Our dreams fly high… in Ecuador
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Our first intention was when we finished biking in Ecuador from the south to the Quito which is the capital, then we would begin writing the journal about Peru altogether with the Ecuador because the country is so small. We ride only 500KM in Ecuador and believe that it wouldn’t take long to ride through the country. However up until now we haven’t finished our journal of Peru yet!

If we start writing about Ecuador will make it even more chaotic! There are many chaos in this small country, we’ve almost end our long journey there or even have no more chance to share our experience. We have lost every things, the merciless robber of this beautiful country has stopped us just right before our arrival in Quito where was only 3 more days of our journey here. Now we have to gather and recover our spirit to recompose the story as much as we can, then we started writing the Ecuador journal. Peru journal will be following soon.

 

26 June 2003


Let’s begin our journey in Ecuador, the last town on the northern most part of Peru is “Tumbes”. Tumbes is a small border town between these two countries, there are countless of non reasonable prices, sometimes the food shop charged us an incorrect price, even when we asked them about it, the Tumbes’s local told us that “It is even more expensive in Ecuador”, always blaming on others, never return us any change.

Since we could no longer stay here, because today is the last day of the visa, as usual for both of us, always stayed until the end of time, another 27 kilometers we would be crossing the border to Ecuador, we were really focused on it. We could not make any mistake, before we left Tumbes. We had to finish all the money because it would no value left right after we cross the border! The Peruvian Sol is about 3.50 Sole per 1 US$, we exchanged all we got to US$, with only 0.20 Sol left.

 

We headed north on Panamericana A1 road which we always follows this route, when we arrived at the Northern most town of Peru which is Zarumilla for the exit stamp in the passport. There were so many peoples surrounded us and offered us lots of services, such as paper forms, asked us many questions. It was good that we did not really understood, we walked our bikes directly to the office, but we still could never getaways from the crowd. We had to keep my eyes on the bike on every second, while Wan went inside to get the exit stamp, when every thing was flawless….. we’ve passed another country “:Peru”.


Entering to the new country, we have to adjust things all over again. Ecuador was said to be an interesting country in Arts and Culture in this region. We have to prove it. Five minutes away from the visa stamp, the two countries is separated by the small stream with a bit more of trash than the water! Everyone have to cross this international bridge because it connects the Panamericana road together which lies from the North Pole in Alaska all the way down to the south pole, the area was so crowded with so many types of occupations, trolleys, street vending, etc.

The immigration officers had warned us about the criminals, thanks for that, we also asked them to take a picture of us with the sign “Welcome to Ecuador”
Among the surrounded crowed, they were gossiped about us”Japon… Japon, until we could not take it anymore, because we always heard “Japon … Japon” so we reply back “Not Japon” “We are Tailandes”. They all then has the big question mark on their face, same situation as in our Thailand, every where we go, when ever they see some one biking with full riding gear, they would greet “Hello…hello” without knowing that we are Thai. So we have to greet back with “Sawaadee krab” or “Sawaadee ka”.

The first town of Ecuador was Huaquillas with many travelers from both countries, with many shop lies on both side of the street for kilometers, such a wonderful sight, well stopping here is not a safe choice. We decided to go further in to the country and finish the entry visa stamp, finally we got away from the crowd. We kept on biking along the street and looked for the visa stamp, as the police advised the next 4 kilometers from the International Bridge. We biked along the bus, suddenly there was big chunk of Pineapple got dropped from the bus on to my Head! What a lovely welcome on the first day!

Not long we then got to the inspection point, there is no need of visa for Thai Citizen to enter Ecuador, also to most countries which can get visa on arrival, but the different is only whether it will be 30 or 90 days depend on their mood, the immigration officers seemed to be very relaxed and laid back. They even asked us “ You don’t need a visa, don’t you? So Wan said “ Yes no need, we could stay 90 days”. “OK then”, said the officer while stamping us the Visa with 90 days as requested to make sure that as we are always slower than other travelers. There were also many tourist buses with many of the tourist running in and out of the immigration office, what else can be easier than this!

Every thing went very smooth there, in the afternoon we were in another country, ran away from the dryness of the dessert, which never experienced the rain, endless sight to the open spaces to the Equator which cut through Ecuador with a real tropical jungles, snow capped on high mountains, with lots of rains, sea side and beaches, in this small country, emmm very interesting isn’t it?

