(June 21 – written by Nancy) (Posted on 22/June – it failed to go out due to slow network yesterday – this blog is for yesterday)
One last quiet night at the Le Rendez-Vous Guesthouse was all I got – I couldn’t convince Dave that maybe we should hang out a bit longer to get some more of the longevity vibe of the town. It is kind of a strange little town but was a fun place to hang out for a day. Yesterday we ate at the United Falafel Organisation (UFO) restaurant twice, and both times we had great food. And we had a very good flat white there after lunch – I think the best coffee we have had since Quito. That, plus a French bakery with lovely pastries and bread, and a good massage makes for a very good day off.
So, it was up at 5:30 to try to get a head start on what we knew would be a long day. We rolled out of the guesthouse just before 7am, skipping the included breakfast as it didn’t start until 8am. It was a bit chilly but that was because the sky was clear – the sun was on us as we started our first climb straight out of town. We basically had a series of stairstep climbs today, with gradients ranging from 3-4% up to over 13%. The first 3 climbs were not too bad, though riding in the sun had a lot to do with how we were feeling. We then hit the hardest climb of the day, with a 12k climb that had some decent pitches. A short break near the bottom to eat a ‘brookie’ (a mix of cookie and brownie) from the French bakery in Vilcabamba helped soothe the hunger pains. The wind was really picking up as we climbed, adding to the challenges of the day. When we finally hit the top of that climb we stopped to put some more warm clothes on and eat our PB&J sandwiches to fuel us up for the remaining kilometres into Palanda. There was only one small climb left, and then 20k of downhill and another small little climb into the village.
We had some interesting road surfaces today, with breaks in the pavement where there had clearly been some landslides with repairs still pending. Based on the state of the road I suspect some of those repairs have been pending for quite some time. It feels like many of the hillsides are in a constant state of sliding – perhaps slowly, but sliding nonetheless. There were lots of places with water running over the road and evidence of dirt having been moved off the road in the past. We had one water crossing with water flowing over the roadway that required a bit of work. Dave rode partway through it but then hit a deeper section and ended up getting off his bike and walking the rest of the way across. I watched from the other side and decided just to walk it – the rocks looked too big and slippery under all that water to risk it. So, not surprisingly, we got our feet wet. But the remaining downhill helped to dry them out a bit so we should be good for tomorrow.
We had read that some other cyclists who had stayed at the first hotel in town, Hotel Palanda, three months ago had some problems with bedbugs (eewww) so we bypassed that one and headed down the main road to the other hotel we knew about. We checked into our ‘lovely’ small little room – it’s nothing fancy but we did get a warm shower and the proprietor seems very nice. The only downside is our room faces the main road so it might be a bit noisy tonight…
We got cleaned up and headed out to explore the town a bit – well, maybe explore is a bit too expansive a word for it. It is a very small town, so we walked down the main street, took a look at the church (as you do in towns in Latin America) and then walked down one more block to find a little restaurant for dinner. Dave was lucky enough to get chorizo and eggs, and I had chicken (yeah, okay I know it’s getting boring), together with the usual soup and rice and beans. We also had another item on the plate that neither of us could identify – we think maybe it was chopped yucca fried up with something. It tasted okay anyway, so we ate it, as you do after you have climbed 7000 feet in a day on a fully loaded touring bike!
Hana, Mark and Richard (the bikepackers) were here at the hotel when we got back. They stayed for the breakfast at the guesthouse so started a bit later than we did (they also took a day off there yesterday). Tomorrow we are all off to Zumba, the last ‘big’ town before the border with Peru. It’s a bit shorter day with less climbing but we understand the state of the road is not so great so it may turn out to be a bit harder than we expect. So, another early start is planned to give us a good chance of getting into Zumba at a reasonable hour tomorrow for our last night in Ecuador!