Marta and I spent an extended amount of stressful time on the road and had some tension which naturally arises between people who spent 4,5 year non-stop traveling basically clued together. It was time to say good-bye to my Ex-girlfriend and welcome a new travel mate. My brother Valentin was able to join me for an exciting three month trip through the mountains and along the coast.
The original plan was to meet up in December and have a direct change, but unfortunately, my brother encountered a problem during his preparation for the trip. During one of his bike trips along the coastline of San Diego, it all happened. A driver of a car opened his door, on a section where the parallel parking went in the bike lane. He was unable to react and crashed into the door at full speed, leaving roughly a 10cm long and 3cm deep cut in his leg. Should we cancel the trip? Luckily, the injury healed just fine and Val was able to embark on his trip, though a month later than previously discussed.
This meant I had to bike on my own for a while. Finally, in the first week of January, it was time for us to reunite. We hadn’t seen each other for almost two years, so there were many things to catch up on. Val first had to learn some important things about my travel routine. Living a travel blogger lifestyle isn’t all that obvious and changing your home every couple of days is not always easy. After two weeks in Quito, we finally headed out towards the beach.
The first moves were hard, as we had no real synchrony on the bike. We went over Nono to the Pululahua Natural Reserve. We continued to Mindo, a famous place for birdwatchers and wildlife fanatics. It was here where we first had the chance to taste one of the finest chocolate the world has to offer. We had established our daily routines at this point. It consisted of alternating days of biking and hiking. Though one thing can be said about Mindo as the cloud forest region; trails are quickly disappearing especially in the rainy season. Getting lost can happen faster than you think in some places.
Next stop was Santo Domingo de Los Colorados. We had planned to stay one week even though the city might not have sufficient sights to fill on of tourism. However, this prolonged stay saved us. Both of us were sick with fever, stomach problems and nausea and we were bound to the hotel room. Not yet at 100%, we had to continue on at some point. On the way to Esmeralda, we did not have as many stops as we had hoped for, but we still made it. The longest ride yet from La Concordia till Esmeralda with 160km and almost 900m elevation was in front of us.
Slowly but surely in these days, you could feel the heat settling in. It felt like with every meter of elevation lost we gained at least half a degree Celcius. The road from Esmeralda was long and hilly, but the most depressing thing happened when we arrived in the city. The hotel, which was shown on google maps,map.me, and Facebook to be in downtown Esmeralda, actually turned out to be 80km north in another town. Great, that’s really what you need after a 12h bike ride. An emergency shelter was still found but those are the more frustrating moments.
Up and down the coast we were going to continue for the next 7 weeks, but first, we had some important business to attend to. My visa was about to expire, and I had to apply for a 3 months extension. Now, much can be said over the following but after a simple count, I had miscounted the 90 days that were first given. Oops! I was one day over, but luckily, I didn’t have it too hard. The visa extension process for Germans in Ecuador is extremely easy, just parts of it are annoying. The applicant has to fulfill a specific format. The copies of the passport pages must be in color, not folded and on DIN A4. The payment must be done on the same day to a certain bank account with the receipt enclosed. That’s pretty much it. Even though other websites may list proof of insurance or funds, this was not the case for me. These are the moments where I learn to appreciate my German passport.
The further south you go, the more tourism there is, that’s what everyone told us. Atacames/Tonsupa was the next stop and we had big plans for carnival. The adventure should continue, though the music was somewhat repetitive for our ears. Salsa Choke as they call it here is the Latino style electro music.
We spent 4 days partying in this town for the carnival season. This is the supposed to be a big deal here in the region as people all the way from Quito come and to dance and drink on the beach. Well, we had high hopes and we got ready to party. The beaches were full of people and the bass was vibrating, but for our rhythm, this was hard to manage. We felt like we were in the wrong movie, but locals were nice enough to show us how to move to the beats.
After one week of rest here, we headed on to the next places along the coast. The next stop was Mompiche, and again we were surprised by the remote location of this place. Arriving at dusk, we were following google maps but, wait, there is no trail anymore? Can this be true? We then started to ask around. Well, it was. It turned out that this hotel was cut off on high tide, so we got a lift across the channel with one of the local boat taxis, there is a bridge but we did not trust it to be fully weight-bearing. Even though we had to half carry, half push the bike through the sandy beach and rocky lands, it was definitely worth the trouble.
Passing by Pedernales, where we had to wake up one hotel owner due to a misunderstanding on his side. This is what happens when you go up and down the coast with a big tandem bike. This was also one of our longest bike rides for a while and we were glad to have made it after all. The following days we saw more jungle and coast. Alternating between one day of hiking and one day of biking, we had found our rhythm. Technical problems come along with living a travel blogger lifestyle and Val witnessed it first hand after arriving in Canoa. The laptop charger of our MacBook broke. This was so annoying. Especially, since there are no Apple stores anywhere nearby, and ordering online is nearly impossible!
So how about taking the bus to Portoviejo, well that did not work. There are no apple stores here and finding this charger at a normal laptop repair shop seems impossible. So, let’s try this again the next day in Manta where there is a tiny little Apple store in a Mall near the waterfront area also called Malecon. A two-day trip to get this charger, wow, that is stressful. The laptop is an essential item, not only for documenting the trip but also for continuing as all the hotels are marked here. Luckily we got that problem solved.
Portoviejo and Manta were the two biggest cities that we stopped in for a few weeks and we definitely felt like being back into civilization. Though only very few of the places we were at before were really out in the woods. These two cities so close together gave us more of the real insight into how people live in a city on the beach of Ecuador. Of course, for us, the nature lovers, we got bored of the city quickly since our walks were more pavement than sand, but it was also a welcoming change for us.
Following the coastline, one of our last stops before saying good-bye was Puerto Cayo. People had told us about the big waves and surfer communities down here, but we had not seen it until we arrived at the beautiful tiny town. The hotel we were staying in this night had a rental service for kayaks. So the next morning, instead of going on our scheduled hike, we took out the boats to hit the waves.
Well, our first idea was to get behind the waves and just paddle somewhere, but that turned out to be literally impossible. Therefore, we quickly decided to just take those waves and ride them up and down with the kayaks which were a lot of fun, but also quite dangerous. Val was caught at some point by some big waves and since the pulling force of high to low tide is quite strong he was slowly drifting out. Just a few moments of panic and fast strokes with his arms saved the situation.
Now it was time to say good-bye. While we were biking around this truly special country, Val’s K1-Fiance-Visa was approved and he was now ready to head back to Germany and get the last steps done and finally move out to the US.
Little did we know, that this process would take much longer and we ended up meeting again in Landau just a couple of months later…But this story will be saved for another time.
Val took his flight home from Guayaquil using up his 3 months tourist visa. I decided to stay and use the last bits of mine. Last few weeks I was left alone with a tandem bike. and travelled to Guayaquil. I stayed several weeks in Montañita. It is a well known tourist spot with a lot of attraction. I went surfing, partied a lot in the many nightclubs. You should check out the well know Lost Beach Club.
You will hear back from me after my summer break in Germany. Very soon, I will be back on the road. Just keep following and you might even find out where my journey is leading me next.