Posts Tagged With: Dirt roads

Day 62/164: Cerru Azul to Paracas – 130km

1,000 meters climbing and 1,000 meters down.

We were going to be staying at Reserva national de Paracas at 135 kilometres (bush camping in a National Park) but instead this was changed at lunch to 115 kilometres in Paracas.

Today is a non-race day, instead it is a team challenge day. We had to get into teams of approximately 5, with at least one team member who joined in Lima, and team members from at least two continents.

The challenges were
1. Form a human pyramid with a scenic backdrop
2. Have a photo of each team member doing what they like to do
3. A tasteful picture of a Catholic icon
4. The team enjoying grapes
5. The team enjoying something sweet and sour
6. The team interacting with the locals.

We had a great day getting the challenges completed. We had a dog in our pyramid with a backdrop of the beach.

My photo of what I like to do was feeding a dog.

Feeding the dog in Pisco

Feeding the dog in Pisco

Our sweet and sour was Piscos in Pisco – I abstained. We had the Piscos in Pisco as we figured there should be bonus points attached to that. Thankfully not everyone had to have one, and Pisco was only 25 kilometres from where we were staying.

For interacting with the locals we did wine tasting, and then took a picture at a road side shop of a grandmother and her grandson (who was 3 like my grandson).  Ray from Missouri who was in the team speaks reasonably good Spanish, and was able to have a conversation with the grandmother. As we rode away from the shop I could not help thinking how different this grandmother’s life is than the grandmother at the shop.

With having to do 20 kilometres less than expected we did not even mind the unexpected 5 kilometre dirt road. The riding today was pretty easy going, as we were taking our time.

We got to camp in time to air the tent and do some washing. Dinner tonight was steak! First time that has appeared for dinner, big pieces and cooked medium or well done and salad.

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Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 61/164: Pucusana to Cerro Azul – 117km

1,400 meters of climbing and 1,425 down. Including a 30 k dirt road.

The first part of the ride was pretty flat and fast going. I was getting up to 34 to 35 kilometre per hour on the straights and more going down the hills. I broke my speed limit, which I have not managed to break in 3 years, it was 56.8 now it is 58.7(no sniggers all you speedsters).

All good things come to an end: we came to the 30 kilometre dirt road. The 10 kilometres before lunch were pretty tough going, about 6.5 to 7 kilometres with rocks which were slippery. I was calculating how long this was going to take if it was all uphill.

At the lunch truck at 50 kilometres I did not stop for long, as I got cold very quickly once I had stopped. After lunch we did 2 kilometres up, and then yay it was downhill the rest of the 30 kilometres.

I am getting more confident going downhill, but was certainly shaken about by the rocks as I have no suspension on my bike. I nearly came off 3 times when I hit deep sand, but managed to stay on.

Once at the bottom we were onto paved roads again, but with lots of uneven surfaces. There were lots of carts laden up with maize or wood, with about four donkeys pulling each cart.

On the road to Cerro Azul

On the road to Cerro Azul

There are dogs of every make and description and ancestry here, from Great Danes, Dalmatians to Chihuahuas. We came round a corner and there was a dog in the middle of the road on its back, with its legs sticking up into the air!  Oh no not another dead dog! But no, it was just having a nap and suddenly jumped up, stretched, and wandered off.

The hotel we are staying (Hospedaje Espana) is a pretty basic hostel, but it has showers (cold water), cold beer, and the place we are staying is a very pretty little port. I went for a walk along the pier and the beach front.

For dinner was beef stew, rice and vegetable mix.

Donkey self feeder

Donkey self feeder

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Day 57/164: Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay – 126km

Climbing 1,715 meters and down 1,415

There was a dog barking most of the night – protecting his territory from the invaders – so I only slept in patches. There is dust over and in everything. I shook out the tent and sleeping bed as best as I could. I am not keen on beach camping again. No doubt we will though at sometime in this tour.

Another 3 kilometre dirt track back to the highway, then deserts, dust, heat, headwind (Groundhog Day! Again!). This time to add a bit of interest, and to miss another crazy town, we did a two kilometre off road stretch on dirt, through where the locals dump their rubbish.

