Sickness (and cheating)

24 08 2007

So it turns out I really really should have spent an extra day in Palanda. I woke with a slight fever and thought I would be ok. I talked to the locals – the road to Zumba is all downhill – confirmed by the map. The fact that Palanda didn’t have internet sealed the decision (what was I going to do all day?).

So I left. I wasn’t feeling great, but 50km, downhill – how hard can it be?

Let’s just say it wasn’t one of my finest decisions. It turns out that a map with a contour interval of 800m (I previoulsy thought it was 600m for some reason) can hide some seriously big annoyances. I walked up the first. Struggeled up the next few amd ended up climbing over 800m before practically passing out, 5-10 km from Zumba. The original plan had been to ride until the bike broke. Well, today the body broke. Anyone who’s whinged about having diarreah on a bus should try it on a bike. True, you can stop as often as you like, but in the jungle, for goodness sake, avoid the stinging nettle.

I hitched a lift up the last 4-500m piece of hell (or hill in other languages). I stashed my bike and bags in the back of a Coke truck, and sat up front in the cab, trying to stay consious and talk to the driver. So, for those with bets on, I’ve failed – already.

In Zumba, I ate a little, and passed out. Later that arvo I drank a few litres, was completely hydrated, but had a massive headache. A 2 Panadol headache, with another later (and for those that know me…). I thought maybe I had somehow got Malaria (still had a fever) and realised it was too quick in the jungle. Then I fantasised about some type of Encephalitis – yes it really hurt that bad. In the end the only thing I could do was sleep, so I did.

I didn’t die (well not yet). I slept most of the next day in the (very warm and very sleepy) town of Zumba. No internet here either (until Tuesday I was assured). So read all day, and most of the night.

Woke up this morning realising that the Diarreah still hasn’t gone (I thought it had twice, but then realised I just hadn’t eaten anything more than bread for a day or so). I think it might be Giardiah. The stomache cramps and flatulence seem to fit the bill, but I think I’ve lost some weight – I can’t honestly tell if my stomache is swollen and tight, or if that’s just my abs in the way (wow, that must sound conceited – ladies! feel my rock hard stomache!).

So I jumped on a bus to get into Peru. And here I am. No cycling today. Pity – the road today looked like a nice section to ride… if you are a masochist. The Ecuadorians think that contours are for Peruvians, and the Peruvians think that road maintenance is for Equadorians. I hope they can get it together when I get back on the bike.

I’ll give the sickness a few more days, and then BLAM! I’ll hit it with both barrels of the chemical warefare I’m carrying around in my first aid kit. If I can get off the computer (here in San Ignacio Internet is fast, and only 1sole (US$0.30) per hour – cheap except I have bugger all cash left and the next ATM is – hopefully- 125km down the road – the real reason I left Zumba on a bus – I would have prefered to ride)





Vilcabamba

24 08 2007

I had a pretty easy day when I left Loja. After running around almost all morning looking for a fax machine (don’t ask), I sorted it out and left late – after the rain thank goodness. Straight away it was uphill. Great.
But then… The road was so new they were still laying it in places. And the day was almost totally downhill. Can you believe it? Until the end, when there was a sharp climb. But still a very enjoyable, err… roll.

Vilcabamba is in the “Valley of the Centenarians”. I suspect they live so long because they sleep all day. The day I was there it was completely deserted (you could blame the festival on Loja if you wanted to).

Next day I continued on my trip south (now off the beaten track). In fact I left the tar as well. Riding on dirt allmost all day. But that’s ok, because it was only 80km. Except by 40km I had risen 2km – ¿who put that moutain there? And then suddenly the rain forest appeared. I stopped and checked my map. No, I’m still in the Andes. It appears I may have gone over the Andes and ended up in the Amazon. Woops. At least it’s lower here, and much (much) warmer. So pleasant in fact that I almost stayed another day in the small town of Palanda.





On ya!

19 08 2007

So from Cuence it’s due south on the Panamericana. I heard there was a fiesta in Loja all weekend, so I thought I’d rock up on Sunday night. Turns out there’s nothing at all going on here, especially no restaurants. But I’m hungry!!!

So last night I stopped about half way at a town called Oña. Pronounced Onya. I had several blog entries written in my head today (including one that made fun of the guy who told me it was a short climb into Oña – short, yeah right, you should try riding it… On ya!). But my legs are too sore all cramped in this cubicle to bother with it.

The road through the mountains is much harder than the coast road, but I chose to stay here to keep away from the desert. Riding though hundreds of kilometers of sand isn’t terribly intersting. It’ll happen eventually, but not just yet.

The mountains are definately getting smaller. Today I´m sleeping at only 2100m. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean the road is any flatter – again today I combined 100km with over 2km of rise. And now my legs hurt and I’m hungry. Time to find food.





