Made It to the Border!! (Huaquillas, Ecuador)

It feels great to be here!  Finally!  We’re within spittin’ distance of the Peruvian border and will cross first thing in the morning.  And we still have two whole days left on our visas!  Woo Hoo!  This whole visa thing has been hanging over our heads for so long, it feels great to finally reach the border and know we won’t have to worry about that aspect of travel for a couple months anyway.

Kilometers today: 75

Kilometers to date:  17581

A typical scene from southern Ecuador

This is very typical of what we see all day.

Lush green countryside of Ecuador

The lush green countryside of Ecuador will soon give way to the barren deserts of northern Peru.

Ecuador peru border

There it is!  We made it!

mass of electrical wires

This mass of electrical wires is just outside our hotel.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

We Made It – Maybe (Machala, Ecuador)

I’ve been thinking all day about how happy I am that we made it to the border – with a few days to spare.  Yes, we are still 70 km away, but we should be able to make it with no problem.  But then, I patted myself on the back before – and then ended up with near disaster.  I really should learn to not count my chickens before they hatch…

Anyway, here is the story of that day on our Crazy Guy on a Bike journal from our last trip.  The story begins when I headed back to join my boys on the California coast after having spent a month in Boise taking care of Mom.  I’ve copied below for those of you who don’t want to click over there.

*****

It was one of those moments. One of those d’oh moments. One of those times when you smack yourself upside the head and say, “I can’t believe I did that.” But that comes later in this story…

This story actually begins Friday morning when I rented a car, threw my bike in it, kissed Mom goodbye and headed south to find adventure. Fast forward 17 hours and I arrived into Monterey and knocked on Jim’s door (the guy John met and stayed with in Monterey). He willing (begrudgingly???) opened his door to a weary traveler and I collapsed onto his couch. Eight o’clock rolled around all too soon and I dragged my lazy bones off the couch, returned the rental car and hopped into Jim’s car to drive down to Big Sur.

It was wonderful to pop my head into the tent and I shed a few tears amidst all the hugs and kisses. (This is where you are supposed to say, “Ahh… ain’t that sweet!!”) Our joyful reunion was all too short as I still had much to do and many miles to go before the sun set.

I returned to Monterey, returned the car (thanks again, Jim!), jumped on my trusty steed, and headed to the laudromat to wash the boys’ clothes. Somewhere along the way I managed to get a flat tire, so I headed down (and I do mean down) to a bike store, then climbed all the way back up. It wasn’t long before I was cycling the beautiful California coast. Turquoise waters… stunning cliffs… and a strong tailwind. What more could I ask for?? I didn’t take any breaks at all because a) I was giddy with excitement about getting back to my boys and b) I needed to make sure I was at the campground by dark.

Now one would think I would have learned a thing or two from all my travels…. like not to claim victory until victory is won… or not to count my chickens before they hatch. But I obviously haven’t learned that lesson yet. I pulled into the town of Big Sur about an hour before dark and patted myself on my back in congratulations. I smugly called Mom and announced that I had done it! I had pulled it off! Yes! (Insert image of me pumping my fist in victory at this point…) I figured I only had 3 miles left (John later told me I only had 1.5 miles left), and I still had an hour or so of daylight. Yes, I had made it. I had pulled it off!

I climbed back on my bike and started pedaling through the forest toward the campground. I kept pedaling and pedaling and I was sure that the campground was just around the next corner… maybe the next…  And then suddenly I broke out of the valley and saw a lake on my left. A big lake. And I thought, “Hmmm… I don’t remember a lake on that side…” And then I noticed that the sun was setting over that lake. And then it dawned on me that there was no lake over on my left. That was a pond. THE pond. The Pacific pond.

Now I’ve learned a thing or two in my 46 years on this planet and one of them is that if you are pedaling south along the California coast, the ocean will be on right. But this ocean was very definitely on my left. As I saw it, there were only two possible explanations. Either a) I had been magically transported to the east coast of the USA and this ocean was not the Pacific at all, but the Atlantic or b) I was headed north. That’s when my hand came up and smacked myself upside the head and I realized that I had done something really stupid. Yep – that moment when I got turned around at the store was most definitely one of those moments of absolute, complete, total, unutterable dumbness.

I turned around and pedaled for all I was worth back toward the valley and the forest. At this point I did not have only three miles to go and an hour of daylight. Now I had 5 1/2 miles to go, and the sun was setting over the ocean. I pedaled as hard as I could along the twisty, winding road through the forest and I realized that I had absolutely no lights on my bike whatsoever. No way to alert oncoming drivers that I was there. Those visions of a grand reunion that I had been having all day turned into something not quite so grand… something involving images of my beloved kids scraping my guts off the highway.

I am happy to report that I arrived to the campground without incident. John had dinner cooked and ready to serve. And we all lived happily ever after (for the next few hours anyway!!)

Major kudos go to John for being mother and father, cook and nurse, cheerleader and referee, all at the same time. The kids are both healthy and happy. I wish I could add clean to that list, but Momma taught me not to lie….

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Davy’s Journal February 22

Today after a long and hard day of riding yesterday we stayed here in a nice hotel that had free internet. The internet was fast! I could get Rune Scape up in a matter of minutes! We hung out here for a while. Daryl did his math, then I did mine. Then Mom got back with food and we ate granola. Then the power went out for 10 or 15 minutes. Then it came back on but the internet was still down, So we asked the people what was happening with the internet and they said it would be back in half an hour. Ten minutes later it came back on and I did my journal and then played Rune Scape. That’s it for today!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Daryl’s Journal February 21

Today we went 91 kilometers. At the beginning of the day it was
clouded over and not too hot. We went about 50 kilometers to a town
called Ponche. There we debated what to do. We could stay there and
the day after go to Machala (the town we are at now) or we could go to
Machala and take a rest day. Davy voted to stay in Ponche, I didn’t
care, and Mommy and Daddy wanted to go. Off we went to Machala. Once
we left it started to clear up and it was hot! It was some of the
hottest weather that I have ever ridden in. It was so hot that Daddy
said he was straining his heart just walking. Finally we made it and
got a hotel.

We spent the day cycling through banana plantations.  Bananas, bananas, and more bananas!

Bicycling through banana plantations

We cycled for a while, then stopped at a roadside cafe for breakfast.

Breakfast on the road

When it is this hot, we need every ounce of liquid we can get – and just plain water doesn’t cut it.  In one village, I stopped for some coconut milk.  They took the whole coconut out of the fridge and lopped off the top.  Insert straw and drink!

Coconut milk

The boys pull out their toys every once in a while.  They love playing with Transformer Wars!

Playing with toys

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Too Bloody Hot (Machala, Ecuador)

I’m exhausted.  Bloody exhausted.  91 km in this heat is about 30 too many.  We simply can’t be on the road after about noon or one.  Note to self:  remember that.

We had an option today – there was a town with a hotel after about 50 km.  In retrospect, we should have stopped, but at the time we were all feeling good and wanted to get to Machala so we could take the day off tomorrow.  We pushed on.

By then it was afternoon and temps soared. By about 70 km, John was struggling.  By 85 he was hurting – the beginning stages of heat stroke.  We all downed enormous amounts of water and rehydration salts and pushed on.  Fortunately, we made it.

Seeing as how we are only 70 km from the border and have four days before our visas expire, we’ll stay here tomorrow.  I think we all need it – I sweated off all my sunscreen today so am fried like a lobster and my legs are cramping up like crazy.  A day off doing nothing sounds perfect!

Kilometers today:  91
Kilometers to date:  17,505

Giving away the Gameboy

Skye and Forrest, whom we stayed with in Albuquerque after the accident, gave D & D their Gameboys after they had gotten Nintendos. Now, D & D got a Nintendo from Grandma, so passed their Gameboys on to other kids.
Ecuadorian village
We passed through lots of small towns like this
Shoe Repairman
There was a bunch of these shoe repairmen right across the street from our hotel.
Ecuador coastlands
We passed by lots of cacao, banana, and sugar cane fields.
They look like hills to me!
We had been told repeatedly that it would be pancake flat all the way to the border, so these hills were a bit worrisome. As it turned out, there was a pathway right through the middle of them.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Hot! (Naranjal, Ecuador)

I know, I know – I’m never satisfied.  When we were in the mountains I bitched and moaned about the climbs.  Now that we’re in the flatlands, I complain about the heat.  I just can’t win…

But gads – is it hot!  I mean – IT’S HOT!  Blazing hot.  An inferno.  As though the rays of the sun are reaching out and touching down right here.  It’s a burning, sizzling hellhole – and there is no way to drink enough water to stay hydrated.

