SOUTHERN ECUADOR

 

 

DAY 606 ALAUSI – CHICAL

START 9:15 FINISH 17:15 (30/10/16)

DISTANCE 63KM RIDE TIME 5H53

I started the day by having breakfast with the girls. From the breakfast table I could see the mountains I was going to have to soon climb. I was quite comfortably where I was and in no hurry to leave. I could have quite easily stayed another day. I was actual feeling tired from out 28km walk yesterday. At 9:15am I got moving in the right direction. The girls helped push my bike up into the town, Town was busy as it was market day. The locals looked beautiful all in there tridional dress.

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I only got about 5km out of town before the girls came past me on the bus. I would have preferred they hadn’t caught me pushing my bike. It was nice of them to give me a wave. I am finding the mountains tough. In fact I am pretty sick of them. Not the magnificent views when you are on top of the world. Sad thing is this is only the start of the Andes, there are plenty more mountains to come. I think one of my problems is I am carrying way too much weight. The other thing is I am 5 years oldeder then when I was last cycling at altitude in Tajikistan. There I was fine. It plays mind games with you. I am not as driven any more. Saying that once I got moving I pushed myself all day. Cycling to just before dark, when I approached a local house. Asked if I could camp on there front lawn. Was relieved when they said yes. I put my tent up, cooked dinner and went straight to bed. I was exhoursted.

Early in the day it had been like every other day. Up, Up and up followed by a bit of down , followed by more up and up.

DAY 607 CHICAL – COROSAPAL

START 06:50 FINISH 16:10 (31/10/16)

DISTANCE 88KM RIDE TIME 7H20

I had a really comfortable nights sleep on the thick grass I had set my tent up on.

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It was another beautiful sunny clear day. I didn’t have to cycle far before I was looking out over a sea of cloud way below and I started the day by descending, which was nice for a change. I stopped in Zhod for breakfast and then from here on it was climbing for the next 5 hours till I was up at 3600 meters. It was cold and cloudy. Then in the next hour or so I rapidly dropped 12000 meters and the warmth’s returned as with the sun.

On my long slow climb I was constantly harassed by dogs. It was just a constant sound of barking and I had a few close calls with chasing dogs. So far I have managed to come away unscathed. I have a few techniques. Sometimes I stop and make sure my bike is between me and the dog. I call there bluff and start walking towards them. 99 percent of the time, they run away. Shouting at tem sometimes helps and I look for a big stone.

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Late afternoon I was getting pretty close to Cuenca. I didn’t want the hassle of trying to find a place so I stopped 20km short and asked if I could camp in a garden centre on the side of the road. No problem and they let me put my tent up amongst the plants under the sun shade and plastic tarp. Just as well because an hour later it was bucketing down. The owners went home and I was locked in with them promising to return at 8am tomorrow morning.

DAY 608 COROSAPAL – CUENCA

START 7:30 FINISH 9:30 (01/11/16)

DISTANCE 24KM RIDE TIME 1H40

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Cuenca is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador. It didn’t take me long to cycle into the centre and I soon found the Cheek Inn hostel that had been recommended to me. There first response was we only have room for tonight. Which wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I knew we were going to have problems because the city is so busy because of the festival which lasts a week. In the end I have had to settle for a busy dorm room. The Girls I meet from Germany and Austria, Yvonne and Hannah in Alausi live here so I arranged to meet them in the afternoon.

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They were kind enough to give me a bit of a tour of the city. Even they commented how busy the city was with the festival. The not your usual tourist thing was to have a look inside the beautiful palace of justice.

We all went our separate ways for dinner and meet up again at 8:30pm to go to the free concert in the park. It was packed with people. The lead act was a band that had come from Argentina. The music was still going at 12:30am and afterwards they had a pretty good fire works display. I got back to the hotel around 1:30am. I was the last one in.

