04 October 2012


I awoke and the aching legs of the previous day were gone. I felt recovered. Indeed, I felt robust. There was great climbing again for me, taking me up beyond 4000 meters and I was ready for it. I made coffee and ate a pan de queso and watched the sun coming up over the mountains. I had packed up most of the gear the night before and only needed to do minimal packing of the panniers. I took the bike and gear down the stairs of the hotel and loaded it on the street and pushed the bike up the steep hill to the avenida principal.
I received confirmation from an old and withered man with no teeth that Zhud was in the direction I was headed. The climbing was gradual with only a single steep section and soon I was in Zhud. At the town center the road I had been traveling since the flatlands merged with the Pan American Highway, called Ruta 35, and I headed for Cuenca.
From the Zhud I crossed over into the next valley and the town of Juncal. From Juncal there was spectacular climbing looking down at clouds moving up the valley and I stopped often for pictures and to watch the slowly moving clouds. They seemed to follow me as I climbed, covering over where I had been.

As I rounded the crest of a climb I saw another cyclist ahead and I stopped. His name was Xabi and he was a Basque from Bilbao, Spain. He had come from Ushuaia and was headed for Cartagena, Colombia where his trip would end. We reminisced about Patagonia and the winds and we talked about Ecuador and exchanged information on what was ahead for each of us. I recommended getting out of the mountains and skipping Quito to see the coast. I also cautioned Xabi against riding to Esmeraldas on the north coast. That border region with Colombia was said to be lawless and filled with smugglers, narco-traffickers and FARC guerillas run out of Colombia. We wished each other much luck and shook hands and each headed off down the road the other had ridden.

I passed through the town of Tambo on a long and fast descent and then beyond the town had a long and steep climb to recover the altitude of the descent. It was colder now and I was riding into a strong headwind and despite the sun I put on my rain jacket as a windbreaker.

After another climb I stopped to eat an orange. Looking behind me I could see the clouds coming, pushing up the valley, covering the mountains I had ridden, covering Tambo now. Then as I started down a short descent I felt my front brake go slack. Since my rear hardly functions I put my foot onto the asphalt and gradually over many meters slowed myself to a stop. I examined the cable and it was not broken. I unloaded the front pannier and with an allen key discovered the nut had worked itself loose and the cable and slackened. I was lucky to have caught it at the start of a descent.
Coming into the town of Canar there was a brutally steep ascent and at the top I saw a hotel and figured I would go in and inquire about rates. It was only noon, but there was at least 26 kilometers of riding to the next town. If there was heavy climbing involved I might not make it and be forced to camp. I didn’t want to again have the trouble I had had getting to Suscal. I had also neglected to ask Xabi if camping was possible along that stretch of Ruta 35.
The hotel was $12 a night with wifi and hot water and I took a room. I rationalized that not destroying myself with another 4 or 5 hours of climbing would leave me refreshed for tomorrow. I ate an almuerzo in the hotel restaurant. Later in the afternoon the clouds that had been following me caught up with me and covered the town.


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