Day 367 / Ranch – Machachi, Ecuador / 15 miles (Total 8740)
I listened to the lyrics of the band Fugazi as my day was slowly heading into a downward spiral. “I’m going to fight – for what I want to be”, those lyrics rang in my head, over and over. My demon’s were taking over, insecurity pierced through my aching body. Today was a make or break day for me. I needed to push on and make it to Machachi before I slumped down to the ground. Today, I had to fight for what I wanted.
Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in the country reaching 19,347 ft.With 86 known eruptions, Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes.
I slept for almost 10 hours straight, very rare for me. By 7:30 the sun was beating on my tent, telling me it was time to wake up. I crawled out of my sleeping quarters and stood up with a loud groan. I felt my age this morning with a few years added to it. Yesterday did a number on me and today was going to be no different. There was not a cloud in the sky, so I peaked around the house for a great morning surprise.
Cotopaxi was in clear view this morning and that gave me the motivation to pack up quick. A perfect way to wake up.
I wanted to get a better view of Cotopaxi, but there is no going fast on this road. Each rock would rattle anything that was loose on my bike. This section of road would be considered smooth today. What was ahead of me is a different story.
The greater the view,the greater the challenge today. The large rocks became loose on the road and the pitch became steep. Every turn of the crank was effort, every turn of the handlebar was planned out to avoid large, sharp rocks.
Hours went by as I teeter-tottered from 10,000 ft to 11,000 ft. When I finally made it close to the summit the road smoothed out a bit. I could finally enjoy the view without having to concentrate on the road. I was smacked in the face with a breath-taking headwind after taking this corner. The wind stayed all day and made the riding even more difficult.
Trying to keep my mind off the road
I could have sat and watched this show all day. Clouds rolling in fast, then they would disappear in seconds. Everything felt perfect at this moment.
I sat at the summit for an hour. I was all alone with nothing but silence around me. This is why I love touring.
The only traffic today.
I felt as free as they did
One more with the Mother Trucker
Giving me the cold shoulder.
After my break at the summit I had the decision of riding south, or head west to the town of Machachi. I decided to go towards the city to get off the rough road. The thought of a smooth road only 8 miles away gave me a good feeling. I headed west and it may have been the worst decision I have made on this trip.
By noon the views were the only thing keeping me going. It’s amazing how much the mountain range has changed over the past week. This is how I pictured the Andes would be.
As I headed west the road turned into a nightmare and there was no turning back. There was nothing else around in any direction and Machachi was the closes town around. The rocks grew larger and loose, my speed slowed down to a crawl and I was starting to lose my patience and cool for the first time on this trip.
Collecting my thoughts here.
The road was so rough that it was almost impossible to pedal on. Add a few steep hills and I ended up pushing the bike up every hill in front of me. Two miles = one hour on the road. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, life decided to rain on my parade. The rain made the rocks slick and I was pushing my bike, even on the flats. When trying to push up a hill, I was loosing my traction and ended up dumping my bike a few times from fatigue. My bike fell on some sharp rocks and ripped my front saddlebag and put a nice gash in the sidewall of my front tire.
Hours of this
Back to pushing my bike up the step, wet hills. I had to push-off the large rock with each step for traction. This grew very tiring after hours of pushing the fully loaded bike. I was physically and mentally drained from the day. I have never wanted to give up so bad in my life. The thought of being home with family and friends overwhelmed my thoughts. My breath was short and rapid with the thinning oxygen. my mind was sloppy and my body had nothing more to give. There was no one around to talk to and I was alone at 10,000 ft. The rain came down hard making things worse. I saw Machachi far off in the distance and the next 3 miles was a steep, rough ride down. My rims were wet making it impossible to slow down and the thought of riding down the mountain was out of the question. I sat down to gather my thoughts. I asked myself, why am I doing this? And my answer was easy. To honor my father, to have an adventure of a life time, and to raise money for cancer research. That’s all I needed. Headphones on with one of my favorite bands, Fugazi. I listened closely to the lyrics and proceeded to walk the bike into the city. Hours went by and I finally got to the outskirt of town with a tired smile on my face.
Falling from fatigue, I ripped another hole in my pannier.
Today was a challenge like no other. Even through tough times, this is what I’m after. To see how hard I can push myself mentally and physically. To tell the story and raise money for cancer research. Today, I fought for what I wanted. And it felt great not giving up.
The end of the rough road. I jumped on my bike and enjoyed every pedal into town. I searched around town and found a cheap hostel. I laid down on the bed with my jacket and shoes still on. I was sleeping before I could even think of what I went through today.
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