I have got hit by the gastro bug again. I have been really careful about hand washing and don’t eat the meat left over from dinner at lunch the next day, so not sure what else I can do. Apart from not eat any food that contains meat prepared at the small roadside cafes.
My plan was to ride half a day today, given that it was 143 kilometres and substantial climbing. At breakfast Australian Jackie said a group of them were planning to go on to Quito that afternoon to get an additional rest day there, and did I want to come? I considered this long and hard, and a micro second later said count me in. I think I could do with an additional rest day, plus tomorrow’s riding is also going to be long – another 143 kilometres, and up up up.
The plan was we would ride to lunch in the lunch truck, and then bike to camp, get washed and catch a taxi van to Quito. However, we had to cross the border into Ecuador first. The border crossing took quite a while, not for any reason other than the logistics of 45 people crossing (including TDA crew). By the time we all got across, it was after 9am.
The plan for going to Quito changed, it was decided that we would go straight from the border to Quito and not ride at all today. I was in with this plan, as I was still having gastro issues. Then we hit a road block – the TDA staff would not unload our daily bags for us to take. A couple of the riders got a bit heated and TDA were standing firm (to be fair to TDA, loading and unloading 40 bags takes a while and they had already lost a lot of time that day at the border). Luckily a reasonable compromise was reached – we would follow the dinner truck (which has the daily bags) to camp, get the bags there and then go onto Quito.
Our bikes were loaded also onto the dinner truck. Thankfully the taxi driver was obliging and agreed with this plan. Also thankfully the dinner truck does not move very fast, as the top speed of the taxi van was about 60 kilometres. It was nice to be riding in a taxi where I was not constantly terrified, although a few oncoming drivers cut their overtaking very close.
Riding in the taxi I was very pleased not to be riding, as the hills were steep, and the temperature was hot. We were back in desert like conditions. The 143 kilometres to camp at 60 kilometres an hour took until lunchtime. Once we got there, we had lunch at the campsite cafe whilst waiting for the bags to be unloaded (which we helped with when the TDA crew were ready of course).
The camp was by a big lagoon and was very pretty, but there was no one swimming as the temp in the water was 11 degrees. Being a Sunday there were lots of locals and heaps of cyclists. After lunch we got back in the taxi van, and drove another 143 k to Quito. We finally got to Quito about 3:30 pm.
The driver thought he knew the way to the hotel, but after driving around for about 30 minutes he realized he didn’t. We flagged down a taxi, luckily a couple of the group speak really good Spanish, and it was agreed we would follow the taxi to the hotel (for $5 USA). We were about 15 minutes from the hotel.
The total cost of the taxi van ride, 286 kilometres from the Colombian/Ecuador border was USA $250, split between 8 people. Considering it had taken most of the day this is really cheap. A number of us also gave him our Colombian Pesos, and we bought him lunch. It would be interesting to know what he made of us, following the dinner truck to get our bags and not cycling etc.
The Plaza International Hotel sounds pretty flash! It is not. It may have been in the early 19 hundreds, but is now pretty run down. Australian Jackie and I shared a room which was very basic – no air conditioning or heating. The shower had missing tiles, and you have to run the water for 10 minutes before it became hot. But there is plenty of hot water, the staff are very friendly, the beds are comfortable – we have one each, and have an ensuite. Plus the hotel does laundry for USD $1 per 1/2 kilo which is pretty cheap. My stack cost $7 which is about NZ $10.50 NZ. Also the prices are cheap – it was USD $43 for 2 for the night.
On a Sunday not much is open at night. All 8 of us, plus Ruth (who is the wife of Henry, the TDA owner, and had been here for a few days) set off to find something to eat. We went down to an area that Ruth said was popular with tourists. On the way we got talking to a lady Sabrina from California, who joined us for dinner. Sabrina imports hand made goods from here. We found a nice looking place for dinner. Reasonable looking menu, and as my gastro had settled I decided rather unwisely to have red wine and filet mignon, which was really nice. A few of the riders were heading off to a bar after dinner but I joined the group heading back to the hotel. It was nice to go to bed knowing I did not have to get up at 5am.