BLOG101, Gear Reviews, Voice of the People

30 12 2009

In addition to the RoadSide Journal Updates organized by country over there to the right…—>

…I have been posting plenty of non-journal entries organized by category: Environmental News, Funny Videos, etc. The great thing about WordPress, and the reason I use it, is that you can find my journals by country or by date. If you were wondering “Where was Sam on Christmas?” you can click on “December.” If you were wondering “When was Sam in Bolivia?” you can click on “RoadSide Updates: Bolivia.” If you want to see all my journal entries in chronological order from Paraguay to present, just click “ROADSIDE UPDATES (JOURNALS)”

GEAR REVIEWS: Soon I’ll be doing gear reviews as a way of 1) listing all of the gear I carry as a resource for others who are planning a bicycle tour (Matt) and 2) giving you the facts and my opinions about the gear.

The plan is to review all of my equipment by the end of this tour. Stay tuned, the first review is coming soon!

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE: The most important category over there to the right, and one that I will certainly continue to work on after I finish this tour, is “Voice of the People.” This is a category of Environmentally and Socially urgent stories locals tell me when I pass through their towns. Usually they are small towns being exploited, sometimes they are indigenous pueblos. One story I’ll be writing soon involves corrupt eco-tourism in Bolivia’s Amazon. This is the journalistic aspect of Ride For The Trees, the stories that locals often tell me I’m one of few to know, and therefore in a unique situation to help them.

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Gracias

30 12 2009

I’ve been meaning to thank two bike shops who gave me a big hand in Ecuador.

Cikla in Cuenca, Ecuador ( http://www.cikla.net ) — Galo Tamayo and the owners gave me hefty discounts on more than a few supplies I needed before riding north out of Cuenca. Remigio Tamariz 2-52 y Federico Proano. 07-2884809.  Muchas Gracias!

Then, after leaving Cuenca I had tire problems. I ended up being stranded trying to make a 700X23 tire hold under this heavy horse of a bike. I pinch flatted in the first 15 minutes as I suspected I would, but there were no beefier tires anywhere. Matt’s Cycles in Ambato Read the rest of this entry »





Congratulations

30 12 2009

Congratulations to my ex-sister group G-25 Peace Corps Paraguay for finishing their service. These guys have been terere-ing, charla-ing and missing their families for the past 27 months. A few have been working directly with the NGOs I worked with in the Peace Corps and many have been helping to spread awareness about Ride For The Trees and Paraguay’s illegal jungle slashing and burning. Whether your work was Environmental Education or Urban Youth Development, thank you all for your work… and Felicidades che angirukuera!





Nothing like a good ol’ cheesy green thank you

25 12 2009

Just got this in an email from GreenPeace. HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYBODY! http://www.greenpeace.org/international/thank-you-for-2009





Rumba en Colombia

24 12 2009

COLOMBIA:

12/20/2009: Ipiales to Pasto75k.

Hahaha, the first thing I noticed in this country are the buses. There are some green ones that look fairly normal, twinkyish in design, and others that look like an evil clown’s jail cell on wheels. Locals tell me these are called Chivas.

The Chiva, for all your special bus needs

Before I left Ipiales I wanted to visit the church in Las Lajas, which is off the Panamerican. You leave the city, then drop down, down, down into a gorge where the incredible church is built. It took me about 30 minutes to ride the 15k there. The climb out was steep and took about 90 minutes.

Las Lajas Sanctuary

I returned to the fire station, packed up, said goodbye to my firefighter friends and headed for Pasto, 75k away. It was mostly downhill, INCREDIBLE green, lively scenery downstream above a river through a canyon. I am running out of adjectives to describe the views I’m getting on this trip.

12/23/2009: Pasto to Army-protected bridge. 50k

Colombia is the most friendly place I’ve ever been. I kept tabs on Colombians’ favors for a day:

A new friend and me with a plate of Christmas food she gifted me. Thank you!

1) Today a man standing behind me in line bought me two bottles of water. 2) 10 minutes after that, as I was speeding down a steep road a group of four people saw me coming and held a cold, sealed bottle of water out for me like a hand off in a race. They cheered for me as I announced, “How I love Colombia!” 3) A couple of hours later I stopped for lunch. Thirsty, I ordered an extra glass of juice. She refused to charge me for it, gave me some extra rice, thanked me for visiting Colombia and wished me a happy trip! 4) Thirty minutes later, on a climb, a car slowed down beside me and a boy held a bottle of soda out the window for me. These are the kinds of storied I hear over and over about Colombia. It’s GREAT to be living them. Yes there are generous people everywhere, and this sort of thing has happened to me a million times, but not so many in just one day. You know a huge percentage of Colombians must be so generous for this to happen so often.

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THE DOG: I saw a dog lying in the middle of the road with its head up, looking around. A large truck had to swerve around it, into my lane, because the dog didn’t jump out of the way like most dogs would. I noticed there were dark stripes about 5 meters long on the road, from the dog to the side of the road. Was that blood? Could a dog really have been hit by a car and just be lying so relaxed in the middle of the street? I turned around and pedaled back to the dog. On the black asphalt the blood just looked like water. Still not sure if it was injured, I nudged it with my foot. It growled, yelped and ran to the side of the street on three legs. Its front right leg was obviously broken. I went to the only house nearby to inform them, but nobody answered.

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Colombian Army Camp: Now I’m in my tent behind an Army post, a good safe place to camp out here in the middle of the mountains. I just smashed a bug that somehow made its way into the tent and landed on the laptop screen.

