(June 18 – written by Dave)
We were not excited about riding today – more rain and high mountains were in the forecast. We could have stayed in bed and may well have if it weren’t for “the bike packers”. They knocked on our door last night full of vigour and told us that they were leaving at 7AM. Ok, enough of the pity party, if a couple Kiwis and a guy from Chicago can ride, so can we!
We were still kind of slow getting going this morning. I went up to the roof and found that it was not all that clear and it was raining lightly. We mucked around enough to miss the 7AM start time but we still managed to be ready to roll 5 minutes after the bike packers at 7:30. We had about 7k to climb to reach the high point of the day. It was raining on and off, but only very lightly, all the way up. We played hopscotch with the bike packers as one of them or us would stop to put something on, or take something off. It’s hard to balance cold from the altitude and rain, with heat generated riding uphill. Anyway, it was nice to share another morning with Mark, Hana and Richard.
Somehow we all met at the top of the pass but they took off while Nancy and I put on our heavy rain coats. They turned off about 10k down the descent for the dirt road into Loja, so that was last we saw of them today. I’m sure that we’ll meet again down the road. At the top of the climb it was all of 7 degrees again and misting more than raining. The mist got heavier and became rain on the way down. We were both pretty cold by the bottom, more than happy to see the start of the next climb.
We had one 7k climb and a bunch of 1 to 2 k climbs left to reach Loja. The rain lightened up before the first 7k climb and stayed light the rest of the way to town. The views were nice but would have been amazing on a sunny day. I tried to capture the mountains with mist hanging over them in just the right way but never really got it. Now I know why Mark, the professional photographer, doesn’t take too many pictures on the rainy days.
Once we finished with all the little ups and downs we came to one last ripper downhill into Loja. It didn’t look very steep on the profile but it was fast. We had no more than the occasional drop of rain the rest of the way into to town. We also had whipping tailwind, but also some brutal side winds as the road snaked its way down the hill. We were both pulling hard on the brakes the whole way down. In fact, Nancy pulled so hard that she blew out a brake pad within half a kilometre of our hostel. I had to replace both hers and my rear brake pads once we got checked in. It was a steep downhill but really, it was the cumulative effect from all of the downhills since Quito where we last had the bikes serviced.
We are staying at the Hostal Los Lirios just on the edge of old town. It’s ok, but nothing overly exciting. We were going to take a rest day here but have decided to ride on tomorrow to Vilcabamba, a much smaller town with a more compact and less busy centre, which is known for the longevity of its inhabitants. We’ll try to drink as much of the water as we can while we are there to see if it works on us as well.
For dinner tonight we had a nice relaxing meal just off the main square in old town at a restaurant called Dumas – good pizza and a glass of red wine hit the spot. We picked up supplies for tomorrow and headed back to the room, a little late but with enough time to get a blog written and have a cup of tea. Or so we thought. We had some issues with our room key when we left for our stroll. On return, they hadn’t fixed it and the lovely young gal from the front desk worked the door for about 30 minutes while we hung in the hallway watching her – that was fun. Eventually, at the point just before we insisted that she call a locksmith, she got the guy who checked us in to come up and give it a try. He had it open in 30 seconds. He tried to explain to me how to do it but I didn’t really care as we are only going out one more time and that’s when we leave!
We have a short day tomorrow and there is some sun forecast. We should be there before noon and for a change, maybe we’ll have completely dry everything when we arrive – fingers crossed.