December 10, 2004

Ecuador: Ciclopaseo

Just a quick note: I did not have much time to write about Equador because of all the visitors. But as a result I have now changed things a little and given, those that make the effort to join the expedition, a voice on the website. (I should have done this with Damien and Ryan in Argentina)
Anyway all I wanted to add about Equador is that on the last sunday of every month Quito shuts down its entire core to automobiles and turns all the streets pedestrian. Major axies are still open for transit so that people can get to the centre and walk. What really caught my eye though was that a cyclist route is designed and patrolled by police through the city. It seemed like everyone comes out to ride and enjoy the peaceful streets. We saw everything from large families to very flashy racing cyclists quietly cycling through this designed "ciclopaseo".

Posted by gwendal at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2004

Ecuador: 10 days of Cycle and Ceviche

On November 19th I was lucky enough to have a chance to escape a hockeyless, rainy, pre-ski-season Vancouver to join Gwendal and Tania on their traverse of the north and south hemispheres.

First flight: Vancouver – Houston. Picked up my brother Greg works in Houston but had the week off due to Yanksgiving (American Thanksgiving). Houston – Quito: how amazing to be able to step off the plan and experience an entirely new landscape and culture after 5 short hours in flight.

After a short sleep at Casona de Mario in Quito Greg and I headed back to the airport to catch a flight to Guayaquil where we were scheduled to meet Gwendal and Tania. After telling a surprised local man at the airport that we had paid USD100 to take our bikes on the plane he told us “For $100 you could pay an Ecuadorian to pull you like a horse!”

Upon our arrival Gwendal and Tania promptly threw us on a bus headed to a small hotel in Ballanita. Finally, we caught on the beach up over a couple of cervezas and got our bikes in order for the next day’s ride. Having not had a chance to connect through any means other than cyberspace it was great to finally chat with the two of them and see how the trip was really going.

There was some expectation that nearly 8000km of life the road would have manifested itself into some kind of change in their character but what I found when I got there was basically the same Gwendal and Tania, only with better Spanish and tougher legs. They seemed quite content with their traveling roadshow. I was particularly impressed that Tania had the patience to ride in the back seat all the time: giving the steering and braking power to Gwendal – especially since the result was that they were erratically swerving on what looked to me like straight roads……

We biked north along the coast over the next 5 days staying in Montanita, Machalilla, San Lorenzo and finally ending in Manta. The coast, or Costa Del Sol (Sunshine Coast) as it’s known in brochures, was spectacular. The highway wound along the shore alternating between extremely arid and dense jungle regions. It seemed that a change of only a hundred meters in elevation was sufficient to significantly alter the landscape around us. Small towns and villages dotted the coastline, providing plenty of places to stay and eat.

The food was definitely one of highlights of the trip. Everywhere we went there was fresh seafood – and the cost for a North American is next to nothing. One dish in particular routinely kept our stomachs happy: Ceviche. Ceviche is basically any seafood, ranging from fish to oysters, served in lemon juice with tomatoes, chillies and onions. So simple, yet so tasty. Here is a basic recipe that can be made in about 10 minutes and will give you a taste of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian coasts:

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 large tomato, roasted peeled and seeded
2 jalapeno peppers, roasted peeled and seeded
2 red peppers, roasted peeled and seeded
1/2 medium onion, roasted
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 tomato juice (optional)
1 small tbs. sugar salt
Place cleaned shrimp into a pot of boiling water for approx. 2 minutes (no longer) then remove to an ice bath. Place all other ingredients in the blender and liquefy. Pour the shrimp over mix and chill.

Upon reaching Manta, we took a long and arduous 10.5 bus ride to the gorgeous Ecuadorian capital Quito where we stayed at the Casona de Mario once again. Quito sits at approximately 2800m in elevation in a valley surrounded by stunning mountain peaks. Armel was the fist among us to discover that altitude sickness is not uncommon for visitors.

Quito is an extremely cosmopolitan city with every type of restaurant available, all at incredibly low prices (albeit higher than on the coast). The historical centre of Quito is made up of elegant Spanish Colonial buildings and plazas, giving the city a very European flair. We were also extremely pleased to find out that on the last Sunday of every month the downtown core is closed off to all vehicles except busses and bicycles. If only Vancouver had such a policy!

We spent the better part of two days touring around Quito taking in many of its sights including the monument to the equator (El Centro del Mundo) and a bull fight at the Plaza del Toros. Greg took off back to Houston early Sunday morning and the rest of us spent the day biking around Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest volcanoes at 5,897 m (19,347 ft). Come Monday it was unfortunately my turn to head back to my reality in Vancouver.

After our experiences as armchair participants in the Expedition via the Antipodes web site, it was great to actually share some of the adventures with our magnificent cycling hosts: Gwendal and Tania. Thanks for letting us tag along and we hope to see you guys somewhere in Central and North America for a few more kilometers!

Greg and Adrian McCardle

Posted by adrian at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)