Grace and I arrived back in Quito in the afternoon on the 23rd and were soon checked back into the Hotel Ambassador, in an even better room than before. My bike and other bag were safe in their storage room. We had an early dinner at a close by excellent restaurant, did a little shopping and went to bed early. It was so weird to know that was the last time sleeping together for nearly 5 months. We haven’t been apart for that long in nearly 40 years!!
In the morning, we did some souvenir shopping then walked all the way to the Old Town and checked out Plaza Grande and the area. Then we noticed the clouds were lifting and we could see the hills above town. So, fortified with ice cream, we took a taxi to the TeleferiQo, an amazing gondola lift that climbs over 800m from a spot above town. It’s one of the highest in the world. We had lunch at the cafe at 3950m, then headed up the trail to Rucu Pichincha, a 4784m volcano. Stopping often due to the altitude, we made it to the swings which were great fun, then a bit higher past the horse rental place to about 4100m. Then the clouds closed in and it was time to descend.
Power was running a little low so we took a taxi back to the hotel and had a great nap. Grace didn’t have to leave until 9 or later so we had time to go check out the Santa Rosa Brewery, which was a must since we loved their beers so much in the Galapagos. Since it was only 1km away we walked but a sly and smooth boy selling cigarettes on a corner managed to extract Grace’s cell phone from a zipped pocket without her noticing at all. She only realized later but then it was time to go to the airport. So she went without her phone, one big black spot on an otherwise most excellent vacation in Ecuador. Watch your step in Quito!
I woke up in the morning while Grace was flying from Houston to San Francisco. I pretended I was fine and had breakfast, then spent a couple of hours assembling my bike. There was a little drizzle outside but I went for a quite fun and exciting ride on the route we will take to the Equator on August 2 for the official starting ceremony of the Andes Trail bike tour. I rode the easy part of the route, nearly flat, nice and fast on big roads, sometimes 6 lanes plus 2 extra bus lanes in the middle. Some were marked Cyclovia and there was even a short section with a protected bike path. The bus drivers are pretty polite (although their exhaust is massive and bad) but the taxi drivers are a little more aggressive so you really have to watch what’s going on. The ride was 20km and a good introduction to riding in Quito.
The next day, I did the same ride but didn’t stop until I got to the huge complex at the “Mitad del Mundo“, “Middle of the world”, ie, the Equator. The place isn’t quite on the real equator but it’s close. I saw the 30m high monument but didn’t go inside as we will do that as a group in a few days. The ride back was harder as the more than 500m descent was now ascent. Half of the route is on a Provincial Highway with a very narrow (basically non-existent) shoulder/bike “lane”. This was no problem on the descent but climbing back was sort of a pain. The whole ride was about 50km and took under 3 hours (2:25 riding time).
Navigating the prepared GPS tracks supplied by Bike Dreams was really cool. I had never used my cycle computer like that. But the Garmin Edge 530 rocks! At home, I had preloaded detailed maps of everywhere we’re riding so it has every building and street. It shows how you’re doing on climbs, when you get off route, what’s coming up – just great.
I was really happy to make it back safely (no close calls even), and then went out to lunch at El Maple, an excellent vegetarian restaurant nearby. Potato soup with cheese and avocado for the win! Also jugo de guanabana! Soup is a big thing in Ecuador and I need to try more.
I have a few more days before everyone arrives – one person I know of is arriving tomorrow but the rest later. I plan to try riding out of town the way we will leave – on the road to Latacunga, Riobamba, 3 more towns we stay in, and then Cuenca, where my son Beau spent a month last year. That will be our first rest day on the tour and from there, it’s south four more riding days to the Peru border. I plan to take a rest day at some point and climb Rucu Pichincha too.
Here are photos from our last days together plus my first two rides.