Ecuador – Quilotoa Loop, Ambato, Chimborazo & Riobamba

OK, time for some riding. It takes a while to ride south through Quito but eventually we get off the Panamaricana for what’s known as the Quilotoa Loop. The road starts out as windy pavement that goes up into the highlands of Ecuador. It’s fascinating to see the people change as we climb. A quick stop for lunch in a local village and we keep on.

Quilotoa Loop 002

A third of the way through the loop is the Quilotoa Crater Laguna.

Quilotoa Loop Stitch

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The road turns to gravel just after the lake. It’s slow going with tight switch backs and lots of washboard.

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We’re riding swiftly when around the corner comes an old Land Rover. I’m able to swerve to the inside and rest on the bank. Charles, behind me, has the option of swerving off the cliff side to the right (not a good option) or low-siding the bike and crashing into the truck (not a good option either, but better than going off the cliff). He does so and his front end slides under the Land Rover. There’s some silence then we pick up the bike. His rack is severely broken now but he’s able to continue on. Unfortunately, there’s no photo of the accident. Moral of the story: ride faster and take more chances.

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The dirt continues as we make distance. About an hour later Charles swerves off the road. He has a flat front tire… The daylight is getting short and we still have far to ride so there’s no time to wallow. We work together and get the tire changed and we’re riding again in about 45 minutes.

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We’re now racing against the clock to make it back to the autopista. The road conditions are sketchy and it’s not the kind of place to be riding at night. Dodging potholes and large rocks, we find the autopista well after dark. There are no hotels in this small town so we continue down the dark autopista for an hour tailgating trucks so we can see the road. Finally in Ambato safe but tired and hungry at 8pm we grab some pizza by the square. Serendipitously we spot Marty. He has a tiny little one bed hotel room (the only thing left in the city because it’s carnival). We persuade the hotel manager to let us sleep on the floor in his tiny room. Ambato’s not a tourist town but they have one great party for Carnival! We hit the streets and it’s not long before we’re covered in foam.

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But don’t you worry. Cans of spray foam are $2. We load up and fight for our lives! Here’s Marty and I back to back protecting one another. We were great big gringo targets and everyone loved to shoot us (especially the little kids). The foam started to burn our eyes and skin. What a fun night!

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With a few street shish kabobs in our stomach we call it a night. In the morning this old woman starts speaking to us in tongue. Who knows what she said but she was a hoot. I think she could fit in Charles’ pannier and come along. We know she’s a fan of Canada.

 Old Lady Canada Flag

Hauling in the daily catch.

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Today we ride up to Volcan Chimborazo. With a 6,300 meter summit it’s the tallest point from the center of the earth. As we ride through the pueblos we’re continuously accosted by water balloons and buckets of water. What better target than a motorcyclist? The kids run to grab their water pals as they see us coming down the road. Often they miss us because they misjudge the speed and timing. But let me tell you, a water balloon or pail of water when riding at 60 mph is like getting hit with a brick. Not only that, now we’re soaking wet and riding in the cold. What a wonderful adventure!

The road climbs into the clouds and we stop to put on our cold weather gear.

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Continuing up the road becomes dirt. The washboard roads are fun to ride. (Thanks for the photo, Marty!)

 Volcan Chimborazo

The road ends at the refugee. It’s 4,800 meters (15,600 feet) up here and it’s the highest altitude I’ve ever been. It’s a chore just to walk a hundred meters up the slope to view the monuments.

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Remembering those who gave their life to the mountain (there are many of these).

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No Starbucks?

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And as it is everywhere we go, we become the tourist attraction. Posing for pictures with families is a daily activity.

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Upon leaving Chimborazo we pass through the same pueblos we did on the way up. The grenadiers are ready and we do our best to dodge the water grenades. We don’t always succeed…

We spend the night in Riobamba and there’s a lively water fight going on all over the streets. Marty jumps in his rain suit and hits the streets with a pail of water.

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More to come after the break. Stay tuned!

Categories: Ecuador | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Ecuador – Quilotoa Loop, Ambato, Chimborazo & Riobamba

  1. sweet, looks like there’s some real riding to do down there.. are the cops on KLR650’s or is it a myth?

  2. 6310 meters? Man that is high.

    • Benny

      That’s the summit. The road only goes up to about 4,800 meters. Still higher than I’ve ever been.

  3. Haley

    Lovely photos, as usual!

  4. Emily Heff

    Love the action shot of the family being soaked with water HA … also these foam parties are so odd yet I think they’ve really got something here.

  5. Nice! Someone was talking to me about doing the loop by car but doing by bike must of been amazing!

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