a security guard at night.