19/08/13 Stage 8 Cuenca to Ona
Up at seven and on our way half an hour later . My phone had mysteriously gone flat overnight and we had to use the solar panel battery pack to power it up so that we could navigate our way out of what is a very large city . Inevitably we found ourselves on the Panamerican highway ,initially three but very quickly one lane . For the first time it seemed we had a flat section for roughly twenty miles and we quickly covered the ground . We decided to have breakfast at this point as we were about to start the 900m ascent . Unfortunately Cumbe had three or more places to eat but they were all identical and only served the ubiquitous pork and corn which is a bit heavy as a breakfast . Still beggars can't be choosers and we shared a portion . Just as well we did as the next opportunity to eat was on arrival in Ona at 5.30 by which time we were feeling a little low on calories .
The scenery has changed and is now less cultivated , more forested and with more potential places to wild camp if needed . At the summit we had to put on winter gloves , buffs ,jerseys and coats , as it was so cold . Something I hadn't really expected so close to the equator. 1200 m of descending is hard on the hands and you feel a bit silly arriving at the baking valley floor with so many clothes on .
We had heard that the one and only hotel was pretty poor but were pleasantly surprised to discover a new family run hotel that has only been up and running for three months . The owner was very friendly and was very keen that we speak Spanish and consequently we had our first long conversation which seemed to go OK . More importantly we were facing a 900m climb again first thing tomorrow morning and we tentatively enquired as to whether he might help us avoid the 3hr constant granny ring ascent by recommending someone who could give us a lift . He could , and for only five dollars . It took a fraction of a millisecond to think about that one . Hopefully there may be other opportunities to do the same on tough days , but then that seems to be every day!