I am slowly approaching Ecuador’s border crossing. Crossing operations on the border of Peru and Ecuador are carried out in small huts. It took me 10 minutes to get out of Peru and enter Ecuador. I asked the police on the Ecuador border:
– Is there a problem on the road, is it safe?
– No worries, quite safe.
The reason I’m asking this is; 2 days ago state of emergency was declared in the country. There is a curfew in the capital Quito. Due to the recent rise to gasoline in all big cities, the people have risen up and blocked the roads with tires, stones and trees. I saw it on the news. As far as I know, the borders of Colombia and Ecuador are also closed. I was thinking that this border would be closed too, but it seems that there is no problem here. If I were going from the coastline, it probably wouldn’t be comfortable in the same way. Mountain roads are always the best.
So why was state emergency declared in the country? I’ve been cycling in South America since 2017. Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru problems are always the same. I can include Brazil in these countries, but studies on high technology products in Brazil are not available in other 5 countries. The general problem of all these countries is that consumption is high in countries, there is no production in these five countries. Oil, lithium, natural gas, copper, gold, silver, lead, zinc, coal, iodine … These countries have all of these mines. Moreover, half of the mine mined in the world comes from these 5 countries. I am looking at the export items of these countries; these are the main ones. You are looking at the population of the country, the surface measurements and the total value of the mines mined. There is something wrong. This fact is not only for underground mines, but also for agricultural land. I wrote it in my Brazilian article. When you ask the people, they say their exports are very well and they talk about the richness of their mines. Well, my brother, the company that extracted the mine is not your local company, the seed of the product you planted is not your countries’. It may seem like a local company, but in the background, the situation is completely different. People don’t allow to say “Foreign companies come and take away the resources of the country.”. A local firm is opening for a show, and business keeps going.
At this point, things work for companies but not for the people and governments. Each new government or president solves the problems caused by the previous government with the help of these private companies. This situation has been solved for show, it continues for 5-6 years or for 10 years. Anyone who reads the history of the continent will notice this. If the wealth in South America will be shared fairly, no country on the continent would stay poor. The surface area is clear, the mines mined, the area of the agricultural products produced and the population… It is not mathematically possible for people to be hungry and poor. So why are they being exploited? Why are South America, Africa and Central Asia being exploited? Why is birth control applied more than America and Europe in these continents and continues to be applied?
During the previous presidency (2004-2014), the welfare level of the citizens is increased with the loans taken from foreign countries. Hospitals, schools, roads are built; for 10 years everything is very good. But foreign debt has exceeded $ 60 billion, there is no production in the country other than mining. I have also mentioned the situation of those mining companies above, will it continue like this? NO. Well, for years history has been repeating itself, why don’t you look at your history? Hah! The people immediately blame the left-wing president for corruption, they appoint the new president in his place. He says we have to make austerity policies. Well, now, in the previous presidency period people were living a life of ease. If you put additional taxes on gasoline prices and pull them up, so the people will revolt. Is it okay to take what is given or not?! The people protest. The president looked the situation is getting out of control, he called the military to the city and declares state emergency. So what will that president do? There is nothing to hold on. So I am going to say this; this order hasn’t change in South America. They take a breath for 5-10 years, then everything will be the same from scratch. Colonial companies never allow this order to change, as long as there is a mine in these lands, this cycle continues. Yes, citizens protested, they won, gasoline rise was withdrawn. What happened then? Is it over? No, it continues and will, they just postponed for a while.
The first town I entered is called Macaron. You eat lunch for $ 1.5 in Peru but you eat for $ 5 in Ecuador. It is a bit expensive compared to Peru, and in the following days I could find food in restaurants for at least $ 3. On the other hand, market prices are also like that. Canned tuna cost $ 3-4, even $ 5.
Anyway, there is nothing to do, you have to buy something or go to restaurants to avoid hunger. This first town in Ecuador, after Bolivia and Peru, looked very nice to me. While I often stumbled unfinished houses in the countryside of Bolivia and Peru, I managed to see the standard, familiar buildings in this first town.
