After leaving Ed behind to recieve regular medical treatment the team set off with a new member. This was a guide (Don Lucio) who had been recomeneded by some friends and claimed to know a route from Cuenca to Loja that would take "no more than 3 days." If the team could get down to Loja in this amount of time the whole trek would be back on track....
The horses were loaded into a van to take them across Cuenca but it soon became apparent that this was not a horse truck as Capricho lost his footing. After a foot of sawdust had been added the team loaded up and went in the direction of the guides house. However, disaster struck again when Noah got both feet stuck in the ramp when he was getting off. Nick was soon under the truck and managed to slowly edge both feet free of the metal. A great sense of relief was felt by all when he managed to put a bit of pressure on his back legs again. His leg was then bandaged up and the decision was made to lead Noah to the next town of Cumbe.
After a hard days ride we entered Cumbe and after a bit of confusion about where to stay (on the part of the new guide) a camping spot was eventually sourced. Noahs legs were looking a bit better the following day but Nick wanted to get a second opinion before he had to cover another 40kms. Mauricio, a friend who had taken great care of us in Cuenca kindly drove down with new vet supplies and the decision was made that Noah could carry on.
Nick and Phil began to think there was a problem with the guide after they spent most of the next day following the Pan American road. The original fear was that this road would be incredibly busy but this was not the case. Another long day of riding took the team to LA PAZ (Ecuador). The new guide redeemed himself by finding us a place to stay and plenty of grass for the horses. Nick and Phil were now hoping that the guide would show them the fantastic short cut to Loja but this was not going to be the case... With tempers slightly on edge the guide was given his marching orders and taken to the nearest bus stop. He was very happy to recieve half of what we had originally offered to pay him.
Nick and Phil now thought that this was the best time to leave the Pan American and make their own way to their next stop in Ona. After riding through some stunning landscapes they made it to Ona. Here they met a very kind lady called Marlena. After been given a lesson in how to cut alfalfa for the horses and with the horses all fed and watered the team sat down for a well deserved meal in the restaurant.
Once again Mauricio and Ed drove down with the new supply of maps and a change of clothes for the team. They were also able to take away the now redundant saddle. Ed had now been told that he needed to stay in Cuenca for the next two weeks to let his leg recover. This was a blow to us all but we all hope that with a good amount of rest he will be fit to ride when they reach Peru. He is also able to provide valuble support to the team and arrange plans for the border crossing and arrival their in Peru.
The team then made their way to Saraguro and decided that after covering a large distance in only a few days it would be an ideal location for a rest day. After arriving in Saraguro and finding out that the pre arranged contact wanted a small fortune for the grazing the team quickly found an alternative. The horses got a well deserved day off with plenty of feed and water. However, concerns were growing about the pack horses as all the horses had now shown signs of sores at points.
A new packing technique was tried and with both Nick (struck down by another bout of diarrhoea) and the horses feeling a bit better the team started the final 75kms to Loja. After finding a track off the Pan Americana and riding through a couple of local fiestas the team found an idillic camping spot next to a river.
Well rested, they made the final descent into Loja. After navigating the horses around some busy roundabouts they made it safely to the football pitch of their contact, Rolando. It is here that the team plan on taking two days off for both themeselves and the horses to recover.
The final descent to the border starts on Wednesday..
Distance covered from Cuenca to Loja = 222 kms.¨"3 days" my .........