Making my way through the rubbish on the backroad from Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay

Making my way through the rubbish on the back road from Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay

Every day it starts off overcast and the cloud suddenly lifts at about 11:30am, then the temperature suddenly can shoot up over 10 degrees. It is also when the wind really picks up.

The Pan American Highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Pan American Highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Not much to say about the riding today as it was pretty similar to the last few days. There was one uphill that went on and on, every time I thought I was getting to the top I wasn’t. When I finally got to the top I was hoping for a nice downhill, but we had another few kilometres of a slightly up gradient, then finally a couple of kilometres down.

Tonight we are staying at a national park. While riding I was trying to remind myself that while the images this is invoking are images of national parks in NZ, this may very well be a national park of sand!

We get to the turn off, according to our notes it is meant to be about 3 kilometres up a dirt road to camp!
It’s not – it is 6.5 kilometres and a lot of it not rideable due to the streams of cars coming down, and the soft sand. The final kilometre is down a steep track into the valley we are staying.

I arrive feeling grumpy – no showers; toilets have no running water, just a hole in ground with a seat; the whiteboard says watch out for snakes and scorpions, don’t leave your tent or bag open! Eeeekkkk! And no beer!

About 11 riders are going into Lima a day early to get an additional rest day (and miss the 50 plus kilometre convoy tomorrow morning). Once I put up my tent, wiped the tent, my sleeping bag and mat, and everything else, with wet wipes, and had a wet wipe wash I was feeling a lot better.

The national park is not forest, but it has grass and shrubs and trees further up the hills. It gets cold quite quickly once the sun goes. It is 4:30pm, and I already have a thick jacket and a hat on. I am trying not to get paranoid about snakes. I had an email from Shellbe who is currently volunteering in Sri Lanka – they have snakes slithering around the streets!

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

At the riders meeting we get an update on Phil – yay he has been discharged from hospital and is staying in Lima for a few days. However the family have asked that we don’t visit as he is still a bit confused due to the head injury. We are sorry we won’t get to see him but a number of us have already decided to visit him in New Zealand in a few months, and hopefully organize a short bike ride with him.

Tomorrow we have a 50 to 60 kilometre convoy – the distance is not finalized yet.

Lima has 9 million people and is no more cyclist friendly that anywhere else in Peru. We are asked if any of us want to go in the lunch truck, and are told there is a cut off to be at the convoy  point. Given that there is only 1,160 meters to climb in the whole day, I am confident I can make it to the convey start before the cut off.

The camp is really quiet because of riders who have left the tour, and those who have gone into Lima early.

Thinking about Peru, I have been a bit harsh, there are some places I would come back to: Pacasmayo where we had the two rest days, and the town the next day Huanchaco.

Looking down at our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down at our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 56/164: La Gramita to Bermejo Beach – 125km

1,925 meters up and 1,925 meters down

Tonight we are camping again, on the white board it says “Beach camping” which sounds quite pleasant.

When our alarms go at 5am the lights are not working in the room, so out come the headlights again. Thankfully about 10 minutes later the lights come on.  We are not having breakfast in the restaurant this morning, the TDA staff have set up breakfast outside by the truck thankfully, as with the speed of the service yesterday we would still have been here mid-morning.

To get back to the main road we have to go 3 kilometres back up the dirt road, then off again through endless desert, sandhills, rock mountains and the occasional shacks at the side of the road. We are following the coast and get some glimpses of it. Mostly the riding is rolling hills, with a few reasonable ups followed by some good downs.

There are a number of chicken farms along the way, huge big long structures with white roofs to reflect the sun. Apparently they get the sea water from under the sand, and the sand filters the salt out of it.

The road shoulder is really shitty to ride on. Some of the day we again have our own not quite finished highway, which is great. The rest of the day we are trying to share with the traffic. The truck drivers are really good, they toot hello as they pass us and go over to the other lane whenever they can, or honk loudly if there is no room and we need to go onto the shoulder. The buses give us no space, regardless of whether they could move into the other lane or not, and the cars and taxi honk in an unfriendly way as they race past.

