Baños, Ecuador (13,492 kilometers – 8,383 miles)
The Conbigotes Gentleman’s Cycling Squad hit a minor snag in plans when contemplating the departure of Bogotá due to the theft of my debit card. Though it was a bummer, I give those little bastards quite a bit of credit for hoisting it from my pocket. Cheers to Bank of America as well for thoroughly losing the emergency replacement card and sending it to my address in Los Angeles. Good work fellas. The drastic upside to all of that shit, is that we got to stay in Bogotá for another week or so with the help of Nico Rodriguez and the Biciclando team. The soon to be 9-person cycling biologist team did what they could to make us feel at home and celebrate the culmination of graduate school as we frequented the oldest existing speak-easy in Bogotá, Cafe San Moritz.
Well rested and needing to push for a few weeks to get down into central Ecuador for Christmas, we took off and headed for Armenia to stay with another member of Biciclando. This proved to be quite the eventful 5 day stretch as hosts seemed to come out of the woodwork as we searched for campsites. Mr. Erick Ortiz flagged us down on the street in Ibagué and dragged us to his apartment to feed, rest, and gift us soap, sunflower seeds and new socks to continue on our quest. The very next eve, while ramming empanadas in our mouths in the central plaza of Cajamarca, we were again demanded to stay with an interested pedestrian. Oscar (last name certainly not known), in a pseudo awkward way, asked us to stay on his farm as his bed was available due to an “appointment” in town that night with a female caller.
The oft-spoken about, oft-exaggerated, not oft-travelled by bicycle portion of roadway was to follow. Appropriately labelled ”La Linea” (the line) was a 30k stretch of man-climb over the 10,700 foot pass into Armenia. Taking most of the day to lurk up this thing, we were graciously rewarded with the most intense rain and cold thus far. Ladies and gentleman, let me point out how not at all enjoyable it is to pray your brakes hold up, plowing past semi’s on the left, through mudslides, in 50 degrees, with cold rain and wind punching you in the face. It was THE most intense hour of riding we have done yet. At one point, I had completely forfeited sanity as I approached a portion of hillside that had clearly been sucked onto the road by rushing rain run-off. Not knowing how deep it was or if I would be taken down this makeshift flood like the morons on those Cops shows, my hands went off the brake levers and said Fuck It.
We were treated to one of the most hospitable rest periods of this deal when we rolled into the outskirts of Armenia to stay with Mauricio at finca “La Maquina.” His farm house was straight out of something you would see in a Martha Stewart travel special. It felt like a romantic bed and breakfast with the romantic exchanged for 6 large dogs to flop around with and too much food to handle. After regretfully shoving off, the Panamerican highway led us through Cali and the colonial “white city” of Popayán.
Jesus, I feel like I’m rambling on here in a severely boring way. I’ll try to push through the rest of this to spare the three of you reading.
Long story short, we got off the main highway in favor of better views, less traffic, gravel roads, more rain, mud, 16 year old gunned army-men, more mountains, bears, dinosaurs and diarrhea. All good fun really, but now we are behind the 8-ball a tad to get into central Ecuador to meet the Brits and Americans to share a little Xmas yuletide cheer. After a short truck ride, effectively cutting off some kilometers in northern Ecuador, we successfully rode the last stretch into Baños after 13 straight days on the road. Tired, hungry, thirsty and wanting to do absolutely fucking nothing for a while over the holidays, we have earned it.
Hopefully Mom and Dad sent some of the shitty Oscar Meyer lunch meets and peanut butter we requested.
Feliz Navidad and Happy Hanukkah if that is your deal. Can we all please wish for a stout Wisconsin defense against the Ducks of Oregon in the Rose Bowl.