The Atakama Desert, which starts in Copyapo in the north of Chile, continues through Bolivia and Peru and reaches the Ecuador. But once you cross the border, it’s unbelievable. The vegetation is changing in such a way. I was driving in the desert in Peru for days now suddenly I was surrounded by trees and I hear different bird sounds. This change has been pleasant.
My head is full since I entered Ecuador. Though I have been considerate since leaving Lima, Peru. My sponsorship with Atılım University, which was the main sponsor of my world tour from September 9, 2012 until September 9, 2019, ended and the contract was not renewed. Frankly, I was sorry, I was thinking that we can continue until the tour is over. Because I was getting very low support for a private university. Hah, what will happen now? Meanwhile, I found a place where I could pitch a tent from Ivorlander on the road. Will this tour continue without the main sponsor? Of course it will. The tour can be completed with the money coming from the Kron Bicycle, Ankara Damla Patisserie and the support section of the website. But there were other projects I have been doing for years. So I will have to stop and make new sponsorship meetings. In the meantime, I came to the place where I will pitch my tent, which I found from the app. It was the garden of a house. I asked the owners permission and they let me stay overnight. Anyway, I can deal with it. (I was able to write this article after 1 year, but I’m still on the road 🙂
I didn’t make any plans for where to go in Ecuador. I would like to go to the Galapagos Islands, but the cheapest trip is 800 $, and the worst, you can only see 2 islands, I have to buy 10-day boat trip for 4,500 $ to see all the islands. Instead, it is better pedaling in the clouds, among the green in the Andes. Galapagos was out of the picture.
When I first came to the continent in 2017, someone from Ecuador sent a message, his name is Onur. “Gürkan, I live in the city of Cuenca, I would like to host you.” At that time, I thanked him and continued on my way. 2 years later he texted again. “Brother, I am here and still want to host you,” he said. In 2011, the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a circular to all our embassies about me. After this circular, I started to receive messages from our embassies all over the world. “Hello, Mr. Gürkan, my name is this, I am your contact in this country, we are waiting for you”. Look, the year is 2011, I just start yo my tour by bicycle. I laughed when I received a message from Canada, who knows when I will arrive there? Probably, when I got there these people would not be in the embassies, which is what happened in most of them. People believed that I can reach places instantly like those travelers who use any kind of motor vehicle. Onur was one of these friends, and 2 years later I managed to arrive in Cuenca, the city where Onur lives with his family.
When I entered the city, I wanted go to Rumi, Onur’s restaurant in the city and make a surprise. But he also saw me on the road and we met in front of the restaurant. We hugged each other. Very friendly and nice to talk with. Years ago, he met his wife and decided to settle in Ecuador from Izmir. He has both a restaurant and a shop selling Turkish products. He introduced me to his family, he has a brilliant wife, two very beautiful daughters. “Gürkan, I really wanted my daughters to meet you and take a photo. This dream has come true too.” It made me think as much as it gave me a smile on my face. I really didn’t expect it to happen. Years pass and this journey progresses slowly towards the points I have never dreamed of, and it is beautiful. Onur, thank you very much for hosting and hosting. (The restaurant closed because of Covid 19, but the gift shop is still open)
I was with Atilla, whom I stayed in the same hostel in Peru. Thanks to Onur, he also made a night with pita and raki for both of us. We had a great conversation and great time together. Atilla will continue to Colombia, maybe we will meet again in Colombia.
Cuance is the most beautiful city I have visited in Ecuador. The art museums are beautiful, the theater is fine. It is possible to lie down and chat next to the rivers in the city. Colonial period architecture is protected by Unesco. The air is clean but I can’t say that it is so clean for the city. There are roadwork for bicycle paths, but they are insufficient.
Although the center of the city is flat, the climbs start when you get away from the center. As in many countries, people don’t want to use the bicycle as transportation when they see slopes. Since the city is surrounded by national parks and mountains, there are many tourists coming to the region to visit these areas.