 

DAY 609, 610 & 611 CUENCA REST DAYS

This morning I went out on my own for a bit of a look around the city. I found the Mercado and here a old lady very kindly brought me lunch. Two of the main street had construction. It looks like they are building a tramline.

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Purely by chance I stumbled across a street parade………a bit of a mini version before he one tomorrow. It was pretty good. Really enjoyed the colourful dancers in the parade.

I sought out to visit the two free museums in the city. One was a bit of a culture museum with native history. It had an very interesting exhibit of shrunken heads.

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 Out the back were some old ruins and a big park with unfortunately caged birds and a few Lamas running around. The second museum was the Casa de Culture which also had some more pre Spanish ruins. Here I ran into the Basque couple I meet at Cotipaxi………..I didn’t even recognise them. They have a job selling local produce.

I got back to the hotel at 2pm and had a message from the girls to meet at the park at 2pm, so it was straight back out. We went and cheeked out the many craft stalls set up along the river walk, after that tired us out. It was off to happy hour for a beer in one of the local bars. It was full of predominantly ex pats and tourists.

We then all went our separate ways before meeting up again at 8:30pm.We went for a couple of rounds of mild wine before going to the concert at the plaza principal. Which was again packed. Good for me a few more of the songs were this time in English. I got back to the hostel around midnight and was again the last one in.

 

When I herd about the Cuenca festival. The big highlight for me was going to be todays big parade, with floats and locals in tridional cloths preforming dances. I was really looking forward to it and was out of the hostel at 8am, even though I didn’t have to meet Yvonne until 9:30am.

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I passed through the Plaza and they were about to start a ceremony. They had a slight problem that no one had the key to the Memorial statue. Problem was solved when a pair of bolt cutters turned up. All round the city the performers were getting ready for the parade. I meet Yvonne and some of the other volunteers and we got a good spot right at the start of the Parade. It was suppose to be a 10am start. That didn’t happen. The parade started very slowly with the more official side of Police marching.

The bike squad, dog squad and even the scouter squad. Followed by the Bomberos (Firemen) and then the army. Unfortunate things were taking to long and Yvonne and her friends had to leave to catch a bus to the coast for the holidays. I stayed on to watch the parade. Then I did a very silly thing. A fight broke out close by and I intervened by grabbing the attacking guy and throwing him to the ground. I ripped his jacket in the process. In the commotion. I soon realised I had been release of my wallet from a zipped pocket on my shorts. I really don’t know if it was a fake fight or if I had been targeted or even if my wallet had disappeared earlier and I had only just noticed. I was left in shock. I had just taken out $300 on the way to the parade, My credit card and drivers licence was also gone. It was such a shame. What was suppose to be a highlight of my stay was now of no interest and I returned straight to the hostel to cancel my credit card and clean myself up. Taking the guy to the ground I had landed on my elbow and had grazed it some what. First thing I did was wash it and cover with antiseptic cream. I was now back at the hostel feeling pretty sorry for myself, Highly stress and very emotional drained. Another words very deflated. After posting on Facebook. It was really nice to have the support that came in. For a bit of a pick me up I decided I was going to treat myself and I went and had some McDonalds. Afterward I went to the supermarket and brought 3 bags of nice food. Cheese and crackers are on the menu for later.

I decided not to go out this night and instead stayed in the hostel. 9am there was a big fireworks over the plaza which we could see from the hostel. Tonight I was the first one in.

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I ended up staying an extra two nights in the hostel. On Saturday I meet up with Luke a fellow Cyclist and New Zealand, who I had been in contact on Facebook. We went and watched the Rugby between New Zealand & Ireland in a local pub. When I got back to the hostel. The owners and some of guest who had been in the hostel a week were having a group dinner. They kindly invited me to join which was nice.

