Once things got cleared up, we got moving again, not really far today, only 30 kilometers from Cuenca to Azoques, the first half of the way was not difficult as it was small downhill, another half climbed up the hill again to the height of 2400 meters same as Cuenca, the way between the town was like a slope of the pan with both town on the rim. We got the place to stay near the Panamericana at the normal price of 10 US$ after small negotiation
Next day we left Azoques to Cagna only 35 kilomteres, but not easy from what we saw on the map, the breakfast was the bread that we prepared since yesterday, right after leaving the town, we climbed up mountain immediately, we biked up and rest for many times and steep road seemed to be endless. Azoques is at 2400 meteres in height and we are now 2800 meteres already at 2 pm and got hungry, so we stopped by the food stall on the side of the road, we agreed at the price of 1.5 US$ for a dish of Seca de Pollo, Orange juice for 25 cents, but after the meal we ended up paying US$ 2 total 4 US$ for 2 person. Once we asked them about price, the simple answer was “I got confused” while the table next to us also had the same thing for only 1.5 US$, this is quite normal for Ecuador, if we came here next time, it will get more expensive, which is very different from Asia, especially in Thailand, if they see the foreigner come to eat often, surely that the price will be lower or more food, or even free for some meal, well here always expect to pay more, they thought that we have no choice, no friendship at all here.
Another stall nearby with strange look menu, there was a big pig sits on the table with crispy roasted skin, looked like the great big ham, we didn’t’ dare to taste it but, but got the picture as the souvenir of the strangeness, again that we had to climbed up the hill which is much more harder than in the morning. When were got to 3000 meters, I started to feel more tired and breath harder all the time, whenever we stop for rest, the coldness would replace our sweat that covered us, also the higher we got the more beautiful the scenery is, so that why I’ve added the “beautiful of the scenery” together with the the “colder”
The human energy like us needs to take a break often when we got high like this, but for trucks, they all emits the thick black smoke, of also there are two extra big pipes, one on the lower and another one on the top, might be because of the need to increase the air intake for better combustion in the thin air like this.
The 3000 meters point has passed, the thick fog is now everywhere together with the darkness, made it even harder for to navigate through the mountain, when we asked the local on where will the climb finish, they all said it is not far from here, but actually it is really far like 10 kilometers, at 7 pm we got to 3400 meters with only 6 degree Celsius, complete darkness together with a bit of rain.
From 3400 meters above sea level we rolled the bike down the hill through the fog, the brake pad of our bike warned out very quick, we had to stop every 1-2 kilometers to reduce the heat from the pad and the rim, finally we got to the level 300 meters at about 8 pm in the town of Canar, we had to find the accommodation quickly, we found one at only US$8, might because the owner saw that we were really tired. For 35 kilometer, we climb to the elevation of 3400 meters and we have made it safely. We would like to stay here for 2 nights to reward ourselves.
After we got up, our body is very painful, but we were really happy to be in the lovely small town, the local are Indian, the street are so colorful from their traditional costumes. On some corners we saw the Indian lined up for the bank’s service, very lovely sight, it is quit surprise that there are many medical clinics with lots of them waiting for service, the medical service must be big business here, might be because the people who lives in the mountain came down here when they need something.
10 July 2003
We started rolling at 9 am, the road was up and down at 2900 meters above sea level, at first we thought it would be easy, but found it hard as there was a rain from time to time along the way, we got to the small town “Zhud” and intended to find the place to rest because the way ahead will be harder, here is an important intersection, if turn left will go down from the Andes to the big town Guayaquil, if we go straight will go to Quito which is our original plan, since there is no rest area, we had to keep going straight and must get to Chunchi by today, when we left Zhud another climbing again together with a big rain and complete darkness. It is only 3 pm now, we biked through the fog and the darkness to the level of 3000 meters again. After the rain has stopped we continued biking down the hill, it is the very exhausted 20 kilometers in the sea of fog, when we got off the fog the sun is about to set, we asked the local biker that is far from here to Chunchi? He said, will be another 5 kilometers, after that he kept biking along and talking to us and when we got closer to the intersection to his house, he ask “Do you have Coca Cola?? He is very quick!!!! alright alright man, we have to sacrifice to keep our life, we have to give it to him to keep him happy otherwise we will get into trouble, we give 1 bottle of Coca-Cola, take it all man.