That being said, we’re flying!  We race along at around 18 – 20 kilometers per hour nearly effortlessly.  I set my gear a couple days ago and haven’t changed it yet.  Wow!

We’re now about 175 km from the Peruvian border and have five days before our visas expire.  We think we’ll take three days to get there – so we should cross into Peru with two days to spare!  Yee Haw!

Kilometers today:  69
Kilometers to date:  17415

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Daryl’s Journal February 20

Today we went about 70 kilometers. It was extremely hot. I’m not sure what it was in degrees but it must have been over absolute 0. Today was actually pretty boring. We made it to a town called Naranjal. There were 2 options of hotels. 1 of them was $16, we’d have to get 2 rooms, there was no good place to put the bikes, and the owner was mean. The other hotel was $30, had a good place for the bikes, 3 double beds, and air conditioner. However it was expensive. In the end we chose the expensive one and here we are.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Davy’s Journal February 20, 2010

Today we went about 70 km. It was very hot. We rode to about 1:00. When we got here Mom and I checked out a hotel. There were two hotels in the area. One was $30 and had three doubles. It had a hot shower and a good place for the bikes. The other one was $16 and was bad. We would have to get two rooms at $8 each. They didn’t have a good place for the bikes and probably had cold water. We took the $30 one. Me and Daryl played with our Star Wars figures for a while and then had to do math. Math was very easy and I got every question correct. Then I went out to get Pepsi. I found two internet cafes. When I got back Dad told me to go get cups. Then when I came back with the cups Dad poured two cups with Pepsi and gave me one. Then I did my journal which is this one.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Stuck, Unstuck (Milagro, Ecuador)

(written in morning)
This sucks – big time.

I woke up in the middle of the night to the pitter-patter of raindrops bang-bang-banging of pouring rain on the corrugated tin roof outside my window. And it’s still at it.

We’ve decided if it stops by noon we’ll take off – we don’t have far to the town of Milagro and any progress is, at least, progress.  If it continues raining like this all day, we’ll stay put and then ride like hell tomorrow.

We figure we could get to the border in 3 days of hard riding from here – and we have 7 days before our visas expire.  Ideally, we would do it in 4 or 5, but could make it in less.  As much as I don’t like the idea of waiting until the very last day before crossing the border, I like the idea of riding in this rain even less.

(added in afternoon)

We’re 47 km closer to the border!

The rain stopped about 10:00 in the morning, so we packed up and hit the road.  The humidity level is sky high and it’s hotter than blazes, but we made good time. In fact, we averaged over 20 km/hour the whole time!  We haven’t ridden at that speed for a l-o-n-g time!

Kilometers today:  47
Kilometers to date:  17346

PS:  We got our pics of Carnival up.   See them here!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Flat as a pancake (Babahoyo, Ecuador)

“This feels so weird,” Davy said as we pedaled side-by-side along the pancake-flat road of the coastal plain.  “I’m not used to riding on flat roads!”

We started thinking about that idea – as far as we can remember, the last time we rode a flat road was near Cali, Colombia many months ago.  We’re not used to the idea of riding flat – for so long now we’ve either been grinding up impossibly steep grades or plunging down the other side.  From what we hear, we’ll get used to this very quickly – it’ll  be flat all the way to Lima.

And it’s obviously rainy season.  All day we rode in rain – mostly just a light drizzle, but enough to get us wet and cause our legs to be covered by road grime flung up by our tires.  The good news is that it isn’t cold any more – no need to dread rain.  We left our rain jackets packed away and simply got wet, knowing we wouldn’t freeze – fears of hypothermia are now only a distant memory.

As soon as we started entering into the garage of our hotel, however, the heavens opened up.  It poured.  Rain came down by the bucketful.  If we had still been on the road, we would have been paralyzed – no way to see the road ahead – and would have had to stop and stand in the rain.  If only our luck can continue…

Kilometers today:  44
Kilometers to date:  17299

Fixing a flat tire

Fixing a flat tire – while plenty of kids watch.

Typical coastal house

The houses in the coastal zone are very different from the mountain houses.

Riding in rain

We hate riding in rain – but at least it isn’t cold any more!

