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Archive for the ‘01 – Ecuador’ Category


Quito, 21-Jun-2011

Pachamama or Mother Nature.

Ecuador like many other South American countries have much to offer. I took you to the Galapagos, the Pacific coast, the Andes,… but we’re still missing the jungle.

So here you go: 4 days on the outskirts of the Amazon with Piranhas, Pink dolphins, Spiders, Alligators,…

And let’s do a final visit to beautiful Colonial Quito, its cobblestone streets, historical buildings & churches many of whom are built on the foundation of Incas palaces and temples. And out of the many museums one can visit, a few pictures from Guayasamin museum, Ecuador (and probably South America’s) most famous aboriginal painters.

That’s it! hasta luego amigos. My South American trip comes to an end but (as you know) new challenges awaits.

Welcome to the Jungle


Galapagos, 15-Jun-2011

Have you:

  • Swam with sharks? White tip, Hammerheads, Black tip, Galapagos sharks,…
  • Seen a Booby dance? (ok guys, stop nodding, it’s not that type of Booby ;))
  • Played with sea lions in the open ocean?
  • Walked inside lava tunnels or onto lava slops?

Then go to Galapagos; Wild animals (and many are big) have never been so indifferent to your presence making your close encounters a truly priceless moments.

In the meantime, you are just a click away to enjoy many videos and pictures and get a feel of what I am talking about.

Photo Album


Note: To really visit Galapagos you must be ready to spend a good (at least?) 10 days there. I for one stayed 15 days: island hopping, scuba diving and an 8 days boat tour, visiting in total around a dozen islands. Each is a surprise on its own as you’ll see in the pics. As for the best time to go, well it’s a rather difficult question: each animal/bird has different biological and behavioral cycle. In my opinion (other will disagree), mid April to mid June is probably the best time offering a wide range of activities and sightings (May being “best”). I chose early June because prices are lower, it’s still good weather conditions, water is still not too cold and the seas relatively calm, sea lions are calving, Iguana’s eggs are hatching, Albatros, Boobys, Frigatebirds and many other birds are mating and incubating their eggs,….


A short description of Galapagos Islands:

We all heard about the Galapagos Islands which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution and where animals and birds adapted and evolved differently on each island, even if the distance between the main islands are less than a hundred nautical miles. 

First, a few facts: Darwin did not come up with his famous theory when setting foot on Galapagos. It was 3 years of sailing many oceans followed by 25 years of research. In fact, in Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species”, only 10 or so pages are dedicated to Galapagos and he spent a total of 5 weeks on 4 islands there. Of course he was greatly influenced by the animal and bird species (especially finches) living in the archipelago; nowhere else on earth a difference in evolution within the same species is so obvious. The main factors are the 3 marine currents: the cold Humboldt Current coming from the southern hemisphere rich in krill and planktons, the warm Panama current descending from Central America and the underwater Cromwell current coming from the South-Asian continent. And they all meet around the Galapagos archipelago providing each island with a unique mix of current, nutrients, water temperature, weather & precipitation patterns,… and forced nature to adapt differently to each ecosystem.

Touching The Stars

Quito, 17-May-2011

Llama is gone but my adventures are still on-going. A few challenges were still on my to-do list as well as a few places to visit here in Ecuador. But let’s start with the challenges:

Would it be a surprise if I told you its mountain climbing or “Andenismo”? Didn’t think so. Well I wanted to conquer the top of Cotopaxi volcano once again; it’s probably the most beautiful snow capped volcano in South America (and maybe the world?) and a difficult climb. Last time I reached the summit, the weather was cloudy with low visibility and I am hoping for better luck this time. I have been training for a month and the time has come to rise up to the challenge. At 5,897 m.a.s.l. the Cotopaxi is also the perfect training to reach another very special summit: Chimborazo volcano at 6,268m.a.s.l.. Why so special? Keep reading.

I hooked up again with Rafa, the same guide I hiked Cotopaxi in the past and probably the best guide in Ecuador. At 52 year old, he’s still going strong and he’s been training Ecuadorian climbers to summit Mount Everest. He’ll be flanked by Ivan, a little guy whom you wouldn’t guess how strong he is by just looking at his small and skinny stature. As for the climb, 2 French guys: Florian and Romain will be accompanying me.

