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Our second foray into Quito took us into the old town. Tom, who had missed all the sloth sightings in Costa Rica, finally saw one for real!

After 15km of classic Ecuadorian cobbles heading up from Sangolquí past Rumipamba, Sarah spots a volcano and accelerates

Gravity has lost its hold. With Cotopaxi beckoning, Sarah can't be caught!

Just as we reach the "top", near Lago Limpiopungo, we meet Hideki and stop to chat. He's riding north, sporting handmade rear panniers and improvised racks to fit on his front suspension fork with bits of wood bracing the rear rack. We give him directions and printed-out maps to Tumbaco, and our spirits are lifted by his enthusiasm

We found Dagmar and Mete stopping a cycle glove escape attempt at a stream on the way down from Cotopaxi. They were on their way into the park, and are heading south like we are. We hope to meet again!

Having spent a handful of km on the Panamericana we escaped onto the Quilotoa Loop. At camp o'clock we even managed to find a spot with llamas and a view of Cotopaxi (photo S.Hedges)

The view wasn't bad the next morning either!

The road to Sigchos passes the twin peaks of Volcanes Iliniza with a paved swoop before the inevitable grind back up complicated by gusts of wind and dust

The road from Sigchos to Chugchilán is very user-friendly. A well-packed dirt road that contours along the valley wall. At one point we both got locationally confused - it looked Australian, and smelt Australian... There were gum trees everywhere! Non-native eucalypts are the most common tree-type in a largely deforested Ecuador

The weather smiled brightly upon us. Great scenery, nicely contoured riding, extraordinarily friendly locals and almost no traffic - much smiling and happiness heading for Lago Quilotoa

After part of a morning spent chasing the wind round the final hairpins of the climb, we arrived at Lago Quilotoa. After being refunded the park entry fee because the woman at the kiosk didn't have $1 change for a $5 note, we sat on the rim and soaked in the sunshine

Getting back to Latacunga from Zumbahua is beset by heavy road-building traffic. The challenge was to stay upright with the gusty wind, keep on the road, and not breathe in too much dust. Thankfully, the worst was mostly down-hill!

At the end of a day of iPod spanish lessons on the Panamericana and a less than happy episode where we had to buy Sarah's cycle computer back from the dodgy blokes who'd taken it while our back were turned for a couple of minutes in Ambato, we were directed onto the "old road to Guaranda". Minimal traffic, gap-toothed smiles and a paved road that climbed gently along this steep-walled gorge cheered us up no end!

At the end of a day of iPod spanish lessons on the Panamericana and a less than happy episode where we had to buy Sarah's cycle computer back from the dodgy blokes who'd taken it while our back were turned for a couple of minutes in Ambato, we were directed onto the "old road to Guaranda". Minimal traffic, gap-toothed smiles and a paved road that climbed gently along this steep-walled gorge cheered us up no end!

The road emerges into the paramo, and supposedly there's a volcano in there somewhere... Chimborazo is 6310m, and because it's not far from the equator is actually further from the centre of the earth than K2 (according to reliable sources!)

The barren, wind-swept slopes of Chimborazo are home to Vicuñas, a lithe and wild version of the more fluffy llamas

More Vicuñas, and some "sunny intervals", but still no big snowy volcano...

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