Day 394 – 70 miles of bliss

Day 394/ San Ignacio – JaenEcuador / 70 miles (Total 9415)

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A short hill climb and looking at San Ignacio from a distance.

Cartagena, Colombia was the last day that I was able to pedal a full day on a flat road. After Cartagena, it’s been 3 months straight of pedaling up hills. Everyday I have been averaging between 3000-6000 ft in elevation, and that can wear a man down after time. I needed some kind of spark to get me back into the game, and today didn’t give me a spark, it gave me a raging fire inside. Today was the definition of a perfect days ride. Today I was able to pedal 70 miles on a flat, beautiful road.

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Wish I had something in the background to give you some kind of scale to show you the size of this butterfly, like my head. Hands down the biggest butterfly I have ever seen.

I left the hostal around 8:00, and the sun was already beating down on me. Right out of town the road turned into a rough, rocky dirt road and I was wondering if it was going to be like this the entire 70 miles to Jaen. A small hill started right away and signs of construction was up ahead.

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I ended up waiting here for over a half-hour pacing back and forth. The lady finally gave in and let me pass after constantly telling her that I would be careful and watch out. She warned me that the construction went on for the entire 15 kilometers down hill.

The road smoothed out and it was like riding on glass through the construction site. I was able to actually ride fast downhill and not have to death grip my brakes, unlike Ecuador.  Every few kilometers I would have to slow down for the parts of the road they were working on. They do road work here backwards compared to the states. They start one section of the road, tear up the next, skip a few km, then start all over again. Anyways, it was a great 9 mile descent even with the construction. I was a little excited going fast though. I ended up hitting a pothole at full speed, ripped my front right saddlebag strap off, and I must have lost my bag of bananas that was tied to the back somewhere on the road. By the time I hit the bottom of the hill, I was around 1,500 ft in elevation and it’s been a long time since I have been below 3,000 ft. And holy crap is it hot down here now.

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Finally, a smooth dirt road.  Ecuador could take some lessons from Peru in roadwork.

There was a river waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, adding to the already beautiful background views. A few miles after the descent my road turned into a brand new paved road. The best part of it all….It was a flat road!!! I couldn’t believe it. Every element to making a perfect day was present. The road was smooth and flat, with no traffic. The views were amazing and a strong tailwind was behind me. Today was going to be fast.

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The last section of dirt. Things would pick up after this turn.

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Rice fields on both sides of me.

By noon I already put on 35 miles without breaking a sweat. My legs felt brand new and powerful. After months of riding challenging roads my legs have built up some great muscles and today I was able to see the payoff. Shifting into my largest chainring and I was averaging 18 mph when I put my head down and charged it. Around 1:00 the sun was burning hot, but the tailwind kept me from burning out. Suns-out-guns-out. I took off my shirt for the first time in months and I was pasty white. It only took 20 minutes for the sun to give me a nice color of red and the shirt was back on.

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Followed this river all day. A day’s ride couldn’t get any better then this

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Take it in. Pretty surreal today

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Smooth and empty today. Can you tell I’m loving Peru already.

Every hour or so I would stop at a small village to get out of the sun, and get something cold to drink. Seriously felt like a rock star pulling into these villages. Right away the locals would come to where I was sitting, grab me a chair, and a cool drink. Pictures were taken and lots of handshakes going around.

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The start of a new bridge. I still couldn’t figure out how people got across the river to a decent size town.

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Cross that imaginary line and even the mountains change. Peru has a different feel and look to it from Ecuador.

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A small village I stopped at. When the locals saw me take this photo, they all wanted me to take a photo of their stuff for sale. The man in the yellow shirt in the background was begging for me to take a photo of him and his stand. Pretty weird.

50 miles into today’s ride and I was still holding the same speed. Checking my gps and I climbed around 3,000 ft in elevation, and I didn’t even realize it. The road had a mellow incline compared to Ecuador and my legs couldn’t even notice. About 15 miles out from Jaen a man pulled aside me on his scooter and waved me over. We talked for awhile and he handed me his friends bushiness card. He told me Miguel owns a bike shop and has a place for bike tourist to spend the night if they were passing through town.

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A random good person. He made sure I had enough water and hooked me up with a place to stay tonight. Thanks good person. Only a few days in Peru and the people couldn’t be any friendlier

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More rice fields.

