Ecuador

Day 45/164: Macara to Las Lomas – 61km

Up 600 meters (turned out to be 700), and down 1,100 meters.

I had a reasonable sleep, with the usual roosters dawn chorus competition of course – but at least they waited until about 5am!

We had a nice short day, allowing plenty of time for the border crossing. We set off about 6:30am with 9 kilometres to ride to the border. School is back in and at 6:30 the children are arriving for school. A number of utes and small trucks arrive with their back-trays crammed with school children.

Welcome to Peru - where the old bridge used to be (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Welcome to Peru – where the old bridge used to be (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Getting out of Ecuador was pretty quick, then across to the Peru border counter. This took ages as they had a network issue, so the line seemed to hardly move.

The queue for Immigration (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The queue for Immigration (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting at the border (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Waiting at the border (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

While we were waiting in the line we noticed a puppy that was about 4-5 months wake up, stretch, then wander over and start gnawing on the handle bars of one of the rider’s bike. When the puppy was yelled at he moved down to the saddle bag and started gnawing that, and when yelled at again he slinked off to find mischief elsewhere.

Then a healthy adult goat appears and wanders up and down the road chewing on plants.

Finally the queue starts to move and our passports are stamped. We still have to wait around for the dinner truck to go through in case they want to search the bags, so we go to get a drink while we wait. Next thing Mr Goat appears again, and trots into a restaurant across the road confidently like he has a reservation! Then suddenly he see the owner, and he’s off down the road at rapid speed with the owner throwing stones after him. I suspect he has had enough success in the past with this manoeuvre to make the risk worthwhile. The dinner truck is waved through and we are off.

Welcome to Peru, on the new bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Welcome to Peru, on the new bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Immediately you can tell we are in a differently country, the people look different, the houses are different, and there no yellow taxis. There are Tuk Tuk’s galore (motorbike in front and covered seats behind) as well as some white ute taxis. The country is very dry here, you can tell we are not far from the desert with cactus and dry dirt roads, and houses without grass.

A Tuk Tuk

A Tuk Tuk

The local taxis (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The local taxis (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The people are more friendly than in Ecuador. A number smiled and waved at us. There are a number of loose donkeys grazing at the side of the road, and herds of goats. Unlike in Ecuador they are not tied up.

We had rolling hills which are great as you can get up the hill quite a way with the momentum from coming down. As it was only a 60 kilometre ride I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. I am also concentrating on changing to smallest gears as late as possible and changing up as soon as I can. On rolling hills you can do this as you know you will soon have the downhill to recover.

There are lots of dogs, at one shop I saw about 11 dogs, and some quite large dogs, milling around. Thankfully none so far (bar one very small dog with big dog aspirations) have been aggressive.

The town where we are staying is basically a town square with some surrounding shops. It is very hot and dry. We are staying tonight at Salon Communal Santa Isabel, which is the community centre, so tent city again! But the other option is outside in the beating down sun, on a patch of dirt, in 38 degrees heat and possibly will get hotter.

Tent City

Tent City

A number of the locals have lined up outside the building to watch our goings on with great interest. There are adults sitting on the tuk tuks, and children milling around the door.

Taxi drivers watching us (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Taxi drivers watching us (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Passers by stop to watch (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Passers by stop to watch (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After getting the tent sorted I went off into town to find a cash flow, and a cold beer. The cash flow worked ok, thankfully, as I suspect it is the only one in this town. I have had some problems in some other towns where some cash flow machines don’t work and others do. The machine only gave $100 dollar notes which are too big to cash in most of the shops. So I went into the bank, which has an interesting system where you don’t queue in a line or at the teller, you sit in a seat and as each person gets served you move up one seat.

Playing musical chairs at the bank (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Playing musical chairs at the bank (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I had a cold beer and then returned to the camp site to get my clothes to have a shower – the restaurant down the road was letting us use their shower. The restaurant also has wifi. I had a shower, but despite trying a number of times did not manage to get onto the wifi.

The place where we are staying has no running water, and the toilet has to be flushed by using a bucket, and pulling the water up from a well.

By dinner time there were about 30 townspeople gathered around watching us eat with great interest.

Dinner was Israeli couscous, beef stew, and broccoli.

Locals watching dinner preparation

Locals watching dinner preparation

Advertisements
Categories: Ecuador, Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 42/164: Rest day in Loja

Even though it was a rest day I was wide awake at 5 am. I lay there until about 6:30 trying not to wake up Sue or Jackie who I was sharing with. I decided I would get up quietly and go and sit downstairs and use my iPad until the restaurant opened at 7. Unfortunately I could not find my glasses or iPad in the dark, and ended up disturbing them both :/.

