Andes Trail Stage 8 of 109 Cuenca to Oña, Day 12 of 142
Photos at Strava: 106.9km, 1683m climbing, 5:24, 66.9 kph max
Our rest day yesterday in Cuenca was really nice after seven straight days of cycling. Breakfast was surprisingly good for just a hotel breakfast, then I did 2 hours of Garmin loading. Many people needed the recently received courses for Peru and Bolivia put on their Garmins and some still needed the detailed maps. It was interesting seeing so many different models but in the end all but one were updated and the one just needed another factory reset and it was good too. Andrew and I walked downtown to the Cathedral which was quite cool. There’s a good view from “the Terraces”, about 100 stairs up. We looked around more, then did some shopping on the way back to the hotel. I bought a duffel bag for simpler packing and clothespins and toilet paper. We had lunch at another place recommended by Beau, Café de Ñucallacta, which did not disappoint at all. There were people in there working on laptops so I could really imagine Beau there doing the same last summer.
Andrew went pedal shopping while I hung out at the hotel until it was time to go out for beers. 4 of us headed down to La Compañia. We scored a great table and had nachos and snacks with our beers. The sizes are 500, 650, 750, 1000ml – we went for 500. Andrew and I had the IPA which was supposedly 9.6% – tasty too. Then we walked over to the Bar Far Out Cervezeria German place and we had to try every single beer they had to find one we could stand. We shared a 1.5l pitcher of some Golden Ale that was about a 2. But the bartender was quite funny and the music was great. Dinner was at the Moliendo Cafe, also recommended by Beau. I had the veggie dinner of the day, $3.50 for rice and a lentil patty and veggies and delicious guava juice. 1/10 the price of the previous night’s dinner. What a nice relaxing rest day!
Finally, I slept soundly for over 8 hours! The alarm went off at 6:30 as usual and breakfast was the same and good. We packed up (the new duffel worked great) and left in a giant group at 8:07. We rode through the cobblestone streets for a few km with a couple of motorcycle police officers escorting us ensuring we didn’t have to stop for pesky red lights of which there were about a million. We just kept cruising for over 30km, mostly together, gently climbing but mostly just nice flat cruising.
Finally the first big hill started and went on for over 10km, climbing 800m or so. It was a grind, with headwind and rain, and it got colder and colder as we climbed. I had to stop before the top to put on warm gloves, a jacket and warm legs. We were riding through the mist and rain and the descent was quite cold. I don’t usually even say something was cold but this was pretty much “quite cold”. Lunch was a couple hundred meters down, sort of sheltered, and there was much shivering and adding more clothes. It was great to power up and it felt good to be off the bike for a little while. I took off with Wim, expecting more downhill, but there was still some up before we got to a viewpoint just over 3000m and looked down to the bridge we’d soon be crossing almost 1200m below. The descent wasn’t that great since the winds were strong and I couldn’t get that much speed up. But boy was the temperature increase good! At the bridge we stripped down to normal shorts and short sleeves and fingerless gloves etc. Then we had a 5.6km climb up 440m which I powered up with Andrew at a perfect and consistent speed (not fast). At the top we had only a few km more to Oña and found the little dirt road that led to our hostals.
Again we didn’t all fit in one place, and this time, we got the crappy one with no bathrooms, no wifi, etc. That’s fair since we have had great luck at the other places. We locked up our bikes and soon were enjoying delicious soup and snacks, listening to Radar Love again, sharing videos, and feeling great to be warm and done with the ride. We invaded the other hostal for showers then hung out on a very nice deck writing and relaxing. Tomorrow’s ride is a little longer with a bit more climbing. Time to get tough!