DAY 614 CUENCA – CUMBE

START 8:30 FINISH 11:00 (05/11/16)

DISTANCE 36KM RIDE TIME 2H25

After a little climb it was a really nice ride out of Cuenca with only a gradual climb up the valley. I am cycling with Luke, who is also from New Zealand and is on his way to Argentina from Columbia. While he was in Cuenca he meet a guy from the Czech Republic who has brought some land and is building a house. Thomas had invited Luke to call in on his way. So after only 30km we were stopping for the day. Luke called Thomas and he came down to the main road to pick us up in his pick up truck to take us the 8km high up in to the mountains (3200meters) on a rough dirt road. When we got there we had to wheal our bike down a steep path to the house.

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Thomas is building a eco house out of sand bags filled with dirt and a grass roof. The walls will be render in sand, mud & horse manewuea.

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I set my tent up in the shell of the house.

We gave Thomas a hand to bring some sand down from the road and have a bit of a clean up. Afterwards we got a camp fire going and had a couple of bears to drink and enjoy the great view.

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DAY 615 CUMBE REST DAY

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It was really nice waking up in the mountains. It was clear and we were able to watch the sun come up. It was a bit chilli and I got the camp fire going again. We ended up cooking some omelettes on the fire. Luke and I soon decided we would stay another night and give Thomas a hand to do some rendering on the outside of the house.

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Breakfast was a nice relaxed affair. We took our time enjoying the view while drinking coffee and chatting. But we did manage to get some work done.

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In the evening Thomas cooked some Pizza and we again sat around the fire chatting.

DAY 616 CUMBE – ONA

START 9:00 FINISH 17:00 (09/11/16)

DISTANCE 79KM RIDE TIME 6H21

After breakfast, Thomas took us back down to the main Highway. We picked up a local women with her pale of milk. All along the road, locals were waiting for a ride.

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From the main road Luke and I found ourselves climbing for the next 13km. Parts of the road were ok for cycling………….other parts were far to steep. When we finished climbing. We were at 3500 meters. We cycled along the ridge for a while. Some nice views were to be seen. We stopped at Lapaz for lunch. Then in the next 20km we quickly dropped 2000 meters. We were flying down the mountian.5km from the bottom it all came to a sudden stop. I got a puncher in my front tyre. Been completely flat the front was wobbling quite a bit. It took a little bit bring the wheal under control before I could bring the bike to a complete stop.

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The day finished the way it started with a steep 10km climb up to Ona. Just a small town with a nice hostel we were able to camp for free. Just $2 for a hot shower.

DAY 616 ONA – SANTIAGO

START 7:00 FINISH 16:30 (10/11/16)

DISTANCE 72KM RIDE TIME 7H07

We went for a earlier start in an attempt to cover more distance. The first 2 km were down hill. Once we crossed over the bridge we were climbing as usual. 15Km got us to the top. Then it was a big down hill followed by another steep climb to Saraguro. Larger then usual town. We stopped here for lunch. Had another big climb after lunch.

It was difficult to find any fresh fruit or veges. Over the day we probably climbed over 2000 meters. At the end of the day we were only 100 meters higher. Santiago is a very small town. We were lucky. It just started to rain shortly after we arrived. We have been allowed to camp for free in the local hostel.

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DAY 617 SANTIAGO – LOJA

START 7:00 FINISH 10:30 (11/11/16)

DISTANCE 37KM RIDE TIME 2H42

It was a damp misty morning. By the time we had finished climbing 8km. We had passed through the cloud. It wasn’t then long before we could see Loja in the valley below and were descending fast. As soon as we got down, you could notice the increase in temperature. We entered Loja via the city gate.

 

 After finding a cheep hostel for $8 I went for a walk around the city. Started with some lunch in the central Macardo, before stocking up on fruit and Vegs. After lunch I walked back to the city gate. I was able to climb to the top for a nice view. The city has some nice churches which I also came across.

 

 

DAY 619 LOJA- VICABAMBA

START 10:40 FINISH 16:30 (12/11/16)

DISTANCE 67KM RIDE TIME 4H59

Started the day with the usual climb up to the top of the pass. We then had a pretty good fast down hill through a long valley. Dropping down the landscape has dramatically changed. Everything is looking very dry and baron. The other noticeable thing was the number of flash looking houses and condos. Seams like a popular area for North American expats. When we got to Malacatos we zipped through and it wasn’t until we had cycled about 8km up hill that we realised we had gone the wrong way. Come the end of the day a 41km cycle had turned into 67km.

