On the 28th of November I checked out of a cheap hotel in a town called El Tambo, not far North of Cuenca in Ecuador. I had left Cuenca two days prior after waiting almost a week for a package, and the day that I left I climbed up into the mountains before finding a hidden spot to sleep in an old grandstand overlooking a small local school.
The following day I continued climbing, and hadn’t made it much further when I started to feel ill. I tried to remedy it with a super frosty coca-cola but quickly realised it was something else. I checked into a hotel and spent the night in a cold sweat in my underpants, alternating between heavy bed covers and none at all when they became saturated. The following day I dosed myself on ibuprofen and stumbled around the small village looking for something sugary to quickly boost energy levels before deciding I needed to spend another night in the hotel.
One day later I was feeling great again and headed off North on the Panamerican highway as far as a small town called Chunchi, where I tried my luck at staying at the local fire station (Bomberos). Success.
They let me roll my mat out in their gym and I wandered off into town to check my email’s. It turned out a German cyclist I’d met in Peru wasn’t so far behind me, having checked himself into a local bombero station 30km or so back. I rode slowly the next day and he caught up at the bottom of a descent a little further up the highway.
Jonas (the German) was particularly great at finding unconventional places to sleep, and what ended up happening after this were 41 consecutive days from the south of Ecuador until the South of Colombia where no payment was made for accomodation. Proving that really you don’t need a great deal to travel cheaply if you have the right attitude and a goofy smile.
I’ll emphasise that a lot of these places were urban or semi-urban, as I personally don’t think it’s so difficult to head off and camp for this long in national parks etc – we were as resourceful as we could be in order to find some of these places hidden amongst other people.
The full list is provided at the bottom of this post but over the 41 days we exhausted options such as local Bomberos, in the middle of town plazas, futbol pitches in larger cities, guide huts in ecological reserves, casa de ciclistas, warm showers hosts, refuge shelters in national parks, volcanic refugios, wild camping, local schools, local’s house’s, police stations and health centres.
Scroll to the bottom of this post for the full list, or have a look at some of the photos. Some were beautiful places to camp, others highlighted local hospitality, and others were downright filthy. All offered a free place to lay my head and let me spend money on other things I might not normally. By the end justifying any expense became a little more difficult as it became clear that daily spending had dropped through the floor.
|1||28/11/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Chunchi||Floor in gym|
|2||29/11/16||Town Plaza, Tixan|
|3||30/11/16||Wild Camp, River near Riobamba|
|4||01/12/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Penipe||Camp in carpark|
|5||02/12/16||Futbol Coliseum, Baños||In tents|
|6||03/12/16||Tungurahua||Refugio on active volcano|
|7-8||04/12/16||Futbol Coliseum, Baños|
|9||06/12/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Patate||Camp in carport|
|10||07/12/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Portillo|
|11||08/12/16||Small village school||In tents|
|12||09/12/16||Farmhouse en route after Pujili||Stayed inside on floor|
|13-14||10/12/16||Wild camp||Laguna Quilotoa|
|15||12/12/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Sigchos||Camped on volleyball court|
|16||13/12/16||Policia Nacional de Ecuador, Lasso||Camped behind station|
|17-19||14/12/16||Parque Nacional Cotopaxi||Slept on floor of refuge shelter|
|20-30||17/12/16||Casa de Ciclistas in Tumbaco|
|31||28/12/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Checa||Given mattress inside|
|32||29/12/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Cayambe||Given room inside to sleep|
|33||30/12/16||Bomberos de Ecuador, Laguna de Yahuarcocha||Camped by laguna|
|34||31/12/16||Behind health centre, Mira||Camped|
|35||01/01/17||Bomberos de Ecuador, El Angel||Given mattress in dormitory|
|36||02/01/17||Reserva Ecologica El Angel||Slept in guides hut|
|37-38||03/01/17||Warm Showers host, Ipiales (Colombia)|
|39-40||05/01/17||Warm Showers host, Pasto (Colombia)|
|41||07/01/17||Bomberos de Colombia, Laguna de la Cocha||Allowed to camp on balcony|