21st to 23rd April

Monday 21 April

It’s already time to leave this paradise-like place. We have three days of cycling to come, in order to arrive in Cuenca on Wednesday, so that we can spend Thursday with Alex to visit her city before she leaves, on Thursday evening. The first part of the route, Playas-Guayaquil, we do it in a pick-up. We already have done it, so we prefer to save time here. A workmate of Andres drives us to Guayaquil.

And let’s go for the cycling! Although we are in the East of the city, we still need some 10km to get out of it. Guayaquil is so extended! We cross the Puente de la Unidad Nacional, over the 3km of the Guayas river. He weather is very hot and humid. Everything is green around us. There are also many animals, birds (crane-like), some iguanas fleeing when they see us. We drink coconuts, eat wonderful Malay lychees, and sugar-cane (from a plantation on the side of the road). The road is flat, with long strait lines, and sometimes the disgusting smell of pig processing companies! it reminds us a lot of Thailand.

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Most of the day, we are on the Panamerican road, with big traffic. There are many lorries, buses, ! They are very noisy, and pass quite close to us. We look forward to turning on the left to Cuenca and finally leave this road. The section we are on generally has one or two lanes on each side. But Equator has approved the project of enlarging it: there will be 8 lanes in each direction for the whole Ecuadorian Panamerican section!

As the night approaches, we decide to stay in Puerto Inca for the night, it’s the last village before the fork. Who knows if we can find a hostel afterwards on the smaller mountain road? We find a hostel room for reasonable price, 10$. This city is funny, there is a succession of like 20 restaurants, all in line in the main road (the Panamerican).

Tuesday 22 April

We get up for sunrise. We will star the big climb today: to reach Cuenca, the road will climb till more than 4000m! Just imagine this: 70km of climb, to go from sea level up to 4167m. We plan to do it in two days! so let’s start calmly, the earlier the better, it’ll be quite long.

We leave very early the Panamerican for the road to Cuenca. Here, there is much less traffic. The weather is cloudy, but still very hot and wet. We’re not happy to climb a little, to get some fresh air. The vegetation around us is luxuriant, very green. No surprise, with the humidity in the air. As soon as we climb a little, we arrive in the clouds.

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The visibility is very bad, down to a few dozens of metres. So we have no hope to have a good view on the valley. And the worst is that in these clouds, the rain falls from time to time. Not a strong rain, but after some time we are all wet! with the heat and the lightness of the rain, we had not put the waterproof clothes! big mistake.

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How fast do we climb? For today, we climb at about 400m per hour while pedalling, but we need breaks quite often he he. And a little higher, we climb at about 300m per hour.

In the afternoon, the weather does not improve at all! in fact we had rain most of the time. As usually, we keep moving the objective of day because we see we cannot make it.

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In the end, around sunset, we find a restaurant, at 2300m (our record of ascension in one day!). We play on pity, saying we have no tent, we can sleep on the floor, we are totally wet, we had mechanical problems, and ask for hospitality for the night. And it works, we end up in a small building near the restaurant, inhabited by a small mouse and a big spider, but at least under a roof. At night, the bathroom is a wonderful zoo full of moths.

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Wednesday 23 April

We get up very early, to leave at sunrise. Well in fact, we leave a little later, but that should be enough to reach Cuenca before the night. It’s that yesterday we did less than expected. We reached the altitude of 2300m, so we still have at least 1700m to climb. And it’ll be higher, so harder. I hope we are still a little acclimated.

Today, the weather is better, it’s cloudy, foggy, but at least not raining. Sometimes, the fog dissolves and we can see a landscape of mountains and a sea of clouds under.

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And we keep climbing. Already, the vegetation looks more like Europe, not so exuberant. From 3500m, the trees start to become rare. But it’s still very green, with a lot of water. Ahead of us, a real wall of mountains. Where is the road going? Do we really have to climb so high? It0s never-ending.

Finally, at 16h30, we arrive at the top. 4167m!!!! It took us two days of bicycle.As a prize, we can meet once more our dear llamas!

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And now, we have to rush: the sun sets in 1h30, and we have 40km still to do. Fortunately, going down. We are lucky the road is in good condition, at least we can enjoy our prize.

We arrive in Cuenca, where Alexandra will again accommodate us. She brings us for a by-night tour of the city.

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And here comes the video of this epic climb: