Words: Maral Yazarloo
Images: Pankaj Trivedi
The Ecuador border crossing is supposed to be seamless, as the popular word goes. However, the big surprise came when we spotted a kilometre long queue at our exit from Colombia to Ecuador! It is always interesting to learn how the experiences change from one person to another. You always learn the truth the hard way after all, having confronted the situation on your own.
45 minutes and the line hadn’t moved an inch, so we bought some chocolate ice cream to cheer ourselves up and two hours later, we finally managed to get close to the counter. The man ahead of us asks if we are travelling to Ecuador and we tell him that we are actually exiting Colombia. He points us to a building that is 500 metres away; that’s where we should have actually been two hours earlier. Not just that, it took us another two hours to get our bikes. What I needed then was a party pack of chocolate ice cream.
The first thing you notice after getting on the road is that they are butter smooth. Passing through beautiful mountain passes, we stopped after a good 70km for lunch. And the tragic phase continued as we learned that Ecuador is known to accept nothing other than USD. Imagine our predicament when we learned that the restaurant did not accept cards and there was no ATM around. As always, we found help in the form of a young girl seated across our table. She not only gave us US dollars in exchange of Colombian pesos, but also helped us order a vegetarian meal.
The next day, we headed to the Sunday market – the first thing you notice is the strong sense of tradition and unique fashion in this part of the world. Women here wear knee length skirts, paired with socks, a hat and a big scarf around their shoulders. The men usually have long hair while their garment reminds me of a poncho. We walked around for a couple of hours soaking in everything! Although we couldn’t shop much as we’d have liked to since the BMW’s panniers were already filled to the brim.
We then headed to picturesque Quilotoa lake and as we delved deeper into the Andes, it kept getting colder. We then started spotting oncoming traffic, covered in snow. The scenery was so captivating that we were always looking forward to what was going to come next. The Quilotoa lake is a 3km wide, water-filled caldera, formed after a volcanic eruption, 800 years ago. With a depth of 250m, the water body has a shade of green thanks to its high mineral content. This is what the ride is all about, just being ‘one’ with Mother Nature.
The sunset brought with it a whip of cold air and we decided to call it a day. Instead of opting for our tents, we went scouting for local houses. We were spotted by a couple of kids and I managed to translate from English to Spanish, all thanks to Google Translate. “Can we sleep in your house tonight?” said the app and the kids responded with “Si, si”. It is so overwhelming to see that there exists a world where people are so trusting and generous. They never think twice before letting strangers into their house, for an entire night. Would we do that in India?
Parking our bikes in a shed, we rested in nice and cosy rooms before starting our ride to La Balza to venture out in to the 20th country on our list – Peru.