November 01, 2006 GMT
100 Days on the Road

Thatīs 100 days and 8800 miles since I left the USA, not counting the month I spent riding around the US before that. I have been slacking in my blogular duties, so I just wanted to post something so that people wouldnīt think I rode off the edge of the map or something. I am taking a rest day today in Huaraz Peru, so I might get some writing done.

While I was in Banos with Enrique and Isaac, I sw that they had mountain bike rentals, and as I had been pretty sluglike lately, figured I could do with some exercise. Banos is only 40 miles or so from Ambato, so when I left Ambato, after saying goodbye to Xavier and thanking him for all their kindness, I headed back to Banos. I got there and found a room, and just looked around town, and went to one of the excellent restaurants there, and just took it easy. The next day I went to one of the bike shops and rented a bike for the day. Going east from banos is all downhill for the first 20 miles, as Banos is up in the Andes, and it drops off fast into the Amazon basin in the Oriente province of Ecuador. After that it is rolling hills to the town of Puyo, where you can catch a bus back to Banos, and throw the bike on the roof. I had a fairly uneventful ride, except for waiting out some rain in a little store on the way, and found a bus without any trouble. The conductor kind of looked digusted that he had to climb up on the roof to put the bike up here, but he did it. Hey, it could have been a crate of live chickens. That night I met a group of British women on a group tour of several countries down here, and it turns out they rode the "World's Most Dangerous Road" in Bolivia, on mountain bikes. I think the name is marketing hype, I hope, but this road drops 7,000 feet or something crazy in just a few miles, and I had planned on either doing it on the motorcycle, or mountain bike. I'm still not sure which, but they all gave it good reviews, and I know which mountain bike place they went through, so I will check it out when I get to LaPaz.

I had now been in the Ambato area for almost a week, and decided I needed to get some miles in, so the next day I headed south on the PanAm, to Cuenca. I spent most of the day riding in fairly heay traffic, and by the time I got to Cuenca, my face was black with diesel smoke. That, combined with the ash the volcano in Banos was putting out started a sore throat that I still have. Cuenca is one of the few surviving colonial era cities in Ecuador, it reminded me of Mexico in some ways. After Cuenca you have two choices, down to the coast, or stay in the mountains. I had talked with Ricardo Rocco, a guy who runs guied motorcycle trips in Ecuador, back in Quito, and he said the mountain route was prettier, and the border was easier there too, so that's what I did. I could maybe have made the border that day, but chose to stop early, in the town of Loja for the night. Unfortunately, something I ate there didn't agree with me. The only thing unusual I ate was a blended fruit juice thing, but who knows if that was really it. Anyway, I spent some time getting familiar with the toilet facilities in my room, and didn't feel up to riding the next day, so I stayed another night and OD'ed on CNN, since the hotel had it on cable, which was the first time I had seen it in English for a while.

Still feeling a little wobbly, I headed for the Peru border on Saturday morning. Ricardo had steered me right on this road, you got some views that are just incredible. The vertical relief in the Andes is just amazing. The rockies in Colorado and Montana have a more rugged look to them, but the scale of the Andes just blows me away, the Andes being so much taller. Then the bad side of mountain driving came into view. I saw a dump truck all wadded up against a cliff face on a descent called Nariz del Diablo, or nose of the devil. There was already a police car and ambulance there, but the driver was dead. They had him laying in the road, with a blanket over him. I suppose he overheated his brakes and couldn't make the corner. Makes you think, of course.

Posted by Andy Tiegs at November 01, 2006 02:20 PM GMT

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