I had breakfast at the hotel, caught up on some emails, then headed off into town to find the bike shop to buy some riding glasses. The bugs and the glare have made the past couple of days a pain not having any. Luckily I bought a cycling cap in Medellin which sits under the helmet and the peak provides some protection against the glare. I got two pairs of glasses from the bike shop, they were USA $57 each which is less translated into NZ $ than I would pay at home. The shop had a great selection of biking components, probably the best of any shop so far. By the time I left it was like a riders meeting at the shop.

After that I went off to look around the town. There were some interesting murals on a couple of the street corners that I took photos of. Then I went to Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja which is a building where the entry to the city used to be, built in 1571.

Puerto de Entrada Ala Giudad de Loja ( entrance way historically to Loja now in middle of city )

Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja – the historic entrance way to Loja, which is now in the middle of the city

Another view

Another view of Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja

View of Puerta de Entrada Ala Giudad de Loja from the other side

View of Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja from the other side

I climbed up to the clock tower where I got some great views of the city. I then had a look around the markets and walked around a few squares.

Markets in Loja

Markets in Loja

Street in Loja

Street in Loja

I went into one church on a main square where the statue of the Virgin Mary had been carried to the night before. The church was beautiful inside but I quickly realised they were actually having a catholic mass so backed out again quickly.

Took a photo of the Convento Fermoisaito. (Editor’s note: I could not find any reference on the internet to anything spelled even remotely similar to this (or the way Kaye has spelled it below) – if anyone can shed a light on what the building is actually called, that’d be fab . . .) (Editor’s update: Thanks to everyone who sent through a comment or email about this – the consensus seems to be that it is actually Iglesia de San Francisco (Loja) – and the statue is of Alonso de Mercadillo, the founder of the city).

Convento Fermoisaitonin

Convento Fermoisaitonin

Another view

Another view

In the square was a bus full of military, I thought “Not more protests?”, but no they must have just been there for crowd control the night before.

Interesting mural in the streets

Interesting mural in the streets

Another mural

Another mural

I really enjoyed looking around the town but decided it was time to head back to the hotel. I had some lunch across the road from the hotel, then headed back to catch up on the blog and sort out my bags ready to leave again tomorrow. Rather than stay in the room I went down to the bar to use my iPad.

I managed to skype Kelly and have a quick chat with Lucy :). The service in the bar was pretty hopeless, Ray one of the riders had been trying for 40 minutes to get a drink, and in the end he went in and poured his own.

The update on Phil was pretty much the same: he was talking, but confused and still stable but serious.

The laundry was meant to be back by 2pm, then 5 pm – a number of us were getting concerned that it would not be back before we left and we had no riding gear! The hotel staff reassured us that it would be back, and it was the laundry that they used, and sure enough much to our relief it arrived back about 6pm.

A number of us had organized to have dinner at the hotel restaurant as we wanted to get the chocolate soufflé again. We had a new rider join us here – Emma – and she joined us for dinner. Emma is a student nurse from the UK, and has just finished her second year training, she is going to be a paediatric nurse. Emma is the youngest tour rider here at 22, and is with us for 6 weeks.

Sadly the restaurant was out of chocolate soufflé 😦 but we still had a nice meal.

Then it was off to bed, ready to be up at 5am again. We have two more days in Ecuador, then we go to Peru.

There seems to be a lot more money, and spread more evenly, in Ecuador than there was in Colombia. I say this because the houses are a better standard. There are some really flash houses, but even the most humble houses are a much better standard. The roads are also mainly better quality.

I have seen more snakes here, mainly in the middle of the road squashed, but a couple just lying on the road, chilling in the sun. I certainly am no longer ducking off the road into the bushes, but instead I am waiting for petrol stations or shops with toilets (Bano).

We have a 7 day stretch of riding before the next rest day. Six of the riding days I am confident I will be able to ride the whole day.

Howard Johnson Hotel where we are staying

Howard Johnson Hotel where we are staying

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 41/164: Yantzaza to Loja – 104km

2,732 up and 1,537 down . 104 k

I enjoyed getting up and not having to get dressed in the tent.

Out of the past 6 riding days I have ridden 3 full days, but today I decided with a 2,732 metre climb that I was only going to ride to lunch, which was about 60 kilometres. The first 40 kilometres were rolling hills. I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. Two riders, Jos and Jason, who are faster than me came past and I decided I was going to stay with them till 25 kilometres. A few times they got away on me, but I managed to catch up each time.

At 25.7 kilometres I let them go, caught my breath, had a drink and carried on. At 40 kilometres we started to climb. When I got to lunch I decided I had done enough and was going to stick with my plan to stop there. I am really pleased I did, as the climb went on for another 28 kilometres. It was steep, it got overcast, then it got misty, then it poured. A couple of the riders flagged down a ute for lift. Others arrived at the hotel wet and cold. A number of the riders were chased by aggressive dogs. One was bitten, and one had her saddle bag attacked!

