Andes to Amazon  
    Ibike Ecuador  
    Dispatch 2 - Machachi  
  Ecuador, Pan Americana highway To be honest, bicycling out of Quito leaves much to be  desired:  The roads are congested and many of the vehicle are diesel and pump out an eye burning, throat choking exhaust. Combine with the elevation and hills, it is a grunt-through-it combination. Over the last decade, the per vehicle emissions may be improving but the increase in the overall number of vehicles seems to be keeping the overall pollution levels at least even.

To provide a bit of cultural relief, the ciclovia in Quito has some public art along it.

Ecuador, Quito: sculpture, public art
  Most of Quito lies in a high valley.  To go very far you have to either wind around and climb a mountain, or descend into a canyon and then climb out again, or a combination of all of this.  
  Ecuador road After a suitable experience with congestion and ups and downs, our route brought us to a section of the auto pista, limited access road.  The combination of a wider road, being out of the main valley and lower traffic density actually provided us with a few whiffs of fresh air.

We got further relief when we turned on to an alternative route that followed rural roads.  There were still belching vehicles, but they were fewer and further between.

Ecuador road
  From Quito the vistas are spectacular, but they get even better as you move into rural areas: Built environments give way to pastures spotted with large dairy cattle.  The pastures are split by streams and river.  And as is the norm in this area, the horizons are dominated by layers of hills and mountains.  Early on in the day the dominant volcano was Antisana.  In the afternoon we had some clear views of Cotopaxi. Ecuador agriculture
  Ecuador statue of horseman A disproportionate number of the relatively few buildings there are are dedicated to massive horticulture projects that export long stem roses to markets in the United States and Europe.  In less than a decade horticulture has become a major source of foreign exchange for Ecuador.  As an off shoot of the horticulture export industry an extensive cell phone network and air freight business has blossomed.  When the flowers are ready they can't wait and things need to start moving and keeping moving until they get to market -- the perishable cargo must be transported expeditiously.  
  Ecuador: Catholic Church At least every ten kilometers there is a small town.  In each small town is a central square, and on one side of each square is a Catholic Church.  The squares are get people watching places.  Ecuadorians don't seem as extraverted or inquisitive as the people in some other places are.  They kept there eye averted and seemed reluctant to engage in conversation with us. Or perhaps they have seen plenty of tourists, or foreigners have historically done nothing good for them and they didn't feel a need to engage them.  On the other hand there was absolutely no hostility and any time one asks for help, or get service in a store or restaurant, it is given willingly and with a smile.  Ecuador: banana split

In one town it was communion day when we passed through.  The young girls were in multi-layer full white dresses and the boys wore suits.  They certainly were the focus of the family for the day.

Equador: communion day
  Ecuador: Panamericana

After a stretch through rural Ecuador we joined the Pan Americana highway.  It is straight, wide, well graded and generally well paved, but traffic volumes are higher and the roadside environment is generally more degraded.  When the skies clear it does provide excellent views of Cotopaxi.

CEcuador, Machachi, public artotopaxi is a magnate for camera lenses and shutters.  It is so commanding and majestic it is hard to feel like you have taken enough pictures of it.  Maybe part of the feeling of needing to take more pictures comes from feeling like the pictures you are taking aren't doing the scene justice.

  Ecuador, Machachi, Illiniza

As if two major mountains weren't enough, as we approached Machachi we started to get great views of Illiniza Norte and Illiniza Sur, as well.

We still weren't far from civilization, for lunch in Machachi some members of the group had banana splits.  The star of the menus so far had been "locro de queso," a soup with potato and cheese in it.

Like many towns, Machachi had sculptures at the entrance ot the town. Unique to the region, this read paper barl

Ecuador, Machachi, public art
  Ecuador, Machachi, Hacienda St Felix

Our accommodations for the evening was a private hacienda.  The main activity was conversation.  We also went to visit the milking barn for the dairy farm, with automatic milking machines.  The farm is also experimenting with a variety of food crops -- some of which were served for dinner.  Beside an excellent meal, some libations and long and fascinating conversation with our hostess, we went for an evening walk to view the southern cross -- that was a first for some members of the group.

Ecuador, Machachi, Hacienda St Felix

Ecuador, Machachi, Hacienda St Felix, dairy farm

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