October 28, 2012 - I pressed West to stay off the Pan American again. For the first time in months, I dropped below 2,000 meters and got all the way down to about 30 meters above sea level. The quality of the roads in places was excellent and using 5th gear again was a happy change too, with speeds to match for longer stretches.
The target for the day was a small town called Zaruma, nestled high in the mountains. On the way there, I went through all sorts of terrain, from desert mountain roads with endless gravel to lower Amazon-like vegetation and fog so dense I could not see my own front wheel anymore.
Slowly the road climbed out of the clouds and fog created by the Garua, the dry wind that hits the lower western slopes of the Andes during this time of the year. Zaruma is a small town that is on the UNESCO watch list to be a world heritage site. It's pretty unspoiled with scarcely a decent hotel to be found and restaurants that all serve the same food, three times a day.
I found a small hostal right on the main square with a room overlooking the square and church above. Since it is somewhat higher up, the sun seems to shine all day long, with clouds visible in the valleys.
Small, steep streets with stairs everywhere are the order of the day.
The tourismo office remained firmly closed during my time there. I met one other Western tourist in my three days here. Sadly she had to leave back home to Germany all too soon...
You can usually tell when people are not used to tourists in a small town. My Teva sandals caused glances and smiles wherever I went. The next stop from here is the Peruvian border.