Biking Through Ecuador, Day 4: Quilotoa to Riobamba


Sorry I haven’t posted my whereabouts for the past two days, but we haven’t had Internet at the places we’ve been staying at. So, to catch up I’ve posted three separate entries – Day 2, day 3 and day 4 (today). If you want to read what we’ve been doing in chronological order, read those first!

Moving on to today. After breakfast at our hostel in Quilotoa, we visited the edge of the crater one more time to see it in the morning light. But since it was so windy and cold we didn’t stay long. Despite the chill we started biking right from the rim, layering ourselves with shirts, jackets, and windpants to keep ourselves warm for the long descent down to Zumbahua, where the Saturday market is held. We coasted and occasionally pedaled against the wind for 14 or so kilometers, passing beautiful vistas with mountains as the backdrop and field after field of vegetable crops. When we reached Zumbahua, we loaded the bikes back onto the jeep and set off into the crowd of brightly dressed Indians, tethered sheep, live chickens, and men and women selling every sort of necessity – from shoes to toothpaste to red bananas (of which we bought a few). C and I wandered around for about an hour and we each purchased a traditional sweater made out of soft alpaca hair. They’re so comfortable!

After the market we drove for about 45 minutes along a winding road that eventually took us back up to the top of a mountain with spectacular views all along the way. Arie let us out of the car and we mounted the bikes for our second ride of the day. It began with a 5 kilometer gradual decline and then we climbed for a steady 4 kilometers, but it was no where near as difficult as our first ascent, even with the strong headwind. At the top we were rewarded with a 25 kilometer descent into the town of Pujili. The road was being worked on, though, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to have large dump trucks pass us on the switchbacks, but we made it down fine and Arie was waiting for us at the bottom with snacks.

Then it was back into the car for a longish drive to Riobamba where we would be spending the night.

Now a word about the food in Ecuador. This is brought about by an almost two hour search tonight for a restaurant I could eat at. In general, I have had no problem finding vegetarian food here in Ecuador. In fact most of the meals have been delicious if not exactly what I would prefer to eat if I were home (i.e. lots of carbs, fried food, and very little in the way of fresh vegetables). Healthy eating isn’t exactly on the minds of most Ecuadorians, I don’t think. But when I travel I realize that I should (and need to be) more open-minded about what I’m willing to eat. And even though I prefer to eat vegan at home, I definitely have strayed far from that while I’ve been in South America. But I’ve also come to realize that stretching your taste buds is part of the experience of traveling. Trying new foods and experiencing local cuisine is all part of understanding a different culture. I’m willing to do that to some extent – I sill wouldn’t be able to bring myself to eat meat – but sometimes it’s still hard to find a place worth eating at or something that looks appetizing enough to eat, even if you’re really hungry. That was me tonight. Riobamba has little to no options for vegetarians, so we ended up wandering around the streets, looking at menus, and becoming increasingly more hungry as the night moved on. Finally we settled on the restaurant next to our hotel and I ordered rice with vegetables. When it arrived, it was a pile of rice soaked in grease and mixed with a few peas and carrots. It was not appetizing. Arie assured me that tomorrow, when we’re in Banos, there will be a much better selection of vegetarian-friendly restaurants to choose from. I hope so!

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