Ecuador: Day Six – Pifo, centre of the earth – San Miguel de los Bancos

Mercifully it was dry when we woke but still very cold with many in the Group having not slept & having spent much of the night tripping over guy ropes as they waltzed the S&D quick step. Today’s plan was to be bussed through Quito to the official ‘Centre of the Earth’ where one could straddle the equator, have the obligatory picture taken & then resume cycling on the Westbound stage of our journey. In the event, the only thing I straddled was the loo at the centre, a particularly popular pastime where pleasantries, hand wipes & toilet paper were exchanged along with related friendly banter. We were becoming a rather sick group but never lost the ability to laugh or exchange the most intimate of details without a trace of embarrassment.

After doing our tourist bit, we set off in the most amazing heat, a mass of cyclists terrorizing the midday city traffic as we headed on black tarmac up a steep & gruesome climb of some 6km. From this perspective it’s hard to find much positive to say about Quito. As we toiled up the hill, there was no joy to be found in looking left into the City as it was just to look into a grey dustbowl.

The climb also took its toll on a lot of the riders & there was probably an hour between the front & back riders on that relatively short climb. From here on, there were more & more of the group exchanging bike for bus.

Having made the climb however, we then had a long descent & with some amusement found ourselves at a traffic toll booth with lunch being served from the booth! However lunch is lunch & no one was grumbling as we lounged around & enjoyed the break. There was however a problem. The road ahead was under repair which meant that our support trucks couldn’t get through & would have to take a 3 hour detour. The cyclists would be allowed to go through, but of course would have no support & the bus option was not open to anyone who ventured forth on this option.

Onwards then & some while later we found the roadwork where the workers cheerfully helped us in & out of a couple of 2 metre ditches & we were on our way through some lovely countryside, a long downhill & finally a long, slow climb to the rather lively town of Nanegalito. The plan was then for a further 8km climb to our designated campsite but for some reason this never materialised & ultimately it was decided that we would be put into a hotel for the night at a cost of $8 per head.

I was part of the final group to be bussed but managed to while away a couple of hours in a local bar before a truck found us & took us to the hotel where, after some worrying moments (not enough beds) we were found beds & I had the pleasure of the company of John Lyons & Brian Ellis. Gus recalls the evening as one where he spent much of the evening in the loo, in massive discomfort & suffering from the very worst symptoms of S&D which by now was pretty universal.

Under the circumstances, even grotty beds, shared showers & loos & the chance of a decent night’s sleep were much welcomed over the alternative. We had a mediocre but acceptable meal in the hotel restaurant & the group that met for breakfast the following morning looked infinitely livelier than those of the previous couple of days.