There is still rubbish, other debris and a distressing number of dead animals littering the shoulder. So far Peru is the bottom on my list of places I would come back to.

The desert any day so far in Peru

The desert any day so far in Peru

I got to 123 kilometres and the turn off was another dirt road. This one was a most delightful mixture (not) of corrugated surface, soft sand that I can’t ride in, or slippery rocks.

The “Beach camp” is not as pleasant as it sounded. It is now referred to by the riders as “Dust camp”. Within 5 minutes of the tent being up, even with the fly shut, there is a layer of dust over everything. It gets into everything.

A dusty sort of campsite (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A dusty sort of campsite (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Thankfully the locals have put together an impromptu shop and are selling snacks and cold beer.  The Peruvians, as well as having a dislike of cyclists, also see tourists as a chance to charge outrageous prices (when there are no alternative options). I pay a premium price for a beer and then I get no change – so I am now paying nearly double the usual rate. The vendor advises he can’t make the change from the note I have given him, and I have no other smaller change. Whilst I don’t know a lot of Spanish his message is clear enough – either pay this outrageous amount or go without. With a throat full of sand, I pay.

Jackie was meant to be leaving tomorrow but she has decided to go a day early. One of the other riders who is also leaving in Lima decides to go as well – neither of them are keen to have dust through everything they own as their final trip experience.

We say good bye to Australian Jacqui (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We say good bye to Australian Jacqui (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

One of the locals has agreed for a price to take them to Lima but after keeping them waiting for nearly 2 hours, he decides he wants more, and then decides not to take them at all. Cristano manages to organize another option, this all takes place over a number of hours. Then the car finally arrives but can’t fit the bike boxes on so needs to go off and get rope. By this time one of the other riders decides to go to Lima a couple of days early also. They finally set off with the Jackie’s bike box on top of the car, Peter is in Lima for a few days so will get his off the TDA truck there. They did get there all safely, bike box included.

Dinner that night was really nice: kebabs, hot potato salad, and chicken.

The view from Sue's tent (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The view from Sue’s tent (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 52/164: Pacasmayo to Huanchaco – 112km

680 meters up, 700 down

The hotel had got really well organized for breakfast, when I got down there it was all set up with rolls and fruit and plates on the table, and a buffet arrangement with eggs and cheese and meat at one end of the restaurant, and coffee on a table at the other end.

I set off about 6:30 feeling well rested with legs that were almost feeling fresh. I got to about 12 kilometres and started to get really bad stomach cramps, and a few kilometres later had to jump off my bike and was sick.

I also had a quick trip later into a sugar cane plantation later. I was pleased that the meal the night before had been so meagre. I felt much better after I had been sick, but I was not enjoying battling the headwind. I got passed by a peloton at about 20 kilometres and jumped on the back.

I stayed with it until lunch (about another 40 kilometres). It’s unbelievable how much less work it is to cover the same distance, but you don’t get to see much of the scenery as you have to be constantly watching the rider in front so that you don’t run into their wheel.

I left the peloton at lunch and set off feeling ok. Up until lunch we had been on a busy highway and going through desert type surroundings, sand hills, sand dunes and wind. Just before lunch we turned off the main road and then went along a much quieter road through sugar cane fields.

After lunch it was much of the same but at 85 kilometres my chain and pedals lost all traction, my chain was just spinning, as my freewheel or free hub had broken. I had never heard of this part before and it was not on the list of parts we needed to bring (as it is unusual for it to go, but I found out later mine is the third this trip and we are only in week 8).

So faced with a choice of sitting in the hot sun on the side of the road and being bug lunch or continue walking, I kept walking. I came to 95 kilometres which was the start of the 20 kilometre dirt road along the beach, and for some reason I just felt uneasy going to a deserted spot where I could not ride off quickly, so I decided to wait there for the lunch truck. I covered myself in bug spray, apart from the tops of my hands where of course I was bitten.

The lunch truck came past and stopped with the thumbs down signal from me 😦 I had said to Luiz at lunch no more lunch truck for me for the next couple of weeks! Ha!

