Leaving Quito came as something of a relief. I would never have visited the city if it wasn’t for the arrangement to meet my sister, Jo, there. All I saw during my stay was the inside of a hospital and the view from my bed. Fortunately my illness was easily treatable and within a few days of her arrival Jo and I were battling our way out of town. I can’t say the ride north from our lodgings in La Floresta out towards Calderon was a particularly positive experience. We managed to find some bike lanes along the way but the mood had been set within ten minutes of setting off when a shard of glass put an end to my run of luck with punctures. It took a while to leave the city but by mid afternoon we were finally whizzing downhill on fresh black top away from Quito’s urban claws.
Our first port of call and the reason we were heading north was the Equator. I’d already crossed the Equator several times without any sign or ceremony on my route towards Quito but Jo had not. It seemed a shame to her to be so close and not pay 0° latitude a visit. So after a cheap night in a love hotel we climbed about 15 miles up through Oton to the Equator monument just south of Cayambe. When we arrived there was a small group of paraglider pilots already there. We got chatting to their leader who was kind enough to pay the gratuity on us being there. Then after many photographs we turned on our heals and cycled back the way we’d come towards El Quinche.
Just through El Quinche we left the busy roads behind and headed out onto Ciclovia El Chaquiñan, a cycle route following an old railway line. This interesting little interlude would take us through tunnels, over bridges and around canyons to Tumbaco. A storm and failing light forced us to split the 30 km ride in two with a night in Yaraqui. This turned out to be a blessing as the next morning was a glorious Sunday. All manner of cyclists flooded onto El Chaquiñan giving us plenty of people to talk to and a real sense of the vibrant cycling culture in the area. One of these groups of cyclists were a speedy bunch of mountain bikers led by the legendary Santiago, who along with his wife Ana Lucia runs the Casa de Ciclista we were heading to in Tumbaco. Bringing up the rear of the group was Martin, an Austrian cycle tourist who has thus far spent 10 months cycling up from Urshuaia. Martin was glad to peel off from the group and dordle back to the Casa with us, a stroke of luck as we didn’t have much idea where it was.
I think every cycle tourist I know and have met who have spun through Ecuador have made a stop in Tumbaco. A quiet little nondescript place about 15 km outside of Quito there is little attraction other than the very welcoming Casa de Ciclista. These are homes that people have opened across the continent to passing cyclists. Santiago and Ana Lucía’s CDC in Tumbaco is one of the older more established and popular stop overs. The couple have been allowing cyclists into their home for 23 years but yet still manage to maintain enormous enthusiasm for their guests. It is an incredibly generous gesture on their part to offer free accommodation to so many people. Last year they had 108 cyclists stay at their house! It felt like a genuine privilege to meet Santiago and his family and we’re grateful for their hospitality. Although we only stayed one night Jo and I made our mark, apparently the first brother and sister combination to pass through in all 23 years.
It would have been nice to stay longer in Tumbaco but we’d only been on the road a few days and were chomping at the bit to get out and ride Cotopaxi National Park. So, the morning after we arrived we packed up, said our goodbyes and headed out for the start of a memorable route around the east side of Cotopaxi.