(June 3 – written by Nancy)
Today we hit the road again after our nice two-week break in Quito. I had my usual ‘I don’t want to leave’ anxiety – it’s easy to quickly get used to not having to worry about where you are going to sleep, where you will get food and water, and whether you will get soaking wet from the rain. But, it was time to get back to the riding part of this trip so off we went.
We planned our departure of Quito to coincide with the ciclovia that is held every Sunday so that we could take advantage of car-free riding until we got south of the city. We left our nice AirBnB apartment about 8am and headed toward the road that was closed last Sunday when we rode with the other Quito cyclists. Our first hiccup was when Dave got a flat tire no more than 2k from the apartment – on his new Schwalbe tires even! He had picked up a big piece of glass that went in far enough to put a hole in tube. We got that changed in about 20 minutes and started up again. The second, more substantial hiccup was that it turned out that there was a 15k run today that was using the roads normally used for the ciclovia so the roads were all blocked off.
We couldn’t really see that there was any other alternative route set up for cyclists so perhaps they actually cancelled it for today – we couldn’t find any info about it. There were lots of police directing traffic and they kept telling us to ride “up-stream” towards the runners. This was not an option as when we were there, the running pack was curb to curb.
Well, that threw a bit of a wrench in the works, as we didn’t have a route nicely planned out for us by following the ciclovia and we hadn’t really planned a route through the city. After a bit of wandering through old town trying to avoid the thousands of runners and pedestrians watching them we finally made our way to a more major street that was at least going the right way – south. This road eventually led us to the Pan-American Highway –whew, on the right track now. Traffic was heavy with lots of buses spewing black smoke as they do here. We need to practice holding our breath as they pass – though that is a bit hard to do when you are riding uphill at 2800 meters!
We had a bit of climbing today and both of us felt the altitude – that and the 2-week break made the short mileage day feel harder than it should have. Unfortunately our bright blue clear morning skies did not hold for today – it had clouded up by 9:30 and we had a few spits of rain before we made it to Machachi about 12:15. Thankfully we did not get too wet though – feet were dry so that was lucky.
We knew of a nice hotel in Machachi that several cyclists had stayed in and that was also recommended by the folks connected to Fulgur Bicycles who are starting up the Quito bike tour business. We aimed for Casa Sakiwa as the rain started to fall, hoping that they would have a room available. And, lucky us, they had one room left. It is a nice hotel, with lots of open wood beams, wood windows and doors, a very hot shower and a restaurant. Dave says it’s a bit more than our budget but breakfast is included and you have to ease yourself back into deprivation, I say! We normally don’t stick around for breakfast as we get on the road early but we have some relatively shorter days planned so don’t need to be on the road quite so early and so can take advantage when breakfast is included.
We decided to have dinner at the restaurant so after we got cleaned up we went out to a chicken place across the street for lunch. Have I mentioned that I don’t think I will eat chicken after we finish this trip!?! Anyway, we ended up with a ton of food and are both now very full. Hopefully we will be hungry again for dinner, as I hear the food at the restaurant is very good.
We walked around town a bit after lunch and wandered through the Manantial de los Volcanos, a nice little linear park near the hotel. The town has created a nice park with lots of great wall art, water features and walking paths for folks to enjoy. By this time the clouds had started to disperse a bit and the rain stopped. We could see the Ruminawi volcano (dormant) clearly and several other mountains around us. Unfortunately we didn’t get a glimpse of Cotopaxi today – hopefully we will see it tomorrow when we leave here.
Cotopaxi is almost 6,000 metres high and often surrounded by clouds. The mornings have been nice of late so we hope that trend reappears tomorrow. We have one hill to ride over tomorrow which is actually the shoulder of Cotopaxi. The nice gal working in the hotel told us that Ruminawi blocks the view of Cotopaxi from town so the small amount of clouds and afternoon drizzle today is not stopping us from seeing it.
There are 8 volcanoes in the valley near Machachi – the valley was named the “Avenue of Volcanoes” by that famous German explorer Alexander von Humboldt. Yes, the same guy that discovered and named the Humboldt River in Northern Nevada (Dave’s home state). That Humboldt chap really got around – not bad for the early 1800s when the nicely paved Pan American Highway did not exist. He tried to climb Cotopaxi but failed. It was only first summated some 75 years later by yet another German.
Enough mountains for today, I’m off now to scale the steps to our room and to take a nap. If Dave posts this while I am sleeping I take no responsibility for the spelling errors that he adds to it…