Today was 70 miles of bliss. I cranked it out in 7 hours and felt like I could do more. I pulled into town with more energy then I could imagine and found Miguel’s shop right away. After I got settled down, I went out and explored the town. Miguel told me the town was a little dangerous, but I didn’t get that feeling one bit. A little dirty and smelly in some parts, but overall everyone was nice as ever and I bounced from shop to shop checking things out in Jaen.

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I stopped at Miguel’s bike shop and he was more then happy to give me a place to stay. He brought me over to the empty apartment building, handed me a key, and that’s the last I saw of him. Thanks for the place to stay Miguel.


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Day 393 – Grin-gooo

Day 393/ Namballe - San IgnacioEcuador / 20 miles (Total 9345)

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Revenge of the Tuk-Tuk. Not many of these in Ecuador, but now they flood the streets in Peru. These things will run you down if you’re not paying attention.

I woke up feeling defeated from yesterdays ride, no sleep, and a hot, sticky room. Roosters and dogs barked and squawked all night long, leaving me tossing and turning. My first thought this morning was that I was out of food and only had $2.30 to my name. I packed up slow and dragged my bike down the steep set of stairs. I lost my balance and almost tumbled down the steep stairs. What a way to start my morning. I searched around town and found a bakery spending $1.00 for a bag of plain bread. Down to $1.30 now. Ate a couple of pieces and hit the road in hopes of finding an Atm today. Right out of the village the road started with a mellow incline, nothing like Ecuador’s steep roads and I was very grateful for that. I didn’t research the road ahead of me, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from today’s ride.

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A short descent on the left side, and a long haul up the right.

The morning started off with a thick fog and eventually burned off from the intense sun. An hour into the ride I was sweating like a mad man trying to get to the summit. Around 10:00 I made it to the top and started the descent down, and that only lasted 5 minutes. Back to the grind of climbing for the next few hours, and I wondered if this was ever going to end. My bike was in desperate need for a tune up, my clothes need a good wash, and  no money in my pocket had my thoughts not on the road. For the next few hours I struggled up the hill climb. This should not be this hard, but when the mind is not focused on the moment it can drag you down. The people in Peru are the same as the rest of Latin America, and that is AMAZING. They kept me smiling today, with friendly hellos, and kind gestures. Passing through a small village,  I saw a mother holding her little baby that couldn’t be older the 3 years old. I passed only a few feet away and the baby pointed at me and said “grin-gooo”. The mother looked at the baby as if those were her first words, and busted out laughing with the rest of her friends. Oh-boy, did that have me busting a gut laughing hard.

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All day long there was beans drying out on the side of the road.

I finally arrived into the town and searched out for an Atm machine. Within a few minutes in town, I was pulling out my first chunk of Peruvian Soles. My attitude completely did a 180 and I walked the bike across the street to a restaurant. I ordered a hamburger (something I have been craving for sometime now) and the size of it brought a smile to my face. For a $1.80 that hamburger tasted so good and filled me to the point of not wanting to move. I looked down the street and the sign Hostal beckoned me in. It was still early in the day, but the sun was beating down and my stomach was full. I talked the lady down from $7.00 to $5.00 and called this Hostal home for the night. The rest of the evening was spent working on the gear, then I treated myself to the local market. Love these things. Walking around and I haggled prices from one vendor to the next. It felt great to stuff my food bag with all sorts of fruits and goodies. Turned out to be a good day after all.

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I gave an elderly women .50 cents for some bananas and she filled a bag for me. As I was walking away she motioned for me to come back, and decided to shove more into my bag with a big smile on her face. These are not even all of them, I ended up giving some to the lady at the hostal.

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For those that have been reading the blog for a while now, you probably remember my friend Raphael from France. I met Raphael in Mexico and we became good friends on the road. We parted ways in El Salvador, and we were going to meet back up in Nicaragua. Raphael had his bike stolen and all his gear in Honduras. A good traveler never gets down and out, they will always find a way to keep going. Raphael bought this beauty and will continue his travels sailing the sea. Hope to see you on the coast in Chile my friend. Miss sharing the road with you. Safe travels

 


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Day 392 – Welcome to Peru

Day 392/ Zumba – Namballe, Ecuador / 20 miles (Total 9325)

I ended up taking a day off yesterday to wait out the weather. From the early morning to late afternoon the rain came down hard. I was so happy that I didn’t take off that morning. The road to the border would have been a nightmare to pedal through in the rain.

