Yesterday we arrived in Ingapirca, a small village high in the mountains. It was our toughest day cycling yet. A number of people in our group had to ride in the truck after lunch as it was just too much steep. Two people flagged down vehicles to get a ride up. The last 7K of the ride had pitches up to 18 percent and was really difficult. The total distance was only 78K but uphill all the way. Ingapirca is the home of one of the oldest Incan ruins found anywhere. Most of you will remember reading about the Temple of the Sun. I got to visit it in person here. It’s a large ruin consisting of well over 30 acres – I’m just guessing at that. There was a grain storage area, a burial section which features an upper class woman surrounded by 10 servants buried with various valuables of the time and work areas where they ground the grains. The temple itself is incomplete now but was engineered so that the sun would enter the highest chamber in the exact center location at the precise time of the solstice. It had to be exact. The large stones were not mortared together but were carved, cut, polished and smoothed so that they would fit together perfectly. The quarry for the stones was about a kilometer away. The shaping area was just below the temple and has many stones which have fallen as the building has deteriorated. There is much more to learn about this site but I will suggest Wikipedia for more info. It is the largest ruin in Ecuador,
A group of 40 cyclists can easily exceed the capacity of the small villages that we stay in. Bike Dreams is very cognizant of this and we will camp when that is the case. In Ingapirna this was somewhat the case. There is not enough restaurant capacity to handle us so we cooked our own dinners there. The hostel we stayed at was very basic with two bathrooms for everyone to share and one shower. Cold water. But we were happy to be there, see the ruin and enjoy the tired happiness of our successful climb. There were a few beers being enjoyed and quite a bit of laughter. It was nice to not have internet as it brought everyone together for the whole evening.
There has been a bad stomach bug moving through our group. We are all being careful to keep our hands washed as that is the most common way it moves along. It seems to last a couple of days and people get sick enough to be bedridden when we are not moving. So far, so good for me.
I’ve been riding tyne last couple of days with Hardy, the German journalist, and his roommate Alfred, who is very distinguished looking yet extremely lean and powerful. When you are behind him on the bike you can see his calf and leg muscles just rippling as he moves seemingly effortlessly up the mountains. Hardy is writing about the cycling but also about soccer in South America and its place in society here. I am going to a soccer match with Hardy while we are in Cuenca. He has written a well known cycling book and is now writing for three different magazines. Both of these men are very accomplished and worldly bikers. People are now finding others who cycle at about their speed and are getting comfortable in their groups. I have ridden with a number of different bikers but also have discovered those who are just too fast and strong for me. If I try to stay with them it is just too tiring. Barry and Terry, two good Aussie friends fall into this category. My roommate James is one of the strongest cyclists here. There are probably 10 -12 cyclists who are actively racing. This trip is actually a race. I’m not racing and most other people aren’t either.
We are now in Cuenca after a relatively easy trip from Ingapirca. Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador. About 275,000 people in the city proper. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the beautiful architecture in the older part of the city. It is largely been kept intact. Tomorrow we are taking a double decker bus tour of the city before a few of us head to the soccer game in the evening. This is our first rest day and badly needed.
I am getting to know more of the people in depth. Tonight we had three to a room which gave me the opportunity to talk with Knute, one of the Norwegian contingent. He has done some amazing bike trips. Several of the people I’ve met have done a bike trip from Cairo to Capetown. Knute not only did that but started at the Arctic Circle in Norway and biked unsupported to Cairo to meet the group and start his ride to Capetown. Wow! He has also biked through all the -stans of Russia. I can’t even spell most of them. He is a social worker in Norway working mostly with younger people having problems with drugs or other family related problems. He says he gets time off because there is virtually no unemployment in Norway so his job waits for his return. At a restaurant dinner tonight with 6 others I sat next to Bridget who appears to be in her late 40’s or early 50’s. She told me that she had looked at taking this trip for the last few years but things had not quite lined up until now. I asked her what she does. She works for a firm who takes the plans for a railroad expansion project in Europe and is responsible for developing a schedule. Her job is to write out a daily schedule for the project from start to finish, taking into account all the the other infrastructure that this project would affect and determine any delays caused by conflicts of any kind. These railway projects require very large amounts of capital and any delays would be extremely significant. What a lot of responsibility she has in her job. She is a fun loving unpretentious woman.
I can’t leave out the trouble we have had with dogs during the Riobamba to Chunchi and Chunchi to Ingapirca portions of the trip. They often come out of nowhere and run and lunge at your feet and legs. Everyone has had problems with them. Hardy uses the technique of trying to look very large and shouting at them. Tim, a rowdy rambunctious Aussie slows to a crawl with the idea they will lose interest. I use my ultra high frequency device which bothers the dogs but people can’t hear it. So far it has mixed results. The dogs have to be quite close for it to work. It was also pointed out to me that older dogs can’t hear those sounds anymore and it doesn’t faze them. I’ve now adopted Hardy’s technique. The other day two dogs came at me as I was riding slightly uphill. One got in front of the bike and I soon found myself in the wrong lane trying to get away from him. Very dangerous.
I’m going to attempt to put a photo of what’s left of the inner chamber of the Temple of the Sun if internet allows.