Cuenca

17 08 2007

So the story goes on. Riding in “Los Andes” is never flat – surprisingly. I think the road builders knew the concept of contouring, but the land is so bumpy that is just impractical. So from Guamote, the road goes up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down. You get the idea. In one day I rode myself into the ground heading for Zhud, a place I knew there was no accomodation. So I arrived in the mist and cold, and ended up out the back of a store on the floor of a, well, almost a prison cell. But it was dry, warm and meant I didn´t have to camp in the rain. I was grateful. (this is where photos come in handy). Oh, and riding myself into the ground equates to 120km. That sounds pathetic, but if you add the elevation change was 2500m, it gets better. I think that´s a bit like (for Adelaide folks) riding down from Blackwood to Glenelg, up to Mt Lofty, down again, up to Mt Lofty, down again, and back home. With gear. No wonder I was buggered.

The next day I was kinder to my body as my target was Cuenca, only 90km away (or 70, 100 or 198 if you believe the street signs, which to be honest bear only a passing semblance to reality). The only problem was there was a pass at at miserable 3500m in the way. Which would have been fine if the clouds hadn´t converged, the wind sprung up, and rain started. It was 6°C at the top (gotta love gadgets that tell you these things). It wasn´t all that bad really until I could start to feel my feet and fingers. Then it just hurt. But I managed to keep my torso warm, and avoid getting sick. I don´t know if I´ve thanked Tim enough for the leg warmers – they have been in constant use the last few days, and kept me from getting too cold. So thanks again Bro.

So I made it to Cuenca. I think most cyclists head down to the coast from here and make pretty good time across the desert. I´m not decided yet. If the weather doesn´t clear, I may do the same. Otherwise I may try and slog through the mountains for a bit longer. I´ve been on buses across the desert already and realise that it will be pretty dull on a bike. I´ll see how it looks mañana.

Cuenca is a bit weird. A bit like Quito. Another big city where the shutters are closed on a good percentage of shops all day, and everything is closed at about 8pm. Totally unlike what I saw of Peru, but this seems to be a common theme in Ecuador. I´ve walked around, and around. It´s a nice enough place, but there seems to be a lack of tourists at the moment (scared away by the weather perhaps?). I´ll be off again tomorrow (and hence off the internet for another few days). Expect another barrage on the blog when I return to civilisation.





Volcano Tungurahua

16 08 2007

Well, now I have been on two active Volcanoes. This time I didn´t get inside the crater, but it was far more scarey. The main road from Baños to Riobamba is suppose to be open. The bus driver told me they drive along it. The locals had other ideas, and told me it was definately shut. So who to believe?

I thought I´d go check it out. It turned out the road was indead cut, by a thumping great canyon. Seriously, this was huge. But I´d ridden about an hour uphill, and I could see a foot path crossing the canyon, and whats more a single set of tyre tracks going the right way. I though, well, if someone else can do it, why can´t I? So I unloaded the bike, a pnnier in each hand, two backpacks on, and headed down the canyon. At about that time, I heard the volcano erupt, and I thought “bugger me if this isn’t clearly a lava path”, so I high-tailed it out of there. The mountain calmed a bit, and I scratched my head. Eventually I plucked up the courage to try again, rationalising that the mountain hadn’t erupted in almost 12 months, and it was unlikely to get me today. It turns out I was right, and managed to haul the bags and bike across in two trips. (Kevin and Catherine may remember the canyons on the Volcano in Africa, those really deep holes made be water run-off in the mud – thats the sort of thing I´m talking about). In the photo above you can just see the white bike for scale. After putting it all together, I rode down the track, and around the corner to find…. a second canyon. Well, I wasn´t going back now, so off came the bags, and again I carried everything across. This time the track was far less scarey, but a slip at the wrong point would have been (avert your eyes mother) at least several broken bones (the drop was well over 50m at one point – but it was safe enough).

Ok, I though, patting myself on the back, that was something not everone will do. And no doubt they have more brains than me, and will listen to the locals.

>So, on I go. Some of the locals look at me a little strangely, and tell me the path onward is blocked. ho ho ho, little do they know that I am a hardy adventurer that can… holy crap, another canyon. Ok, so now I know the drill. Bags off, carry, carry, bags on, away we go. That one was more annoying and slow than dangerous. Some donkeys coming the other way, that looks like a better way to go. Quick chat, go right then left. Thanks. Down to the level of the river cutting the valley. Ahhh. There can be now more trouble now. What? What is this? Oh, just a mud flow, which doesn´t cause too many problems, except the bike tyres sink and the going is really tough. Follow the motorbike tracks, and bike tyre tracks – surely there can be no more trouble. If motorbikes can get here…. Well, they could get here – before the bridge was washed away.

