18 July 2012

El Carmen

The next day I put the Bike Friday together and the following morning I was ready to leave for Quevedo. I carried the bike down to the lobby and Hugo, the chain-smoking owner of the hotel, asked me where I was going. When I told him he scowled and warned me of great danger. To go South was to enter a zone of great delinquencia, he said. I would not be safe from the delinquents. If I camped the delinquents would get me in my tent. The delinquencia was worse in Quevedo but all along the road there were delinquents.

All this talk of delinquents made me think of bored 15 year olds with skateboards and cigarettes who hung around shopping malls harassing people. Certainly, these Ecuadorian delinquents must be worse, but I could not help thinking of the delinquents of my youth. I had not seen any delinquents at the American shopping malls recently. Perhaps prescription drugs, video games and the internet had solved the problem. Apparently these curatives had not yet reached the delinquents of Ecuador.

This is a better route, said Hugo, blowing smoke in my face, and showed me on the map a road running directly west for the coast. It is a tranquil road and beautiful and there is no delinquencia. I saw that it crossed over a range of mountains. Yes, you will have to ride 90km from El Carmen to Pedernales across these mountains, said Hugo. There is nowhere to stop.

So I had the choice between the delinquents or a long ride over the mountains. I didn’t know yet what my knee would feel like. I had planned to do less than 50km a day and to avoid any climbing. That had been the reason for taking the road to Quevedo.

Hugo lit a cigarette and explained the way out of Santo Domingo. It was 40km to El Carmen and there I would turn off on the smaller road across the mountains. That would be tomorrow’s ride. I thanked Hugo for his advice and got on the road and left Santo Domingo.

I stopped at a thatch roofed roadside stand and bought a cup of sugar cane water from an old man. It was a flat and easy ride through a mix of farmland and homes and buildings and I rode slowly and early in the afternoon made the noisy little town of El Carmen. I took a tiny, window-less room at the Hotel California and cooked myself a plate of pasta for dinner. I had ridden easily all day and my knee felt good. Tomorrow’s mountains were indicated on the map as the Montanas de Chindul and I hoped they would not be too steep.


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