Ecuador: City Life, Amigos and Frailejones

As property investors and supermarkets continue to squeeze the life out of the British high street, each town and city is left with a bland, depressingly orderly and homogenised selection of the same high street retailers. Small independent retailers squeezed out by escalating rents, decreasing foot fall and the destablising effects of out of town shopping centres driving a car based culture.

In contrast the average South American city comes as an assault on the senses. Noisy, dirty, sprawling they offer a gritty and revealing portal in to the ‘real’ world.

High streets bustle with life, driven by small family run businesses even in the bigger cities like Quito. Places like the Mercado Central provide no finer illustration as Quiteños go about their daily errands, everything conviently housed under one roof without a multi national brand in sight.

Fruit. Grown and sold domestically in Ecuador. Thanks to its temperate year round climate, you will find few airmiles here.


Restaurants and juice bars, serve up tasty and delicious meals and drinks, the ingredients sourced all within the Mercado Central.

Mercado Central

The Centro Historico’s rich colonial architecture saw Quito gain the first UNESCO World Heritage status award back in 1978 alongside Krakow.

Colonial Architecture

Street sellers mingle amongst locals and tourists, peddling their wares.
Street Sellers

Shoe shines, take a moment to read the paper.
Shoe Shines

Churches. Lots of churches.


Peak in shop windows, reveal locally made sweets in the heart of the city centre.


Murals. Check.


With my jobs and errands complete it’s time to escape the clutches of the city, the city’s Ciclovia providing a simple and car free escape route.


Destination. The People’s Republic of Palugo; Home to the Dammer brothers.


What starts as a flying visit, turns in to the best part of a week. As I spend time helping Matthias on his stunning round wood self build.


Each passing day I spend time with each of the brothers and their families, as they go about their work as farmers and outdoor leaders. Not for the first time, humbled by their warmth, kindness and hospitality.


With a heavy heart its time to say good bye to old friends. Gracias Companeros.

La Familia

Long time farm resident, compadre Cass and I resume our riding partnership for a series of day rides toward the Columbian border. As ever, food at the forefront of our minds.


From Cayambe a dirt road detour takes me to Otavalo.

Mojanda climb

Via Lago Mojanda.


From Otavalo we uncover a rich vein of muralism. Time for those double bike shots.


Museo en la calle.




With a firm British handshake outside a bike shop, its probably as fitting a place as any to bid farewell to compadre Cass for the final time on this trip. Upwards to El Angel National Park.

El Angel climb

Part of the Sunflower genus, I am too late in the season to see the Frailejones in bloom.


The sheer scale is jaw dropping, densely packed they dominant the paramo as far as the eye can see.

El Angel

All thats left to do is to descend on quiet double track to the border town of Tulcan.


Tumbaco – Pifo – Cayambe – Otavalo – Ibarra – Tulcan


  1. Aurora

    From the fruit stands to the food to the murals. Lovely.
    Oh…. and claro, que si – the riding too.

  2. soren tomas

    Thanks for sharing, hope that no multinationale company ever will get there 🙂 you do great photos – bests


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