Today we got to see a little of the Andes Mountains. Quito, the capital of Ecuador is set at about 9,000ft elevation in the Andees. This morning the 12 of us going mountain biking got picked up by 2 4×4 vehicles with bikes standing on the top of them. This was the first time to get out of the city and it was an amazing drive up and down hills on cobble stone streets. About 60 kilometers out of town at about 13,000ft elevation we pulled off the side of the road and unloaded our bikes. Helmets, elbow pads, and gloves were passed out. I think most people were prepared for the weather, at that hight it was quite cold and rainy at times. The first half of the day was to be a 21 kilometer ride down on the ‘highway’ we had just driven out on. This was the short portion of the ride. 21K might sounds like a lot, but when you are whizzing down the mountain at 25mph it was over in no time. The worst part was the rain, the road was snaking it’s way down the mountain and the wet roads had me nervous for a while. But I was flying down at 25 mph even though I was almost always using both breaks. At about 11:00 we made it to the hot springs. SUpposedly the best hot springs in all of south america. Apparently the water there is heated by the volvanic activity in the area. It was somewhat like a swimming pool back home. I think I heard there were 9 pools in all. They would have 2 or 3 interlocked, where the hot water would enter into one, and the water would be cooler as you went to the connecting pools. We sat in the pools for over an hour. Then the fun began. They drove us back up to the same point we began the first leg, only this time we started down another direction. This second leg was to be 51 kilometers and had a little more variety. It started on a bumpy dirt road for the first 7 miles or so before it ran into the main highway where we followed it down for another 12 miles into a small city. At some point in this leg I had a flat tire. There was a car in the lead and a car that brought up the rear. I could have waited for the rear car but since it was mostly downhill I just coasted as much as I could on the flat tire. I was somewhat in the middle, the people ahead of me now long gone and for some reason the people at the rear never caught up. I eventually was walking the bike in the the next checkpoint. The had some extra bikes so I was able to use one of these for the final leg. It began for a couple miles over the cobble stone streets of this little town, and believe me, it was a butt buster of a ride. Then outside of town we came to the best part of the ride which was a old no longer in use train track that was now a path down a beautiful canyon. We just followed the train tracks, which were now filled in to make a trail, as it winded it’s way mostly down the canyon. We went through 5 tunnels. The final one was so long that it got so dark that you couldn’t see the ground, all you could see was the opening in the distance. I had somebody if front of me so I could see her head in the light so I used her as my guide, just kept my eyes on her, others apparently had some problems, one guy fell. You just had to have faith the that trail was going to be straight and smooth and it was for the most part. After the final tunnel things took a turn for the worse. Earlier when someone asked how we know when to stop they were told there will be the car to meet you and you end with a hill. Well, me and 3 others got to the ’stopping point’ before the pick up car did and there really wasn’t much hill to speak of yet so not knowing to stop we kept going. And it was a grueling climb all the way back up out of the river valley. Thankfully the truck was waiting for us at the end, but everyone else had stayed back at the real stopping point, I guess in case we came back. That last climb was brutal, we had great 21 speed bikes, and I was down to gear 1 and barely moving. But we made it through, did a little more that the advertised 71K but it was a an amazing ride. The guy that organized this vacation has been putting together trips for 24 years now, and he said this was the best mountain bike ride he has ever had. Next we are going to the dinner and show that we didn’t get to see last night. Thankfully it was an opera we didn’t see and tonight will be more of an Ecuadorian singing and dancing thing.