The last 20km today is a dirt track (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The last 20km today was a dirt track (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I was quite worried about my wheel as we were in the middle of nowhere, and I was thinking I would probably be off riding until Lima to be able to find the parts. If this had happened in Columbia and I was facing 5 days not riding I would have been secretly delighted, but given the change of riding conditions I am not. Luiz – the lunch truck driver / bike mechanic – assures me he and Antonio will sort out a plan to keep me on the road.

The dirt road is very corrugated and windy, and the riders still riding don’t look like they are having a great time.

The town we arrived in is very pretty, with a nice coast and lots of restaurants and is very touristy. We are staying at Hostal Camping Naylamp.

The sea view from outside our camping site  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The sea view from outside our camping site (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I get showered etc and Cristiano advises that there is a family who live nearby who have hosted over 2,000 cyclists through hot showers (the cyclist equivalent of couch surfing). The family is coming for dinner at camp and the husband is sorting out getting my part and a new seat for one of the other riders.

Also organized for the day is a local blind man who does massages. 30 soles ($15) for one hour! I am first in line and get a massage for nearly one and a half hours 😀 It feels really good to get the knots in my back and neck sorted. Afterwards I went for a walk up through the town.

They have straw canoes / surfboards that you paddle out to the waves, kneeling on it, with a paddle. A few people are out doing this. It’s high tide and the waves are splashing onto the road. It’s the most touristy place I have been since Cartagena.

The local surf boats (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The local surf boats (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Once again people are selling hats and sun glasses etc (plus lots of small straw canoes) On my way back I saw Ray from USA sitting in one of the bars on the waterfront so I joined him for a drink. Ray and I are two of the slowest riders and we both try to beat each other to lunch or camp. Ray likes rum and coke so is always looking for a place that sells them. We had a good conversation about places he is going to visit in South America with his wife. Ray’s wife is not into cycling, but Ray is thinking about back packing and buses. Suddenly we realize we are missing the rider’s meeting and take off for camp.

The entrance to our campsite  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The entrance to our campsite (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The family who take in the cyclists are there for dinner, and the wife has baked four chocolate cakes – $5 a slice, bound not to last long around a bunch of hungry cyclists! The cake was delicious, very moist.

The local family who host passing cyclists  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The local family who host passing cyclists (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Peruvian chocolate cake for desert tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Peruvian chocolate cake for desert tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Luiz and Antoni tell me it’s all sorted, they will have me on the road tomorrow. After dinner Luiz comes over and tells me they (via the cycling family man) have found me a brand new hub that contains the freewheel for $100 soles ( about NZ $50) is that ok? I am rapt. The only issue is that they need to re-spoke my wheel as well as fit the new hub, so tomorrow they have another wheel I can ride on. Sounds pretty good to me, so a few beers coming up for the bike mechanics over the next few days.

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A small garden to camp in (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Camp kitchen tonight  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Camp kitchen tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 49/164: Lambayeque to Pacasmayo – 118km

800 meters up, 950 down.

It was nice to wake up and not have to pack up a tent etc. I am looking forward to getting into two rest days. I have not ridden 7 days in a row before and my legs are certainly feeling it.

Every morning before leaving my tent (or room) I spray myself with bug spray. Today it helped for the bits I had sprayed, but I was bitten through my bike shorts and top! Just when I was almost free of bites. Due to this I had a very short breakfast and was on my bike by 6:15am.

I rode in a group of 5 for the first 35 kilometres. It was useful for getting through the crazy traffic. Where cars would not stop for one rider, they did for five. We still had to be constantly watching – a few times a tuk tuk got in the middle of the group. The police escort from yesterday may have had some uses today!

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt's Facebook)

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt’s Facebook)

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt's Facebook)

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt’s Facebook)

The city is the dirtiest I have ever seen, rubbish bags, deal animals etc. The trucks and buses would fail a WOF in New Zealand due to fumes. The drivers are aggressive with cyclists and each other. The horns are constantly blaring. Some of the rubbish at the side of the road has been lit, so there is also the fumes of burning plastic and other waste. Overall not pleasant riding.

Once we got out of the city we were in the desert, endless sand as far as the eye can see. Then more dirt towns. At about the halfway point add to this a significant head wind!

