22 July 2012


In the morning I packed up and had a desayuno of scrambled eggs and toast and coffee at the restaurant on the corner. It was Sunday morning and cool and cloudy and I had 45km to Canoa, the road going back inland and with some climbing. I felt good, my energy was back, and I knew I would make Canoa by lunchtime.

I rode back to the main road and because it was still early Esteban and wife were not at the service station. I turned south and started a long and gently graded climb. There was mist in the air but like other days I knew it did not signal rain. There was much construction on this part of E15, the highway along the coast, and with the wetness in the air the dirt sections of the road had turned to mud. Even riding slowly I was kicking up mud onto my shoes and panniers and two times I almost dumped the bike when the tires spun in the mud.

There is much road construction in Ecuador and there are frequent government billboards celebrating the “Revolution” of the Correa government’s rehabilitation of the roads. These are the only billboards on the roads and they are very large and patriotic with the colors of the Ecuadorian flag. There are also smaller brown signs with phrases to remind Ecuadorians to protect the natural environment of the country: “Water is life. Do not contaminate it.” “The trees make the air clean.” “Trees are the lungs of the nation.” Beyond the small hand-made signs for hotels or restaurants there is no other signage along the roads. Perhaps there is a national prohibition against roadside billboards.

You will also see painted on the sides of the wooden planked houses built on stilts the colorful hand-painted propaganda advertisements for local political candidates. I supposed the candidates paid the owners to paint on their houses instead of the more expensive option of making signs. But the propaganda is never painted over or removed and there were homes with faded slogans from mayoral elections long since passed.

Because it was Sunday morning the roads were almost empty. I felt strong and powerful on the pedals and my knee felt fine and I had to resist really pushing it to Canoa. I was, however, beginning to have doubts about Canoa being a place I wanted to stay awhile. An Englishman I had talked to briefly at the Swiss Ecolodge had said it was overrun with gringos. He had worked in Quito for eight years and had cycled over much of the country and in fact had passed me in a car on my ride to Pedernales. He said I’d much prefer Bahia or the little fishing town of San Clemente.

I saw a small hand-painted sign for a Canoa hotel and knew I was close. Then the road forked and I followed it towards the ocean. It was then that I heard it. A scampering sound, and turning to look back there was the black beast coming out of the brush, his mouth open and teeth coming for me and I jumped into the pedals turning them hard, the dog right behind me, chasing. I was in the wrong gear and was just staying ahead of him but not pulling away and the dog chased me, without ever barking, for more than 200 meters. Then he pulled back and I was safe and exhausted from the suddenness of it and the adrenaline surge in my body. Those were the dogs you had to be most concerned about, the silent ones. An animal that straight charges instead of barking is a killer. Barking is a displacement activity done by a dog that does not wish to fight.

I rode across a bridge over a creek that went out to the Pacific and I was in Canoa. Riding down the main road of the town I saw little ceviche restaurants and bars and gringo couples and dread locked Ecuadorian hippies and surfers. I knew I was not going to stay for long.

Two Ecuadorians stopped me and wanted to take a picture of my bike. They were on a bike tour as well and headed to Crucita in the morning with six other riders. We talked awhile and they encouraged me to join them. I didn’t like riding with others, especially in a group so large, and told them I needed to rest my knee and was staying a few days at Canoa.

At the end of the dirt road along the beach was the Hotel Bambu and I took a room there for $15/night with a shared bathroom. It was off-season and the place was almost empty. I cleaned up and went down and had lunch in the open-air restaurant looking over the ocean. The wind was really blowing and big surf pounded the beach. To the north were high sand-colored cliffs. Perhaps I would stay another night.


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