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

There were some treacherous bits on the downhill, and one bit where the road dropped at one point about a foot. Sadly one of the riders – Phil from NZ – came off his bike here at speed. Thankfully one of the other riders was just behind him and made sure Phil was not moved, and organized the ambulance and contacted TDA staff etc. Phil has facial fractures and some swelling on the brain, and had to have burr holes (small drill holes into his skull) to relieve the pressure.

Phil’s condition was listed as serious but stable. Thankfully Loja, the town we were going to, was only about 10 kilometres away and has a pretty good hospital with a neurosurgeon etc. As you would expect, we were all pretty shocked and subdued, but relieved that it looked pretty definite that Phil will make a full recovery. However we are thinking that sadly it is unlikely that he be re-joining us on this tour. Phil is well liked and well known for wearing brightly coloured bike clothing, including stripy socks and a hats. Just this morning we had had photo taken as we were both wearing our NZ riding tops (Editor’s note: unfortunately the photos were of terrible quality due to “it being misty”, but luckily I managed to at least get a pic of Phil from Sue’s blog).

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops.

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

In the town where we are staying, it is the night of the annual religious pilgrimage where locals walk 70 kilometres carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. This pilgrimage has gone on for over two centuries. When they get here they will gather in the Centre Plaza to have speeches, fireworks and other celebrations, and a church service tomorrow.

The first thing when I got to the hotel was to find my daily bag which had been unloaded from the truck but was missing in action. Luckily I located it. For some reason the hotel staff had put my bag and 3 other riders bags separately in a different space – they must not have realised how many bags were being off loaded and when they realised they would not all fit in the original space they put the others somewhere else.

Next step was a shower and to get my laundry sorted, and then a snack and a beer. The laundry place a couple of blocks away is much cheaper than the hotel, and assured us our laundry would be back tomorrow.

The hotel we are staying at is called The Howard Johnson Hotel, which is part of a chain internationally, but is not one that is in NZ. It’s very nice, but the service is patchy, although friendly. We have a rest day tomorrow 😀

Heading off to have dinner with Sue and Jackie (Oz), we realised when we tried to get a taxi that they were all full of locals heading off to the square for the festivities. We did manage to flag one down eventually and went in search of a restaurant that served wine. A lot of the smaller places just serve food. We all had fillet mignon which was nice but I did not manage to convey “rare” successfully. The desert menu looked tempting but it turned out all but one of the deserts were not available.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and had desert in the hotel restaurant. They served the most amazingly delicious chocolate soufflé . Then off to bed, with no further news re Phil.

Tomorrow the plan is to have a look around the town, and buy more riding glasses. I lost a pair a few days ago, and the next day broke my spare pair.

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 40/164: Marianita to Yantzaza – 104km

1,400 meters up and 1,700 meters down.

We had a 12 kilometre uphill straight out of camp, which is not something my legs like that much. Approximately, 400 meters to climb we were told, then a big downhill and then flat and rolling hills. It was actually 14 kilometres up and 600 meters of climbing! I am pleased I did not know that at the start.

Great views! I took my time climbing and finally got to the top.

Looking down over the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down over the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Layers of mist everywhere (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Layers of mist everywhere (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I enjoyed the downhill, but have to be careful all the time because of the changing road quality. One moment it’s a good surface, the next it’s gravel or even big holes. There are signs that warn you “Hundmiento!”, but often the sign is just before the problem area without much time to slow down.

The sign

Not a place – it’s a sign that there is an uneven area of road coming up. Ranging from a small patch of gravel to a large crater. The only problem is often the sign is only just before it, so not much time to stop.

Also the dogs are more aggressive here, I had to stop going downhill as one had decided I was lunch! I had a bit of a stand-off with my bike between us before I realised that I had got between her and her puppy, and managed to walk backwards (keeping the bike between us) until she decided I was out of her territory. Apart from the dog I got downhill ok and stopped for a drink. I saw a tree that had a number of vultures sitting in it, so stopped to take a photo. There were about 40 of them in the tree I first saw them in, and surrounding trees.

The ride until lunch was a mixture of rolling hills and some ups and downs. I am riding a lot better now than at the start, as I am fitter and I have lost weight. Also the temperature is not hot and we are not at high altitude. I really enjoyed the ride from lunch to camp, as a lot of the hills I managed to get at least half way up from the momentum coming down.

We are staying at Hosteria Playa Verde. The camp is great, it looks a bit like an island resort with thatched roofs and a bar by a nice pool etc. Also great rooms. I had one with an orange theme, and the shower room is big enough to wash an elephant in.

Hosteria Playa Verde

Hosteria Playa Verde

Roughing it at Hosteria Playa Verde

Roughing it at Hosteria Playa Verde

The camp has not been that well utilized since the owner built it, but mineral mining is about to start nearby so he is expecting that business will pick up considerably.