Lunch stop today

Lunch stop today

With about 15 kilometres to go, we went back into the desert, with a strong head wind, little road shoulder and trucks and buses going past blaring their horns and covering you in fumes. The landscape is bleak and dry with very little vegetation. I was developing very low expectations of the rest day accommodation.

We turned left with 5 kilometres to go still, there was sand and old – almost derelict – buildings. We got down a steep road, came round a corner, and there was the most quaint little seaside town, with a promenade along the sea shore, little shops and a nice hotel! And best of news – I have been allocated my own room for three days! The joy! Not only do I have a view of the sea, but the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach can be heard from my room.

We arrive at the Pacific Coast of Peru (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We arrive at the Pacific Coast of Peru (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I unpacked and took the washing to the laundry, and then Jackie and I met for a cold drink on the hotel balcony. Nice outlook looking at the sea, warm and sunny, and only 2pm. A feeling of contentment and relaxation pervades. Then I was introduced to an innocent looking drink called a Pisco Sour. This is made with cane sugar liquor, lemon and egg. It does not taste like it contains the punch it does.  During the evening I had another 3 of these, thankfully I only had to navigate my way upstairs to my room. I was sensible enough to drink a litre of water before bed.

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Day 45/164: Macara to Las Lomas – 61km

Up 600 meters (turned out to be 700), and down 1,100 meters.

I had a reasonable sleep, with the usual roosters dawn chorus competition of course – but at least they waited until about 5am!

We had a nice short day, allowing plenty of time for the border crossing. We set off about 6:30am with 9 kilometres to ride to the border. School is back in and at 6:30 the children are arriving for school. A number of utes and small trucks arrive with their back-trays crammed with school children.

Welcome to Peru - where the old bridge used to be (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Welcome to Peru – where the old bridge used to be (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Getting out of Ecuador was pretty quick, then across to the Peru border counter. This took ages as they had a network issue, so the line seemed to hardly move.

The queue for Immigration (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The queue for Immigration (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting at the border (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Waiting at the border (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

While we were waiting in the line we noticed a puppy that was about 4-5 months wake up, stretch, then wander over and start gnawing on the handle bars of one of the rider’s bike. When the puppy was yelled at he moved down to the saddle bag and started gnawing that, and when yelled at again he slinked off to find mischief elsewhere.

Then a healthy adult goat appears and wanders up and down the road chewing on plants.

Finally the queue starts to move and our passports are stamped. We still have to wait around for the dinner truck to go through in case they want to search the bags, so we go to get a drink while we wait. Next thing Mr Goat appears again, and trots into a restaurant across the road confidently like he has a reservation! Then suddenly he see the owner, and he’s off down the road at rapid speed with the owner throwing stones after him. I suspect he has had enough success in the past with this manoeuvre to make the risk worthwhile. The dinner truck is waved through and we are off.

Welcome to Peru, on the new bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Welcome to Peru, on the new bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Immediately you can tell we are in a differently country, the people look different, the houses are different, and there no yellow taxis. There are Tuk Tuk’s galore (motorbike in front and covered seats behind) as well as some white ute taxis. The country is very dry here, you can tell we are not far from the desert with cactus and dry dirt roads, and houses without grass.

A Tuk Tuk

A Tuk Tuk

The local taxis (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The local taxis (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The people are more friendly than in Ecuador. A number smiled and waved at us. There are a number of loose donkeys grazing at the side of the road, and herds of goats. Unlike in Ecuador they are not tied up.

We had rolling hills which are great as you can get up the hill quite a way with the momentum from coming down. As it was only a 60 kilometre ride I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. I am also concentrating on changing to smallest gears as late as possible and changing up as soon as I can. On rolling hills you can do this as you know you will soon have the downhill to recover.

There are lots of dogs, at one shop I saw about 11 dogs, and some quite large dogs, milling around. Thankfully none so far (bar one very small dog with big dog aspirations) have been aggressive.

The town where we are staying is basically a town square with some surrounding shops. It is very hot and dry. We are staying tonight at Salon Communal Santa Isabel, which is the community centre, so tent city again! But the other option is outside in the beating down sun, on a patch of dirt, in 38 degrees heat and possibly will get hotter.

