Cuenca to Baños

……a trip round a volcano!
Day 9; Cuenca to Banos. 414Km/257m
To catch up with the story so far; click Day 1 & Day 2 & Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 & Day 6 & Day 7

Talk at breakfast this morning was all about the impending Hurricane Irma who is approaching Florida. We have been in close contact with Beth at home and friends who are helping her to get sorted and also have an evacuation plan if necessary. Of course, it’s worrying being so far away but there is nothing we can do other than ensure she knows what to do. Smart girl knew the first thing that I wanted her to pack if evacuating; my big box of photos!

Knowing that we had a long day of riding ahead of us, we were up out and clear of the city by 8.30. Much easier than we had anticipated after watching the chaos of traffic over the past couple of days. I guess the day starts later in Ecuador!

It was overcast and drizzly this morning so not many pictures were taken at first.
We travelled north on the Panamerican Highway again and the route took us through pine and eucalyptus forests, up in to some high altitudes and through some chilly mountain passes. I was super glad to have added an extra layer before we left!

About two hours in to the ride the clouds began to clear and we were rewarded with this stunning view of low lying cloud in a valley ahead of us – it’s hard to see clearly in this picture but it truly was quite stunning.
 

Onwards, and upwards we rode, higher and higher, twisting and turning through some wonderful roads and now that the weather had cleared, some truly spectacular views.
We passed through a couple of bustling villages. Again, the predominance of traditional dress, in all ages, was a colorful sight to see. Also interesting, but I was unable to get pictures as we passed by, were whole pigs cooking on spits and a couple of time, guinea pigs, a local delicacy!

After a days rest, Iain was happy to be back in the saddle and thoroughly enjoying the ride.
We were reminded of the crazy drivers, who always want to be in the lead, when a bus passed us, going downhill and into a blind bend……& we were travelling at good lick ourselves! If I had been on that bus I would have been getting off at the next stop!

We stopped for coffee, and to warm up a bit, just outside the town of Alausi. Feeling confident that he could do it now, I left Iain in charge of ordering while I went to the bathroom.Quite a simple task; “dos cafe con leche, por favor”.
I don’t know what happened but we ended up with strong black coffees with no milk. Iain said that he asked for milk and was told they didn’t have any ~ really?!?!

Back on the bike and our way again we continued to enjoy the sweeping curves and thrilling roads as we passed through villages and farmlands.
We were heading towards the Chimborazo Mountain, the highest peak in Ecuador at 6268m, that is nearly 4 miles high! I really should have thought ahead about that and added an extra layer; more on that later!
As we approached I was disappointed that low cloud blocked the view.

However, as the road wound around the mountain and rose higher we finally got a break in the clouds and I was able to get in these shots before the weather closed in again! We didn’t stay still for long, now at approx. 14,500ft altitude, I was bloody freezing!


As we started to roll into descending turns the road took us through the Chimborazo National Wildlife Refuge and we were surprised a couple of times by these llama like creatures running across the road! The Vicuña are a relative of the camel and llama; and I thought my relatives were a funny combination!

Making as swift an exit as we could from the cold, we rode on down the mountain and on towards our stop for the next two nights, Baños, purported to be the “adventure capital” of Ecuador.

Descending down to 5000ft, the scenery changed dramatically to lush, green farmland. We rode through deep valleys and along side a wild river. Its thrilling just how dramatically the landscape changes mile by mile.
 
As you can tell from these shots though, the weather had returned to overcast, the wind had picked up and by the time we reached our hotel I was freezing; literally shaking with cold 🙁
I was super glad for the ride to end and hit the shower to get some warmth back!

Side note; I almost titled this post, “Check Point Wednesday”.
I don’t know what was going on today but we were stopped at FOUR police check points during this ride.
Each time was no issue; simply said “Lo siento, no habla Espagñol”, to which they generally responded “turistas” and waved us on our way!

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