(June 17 – written by Dave)
Today we had company riding – Mark, Hana and Richard normally seek out the dirt roads but today there was no obvious dirt option and they rode the PanAmerica Highway with us. Or I should say, they were kind enough to ride at our pace. Mark and I are about the same height so we switched bikes for a short spell. Boy, his bike is light compared to mine. The three of them have bike packing setups, meaning they don’t have a lot of extra gear – Nancy and I rode the few ks after Mark and I switched back discussing things we didn’t need to be carrying with us.
It was fun having a bit of a posse riding today – we rode together more or less to the top of the first climb – about 16k. About half way up we met up with Jaimi from the UK – she was coming down and looked positively freezing. She had on all of her rain gear except she was still riding in her sandals without socks! They make em’ hard in the UK. She’s been on the road now for 33 months – you can see more about her at: https://www.instagram.com/escape_the_matrix_2015 We would have liked to talked more but she was really cold and need to get off the mountain. I guess she sort of gave us a clue of what was in store for us.
About now it started to really rain. Up to this point it was only playing with us. The next 8k up it got progressively colder and we got progressively wetter. About 1k from the top we pulled over to put on the rest of our rain gear. By now it was raining good and proper. My cyclocomputer read 7 degrees at the top of the pass – that’s about 44F and pretty cold when you are wet. I can’t say that either of us enjoyed the 16k downhill very much.
We had another 5k to ride up a good hill to reach town and our planned stop for the day. Neither of us ate enough during day and by now, just on noon, we were getting hungry. We had to stop for an emergency Cliff gel before slogging it the rest of the way up the hill. We eventually made it to Saraguro, finding the rest of the crew in a nice Main Street cafeteria. There are times when you are wet, cold and hungry when the chicken soup at these places tastes particularly good. Today was one of those times. Naturally we ate the rest of the blue plate special as well – it all was warm and tasty – perfect.
The others were going to ride out of town 10k or so and camp but wet clothes gave them all the reason they needed to change plans. We all headed for the Saraguro Hostal just off the main square of Saraguro. Saraguro is a nice little town in the southern Ecuadorian Andes. The name Saraguro is also the name most commonly used to refer to the indigenous people of this region. They are Inca but an offshoot that mostly survived the colonization of the Spanish.
When we arrived at the hostal we were surprised to see the four bikes belonging to the French and German couple that we met about a week ago. We caught up with them later to share trip stories and hear what they’d been up to. Our travelling band of 5 musketeers has suddenly become 9 musketeers! I’m not sure that the hostel owners have ever had 9 cyclists staying with them at one time and in fact I think that Richard may have gotten their last room. It’s nice to see so many bikes parked in the interior courtyard of the hotel – makes the place seem downright civilized.
We eventually got out of our wet clothes and into nice warm showers. I’m not sure that everything will dry between now and tomorrow AM. Our room smells a bit like a junior high school boys locker room but at least tonight, we can count on a few other rooms smelling just about the same. We shouldn’t get evicted.
We wandered town a bit this arvo and are now cooking dinner in the room. Some of the others were heading out but we have to eat some of the mashed potatoes that Nancy’s sisters brought us in Quito. It’s not much but at least our bikes will be one small item lighter as we ride tomorrow. Now, if we can only find another 20kg each, we’ll be at the same weight at the bike packers. Though it is nice to have the extra shirt to put on when it is cold and those mashed potatoes really hit the spot for dinner…but maybe we don’t need 6 packages of them.
Tomorrow we head to Loja – a pretty good sized town with about 200,000 people. It’s another big day of climbing and there is some rain forecast. Less rain than today however, so fingers crossed.