Tent City

Tent City

A number of the locals have lined up outside the building to watch our goings on with great interest. There are adults sitting on the tuk tuks, and children milling around the door.

Taxi drivers watching us (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Taxi drivers watching us (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Passers by stop to watch (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Passers by stop to watch (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After getting the tent sorted I went off into town to find a cash flow, and a cold beer. The cash flow worked ok, thankfully, as I suspect it is the only one in this town. I have had some problems in some other towns where some cash flow machines don’t work and others do. The machine only gave $100 dollar notes which are too big to cash in most of the shops. So I went into the bank, which has an interesting system where you don’t queue in a line or at the teller, you sit in a seat and as each person gets served you move up one seat.

Playing musical chairs at the bank (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Playing musical chairs at the bank (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I had a cold beer and then returned to the camp site to get my clothes to have a shower – the restaurant down the road was letting us use their shower. The restaurant also has wifi. I had a shower, but despite trying a number of times did not manage to get onto the wifi.

The place where we are staying has no running water, and the toilet has to be flushed by using a bucket, and pulling the water up from a well.

By dinner time there were about 30 townspeople gathered around watching us eat with great interest.

Dinner was Israeli couscous, beef stew, and broccoli.

Locals watching dinner preparation

Locals watching dinner preparation

Categories: Ecuador, Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 41/164: Yantzaza to Loja – 104km

2,732 up and 1,537 down . 104 k

I enjoyed getting up and not having to get dressed in the tent.

Out of the past 6 riding days I have ridden 3 full days, but today I decided with a 2,732 metre climb that I was only going to ride to lunch, which was about 60 kilometres. The first 40 kilometres were rolling hills. I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. Two riders, Jos and Jason, who are faster than me came past and I decided I was going to stay with them till 25 kilometres. A few times they got away on me, but I managed to catch up each time.

At 25.7 kilometres I let them go, caught my breath, had a drink and carried on. At 40 kilometres we started to climb. When I got to lunch I decided I had done enough and was going to stick with my plan to stop there. I am really pleased I did, as the climb went on for another 28 kilometres. It was steep, it got overcast, then it got misty, then it poured. A couple of the riders flagged down a ute for lift. Others arrived at the hotel wet and cold. A number of the riders were chased by aggressive dogs. One was bitten, and one had her saddle bag attacked!

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

There were some treacherous bits on the downhill, and one bit where the road dropped at one point about a foot. Sadly one of the riders – Phil from NZ – came off his bike here at speed. Thankfully one of the other riders was just behind him and made sure Phil was not moved, and organized the ambulance and contacted TDA staff etc. Phil has facial fractures and some swelling on the brain, and had to have burr holes (small drill holes into his skull) to relieve the pressure.

Phil’s condition was listed as serious but stable. Thankfully Loja, the town we were going to, was only about 10 kilometres away and has a pretty good hospital with a neurosurgeon etc. As you would expect, we were all pretty shocked and subdued, but relieved that it looked pretty definite that Phil will make a full recovery. However we are thinking that sadly it is unlikely that he be re-joining us on this tour. Phil is well liked and well known for wearing brightly coloured bike clothing, including stripy socks and a hats. Just this morning we had had photo taken as we were both wearing our NZ riding tops (Editor’s note: unfortunately the photos were of terrible quality due to “it being misty”, but luckily I managed to at least get a pic of Phil from Sue’s blog).

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops.

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

In the town where we are staying, it is the night of the annual religious pilgrimage where locals walk 70 kilometres carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. This pilgrimage has gone on for over two centuries. When they get here they will gather in the Centre Plaza to have speeches, fireworks and other celebrations, and a church service tomorrow.

The first thing when I got to the hotel was to find my daily bag which had been unloaded from the truck but was missing in action. Luckily I located it. For some reason the hotel staff had put my bag and 3 other riders bags separately in a different space – they must not have realised how many bags were being off loaded and when they realised they would not all fit in the original space they put the others somewhere else.

Next step was a shower and to get my laundry sorted, and then a snack and a beer. The laundry place a couple of blocks away is much cheaper than the hotel, and assured us our laundry would be back tomorrow.

