……heading back North!
Day 7; Vilcabamba to Cuenca. 247Km/153m
To catch up with the story so far; click Day 1 & Day 2 & Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 & Day 6
After a leisurely breakfast we took our leave of the lovely Madre Tierra Resort & Spa and headed for a quick look around Vilcabamba before heading out on the road to Cuenca.
This is a bit of a sad day as we are starting to head back up to the North which means this is the start of the end of the journey 🙁
Today’s ride took us back through the winding country road of lush greenery and then headed up into the mountains on the Panamerican Highway, hitting some high elevation. In preparation, we did some layering and had added layers ready in the top box.
One thing I’ve been trying to get pictures of are these roadside shrines; I’m assuming they are shrines, please feel free to correct me!
They are all over the roads in varying sizes with bigger ones placed in the towns, often at roundabouts. Sometimes they are looking worn out and abandoned but others are very well maintained, decorated and have candles burning in them.
As we started to climb in elevation the landscape began to change again and become more arid. The curves were exhilarating and the views breathtaking. We noticed that as we rode further into the country and villages the people tended to be in the more traditional style dress again.
As previously noted, these are a hardworking people and even way up here in the tougher, colder landscape they are out working the fields, mainly by hand not using machinery. Women were also frequently seen trudging up the side of the road carrying bundles that looked bigger than them! Often accompanied by a gentleman, carrying little or nothing at all. For example; an older couple were toiling along up hill, she had a 5-gallon jug wrapped on to her back. He had a little milk pail! Iain hadn’t better get any ideas!
By the time we reached the town of Saraguro, we were at an altitude of just over 8250ft.
I had noticed as we were coming up to the town, that many houses had corn ears hanging up to dry. These people must sure like their corn as they also had a huge statue of corn at the edge of town!
We rode in to look for a café to take a break and warm up in for a while.
The town was bustling with people, the majority in traditional garb, just sitting and passing the time of day. I was trying not to be offensive with picture taking and surreptitiously hold my phone to get some shots of the colorful outfits!
Another thing we have noticed all over Ecuador, is how smart the school children are. Of course, I definitely don’t want to be caught taking pictures of school kids, so here is just one example.
I know that I could just go and ask people for pictures but most of the shots are taken from the back of the bike as we glide on by!
Another strange thing we noted today; there were scores and scores of people walking along te side of the road in the direction of Loja. I don’t know if it was a sponsored hike, a pilgrimage or what/why they were walking for but literally, for about at least 20 miles, there were groups of people of all ages, men women and children, hiking up the side of the road. Some were riding bikes. It did look semi organised as there were vans/trucks, that looked like back up/support vehicles stationed in Saraguro. I tried to Google search but couldn’t find anything.
The roadside stands were making a good trade from them though!
After the coffee, we added another layer and set off on our way again. Climbing higher and higher as we twisted and turned, the landscape changing to become rockier and more barren.
We travelled over the Tinajilla Pass and reached 11,500ft in elevation!
I was just beginning to wish I had added my neck buff, when we began to descend and as we swept down the curves and mountains, so we began to warm up again!
We arrived in the city of Cuenca and made our way to the beautifully well preserved historic center of the city where we will be staying for two at the charming and authentically preserved hotel, Casa del Aguila.
It was still pretty early in the day so after unloading and a quick shower, we headed out to explore a while.
Finding our way to a nice little restaurant with views overlooking the river and the city we enjoyed a delicious meal and a few drinks while chatting to a guy who was from North Carolina and here working at the Continental tire plant.
PSA; This may be too much info, but as this blog is aimed at helpful advice for those of you coming to visit or do the rides we have, I had a very upset stomach that night! Previous to coming on the trip we had got a prescription from our doctor for a broad-spectrum antibiotic, “just in case”. She prescribed Cipro, which is super effective for tummy bugs. Even though we had been super careful about where/what we ate or from where we got water, I guess something got me! I was so thankful we had taken this precaution. As it is, this all happened when we were having a rest day the next day, but at midnight as I sat glued to the toilet seat, I couldn’t have imagined getting on a bike, all togged up to ride the next day if my belly wasn’t sorted!
This may probably not be a good time to mention it, but while I remember, the plumbing down here doesn’t accept waste paper product ~ all toilet paper is disposed of in a trash can!
Day 8; Cuenca
I awoke the next morning feeling a tad weak but no further toilet dashes needed!
As mentioned, this was a planned rest day so we were able to take our time about getting up and going down to breakfast. A nice buffet was laid out and we ate well before setting out to explore the city.
We kept to the historical district with city life not being our thing! We wandered up and down the streets taking in the sights and sounds that ‘old city’ Cuenca had to offer.
Coming to the main square, there was some kind of protest going on. A lot of shouting and placard waving by, what seemed to be, a group of students, outside an important looking building. There were police and riot police there but it was all very calm and no violence erupted. We never did find out what it was all about!
Old city Cuenca was full of interesting architecture and beautifully maintained buildings as well, sadly, as buildings left to crumble. The details that had gone in to some of the structures and carvings were quite marvelous when you think back to how old they are and what limited machinery would have been around at the time.
We meandered back up to the hotel and took a siesta (when in Cuenca!) before heading back out to dinner and then back for an early night.
Tomorrow is going to be a long riding day and we’d need to be up and away early!