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Archive for March, 2006

Ecuador – Finish, the final chapter

Saturday, March 11th, 2006

After being sick, we rode 111km – 225km – 190km – 106km through a burning Peruvian desert where our maximum strength sun block applied every 30min did nothing to protect us from the burning 35+ sun and the hot humid wind. The anti malaria tablets made our skin extra sensitive to the sun and it was cooler and safer to wear long sleeve poly props with gloves all day. I can say I have never sweat more in my life. Angela made us big cardboard peaks for our helmets out of hotel phone books that protected our faces and looked great, but sometimes flopped over our eyes while descending down hill. Five am starts every morning for the last month has meant this is a very disciplined time, where we have had to work hard as a team. From 5am until we get back from the markets at night after buying food for the next day, we are on the go, preparing, fixing and gathering information for the next day. There is always something to do and never a dull moment.

Reaching the border of Ecuador we entered banana country, suddenly the poverty stricken Peru changes to fertile plantations and a chance to take a breath.

With the advanced irrigation systems taking advantage of the rainy season in the mountains and the hot season on the coast, banana growing is at its finest. This for me was like visiting the Guinness factory in Dublin. With bananas growing as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road and stalls set up for taste tests I soon became a conosuer of the Bonita product I grew up on. Sampling bananas is an art in Ecuador and selecting a bunch of fine quality essential. Product selection is based on color, aroma, peel ability, shape, texture and taste. I found plenty of water around the tree, strong roots, lush green leaves and a younger tree provide the ideal banana. The larger firmer bananas were better for cooked delicacies and delights. I will be holding tasting sessions and tutorials on my return to NZ, dates yet to be released, booking essential!

It was then that the small contours in our map that we had overlooked came to haunt us. What we thought was going to be hammering through flat Ecuador to Quito (which is at 2,800m altitude surrounded by volcanos) has been rather hilly. We began by climbing from the coast to over 4,000m. Two days after doing everything possible to get out of the sun we weathered hail storms, torrential rain and freezing conditions. It was on the second day after having mild sun stroke that we climbed nearly to the snow line, then descended for 20min which was enough to give Angela mild hypothermia. We stopped by the road and I had to put her in a sleeping bag for 45min before heading for Riobamba our closest town. Having to hammer as hard as we could just to stay warm.

Then a hilly 174km under fork lightning and a deafening thunder storm, around through and over countless volcanoes saw us ride straight past Quito and reach our finish line the Mitad Del Mundo! (middle of the world). A large monument marks the equator. Tired, cold and in pouring rain we celebrated and remembered our first day in Tierra Del Fuego where we were caught in a snow storm, I had broken all the spokes in my front wheel and I wondered if we would ever make it. Things have come full circle now and we are happy, sad, confused and relieved to have completed what we had set out to do five months and 20 days ago.

Total distance ridden 12,121km in 682 hours through 3 deserts, 7 official crossings of the Andes highest peak 5,050m altitude, 5 countries, 1 fatal illness, 7 flat tires, 1 new language and countless life changing experiences. We have a running video documentary of the trip, countless photos and about 50 years of stories to our credit; have kept to our 10 pound a day budget to our debit, not that we really care how much we have left at the end.

Thank you to all those that have sponsored our cancer research Auckland fund and for all the emails and kind words during the trip. We would have felt incredibly isolated without you.

We do have a small problem as we have finished what we thought would take a year in less than half the time….. For now it´s a week or so off to collect our thoughts and work out a plan.

Start out at 100% and gradually pick up the pace!

Silas & Ange xxooxxoo