Wednesday, 5 October 2011
THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS
I don't seem to be able to get away from the Andes Mountains, and so far in the Southern Highlands of Ecuador it has been an up and down affair. I've reached the "Charming City", and third-largest in Ecuador, Cuenca. The city centre of Cuenca is truly beautiful, It is on the banks of a small river, and there are many wonderful historic buildings (many of them are impressive churches). In Loja I'd met up with cycling friends Hannes and Annelies, but while I waited for my new bank card to be delivered they moved on. From Loja I took a small dirt road for the first section North, which was reportedly more scenic than the main road, and there were interesting tribal people in the area (the men wear their hair long in plats or pony-tails, so if it wasn't for my beard I may have fitted in there). However, the weather had been rainy for the previous few days, and I had some fun in the mud with my loaded bike on narrow slick tyres. Further North I met up with my two friends again, after they had sheltered from the rain for a couple of days. In the village of La Paz we camped in a school room in exchange for a donation to the school Xmas fund. Before we even unpacked the bikes Hannes had organised a football game with the kids, and of course I was roped in as well. Some time into the game I picked up an "injury", and was replaced by a more effective player half my size and one-fifth my age. Talk about size, it may sound unbelievable but when I walk down the city streets I've noted that most of the people are shorter than me. In this region it is also rather unfortunate to be a pig, because pigs are being barbequed and cooked in all different ways in roadside stalls. I've been relaxing in Cuenca now for a few days, and tomorrow the three of us intend to cycle down to the Amazon basin (known as the Oriente)towards the East of the mountains, which hopefully will be a nice change of scenery. Daily distances cycled since Trujillo in Peru have been:- Huanchaco 14 km; Dios (+30 km police lift) 93 km; Chiclayo 92 km; Olmos 110 km; La Matanza 104 km; Piura 68 km; Las Lomas 119 km; Macara 57 km; Languche 59 km; Catacocha 37 km; Catamayo 61 km; Loja 39 km; Saraguro 64 km; Ona 38 km; La Paz Pueblo 39 km; and Cuenca 72 km. The total distance cycled so far in South America is 16 288 km, and the total distance cycled so far on this trip is 82 775 km.