Feature image today is of the off-road path carved into the mountains today. We rode for a good 50km off road — either rutted or with lose gravel on sand and as high at 8,000 feet and some good altitude declines as you can see in the image.
Riding Day: Cuenca — Loja (216 km) — 6 hours.
We are certainly now into the grind of things. All six riders now are building a routine daily and nightly. We are starting to understand the program and each other. We’ve been together now for 2 1/2 weeks and at this point in time, everyone gets along together very well considering we are all new to each other and have spend probably 16 hours or more together every day. The two Edelweiss guides are good people and although were past the stage of them helping much on day-to-day things, they do try.
I guess universally the hardest part of this travel is the hotels were staying in and the lack of reliable communications like Internet. Living days without solid Internet is real hard and when you finally get some internet, you need to download all night to just post a blog page — if that is even possible. At the end of a long day, coming to a realistic 1 or 2-star hotel can get disturbing after a while — and we really have only started. I am totally not overly concerned, but it can be hard. Last night my sheets smelled like urine. I did not know what to do after smelling urine at 2am. My boy Will is really struggling with this. Maybe its his age, Thai culture or something I don’t fully understand but he really is focused on our dirty and trash hotels — which are really in many cases, hostels. Will adds his need for good food. But I totally disagree. For me, anything local is fine, not a big deal for me — I can find something anywhere. The only thing I’m shocked about is the lack of Diet Coke or Coke Zero in most places. I can go days without the soda which I normally live on. I think by in large, South Americans are short, stocky and heavy people so maybe they should look into Diet Coke. Sorry, but its true.
Ok, for today. We had a later departure after a tough night sleeping because of the strong urine smell in my bed. Again everyone dressed up in rain gear. The temperature was around 50 degrees when we left and throughout the day it went as low as 42 degrees and the high was 75 when we got to Loja, Ecuador. As has been usual in our Andes rides, the rain or sunshine depends on which side of the mountain we reside. The temperature also depends on the side but also the altitude we are riding. Today we rode as high as 11,000 feet and as low as 2,500 feet. I am now sitting in Loja at 6,800 feet. To me, that is the super neat part about riding in such high mountains — the assents or declines are pretty dramatic. No road is straight either because generally the rides are curves with elevation changes.
Off roading was fine and of course difficult and it took us through some real interesting mountain lives — like real life mountain people. I only felt uncomfortable at one point when we were traversing a hill top and with no guard rails, the roads were slippery and full of natural ruts which if my wheel got caught would throw me over. Otherwise, I tried to keep cool and ride without drama. Most important, no drops today. If you look at image below, its very normal that there are no guard rails on these trails. You drop your bike around a turn — you go down hard a long way.
We got to the hotel in Loja at around 3pm, an early day for once. The town was not clean or real interesting. I along with Will had lunch at the hotel. After a few minutes, Manfred came in from a walk looking for decent food — and he had lunch with us. We had our 6 pm meeting for tomorrows crossing into Peru.