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Part Thirty Eight – Central Ecuador

6th June Quito – San Miguel Salsedo (104km) 1,144m

7th June San Miguel Salsedo – Riobamba (86km) 1,389m

8th June Riobamba -Alausi (92km) 1,282m

Today was everything good in a bike ride. The beautiful highland meadows of the Ecuadorian Andes. The roadside villagers reaping away merrily as they have done for generations. A helpful following breeze. Some rolling hills but nothing too arduous. Then a nice long roll into the town of Alausi where you can find the PanAmerican Hotel for $10 (with WiFi!) and a pizza place just metres away. If the public thermal Spa had had any water in the Hydro-massage tub then it would have been an absolutely perfect day, but that was just too much to ask for. The town is shrouded in cloud in the late afternoon by the time I get there giving it a very spooky atmosphere.

9th June Aluesi – some house (41km) 2,665m

Today’s ride is a tragic-karmic tale. The early morning was a lovely romp up and down through a gob-smackingly lovely valley south of Alausi. The Pan-American Highway splits and a friend on the biking road, Ian Lacey (Irish cyclist 350south.org), a week ago listened to the dud advice of the locals and therefore took the longer and more difficult route to the East. Buff3y, fore-warned took the shorter and less arduous route which saved a good hour of pedaling.

It is now a matter of much regret for me that I took some time to take video of the roll down through the valley (see linked video), while lambasting Ian  for listening to the locals (who have less of an understanding of the supreme importance of road topography than your average touring cyclist). I deeply regret this now because I was in the midst of one of these video tirades that I brilliantly managed to miss a particularly important turn-off and ended up a good 10km off course careening down through an adjacent valley. By the time realized the error I was hundreds of metres in elevation down the hill to the West. I pedaled back up to a different turn towards the desired town this time only to then discover that this road became a dirt track snaking up some horrid horrid grades. The whole episode cost me about two hours riding and lots of sweat. I emerged back onto the PanAmerican 20 km further back on the road than should have been the case which just about kicked the stuffing out of the whole day.

The moral to the story is that karma or St Patrick will get you in the end. Had I not been taking the piss out of Ian then I wouldn’t have missed the turn and I wouldn’t have wasted over an hour grinding back up that hill and then wouldn’t have been on that dodgy alternate route that pretty well did me in.

10 June Some house – Cuansa (110km) 2,239m

Street march in Quito

Marvelous pork crackling for $1.50

BBQ Giant Rat

Half Giant Rat Platter with potatoes, butter and corn

I do, of course, appreciate that one of the broadening experiences of travel is, in theory, trying new foods. In southern Ecuador, in one day I got to sample some of the best pork on the planet at a road-side pig spit. I then followed this up later in the afternoon with a plate of giant rat . The trouble is that the giant field rat of southern Ecuador is a pretty active beastie and therefore it doesn’t have a lot on it apart from a lot of tough skin and gristle. Once you’ve hollowed the innards and skewered the poor blighter on a spike there is not a lot left. Despite being particularly brave there is no way this correspondent is going to bite into a charred rat head so as the guy next to me chomped happily through the rat face he gave me dismissive glances as I merely picked away at my rat. A terrible waste really as rat is a bit of a local delicacy and cost $8.

Winding track

Furry Andean llama south of Alausi.

Only one place to stay really in Alausi – The ‘Hotel Panamericano’.

This one is just plain wrong.