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Heading out of Zumba and pushing towards Peru’s border.

I felt refreshed from a great night sleep and woke up to the military marching down the street. They were signing their song that stuck in my head all day and pushed me to march on myself. The rain finally let up yesterday evening and this morning turned out to be beautiful.  I needed to put in a few hard days and find a ATM machine. I made a foolish mistake and counted on pulling money out of the last town before Peru. None of the Atm machines took my card and now I have $6.00 to my name for the next few days. Well, Ecuador didn’t let me leave without putting up a fight. A sloppy, muddy road from yesterdays downpour made for a difficult pedal today. A few miles out of town and things got real tough.

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I decided to go with  the mountain border crossing for a more relaxed entry into Peru. Also, there have been a lot of robbery’s on the cost lately, with bikers getting held up by gun point. Marko and Anja are making their way back to the mountains after two tourist got jacked a day a head of them. I should be running into them in the next week or so.

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With only a few dollars to my name, I needed to spend the last dollars wisely. I spent .60 cents on a bag full of bread at the local bakery. Down to $5.30

I couldn’t believe that this was a road to a border crossing. There was no traffic and the road a head of me told me why. Im not sure what was worse today, the downhill, or the ups. Heading down I had my brakes fully locked up and still going fast. Some sections I could have easily flipped over the bars from the steep pitch of the road. Then the real fun began. I came around a corner and those words of “mother trucker”, came out of my mouth again. Any kind of road over an 12% grade is tough, and this road was pushing around 18%. I tried to pedal the steepest sections and my front wheel was coming of the ground with each pedal. I ended up pushing in the slippery mud and that was almost to much. The thought of having me taking off my saddlebags and carrying them were on the back of my mind.  I dug in and pushed my way to the top. So glad I decided not to ride in the rain yesterday. That would have been ugly. After more pushing and a few stops at some military checkpoint an officers told me I made it to the peak. He even gave me a high five for my efforts. Doesn’t mean the fun wasn’t over though.

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As I headed down the mountain there was a sneak peak of what was a head of me to climb.

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Coming around this switchback my butt was far behind my seat and my fingers were white from squeezing the brakes so hard to slow down.

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Getting closer to Peru

The next 30 minutes had me death gripping my breaks and avoiding the larger rocks on this crappy, rough road. I swear I went through a pair of brake pads just on today’s ride. I stopped and felt my rims and they were blazing hot from so much breaking. Finally, I made it to the checkpoint and my exit stamp was as easy as it gets. Just a sleepy little office room and that was it. I crossed over into Peru and the relaxed border crossing was a little to relaxed. Nobody was around, and I ended up waiting for over an hour for an officer to arrive. Filled out a paper with a few questions and he welcomed me into Peru. I got on the bike and took in a deep breath of Peruvian air. Country number 11. Everyone was honking and smiling and another great country is ahead of me to explore.

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Mother Trucker! The dirt had a thin layer of slimy mud and I was slipping and sliding everywhere.

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The road went in every direction today

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Still some great views

I was pretty beat up from the ride today, so I checked a few places in the first village to spend the night. I was looking for a place to camp, but I talked to an owner of the hostal about my money situation. He told me I could stay the night for $3.00, knocking off a few bucks to help out.  I counted my money and that left me with $2.30 till I found a ATM machine. I can do it without hitching a ride, I told myself. Unpacked all my gear and I was just to darn tired to do any of my chores for the day. The sunset came fast and I enjoyed a starry night out of my bedroom window. I haven’t seen stars like this since Baja, Mexico. I ate the last of my noodles and bread before bed. Hopefully I will stumble across a bank with an Atm machine tomorrow.

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Country number 11

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What kid doesn’t like playing in the mud

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A flat road as soon as I crossed the border.

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A cool cave hidden off the road

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Watching the sunset from my hotel window. It was hot and sticky in my room all night, making for an uncomfortable sleep. I could have opened the window for some cool air, but I would have been destroyed by the mosquitoes that wanted in.

 


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