As time was to tell, my route towards Peruvian border, which I still have not reached, was to be marked by antennas and bridges. But let’s take it step by step.
After the Chimborazo expedition I have stayed in Riobamaba two days more than originally anticipated. It seems my body needed some more rest.
To say farewell to Riobamba I managed to locate a street named Yugoslavia, in memory of my former country. The map was also showing a street named Slovenia (Calle Eslovenia) but the reality was somewhat different. A more detailed field inspection showed that Slovenia is still on an evolutionary level of a field. It still lacks something to become a street.
I left Riobamba on a secondary road so to enjoy the countryside without the traffic of Panamericana. But even the side roads eventually connect to Panamericana and this one was no exception. So the next day, when the clouds were not exactly sure if I needed an extra shower, I joined the main road that leads south somewhere towards Peru. And in about 200 metres there was a surprise waiting for me. At first I only saw a yellow reflective vest almost entirely hidden behind a corner of a small house. It continued into rear panniers that in turned reviled a cyclists leaning over his rear brakes. And when he got up and turned around – what a surprise. It was Andres, an Argentinian that I have met in Casa de Ciclistas in Tumbaco.
Cannot really write that we run into each others arms since I was still on my bike. It was more like I cycled towards him. Surely a very pleasant surprise.
Since our route towards south was taking the same path, we hit the road together. Initially crossing a plain that towards the end of the first day of pedalling together was becoming more and more rugged and in such was showing us what lays ahead in the upcoming days. We ended the day with a long descend that was starting to take toll on our brakes. Finishing the day in Alausi we wandered the streets in search of a place to spend the night. In the end we ended up under the statue of San Pedro “. We had an official approval on a signed and sealed piece of paper given to us by the municipality. The next morning the security guard guarding the park around the statue confirmed our suspicions. We really could see the road leading out of town. There actually was no way of missing it. There was a line leading towards almost the highest mountain surrounding the town. The very top of the mountain was reserved for the antenna (radio, TV, mobile provider – who knows?!). There was nothing else left for us but to set the antenna itself as a goal and start to grind uphill. The must be a descend on the other side!
When, midday, we have managed to reach the top and look around the curve there was a view of a beautiful, sunlit valley waiting for us. The road changed inclination and we started a descend that seemed to me as it was never going to end. The breaks experienced the same kind of suffering as my thighs just a moment ago when we were still fighting our way to the top.
Already during the descend we were able to see on the other side a thin line leading towards a new peak with a new antenna on top. But as long as we were descending we were able to live the illusion of a possible existence of a different route leading out of the valley.
Well, there was none. At the bottom of descend there was a bridge that took us over the river and into another climb.
Slowly we started to learn the logic of countryside of southern Ecuador – antennas and bridges. Former causes pain in thighs, latter in knuckles of one’s fingers gripping the brakes.
After a few days we somehow befriended with this countryside that then reviled another of its characteristics – wind. It blows from all directions not giving you enough time to catch a breath. Sometimes literally since on occasions I had a hard time taking a breath. Cycling in this kind of conditions was bordering science fiction. We had just crossed a bridge, meaning that we will have to walk towards the antenna. Turning the pedals was impossible. There was not even enough of a break in-between the gusts of the wind for us to mount our bicycles let alone being able to turn the pedals twice.
So we walked! The wind knocked over Andres’s bike twice while I had to stop on several occasions. Some times for 5 – 10 minutes. I simply could not afford to lift one leg and put all my weight on the other one. The wind would knock over both me and Lou. There was nothing else for me but to stand and wait for the wind to calm a bit. So that I was able to make another step and then stop and wait again. There was no other way.
Step by step we fought our way towards the antenna. We could not see the bridge in the valley but we never doubted its existence. Somewhere on the other side of the valley we managed to catch a glimpse of another antenna
We did however, after some days, during a break and in search of motivation to make it to the yet another antenna, at yet another bridge, get some reinforcements. Safia, a French cyclist also making its way south, joined our team.
Together we then enjoyed the beauty of the Andes all the way to Loja. Here we are, at the time of writing, finishing a day of rest and recuperation-
The road into the city was a steep descend, we have already crossed a bridge and on the hills surrounding the city we have already spotted antennas and windmills. Thou I think Ecuador still has some surprises on store for us.
With a Smile on my face, until next time!