One of the riders Eric (from France) was celebrating having ridden 25,000 kilometres in the past 12 months. Eric has done the Trans Oceania (finished Dec 14), the African ride (finished mid May) and now this ride, back to back.

Eric celebrates cycling 25,000km in 10 months (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Eric celebrates cycling 25,000km in 10 months (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Helping Eric celebrate (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Helping Eric celebrate (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We had beans and vegetables for dinner. As a result of the protest action lots of shops have not got their usual supplies.

It was very nice to go to bed in a room by myself, in clean sheets after a long shower.

Kaye and Australian Jackie (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Me and Australian Jackie (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Our camp site tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Our camp site tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The Pool Bar (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Pool Bar (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Erin on egg duty preparing for breakfast (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Erin on egg duty preparing for breakfast (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 39/164: Mendze to Marianita

The plan is to ride about 100 kilometres, and Cristano will scout out a camp, as doing the rest of yesterday and today’s ride is too much. Especially as we still have a number of riders suffering from gastro.

I slept quite well on the stage, but with unknown riding and climbing I decided to go in the lunch truck to lunch and ride from there. We had two climbs before lunch and one after. The one after was not that steep but it went on for about 25 kilometres! My legs were tired from the day before so I decided to start from lunch. 54 kilometres with a 25 kilometres hill would be plenty for me today. I was on my bike for 4 hours.

The first bit of the ride was a 15 kilometres downhill with great scenery. Then the climb. Well, it certainly went on and on and it was hot – it got up to 36 degrees! The summit had 2 false tops but finally I got to the top and coasted down to the campsite.

We are staying at a place called Marianita. We are camped on a large netball court, with a large roof overhead. One of the locals has set up an impromptu shop with beer, homemade lemonade and food.

No cellphone service again and no wifi. I got to camp at 2pm so had time to catch up on washing and get it dry. We had chicken and rice for dinner and vegetable stir fry.

The locals put on an impromptu show for us of their local dances. We gave a koha (donation) in appreciation.

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 38/164: Loberintos to Limon (or not!)

The plan was we would ride the rest of yesterday’s ride and today’s planned ride. 171 kilometres, up 2,600 and down 2,250.

Rider's meeting on the otherside of the bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Rider’s meeting on the other side of the bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I set off at 6:30am not sure if I would make the day, but to get as far as I can. There are not big hills, just endless rolling hills and it is not to hot, so pretty good riding conditions for me.

On the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

At about 35 kilometres I saw the lunch truck heading back the way we had come from. I thought maybe we forgot something or maybe a rider is having problems, and I kept riding.

I got to the town Maccas that we were meant to stay at the night before, and climbed up quite a steep hill. At the top I see one of the TDA staff waiting for me. The route through town has changed as protestors have blocked off the road through town. Lunch is where we were going to camp the night before, and then plan is to go there and wait for an update.

As I rode through town I saw the army trucks all parked along the side of the road. The lunch truck had gone back to pick up one of the riders who was a long way behind the others (Kathy who joined us in Quito). TDA wanted to make sure all the riders and staff were on the same side of the road blocks. The only problem was the lunch truck had gone back without offloading all the food. I was the last rider to lunch and there was nothing to eat as the other riders had eaten the lot, and the lunch truck was not yet back. We were not able to go back into town either. We are in no danger, so long as we don’t try to cross blocked roads. Thankfully our way is going away from the road blocks.

The plan has changed due to the time delay at lunch. We are staying at 130 kilometres instead of 171, at Mendze at a fairground. This will reduce the climbing by 750 meters 🙂 for today!

I decided not to wait for the lunch truck to come back and that I would get something to eat on the way.

I was a bit nervous about the protester action, even though it was against the government (and we all have sympathy with the protesters) so I rode with another rider to camp. The ride was ok, up and down hills. I managed ok until the last hill where my legs turned to jelly. I had been riding faster than usual. I walked and rode up the last hill.

We stopped at a shop and had a cold beer, in case there was nothing at camp. The camp was a fairground. After sleeping in tent city the night before and being woken up by other riders, I looked for other options. Four of us camped up on a stage, which was way more peaceful.

Tent City (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Tent City (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I tried to ring Lizzy to wish her happy birthday but did not get hold of her, I did manage to leave her a message.

Tomorrow we are not sure how far we are going, but we are not going to try and do the rest of today and tomorrow. Tomorrow is already 2,410 climb, without trying to add on the 750 we did not climb today. Most likely we will catch up on day four which was going to be an easy day 850 up and 70 kilometre ride.

Dinner was rice, coleslaw and beef stew. Cristiano manages to find some pretty good camp sites at the drop of a hat. We have shelter, toilets (one shower) plus a shop selling chippies and beer. Pretty good considering we were staying somewhere else a few hours ago.

