Only in Ecuador, I think to myself as the race director explains that we will be dealing with an active volcano during the competition. Tungurahua Volcano started spewing ash into the sky about a week ago, dumping it across the countryside and piling up in sections of our route.

We are less than 24 hours from the start of HuairaSinchi (Part of the AR World Series), which translates to “the wind´s strength� in Kichwa, but what really worries us about this race is not the wind or even the volcano, but the sustained high elevations throughout the majority of the race.

At the highest point of the 318 kilometer course unveiled last night, the route reaches 14,435 feet and drops to 108 feet in the last 100 kilometers, passing through a tremendous variety of ecosystems. A good 80 kilometers of the race doesn´t fall below 11,482 feet. They promised us that we will be cold and we will suffer. Continue reading

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.

Bienvenidos A ECUADOR

We have arrived in Quito, Ecuador. Country number 10 of our travels. JJ is currently in Panama working on a kayak trip and Sean is relaxing on the coast of Ecuador with a friend of his. Simon arrived in Quito yesterday and put his Xtracycle together in his hotel room, much to the annoyance of the management.

Goat, Simon and I are leaving  in a few days to climb Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Photos and updates are soon to come.

Cool bike statue in Ecuador.

Christmas gathering roasting up Cuyes, tasty roasted guinea pigs.

JJ Gets Dengue and RTS Slows Up

We think it must have been somewhere near the town of Quimbaya where JJ was bit by a mosquito that carried Dengue Fever. Cycles of fevers and chills swept in and out each day and he knew he had more than just an average flu. A clinic diagnosed him with Dengue and recommended a lot of water and rest while his platelets are restored . Here JJ is trying to get some rest (and raise his platelets) in a park while mobbed by the usual crowd of curious locals.

Derrumbes Past Medellin

Waiting behind a sheet of rain draining off the roof of a small tienda were a group of stranded travelers.

“It is far too dangerous to cross right now, please wait for the bulldozer.� Somebody offered, even stepped aside to make room under the shelter.

It was true.  Rocks were continuously tumbling down, some encouraging smaller slides to pile up against the mass of earth slowly taking over the final piece of road.  We waited for about five increasingly uncomfortable minutes; our clothes of course dripping wet, our bike shorts like soggy diapers.  Rocks kept scrambling down the sloppy earth.

Against their wishes I decided to go for it.  I backed around to get some momentum, hoping to get through the slide as quickly as possible.  A path large enough for a motorcycle or bike remained, but was filled with boulders, larger than my head.  Smaller stones sunk below the huge flooded puddle that marked the path to follow.

I watched the rocks sliding down from the very top and started pedaling across, trying to time my entrance as cleanly as possible.  Once in the slide, I could no longer watch the falling rocks, as I had to pay attention to the technical riding in front of me.

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Turbo to Medellin

To enter the port of Turbo, we paddled through the maze of mangrove forests, a twisted conglomeration of roots and branches rising out of the water. Shanty houses edged up against the water and began to turn on their lanterns as night poured in.

Merchant ships that run products up the coast to-from the Panama Canal squeezed into the narrow channel that was lined with houses on one side and the streets of Turbo on the other. Smells of diesel fuel, sewage, and fish saturated the heavy tropical air as we paddled through the filthy water looking for a ship known as the ¨Nuevo Jerusalem¨. Arrangements had been made to carry our kayaks back to Capurgana, a beach town and tourist resort further up the coast.

In Capurgana, Juan David let us “kombuchar� in front of his vacation home. Drinking a bit of rum “en caja� (from a box) later that night, we told him about our plan to paddle until we could sell the kayaks, and that we imagined the most likely place would be Cartagena. Many calls were made, and eventually he agreed to buy them, putting us back on our bikes in Turbo.

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No Mas Turbo




                     Our final crossing of the Gulf of Urabà was nearly complete. Turbo was close enough to make out the trucks and buses spewing exhaust along a coastal frontage road. The most striking characteristic the mystical fantasy world known as the Kuna Comarca was its absence of automobiles. We hadn’t seen a car in three weeks, yet Turbo had been waiting all along to reacquaint us with reality.


                      It was the home stretch of our Kayak trip, but fate would have it that our last day at sea would be no walk in the park. There we were, pushing hard in the blistering midday sun. Usually, around noon, we pull over in a shady beach for lunch. In this part of the Urabà Gulf, along the Mouth of the Rìo Atrato, vegetation was sparse. For the first time on our Kayak trip there was not even a hint of breeze, no cloud cover, and not a single palm tree to be seen.


   Just an hour ago, Goat and I had beached in front of a Colombian military base to ask if we could rest for a few hours. Our reception had been less than welcoming.

            “What’s inside this Kayak? Take everything out and show me piece by piece.� ordered the base commander.


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