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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Down to the Amazon Basin...

So on a whim we decided to rent two bikes and take a little bike ride. We´d heard that you could ride down hill on the road to Puyo, which is the largest town in the Oriente (Amazon region of Ecuador), and then catch a bus back. Checking one of our little guide books, it mentioned that it was 61km away, but you dropped about 3000 feet in altitude. Sounds great. We packed a backpack with a couple of books, our bullfighting ponchos and a couple of sweaters.

What could be better than a little bike ride downhill on a cool day?

The road we followed had several tunnels, one of which we went through. It was a little scary, riding in complete darkness, wondering if you´d make it through before the next bus or dump truck came hurtling down behind you...but we made it.

I spied a little pork place along the side of the road, but Susan wouldn´t let me stop. It just looked a little too dicey. I agreed (reluctantly). We did stop later on for some yogurt and bananas. Oh! And they had Apple Gatorade. It was fantastic! We drank plenty of water, of course, and got to talk to lots of people along the way.

So at some point we realized that there was an awful lot of uphill portions...and it was hotter the lower we got...and the sun was out more than in the mountains, too...but we were still having fun. We were glad we brought some bags of sugarcane with us, which we happily munched on the side of the road.

There must have been at least four different rivers that all came into the main river, each adding their clear water into the muddier water...You can see we´re getting a little more tired.

As the day went on we stopped more and more often... After lunch there were a lot more uphill portions than in the morning. Now, yes, we´re dropping about 2500 feet, but it wasn´t as if the roads just kept going downhill. We´d go down a while and then back up...down and then back up...and the momentum wasn´t enough to get to the top of the next hill, that´s for sure. These were MOUNTAIN bikes... I kept telling Susan, "I think this is the last hill - and then it´s down hill from there." She thanked me the next day for saying that. There were WAAAAY too many "last hills."

Of course there were a lot of interesting things along the way, more waterfalls than we could count, more beautiful slopes that were covered with plants, ferns, flowers, and trees...and here are a few pictures:

Towards the end of the day we reached a little restaurant, perched on the side of the road with an amazing view of the unfolding valley/basin below. They had something tied up with a little leash and a doghouse. I´m not sure what it was...but I didn´t pet it. I think it belonged somewhere down below, the poor thing. It had a Pip nose.

Finally! I was so happy we got there, I just had to take a picture of the sign. Welcome to Puyo... Unfortunately, it looked a lot like the last couple of towns we passed. We´re not down at sea level here, we´re still at about 1000´above sea level, and of course it continues down lower and lower...but still! We made it.

The picture on the left is a view back to where we came from in the morning. Look closely, those aren´t just clouds that Susan is looking at; those mountains are the Andes, and that´s where we started in the morning. Look at Susan! She´s eating a whole fish! (OK, so I helped her finish it) And we shared a well deserved giant beer...

Upon returning back to Baños, we noticed that the OTHER guide book we had mentioned that it was an 8 hour ride, with the last half being the hardest part. NOW we know to check them both. : )

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