The long last day in Ecuador

Vilcabamba is the last place we stay in Ecuador, and it has been gorgeous. We’ve heard from friends who have gone on ahead of us that the road ahead, which is largely dirt to the Peruvian border, is a nightmare when it’s wet. Brian watches the forecast and tries to take advantage of a 3-day dry spell.  We time our departure after the road has hopefully had enough time to dry the slime out into some sort of manageable dirt road. Fingers crossed…
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The blogs I’ve been reading (it’s actually the photos and videos of rivers of mud) make me dread the road. We’ve got roughly 100 miles to cover before the border, and we have no idea what the roads will be like. We ride out of Vilcabamba as early as we can after having breakfast. It’s a fairly clear day, and continues to get sunnier as we ride. Not far out of town as we ride south I see a sign warning of bears in the area…wow! Seriously?! I would never have guessed.
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The road climbs for miles and finally reaches its peak and we descend into a long valley, and I start to notice purple flowers on the trees. Our friend, Jim Reinstra from Pedaling for Pennies (raising money for cancer research by riding his bicycle from the States to the bottom of South America), mentioned them in his blog, and I love them as much as I had expected to.
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The pavement ends around Palanda and the construction project, and the dirt road I’ve heard about begins. There are lots of large trucks, diggers, and other equipment. We run into some traffic too including buses. We weave in and out of ruts, over gravel patches and a half dozen water crossings.
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It’s a super long day. The road winds and is really narrow, so it’s slow going. We run into very little mud and overall it’s pretty good riding, just so darn slow. We wind up riding nearly 12 hours today, and other than a couple of short breaks and just over an hour at the border crossing into Peru late in the afternoon, it was all riding. We cover 130 miles today making our average something under 15 mph. Crazy.  By the time we reach the border, I’m exhausted and we still have to do the crossing and find a place to stay for the night.
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But the views were amazing, and the road, while it was slow, was not bad…probably due to the fact it was dry.  So all my fears of mud were for nothing, and it turned out to be one last long and FANTASTIC day in Ecuador!

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