Andes Trail Stage 10 of 109 Loja to Catacocha, Day 15 of 142
Photos at Strava: 93.6km, 2294m climb, 5:13, 76.9kph max
|Description||Distance in km||Dirt km||Climb in m|
It was really nice to have a rest day and Loja was a great place for it. I think pretty much everyone spent some time cleaning their bike. The 30km dirt section left lots of grit all over the bikes. Our mechanic Lucho fixed my slight shifting problem too which was great. The contrast in Loja from the super quiet Sunday night to the business of a Monday was huge. People everywhere, and the place looks prosperous and nice. A few of us went to lunch at a hole-in-the-wall place; some had tigrillo, a local brunch stew of plantains and cheese (and maybe some other stuff) with an egg on top. They didn’t have enough for all of us so some had Mote Pillo, another local specialty, hominy also with eggs. We went to a bike shop and bought a few things (mostly warmer gloves). We had a relaxing afternoon then I looked up “Brewery” on Google maps and we walked 1.6km to the Zarza Brewing Company with 6 people. We walked in to Black Sabbath and a very nice looking place. It’s owned by a Texan so there are giant longhorn horns over the bar. We had a couple of their beers (IPA was good!) and nachos and burgers. Tasty and filling. The rain had stopped when we were done so we walked back. Andrew and I tried to go to the Symphony practice at the Teatro Simón Bolivar, but no luck. No matter, we got to bed earlier.
In the morning, breakfast was a half hour late at 7:30 so that was great. The forecast rain did NOT appear at all, in fact I hardly felt a drop all day. We started out together although Carol’s tire blew completely off the rim right away. The first climb of the day was a bit over 600m and pretty much started right away.
We climbed to a very windy ridge with 16.5mW of wind turbines cranking away at full speed. I think 8 turbines – video of riding by them. This was all on a little-used old road with some rough spots. But near the top of the descent we rejoined the Pan American Highway and this part had the best pavement yet. I got to pass a truck using the left lane and had a great time until maybe 3/4 of the way down when a bunch of us got bottle-necked behind a slow truck. It was nearly a 1400m descent though, very fun.
We didn’t stop in the town below but headed though and started the second big climb of the day, this one 1100m. It was somewhat a grind with more traffic, but pretty quickly we hit lunch at a little coffee/chocolate house by the side of the road. The PB was nearly empty but when I went back for seconds it was replaced and full! Awesome! Powered up, we started again, with 800m to climb. Andrew had a flat but we got up pretty easily – the tailwinds at the top were strong enough to blow us up the hill!
From that summit to Catacocha was something like 40km, trending down but with quite a few little climbs. Soon enough we were doing the last one up to town, about 250m. And then we entered the town and the road went up SO steeply it was almost funny. I was thinking 22-25% but others thought 30%. It was rideable but I was panting at the top. We didn’t really find the hotel but found the fast guys at an ice-cream shop. Fortified, we eventually rode up another 20% grade to the hotel where soup was set up. Tasty broccoli soup and extras, then we walked back downtown to our hotel. It has hard beds but hot showers so we’ll take that as a win! I was not passing the stairs test on the way up to the 4th floor.
We took a walk around town and settled ourselves in a little restaurant, again without beer. But this time Martin zipped out to the corner and returned with four “1 litro” bottles which Andrew reckons lasted the 5 of us less than 20 minutes. There were two choices for dinner, the chicken dinner or the sausage dinner. After asking a few times what else she could make, I gave up and asked for a sausage dinner without the sausage. That was a total no-go so (to everyone’s delight) I ordered a regular sausage dinner and just gave away the sausage. I think she was thick. But the food was fine and she brought us glasses to enjoy our beer…
We managed our biggest climb yet and have only 99 more riding days to Ushuaia!