When I arrived in Londres in Argentina in 2018 (Argentina is a small town with the same name as London in the United Kingdom. It is surrounded by walnut trees and walnuts are exported from here to all over the world.) Spanish cyclists Nacho and Simon had texted from 260 Litros. We had spent a while together and chatted. Then our paths parted. A year has passed and we met in Lima, Peru. A little more time has passed, we are now together in Cuenca in Ecuador. We had never pedaled together before. We will pedal together this time, but I am a little hesitant about pedaling with these friends. They have been on the road for years like me, we cyclists who take extreme long tours have a certain tempo. People who pedal with me will also be uncomfortable at first because they would disturb my tempo, but I get down my tempo of the person who comes to me or the person I’m cycling with, or I wait longer for my breaks. But not every cyclist has to do the same. He/she looks for a day or two, if the tempo is not kept, he/she will go. On the other hand, there are almost no tour cyclists that I can’t keep up with, if the bikes we use have the same characteristics. At this point, the bicycles and equipment of these friends were very different. Let me give a brief information about the bags attached to the bicycle.
(Photo South Africa)
Classic Tour Bike Setup:
12.5 liters on the right of the front wheel, 12.5 liters on the left,
20 liters on the right of the rear wheel, 20 liters on the left,
20-liter bag above the top bags,
6 liter bag on the handlebar,
Total capacity: 91 liters.
The front bags can be replaced with 20-liter bags and the back ones can be replaced with 12.5-liter bags. Between 2010 and 2017, I rode my bike in this order. So the carrying capacity is quite high, it is possible to increase it to 116 liters. There is an aluminum or iron luggage system on the front and back for these bags to be attached to the bike.
The advantages of the classic tour bike bag setup:
There is a lot of luggage capacity, the possibility of placing the items in a certain order, and the protection of frame and gear in case the bicycle falls over, is possible thanks to these bags. These bags also have the capacity to place items that can be accessed instantly.
Disadvantages of the classic tour bike bag setup:
Luggage is constantly moving from the attachment points and there is constant vibration and pressure where the hooks pass. The weight of the front and back boot rails. Unable to drive on stony and high brushwood goat roads. The bags coming out from the sides too much so makes it more difficult to move in windy weather.
Simon and Nacho has 29 frame bike packing and I have 26 frame half bike packing.
Bikepacking Tour Bike Setup:
7 liters to the right of the front wheel, 7 liters to the left of the front wheel, a thick fabric drybag,
Depending on the size of the frame, 4 or 6 liters of frame bag for the frame,
16 liter seat bag attached to the rear seat,
16 liter bag attached to the front handlebar,
It has a total trunk volume of 52 liters or 54 liters.
Compared to the classic model, the carrying capacity is reduced by half. As the years progressed, the dimensions of the items on the bicycle have also changed with the development of technology. Clothes started to be produced with nano technology and their sizes were reduced. For example, the drone used to fit in a 25 liter bag, but now I carry it in a 5 liter waterproof bag. It is possible to prepare arrangements for long travels without reducing the food and water capacity.
Advantages of the bikepacking tour bike setup:
It saves the weight of luggage systems on bicycles. All bags become a whole with the frame as if they were a part of the frame, so there is no situation that disturbs the balance in the field. The ability to travel more comfortably and quickly on goat trails. Easy to drive against the wind since the entire load is in the middle of the frame and not on the sides. Itremoves the habit of stuffing everything into bags due to thinking of having so much empty places. You only carry whatever you need, you don’t tire yourself.
Disadvantages of the bikepacking tour bike setup:
It takes a seriously long time to create an order in this bag. When the bicycle falls over, because of no bags on the side, so there is a direct damage to the frame or gear system. Since the luggage capacity is low, it is necessary to compromise on many things related to comfort. Food and water carrying capacity is very low in many bikepacking setups.
