24th to 29th April

Thursday 24 April

Alexandra brings us for a visit of the city during the day. We first go to a market, to have a “brunch” with local specialties, generally made of corn. We see the new cathedral, which construction started some 150 years ago! and it is still not finished: the two spires are missing the top stage, making it look like Notre Dame in Paris. So you see, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is not the only unfinished monumental church!

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Afterwards, we visit more churches, there are so many of them in Cuenca, and try some sweets. In the market, we buy many fruits that we don’t know.

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Friday 25 April

We have two rest days more in Cuenca. We enjoy today to go to repair the bicycles. They needed maintenance: after 7 months of cycling, and 6500km, the chain is now totally used. And the worst thing is that it has started to damage the drive, so we have to change it too. Mick also changes his pedals, which have some ball-bearings broken.

The rest of the time, we work on the pictures, on the website! every free time we have, we spend it for planning the future days, or for updating the blog.

Saturday 26 April

Another day in Cuenca, we rest, read a lot, and eat some of the weird fruits we bought:

The Sapote:

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The maracuya and granadilla:

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The naranjilla:

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The pitahaya (yellow here):

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The tomate de arbol (tree tomato):

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Sunday 27 April

We get up early. Before leaving Cuenca, we go to the Olympic swimming pool of the city, in order to warm up a little before the cycling. So we leave the city around 11! We chose to have a short biking day today, only 70km. So we should arrive before the night. We are on a big road, the main road linking Cuenca and Quito! The traffic is quite intense, especially for the trucks. The Ecuadorian trucks are so huge (up to 48 tons allowed), and so noisy. They are like the American trucks, with the huge cabin. There are also many buses, with crazy drivers. It’s already a long time that we know the cyclists are invisible for them, but also, they pass other cars as they want, they don’t care, they are bigger. Twice I saw a plastic bag full of rubbish flying near me, launched by people in the cars! are they aiming at me or just particularly uneducated?

Many cars passing horn, to cheer us up, sometimes the driver makes big signs. It brings us strength, and we need it! The road is again going up. Cuenca is at 2500m, and we have to go through a pass at 3500m. The landscape around us is very green, also with a lot of villages and scattered houses. With the grey of the threatening sky, the green of the fields take hundreds of different tones of green. We also admire many churches, very colourful, in a colonial style. We have to face a few times the rain coming, and with it the cold. I think in one week in Ecuador, we have never seen clearly the Sun and a perfect blue sky.

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Many of the houses have dogs. Here too, they get crazy when they see cyclists. But at least, they are fastened, so it would be unfair to play dog polo. Cañar is on the way down the pass. It’s the main city near the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, so the city entitled itself the Ecuadorian capital of archaeology and culture. Inside the city, it’s pretty ugly, and hard to find a hostel or a restaurant! I’ve seen better capitals (but at least the signs are attractive…).

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Monday 28 April

We leave Cañar soon after sunrise. Today, we have to cover a big distance, about 100km, to reach Alausí. And probably with quite a lot of climbing. Again, many dogs bark at us and follow us. So Mick prepares a new stick to protect himself (and make some scores at the dog polo). The cholitas we see in this part of the Andean regions appear much more beautiful, at least not as impressive as in Bolivia, and with beautiful, colourful skirt.

We stop in the morning to have some fried meat with corn. It’s good, very salty! let’s hope it’ll bring us strength for the next few hours.

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But only half an hour later, the rain appears. We choose to take shelter, to wait for it to pass. The cholita of the house where are is delighted to talk with us, about the weather, the life here and in Europe, the agriculture, ! she tells us that generally we see women in the fields, because men go to the city to work. They leave early and come back late.

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After more than one hour, the rain does not seem to stop. So we will start again, under the rain. Otherwise, for sure we will arrive by night. Very quickly, and despite our “waterproof” clothes, the rain penetrates, through the jacket, or in the shoes. The road keeps going up and down. There is not a metre of flat. We also cross some blankets of fog from time to time. It’s hilarious to see the signs “Disfruta del paísaje del bosque nuboso” in these conditions.

The stand of Ju’s bike breaks into two pieces under the weight of the bike. Now I see how useful it was! every break, it’s a puzzle to find a place to leave the bike. The cold, the humidity, the climbing road, make that the afternoon is particularly long. Finally, at sunset, we see a city downhill (the hill we have just climbed the last half an hour!). We arrive in Alausí, under the rain, but happy to be here. We’re exhausted. The hot shower of the hostel we find is much appreciated.

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Tuesday 29 April

We get up at sunrise, and have breakfast in a Panadería (bakers’) of Alausí. The owner is very nice, and he has good coffee, and most important good bread.

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We leave at 8, and head for Riobamba. The road starts to go up. And it is steep!! 12% during several kilometres. “J’ai beau être matinal, ça fait mal”. It takes us two hours to cover the less than 10 kilometres of the climb.

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And after it, it continues to go up, go down! The weather is the same as the previous days. A lot of clouds, and from time to time it starts to rain. You don’t know if it is for 5 minutes, or for hours. We eat lunch after only 30km. It’s noon, we’re very hungry, and already tired and with a low motivation! it’ll be impossible to reach Riobamba before the night at this rhythm.

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In the afternoon, the weather is the same, with intermittent showers. Fortunately, the road become more flat, but another enemy was waiting: head wind starts to appear. Around us, we again see many farm animals: pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, donkeys, of course dogs (everyone fastened except for the chickens and some dogs, who run after us to become part of the dog polo competition).

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We arrive in Riobamba exactly at 18h, just before sunset. Luckily for us, the last kilometres were going down, so we could make it. We meet in the city Stefano, an uncle of Andrea, a classmate of Mick. Then, he brings us to his wonderful house just nearby. He has prepared for us a homemade pizza (yes, he is from Italy). No need to add that it was delicious.

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Here comes the video of these days: