Tag Archives: beaurocracy

Volcanoes, open plains and rock wielding ladies

Heading on with real maps for the first time courtesy of a very generous friend we have been making good ground through incredible countryside, Ecuador truly is one of the most beautiful countries I have been lucky enough to visit, and the people so welcoming – except for the rock wielding old ladies ….. more to come on that.

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8 days ago we left Latacunga and the amazing hospitality of an incredible family. I got the chance to rest, this time was more for me than for Red as have been struggling with health issues the last 2 months, 8 months on the road and poor diet can take its toll on the body! I must say a huge thank you to all at El Picadero.

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Back in the saddle again and felt great, getting toward the end of the second day riding through a village of no more than 20 houses I hear somebody calling me “mister, mister” Normally would just ride on but stopped to see what the man wanted “are you the man riding to Peru?” he asks, little taken aback I spent some time talking to him, somehow word had got to this little village, I ended up spending the night with his family before heading on early. Over the last 8 nights have slept in the hammock, derelict buildings in run down areas on outskirts of towns, playgrounds, empty shacks 3700m up in the Andes and several fields, waking with Red led down sleeping next to me on more than one occasion, biting my beard, my hair and once with him stood on both of my feet – another 3 broken toes but if honest have never slept better.

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I am now riding the western side of the Andes, passing snow-capped volcanoes, thermal pools and nobody in sight. Feeling confident and with good maps I pushed further into the paramour. Riding though open plains I stop to soak it in, with a contentedness I have never before experienced, this journey is way more than I could have ever hoped for. Riding dirt tracks, no tracks and train tracks, everything but tarmac. Pulling up to a bakery in the mornings to the smell of fresh bread and getting served on the back of your horse is something else. Arriving in a small community I stopped to ask directions, I could not hear what the people were saying so rode a little closer, this seemed to upset them as the only Spanish-speaking member of the group shouted that I should leave now, that I need to be carefull as strangers are not welcome here, we argued for a little, pointing out that I purely wanted directions however when I noticed the crowd building and the little old ladies armed with rocks in their hands decided I would be ok without directions and galloped out of there. This would never change the way I feel about this beautiful country, in a way I can understand and respect them wanting to preserve their privacy. Just 24hrs before this I was invited into a stranger’s home, fed lunch and when I tried to leave was told would be rude to leave before dinner and should spend the night, should have skipped the dinner as was heart omelette but the sentiment was wonderful!

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I am now entering the final few weeks of the trip and with it facing the reality of parting ways with what has become my best friend. Am sure by now you would have figured out there is no way I could let Red go to anything but the perfect home and have been lucky enough to find that in the good people at El Picadero. We have been through a lot together, injuries, tough roads, amazing highs, formed a bond that I can draw no comparison to. He has saved my skin several times and like to think have given him the best possible care. So proud of what that skinny little horse from Medellin has turned into. And so I am appealing for a little help in getting him to his retirement home, it will take around $500 to transport him to a well deserved rest and also a place where he gets to continue what he is so good at, working with children. If you can support in any way through the buy a bale link I would be forever grateful, and anybody that is good enough to help us out gets riding rights ….. if you are ever in Ecuador! (which I would highly recommend!) I have been hoping for a long time I could find the right home for him whist I return to the UK and feel extremely fortunate to have found the perfect place,

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Now we head back into the Andes for the final push through Ecuador and onto the finish line, hard to believe we are now over 5000kms and 8 months into the journey with just a few weeks left.

Thank you for reading,

Marc

Pumas, bureaucracy and assailants turned friends.

Riding the valley of volcanoes through Ecuador is something I have been hoping to see for many years but could not have in my wildest dreams expected what was to come.

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Red looking close to 100% we set off on foot from Pifo, wanting to know he was fully fit again before riding. Speaking to a retired army Colonel about my planned route he gave some words of advice -“the only thing to watch out for are the pumas, if you hear them on your right they are coming from the left, the bears are harmless” Colonel Moya had given me a contact who could help with route information. After 2 days I arrived at the home of “El Gato” a former military colleague of Colonel Moya. El Gato lives on the edge of the paramour, uncontactable by phone he was completely unaware who I was or why I was turning up at his doorstep yet welcomed me in like an old friend. I had walked into a big celebration, 4 generations of family there for fathers day, I was invited to join and once Red was in a field enjoyed dinner and listened to hunting stories from the elders. Again as with Colombia it is once you get away from the modernised culture that you really get to see the best of the people and of the country. After a very welcome feast, watching the peach schnapps and beer come out I decided this was the right time to get some rest, Gato kindly let me have a room in which to sleep, sleeping under the gaze of a mounted Puma head.

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The next morning after some vague at best directions from my sore headed host I headed on. Making my way through the maze of trails I eventually got frustrated as we were making little progress and decided it would look a lot better in the morning and finding an abandoned, half built house I set up camp for the night, things look a lot clearer after a good nights rest and a cup of English Breakfast – one of the few luxuries I allow myself!

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The following morning setting off at sunrise the path seemed to open up in front of me, I soon met Wilson Arroba, he was headed in the same direction and so we rode together into the valley, the scenery breathtaking. Arriving at Wilson’s home, circled by 6 volcanoes he invited me to a bowl of soup, watching me inhale it as though have not eaten for months he brings out another and a bread roll. With some real directions I headed on, this is where the scenery starts to really blow you away, riding a horse flanked either side by volcanoes, the kind of place you go to take a photo but don’t know where to point the camera. Two days later arriving at the paramour Red getting stronger by the day we cantered for the first time across open plains.

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Camping at the foothills of Volcan Cotopaxi, enjoying the chance to have a fire to cook and keep warm at night. Around midnight a truck pulls up, 5 men jump out and come straight towards me, two of them asking questions as the others circled my camp, by now am used to unexpected visitors in the night but five is a little different, some words back and forward I smelt the alcohol on them and felt a little more confident, telling them politely it would be best if they left. Once they knew there was nothing they were getting from me the atmosphere changed, after some apologies and hand shakes we re-lit the fire and they produced fresh trout they had caught in the nearby river, telling me they are allowed to fish here because they are the people of the paramour I did not argue and enjoyed a feed with them before they headed on into the night, they tell me to keep the fire going as it will keep the animals away, with them out of sight I let it die down, preferring the threat of animals to that of humans.

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The following morning we entered the stunning Cotopaxi National Park, by the afternoon on the southern side of the volcanoe I was stopped by four park rangers, demanding to see my documents and asking what I was doing. It would appear that pets are not allowed in the National Parks, and Red was classed as a pet, this thought had never entered my head, travel companion yes, but never think of him as a pet. The conversation got heated as they threatened to take Red, and imposed fines on me. Losing my cool I stopped my rant when I heard myself shouting about how in 1822 a man called Simon Bolivar rode a horse through here and liberated Ecuador. Eventually the situation was resolved but I was forced to leave the park, fined and disillusioned.

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And so here we are, in a country so beautiful that it has over 40 national parks covering nearly 20% of the country. I have today learnt that I can have special permission to pass these areas without fear of my horse being taken from me, of course this comes at a cost. After the reserves were hit with recent injuries and fines we really appreciate the support through “buy a bale” apart from the reality that it means food for us both it could give the pass needed to continue riding, we did not come here to walk the pan american highway! After being knocked down twice already on this trip by trucks as I walked Red down highways could really do with some help avoiding that again, people ask what is the scariest thing, most dangerous encounter, without a doubt it is the truck driver! A big thank you for all the support as everything really makes a huge difference to us, and for the messages that keep us motivated in places where the first 10 minutes of the day are spent rubbing your feet to get feeling back, thank you!

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Thank you for reading,

Marc