10 March 2017
San Lorenzo, Ecuador
These last three days have been filled with amazing views, extremely dangerous switchbacks, a disappointing hotspring, and a border crossing. Yes, I am officially in my second South American country and I feel a little sad. It feels like I only scratched the surface of what is Colombia and I could have easily have stayed for another month or two; it was that spectacular.
What I thought would only take a day to cross into Ecuador ended up taking almost three days. If I measured just how much vertical change I have made, I bet I traveled up and down more than I traveled south. I have never been on roads like these, constantly going back and forth through the mountains. It would have been alright if I had the road alone, but I was sharing it with mostly semi-trucks which brings up the danger aspect.
I started to notice that at major switchbacks, there was usually someone standing in the middle on the outside of each curve. For a little while, I had no idea what they were doing there, but I soon found out. Early in my first day, as I was coming up to yet another sharp switchback, one of these persons started to wave at me. Of course, unsure of what they wanted, I continued on to discover a huge semi-truck coming up in the opposite direction. To make a long story short, the truck literally ran me off the road and if I was on anything other a motorcycle, I wouldn’t be here right now to write this blog.
These switchback patrols (what I call them in my head), will scout out at the point where they can see both sides of the traffic and notify vehicles when it is unsafe to proceed on the blind turn. These people have saved me at least a dozen times and sadly I still was basically ran off the road at least 3 more times that day. Not so much fun. About half way through the day, I then discovered why these people do this; The semi drivers will throw out change as they pass. I also wondered where these people came from. I mean they basically are standing in the middle of nowhere, so how do they get there? Well the answer to that is that they hang off the back of these large trucks and ride their way up or down. Pretty ballsy.
I ended up calling it a day in La Cruz, a medium sized mountain town about half way from what I thought I was going to accomplish that day. After a very confusing day of breathtaking views and white knuckle driving, I was exhausted. After short walk around the city park, a quick search online for a small stop the next day as a treat to myself, and yet another amazing Colombia dinner, I found myself asleep before my head hit the pillow.
The next morning I started out a little early for my little side stop. I discovered last night a hot spring on the map which wasn’t too far off my route. Stateside when I lived in El Paso, I use to go to the hot springs in Truth or Consequences NM frequently and trust me I could have used some muscle soothing hot water. But after a long difficult drive down a dirt road, a big crash into the ditch, and almost a mile walk down some steps, I discovered my disappointment.
The Termales Tajumbina, while quite pretty with its waterfall and surrounding cliff sides wasn’t worth the entry fee or the difficult drive it requires. The water was gross, facilities old and outdated, and the temperature was way too hot. It did have a cool 60’s vibe, but it also looked like it hadn’t been maintained since then either. No wonder I was the other person there except the very strange whom I assumed was ground keeper. What a bust and I wasted 3 hours!
That night I ended up stopping just short of the Ecuador border in the town of Ipailes. After my disappointing side trip, the day ended up being very long and I didn’t arrive until right before sunset. I had mixed feelings about my next day. I was looking forward to Ecuador and moving on with my journey, but I felt that I really didn’t have enough time in Colombia.
There was so much of the country that I didn’t see, that I didn’t get to experience. I would highly recommend Colombia to anyone, there’s a little bit of everything here and it’s all fairly inexpensive. I found the roads to be decent and everywhere I went, there was evidence of improvements on roads and highways. Even the scary switchback 25 highway will be a thing of the past because it looks like they are building at least a 20 mile tunnel through the mountains. I’m afraid that the scenic views will be forgotten like how the US interstate system killed the county highways. If you are a motorcycle person, Colombia needs to be on top of your must do list.
Today I started with a fairly easy border crossing. For all the trouble it took for us to get our legal papers for our motorcycles back in Cartagena, no one seemed to care when I exited. I basically handed the paper over to an official who didn’t even look at it, received another stamp in my passport, and was finished with Colombia. Ecuador was a fairly easy process as well and it took maybe 90 minutes overall. Again use to guides on iOverlander to prepare yourself, there were no surprises.
I’m now in San Lorenzo and Ecuador has been a little unexpected so far. The roads have been empty and well maintained, but something that’s a little different is that I really haven’t gone through any little towns yet. Everything seems to be off the road so for the most part it’s just you and nature. I kinda like it.
San Lorenzo has a very Caribbean feel which I wasn’t expecting. Obviously an important port city, it really was the first sign of civilization I’ve had since crossing the border. Today I stopped early, but after the last week of mountain driving, I feel like I deserve it and am looking forward to doing a little exploring. I’ve decided to take the coast road through Ecuador, hoping to get some beach and kiteboarding time in. I really don’t know what to expect but I’m sure the next couple days will be amazing.