Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ecuador-- South of Equator

Once in Ecuador, we had 4 days to cross through to Peru.  The race was on.  We had to skip Quito this time, but that made our path pass the horse farm where I had volunteered for 3 months before returning to TN.  We stopped and said hello to Cristian, the new volunteer, the dog, and the horses.

The road through Ecuadior soars into the highlands and gets cold and cloudy as we climb through pathwork southern Ecuador, pushing for the border.

On this day, the fog, or cloud rather, was of epic proportion.  It made gave sudden fits of fright as trucks fumbled through with no lights.  One could not see more than 10ft in front of you.  This was a particularly clear moment.

This was a random stop in nowhere land.  This hotel is old and creepy, and the owner wore a Dr. Suess shirt and made his own tequila.   I puked this night from some weird food.

The same hotel, a little creepy.

Sugar cane is one of the main crops south of the US border.

We skirted out of the high mountains to find it hot and dusty, and found a tiny back road to get us back into the hills to Vilcabamba, a town famous for the longevity of its people.  I met a 99 year old man strolling up the street with a big smile.  Supposedly there was someone 127 years old.

Moments of realization and clarity come at random moments and work themselves out on the long solitary roads.

Jason, a bicyclist from England--on the road for 21 months so far.

These effigies are made by everyone, all over Ecuador for burning at midnight on the New Year.

Alfredo and the family from D.C.

This New Year´s Eve morning, we loaded our things and took off for the run to the border.  My back wheel turned from the slightest wobble to a full on shake.  We turned around and found the culprit.
Destroyed wheel bearings.  This was the day before we needed to be out of the country, New Year´s Day, the end of the race.  Vilcabama is a small town far off the main road.  Stores would close at midday and remain closed through the next day and possibly the next.  This was a disasterous blow after such a hard push through Ecuador.  The owner of the hotel walked us around the small town calling people for our needed part. With no luck, we hired a taxi for the next big town, 45 minutes away.  It was already midday.  Paying $7, the taxista flew to the city of Loja and dropped us on the doorstep of a name we had written on a cigarette pack from our search in Vilcabamba.  He was closing the shop when we arrived.  He looked at the shambled part, turned around, grabbed a brand new one, charged me $9, and that was it.  That easy.  That lucky.  "Pissin rainbows" is the term.  We tranquilly rode back laughing, replaced the part and joined in the festivities of the turn of the New Year, 2012.

In the town square, on the steps of the church, the speakers blared and people danced in the New Year, til 5am.

At midnight, the burning began.  On almost every street corner on the grid of streets, the effigies rose in flames and people, young and old, jumped through the licking fires burning off the dirt from the last year.

The next morning we rode, bound to the border.  It was much longer than we thought...

...and much more technical from all the mud and landslides.  We were running out of gas at one point deep in the mountains.  We asked around and found a house that distributed for that part of the valley.  They said they had nothing, but we called it a bluff and pleaded a bit.  They drained the drips from the tank and then siphoned the gas out of their own motorcycle.  We were saved.

This ride was the last run of the umbrella.  It broke, Mike lost it, I found it, then I lost it.  Needless to say, there were some bumps.


Living the border dream after an incredibly long day.  Happy New Year, from the gutter, again.

We are the first and second visitor at this border for 2012.  This is also the first time we have ever checked ourselves into a country.  The guy couldn´t see the papers.  The race was hard won, 9pm in the darkness.   Welcome to PERU!