Our first meal was next to the Inspection point, it was a steamed rice with Fried chicken side dished with fried deep ripe bananas, so sweet like a dessert, also with beef soup with a big cube of bananas, potatoes, and corn. Well this is the famous dish here, always follows by banana, altogether cost us US$1.60 or about 70 baht, if we compare the quantity and quality of the food will be only 20-25 baht only in Thailand, or may be even better quality of the food, and of course for the taste, Thailand is better for sure, you can take my head for that.

 

We still have time to continue our ride. We would like to see the beautiful nature of the green atmosphere like in Thailand. The weather is hot and humid. The wind blow through the mountain, we feel comfortable and breathtaking. We do not see much the road-sign. Not far from the immigration office, we enter the military area. Houses are far away to one another. We see all kinds of tree that we do not recognize. We try to find the right way to Santa Rosa. The city is 3 KM from the main road. The price of Hostal is more expensive than Peru, we realize. It is getting dark. We learn that there are no people walking around the city at 6 pm, so quiet city at night. Not like in Chile or Peru, it is very lifely at night. Here in Ecuador, no-one walk or we hear no conversation…it is true that this country is quite dangerous as we have heard lots of warnings.

 

 

27 June 2003


Today, we take off pretty late. It is rainning badly. Before the rain it was quite hot and humid, had to wait for long time before we had lunch, then start rolling again with a bit of rain on our head. The destination for today was not too far, only 30 kilometers away from Machala town which is the main city in the south of Ecuador, suddenly the changes of true tropical weather gave us the big sun ray, when we got back on the road again, we were stunned by the sight of endless banana tree on both side of the road, they all wrapped around nicely by the plastic sheet, very organize industrialized Banana plantation.

Wait! When we were in Australia and New Zealand last year we always saw Banana with Label “Made in Ecuador” Emm why Ecuador? Are they all the way across the world from Ecuador? Today we got all the answer, every things are organized and industrialized, with a Banana factories along the orchard and export them around the world. Well we now believed that the world No.1 Banana is “Ecuador Banana”.

We both came from South East Asia, so we don’t feel anything special with Bananas, but European Cyclist always said that “this is very interesting atmosphere, never experienced such sight, because they all usually seen bananas only in the Super Market!

Of course we stopped and took lots of photos of this great moment in great Banana orchard, while we were busy with the photo session, there was and old man who owns millions of these banana appeared and asked “Where are you come from and Where are you going?” He has 6 of golden yellow ready to eat Banana in his hand that he want to give us. He said “These are directly ripe on the banana tree, for the export one must cut and collect them while they are still green, the opportunity to eat them ripe from the tree is impossible”. “I can guarantee you that it taste wonderful. Yes, it is truly great after we tasted it. This is the world No.1 Banana, because we all grown up with Bananas. He told us that the wholesale price is not that good, for the entire stem of Banana is about 1-1.5US$, well bearable but never get rich, he complaint.

We then took off again with the rest of Banana tied on the rack behind our bike, Just before entering the town, we circled around the statue of the strong man holding the stem of bananas on his shoulder, with another hand holding the banana knife. This must be the emblem of this town. The Banana must be the source of life and soul of this town, the Banana town.

We spent very long time biking around Machala to find the accommodation finally we found one which has downstair where could store our bike, of course we negotiated for the price as most travelers does, and because of the owner looked very kind, we asked him to discount us US$1-2, he replied “No!” we asked him again, this time he reply promptly “SI or NO? We had no choice, so we had to take it at 10US$.

Later we went to town to look for the Ecuador flag to put in front of our bike as in every countries we goes, it took us very long time because most of them are the King size for the houses, at last we found small one on the stall on the of the street, but it made from plastic. It comes in a row with color of yellow on the top, blue and red on the lower part. Well, this is the first time in our journey to see the plastic flag.

Today did not end very well, not because of the bed or safety of the place, but because of the war with mosquitos that kept us fighting with them until we slept with it, this is another color of the tropical area.

 

 

28 June 2003


Shortly after leaving the King and Queen of Banana “Machala” there was an intersection to decide which route we would take to Quito, the Capital.
If we take sea level route, it will lead to Guayaquil which is the country biggest city, with even more population than the capital, then the route will climb up to the Andes to Ambato and from there will be only 139 km more to Quito…emm sounded not too difficult!. Another route have to turn right and climb up the mountain immediately and bike on Andes all the way to Quito!!

