28 September, 2012

Day 86, 400km: Officially south

Today is a big milestone! I'm now in the Southern Hemisphere!

Ipiales/Rumichaca border
The day started with the crossing of the border into Ecuador.
Google maps, Garmin and Open Street Maps do not have much for this border so in case that's useful for someone else, the GPS coordinates below.
  • Ipiales customs/immigration is at 0.81484N 77.66280W
  • Rumichaca customs/immigration is at 0.81433N 77.66498W

The border was very easy and quiet. Just a lot of people on the Ecuador side so I spent the "regular" two hours there. I didn't see any other tourist, maybe I was there too early.

Nigth club estrip tis!
First building on the Ecuador side of the border. Probably a landmark of Ecuador fine dining and dancing. That or a brothel.

Welcome to Ecuador!
A Harley Davidson rider told me in Popayan that the roads in Ecuador were great. I didn't really understand if he meant that the landscape would be great or if the road surface would be great.
Well I can now say that both are true. The roads appear to be brand new, excellent conditions, signage and marking.
Oh and cheap too, highway tolls are (all) $0.20.

Bienvenidos a Bolivar with Cro-Magnon and Jesus. Science and church go hand in hand!
A few hills after that wonderful town sign I was stopped by Ecuador policemen. There were searching cars by the side of the road. A guy in his thirties with a gangster face proceeded to question me, all the while chewing gum like a cow.
Since everything was in order, he made me open the luggage (panniers) and proceeded to empty one of the two panniers on the ground. Satisfied with his utterly useless search he gave me my documents back, I packed and left. Jackass.

Impressive views along the way to Quito
I had three options planned today depending on the road condition. Quito, Ambato and Rio Bamba. I was in Quito around 2PM so I decided to stop there for lunch and continue on my way south.

Diesel was even cheaper at $0.25/L !
Soon we will be selling couplers in here! Seriously similar ads are all over Central America and ... Ecuador
I was pretty excited today as I knew I'd be crossing the equator. I was nervously checking the GPS, waiting for "the moment" where I would leave the northern hemisphere. The last few kilometers before that mark, I was cursing at the road each time we were heading north for a few turns, I want to go south!

Crossing the equator ... done
I think the equator is a pretty universal landmark. Borders aren't made to last. Tropics location vary slightly with Earth's dance around the Sun, the Greenwich meridian is artificial too. But the equator ... its here to stay!
So it felt good knowing that I made it here all the way from Vancouver.

Nothing worth noting on that spot though
Since I had some time to spare I took a back-road to get into Quito, which is probably why there wasn't any monument or even just a stone to celebrate the passing of the Equator. Doesn't matter, still did it!

Quito downtown. Not bad actually!
The place where I stopped for lunch was a in "hotel" area and there were quite a few tourists. That was a surprising change after Colombia where I barely saw other foreigners. 
While having lunch I heard English, lifted my head and saw half a dozen tourists entering the restaurant. They wore trekking shoes, had backpacks filled with water, "adventure jackets" (you know the kind with dozens of pockets) and bucket hats.

I nodded to them and their reaction was surprising. 

Imagine Indiana Jones on his way to the Lost Temple. Sweat rolls down his forehead as he cuts through the jungle with his machete. He is on the lookout for headhunters. Some noise on his left! He immediately unleashes his whip, ready for the unthinkable.
And out of the jungle comes a man dressed with a suit, who salutes Indiana and gives him directions.
Indiana would no doubt be utterly disappointed and question his whole adventure.

They probably felt something similar when they saw me in the restaurant, the only foreigner, reading the news on his phone. They looked disappointed and left the place. I saw them a few moments later when I left the restaurant, they were in the most packed and darkest restaurant in the area. Guess they found their Lost Temple.

A unknown park nearby the hotels area
I left quickly after lunch as massive dark clouds gathered above the city. I red before that Quito's weather is unpredictable well I can confirm that. 30 minutes before the rain was the blue sky pictured above.
Maybe that's due to the city's topology. It's actually scattered over maybe 4 or 5 different valleys. I guess it's considered a single city since there's an urban continuity but it really feels like different towns when going out of a valley and into another.

Ambato, perched atop a hill
After a short drive (on still excellent roads) I was in Ambato, a city spread on top of a hill that reminds me of Manizales in Colombia. Made it to the hotel before night (!) yeah and took some rest before heading out for a short walk.


Pretty cool view of the city. In the center is a large statue of Jesus, his hands opened towards the city.
That's all for today!

Tomorrow off to somewhere in Ecuador, I have no idea yet.

Cheers,
Guillaume

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