After returning to Panama City from the epic sailing adventure we decided to chill out for a bit and look for yet another sail boat going to Ecuador. After 4 days of sitting around, we met up with our friend Robin who had been training for a cayuco race through the Panama Canal. Cayuco racing started from the indigenous people who created long canoes made from hollowed out trees. These boats (now made of wood and fiberglass) hold 4 people and can be very unstable. Racing these boats have become a competitive sport, with people of shapes and sizes.
Robin asked us to help them train as they were 2 people short of a full boat. While practicing close to Veracruz, Panama, we met Ted Henter who has been in the last 15 cayuko races through the Panama Canal. Ted used to be a world renowned road motorcycle racer until he got into a crash in England and became blind in both eyes. Being blind has done anything but slow him down as he has won the world championship for blind waterskiing and is still active as ever. He says that being blind doesn’t make your other senses better per se but it creates more awareness of things that you wouldn’t recognize otherwise. Ted helped create a software that helps blind people learn different skills. Ted showed us how even the biggest challenges can subside, and how happiness does not have to be seen but can purely be felt, heard, tasted and smelled.
We realized that we were sitting ducks, with little luck finding another captain and decided to look into other means of transportation. No boats heading south to Ecuador until May! We did not want to stay any longer in Panama City! Henry’s Grandparents came to the rescue, by allotting us some of their frequent flyer miles, we were able to get two tickets to Quito via aeroplane… As the sustainably south crew thought about other options and were anxious to leave Panama, they decided to push the button and get 2 flights to Quito, Ecuador! Being the sustainably aware team, we wanted to explain the impacts of flying compared to biking. In general riding your bike at a moderate speed burns 472 calories/hour, while driving burns just 148 calories/hour. We calculated our carbon footprint riding bikes 7000km from San Diego to Panama City and found out that we burned 152,000,000 calories along the way. We also calculated our footprint flying from Panama City, Panama into Quito, Ecuador which created around .54 tonnes of carbon emissions. This is a little less than .54 tonnes more than it would have been if we were able to bike through the tumultuous Darien Gap.
Living on the itchy, buggy island, we decided to ask Ted and his greatastic wife, Mel if it would be possible to stay at their ocean side adobe abode in Veracruz to get our stuff in order before the 1 hour and 2o minute flight. We stayed here for a few days hanging by the pool and packing our bikes in boxes. We also realized that we couldn’t take our chicken, Cisse’, on the plane with us so we ended up building her a new coop and giving her to the zoni couple Ted and Mel. Thanks guys! Enjoy your new home Cisse’ we’ll miss you!!
So we did it, we took an airplane.. Something we were trying to avoid on this trip.. We tried sailing.. we tried.. We had to take our bikes apart and pay around 130$ for them to be placed on the plane as cargo… The lady at the baggage counter didn’t understand and was trying to charge us 500$ but we talked to the manager and everything was cool…
After getting into Quito we quickly assembled our bikes and decided to bike to Tumbaco, a small town on the outskirts of Quito, where we heard about Casa Ciclista. This is a place where Santiago and his family hosts cyclists from around the world who are doing tours like us. Camping in the back yard free of charge was great! Had a kitchen, bathroom and a cool town to check out. Great to have a place to make homebase but Ike was on a mission to go find his girlfriend Genia who had been hanging on the Ecuadorian coast for the last month and a half. He wanted to make it a surprise so told her he was still waiting for another boat to cruz to Ecuador… again! Arriving at Casa Ciclista, Ike decided he would leave the following morning for the coast where he would try to find Genia who was supposedly staying on a farm called Finca Monoverde.
The first day was made up of city navigating ascending for the first 6 hours of the day. Ike managed to skitch a truck pulling a front end loader, making for quite the interesting train! During the climb Ike was able to stop at La Mitad del Mundo which was where the Equator crosses thru Ecuador. It is here where there is told to be mysterious energy and chilllllll vibezzzzzz.
The landscapes started changing from concrete and asphalt to mountains and trees, with amazing views of the Andes and the villages buried in between.
After the never ending uphill climb, Ike finally reached the summit of one of the many peaks and started the 1 1/2 hr downhill ride. Farms built into the elevated highlands, making it look like a patched quilt laid on top the steep mountainous terrain.
Coasting down thru the junglesque canyon felt great as the 6 hrs of uphill had finally paid off. The day was dwindling and Ike was getting tired from the Andean ways, so he found a farmer who was scoping his land and asked if he could sleep on his land. The coffee farmer, Luis, was more than happy to host Ike and showed him where to set up camp. Luis had a family in Quito but lived by himself and his dogs in a small shack growing coffee and other crops to get by. He was amazed at Ike’s traveling kitchen and invited him to eat rice and sardines with juice made with fresh naranjillas from his property.
The next day Ike awoke early with even more motivation to crank than before. Starting uphill it felt great getting an early start. On top of a ridge, the riding began to turn into a slight downhill, passing many cloud forests and foggy rolling hills. After lunch the ups and downs seemed to blur and Ike felt like he was in robot mode, pedaling without thinking about the difficulty of the terrain. Stopping towards the end of the rainy day on the side of the road, Ike noticed an abundance of snails on the road. Never being able to afford escargot, he said what the hell and started collecting the slimy creatures. He asked a few locals what they thought about eating them and they answered with uncertainty and disgust. Not having a clue about these slow strange slugs, Ike decided to stay with the original menu of rice and veggies, like most every night.
10 hrs on the road, Ike realized he had just pedaled 163 km which was the farthest distance that had been achieved in one day since the tour had begun! Wiped, wet and muddy, Ike stopped to ask if he could stay in a muddy backyard of an old ladies cabana. She told him it was private property and that there was a pueblo 10 km up the street. Not understanding the situation, Ike continued up the hill till he saw an opening in the roadside weeds that opened into a small orchard. Ike cooked dinner and got into his tent as the rain started to pour. Waking up many times in the middle of the night from the puddles lying in his tent, the closeness of the people walking on the road and the overall excitement of what to expect when he surprises his girlfriend.
The next morning Ike woke early to everything soaking wet and snails climbing all over his tent. They seemed to be upset from the dinner joke the day before..
Ike packed up and hit the road for Pedernales, which was where the pacific ocean was in site! 2 hrs later (around 11 am), Ike arrived in Tabuga 300 km from Tombuca, on the third day, where he would cross a small creek and open the gate to Finca Monoverde. Stoked to see the reaction on Genia’s face, Ike quietly walked the bike up the farms steep path. At the main house Ike realized that nobody was there! Thinking that everyone went to get lunch or something, Ike posted up and started reading, watching down the hill for someone to arrive. 3 hrs later he decided to take action and ask the neighbors if they had seen anyone at the farm. They said that they may have gone to the beach so Ike put the swimsuit on and ran barefoot thru the forest to the ocean a few miles away. With cut up feet and an excited feeling, Ike got to the beach where he found a family of Ecuadorians hanging out, with the beach to themselves. A little frustrated, Ike jumped into the pacific and ran back into the jungle. A house to the left appeared and he stopped to ask for a glass of water. The family gave him a glass of water and a glass of beer as Ike explained why he was so distraught. They invited him inside for more beer and Ike excepted. 3 beers later he realized he needed to continue the search so thanked the family and ran back to the farm.
Ike saw a man under the house and quickly asked if he knew where his girlfriend might be. Sam, who was watching the farm with his girlfriend Maria told Ike she had left for Mompiche the weekend and took all of her stuff. Not knowing if she would return, Ike quickly thought up a plan. He would pack a small bag, leave the bike at the farm and catch 3 buses to Mompiche before dark. On the third bus he met 3 young traveleres who turned out had met Genia in Canoa a few weeks prior. They had told him that they might know where G might be staying, which stoked the fire for sure. Off the bus, they all checked the hostal that they thought she might be at. Nowhere to be found, Ike roamed the small surfing pueblo along the moon lit streets. In and out of most all the hostals in town, there was one more at the end of the strip. Mudhouse was the last place she could be. Ike asked if a Genia had checked in and the woman at the front replied with a smile “Yea she was just sitting here at the bar!” With a sigh of relief Ike looked towards the back of the open aired hostal and saw G sitting at a table in the back with a few other travelers. Ike walked over as G turned and was totally blind sided! “Are you f#cking serious!” she shouted and the surprise was a success! After 5 1/2 months of virtual skyping, they were stoked to be back together. Stayed a few nights in Mompiche then they went back tot the farm to get Ike’s bike.
On the other hand, Hen was still staying at the Casa Ciclista. Realizing He didn’t have the same level of psyche that Ike had to pedal to the coast he decided to chill out and see what Quito and the surrounding areas had to offer! Luckily our friend from FoCo, Chelsea had been studying here in Quito for the last 4 months and made for the perfect tour guide!
Chelsea is wildlife and conservation biologist who also studied at Colorado State University’s fabled Warner College of Natural Resources. She is completing her final semester here in Ecuador; doing field work ranging from the high peaks of the Andes, to the Amazon jungles, all the way out to the bio-diverse islands of the Galapagos! Hen was lucky enough to be shown around Quito by this lovely young lady! From riding bikes on the local trails, and INTENSE ping pong battles, hiking the local hills, to wandering the streets of Centro Historico and the Mariscal; we even tried to go to a Liga de Quito football match but got the kickoff time wrong and ended up missing the game! Oh well, still had a blast !
After hangin around Quito for a week waiting for our good buddy Jack to fly in from Colorado, he finally showed up! Ike had given Jack some directions to Santi’s house and eventually stumbled in! Its cool to have our Colorado homies showing up left and right! Jack had wanted to come on tour with us starting in October, but decided to work a winter season in order to save money! Jack works as a dog sled guide for Good Times in Breckenridge Colorado! He is super psyched to be joining us on tour and will be taking over Ike’s bike and rollin with Hen to Brasil!
With Jack and everyone back at the Casa, we all decided to take a trip to Quilotoa while waiting for our Brasil Visas to be processed in Quito! Quilotoa is an indigenous village high in the Andes (about 4000m high) that is built around a beautiful crater lake which is told to have no bottom. The water has a turquoise tint and the mountains enclose the enormous body of water. We spent 2 1/2 days here where we hiked into the crater and explored the village.
Of course we managed to find some cliffs to jump off! The sulfuric water was extremely cold but that didn’t put the team off as we stripped down and plummeted into the bottomless lake!
We stayed with a family for a cool $3 a night where we were able to see how the family lived from day to day. It was nice to hang out in the high alpine tundra and dawn some warm clothes!
Being Easter weekend, the trail was packed with people. It seemed like most were from Quito, but also met some people from Peru and Italy. Ike visited Quilotoa 2 years prior and noticed much more infrastructure and marketing to this amazing place. Ike explained, “2 years ago I think my dad and I saw 2 people walking the trail, now it looks like the Great Wall of China swarming with tourists!”Easter weekend definitely had a large part to do with the immense population of tourists but you could still see how this village has been increasing their tourism market.
We found many bags of trash next to the lake, which we packed out, but couldn’t understand the reason behind trashing this natural spectacle. Hen interviewed a local guide who managed the mules. They have about 90 horses and mules for tourists to use for trekking around the lake. Being budget travelers we ourselves we were put off by the 10$ price tag for a horse ride. Although if your feeling lazy these push button horses can whisk you away down or up the crater!
Back in Quito the team splits up! Ike and Genia will be heading towards Brasil on foot, while Jack will take over Ikes bike and head down the Amazon river, the mightiest river on the planet towards the World Cup!
Having bike tour withdrawals, Ike realized that he will be starting a new adventure with Genia as they will become river rats and bus bats to Cuiaba, Brazil for a World Cup game Australia vs. Chile. Ike has traded his bike and panniers to Jack for his backpack so that Jack can bring the bike to Brazil and ride to the games that Hen and him have. Ike has had a great run on the bike for the last 5 1/2 months and wouldn’t have traveled down here any other way. It will be a crazy change of pace riding rivers instead of roads, not worrying about flat tires or semis tickling your shoulder.
River Rats, Bus Bats, & and Bicycle Bandits!
See you out there ! ~
– Ike & Hen