(June 19 – written by Dave)
No rain today. Sun. What a fun day!
What a difference a day makes. We had some high clouds in the morning but by 10AM we were in full sun. We were both a little overdressed but because we are so used to not having sun, we hadn’t put any sunscreen on in the morning. We just stayed covered up and sweated a little more. You won’t hear us complain about the heat anytime soon. It was so nice to reach the top of the day’s major climb and not have to put on all of our rain gear and long fingered gloves.
We only had a short day planned but still got up at the same time. We wanted to sneak out of Loja before rush hour traffic. I think we made it, more or less. You never know when traffic is going to be bad and for that matter even if our route is part of the rush. At any rate, it all worked fine, we had no issues leaving the city of 200,000 people. We also managed to avoid any further problems with our hotel room door but only because we didn’t lock it and try getting in from the outside. I sure hope that they fix that before the next guest – but our experience with Latin American hotels says that they probably won’t…
We had a 12k climb from town to the top of the pass. It was mostly very gentle except for a slight pinch at the top. From there we had a nice gradual 20k downhill, getting to see the full extent of the Andes around us for the first time in days. There were quite a few sunken grades on the road where we had to slow to ride over gravel and bumps but this also slowed the traffic down so it was fine with us. On the downhill we ran into another cyclist, Fred from France. He started in Ushuaia about 7 months ago and was full of good tips for the road ahead. We’ve got some bumpy bits between here and the Peru border but after that it should be smooth, mostly. He was not a big fan of the Peru roads further south. His bike was not as beefy as ours however, and he said he thought we should be fine.
We stopped for morning tea in Malacotas, even though we weren’t supposed to be in Malacotas. We somehow missed a cut-off road and added about 5k to the day’s total mileage. But really, it didn’t matter, when the sun is shining and you are riding your bicycle in the Andes, it’s hard to get stressed over a few extra K. We had a 4.5k climb out of Malacotas that we might possibly have avoided a small part of, but we weren’t stressed, we just took it slow and enjoying the warmth.
We arrived in Vilcabamba a little before noon. Nancy found us an amazing hostel to stay at called Le Rendez-vous Hostel. It’s a series of small rooms surrounding a very nice garden. We are looking forward to having a rest day here tomorrow, and having a sleep in. Nancy has even found a place where she can get a massage (while I clean the bikes). I’m not sure how that works out but at least I can give the bikes a look over before we head south into the wilds of Peru.
The road we are on now is much smaller than the PanAm Highway. We are on this road until at least a week into Peru where I think the PanAm comes back inland and we rejoin. We know that we have a good 50k of bumpy road between us and the border – in about 150k total distance. The roads in Peru are supposed to be smoother.
The town of Vilcabamba is supposed foster people living longer but I’ll write more on that tomorrow. For now we know that the small expat community created by the longevity rumour has also created a nice food culture. We have a number of restaurant options to try out – even a few where they have main dishes other than chicken something. I can already hear the tug of “one more day” from Nancy but I’m pretty sure that we’ll depart here on Thursday. The forecast for Thursday and Friday look good and we’d like to get the bumpy road behind us before it rains again. In fact, tomorrow is supposed to be a great day as well but we’re committed to two nights here – resting our Andes-weary legs is job one for the next 36 hours.