The road took us to 2400 meters which is 50 kilometers from Canar, according to the map there will be another 20 kilometers to Chunchi, well I can tell you that the information from the local are never works at all, never count on it, we must have the information first before we ask them for the sake of friendly, for the pass 2 years we never found their information useful. Anyway from here go up for 5 kilometers to the peak of the hill, we got there together with the dark, there we saw the town at the distance of about 10 kilometers down the hill, so we rolled down the hill with the head light on, suddenly the tire got puncture from the hole on the road, so we had to pump the air in and from time to time when ever the tire got flat again, finally we got to the town in actual distance of 15 kilometers because of the zigzag of the road on the shoulder of the mountain, we got there at 8.15 pm with completely flat tire so to the people, we were really exhausted with only 70 kilometers and 2200 meters from 3000 meters, but that didn’t help at all, much more difficult than expected, the way on Andes was not a cake that we can swallow easily, there are many challenging such as weather, altitude, the people especially in Ecuador.
We were really flatted out from yesterday, so we had to stay there for one more day, we need a rest, so we decided to take a walk in the town but found that it is very quiet here like a ghosted town, no life at all, so we came back to check our bike and get ready for tomorrow journey.
12 July 2003
Wow wooooow very fabulous, never seen this beautiful scenic before, we were in the hug of the mountain, it is like a sheet of the carpet in a different color of Grass field, Rice field, Corn field, seemed it is intentionally to show the art of agricultural, this is another beauty of Ecuador, really overwhelmed, when we got to the 10th kilometers of the days. The road took us down to the small village, while we were biking, the kids that saw us came to the side of the road and said ”Gringo, Gringo” from every where in the village, some begged for money, the work “Gringo” means the blond westerner, but they did not see that we have black hair not the blond gringo, but they are used to this word because the biker passing here are usually the westerner.
Looking ahead we saw only the mountain one after another, covered with the natural carpet, from the 10th to the 15th kilometers we climbed up again, very steep plus the zigzag dirt road like a snake, we clearly saw the road lies on the shoulder of the hill. There are 4 check points, they are illegal, there are 4 boys on the first one and shouted Gringo, the second one has boys and girls around 5-6 years old on both side of the road, they would lift the rope when the car pass by, some stopped and give them the small money, some just cut through the rope very hard, although they are very young, but they know which one would stop or not, if not they will release the rope, we gave them a bottle of water because staying here for all day must be very tired, some time very cold, very hot, dusty, but when we ask how much they made a day, it is quite very well actually 10 US$ a day!
The next check point was with 15 years old girl, she set up the check point one steep higher of the road, she is more interesting than others because whenever there was a car passing by the crisscross road, she would knee down in the middle of the road, bow a bit with left hand on the shoulder while her right hand reach out and pull down her hat and flip it over in the level of the door for the to wait for small money. There are many times that she did it with no return, but she does it every time as her responsibility.
The best one is on the last stop, the kid was in a wonderful eyes catching color of her cloths, where she was just smile without asking for any money. Her lovely smile made us stop, we asked whether she want some sweets, she shook her head so we gave one and an orange for her, she returned us with a beautiful thank you, we could not help gave her 0.10 US$ more simply because she is more beautiful than the first three stop.
We said good bye to her with overwhelmed, we still had to go to another step of the road and there was another step ahead, once we looked again, she is the same girl! She ran on the shoulder of the mountain and wait for us ahead, this time we took a break, we chatted with her because we already know her form the previous stop, our 7 years old kid did not show any sign of wanting for more of the neither snack nor money, but seemed that she wanted increase our friendship, so we took her picture again because we could never forget her sweetness, and more food and sweet was given to her, we kept chatting for quite some time. We even give her the last 0.13US$ that we have, we have just give her more, but with the feeling that if we give her more for no reason, will wash away her lovely, snack and small amount of money should be enough for her aged of 7, her beauty rooted deep in our heart here in the Andes, Ecuador.
We’ve passed the fourth stop on dirt road with high mountain and unforgettable impression, with her smile has energized us to keep on biking, the smile of friendship is more value than money, we have seen it and believed it, we kissed goodbye the smiley dusted cheek. We kept on biking down deep in the mountain which shoulder by the great mountain on both side, while seeing at the peak and imagined of how could we get there. We rolled down until the 19th Kilometer, the road has turned back to climb up again, which will be another 12 kilometers up there, up and up only, from the valley at the height of 2200 meters to 2620 meters at almost dusk. Even though we made a very little in mileage, but the rate of impression and happiness per Kilometer is worth the tiredness, worth to pass the four little lovely stops. Standing on the height of 2620 meters above sea level, looking left would see the passage we have been, the maze road on the shoulder of the mountain, while on the right is where we are going, looking down we could see the deep valley, see communities which is Alausi, our destination today. We let the bike rolled down for 6 kilometers until we arrived at Aluasi at the level of only 2250 meter with nice weather and not too cold, we had a really good night and kept thinking of the lovely girl which give us a complete relaxation in Alausi.
