Bunch riding – San Marco to Cajabamba (61k/17,156k, +4000ft)

(July 8 – written by Dave)

We had a nice restful night in San Marco – the hotel seemed busy but it was really quiet.  The only problem for me was someone making coffee at 5AM and the smell waking me up.  I didn’t get up and find the source but life could be worse if that’s my biggest worry.  Inspired, I made Areopress coffee from our Ecuador beans for our breakfast.  If I do this a few more days, we’ll shed another kilo – we have a big bag of ground coffee.

We were the first ones up this morning, getting out of the hotel about 7:30.  The Germans caught up with us during the ride, I guess that they were not far behind us departing.  It was cool again in the morning but we had an 11k climb right out of town so we warmed up quickly.  The road was terrible for the first 3.5k and we feared that maybe our nice highway was gone for good.  Not to worry, once we broke the town limits, smooth highway returned.

Andes view

Looking back to where we started the day

Views were more dry distant hills until we reached the top of the climb.  I was beginning to wonder if maybe we’d run the course of beautiful Andes views.  Not to fear as we crested the climb a wonderful panorama of jagged Andes opened up before us.  We stopped roadside for morning tea and just took in the views.

Andes view 2

Our road ahead and the Andes

Andes view 3

Close up

Nancy blazing ahead

Nancy racing down our road

We had a good 14k downhill off the pass and by the time we reached the bottom, temperatures were going up.  We stopped at a servo for a comfort break and our bicycle computers reached 27C (sitting in the sun).  A little after this break the Germans caught up with us.  I managed to snap the photo of the full peloton, plus a donkey.  No, a real donkey.  I’m not calling any of the riders a donkey – haha.

Andes River

We crossed this river at the bottom – many of the water courses are dry now

The bunch plus donkey

R-L, Philip, Nancy, Donkey, Kathrin, Andy

Nancy scaring a local family 1

Nancy scared these kids when they saw her coming – I was hanging back for a photo

Nancy scaring a local family 2

All the kids hiding behind mom as Nancy passed

Tile maker town

We rode through a town famous for roof tiles – here is the town momument

Soon after joining up, the Germans stopped for their break and we continued onto Cajabamba.  The last 14k were uphill but it was not too hard.  We passed the official Inca Trail a couple times on the climb but saw no Incas, or anyone else, walking it.  We arrived in Cajabamba just on noon with temperatures now getting up there.  We are not complaining mind you, it is nice to ride in the warmth.  However, while I might not complain about the heat, I will complain about the sand flies.  Everyone in our little mini peloton is sporting a good number of red welts.

Inca trail

The Inca Trail

Corn drying 1

Corn drying on the side of the road

I have so many welts that while standing on the street outside our hostel – Nancy was checking us in – a complete stranger walking past recommend that I put lemon oil on my legs.  I asked her, best I could if this was to prevent the bite or to treat the bites.  My poor Spanish prevented me from getting an answer that I understood.  While it’s warm enough to walk around town in shorts, all of us have pants and long sleeve shirts on, lest we get any more sand fly attacks.

All five of us have landed in the Hostal Caribe in Cajabamba.  It’s a small place with a nice courtyard area surrounding two stories of rooms.  From the outside it doesn’t look great but inside is more than pleasant.  We are staying here because we read that the wifi is good.  Currently it is not really working and there is no schedule for return – oh well.

We wandered town and the main market – it was packed with Sunday shoppers.  For dinner we picked up a “pile of veggies” fresh cut for a ready-made soup.  The gang is going out for dinner but we were so hungry when we arrived that we found one of those big menu of the day restaurants just across the street and had a late lunch.  That is pretty much what you’d get for dinner here as well.  Even though we are burning a lot of calories every day riding, eating two menu-of-the-day meals per day is just too much food.

Cajabamba head

Cajabamba head on hill – internet too slow for us to look up the real story

Buying icecream

Happy icecream customers at the market

Bags of peppers

This guy had 12 different kinds of peppers

One pile makes soup


Tomorrow is a little shorter than today but with slightly more climbing.  We are supposed to ride through the town of Shitabamba (yes, that’s the real town name).  Nearly every blog we’ve read of cyclists doing the Alaska to Argentina route has a photo of the Shitabamba city limit sign.  While slightly juvenile, you can pretty much count on me getting the camera out to replicate this iconic image.  Nancy has already informed me that I can be in that picture instead of her.  Sensitive readers – you’ve been warned.

Cajabamba church

Cajabamba church – modern but nice all the same

6 thoughts on “Bunch riding – San Marco to Cajabamba (61k/17,156k, +4000ft)

  1. Great pictures of the Andes, rugged tops & sides! The doors of this church looked nice! but no flowers? Did you try the lemon oil treatment? Nice weather here, too, but walks have to be early or late in the day! Take care & don’t scare the children!

    • More flowers in coming days, promise. We didn’t try lemon oil but rather grabbed a lemon from the tree in the hostal courtyard. It didn’t really seem to do much…

  2. I loved the view pictures and bikes+donkey! It’s so cool to see Nancy riding by the cute little family. That dinner doesn’t look too filling but it is beautiful!

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