Cuenca – Loja – Vilcabamba
With its lower altitudes this may not win the award for being the most dramatic section of the TEMBR but it is still a fun ride and a good way to get down to Peru. Holding some of the notoriously steep Ecuadorian dirt to burn those calf muscles the route passes through pleasant farm valleys and small canyons. I made the mistake of deviating from the main route on the penultimate day onto a rather gnarly horse track. It virtually had me in tears but I look back on it as a highlight. Funny how the toughest moments often end up being the most cherished…
Update: check out the main official report of the TEMBR at bikepacking.com for GPXs and a rather more elegant description of the route compiled by Cass. (Also complemented by his exceptional photography).
This is how it panned out…
After a few pleasant days zig zagging my way south on steep dirt roads out of Cuenca through the Ecuadorian countryside, my route joins a shortish paved stretch.
Tiny blips on my elevation route profile that look like one or two metres turn out to be steep 50 to 100 metre changes in elevation and the road continues to roll up and down. Hundreds of metres below, the Panamerican Highway occasionally pops into view. How much easier it would have been…but so much less fun. After cresting the final climb I get ready for a nice easy descent…
My deviation from the TEMBR starts off quite innocently and semi-rideable… After twenty minutes my path crosses with a man ascending on a horse. “El camino es MUY FEO por mucho tiempo, amigo; es mejor regresar”. In no uncertain terms, “the path is horrific, my friend; turn round!”. Having descended a fair way, pushing my bicycle back up the steep slope is fairly unappealing so I continue down. It turns into what is, essentially, a three hour full body work out descending 800 metres on a very steep challenging horse track. Muddy / rocky channels sometimes up to head high with 6 inch wide gutters that run down the centre. I find banging my pedals all but impossible to avoid and resort to walking, sliding and throwing my bicycle down the hill. About halfway down the sun starts to set but I finally get to the dirt road and am catapulted through the dark into Malacatos where I collapse into a deep sleep at the nearest hospedaje.
Happy to finally arrive in Vilcabamba, I take some much needed rest in Hostel Margaritas and set to work planning my assault on Peru.
Hostel Margaritas: one block south from the plaza on Calle Sucre, $15 with breakfast; a nice clean quiet hostel)
Update: check out the main official report of the TEMBR at bikepacking.com for GPX and a rather more elegant description of the route compiled by Cass.
NB: In a bid to catch up on my recent incredibly inconsistent blogging, I have decided to not put a video up for this post. I’m not really sure how interesting it is to post semi-similar amateur footage of my travelling down dirt roads so I intend to only do videos when it’s significantly different or something of particular interest. Plus they seem to be immensely time consuming, finding suitable music is half the challenge and it gets muted later for copyright issues which is particularly tedious although perhaps understandable.