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When we arrived in Vicaramba we tried the Bomberios, who then sent us to the police station. We are camping out the back under a shelter.

In the night I had to get up to use the toilet. When I went in the station I found the police processing someone they had arrested.

DAY 620 VICARAMBA REST DAY

In the morning we left the police station and moved across the road to the hostel with the intention of having some breakfast and cycling on. Instead after seeing the news that New Zealand had been hit by a 7.8 earthquake. We spent the rest of the day listening to the radio for updates. In the end we asked if we could camp in the hostel. For $5 I put my tent up next to the pool.

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DAY 621 VICARAMBA – VALLADOLD

START 7:50 FINISH 17:00 (14/11/16)

DISTANCE 63KM RIDE TIME 7H07

Having internet always slows you down in the morning. When we did get going. Surprise, surprise it was all up hill. We finished the day at the same altitude we started. In between climbed for over 5 hours.

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Right at the end of the day we had a fantastic decent into Valladold. Steep cliffs either side of the road, with waterfalls. In Valladold we camped under cover at the local 5 a side sports field. We were joined by a cyclist James from Canada. We both cycled into town from opposite directions at the same time

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DAY 622 VALLADOLD – ZUMBA

START 7:00 FINISH 16:50 (15/11/16)

DISTANCE 65KM RIDE TIME 6H25

It was a nice change this morning. We left Vallaadold and were flying down the valley on the abandoned high way. Since 2008 the single land dirt track was turned into a wide 2 lane concrete highway. From Loja to the border. Except After 7 years they had only built 120 km of the 220km road to he border. Since it hasn’t been completed. Traffic is very light and you can safely ride down the middle of the road.

 

We stopped in Palander for breakfast. Then after 30km the highway came to a end and we found ourselves on a dirty dusty single track slowly winding up into the mountains again.

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We reached another small town built right on the ridge and we could see a large river way below. That’s where we had go, only to have a steep climb back out of the valley after crossing the river.

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It was bloody hard going. The 10km took 3 hours. It was hot and some parts were so steep it was hard to get a footing while pushing the bike, the feet were sliding in the gravel. It was a welcome sight when we arrived in Zumba.

The last big town before the border. We cycled into the plaza and went and asked at the church if we could camp. The father came out and said he would call one of the sisters. We ended up camping in the school run by nuns next to the church. I was so exhausted I cooked my dinner and went straight to bed. From my tent I could hear the nuns singing in the church durian 7pm mass. On the other side of the road was a army barracks and I could hear them doing some drills. After mass a whole lot of people turned up and I found them peering into my tent. Then the flood lights in the court yard came on and the music started for a dance rehearsal for the festival at the end of the week. It was quite interesting to watch and by 8:45pm they were done.

Earlier in the day I came across this squashed snake.

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DAY 623 ZUMBA – NAMBALLE PERU

START 7:00 FINISH 16:00 (16/11/16)

DISTANCE 35KM RIDE TIME 4H22

It was a beautiful sunny day as we made our way towards the border. It was very up and down. After 20km we came to a army cheek point. Passport cheek. They were very friendly.

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It was then a 5km sharp decent down to the border. There is a small dusty town on the Ecuador side. We got our stamp out and then stopped here for some lunch before crossing over the bridge. Got to the Peru side only to find they were out for lunch. Back in 1 ½ hours.

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It was so hot down in the valley. The heat was coming from every direction. I got my roll mat out and lay down for a seaster in front of the customs office. Once we were stamped in we were on our way. Good thing about the Peru side is that it is all paved. We cycled on to Namballe which was 6km from the border. Found a hostel. For $5 each. It was so hot it was hard to sleep.

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