We were finally able to leave Quito! After spending a month based in Tumbaco, a suburb on the outskirts of Quito it felt like we might never leave! Santiago, our amazing host helped us build Jack a new bike after Ike’s had gotten stolen. It was quite funny, the power had gone out and we were in Santi’s bike shop wrenching furiously on the bike in the dark with our headlamps on.
Pedaling out of Quito was a slow process. We didn’t leave till 13:00 so it was definitely a late start, but hey, at least it was a start! We had to get Jack’s bike used to being toured on. Stuff kept falling off and he got a few flat tires.. Our route was to pedal to Coca and then take boats down the Rio Napo towards Peru.
We pedaled for a few hours to the base of the mountains. It came the time to find somewhere to stay and luckily we encountered a house that was for sale! The door was open and it was an inviting shelter from the ever present rains that had been plaguing us lately! The house was right on the edge of a sweet canyon and had a great view of Quito from across the valley!
It was all uphill as the road towards Coca heads directly over the Papallacta Pass at a whopping 4064 meters (13,333ft) This was a new highpoint on tour! The road up the mountains is pretty new, except for the end where it turns to gravel. Climbing up the pass was a pretty awesome experience. The Andes continue to boggle the mind! You are so high from elevation, the mountains, and the scenery, you can touch the clouds! As we summited weather was moving in and it was time to don some layers for the massive downhill!
Blasting down the other side of the pass was extreme! We had summited around 16:00 and it was slightly late in the day! Falling out of the sky on our bikes we blasted down this amazing valley at 75km almost melting the brakes! Due to the amount of geothermal energy incubating under the earths surface there was plentiful hot springs in the Papallacta valley! Naturally we soaked it all in and took a deserved rest from a huge day of climbing!
After hot springing we bombed more downhill and then found a place to camp in a small field that was for sale on the side of the road! The next morning the dueño showed up with his cow wondering what we were doing there? We explained to him that we were traveling and just had spend the night there and we were on our way! He was glad to have helped us out, unknowingly.
More spectacular downhill followed as we descended next to the river canyon towards the town of Baeza. In Baeza we ate some breakfast and then turned south towards Narupa where we would then take the road to Coca. we were treated to amazing riding through the mountainous jungle as we slowly climbed through another spectacular valley! Once we reached the top it was more wild downhill next to the clouds. The Andes are very amazing mountains and we felt slightly guilty for leaving them so soon! Alas, we have to get to the Amazon!
Finally after two days of descending we were close to Coca. The mountains had stopped but it didn’t mean the end of the hills. We were treated to some gnarly jungle hills about 140km from Coca. Then Hen’s back wheel broke down and there was a torrential downpour! Jack and Hen sought shelter in a little roadside bus stop! Barely big enough for us to sit under we waited an hour in the down poor. As we sat soaking wet and shivering in the little bus stop, we watched the water pooling up on the ground. Not a good sign for camping! In fact where would we camp that night, providing that the rain stopped.
Then our savior showed up. A truck had stopped to help us and it turned out the driver was heading to Coca and would give us a ride! Perfect. A chance to fast track to the river as well as wrench on bikes and find boats the next day!
We arrived in Coca that evening and found a cheap hotel to spend the night and attempt to dry out all of our stuff! The next day we cruised town, got supplies, and wrenched bikes. The dude at the shop said he was busy and just let Hen use the tools to fix his bike himself. Coca is a pretty cool river town in the Ecuadorian jungle! It has the feel of a beach town without the beach! We enjoyed the afternoon sipping beers watching the Napo River flow by. There was a boat heading to Rocafuerte at the Ecuador Peru border leaving the next morning and we made plans to board it!
The riverboat we got on was awesome! It was about 8 hour trip down river to Roca. Riverboating is super relaxed way to travel. For the people who live along the Rio Napo, riverboating is the only way to get around! We cruised down river dropping people off to their little jungle huts along the river bank all day. Finally we made it to Rocafuerte where we met some travelers heading to Brasil as well! Pedro is from Brasil but he lives in Denver, and Iago is from Spain, we teamed up with them and made plans to head downriver!
After waiting a few days in Rocafuerte for a boat we found one that was heading to Santa Clotilde Peru. This boat was a slightly modified dugout canoe with a shade structure and a tak tak 5.5hp motor attached to the back! We were traveling with a Peruvian family who had family up river and was dropping off some livestock to them. On our return we had 4 chickens and a baby pig with us!
We crossed into Peru and ran into Ike and Genia at the little border town of Pantoja. They had been waiting in Pantoja for a few days and figured we’d show up when we got our passports stamped. It took 3 days of riverboating on the small boat down the Rio Napo to get to Santa Clotilde! At night we would stop at local river peoples jungle houses and set up hammocks!
Once we had gotten to Santa we took a rapido or “fast boat” to Mazan where we biked across a land bridge to the Amazon river where we took another boat to Iquitos, Peru! Iquitos is the largest city in the world non accessible by road! Iquitos was amazing! There is no cars in the city only motorcycles and moto taxis! It was very fun to ride bikes through the concrete jungle in the jungle!
We checked out the famous Belen market where you can buy anything! We got to try some caiman (crocodile) and an assortment of delicious juices! We also partied in the street with some of the crazy locals! It turned out to be a fun few days spent there. There was a riverboat heading to the Peru/Brasil/Colombia border the next day so we jumped aboard and headed down the mighty Amazon River towards BRASIL!
It took another 3 days of riverboating to get to the tri border area. This riverboat was significantly bigger than the last. With about 100 + passengers crammed in on two levels, everyone slings up their hammocks for the duration of the journey. Riverboating is extremely kicked back as you just lounge in your hammock sipping beers watching the river slide by as it does.
We entertained ourself with some 10 sol poker. Soles are the currency of Peru. (10 soles = 3$) This Belgian guy named Kevin who was also heading to Brasil cleaned us all out. After 3 long days of riverboating we made it to Santa Rosa, the Peruvian border town. The next day we cruised across river to BRASIL!!! Woooooo we made it! Wow nearly 7 months of traveling and we did it, we entered Brasil! After checking in with migracion we walked to Colombia because we could!
The next day we found yet another riverboat heading down river, this one going to Manaus! This riverboat was huge! It was more like a cruise ship it was so big! We piled aboard for a 4 day trip to Manaus! Once again its all about the hammock time as we set up for the ride. We met a handful of people heading into Brasil from all over. Lots of Colombians, Germans, Dutchies, Spaniards, Argentinians, all making the pilgrimage to Mundial!
During sunset when it was cooler, we played football on the top deck of the riverboat! You had to be disciplined to keep the ball on the deck! We lost a few balls but it was worth it! In the evening we congregated at the bar as you’d imagine, having multilingual conversations with fellow international travelers! People were busting out their instruments and a jam sesh ensued! Good times on the boat!
We finally made it to Manaus where we will take care of some things before Jack and Hen head to the coast! Ike and Genia will head south to Cuiaba for their World Cup game Chile vs Austrailia.
We are super psyched to get to BRASIL! What started as a half-baked day dream has become a reality, although we still have to finish our voyage down the Amazon, and then some to get to Natal by June 16th where USA take on Ghana!!
Tudo Beleza ! ~
-Hen, Jack, Ike & G