Ecuador is full of diversity, and days after days this small country keeps impressing us. One of the main difference we noticed with Colombia, is that it's really easy to wild camp in Ecuador, where all the lands used to be private and closed with fences in Ecuador. After 5 days in the mountains, and 5 nights wild camping, we finally reached Cuenca.
Cuenca is the capital of the Azuay province, the third largest city in Ecuador, and the economic center of the southern Sierra, but also our last big city in Ecuador. At least it was what we thought so...
Courts of justice in Cuenca
Historical buildings in the city center
In a few days, Thibault has to go back to France but I decided to stay 2 months more and cycled to the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. His plane was leaving in a few days from Guayaquil, another big city down on the Pacific coast. As we had a bit more time left, we decided to cycle together to the coast, and enjoy a 4300m downhill.
We left Cuenca and took the road up to Cajas National Park, our last but not least Paramo in Ecuador. The area of 285.44 km offers a tundra vegetation on a jagged landscape of hills and valleys, with a total of 786 lakes and lagoon ! We arrived at the Refuge of the park before it starts raining, put the bikes in a safe place, and went for a small walk down the lake. As the weather was extremely humid we decided to sleep at the refuge that night, on really old and totally uncomfortable mattresses.
One of the 786 lakes in Cajas national park
Walking trails around the park
We finished the 300m up the pass the next morning, and started our 4300m downhill ! I have never seen a place where you could drop from 4300m to sea level in 60km. Unfortunately, we were in the clouds under the rain for most of the descent so we couldn't really enjoy the view. But we saw the landscapes slowly changing, the temperature slowly increasing, and the altitude rapidly decreasing.
We arrived at the end of this long descent, in a humid heat we haven't experiences for months now. So surreal to cycled on a flat and linear asphalted road now, after so many months without two km on flat ! We continued towards Guayaquil and stoped in the Manglares park, a reserve of mangroves and jungle where you could apparently lots of wild animals. We spent the night at the ranger house not far from the road, and went for a walk in the mangroves and the jungle the next day. The amount of mosquitos was absolutely ridiculous. We were covered with mosquitos repellent, long sleeve t shirt, and rain-jacket to survive. The mangrove was really impressive but it's definitely not a welcome terrain.
Typical house in the Manglares reserve, surrounded by bananas and cacao fields.
Huge mangrove and crazy amount of flies on us
A few meters from there, we heard a loud noise coming out of the jungle. We couldn't recognise what it was the first time, but we heard it a second time and realised it was probably monkeys. We got of the main double track towards a walking trail inside the forest, following that noise and hopping to see some monkeys. The noise was getting louder, we put the bikes near a tree and continued walking silently. We raised our head, and saw a family of what seemed to be Mantled Howler Monkeys. We were speechless.
Mantled Howler Monkeys in the reserve
Lots of rice fields in the region too
Back on the asphalt road and in civilisation, we were back on our smartphones too and received a lot of messages about the growing worrying situation worldwide : COVID-19. It was Friday, the rumour about a lockdown in different countries like France, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia was growing, and things were going fast. Thibault was supposed to take his flight on Tuesday, but we decided to go strait to the airport to see if he could fly earlier and be sure to enter France before any lockdown. After two hours of wait at the entry of the airport with the two bikes, Thibault came back and told me he had a flight the next day. What a weird and sad moment.
The next day, while Thibault was packing his stuff to get ready, the situation was moving fast, and I didn't know what to do. Stay here and wait to see how things will evolve ? Take a bus to Peru as soon as I can so I'll be in a different and cheaper country if they decide to close the borders ? Or book a flight home asap to avoid being stuck here if the situation get out of hands. What a hard decision to make since I was ready to go on for two more months by myself.
I accompanied Thibault to the airport, sadly said goodbye, still not knowing what I was going to do and where I was going to be in the next days. I went back to the hostel, called a few friends and family in France to see how was the situation, read the news about Ecuador and Peru, and after a few moment I decided to look for a flight to go home. 3 hours later, I had a bike box and a flight for France the next day. At this point I didn't know if it was going to be the right decision, but everything was evolving so fast that I didn't want to risk to be stuck here for months.
Last goodbye in the airport
We're now both safely back in France, in confinement at our parents places. Everything happened so fast that it is still hard to realise. But looking back at the situation now, I'm pretty sure I took the right decision at the right moment. It was not easy to change my plans and not to do the two more months I imagine in my head, but some things are way more important, and I prefer to be safe here with my family, during those hard times we're all going through. Also this trip taught me something :
"Nothing ever goes as planned"
This will be our last blog post for now, waiting to be back on the road again, one day. Thank you for reading this blog, thank you for your support.