Two directions two options, the first one would be easy from the beginning and climb up in the end, the second will be difficult from the beginning and all the way to the end. The first route will go to Guayaquil, have to stand the heat and humidity but with perfectly flat road and high crime as there are 2.2 million peoples, big export city and not many people chooses this path because it is not beautiful and dangerous. The second route will go to Cuenca, Riobamba, Ambato and then Quito, the capitial, the city that named the World Heritage by UNESCO because it harmonized with the Spanish colonial, this beautiful passage is really cold and difficult, and we chose the last one, hopefully that difficult earlier would be better than later. We then started pushing the bike up to the Andes! Oops! Biking up the Andes immediately.

I have written down the through roughly detail of the trip so that it can be useful details for other bikers, the difficulties of each location, illustrate detailed map from town to town with height, except from Riobamba to Quito, will an approximation from the car, we will tell the reason of why we could not finish the map.

We have chose to turn right and said good bye to the King and Queen’s town of Bananas, the name of King and queen of Bananas because every September there will be a Queen of Banana and the Biggest Banana contest. This route still has endless sight of banana all the way to Pasaje with the last banana orchard and flatland. Now in front of us was the gradually steeper passage all the way to Andes, you can see the difficulties of leaving Pasaje in the illustrated map.

 

Pasaje is also famous for their Banana like Machala, they both industrialized banana town, we have passed the town with only banana and banana only, we have been through real banana, but from now on there will be no more banana for us ahead (Banana in Thai also means very easy) and this route has a name in its difficulties for biking, most of the European bikers would fly into Quito then bike up and down on the mountain southward to Peru. That is quite easy from riding down from 3000 Meters above sea level to the sea level, but for us we riding from the sea level to 3000 meters above sea level, was it a mistake decision, we were not sure yet, well let’s go and find out.


Tonight the kids of the house came to chat and play with us, even though the difference of the language but we managed to communicate with them, at 10 pm the parent asked the kids to go to bed, so to us, along the way we always meet with nice people. Today while we struggled to bike uphill there was a man who owns small shop has gave us 2 bottles of water plus bought us a bag of orange too!

Our host family tonight has mentioned to us many times about the adversity of the family, the kids has only compulsory level of education, not enough income, while we seen that they produced a lot of agricultural product but still not enough to feed the family. This might be the problem of Ecuador, their output cost very low, people has only 2 meals a day.

2 years ago, Ecuador had switched from their currency “Sucres” to US$, it causes a tremendous problem to the people, they never used to it and never wanted to use it at all. One of the reason was the big difference in the value, before it was 25,000 Sucres per 1US$, but after switched to US$ the value of Sucres went down to 40,000 Sucres per 1US$. The people got really confused with the floating point of the conversion and that made the problem worst because most of the product now begins at 1US$ or 1.5US$, thus the cost of living went sky rocketed.

Another problem is because there are only 15% rich people in this country with no middle class, so the rest are POOR, not only that before the exchange crisis, the politician here are so corrupted, they’ve transferred the government’s money to their account and flew away to stay in the most developed countries in the world. That is not all, it followed by the big crashed and fall of many banks, Altogether have brought Ecuador bankrupted, the poor got even poorer (how could they??!!) totally flipped from the friendly and smiley country to the point that will be really difficult for them to get back.

 

 

29 June 2003


We farewell the lovely family, kissed and hugged the kid as their were ours, didn’t know of what we could do in return for the beauties, we could only give them Big thank you. We also thought of the financial help for them, but it will be like handful of soil trying to fill up the ocean which won’t do any good, we both better keep the best feeling which last longer than the money.

The passage got harder all the time, we climbed up the endless Andes, along the way we’ve met the local’s life, the little kids helps their family pushing the full load of banana cart, it was such a wonderful sight, really relaxed us, is the natural education, the soul of the kids knows that they have to work, but they were really having a good time even though they have to wake up early to work with Bananas under the sprinkles of the morning rain. We stopped and took lots of their lively photos.

 

The dark cloud covers some part of the way but it didn’t surprised us because we were climbing up all the time, usually the cloud would cover the area of the rain forest, because the height of the Andes, when it got higher that the could base, there will be another kind of atmosphere, short distance of dessert only about 10 Kilometers, totally dry. The local have brought the coco and dry them on the side of the road for about 10 kilometers because of the strong sun, some of them even put up their tent here to take care of their assets.

When we climbed up to the new height, the new atmosphere has come to greet us, there was a green view with coldness, we got to Santa Isabel quite dark, made it even harder, after we were really exhausted with only 1400 meter so far, the torture is still following us, our accommodation tonight was filled with mosquitoes, lots of mosquito at the height of Andes, so I did the last thing that I would do, I’ve committed crime by killing about half a hundred of mosquito before fall to sleep really tight.