13 July 2003
The food-stall is really good place for a traveler like to take a rest, now we keep on our journey, the road now goes up again, higher and higher together with the beauties and the height of the mountain, when reaching at 17th the villager told us that the town will be in the next 3 kilometers, up 1 kilometers and down 2 kilometers to Guamote, it was the sound of heaven, we never for it to come to. We started biking again, so to the darkness and the coldness, it has been 5 kilometers already and seemed to be endless. The villagers told us that the 2 kilometers down then would not be 10 or even 2o kilometers???
We now pushing bike against the height and the darkness with tail light on for safety, we didn’t know what to do next, getting to the town today won’t be possible and didn’t know how far ahead or lies ahead. Also it is already 7 pm and near the freezing point, we were really freezing cold right now at the height of 3223 meters above sea level and very windy also. At last we decided to sleep on some corner of the road mountain we could find to stay away from the sight of the others. When the road was cleared we then walked the bike to the side of the road, turned off all of the light then put the bike down but we couldn’t as it was too close to the road so that the people could see us and put us at risk, we walked in the darkness up the small hill and had the bean plantation in the far distance, so we walked on the soft grass and soil of the bean plantation in the gusty wind.
We finally put up the tent with the help from the moonlight, WAN was the first to put herself in a sleeping bag while I got to tight up the bike for almost half of an hour, we were tumbling with the coldness, our lips got dehydrated badly, we had only one apple each before we fall to sleep on the level of 3000 meters above sea level and minus 3 Celsius degree in temperature.
14 July 2003
When we got to the road, we realized that we were right at the peak of 3223 meters, that was why the wind was so gusty and freezing cold, from here the road went up and down for short distance about 5 kilometers we then we had a break for small bread as a breakfast. The tiredness from not fully sleep last night and at the elevation of 3000 meters has reduced our strength, from where we were last night there will be another 20 kilometers ahead before we get to Guamote, if we believed in what the local told us. Ecuador must be the same size as United States, they said 3 kilometers for the distance of 20 kilometer, but we never learned the lesson, we always ask and it always wrong.
At Guamote we stopped for lunch at about late afternoon, this small town looked very dull and scary, we left immediately right after we finished the meal, we rode around the mountain and climbed up again with Guamote on the lower elevation, 5 kilometer from Guamote we could see the big snow topped mountain, we now biking at about 3000 meters and there is another great big mountain in front of us, from the book, it is the Chimborazo peak at the height of 6310 meters above sea level, the highest peak in Ecuador.
We kept biking at the level 3000 meters under the crystal
clear sky, there were a group of student coming back from school, we
stopped by and tried to talk to them, many of them scared of us and ran
away, when we got to the area where the local are waiting for buses,
we stopped for rest and start talking to them but when we start talking,
they just pointed to our bag and asked for the sweater jacket, wow we
pretend not knowing anything and start biking away! We could not stay
here any more, many times that the Ecuadorian adult asked us for money,
do you have money??, very absurd, we feel at risk right after we heard
this kind of word.
Chimborazo stands before us along the way we bike, so great big apex, on the right hand side there were small snow capped mountain, the sun shine was really good all the day, the road got easier later today, the more we bike the bigger the mountain in combination with the sunshine made the scenic looked even more stunning, we had to stop and take lots of photos, finally we got the town nearest to the mountain named ”Cajabamba” when the sun was almost gone.
Looking for accommodation in this town was impossible, when we asked any one, they all shook their head around, emmm what shall we do? What shall we do?? They all said, never have, don’t look for it, finally we found one old lady, she told us that there is a church ahead, have to ask the Nun there, so we headed to the church, we met one Non, she was in the class, teaching students, we asked her for a place to stay some where in the church, then she just disappeared for a while to discussed with the director who is also Nun. She came back with good news and told us that we could stay right here in the class room after 6 pm but we had to promise that we would leave before 6 am, we gave her our word and thank to the kind Nun. At last we had a really good sleep tonight, away from the chill in the class room of Escuela Sta Mariana De Jesus at the height of 3100 meters above sea level.
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