Oh dear, this canyon is a major hassle. The route down isn´t a huge problem – I just tied a rope to the bike and lowered it down. Getting down there was a bit more of a challenge, but my (limited) climbing skills were adequate. Three trips down to ferry the panniers and bags, etc, then to think about up. Oh crikey. The closest I can describe it would be the worst parts of the Western Arthurs, but with a bike slung across your shoulder. And rather large drops if the mud decided to give way. By the end of this canyon, my nerves were shot, the day was coming to a close, I was miles and miles short of my destination, and it was impossible to turn around. So I kept going.

To find… (you´ll never guess – go on, you´ll never get it).

Another canyon where the road should be. Well, the fun never ends. This one should be easy to cross… Oh, a land slip has taken the path away. Which means. Oh, I´ll have to make a new one by climbing to side of the canyon and… Oh never mind, just believe me when I say it was tough, I´m a hero, and I´m glad it is over.

I finally met some locals just before dark, and I asked them how far it was to Riobamba. The nice guy told me about 10mins in a car, or an hour on the bike. That sounded reasonable to me, I had been going all day on a reasonably short section of road. They offered to walk  me down the road for some rreason, and showed me the best way to cross – yes, you guessed it – another canyon. The last, they assured me (wrongly).

Well, I was done, physically, and emotionally, so I asked if I could camp somewhere and beg some water. They agreed, and insisted that I stay inside their house. Great people – they didn´t have much, but we chatted while my rice cooked. Well, they chatted, I pretented to understand (and got some of it).

I forgot to mention the noise the volcano makes. All day, the top of the mountain / volcano was covered in cloud but I could here a noise like an airport, every few minutes a 747 would rumble away up there. It is a rather unique experience. Apparently you can see the lava spouting when the clouds are gone. Pity the clouds stayed all day and night (and the next day).

So I left my host (his wife had left on some errand at 5:30am – I´m not thet keen). I takled the last (supposedly) canyon, and headed off down the muddy road on my 1 hour (I thought 2) gentle ride into Riobamba. Eventually the road turned to tar and I started hooting along. Until a river, and a bridge which was (wait for it…) broken. Well, not exactly broken, but the river had wased away the road at one end of the bridge – the bridge itself was standing, but the road didn´t get to the end of the bridge. Fortunately this only required filling in the hole with rocks, a task some trucks were performing as I arrived.

This incident highlighted two things. 1 – never ride at night. There was a whopping hole in the road, fully 5m across which would have swollowed any bike, motorbike or car – and no indication that it was there. No tape across the road, no cones, no flashing lights. A little dangerous. There was a few trees layed across the hole to allow foot traffic (and bikes to be carried across).
And 2. The Ecuadorians have different standards. The council dump trucks that were filling in this hole were rather old, but functional. Except for the truck that had its tray collapse onto its right wheel and jam the whole thing up (and hold up the other trucks trying to do their thing). So the front end loader was called, and simply dragged the thing away, still full of rubble. I´ve no idea how they fixed it, but I can almost guarantee that the dump truck would have been back in service in a few hours.

Well, now the road had cars and trucks on it, so I knew (for sure) that there were no more holes in the road. Thank goodness. So after an hour I would be having breakfast, right? Ok, so maybe after 3, and 34kms of uphill slog, Riobamba came into view. I was so underwhelmed by that point I pointed the bike toward the Panamericana and kept riding. Uphill. The sun finally came out – and I got burnt. The temperature climbed to 36°C, and was down as low as 11°C with the clouds covering the sky. And it rained again. At least it didn´t rain when I was trying to cross the volcano.

Once I´d climbed out of Riobamba, the road leveled, then decended to Guamote, a place special only because it was at the end of a long day for me. I couldn´t be bothered looking for accomodation, so I asked the Bomberos (firemen) if they knew where I could stay. With them of course! So I stayed in the fire station, ate like a horse, showered and slept. A lodging I may use again 😉

Ahhh! There is so much to write!

I guess the upshot is, when I start to whinge about how sore my butt is, or the weather is crap and why did I choose to ride this damn thing, it´s days like that that make this an adventure.

There is more, but it will have to wait, the internet kiosk is being noisily closed. And my butt really hurts from sitting on this plastic stool.

26-8-07 Added some photos:





Baños

16 08 2007

Unfortunately Baños was a dissapointment. It rained, and rained and rained. So I went and soaked in a hot spring for about 3 hours.

This time I failed to pass out on completion of the soaking (Wendy will know what I mean, about a certain bath in Japan). Actually, Wendy probably doesn´t even know about this site, so I shouldn´t worry about that.

The main point is that when it is raining, and raining hard, in Baños, there is bugger all to do. Except hang out with Gringos.





