A couple of days out of Cuenca and Klaus' leg infection was troubling him again, so after packing up our tents at the back of a petrol station I headed on while Klaus scored a lift to Riobamba and got a bus to Quito, in time for his flight home. Klaus had spent the previous couple of days managing to continue cycling by truck surfing up to the top of the big climbs as we wound our way through Ecuador's central highland region. Hanging on to the back of these slow moving diesel trucks was tough on the arms though, with the ascents so steep that the bike and rider were being effectively dragged upwards and on our last climb out of Alausi, Klaus caught onto the back of a truck that I had been hanging on to but had to let go of. Klaus was caught by a piece of metal jutting out from the truck and sent into the ditch a couple of kilometres up the road. So we revised our strategy of truck surfing and it was back to the traditional method of pedalling to get up these steep hills.
The importance of a good map was emphasised when I met Joe, an American cyclist, in Latacunga a few days back. Suddenly new options opened up before me and I was able to detour off the increasingly busy Pan-American highway and pedal via the Cotopaxi national park and avoid the traffic congested roads around Quito. After a night on the park ranger's floor I crossed back into the northern hemisphere yesterday, stopping at the monument that Quisato, an interesting research project, has built to mark the equator. The south didn't let me go too easily though, for when I went to pick my bike up off the equator after posing for an obligatory shot I found a nail in my rear tyre.
After another day's ride on a busy road to Cayambe, it was back on the friendly cobblestone backroads to Ibarra, where I took today off and had breakfast. Then another breakfast. Then a trip to the bustling market for an almuerzo of beef soup and beef, lentils and rice. Bought some papaya and bananas for tomorrow's breakfast and went online while more unseasonal rain fell. Finished reading The Gangs of New York and then walked a couple of kilometres to the supermarket. The friendly hostal owner pointed out a number of interesting nearby attractions that are worth cycling too, but as is often the case on a day off, I wasn't able to get beyond the essentials of food, books and some internet and shudder slightly at the thought of cycling anywhere. Tomorrow I leave for the day's ride to the Colombia post border at Tulcan. As with Peru there's a lot more of Ecuador left to explore but I'll have to wait until the next lap. I have a flight booked from Medellin in Colombia at the end of July to make a visit back to Ireland for a couple of months, whilst Rocinante is put out to pasture on coffee and coca leaves.
Pedalled: 35,650 km