For this morning's ride, I left my field near Gangi bright and early, and rode west through the town of Gangi, continuing on until I reached the turnoff north into the Madonie mountains. From here, it was only a short ride to the mountain town of Geraci Siculo, where I found a lovely (albeit mostly ruined) hilltop castello ("castle") to explore. It was a tough ride to Geraci Siculo — the weather turned quite cold, and it got a bit rainy, plus there were quite a few minor uphill sections — but when I got there, I was rewarded with great scenic views, a quaint village atmosphere, and a bar that served an excellent hot chocolate for the morning break. Plus, after reaching the town, the weather improved, and it was all downhill riding.
From my night's abode at Camping Bazia, this morning I cycled on, and tackled the winding road that leads up to Capo Tindari, and to the village and attractions at the top. It was quite a tough uphill ride — like Capo di Milazzo to its east, Capo Tindari is tall and steep — and a sprinkling of damp, drizzly rain along the way didn't help, either. However, once I reached the top, the weather improved, and the sights proved to be worth the effort. Not that I had a choice, anyway: not only is Tindari a major attraction in this part of Sicily; there's also no easy way around it. As well as some Greek ruins (which I skipped), Tindari is also home to a very impressive church, which sits right atop the cape (above the village), and which overlooks the cliffs and the sea beyond.
Well, old chaps, I'm going to commence my British Blogging in a decidedly, well, English way: by moaning about the weather. It seems that every person I've ever met in my life, who's been to England, was 100% right: the weather really is s$%# here. And no, that garbled 4-letter sequence does not translate to "spantabulous"; guess again. Today's weather in London is about as English as any weather I could imagine: cold, overcast, drizzly, and unbelievably gloomy. I guess that's why the Chili Peppers sing about London in the summer time; because now that it's Autumn, there's nothing to sing about at all. Nevertheless, it's still good to be here.
Rio de Janeiro. City of surf, sand, and sensuality. The sun always shines in Rio, right? Right?! This evening, when my bus pulled into the city of Rio, I arrived to find that it was pouring with rain. What's going on — how can there be bad weather in Rio?! The world's gone mad, I say. Anyway, everyone's saying it'll clear up soon — and it better. "When my baby, when my baby spits on me it rains in Rio, de Janeiro, and the thunder bellows..." :P.
Despite Patrick's decision to return straight to Baños yesterday, I've decided to stick to my original plan, and to go to Tena today. Patrick reckons that they're currently not offering the good stuff in Tena (i.e. Class IV rapids), due to weather conditions: but I'm prepared to take whatever they've got, which is hopefully something reasonably good — because yesterday's rafting in Baños has left me unsatisfied. Patrick also reported the road from Tena to Quito being closed at the moment, due to flooding and landslides: hopefully that will be cleared up, by the time that I'm ready to leave Tena.
After the party night last night, today was positively dead. I said farewell to Patrick this morning: he's going to Tena ahead of me, as he has less time than me. As it was raining all day, and as I was tired and bored (just like everyone else in town), today was a good day to catch up on ye 'ol blogging, to read a book, and to sleep. Not the most exciting day of my trip; but after the non-stop adventuring and partying of the past week, I did kinda need a break. And there's no day like Sunday for resting.
This evening marked the end of my long and much-loved time in Peru, and the beginning of my time in Ecuador. After making it to Tumbes — the northernmost major town in Peru — I embarked upon a 5-legged, night-long journey, from the border-crossing at Huaquillas, all the way into the heart of Ecuador. The next morning, I found my first introduction to this country being the lovely (if tourist-infested) town of Baños. It was a long and bumpy night, but I've made it.
This morning — to start off the third day of the Santa Cruz-Llanganuco hike — I climbed the pass of Punta Union, the hardest leg of the whole expedition. With the 2nd-night campsite of Taullipampa at 4250m (asl), and with Punta Union at 4750m, it's a fairly intense 500m climb. The weather still wasn't too good this morning: so although the area was snow-covered (unusual for this time of year), visibility was quite poor — a shame, since this spot is meant to offer the best views on the whole hike. Anyway, was good to reach the top of the pass, and was good to descend to the other side.
Big surprise, this being a hike and all: but funnily enough, today consisted of a lot more walking. Extremely flat all morning, then up and down after lunch. Today's walk finished off the first part of this hike, which consists of following the Santa Cruz river valley upstream, from west to east. Also had some amazing views of snow-capped mountains in the afternoon, when I ascended to the Alpamayo lookout area: the mountains around here are just something else.
After more than three months, I've now completed a massive circuit of Andean South America, covering southern Peru, western Bolivia, and northern Chile. As of today, the loop is complete, and I'm back to square one: Lima. This was my first stop in South America, back on Apr 1st; and Chris and I have finally managed to drag ourselves away from the paradise resort of Huacachina, and to get on up here. So far, Lima's looking OK. I think I'm going to have more fun here this time, than I did on my last visit.