For a long time, I have been trying to ride my bike in a classic bag and bikepacking setup. But in the upcoming periods, I will fully switch to the bikepacking setup. I definitely need a 29 frame bike for getting this order and to get everything on the bike in the order I want. I can’t do the order I want with a 29 frame that I can buy from the market. I will work on this subject with the Kron Bicycle. (We did)
That’s it; these friends’ bike is in a bikepacking setup. Bicycles are in that setup, but for me they have a big drawback, they carry backpacks. Yes, they both have backpacks. Okay, the bike is super light, nice, but they have their computers on their backs since there is no luggage space to put them in. It may be okey If it was just a computer. In addition, they took many more things on their back. Their bags were also very heavy. Despite this, I was thinking that it is almost impossible for me to ride a bike in the field with these guys. So I was right.
We all met in the city center of Cuance and continued on the road. It would be correct to say that I could not approach them in the field while we were progressing at the same page in the asphalt climbing. At this point, there is an advantage of having 29 frame and a mountain bike (mtb, mountain bike). Although I haven’t been able to make such fast descents in the field for 10 years due to the loads. Let me explain it this way; my friends went down the slope quite comfortably as if there was no load on the bike. At this point, the fact that both of their bicycles have a middle shock absorber and a downhill shock absorber system is a big factor. It is not possible for us to hang out together. That’s why we just cycling together for 5 days and left. Whenever I put my bike on a similar setup, then we pedal longer together. By the way, the bike of my friends is 1 × 12 gear, and I saw its difference in climbing. There were 11-52 cassette on the back.
While we were together we went to Inca ruins in Ingapirca, located in Ecuador. This is where the most important Inca ruins are located at 3,160 meters in Ecuador and the largest town nearby is Canar.
Pirca means wall in Quichua language. The area was called the ‘Inca Wall’. The structures on the whole land was built by the people of Canari much earlier, except sun temple and a few small areas beside the sun temple. In fact, the moon temple of the Canari people and the sun temples of the Incas are also very close to each other.
The Incas were a great empire and military power in South America. But, as I described in my previous Peru article, it was an empire that tried or looked like trying to be fair on many issues. They didn’t change people’s religions and destroy their temples in the places they captured. The Canari people were one of the indigenous peoples of South America. The Canari people are known as the people who fought the Incas for the longest time. Very strong and clever warriors. However, their numbers were too few to compare with the Incas, so they lost the battles. Over the years, when the Inca people settled in the region, they were assimilated. Ingapirca is the most important Inca work that has remained in the country until today.
When I was a guest Cuenca Onur’s wife’s family hosted me in their house in a small town called Chunchi. It is true that I spent very little time on this journey with some people who host me at home. It is difficult for me to understand their life adventures, happiness and sadness in this short period of time. But sometimes they invite and host me so sincerely that I am surprised and thankful. When they say sincerely “Don’t go, stay, Gurkan, be our guest here for a while.” it is very difficult not to stay. The eyes show that they want to chat longer and show me around more. Onur was calling for one hand and saying “They loved you so much, don’t go, stay, if you want, rest in that beautiful farm for a few days but I have to keep going, I have other plans in mind.
In short, I’m on my way. When I was leaving the house, a truck stopped in front of me. Someone got out the truck:
-Hello, welcome to Ecuador. I’m headed for Quito, let me help you.
-No thanks, I’ll go on a bike.