Colombian Scenery

Today was almost completely downhill, with the exception of a two-hour climb I would have called absolutely gigantic before I started this trip. The scenery is mind-blowing as usual, but I’ll just let the pictures speak those words. Now I’m at a section of the PanAmerican highway where a bridge crosses a gorge at least 100 feet below. This Army post is essential. I’ve been talking with the troops here for a couple of hours. They say that Guerrillas have threatened to take out the bridge, which is essentially the only connection to Ecuador. So they have 10 troops stationed here.

The Army-Protected Bridge

They live under a tarp on a hill above the bridge, cook and sleep outdoors. They rotate shifts for a couple hours at each end of the bridge with large, intimidating rifles, and then return to camp. They do this for 7 months, mandatory if you are a young, unmarried male without children. Large banners above the bridge send a clear message to the Guerrillas: “This bridge is protected by the Colombian Army” and giant photos of serious soldiers with their faces painted in camouflage.

Army Faces on a banner above the Bridge





Leaving Ecuador

23 12 2009

I’ll miss Ecuador. The landscapes, my friends, my students, the food…

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Near the Colombian border: My world is changing. I don’t know exactly what to expect from Colombia but I suspect the changes I’m seeing here in Northern Ecuador are influenced by Colombia.  I’ve been climbing steadily and so the weather is colder. People are unbelievably polite, buying me drinks and offering me gifts more than usual. Bicycle repair shops are everywhere, and more cyclists too. The Lonely Planet travel guide says soccer and CYCLING are the most popular sports in Colombia. I have also heard from other touring cyclists that Colombians love both cycling and the cyclists that tour their country. I have been advised to expect plenty of generosity. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but they are up. Like Machu Picchu (which was out-of-this-world amazing) tourists over and over guarantee me Colombia really is as amazing as everybody says. So I have high hopes for this country, and like Machu Picchu, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

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It was great having company on the ride. People always ask me, “Why are you riding alone?” I respond, “Would you like to join me?” They laugh and say I’m crazy. I say, “I’ve been told that a few times.” But Lucy was crazy enough to spontaneously join me for a few days. It’s good practice too, because I’ll have another riding partner in about a month, if all goes as planned. Normally I just leave whenever I wake up, eat whenever I feel like it, pack my gear how I always pack my gear. But now that I have a friend joining me I am adapting and planning with her, and it’s a small price to pay. I miss my friends and family more than I can describe… I wish you could all find a way to join me for a few days! Thanks for being the first brave soul, Lucy!

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WHY ECUADOR IS SPECIAL: You already know it is home to the Equator and Darwin’s Galapagos Islands, now here are some observations less widely know.

“Saben comer pollo” (They know how to eat chicken) means “Suelen comer pollo” (They usually eat chicken).

“Tenga la bondad” is my favorite… they say it when they give you your change, which means “Have the goodness.”  After receiving my change I often say, “Tengo la bondad” (I have the goodness).

“Mande?” (roughly translated to “Send it?”) simply means “What?”

Soup. I could live on Ecuadorian soups forever. Sometimes unusual combinations like plantains with fish, or potatoes with chicken feet, typical Ecuadorian Soups have plenty of veggie chunks to fill a cyclist’s expanded belly.

Roads. The roads are steep, windy. In peru the roads followed valleys, while Ecuador bumbles through the middle of the mountainous madness. The geology affects the road planning, of course. Peru has valleys carved by glaciers and rivers. From what I have seen, Ecuador is more volcanic and mountains have sprouted everywhere, blocking what would otherwise be valleys and forcing highway routes that make one think “Why in God’s name do we have to go 20 kilometers up and around that mountain, just to drop down to the river, cross a small bridge and climb back the way we came on the other side of that river?”





From Bolivar, Ecuador to COLOMBIA

23 12 2009

Lucy’s Blog continued… aguyje ndeve!

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Bolivar to Huaca      US$spent each: $11

We stayed over night in a Residencial in Bolivar, a very tranquil and picture perfect town with a Colombian feel.  After another slightly late set-off due to the reparations of Sam’s tent following a ravishing from a species of tent-cutter-ants we hit the road again.

Cycling Statue near Bolivar, Ecuador

Cycling  distractions in the form of statues relating to our interests lay in our path; I posed with a wooly mammoth and Sam with a funky

cycle-tastic monument.

The landscape was changing from bleak looking sierra to green, fresh and agricultural. I watched birds of prey soar above and plunge down valleys at the side of the road. A fairly relaxed day’s cycling, we stopped in the mid-afternoon before a pre-warned massive climb (which never really materialised).  We hung out in the town square of Huaca watching the locals play games and regained all our calories in sweets.  We were offered great hospitality in a church and I thought how amazing it was that people are so happy to help us on our way through areas not visited normally by tourists and how lucky we were to experience these gestures in forgotten places.

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Huaca to Tulcan     US$spent: $9 each

Leaving Huaca on my first rainy day it was a tough but exhilarating ride to the Ecuadorian-Colombian border at Tulcan.  The ride had two significant climbs and  a brilliant final downhill section to the border line. Bracing the cold rain and looking into the distance at Colombia, the ride was made all the more exhilarating. I didn’t spend so much time looking around. Today was not a leisurely cycle; I was just pounding on the pedals eager to reach the destination and keep warm!

Definitely getting more into the cycling as days go by but this is where Sam and I said goodbye. I watched Sam ride on into Colombia wondering what adventures he would meet next and I turned back and bussed along the route we had just spent 3 1/2 days cycling in just four hours!

Lucy cruising in a shadow-stretching afternoon sun

This time for the whole journey the view was obstructed by low cloud and mist with only a lucky glimpse of a snow-capped peak. It’s great how much more you see and appreciate when you’re cycling!  I feel like I know Northerm Ecuadorian provinces much better now, every lump and bump!