This was an entirely unplanned twist in my adventure. After all my research and planning, it was but for the Alfonso’s suggestion that I decided to literally take a left rather than head strait on my path.
I headed out around mid-morning out of Quito after swinging by to Alfonso’s to pick up my bike and gear. I had only taken my duffle bag with me the night before which carries mostly clothes. After my goodbye’s and punching the town of Tena down in the Amazon into Waze, I headed out of the city under blue skies. The exit out of the city takes you through a very long tunnel, several kilometers long. Really cool!
From there, as I headed out of the city and on the highway, I started to climb and three things happened rather quickly. Rain, a very quick drop in temperature, and road construction. You can always handle one of these, but to have all three creep up on you at once, it s a bit of a pain.
So there I was, with all my vents open on my jacket and pants, with mesh gloves on, getting wet, the air was getting near freezing, and with literally nowhere to pull over. My body was starting to shake.
To my right where a shoulder should be – and I’m not talking about a proper shoulder like what you would find in North America or Europe, I mean your basic two foot left-over chunk of asphalt… not even that. There was nothing but a drop several hundred feet down, and you can forget about a railing. I rode like this for what seemed like an hour, though likely more like 20 minutes, crawling slowing up the mountain where both lanes up and down where packed with cars in long, long lines.
I had started to loose the feeling in my fingers and I had to tighten my jaw to keep my teeth from chattering shaking my helmet which shook my entire head. I finally came to a makeshift construction site off of the highway where the construction crew had setup their encampment. A steep ramp off of the highway was at apex of my next curve and although I was part of a long line of cars, I dropped about a foot onto the gravel ramp and skidded to a stop.
As I was on a steep incline, I waited a moment on the bike while I secured my footing and figure out how to best to get off the bike. I was not about to hop off quickly just because I was cold and drop the bike. Except for the oncoming traffic, there was no one around to lend a hand, and lifting the bike by myself on the incline was going to be a beastly task.
Tip: It’s never a good idea to drop the bike, but if it’s going to go, be sure you are at an angle where you can handle picking it up on your own. If not, stop, wait to get off the bike and plan on how best to handle things and what options you may have. Worst case, move to another spot.
First thing that needed handled was to zip up all the air vents to stop the cold wind from zipping through my jacket. Done! Now, since I was going to have to put the kickstand down to be able to go take my cold weather gloves and bluff out of my rear top case, I would need something to put under my kickstand to compensate for angle of the hill I was on. I spotted a large stone near my front tire. Gingerly, I got off the bike on the higher side of the road and balanced the bike the best I could. I walked around slowly, keeping a hand on the handlebars and kicked the large stone towards the middle of the bike, dropped the kickstand and had the bike drop onto the stone. Wheeew… crisis averted.
I swung around back, grabbed my gloves and bluff from the top case, hopped on the bike and was on my way. The road continued to climb and I found myself in somewhat dense fog – well, at this altitude it’s more like you’re just in the clouds. I figure at this stage I was like above 3,800 meters (circa 12,500 ft).
Stopping for a break a little above 4,000 meters at the lookout where you can have a spectacular view of the Antisana volcano. Some say it is the most spectacular volcano in Ecuador. This is more or less what I got to see.
This view, as you may imagine, further strengthened Alfonso’s argument against riding down the Sierra t see the views of the volcanos. I hopped on the bike and headed towards what would become one of the most amazing riding days thus far of my trip.
Once I peaked at above 4K mts, I started to make my way down, and rather quickly. As the altitude dropped, the temperature started rising. I shrugged off the cold and started to feel, though still cool, warmer and more humid air. The fog started to be swapped for what seemed like vapor coming off the road. I came off a plateau I had been meandering around for about an hour and the road broke towards a deep crevasse where I was about to face one of the most spectacular views yet.
Though they say a picture is worth a thousand words, that not the case here unfortunately. The vapor and fog do not give the view justice, so I will try to capture a bit of what I saw and felt.
I had been riding most of the day in post apocalyptic dry dessert environment – filled with jagged rocks made up of browns, blacks, grays… all in a dense dulling fog. As I rode coming out from under the cloud cover, the dense white was replaced by the most spectacular pallet of greens. Dense vegetation on either side of the road, and to my right I could see a meandering river at the base of the ravine. On the back side of the gargantuan crevasse just popping directly out of the mountain, where three pristine water falls. I had never seen that much water come out directly from a mountain, each with drops of several hundred meters.
I pulled to the side of the road, pulled off my helmet, and tried to take it all in. Though I’ve had many moments during my trip thus far, I came to realize in that moment that this was why I was I wanted the adventure – the absolute beauty the earth has to offer. Simply spectacular. I am one happy rider!