Just a few days of rest in Pasto were enough for Julien to be sick again. Probably for the sixth time of the all trip. The stomach still gurgling, we left the city and took the Pan-American Highway for the first time. This is the main axis North-South stretching across the American continents and measuring about 30,000 kilometres in total length. The road is busy, noisy, polluted and with a lot of construction sites. On the first climb we met Jorge, Ecuadorian cycling champion 30 years ago, who passed us on his vintage bike.
After a long day of cycling on asphalt, we arrived in San Juan, exhausted, and had to take a decision. Either we were sleeping there, in a noisy hotel near the busy road, either we would finish climbing to Las Lajas where we wanted to visit the famous Sanctuary. We gathered our courage and start climbing again on a dirt road. We finally arrived in Las Lajas and had soup and rice for dinner as our stomach weren’t completely healed.
Las Lajas Sanctuary is a Gothic Revival style church built inside a canyon of the Guáitara river. This Roman Catholic church is dedicated to the veneration of Our Lady of Las Lajas Ipiales. It is famous for its stunning architecture and a series of legends involving the appearance of the Holy Virgin and a mysterious mural of which nobody knows the origins.
The next day we finally crossed the border of Ecuador, after 2 months and 1800 km.