Category Archives: Ecuador

HuairaSinchi Race Report


                “How do you feel?  Are you nervous?� asked a reporter at the starting line of the race.

                “Nervous? Nah.  I would say it is more a feeling of resignation,�  JJ replied as he looked at the road ahead.

                The thought of trekking, biking, and paddling across 318 kilometers of some of the most extreme countryside in the world leaves you overwhelmed.  We had been exploring the country, self –supported on bikes for the last month and were well aware how difficult this was going to be.  

                I looked around at the other teams; most were polished up in matching lycra outfits and looked like this was not their first race.  They looked serious.  Then I checked out our, rather eclectic team: we had affixed the American flag with duct tape to our jerseys, Sean´s Surly Big Dummy long bike looked far too substantial to be in a race, our clothes were all dirty and tattered from the months of bike touring.  We did not look very serious or intimidating.

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1,2,3,4 & Yes 5 Hammocks

A quick photo of this morning´s campsite (just before the onslaught of schoolchildren).  After waiting far too long in the city of Quito for some parts to arrive for the Chupacabra we were able to escape the clutches of city life, though, not without it´s adverse affects.  All five of us (Simon joined us in Quito) got some fuerte cold, and though we should have taken it easy to recover, we couldn´t resist the opportunity to get back on the trail and have suffered our entire way to Tena.  Now we´re trying to borrow a raft to check out some of the rivers nearby.

Pretty awesome having FIVE on the spine.

Mugged by the FARC

          The other day I was strolling down a street in Quito’s Barrio Nuevo when this guy in a yellow sports jacket extended his hand to shake.

           We went through the initial “where you from, what you do� deal when suddenly he says: “Soy de Colombia y un miembro de Las FARC.� 

          Then he asked me what I had in my pockets.

          Due to an unremitting sinus infection, my pockets were practically bulging with slimy wads of snot soaked tissue paper. These I tried offering him, along with a handful of loose change.

           Everything passed through my numb fingers and fell to the ground as the FARC man shook his head and, still smiling, said: “No, no, your phone, where’s your cellular at.”  

          “Don’t have one.”

         “Well, I’ve got this pistol in my pocket..:” At this point he raised his leg slightly to make plain the outline of the gun bulging through his pants. “And if you don’t give me your phone, or your money or something…I’ll Kill You.”

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Volcan Chimborazo

     With the help of a policeman at the tollbooth on the Panamericana, we were able to get on a bus headed to Rio Bamba within 10 minutes. Unfortunately, all the seats were occupied and I had to sit in the aisle suffering through the exhaustion that was catching up with me.  I hadn´t slept since I got up to climb Cotopaxi, and the night before that, I could count the hours of sleep I got with one hand.   In Rio Bamba we got some almuerzo, then resupplied our food at a small tienda (stoked to find some tiny Nutella Packets) and hopped on a bus potentially headed to Chimborazo.
       In our search to find the correct bus; the conversations we had at the terminal (including with the driver of the bus that we chose to take), left us unsure there was a bus headed to the mountain, but a short ways into our bus ride Goat pointed out the window and said, “I think we´re on the right one.�   Filling the window was the profile of a tremendous mountain (once thought to be the tallest in the world) and a wave of nervousness rushed through me. “This mountain looks a bit more serious than Cotopaxi,� I thought.
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Volcan Cotopaxi

We got together our rental gear and modestly shouldered our packs, joining the throngs of mochileros in the Mariscal Region of Quito.  Bus routes were closed as the city prepared for it´s Ano Nuevo celebrations, promising lots of debauchery and the tradition of burning effigies of the old year, life size muñecas that sat languidly in front of shops and houses across the city.  For three dollars we got a taxi that took us to La Terminal, a rather terrifying mishmash of transportation services, stacked on three stories.   Stench of urine filled the air as we passed the cascade of busses and approached the entrance to the complex. Inside, single file lines weaved in zig zags through the vendor booths set up chaotically throughout and we tried to maneuver across these seemingly impenetrable lines of aggressive travelers.  Ice Axes and crampons protruded from our packs and commanded a bit of space to allow us through.  Our challenge was figuring out which bus we needed, information we neglected to acquire beforehand.   All we really knew was we were headed to Volcan Cotopaxi, sitting south of Quito some 50 odd kilometers, and we wanted to climb to the top.
Even when we found out which bus we needed, we were still stuck, because the assistant responsible for taking tickets and packing cargo underneath wanted nothing to do with us.   As if my pale face and gringo clothes were completely invisible, he refused to acknowledge my existence.  I asked a woman waiting nearby why he wouldn´t help us and she responded simply that he´ll only let you on if he can´t fill the bus.  I tried to get more from her, curious what was wrong with me, but before I could another bus attendant offered to let us on.  We threw our bulky backpacks underneath and got on the already moving bus, standing room only…………

New Years On Top of The World

Goat and Jacob just got finished with their climbing trip. Simon joined up for a bit, but after getting elevation sickness the first day, he decided to head to the beach for some surfing. They used a Spot Tracking device to show their progress on the hikes and it´s pretty cool to check out with Google Map´s relief feature. You can usually follow along on their progress with their SPOT MESSENGER Tracking Page.