 

 

30 June 2003

We left Santa Isabel exhausted, soon we were really happy with the downhill for about 4 kilometers from there, looked around with a refreshing cold breeze instead of the humid and heat of the area, and it was such a scenic ride for us. As the rule of life, the good time never last, we went uphill again, really slow this time at the speed of only 4-5 Kilometers/hour with a lot of short brake, the road was a bumpy dirt road, with some part are paved road, well at the end of the day we made only 40 kilometers!!

Finally we arrived at Giron, really beautiful town, we rode around town several time from late afternoon just to find the accommodation, but there are no such thing at all here, many local to us to go to the church because there are places to sleep available, however when we got the church, the people there told us that the place is for the homeless only and it is closed today because there is no officer to answer. The guy from the church droved us around in search of the place to sleep tonight, again we went around with no good news, and it gets really dark now, will we put up a tent, some where around here. We don’t think so because the Ecuadorian Robber is quite famous.

   

After all the tired effort made, we decide to keep on biking along the Panamericana road, finally we found one Repsol Petrol station on the way out of town, we decided to ask (actually beg + request) for a small corner to put up a tent because it was really cold here and also above 2000 meters above sea level, anyway we went to ask the lady inside the station. She was really nice to us by showing us the storeroom and asked us if we could sleep there. We replied promptly “Perfect” she then start clearing the store room so that we can sleep inside together with our bikes, after fixing up the place. She introduced us to her husband who is a manager of the station and went to their house closed to the station. He cooked us a dinner while their little guys bought us a drink. We were really overwhelmed both body and soul by knowing one beautiful family on this world.

There was a question from him, from the experience of traveler to who travels to study and understand the world. We have to be open minded to listen to any kind of question, he asked the problem that was really cut through my heart, “Your country has many problem right? Why the woman have to enter the sex trade?!?!?!?! Errrr I was numbed by the question, even though there are so many problems here but he could ask us the question about my country.

 

 

1 July 2003

We got up quite early and walked to have breakfast near the station, the manager was not here yet, so we asked the staff to keep our best regards and thank to him for every things. Again we had to bike up mountain and seemed to be endless, it has been 2-3 days that we have to be very strong and concentrate in order to pass each day, while we were passing the pipe worker on the side of the street, there was a man shouted us from other side of the road “I have taken your photos and will report your journey on the El Mercurio newspaper”. We had a talked for 5 minutes, then we spitted and keep on biking the endless mountain slowly until we reached the peak at 2610 meters, which is called Por Tete De Targu. We now actually biking on the back of the Andes, however the villager told us that there are lots more of difficulties lies ahead, well we will see what may come.

From passing the peak we now biking the on the 35 kilometers of well paved road all the way to the big town “Cuenca” which is in the south of Ecuador, the scenery along the way is comparable with New Zealand, but soon when we got to the town, there are very crowed of both vehicles and peoples, it took us a while before we found the way to the center of the town which is in the very later afternoon. It was even more surprise when we got to the downtown, when the town is actually on another side of the Rio Tomebamba river, the town is actually in the hill so we had to push the bike circling few times until we got to another step of the town. The street of the town were made of block of stone which was very bumpy for the bike, we had to find the accommodation before dark, finally we found the cheap one for only $6 per night on the 3rd floor of the old style wooden building, the smell was not good though, the toilet was not functioning, well at night the place was seem like the criminal camp, we couldn’t sleep at all with no shower, what a torture night in Cuenca.

 

 

2 July 2003

I got up with feeling not so well, walked to the toilet and found it not working also, the man next to me shouted me to find the bathroom some where else. The customer of this hotel is really dirty, they split everywhere, this is more than enough with no shower not toilet. We ran around to find another hotel, finally we found a good one with bathroom inside at 10$ but with a great deal of negotiation we had it for only 8$ at Hotel Norte which is only a corner away from the lousy one. We feel much better and more safety.

 

 

Remember that we have mentioned about the currency here has changed to US$, the cost of the food went to sky rocket begins at US$1.5 for one bowl of soup, the food in the picture cost 2.80US$ per without drinking water, roughly 3.5US$ per meal per person, really expensive!!!! Most of the people here eats the same kind of cheap food because the good one are expensive, the worse is that they have enough to have only 1-2 meals a day.