The hotel we are staying at is called The Howard Johnson Hotel, which is part of a chain internationally, but is not one that is in NZ. It’s very nice, but the service is patchy, although friendly. We have a rest day tomorrow 😀

Heading off to have dinner with Sue and Jackie (Oz), we realised when we tried to get a taxi that they were all full of locals heading off to the square for the festivities. We did manage to flag one down eventually and went in search of a restaurant that served wine. A lot of the smaller places just serve food. We all had fillet mignon which was nice but I did not manage to convey “rare” successfully. The desert menu looked tempting but it turned out all but one of the deserts were not available.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and had desert in the hotel restaurant. They served the most amazingly delicious chocolate soufflé . Then off to bed, with no further news re Phil.

Tomorrow the plan is to have a look around the town, and buy more riding glasses. I lost a pair a few days ago, and the next day broke my spare pair.

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 33/164: Quito to Papallacta – 65k

2,633km down: 11,008km to go

The route for today is 65 kilometres – 1,858 metres up and 1,550 metres down. It does not sound like much but we are already at 2,800 meters and the plan is to go up to 4,050 meters, and camp at 3,900 meters! We are staying at Termal Santa Catalina.

When I went to bed I was planning on riding from lunch. Given the altitude there is no way I can do the whole day. I can only walk two steps and then stop for a breath, it would take me a week. As it turns out I did not need to worry about the ride, as my gastro returned with a vengeance during the night. So the truck for me again!

The riders did not have to convoy out of Quito, and the first 20 kilometres was on paved, reasonably flat, road and then the climb began. At 30 kilometres they had to turn off the highway onto a dirt road which was rocky, slippery, drizzling, windy and cold. We stopped for lunch 7 kilometres before the summit. Everyone was cold, and a number of riders still do not have enough cold weather gear. Yesterday I lent my rain jacket and rain pants, arm warmers and two hats!

Leaving Quito in the sunshine (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Leaving Quito in the sunshine (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Looking down at the main highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down at the main highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The rain, mist and cold arrives (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The rain, mist and cold arrives (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I was pleased when the dinner truck stopped at the lunch stop, and I was able to go in that straight to camp, as it is boring sitting in the lunch truck especially when you can’t help.

I was not so pleased when I got to camp! What a bleak cold place. It was overcast, drizzling and cold. And of course no rooms! (Just our tents). One of the TDA staff suggested I go into the restaurant and get warm. Ha! That was just as cold as outside, there were no windows and I could not get the person who worked there to come to the counter, so I could not even get a hot drink (apparently there were problems all day with getting any service).

I slunk outside again and decided to put my tent up. Once that was done I decided I should put up the tent for one of the other riders who puts my tent up for me if it is getting late and I am not yet in camp. So those who know me, and my ability to put up tents the first time by myself, will already be smirking!

First of all I got it out and laid it out on the ground . . . Hmm, where do the poles go?! I turned the tent over a few times and finally found the channels where the poles go in. In they go, or not! as it turns out. I got one half way in and it came apart and I tried to put it together still inside but no success. I took it out again. I got both poles in but the tent was inside out or something – both poles were about 10 centimetres apart. Start again, this time I got them in the right way and the tent looked almost like it should. I put the tent pegs in and left the mallet for if it needed a bit of tidying up, and decided it was as good as it was going to get.

Cold and wet camp tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Cold and wet camp tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I slept most of the afternoon and then got up for the riders meeting and dinner. I didn’t not eat very much and was back in bed at 6:50pm. Fingers crossed my gastro has cleared up by morning as I would like to actually be riding some of this section.

I was very cold in the tent and had on long johns, ice breaker tops, hat, and jacket! I need to get a bivy sack and a thermal liner for my sleeping bag.

We get to over 4,000m again today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We get to over 4,000m again today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 27/164: Mocha to Sibundoy – 85km

2,146km down: 11,495km to go. Up 2,920 metres, down 1,500

We had to go on a road known in Colombia as the Trampoline of Death. It is a 70 kilometre dirt road, with slippery gravel, with some steep gradient. Most of the way it is only wide enough for one vehicle . There were places where there is a 400 foot sheer drop, with no barrier. When two vehicles meet going in different directions the smallest vehicle has to back backwards to where there is a space to pass. It was pretty scary watching some of the backing, especially when they were going back round a bend with a sheer drop.

