Feb 11

Day 67 – Somewhere north of Quito to Somewhere south of Ambato Ecuador

by in Field Reports

We caught Joe and Vern as they were doing their final packing, chatted for a bit, and wished them the best before heading to breakfast. Great guys, and we’ll miss their company but we like eating breakfast and lunch and stopping to pee (since we drink constantly from the Camelbacks).

Joe and Vern

Vern sets off

Joe sets off

The only touristy thing of the day was the equator, which I had put as a waypoint in the GPS. Joe had warned us that the sign was easy to miss, so I was keeping a careful eye on the GPS, switching it from Kilometers to Hours, mInutes, seconds when we got within 1k of it. Was kinda cool watching it tick down from 300 seconds to… “Oh hey! The sign!… that’s not very small….”

note: The entrance is about fifty meters after the sign if you’re heading south.

Pulled in, and the guy there told us we could bring the bikes in to the main area. Whoot! Then directed us to point them nose to nose along the equator. Many pictures were taken, and then he gave us his educational talk about why the equator is cool, and why the map we’re so used to really ought to be turned sideways so that North is on the left and South is on the right.

The Equator

The Equator

The Equator

Some Ecuatorial T-Shirt love for Revzilla
(some t-shirt and sticker love for the guys at Revzilla)

The idea has a few merits, the one we liked best was that no country is on top of any other country. No matter what map we look at there will always be some psychological value to the country on top, but when you have the equator at the center vertically everything kind of comes in from the side and there’s not as much of a sense of domination by the US and Russia.

Also, he explained the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn to us, which is good, because while we both knew they were important neither of us could remember why. Sadly, we didn’t stop to take a pic when we passed the Tropic of Cancer in Mexico.

Anyway, they were asking for donation to support their educational stuff, and had a cool sky map with all the constellations (since you can see them all from the equator) and a DVD. We liked what they were trying to do, and ponied up the $20 they were asking for. Honestly I don’t care so much if they achieve their goals, but i think that even trying to achieve their goals will get kids thinking and asking questions about the world we live in which is great. Their site is at http://www.quitsato.org

We asked the guy if he’d seen a couple of “older guys” on bikes earlier in the day and he said no. We were shocked. Did Joe and Vern somehow miss it?! I hope not, because Vern hadn’t been there before. Either way, Dachary and I looked at each other and thought how grateful we weren’t riding with them today, because we would have missed it. Also, it’s just much more comfortable riding at our own pace, which seems to frequently be about 5 to 10 kph slower than theirs.

Shortly after we left I said “I think there’s something wrong with my tires.” to Dachary, “No. It’s the road.” Which is somewhat humorous because there have been so many times when Dachary has been “is there something wrong with the road or my bike?” It felt like i was kind-of floating on the road an not really gripping it. Like when they’ve just run one of those road eaters over the tarmac to prepare it for resurfacing, except the road *looked* fine. Visually it was great, but both of us were weirded out by it and kept our speed down for the next ten minutes or so, until the road finally rejoined normalcy.

Not long after that we were following the Pan American through Quito, which I’m happy to report was a 4 lane highway that skirted the guts of the city. Neither of us realized how high Quito was though. 3177 meters was the highest we hit in town, and not long afterwards we brushed up against 3500. It’s also, FREAKING HUGE. It’s hard to get a sense of the thing since it is situated between mountains, and you can never see it all at once. But trust me, it’s big, and you really don’t want to ride through it if you don’t have to.

It was chilly, and wet, as we were riding through the lower fringes of the clouds into, through, and past Quito. When we started coming down we were able to look over and down onto a rain storm, seeing it from a distance, but level with the bottom edge of the cloud. We could see Rain going down onto the plain from our level. It was quite cool. But, by then we’d been in the mid fifties, with wet misty cloudstuff for hours. I was chilly, and Dachary was starting to shiver.

We needed to find somewhere for lunch, which we were already a couple hours late for, but honestly, nothing looked like something we’d even want to park at, nevermind *eat at, until finally, I saw a restaurant sign that proclaimed “Healthy Food” (I didn’t realized until later that it was in english). I figured anyone that is going to go out of their way to promote “healthy food” is going to have some standards, and thus, hopefully, a decent place. I couldn’t quite figure where it was, but I dutifully pulled over by the sign and saw that it was an adjunct to a hotel, which generally means a bit pricier, but at this point we really needed to just warm up.

So, in we went, past the guy at reception, and into an empty dining room…”Is it open?” We went back and asked. Yup, it was.

We ordered “Cordon Blue” and knew we were in for something…”interesting” when he asked us if we wanted that with beef or chicken. Neither of us felt adventurous enough to try it with beef. What we ended up with was essentially a piece of flat chicken wrapped around a piece of ham and a pice of that cheese that seems so common in Latin America. It wasn’t technically Cordon blue…. I think, but it wasn’t bad.

Before the actual meal came though, he plopped down a plate of popcorn (a first for us) and offered us some hot juice. We didn’t know the word for whatever kind it was, but, being us, we told him we didn’t know what exactly he meant, but we’d be happy to try it. We think it was warm grapefruit juice, watered down so it wasn’t sour, with a bunch of sugar mixed in. It was quite tasty, and warm….

While we were eating the rain clouds moved in and neither of us felt like leaving. We even pondered just staying at the hotel, but it wan’t even four yet and we would have both felt like wusses if we’d wimped out that early because of a little rain. So, we threw the rain liners in our pants (we already had them in our coats for the extra warmth) then added our electric jackets (but neither of us bothered to plug them in) and set out.

It wasn’t that bad. And, in typical fashion around here, we rode out of it in less than ten minutes. But, as five o’clock came around Dachary informed me that she was feeling like crap (queezy, feverish, intestines, the whole bit) and really needed a hotel. So, we started looking, and looking, hoping for something… anything that didn’t look like a crap-hole.

And we stumbled across it. I went in, and as i was talking with the guy she came in and informed me that I needed to “Just book it” With an emphasis on now. So, I skipped looking at it “it’ll just take a minute” “No. She’s feeling bad, we’ll take it” And we did.

Made it into the room… er no not that room, the electronic lock is broken and you can’t get out… next room…. guy leaves and Dachary dashes into the bathroom.

I brought up her stuff, she crawled into bed, and I set her camelback on the bed beside her in case she needed a drink while I went downstairs to the room with the net because we’d exhausted all the points I’d entered into the GPS and I needed to get more from Google Maps. When I came back a bit later to bring her some drinks I discovered that her CamelBak’s bite valve had taken it upon itself to empty half of the CamelBak onto the bed beside her.

Unfortunately this means that one of the things that it most important to her in a hotel room (being able to sleep in the same bed) is something she’s having to go without on a night when the comforting touch of a lover can be so dearly needed.

Later on I brought her dinner, with little hope that she’d actually eat it, but I had to try. Now the leftovers are hiding in the closet because the scent was not sitting well with her.

She felt a little feverish yesterday, and had some minor diarrhea, but I suspect that the time she spent shivering this afternoon left her with too little energy to fight of whatever it was and it all came crashing down on her at the end of the day.

I told her that we’re absolutely staying another day if she’s still feeling ill tomorrow morning. She tried to argue that we couldn’t afford the time (we’ve only got about six weeks left to cover most of the continent). I countered that her health was far more important than anything else, and that riding when you’re feeling queazy and ill simply isn’t safe.

On a related note: those itchy bumps she’d been developing? Yeah, now I’ve got a few too. And no, they’re not bedbug bites, and they’re not mosquito bites. Neither of us really think they’re bites of any kind, even though bugs love biting her. Mine don’t appear to itch nearly as much as hers though. I think hers are starting to slowly fade, but I can’t ask because she’s passed out in the dry twin bed as I type this.

Sometimes a trip like this has some frustrating, or unpleasant parts. But I don’t think either of us would trade it for anything, except maybe the promise of more trips that someone else was paying for. ;) And we’re both incredibly grateful for the opportunity to experience the world like this. But, sometimes we dearly miss the ability to curl up on the couch with our dogs and not worry about anything. I suspect that tonight is a time like that for Dachary.

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