No luck

12 08 2007

Last night the computer froze and deleted my latest witty, inspiring, and deftly written post. So you’ll have to make do with this cobbled together replacement. I’m still reeling over the USB drive crashing, so I think my run of luck with computers may be coming to an end.

I rode south. Up a hill, it got dark, I camped in the back yard of someone right next door to the national park (there was supposed to be a campsite there, but I made do). It rained on me.
The next day I got up and it was raining. I rode down hill – down 1800m that is, mostly in the rain and drizzle. Then I got to Baños. It was raining there. I was tired, but my room mate decided to go out for the night, and proceeded to keep me awake. I woke up this morning a little tired, and guess what? It’s raining. Not drizzle though, serious rain. I got al kitted up and had breakfast, and realised that it would be foolish to head out into that. So Baños gets the pleasure of my company for one more day.

I’m told it is nice here – that is when it isn’t raining. I’ll don the goretex and head out for a while, but it just isn’t pleasant.

This is supposed to be the dry season! What is going on with this world?





Almost a new way to go

10 08 2007

Well, a bit happened in the last few days – so much I haven’t even been on the net.

I spent a morning with John looking for motorbikes in Quito. As I’ve said before, this is a strange town. There is a complete absence of a second hand market in motorbikes. The few that I could find were ridiculously overpriced (not much less than new and beaten up terribly). So after an hour or so of helpful phone calls  John, I decided not to buy a cheap Chinese import (if a dealer tells you the brake master cylinder is dodgy, and the bikes are not put together well over the phone you should reconsider getting one to ride across the continent). So the bike was out.

John then took me to  a Land Rover repair guy who had a few Series 3 ´Rovers for sale. Considering these are early ’80’s cars, they were is remarkable condition. I was sorely tempted, I had even sussed out the paperwork required, and it was all possible. What a change that would be, from a bike to a car in an hour or so.

After a few minutes consideration, I decided that that is a trip I would love to do, but not this time. So it was back to a motorbike or buses. Until I met a Dutch cyclist who had just come from Ushuia. That was rather unfortunate. I started talking to him about the route, etc, and complaining that I couldn’t find the panniers, racks, etc here otherwise I might do the return leg of his journey. I got seriously keen again on the bike idea (and much to my mothers disappointment I’m sure) changed my mind again. I bought his front panniers, and his bike computer, and stole a few of his ideas re route. Meeting someone like this was a serious coincidence (I later found out that a Swiss couple going from Ushuia to Canada had passed through 2 days ago – I saw them ride past me, but didn’t stop them to talk. I also met a Belgian couple who had finished a Buenos Aires to Quito tour yesterday – perhaps there are more cyclists than I thought.)

Well, to cut a long story short (anyone who has been shopping with me will agree that it a long process) I eventually bought a new Orbea bike. I found some pannier racks after a great deal of searching. I’ve bought the best saddle and gloves I could find – hopefully this trip doesn’t destroy me.

And yesterday I rode to the equator, only 25km north. The trip has to at least start at the equator. I didn’t take all of my gear, but a fair portion of it. And I can tell you now – the hills / mountains will be all sorts of fun 🙂

And today I may or may not leave Quito. It’s 10am, I haven’t packed and I don’t really know which route I should take. Perhaps I’ll just go a short distance.

It’s a damn long way to Ushuia. 12000kms. I´ve come 25. Perhaps 6 or 7 months. To be honest, it is a little daunting. But hey, I’ve got nothing else I should be doing. This is going to be a hell of a trip 🙂





Ecuador

3 08 2007

Where was I?

I left Huaraz, having felt like I’ve spent enough time there. It is pretty good, but the rest of the continent awaits! I went to Trujilo again, and left a few days later, nothing new since the last visit. I went to Mancora, a place similar to Huanchaco in that it is by the sea. Except the warm Pacific current meets the coast here and it is possible to go swiming. Which I did. And sat on the beach, and took in the sun. There is little else to do, and I was keen to leave in the end.

I spent a few days longer than expected in Mancora, 4 nights in all, after meeting some more gringos and just hanging out. But I made up for that yesterday. With another guy (Pete the Irish) we caught a bus from Peru into Ecuador, managed to talk our way onto the bus going further, and then decided to take a night bus to Quito. So in 20 hours we have gone from northern Peru, to the capital of Ecuador. And now we are both buggered. I could really do with some sleep – once this update, emails replied to and the food situation sorted, that’s what I’ll do. Food is especially important today – yesterday I had a bug of some sort and spent the best part of 6 hours throwing my guts up. I think I’m good now – buses can be more pleasant.

So, I made it to Quito. This is meant to be the furthest north I go before heading south. I’ve been reconsidering the bike trip idea – since buses are so plentiful, cheap and go almost everywhere I may can the whole idea completely. Or convert to a motorbike. We’ll see in thje next few days – I’ll hang around Quito for a bit and see what happens.