He approached the bags and said, “You have a lot of things, I’ll take them.” Just I thought it is an abnormality in this situation, he reached to the handlebar bag. That bag doesn’t come out easily from there unless you activate the mechanism. He put his hand on the bag, and I pushed his hand. I learned not to fight with someone on the bike during my Japan Tour in Azerbaijan in May 2010. I immediately got off the bike and left the bike on the ground like that. When cursed a few words in Turkish and started to move towards him, he rushed to his car. Meanwhile he said a few things, I don’t understand. I immediately got the license plate number of the vehicle before he left. I reported the situation to the embassy and continued on my way. Meanwhile, I called Onur and told him what happened, and he reported the license plate to the police. As I was heading north, the police officers notified me to the police officer whom in next station of duty whenever they saw me. Meanwhile, Onur’s father-in-law came to check me after 60-70 km. As a result, I managed to get to the capital. By the way, this was not the first problem I encountered in Ecuador. Two motorbikes followed me at someplace else. I could not get over them because I was climbing uphill. They also did not rob me because of the busytraffic. As they passed me, I entered the closest village, found a restaurant and hid inside for a while with my bicycle, and informed the restaurant owner and the embassy.
I had the opportunity to attend the October 29 (The Republic Day of Turkey) reception in Quita. I met our Ambassador Oya and our Undersecretary Kemal.
Our Ambassador Oya is on my left Our Undersecretary Kemal is on my right.
During my 10-year world trip to 62 countries:
Although I met the ambassadors in 2010 Georgia, 2010 South Korea, 2012 Bulgaria, 2013 France, 2013 England, 2017 Argentina and 2019 Ecuador and spent some time in those countries, I was not invited to dinner by our ambassadors. I swear, I keep the archive of these, no lies:) If I am an ambassador, I would invite such people to a dinner. If possible, I could have Turkish cuisine. Thanks to our Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry of Ecuador, Mr. Kemal and his wife, they took me to dinner. They set up a very nice Turkish cuisine table. We even had a long conversation with Mr. Kemal. We chatted about Turkey’s foreign policy and conjectures. (I love this word very much, let me ring the ears of our Ambassador Asım Arar.)
Even though the colonial old city of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was protected by Unesco and made nice with support, I could not like this Quito. The fact that some museums are free didn’t change my mind, there is no way to ride a bike.
Traffic is as clear as mud, the municipality has stopped working in the city, they don’t touch certain parts of the city. Of course, the recent protests also have an effect on this. When I go to the city square, I see the government building and the prime ministry building surrounded by barriers and wire fences. Because of the public, the fear is great.
I say that there is no such bicycle path but they built a bicycle path from the capital Quito to the equator line. Moreover, they made a very nice road. It is a purely touristy road. The road has connection with anywhere, but it is quite long and regular. There is a fine road from the capital city center to the equator line. I crossed the equator line earlier in 2015 on my way south from Kenya. Now I am crossing from south to north.
However, there is a funny situation in this area. Millions of people come to Mitad Del Mundo Park in Ecuador every year just to take a photo in this area. They have built a complex where the line passes and the entrance is paid. I went to theline inside. I turned on my GPS screen so I could take a photo right above the line, what the heck? N00.00.100 How so? It was supposed to be zero, not 100, right on the line. I immediately asked a nearby officer:
-What the hell, the line is on 00.00.100
-Oh, the real line isn’t here, it is below, on the street.
-What? Hahahaha dude you get money.
Dude?! This is like a joke, the line is in the right place in Kenya, Africa, let me give this information. This is really funny. I went outside of this place, go the town which man said. Literally 00.00.000 hahahah next to a bus stop inside the town. They put it here on a sign somewhere, I could not find it either, I searched but it does not exist. I would be glad if a friend finds it and sends it to me. I add it to the article.
The 30-meter world monument in the area was built here in 1936 with a French-American co-production. There was a slight deviation, since the engineers of the period did not have GPS.
After this point, I continued my route to the Ant Mountains in Ecuador. The colonial settlement in the large and small villages I visited until the Colombian border seemed very pleasing to the eye. In addition, in my 10-year travel life, I have survived the worst downpour I have ever caught on the road in Ecuador. Everyone in the cars was looking at me with crazy eyes, I was pedaling in the water up to my feet and continuing on my way. I was unlikely to get any images of those moments. Of course, I do not want my electronic devices to be damaged. I was sure that even the slightest opening of the bags, itwould fill them with water.
There was a real chaos as I came to the Ecuador – Colombia border pass.