Couple things here: First, notice the boxers hanging from Kelly's handlebars. Clothes don't dry quite as quick at 9,000ft, wind-dry method was a smashing success though. Second, we're stopped at a gas station for water and some Powerade to try and rehydrate. Some friendly mechanics came and started asking us about our trip and one went and bought a big bottle of sweet black tea with lime, because "it's way better than that," he said pointing at the Powerade. He was right, it's delicious, and caffienated.
Our first camp spot in Ecuador, outside an Organic fertilizer and grain warehouse. After more than a month in hot, muggy lowlands where the bugs will make you look pox-stricken in a matter of minutes, it felt amazing to get reacquainted with our tent. On this yearlong trip, it's the closest thing we have to a home.
Kelly doing the one pot dinner routine, now with unleaded gasoline as our fuel source. Like a lot of Latin America, Ecuadorian cuisine centers around meat. Rice and veggies may be delicious but cooking our own food is the only way for Kelly to get reliable protein. Here we have some rice, eggs, cheese, and onions. Oh so delicious, and calorific.
We can't describe how amazing it feels to be so cold in the morning that you have to put a jacket and hat on. Coffee and bread provided by the three guys who work in the warehouse, one of which may or may not have Cerebral Palsy, but either way has a pretty wicked pimp limp. The guys working here were super friendly and just seemed stoked that we were traveling through their country. Fortunately for us, this attitude seems to be the norm here in Ecuador. Makes all the minor difficulties of travel seem pretty inconsequential.
A Colombian family that stopped us to say hi and give us some natural sugar cane candies. The guy behind the camera did his own tour from Colombia to Argentina. The story behind the smile is that Kelly is suffering pretty bad from altitude sickness. Dizzy and nauseous every time she really has to exert herself, which, with the weight she's carrying, is every hill. First time for a long time that we've had to take breaks because Kelly was feeling like shit. Obviously she wasn't a fan.
We knew Colombia had a huge cycling culture but didn't realize that it would continue over the border into northern Ecuador. Seen all sorts of fancy, lycra-clad folk racing along the PanAmerican. After a huge, 3,000ft descent into a river valley, we saw a pack of racers, dark skin, light skin, blonds, brunettes, all of whom were flying towards the hill we'd just come down and rode with the effortless speed of people who pedal for a living. They were all wearing blue and yellow jersey's that looked suspiciously like Team Astana (a perennial power on the European racing circuit). Looks like Ecuador may be the ideal location for a winter training camp.
The nun who runs this place is fantastic. She decided we should camp under the balcony because it looked like it might rain, opened a dorm room so Seth could use a bathroom without having to go downstairs, and brought us eggs, bread, and coffee in the morning. Oh, and she had a yellow lab named Rocky so Kelly could get her dog fix. Rocky spent most of the evening trying to hump Kelly's leg, but such is life I suppose...
At the bottom we were right back in the tropics. Most of the population down here is African ancestry, apparently way back in the day the Jesuits brought black workers from the coast to tend the agricultural fields in the Chota Valley, and now they're the majority in this one little region of andean Ecuador. Amazing how quirks of migration and geography can have such a big impact on demographics when given a long enough history.
Here's Seth, gasping up the climb towards La Calera (Kelly, as usual is stopped ahead with time to take photos). Every Sunday thousands of people make the climb up to the summit just outside of downtown Bogotá, it's a fantastic scene, young, old, fancy, scrappy, everybody getting their asses kicked for some Sunday fun.
At the top of the climb with Frederik and Diana, an amazing couple we met through our rugby contacts with ArcAngeles, who showed us the way. Diana is a few months pregnant and had never done the climb before but decided to give it a go. Diana stuck on Seth's wheel, decided the pace was very nice, and made it all the way to the top. Maybe the first time the slow ass climbing speed helped somebody else out! Also, arepas con queso, and carrot cake from the summit food stands are wondrous. Worth the climbing just for the food.
Every Sunday Bogotá shuts down hundreds of kilometers of its main streets to motorized traffic for the Cyclovia. Lanes are dedicated for use by cyclists, pedestrians, roller-bladers, and any other human-powered device you can think of. It's eye-opening how many people will get outside and moving when infrastructure and planning make it safe and easy to do so. Portland take note, Sunday Parkways ain't got nothing on this!
Hanging out in the rehab department of ArcAngeles with José Cabo and their lead therapist. They do some amazing work at ArcAngeles for people with disabilities. From initial rehab to social inclusion via sport, employment inclusion, educational opportunities, and cultural outreach, they address the integration of disability into society from every angle. We were inspired to see all the work their doing to help advance disability rights across the Americas. Please check them out at: http://arcangeles.org/
Scrimmaging with the team. The Maximus project is helping to develop rugby across South America and we're both stoked to be able to link up with some brand new rugby teams in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile and help teach a little about the sport. Rugby can help people with quadriplegia and similar disabilities move towards independence more effectively than just about any government program. Couldn't be happier to do our part to help it spread through the world.
Es posible que no es posible, pero vamos a ver. (you'll have to make it to the bottom for a translation)
It's been a tough couple of weeks for us on this Long Road South. There will be a full new post coming shortly, but for now here's the skinny... We're currently in Tulcan, Ecuador. After escaping the heat of Mexico and spending a fantastic week getting to know Bogotá, we descended out of the mountains right back into the same conditions that we left behind, only worse. Neither Schwan nor I had ever experienced temps in the mid 90's on a cloudy day. We never want to again. It took only two days of riding in Colombia to confirm that my body simply cannot handle that kind of heat and humidity while riding.
We holed up in an air conditioned room in the steamy town of Girardot to try and decide what to do. At this point it had been over a month since I had a good day on my bike, over a month with Kelly having to take the extra burden of nursing me through the heat. The heat had broken our resolve and we decided we needed to reevaluate the whole trip. After some heartfelt consultations with friends and family over Skype, we came to the conclusion that we needed to consider all options - calling it quits, changing our mission to be one of outreach rather than continual riding, changing locations to somewhere more feasible to ride on our own. We were within a hairsbreath of calling the trip all together.
One option was to bus to Ecuador, where we could stay at elevation for nearly the whole country, thereby eliminating most of the heat, while adding mountains and high altitude riding into the equation. Ecuador, we thought, was possible. The rest of South America, we're still not sure. Was it worth it to ride for another month and then find we could go no further? Eventually we decided that yes, it was definitely worth it. When would we ever have a chance to ride through the high Andes again? Missing out on such an amazing opportunity because of the chance of future failures was counter to the whole mission of our trip.
We got on a bus (three actually) and rode for 24 hours through the spectacular landscape of Colombia. We hate bus travel but it got us to where we needed to be. So here we are, in the high mountains of Ecuador. It kind of feels like we're starting all over again. We still have no idea how we're going to cope with the incredible terrain that lies ahead. One pedal stroke at a time, I suppose. It's possible that it's not possible, but we're going to see.