Anyway since we got settled down, we drew a rough plan that we would fly from Quito to Cali in the south of Colombia in order to avoid the red zone where there are many terrorist. We checked for the ticket in the afternoon, asking for information, whether we can load our bikes or not? Not long before, we will get to Quito which only 10 days from now.

TAME airline in Ecuador, a national airline, and we don’t need to pay the departure tax if we fly with them to Colombia, we chose to ask information here, and it was quite lucky that there was an officer name “Mr.Estaban” we asked him that would to be possible of we would like to have a support for the plane ticket, or some special discount? He asked us back “why you need it?” so we replied that we are biking and need to save the money. Immediately he picked up the El Mercurio Newspaper and asked us “Is this the news on the paper about both of you?” we were really surprised because we thought that the guy who took our picture yesterday was just a joke. He read the headline to us “Two Thais with one mission” they even mentioned that we both own the whole world. He gave the newspaper to us. He asked us to write him the detail of our profile tomorrow and he will translate to Spanish, there might be a chance.

I told to WAN that I would like to have the support from this airline very much because the airline slogan is “Our dreams fly high in Ecuador” which is similar to what we are doing which is “Aim high and reach for it” I told him and WAN that if we actually get a support from TAME, we will name our web journal in Ecuador "Our dreams fly high in Ecuador" we felt really good with this word.

On the way back in the afternoon, while we were passing one bank, we saw the huge US dollar bill with president Bush inside with a mustache like Hitler, so we asked the people of reason and they explain that they because they doesn’t want to use it so they try to show off the feeling in a creative way.

 

The next day we’ve gathered information and composed the letter asking for support from TAME, but today Mr.Estaban was not on duty, we have to come back tomorrow again, today we went to visit the market which is in front of the hotel’s door, the market is very interesting, there are Indian selling their vegetables, fruits in a very colorful traditional costumes.

We had to be sneaky to take their photos, well if we ask for their permission, we will never get it, once we raise the camera to take the picture of their kids, they will just cover the face, and ask for 1-2US$. Being sneaker also gave me a painful experience, once they know that we took their picture, they will yell+ scold to us like we did some thing really bad to them, of course I did not understand in the beginning of why and why? You dressed up really nice, I am a tourist, couldn’t I take your photos? But soon we got the information, from both books and tourism officer, they all said the same that the Indian believed that they will have a bad luck if we take the picture of them, or for the newer generation they thought that we would make money from their picture, so they asks for the money instead. Well they yell us very loud, it could be heard everywhere in the market, so taking photo in Ecuador is must be very careful.

 

 

4 July 2003

 


We finally met Mr.Estaban at TAME airline for the translation from English to Spanish and forward it to the Management in Quito, we will call him during our journey to follow up, and will follow up at the Headquarter in Quito by ourselves when we get there, we got it done for today. The weather in the afternoon was very quite nice so I excused from WAN to walk around town to take the beautiful picture of Cuenca. There are my churches from here and there with an ancient architecture. In the center, there is an emblem which is the very beautiful “Cathedral de la Inmaculada” which passed on by Spanish since there were colonized here, turning around and always had the sight of the beautiful architectures, the black stone passage around the town in combination with the walking Indian have brought me back in time of centuries ago, with a bit of strange sight with is the old cars. The UNESCO declared Cuenca as the world’ s heritage site. We really wanted to take the photo of everything we see, where direction we turned to, all are made Cuenca.

This afternoon we packed up and get ready for tomorrow, we got many things done here, there are many exploration lies ahead, for WAN she never has a problem with sleeping, same as tonight, but for me tonight is quite difficult even it is 2 am of the new day, there were a non stop sound of the gun firing for three – four hours with a question in mind that “I have to listen to this?” Is there any exercise here even though this place is not near any the border? The plan is now postponed, I didn’t have enough sleep to bike, so had to stay here for one more day. When I told WAN about this, she seemed not to care about like I was paranoid, or actually there was nothing happen at all. We still have not question of who are in the event, but whenever the sun is set, the people are completely disappeared.

Well this is Ecuador, right after midnight, the series of sound of gun firing has got closer to us every where in town, where we are staying in close to the market and many criminals are here, and the police are now raiding them all night long, some of them even ran into the hotel and knocking on the door, our room is near the entrance of the hotel, we peeked through the curtain. We now feel that Ecuador is not normal any more. We stayed here for one more day without sleeping again. We tried to ask the person that we could trust, they said there are many criminal here, so the police are cracking them down on many nights. There are no people walking the town at night, but where are the police?, It is really mysterious with the sound of the gun.

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