Monday, May 7, 2012

A Day in the Mountains

Since our last post, we’ve been cycling through the mountains from Popayan, Colombia to Quito, Ecuador.  It has been a land of extremes; high peaks separated by deep river valleys.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it so far, although we’ve noticed that our riding days are establishing a bit of a routine …

Climbing through beautiful scenery on the way to Pasto, Colombia.

1. Sleep well, bundled up in a cold room between 2500m and 2900m elevation.

2. Wake up and eat breakfast in bed.

3. Climb 500m to 700m to a pass between 3000m and 3300m.  The weather here is usually about 10 degrees with misty rain.

Cresting a 3100m summit near Otavalo, Ecuador.

Jenn cresting a 3100m pass near Otavalo during a sunny break.

4. Descend, descend, descend into a hot valley.  The temperature rises to between 25C and 35C.  The hottest we measured was 37C!

Jenn and Lydie taking in some downhill near Popayan.

Jenn and Lydie zooming down from Popayan, Colombia.

5. Lunch at a restaurant for about $2.

Always make sure the lid is secure on the salt shaker kids!

Dave demonstrating how not to use a salt shaker.

6. Climb, climb, climb between 800m and 2000m to the next town.

Climbing through beautiful scenery on the way to Pasto, Colombia.

Jenn starting a 2000m climb towards Pasto, Colombia.

7. Roll into town smiling and exhausted.

New friends riding towards El Bordo, Colombia under an unreal sky.

Cruising into El Bordo at the end of the day with Eric and Lydie.

8. Stuff our faces to replace some of the calories.

Colombians know their ice cream.

Colombians know their ice cream.

9. Sleep well again, bundled up in a cold room.

But before you think we’re falling into a rut, here are some of the things that have kept it interesting:

Yoko and Hiro from Japan near the summit just after Otavalo. Five cyclists with three tents in a restaurant entrance.

Meeting other cyclists.  Left are Yoko and Hiro from Japan, who have been travelling the world for three and a half years!  Right is what happens when you let five cyclists with three tents sleep at your roadside restaurant.

Brand new mountain bike cranksets in Pasto.  Now we have lean, mean, hill climbing machines with 22-34!

Swapping out our road bike “granny gears”
for “Andes gears”.  We’re now riding with
22-34 … and can comfortably spin at 7km/hr!

Increasingly dramatic peaks towards Pasto, Colombia.

Looking at the beautiful views.

Santuario de Las Lajas spans this narrow gorge near Ipiales, Colombia.

Visiting the dramatic Santuario de
Las Lajas near Ipiales, Colombia.

Entering Ecuador!

Crossing into Ecuador.

Buying gloves from this lady who seconds earlier was all smiles.

Spending time at the famous artisan market
in Otavalo, Ecuador (she was all business
for the picture).

Crossing the Equator!!!

And reaching the Equator!

Now we are bundled up at 2850m in Quito, Ecuador, where we will spend some time taking in the city and the surrounding mountains.


  1. I can't imagine how you are doing all this at that elevation, although I suppose you acclimate. I once flew to Colorado with my folding bike to visit some relatives - thought I'd be able to get some riding in - the elevation was brutal. I thought I was going to die.

  2. Your quads will be like pistons by the time you're finished. It must be very good to meet like minded bicyclists as you travel. Be safe and have fun! We're keeping up with you in our hearts ... JPP and Vicki

  3. Wow, the building of Santuario de Las Lajas near Ipiales is beautiful! Thanks for sharing your stories and photos!
    ps. That ice cream looks delicious.

  4. Alex: I think we're moving slowly enough that we don't have any problems with the altitude. Actually, we sleep better at the higher elevations because it's cooler at night.
    John: Thanks, our legs are becoming more piston like by the day. Although we're more like volkswagon vans than ferraris.
    Ash: Ya, it was one of the coolest churches we've seen. To top off the experience, we shared a taxi back to where we were staying with a nun.