No protection, a narrow track with long drop offs (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

No protection, a narrow track with long drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The first 15 kilometres of the ride was paved, then we got onto the Trampoline of Death and onto the slippery rock. My bike and tyres and I are not good on this stuff. I don’t know if it’s because I am not strong enough or lack confidence, or both, but I slip and slide all over the place. Going up a 15% gradient is one thing, but going up over slippery rocks and sliding adds another level! There seems to be more off road than was advertised on this trip so far, hopefully it is just this and the last section, as otherwise I would have bought a mountain bike!

The Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The road went on and on, up and up, you could see another 5 switchbacks above you, no matter how many you had done. We were told if we were not at the lunch truck by 1pm to hitch a lift. We had been walking for a while, and we stopped a ute with a family in it and Aussie Jackie went in that (Jackie went first as she had carbon cleats which are really hard to walk in). Jodi the sweep and I discussed vehicles that we would stop. We decided not the buses or vans, as they drove really fast and looked the most unsafe. Not a truck as there was only one lane, and having to back when two vehicles needed to pass each other. We thought a ute would be the best bet.

The first ute was a Red Cross vehicle, which did not stop or make eye contact. We think that must be protocol as Jodi said in South Africa they never stopped or made eye contact, ever.

The next vehicle was a ute which stopped for us. There were four locals in it, so I squeezed in the back seat, and Jodi went in the tray at the back with the two bikes. I was a bit concerned but she was happy, she said it was better than a lot of the vehicles she had been in in Africa.

The driver was safe (in my view). I think they were surveyors, as they had to stop a couple of times and one of them would jump out with a clip board and then jump back in a minute later. They dropped us off at the lunch truck, and were just about to drive off when they realized Jodi had left the sweep pack (mainly first aid) in the ute, and came running back with it.

On the road were a number of river crossings where the water was up to half a meter deep and sometimes running very fast! The river crossings were rocky and often had a sheer drop. The good thing is Colombians don’t seem to suffer from road rage and the backing up and pulling over etc was all done without any angst. There were a lot of crosses by the side of the road which I guess gives the road its name and reputation.

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We started across the road at 7:30 am. Even after the summit whenever the road went down it always then went up again. Four of the riders did not even start the day (one had gastro, the others weren’t keen on the road). I wanted to ride across it, as I was more worried about being in a truck, but relented and got in the lunch truck.

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue had got a lift part of the way up the hill with a guy in a cattle truck. To work his clutch he had a stick and piece of string, and a couple of times he had to get out and adjust something under the truck!

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

A couple of other riders took the truck from lunch and we picked up a couple more on the way down the hill. The lunch truck was packed. Halfway down the hill the lunch truck got a flat tyre – what a mission! We all had to get out, the wheels had to be blocked with boulders, and the spare had to be got down from the top of the truck. However to get the spare all the bikes had to be shifted and then shifted back. The whole thing took about an hour. By the time we got off the highway it was 5:30pm. As we got to the camp where we were staying three riders – who are really good riders – had just got there and they were stuffed!  I am pleased I made the decision to stop at lunch.

The campsite was quite small, a bit of grass at the back of a building, plus we could sleep inside on either level. Human nature being what it is, some riders had staked out large amounts of the building for themselves. Late comers ended up stacked alongside each other like sardines, on their sleeping mats in every nook and cranny.

I found a space under the eaves which was fine so long as I remembered not to sit up! There was no window so I was worried about being cold but it was warm enough, as I slept in my jacket, hat, and sleeping bag.

My sleeping space under the eaves

My sleeping space under the eaves

I was a bit worried about waking people up when I had to get up during the night, so I did not have anything to drink from when I got to camp and only had to get up twice, but was dehydrated in the morning so it was probably not the best idea. There was only one shower with cold water and a large queue, so day two with wet wipes instead of a shower.

Dinner was chicken, pasta and beans.

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment