Still rather stoned following a “wake ‘n bake” session with the Canadian girls in Loci del Mar, we wobbled our way to the Ecuador border and crossed over without a hitch. Since leaving Mancora, the desert had rejoined us and the stifling dry heat with it, that was all about to change however as we turned off the Highway and began following the plantation roads that lead to the city of Cuenca.

An emotional hand over ceremony for Franks lucky Mascot, Larry the dead Llama fetus. Rumor has it that he went on to learn to surf and later traveled south into Argentina where he started a folk band.

"Franklin, servicing women since 1988"

We were once again climbing into the Andes where we would follow the mountains all the way to Bogota. Crops of Banana trees enveloped the road like a suffocating wall of green, near ripened banana bunches already wrapped in plastic weighing them down. Fallen bananas scattered the road, I dodged every one for fear of sliding off, well, until the stone wore off and I realized that I wasn’t actually in Mario Kart. With the harvest in full swing, vendors occupied the roadside with mountains of bananas to sell at rock bottom prices, the ride was becoming pleasant and even having to stop for minor repairs did not seem a burden.

The road was quiet, twisty & turny, a green mountain pass that we shared with few. Deserted as it was, food was plentiful and bananas were not the only thing on the roadside menu, just about everything from Pig to Guinea pig roasted by the tarmac and we were not short of lunch options.

Fluffy, Snuggles & Squeak. (Fluffy was delicious)

Our day that had started on such a high in the lowlands was, however, about to end on something of a low in the highlands. In the afternoon, after climbing firmly back into the mountains, amongst the jungles and plantations, clouds that had wisped through the surrounding trees were now engulfing us and bringing the rain with them. A week of sunny Mancora had spoiled us and we resented the new challenges that faced us, we resented having to get wet.

Almost squashed this guy trying to cross the road, luckily he made it to the other side

Ill prepared as always, without a map or even a watch between us, it was not until we noticed the dwindling sunlight that we realized how little time we had left and not before asking around that we found out that the next town was an hour away. What our roadside tour guide neglected to mention was that a huge landslide had blocked the way to the next town. It was as if half the mountain had collapsed and rather spectacularly taken the road with it, miles down to the valley below leaving nothing remotely recognizable as a way past.

Backtracking, Luck and the last glimmer of light from the setting sun found us a diversion around the devastated highway. A dirt track led high up into the hills, skirting close to sheer drops and precarious looking overhangs. Darkness soon cloaked the danger and, out of sight out of mind, we plodded onwards. The landslide was even bigger than we had imagined as an hour passed before we re-joined the asphalt and hunkered down in Santa Isabella.

The next day brought much of the same freezing precipitation. We were back on solid road and with plenty of daylight to kill but that all seemed overshadowed by the pool of ice cold water that had gathered in my crotch and was proceeding to seep its way through my fake North Face water proofs like they were made of tea bags. Frank was in a similar situation and the pair of us ducked into a small town café for shelter. Shivering over our “something soup” we were told that the road ahead was closed due to the rain and risk of landslide. This was enough for us and before midday had barely struck, we had thrown in the towel and called it a day.

"Attention! Road sliced up beyond all recognition"

We awoke to a third day of rain yet miraculously the road was open. At this point, nothing was dry, we were both saturated to the bone as we fought with the freezing winds, counting every painful kilometre. Passing ominous landslides and over turned trucks we soon sought shelter in a restaurant just outside of Riobamba, huddling around hot coffee’s and soup. Frank was feeling it the worst, I had never seen him so broken, his inherent American optimism had all but washed away in the morning’s painful ride and we were both about ready to give up. Thankfully, a merciful afternoon brought sunshine to the California boy and I, giving us the strength we needed to press on to Quito which appeared below us like a desert oasis.

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