A typical sort of house here in Ecuador (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A typical sort of house here in Ecuador (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 37/164: Puyo to Macas (or not!)

The day sounded great 130 kilometres: 1,650 metres of climbing and 1,545 downhill, with mostly rolling hills rather than big climbs. Sue said the weather forecast was for no rain and a temp of 16 degrees which sounded good. Finally fingers crossed I am over the gastro :D. I set off from camp with the plan to take it easy and ride the whole day. There are 6 riders in the trucks due to gastro, and 2 in varying stages of gastro riding.

The dogs in Ecuador seem a bit more aggressive than Colombia, and at about 15 kilometres I had two come running off a property and take off after me. Luckily I was on a downhill and pedalled as fast as I could! Even so I felt the breath of one of them on my calf before I finally pulled away!

The riding was good, hills but up and down. Every now and then you would come to a random unpaved section. One of the riders hit an unpaved section unexpectedly and had to be picked up by the dinner truck as they buckled their wheel when they hit it.

As I was riding along I was thinking about getting to camp that night where we were told we had wifi. It’s my daughter Lizzy’s 26th birthday today (in NZ which is a day ahead), hopefully I can skype but if not at least leave a video Skype message and text.

The view is amazing, riding down a road whilst the Amazon jungle stretches into the distance on either side of you. It’s a “Pinch myself! am I really here!?” moment. How lucky am I to experience this.

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the sign that we had ridden 64 kilometres so only 11 kilometres to lunch and halfway through the ride. I’m feeling good. I come around a corner and there is bridge and halfway over it I see the dinner truck parked next to the lunch truck and a number of riders clustered around it. Oh no what’s happened? Hope no one is hurt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s on that bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the buses with Policia and Military marking on the sides. There are protestors between here and the planned camp. We are not allowed to go any further. The Policia and military have guns and riot gear. The protestors are not from the local villages, they are from around the country and are by all accounts pretty staunch. They are prepared to fight for the cause. Our sympathies are with them, the last thing any country needs is a president elected indefinitely (which is what the current president wants to bring into law). Cristinao (I have been spelling it wrong with a h) went and spoke to the Policia to see if we can get through but no! Not even locals are allowed to get through to their homes.

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are now at a campsite at 65 kilometres waiting to see what happens overnight! Hopefully we can get through tomorrow, if not we go back to Puyo. However there is no phone coverage and no wifi so no birthday message to Lizzy :(. I had a little cry and sleep in my tent, I know she will understand but still feels bad, especially when I thought I had sorted.

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue's blog)

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue’s blog)

The owner of the camp site was carrying his pet anaconda around for people to have photos with, luckily he did not come anywhere near me.

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I think the owner is very pleased to have us, he has set up a bar, organized a walking tour to a spot of tourist interest (did not catch what it was), and fishing and then for a price he will cook your fish for you. Totally different ethos than hosteria el piguali (which I guess is the difference between staff who not share in the profits vs the owner of a place). I was going to go for a swim in the river, then I saw the sign “River snakes”! No river swim for me.

At the riders meeting, we found out the plan at the moment is to continue tomorrow, to finish today’s ride and tomorrow’s ride as well! 171 kilometres, up 2,600 meters, down 2,250 meters.

Dinner tonight was stewed sausages, pasta and nice crunchy broccoli.

Rider's meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Rider’s meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 36/164: Rest Day in Puyo

We had to be at Hosteria reception by 8am for the jungle tour Sue and I had booked. Then Mike from Scotland and Chris from Vancouver decided to come as well. Mike’s wife Katrina had fallen off her bike a couple of days ago and needed to stay behind to get her bike fixed. Chris’s partner Jackie was stuck in her room with gastro!  While we were waiting we found out a number of the other riders now also had gastro and suspected the meal the night before. Hopefully as I still taking medication I won’t get it again, and hopefully theirs will be shorter lived than mine was.

The tour driver turned up, for $50 USA we were doing a full day tour, including:

  • Walk through the jungle looking at plants, flowers and birds
  • Going to a fish growing farm
  • Lunch
  • A canoe trip
  • Walking to a viewing point where you can see the jungle stretching out for as far as the eye can see, plus the opportunity to go on a rope swing from a clift
  • Hand crafts and customs at a local village
  • Pretty good value, especially in the context of having paid $45 USA for the not very good red wine in the restaurant (about 70 NZ).
The tour driver and Chris from Vancover

The tour driver and Chris from Vancover

The first step was to the tour base in town, to get coats and gumboots. Mike bought socks for everyone from a shop across the road as gumboots with no socks is a really good way to get blisters! While we were waiting for him to come back we were watching a procession go past. The tour guide said it’s an annual pilgrimage of an indigenous tribe from the Amazon who celebrate their coming out of the forest in time of drought to Puyo. They walk 16 kilometres during the procession.

