14 October 2012


On the flats and at sea level I felt very strong. I had built up a great confidence in the mountains. I rode hard through pastureland and then the banana country began. Banana trees lined the road on both sides and there was the darkness of the mountains I had come down from to the East. It was overcast and there was some mist during the day. There wasn’t much to look at and I put my head down and rode.
After the excitement of the mountains this was boring riding. I remembered that this type of country and the cloudy days were why I had ridden up into the mountains. I was again thinking about getting out of Ecuador. This part of the country was particularly uninteresting to ride as well as poor and, according to what I had been hearing, also dangerous. At least along the northern coast of Peru there was sun and desert and beaches.
But I wasn’t looking forward to the thievery of Peru. I had seen northern Peru by bus and it was a sandy, hot, trash-littered desert pressed between the ocean and the mountains. There were tiny impoverished pueblos along the way and the beaches were filthy. I had also been told that criminals worked the road and sometimes in cohorts with the police. I thought about it while I rode and realized that outside of seeing the sun I wasn’t that excited to be going to Peru either.
I made the gloomy town of Pasaje just after lunch and took a room at one of the two hotels along a side street from the main plaza. The bed sheets smelled of mildew covered over with that awful spray disinfectant that is used in many hotels in Ecuador. I lay in bed awhile until I realized things were biting me. A second straight night I was going to sleep in a flea-ridden bed. I was still scratching my legs and back from the night before.
I got out of bed and made adjustments to my brakes and the front fender. I again removed the rear fender because it was rubbing against the wheel. Most of my gear was breaking down or worn out. There were tiny holes in the rain fly of my tent and the ground pad was punctured in many places; the grill on my camping stove had broken off and the rubber o-ring no longer sealed the gas well; my cycling gloves were torn and filled with holes; my rear panniers were held together with duct tape and extra screws; there was now more duct tape on my handlebars than handlebar wrap; the rubber soles of my shoes had large holes that leaked in water; my computer battery only lasted a few hours; the on/off button on my camera was damaged and the lens was scratched and filthy; and even the new cycling shorts I had spent $35 on in Guayaquil had ripped the first day I had worn them. The only thing working well these days was my body. That was due to the blessing of the Virgin at the Santuario de Las Lajas in Colombia. Perhaps I had made a mistake neglecting to pray for my gear to be fixed. But it was best not to ask too much of the Virgin.


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