Arriving at Cotopaxi’s upper camp, the weather looked good and we all went to sleep dreaming of the summit. But when we started our midnight climb we were hit with a blizzard of freezing rain. We were the only one who dared to climb up and we faced horrific conditions: our feet were digging in the soft snow and the strong wind & ice pellets were blinding us. 5 hours later, at about 5,700m we had to call off the expedition. We couldn’t distinguish our path anymore and we were walking between crevasses, a recipe for trouble to say the least. I felt so frustrated but it was the only sensible choice.

Back in Quito, I was still adamant on climbing the Chimborazo (a.k.a. Chimbo) but I needed a break to rest and refocus. So I went hiking for 3 days around the Quilotoa caldera, a gigantic water filled crater with a rim of 3,000m in diameter.

The Chimbo was not only another tough challenge but it also hold a record with a very special meaning. On the challenge side, if you think the Cotopaxi’s ~45% summit reach success rate is low, just consider the Chimbo a <15%! Wow, why? Well, the Chimbo lies on the Andes’ western-most mountain chain immediately facing the Pacific Ocean which means most climbers often face ferocious winds rendering the climb impossible. But there an even bigger issue: the climb from Camp-2 at ~5,000m.a.s.l. to the 6,268m.a.s.l. Whymper summit is a whopping 1,300m in denivelation!. No other mountain I know off requires such physical effort at such altitude, not even Aconcagua. At above 5,000m, hiking on snowy slops, every 150m in height is an hour climb. To top it off, the last 2 hours are above 6,000m; combine altitude + strenuous effort and AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) hits many climbers hard.

And what about that record? Well, remember your geography class and the earth’s shape? The earth is a squashed sphere bulging on the equator by ~21.5Km (radius). Well, the Chimbo lies just south of the equator and although its Whymper summit is ~2,600m lower in elevation than Mt. Everest, it is still ~2,150m FARTHER from the center of the earth than the highest mountain on earth. Chimbo’s summit is actually the farthest point on earth from its center, period. Or from a different view, on earth and once at the summit you’ll be the closest possible to the sun and stars.

As bad as the weather was during my Cotopaxi climb as good as it turned out to be during my Chimbo climb. Moderate winds, few clouds and cold enough temperatures to keep the initial snowy part solid. It was a very difficult climb though; we started at 22:00 the night before and made our way up via the northern face glacier, zigzagging between small penitentes. Midway through my climb, I felt as tired as during Aconcagua summit but I had this strong urge to keep pushing and reaching the top ASAP, fearing the wind which usually always picks up by sunrise. Result – and to the great surprise of Ivan who was repeatedly forcing me to slow down – we reached the summit at 4:00, 2 hours ahead of schedule. Problem was I wanted to see the sunrise so we had to kill 2 hours of freezing cold temperatures and winds picking up on top of a volcano. We had to constantly keep walking and doing exercises for the arms, legs, feet and hands otherwise our limbs would freeze in pain. At one point I was so tired I couldn’t move anymore: I decided to dig a small hole in the glacier and huddle in.  Ivan was very concerned I would fall asleep and not wake up.

But then a stunning view began to be drawn all around us. The morning lights slowly slipped away the night’s veil uncovering the most amazing spectacle I witnessed in all my climbs. I was in awe! Not in my wildest dreams I could have imagined such a show. The cold, pain, tiredness,… all disappeared in seconds and we spend the next 1 ½ hours marveling at mother nature’s outstanding power and beauty.

Discover these moments by checking the video and pictures below.



Photo album

How It Starts

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How it starts

Mancora, 01-Jan-2010

Happy New Year!! and all the best for 2010.  Or as Raul made it a little sad: “welcome to the new decade” 😦 … man, it feels like only yesterday we were in Montreal celebrating Y2K.

Trip so far is great.  On my first day, I was excited to start, yet anxious.  I mean, how will I handle the road? and the bike? How will I face the different cities, different weather conditions, security issues?… well, in the end, I just took it as it comes and enjoyed the ride.  I guess this is the only way to embark on such an adventure.

Kilometer 0, Conocoto, 26-Dec-09 @ 8:15: The ride down from Quito to Bahia was beautiful.  Climbing to 4,200 meter then zigzagging all the way down:  Curves after curves, hairpins, blind turns, hard 90’s,… you name it.  Just amazing!  Just as I left Quito, I met another rider, Anthony.  He has a KTM 640 and we road together for 2+ hours up to Santo Domingo (Km 137, Santo Domingo, 26-Dec-09 @ 10:25).    Anthony was familiar with the road, ripping through the turns on these downhill through the cloud forests.  It was perfect for me as he was opening the way, passing cars, spotting the road hazards,… I was just following him, enjoying the scenery and the ride.  I must have taken more curves on this route then in 1 month in Toronto :).

I hit all kind of roads: good asphalt to completely broken “asphalt” (if you can still call it that), cement highway to dirt and gravel.  And from the usual road hazards, to the strange, up to the “what the h-ll!?!”: You got the usual bumps, holes, sand patches, dogs, cows, incoming trafic,… then you are faced with small streams crossing the road, playing chicken with the trucks/buses wanting to pass on an uphill or in a turn, people blocking the road with ropes to collect  money,… and then the best: I crossed 2 metal bridges with (BIG) f-in holes in them!! … practice slalom I guess?

Km 357, San Vicente, 26-Dec-09 @ 15:15: Once in San Vicente I realized I had to cross the bay to reach Bahia.  To do so, I was directed to ride on the sandy beach up to the water edge then climb the steel slippery ramp of the ferry… Not at all pleasant, scared the hell out of me.  I was sure I was going to drop the bike.

Km 370, Bahia, 26-Dec-09 @ 16:30:  The wedding was fun!  Raul and Belen chose this beautiful hacienda right on the waterfront.  What a beautiful setting to tie the knot:  Coming in a boat, Belén disembarked and walked down the “aisle” on a long wooden peer to meet Raul who was waiting on the shore.  I can just imagine the emotion running through Raoul’s head.  The fiesta soon started, the dinner being served around a pool with a dance floor nearby.  It was really a great party, perfect to celebrate my first day riding.

I spent the following day with everyone in the city and its beach then on Sunday with the newlyweds, we rode toward Mancora, Peru… with our share of troubles.  Raul’s KTM first had electrical problems which kept shutting down the bike.  So we stopped in San Jose (just before Olon) (Km 623, San Jose, 28-Dec-09 @ 19:30) in a beautiful hosteria right on the Pacific, with a long a wide sandy beach, perfect for a late night swim.  Coincidence, the owner Jessica is Lebanese who moved to Ecuador when she was just 4.  Not only the setting was great but so was the host.  And who would have said that I will be eating “labneh” for breakfast on an Ecuadorian beach paradise :).  The next morning we headed toward Guayaquil but on our way Raul bike’s chain broke: Km 769, Highway to Guayaquil 29-Dec-09 @ 15:00. We had to haul the bike into a truck for the last 50Km drive to Guayaquil.  After spending most of the afternoon looking for a mechanic, Raoul and Belen checked-in into a hotel and I headed to spend the night at Victor’s (a.k.a. Makanaki) house, Barry’s uncle.

The repair took all following morning and by the time we left Guayaquil it was already 13:00, which meant we arrived late at the border (Km 1,136, Huaquillas, 30-Dec-09 @ 17:20) and even later in Mancora (Km 1,291, Mancora, 30-Dec-09 @ 20:30).  Raul and Belen headed to their honeymoon beach hotel while I crashed in the nearby hostel.  Mancora has good beaches for surf but it’s also a wild party place.  And being New Year’s eve, it was absolutely crazy.  And not to be outdone, my hostel hosted its monthly Full Moon party… all I can (and should) say: it will take me a while to recuperate from Mancora.

Another change of plan! 🙂  Barry bought exactly the same bike as mine (same everything: color, year, model…) and he decided to join me for 1 week of riding.  Sweet!  I’ll have to ride back with Raul and Belen to Ecuador, this time through the Andes up to Loja where Barry will meet-up with me.  I was told about a few routes which I would love to ride and with Barry, it will be so much fun.

Ride up!


Photo Album

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