Procession in Puyo

Procession in Puyo

4677545

People in the procession

Off we set in the tour van, the first stop was a fish farm. The fish were imported from Africa, they are called Confiscadas de Crianza de Tilapias. They imported 50 fish from Africa, but only 6 of the original 50 remain, the others have died over the years for a number of reasons.

Name of the fish

Name of the fish

There are a number of fish ponds. One where the small fish to feed the bigger fish are produced. The 6 original fish are 6 years old and have only just started laying eggs. They grow to 4 meters and about 80kg, and when fully grown they sell for about $1,500 USA.  The fish are huge, and remind me a big of eels – only wider. They track your reflection on the water and move across the pond following you.

The fish - they grow up to 4 meters long, 89 kilos, and are approx 6 years old here

The fish – they grow up to 4 meters long, 89 kilos, and are approx 6 years old here

Another photo of the fish

Another photo of the fish

Owner of the fish farm

Owner of the fish farm

Back into the van to the next stop: the jungle walk. It was amazing! We got shown various medicinal trees and plants.

About to go on the jungle walk with Sue

About to go on the jungle walk with Sue

Off we go for our rain forest walk (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Off we go for our rain forest walk (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

First was the vines that are used to make poisonous darts. They are boiled and then pounded to get the poison – the indigenous people have an antidote.

The vine that is used to make poisonous arrows

The vine that is used to make poisonous arrows

We were also shown a tree that had sap that is used as an ointment for wounds for infection, a tree that the sap is used for bee stings, a plant that the leaves are used to make a tea for upset stomachs, and a tree that the bark is menthol and is used for chest and sinus infections.

The tree that is cut to get sap that is used for the salve/ ointment for cuts

The tree that is cut to get sap that is used for the salve/ ointment for cuts

The salve from the tree for cuts / infections

The salve from the tree for cuts / infections

Sap from this tree is used for bee and other insect stings

Sap from this tree is used for bee and other insect stings

Leaves to crush up and make a tea infusion for upset stomachs

Leaves to crush up and make a tea infusion for upset stomachs

Tree that bark smells like menthol, used for sinus and cyst infections

Tree that bark smells like menthol, used for sinus and cyst infections

Smells very menthol like (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Smells very menthol like (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

As well as this we saw a tree that the sap is used for painting faces for ceremonies that last up to three days.

Tree with orange pigment used by natives to paint on skin, lasts 2 to 3 days

Tree with orange pigment used by natives to paint on skin, lasts 2 to 3 days

We saw some pretty orchids and got to have face masks from river clay.

Orchid on the jungle tour

Orchid on the jungle tour

Sue and I with river clay masks

Sue and I with river clay masks

Chris, Sue, Mike and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Chris, Sue, Mike and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We also went to a waterfall where Chris and Mike had a swim, and saw some recent stone carvings.

Cleaning the mud off (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Cleaning the mud off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Going for a paddle (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Going for a paddle (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue, the guide, Chris (from Vancover) and Mike (from Scotland) at the waterfall

Sue, the guide, Chris (from Vancover) and Mike (from Scotland) at the waterfall

Another view of the waterfall

Another view of the waterfall

Carving in soft rock by waterfall done recently

Carving in soft rock by waterfall done recently

Communing with the spirits (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Communing with the spirits (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Fording streams (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Fording streams (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Lunch was included as part of the tour. It was steamed fish, salad, rice and plantain.

Amazonian Forest Lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Amazonian Forest Lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Fish for lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Fish for lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We then went to a village of local indigenous people and learnt about some of their customs and saw some of their crafts.

My camera battery had gone flat by this stage so any photos for the rest of the day will need to come from Sue’s blog. (Editor’s note: Just as well I looked at Sue’s blog, as you’ll see below, there are photos of Kaye holding monkeys and parrots, getting her face painted, being near people holding snakes, and having a bunch of other adventures she’s completely failed to even mention here!).

We cross the river to a small community (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We cross the river to a small community (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue, Mike, Chris, and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Sue, Mike, Chris, and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Kaye with face paint and hat (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Face paint and hat (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Kaye and the tamarin monkey (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

With a tamarin monkey (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Kaye and the parrot (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

And with a parrot (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Outside the large communal building (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Outside the large communal building (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue with the latest neck wear (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Sue with the latest neck wear (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then we went off on the canoe trip. The canoe was a shelled out tree and fitted four people, plus the person steering. It was a bit scary at first as the river was fast moving but it was great fun. The guide said that the wet / rainy season is usually January / February but this year the rain has not stopped. This explains the numerous landslides and fast full rivers.

All aboard (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

All aboard (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

And off we go (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

And off we go (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Look at that surf (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Look at that surf (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After this we went to a place that you could climb up and get a great view of the forest and rivers, whilst relaxing looking at the view from hammocks. There was a rope swing to go on which was over a huge drop. I started wondering how secure the branch was that the rope was tied to, and after I had thought that I was not able to go on swing.