Coastal Ecuador house

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Goodbye Andes, Hello Heat (Balsapalma, Ecuador)

The Andes are behind us. No more climbs until we decide we’re ready to head up again.  We still have about 25 km of descent to go and then we’ll be on the coastal plains – and heat.

Already I feel the heat – humid and muggy, but not all that hot yet.  I know it’s coming.

We did our final climbs of the Ecuadorian Andes today – insanely steep climbs.  I won’t miss them at all.  I hear the Peruvian engineers understand the concept of grading the roads, so we won’t have these impossibly steep climbs anymore.  I’m not quite sure I believe it, but I suppose I can hope, eh?

I’m looking forward to the flat lands coming up tomorrow.  Why can’t we combine the climate of the mountains with the flat roads of the coast?

Kilometers today:  73
Kilometers to date:  17255

An Andean village

I’ll miss these small mountain villages.

Andes

But I won’t miss the climbs.  Yes – we were down in that valley not long ago…

Andes

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Bikes imprisoned (Guaranda, Ecuador)

Well, what a bummer.  I had a to-do list a mile long that I had hoped to get done today – but nearly everything on the list revolved around stuff from my bike.  And our bikes are still safely locked away in the church.  We’ve been trying all day to get hold of the priest, but nothing.  The church remains locked, and our bikes remain inside.

So – our camera battery charger is in John’s trailer so the batteries can’t be recharged. That means not many photos until we can recharge them – whenever that might be.  Our photos from the parades are stuck on the camera and we can’t get them off – the cord is on the bike.  My shoelaces need to be replaced – but the laces are on the bike.  Davy’s Kindle needs new books – but it’s on the bike.

About the only thing I managed to do was laundry – just barely.

And so, dear reader, I apologize for talking about the bright colorful parades and not showing you any photos.  I will get them up as soon as I can – promise!

Tomorrow morning the church opens at 6:00 in the morning and we plan to be there then.  We’ll grab our bikes, stash the few items we have with us, and hit the road.  It’ll be a mad dash to the Peruvian border – our visas expire next week so we have to be out of the country.  If all goes well, we’ll make it in plenty of time.  But – if one of us gets sick or, God forbid, Davy needs another surgery, we’re dead in the water.  I really, really don’t like cutting it this close!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Carnival is Over! (Guaranda, Ecuador)

Wow!  That’s about all I can say right now.  Carnaval de Guaranda just finished with with a spectacular, high-energy extravanganza – five hours of professional dance groups from throughout Ecuador parading through the streets.  Wow!

This parade was, by far, the best one yet.  The others in Guaranda were pretty high energy and fun, but the dancing was so-so.  The parade in Ambato was beautiful, but certainly not high-energy.  This one had it all – beautiful costumes, incredible dancing, and lots and lots of smiles.  for five whole hours.

This is the first time I´ve been to Carnival – I think I’ll add it to my list of things to seek out next year!

We’ve got 68 photos of Carnaval posted.  You can see them here!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Davy’s Journal February 15

Today we took a bus from Ambato to Guaranda.  It was so full that we didn’t get seats.

When we got to Guaranda we went to the parade.  It was boring.  No one wanted to fight.

Later, we went out to eat and saw this one guy who sold HUGE cotton candy.  After dinner I went and got some HUGE cotton candy.

After that we went down to the park to shoot karaoki at other people.  (Karaoki is a foam stuff that is designed to shoot other people with.  It shoots about 10 feet when it’s full of pressure.  It comes in many different colors.)  I creamed a lot of people.

Later, they had towers with fire crackers all around them.  They lit them.  It started as just a little spark, then the fire cracker lit and they had flammable, thick strings between fireworks and they all lit pointing in the same direction so the wheel they were on spun.  Then they got police and lit the fireworks that were higher up.  In minutes, the whole 2-story-high stand were all lit and sparks were flying everywhere. It was awesome!

While it was going, they lit other fireworks and they blew up in the air and bright sparks went flying.  It was amazing.  They had 2 towers.  They also had a guy hold a big wooden bull covered with fireworks and go dancing while the fireworks went off.  Also, they had a line of fireworks between two poles that they lit.

A little while later the second tower thing went off.  A couple of guys went right up next to it to get their picture taken.  I’m surprised they didn’t get burned.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel