Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Jungle Trials

About a week ago decided to stay a second day in the cool little town of Macas. It was a rather unique city compared to the other ones I'd visited so far.

Prettiest sunset of the trip.

With a full day of activities ahead of me I decided to hang out at one of the two parks they had in town. The park was cool unfortunately there weren't any volleyball courts, but it was a nice place to enjoy a break from the bike. I popped a squat on a bench beside a tree. Right away I was getting looks from everyone. Macas was far from a tourist town and it was clear they didn't get many Gringos 'round these parts. There was a gang of guys, that walked around the park like they owned the place. It didn't take long before the curiosity got the better of them. They couldn't figure out why I was on their turf. Five of them surrounded me. I was thinking to myself, "Is this really gonna happen at a park." They casually said "Hola." Waiting for me to make the first move. I returned an Hola to them hoping that things wouldn't get out of hand. One was dressed in camouflage which just added a touch of military to their already intimidating look. Another one sat down beside me. He asked if I wanted to come play with them.

These were the thugs.

I got up and followed them over to the playground. They showed off some of their tricks. One could do a somersault while the other could climb up the rock wall with one hand. They told me to get on the spinning rode contraption. After I jumped on, all five of them grabbed a rope and began running around in circles as fast as they could. Since they showed an appreciation for climbing I decided to show off as well. Using an old gum tree, I demonstrated the basics of climbing a tree. It wasn't long before a few of them ditched their shoes. They were very impressed and stoked to try themselves. A few of them followed me up. Every time I stopped they kept cheering "Mas alto!" which means "Higher!" in English. After we ran around the park and climbed a few different trees they said the wanted to show me their church. We walked about a mile through the streets to their church up on the hill. They showed me a shrine for the Blessed Mother that had numerous candles burning below it. This was one of their favorite spots. They began grabbing twigs and sturdy pieces of grass which they held above the tiny flames. They patiently waited until the flame made the sticks crackle and pop. Next they walked me inside the church. They quietly ran up to the alter making sure not to disturb anyone, and knelt down. They each said some prayers while I took in the serenity of this special place.

Putting their new skills into action.

Look at 'em go!

This was the main church in Macas.

After our visit to the church they showed me around the other park in town. We climbed a few more things and got a few pictures. They loved that I allowed them to use the camera on my phone to get pictures. It was nearly dark. For their hard work and dedication showing me around town, I decided to reward them. We walked down to the ice cream shop and I let them all choose an ice cream cone. They each had 50 cents leftover. What where they going to do with all this money? They surely knew. After their first cone they licked their lips and hustled across the street to a cheaper place and bought a 25 cent cone. At 6:30, their curfew, we fist pounded and said our goodbyes. They said "Will you be back again to play tomorrow?"

So long Macas!

This was really cool getting to hang out with some of the locals. While I did get a few laughs from people that saw me climbing trees with the kids, no adults appeared to think anything of it. This wouldn't fly back home in the USA. First off it would be a very rare to see five kids out playing without parental supervision or ipads. Second off a concerned parent would probably alert a police officer or park ranger that there was a grown man doing suspicious activities with youth. Thirdly taking the kids to get ice cream would be the last straw, most parents would freak out about that.

Just a little rant, I'm glad there are differences in cultures between countries. It allows me to enjoy fun times like this.

After a few more days of riding in the Amazon the real trials began to set in. They weren't the typical things I've had to deal with either.

A neat little town up on the moumtain.

Foggy morning start.

A little two person camp. I wonder how long it'll be that way?

As I was riding along enjoying the steady climb through the mountains I noticed a shimmering waterfall to my right. I pulled over to fill up my water bottles and rinse off. As I climbed down to the little water hole, a bit of the dirt wall gave way. A hefty rock rolled off and landed straight on my fat big toe. It hurt like crazy, but it felt like fake pain. I thought it was like when you bump a funny bone and the pain is unreal, but it goes away shortly after. I filled up the bottles and rinsed off. When I got out of the water I realized it was much worse than I thought. The rock had split my toe open in three different places and pierced a hole straight through the nail. It was bleeding steadily. It continued to bleed for the next few hours.

Good ol' duct tape to the rescue.

Saw this coral snake yesterday basking in the road. A local told me if you get bit you have an hour to live. I decided to fact check him. He's right, they have the second strongest venom of any snake in the world.

I'll get back to that later. As I continued up the hill I realised how hot it was. I could stand on the road for a maximum of about five seconds before my feet felt like they were being pan seared. I wanted to try cooking an egg on the road so bad. If I had to guess, I would say I was the hottest day of the entire trip. Tormod said "Well this is the hottest December 1st of my life." It surely was for me too. I felt a wobble on the back tire. I looked down and realized it was flat. I was not really in the mood for it, but I guess there's never a good time for a flat tire. I used my last patch and popped on the new tube. A few hundred pumps later, I realized something was very wrong. The trusty little hand pump that I've used on all my bike trips was finally failing me. There was a distinct hiss after each pump as the air slipped out. I could get the tire up to about 50 psi before I could no longer pump faster than the air squirted out. The pump isn't air tight anymore. "I guess half pumped will do." I thought to myself. As I continued up the hill I realized I was in for more trouble. The BMX pedal that would act up on occasion decided to misbehave once again. It now cranked loudly with every stroke, and completely locked up every thirty seconds or so. I'm not sure why everything had to happen at once, but this was just not my day. When it rains it pours.

This climb was gorgeous.

Not sure if this is regulation or not. Seams questionable.

We made some friends at the swimming hole. After they stared at us for 20 minutes they came down for a swim.

Tormod must have been saying something interesting. He has their full attention.

When you're hot, thirty, and waterless, this is a perfect refill station.

While still on this same hill just trying to get up and over into the next town, another incident took place. Tormod was about 100 feet in front of me. We were both ready for this hill to be finished. He looked over and waved to a man standing outside his home as he passed. About 30 seconds later I approached the same house. There was no man in site, but there was a legion of three dogs. They began furiously barking and all rushed me. I didn't think much of it, since this has happened well over 100 times on the trip. I did what I always do. I slowly pedaled on and ignored the dogs. Well this particular dog did not approve of my approach. He was particularly fired up. After a few ferocious barks and intimidating growls he lunged at me and bit my leg. His bite slipped and he bit me twice more in a matter of seconds. Surprised I stopped the bike and dismounted. By this time the owner was running over towards us yelling for his dog to stop. He checked on me to make sure I was alright. I had a few teeth marks on my leg, but thankfully he didn't break the skin. Not sure what set this dude off, but he had it out for me. Good thing there wasn't a thunderstorm on that day, I probably would have been a prime candidate to get struck by lightning.

"What with the chimp and the bug?"

The sights made the climb enjoyable. I was always eager to see what was around the next bend.

The mixing of the waters.

The long winding road.

This is how I imagined the Amazon!

Finally we reached the top and coasted down into Guayaquiza. We stopped at the very first shop in town to get some cold refreshments. As I climbed off the bike I looked down. There was another flat. What a way to end the day's ride haha.

Attention hog.


this animal?

Although it seems like this was a really bad day, trips like this have plenty of ups and downs. Physical ones, and mental. You can't enjoy the sunny days without some rainy. It could have been much worse. Before we left town Tormod got a stomach bug. He said he wasn't feeling great and that he would leave town a bit later and catch up to me.

The sky looks like it was posing for a picture.

I've never seen a place that had so many waterfalls.

The mountain that bursts into the sky.

Since then my toe mostly healed after a bit of an infection. I got a new bike tube, one that's thicker. The dog bite also healed. And I met a cool dude that let me camp on the roof of his restaurant.

Rooftop camping.

Even with the candy canes on the eucalyptus tree I can't get into the Christmas spirit here.

You can feel the heat coming off this picture.

What do you mean I've got something on my face?!

This hatchling couldn't even fly yet.

Tormod is still not doing too well. He is on the other side of these 9,000 foot mountains. I'm in Loja now getting ready to buy new pedals and a new pump tomorrow. It's really tough to choose favorites and bests, but I really think the Amazon is the most beautiful place I've ever visited. No words can describe how amazing and raw this place is.

My ice cream buddies.

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