Climbing up to get the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Climbing up to get the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A wonderful hammock interlude to the day (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A wonderful hammock interlude to the day (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

View from the top (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the top (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

View from the top of the rainforest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the top of the rainforest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue on the tree swing with a huge drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Sue on the tree swing with a huge drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A last look out at the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A last look out at the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After that it was time to head back to the place where we were staying. On the way back we could hear the clutch on the tour truck was slipping. It got so bad that we had to get out twice to push the tour truck up the hills. We were still 16 kilometres from where we needed to go but after pushing it twice we had got back to the main road. We left the tour guy there as there was nothing we could do and caught a taxi.

The clutch starts slipping (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The clutch starts slipping (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The dinner at the place where we staying on the first night was pretty meagre so a number of people, including me, went elsewhere for dinner.

Six more days riding till the next rest day.

Known as a phone tree, when you are lost you hit the tree and it makes a sound that reverberates and help will come

Known as a phone tree, when you are lost you hit the tree and it makes a sound that reverberates and help will come

Beautiful butterfly on jungle tour, when it was flying the inside of the rings are brilliant blue.

Beautiful butterfly on jungle tour, when it was flying the inside of the rings are brilliant blue.

Place we are staying at - you have to go over a suspension bridge to get to it

Place we are staying at – you have to go over a suspension bridge to get to it

The suspension bridge at place we are staying at

The suspension bridge at place we are staying at

Kaye finds a dog to talk to very quickly (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Kaye finds a dog to talk to very quickly (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 35/164: Archidona to Puyo – 86km

2,832 km down: 10,809 km to go. Up 1,280 metres, down 960 metres.

After a nice night in an air conditioned unit I woke up feeling ready to go. It had poured down during the night and I was very pleased that I was not in a tent! I had a dream during the night that there was a snake under my bed and I could not go back to sleep without checking (silly I know but then a lot of fears are silly).

It was pouring down still when we left. I guess that’s why it’s called the Amazon rain forest! The ride was 86 kilometres with rolling hills, and apart from some gearing problems I was riding quite well (I was having trouble shifting between gears).

A rainy day on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A rainy day on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

And the rain keeps coming (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

And the rain keeps coming (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I was not too worried about the pouring rain as I much prefer that to beating heat any day. I stopped at about 30 kilometres and had coffee, and then because they did not sell any water, for some reason I decided to have a pineapple drink. The next twenty kilometres were good and I was actually ahead of some of the riders. Then at 48 kilometres I got to a 6 kilometre climb. I got 2 kilometres up and started feeling dreadful – I was breathless, lightheaded, dizzy, and could not walk more than 10 steps so decided to sit down.

About 5 minutes later Erin who was the sweep turned up, and suggested I lie down as I looked really pale. My pulse was going flat out and I was thinking “What the heck is wrong with me? It’s not hot and I’m not at altitude!”. I sat there for about another 10 minutes and then decided to see if I could walk the remaining 4 kilometres to the lunch truck.

About 5 minutes after I started walking I started vomiting up the pineapple drink, and then had another bout of gastro. No wonder my body decided it was not interested in biking up the hill. Finally I got to the lunch truck! I was soaked and ironically given that I am lending warm weather gear to a number of riders all the time, I only had an ice break singlet, arm warmers and an emergency blanket (like a huge sheet of aluminium foil but much stronger). So back in the lunch truck again to camp!

We are staying at a place called Hosteria Finca El Pigual. To get to the hosteria you go across a suspension bridge, but the TDA trucks are too big for the bridge. The trucks had to follow a roundabout route that went up slippery gravel roads and through bush to get there.

We have breakfast and dinner included here, plus you can buy food at the bar. After I had had a shower etc I went to the restaurant as I had not had lunch!  Order straight away said the riders in there. Some of them had waited for nearly an hour to get their food. You could not pay at the bar, you had to sign a room docket which then went to the front office, and you had to pay there. The hamburger was very nice, but I had to repeatedly ask before I got the beer I had ordered with it.

The lunch and dinner truck parked at the hotel The finish flag at the Hosteria (Photo credit: Hotel's Facebook page)

The lunch and dinner truck parked at the hotel (Photo credit: Hosteria Finca El Piguel’s Facebook page)

That night we were having a party to celebrate crossing the equator. The theme of the party was Rubik’s Cube where you come dressed in all the different colors of the rubric cube and then the aim is to be dressed in one color by the end by swapping clothes! I went up to the shops to buy some cheap stuff like a hat , ribbons etc to swap.

The meal at the restaurant was between 7:30 to 9pm, and the party after. Mostly the riders are in bed by 730 pm! We all arrived at the restaurant at 7:30 and waited and waited and eventually the food arrived . It was turkey, cold frozen vegetables, and hard chips. A number of people tried to order wine but they had run out after selling about 8 bottles during the day and did not seem to have a lot of interest in getting more. I had got a bottle when I arrived which I shared with a couple of people.

While we were waiting for the party to start, various riders gave up and drifted off to bed. The room where the party was planned was still getting ready, and there was still no wine. We got some wine up the road and got back to find at least the room for the party was open. It was interesting to see various riders dressed up in all different colors, but no one swapped any clothes.

The rubik's party (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The rubik’s party (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Peter from NZ and I got most of the people up at one stage to do a dancing snake (where you put your hands on the hips of the person in front and dance in a line snaking around the room) (Editor’s note: I think Kaye is talking about a conga line, haha).

A waiter arrived with some wine. I am not sure how much he sold as we had sorted out wine for ourselves by that time. This was about 10pm, and we had been told for over 3 hours the restaurant was going to get more wine! I went off to bed about 11:00pm and drank lots of water to address the not such good quality red wine (vino tinto).

Tomorrow an adventure tour to the Jungle!

Sue and me at the Rubik's party (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Sue and me at the Rubik’s party (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 34/164: Papallacta to Archidona – 113km

(Editors note: apologies for the delay/mix up with posting this blog, I had some technical difficulties!)

2,746km down: 10,895km to go. 1113 metres up – 3,517 metres down 😀

Tonight we will be staying at Bromelias Amazon Lodge, which is 500 meters above sea level, and they have rooms for $20 with air con and an ensuite. From a bleak, cold camp, to the Amazon Jungle! Instead of being cold we will be hot.

The white board today warned:

  • Landslides
  • Gravel
  • Broken roads
  • Potholes
  • Construction
  • Narrow shoulders

They did not mention trucks, rain, and cold. However I was in the truck again!! Clearly I did not cross my fingers hard enough, I was up in the middle of the night with stomach spasms. Of course my anti spasmodic medication is in my permanent bag (note to self: put all medication in my daily bag).

I did not sleep that well as the police came in to camp during the night with their sirens going, three times. The polica here seem to drive with their sirens and lights flashing as a matter of course. Yesterday at camp, during the day, two policia turned up a couple of times with the siren and light flashing. The first time we were like “Oh no, something has happened to one of the riders!”. But they were just here for coffee! (last night they must have just been on their usual circuit, as the coffee place was shut). Plus dogs barking and of course the roosters! (my very favourite critters). Plus I was up during the night with gastro. This morning my stomach cramps were really bad, and it was difficult to get my bag and tent packed. I managed and got everything over to the truck.

I got a cup of tea and sat in the corner. All of a sudden it just got too much for me, and my tear ducts got flushed again! I decided enough is enough, and I am now on medication. Jodi the medic went past and she got me some antispasmodic medication. So another day in the truck. First of all the lunch truck, and hopefully I can then get picked up by the dinner truck when it goes past, as at the camp tonight there are rooms and it will be warm.

Looking back up into the mist and pouring rain (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking back up into the mist and pouring rain (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We parked up at the summit for lunch. The rain and mist cleared and the sun came out and it was warm.

View from the top of today's hill (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the top of today’s hill (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

What a view (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

What a view (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I did get to change to the dinner truck and got to camp at 11:30 am 😀 😀

As we came down the 3,517 meters it got warmer and warmer. I saw one of the locals re-thatching the roof, if I had not been in the bus I would have liked to have stopped and watched.

Down and down we go in to the Amazon (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Down and down we go in to the Amazon (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

At the summit we saw a sign “Welcome to the Amazon” and half way down the hill we saw a sign “Beware of crocodiles”.

We are now in “el oriente” which translates into Ecuador’s strip of the Amazon basin. At the camp site there is a picture of all the types of birds we may see here. They are so colourful and include Toucan parrots (the type that were at the hotel in Cartagena).

Editor's note: I don't really have to say who took this photo do I?

Editor’s note: I don’t really have to say who took this photo do I?

When we got to camp it was about 25 degrees, there is a pool, and rooms with ensuites and air con, and laundry – $2 for 12 items 😀

Writing up my blog at camp (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Writing up my blog at camp (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

It is lucky that we left Quito when we did. There has been done protester action today with a general strike. Thousands of people marched to Quito and roads were closed by protesters putting trees across the road and burning tyres. The action has closed stretches of the Pan American highway and shut down transport in the city.  The main issue is the president Rafael Correa wants to bring in legislation that the presidential term can be indefinite. Currently it is 10 years and his term is due to expire in 2017.

I am feeling a lot better, hopefully bye bye gastro and I can ride tomorrow.

Last night for dinner we had Spag Bol and stewed apples with a crunchy oatmeal topping, tonight was chicken and vegetable skewers, and rice.

One of my favourite critters (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

One of my favourite critters (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments