Andes Trail Stage 9 of 109 Oña to Loja, Day 13 of 142
Photos at Strava: 98Km, 2014m, 5:34, 71.8 kph max
|Description||Distance in km||Dirt km||Climb in m|
When I woke up a bit after 6am, I sure didn’t think this would be the best day of the tour yet. I was feeling slow and tired even though I got over 8 hours of quality sleep (unlike those on the other side of the building that faced the town – the music went on until 4am). Breakfast was so-so, just muesli and yogurt and hot chocolate for me.
The 1km downhill warmup when we started at 8:09am didn’t help and then a long 800m ascent started. Rob and Wytze passed early on (Wytze’s advice to me was “GET IT!”). I kept cranking and did catch up with Rob eventually. We rode together a while then it started raining. We did part of the descent together too, both with shit-eating grins going fast. But right at the bottom, a 700m climb started. Lunch was supposed to be a little ways up in a village but no sign of the truck so we kept climbing, raining on and off.
Finally near the top we pulled over and lunch was setup at a restaurant. It was great because:
- We got to eat inside, in front of a nice warm wood fire.
- I discovered there was Peanut Butter! Take some of the big crackers, smear thickly with PB, then embed as many roasted almonds as can fit. Repeat until done (after eating some power burritos). That is a Power Lunch.
- When we started up again there was only 100m or so to climb.
It started raining soon after I started up again and the descent was challenging – the rain drops felt like needles on the exposed parts of my face. I couldn’t feel anything on my legs. Around km 58, it all got better. We turned off the Pan-American Highway onto an unmarked dirt road which is a genius move from Rob: this road cuts off about 12km and saves something like 500m of climbing to Loja! Also it’s got little traffic and is SUPER scenic, and IT’S DIRT for 30km! It was still raining and somewhat muddy but that did not detract. The mud was actually packed by vehicle tires in a great way – very secure and you could go fast.
It was mostly down, and I got a ways out in front then stopped for photos and the rest of the guys caught up. But Chris had another flat. A little piece of glass had wedged in his tire – Wytze found it and that should be the end of those flats for him. We continued down, the rain stopped and it was just awesome. Eventually we did some climbing and the road dried out and we ended up going up a river rather than down which seemed strange. A few full-sized buses passed by which also seemed strange. There were giant puddles, lots of animals and people by the side. I saw everyone else had a trail of mud up their bum and back but when I looked at my jacket it was clean. Ass-savers for the win!
We ended up doing the last 10km of the dirt plus the final 9km through town in a group of 5, nicely spinning fast and made it to the hotel at 3:15. We have a great triple room with Martin with a beautiful shower. We did laundry then went down for soup and it was the thickest and best yet. I’m really loving having 4 meals a day. Martin came in a bit later super enthused – he also had had a fantastic day. I think we are all glad tomorrow’s another rest day though!
About 10 of us went out for dinner and relearned how hard that is on Sunday night in Ecuador. Google said that just about every restaurant was closed, but we walked 7 blocks to the one that it said wasn’t and it was. We finally found the one place open in town, a ice-cream shop that also made hamburgers and pizzas. I think they were a bit overwhelmed when we all walked in. My first question was “¿Tienes cervezas?” The answer was “¡No!” but that didn’t stop us. We had Jens and he found 3 one liter bottles plus about 8 more of the smaller 625ml ones. So we had plenty of beer while we waited and eventually all had dinner. Mora ice-cream cones or tiramisu for dessert – great for about $6 per person. It turned out to be a fun ending to a fabulous day. Now it’s time for sleep. 100 stages to go!