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Roads in Ecuador

Well, I have just traveled to the coast from Quito for the first time in a year. Good news and bad news!

It took us 13 hours in a slow bus being driven by a careful driver. There’s a happy medium somewhere but definitely we erred maybe too much on safety.

We took the route down the Andes passing by Mindo, Los Bancos, Santo Domingo, Chone, Portoviejo and finally north to Crucita and a quick dash across country to San Clemente. I guess we were confounded by heavy rains the last few days which tend to tear up the roads and leave pot-holes and also a strike in Rocafuerte which involved protestors closing the road, ironically protesting about the bad state of the roads around their town.

Highways in Ecuador are often funded by the central government, occasionally by the provincial governments and almost never by the local municipalities. When the government really gets it’s act together it organises tolls and charges cars between 60 cents and a dollar. The Pan-American highway between Quito and Cotacachi has two tolls and just to the north of Cotacachi there’s another. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard local drivers say what a marvel this is. The funds from the tolls are seemingly ploughed back into road maintenance so consequently there’s a modern high standard 2 lane highway all the way .. except for the part that runs through Otavalo. The municipal authority there has an adhoc repair policy which means they get around to filling pot holes as they appear. To be fair they are not too bad and the road is perfectly drivable.

Now, the road between Santo Domingo and Chone contrasts between a marvel and a horror. For about 50 miles they have constructed a concrete highway. This is a wonder to drive on and you really can appreciate it once you contrast the smooth concrete stretch with the pot-holed obstacle course that lays beyond the ‘Crest of the Cockerel’, the highest ridge along the coastal hills. But it looks as though they intend to lay the concrete all the way to Chone judging by the new cuttings made in the banks alongside the highway.

This is a large State investment but given the lack of rail track in Ecuador, a very necessary investment. And I reckon it’ll get the journey from Quito down to the central coast to between 5 and 6 hours. That, of course will bring more Quito citizens to the central coast as the shorter drive allows for a long week-end stay at the beach – just what Quiteños love to do on national holidays!

More on my coastal trip tomorrow; I’m down here preparing the coastal property tours for this year.