As I get to know my companions on this journey better, I am discovering what an impressive group of cyclists I am surrounding by. They are lean, strong athletic individuals with impressive biking credentials. Hardy, the German and Terry, one of the Aussies, biked from Cairo to Capetown together a couple of years ago. That trip is 12000 kilometers, about 1000 kilometers longer than this South American ride. Others have done that trip as well. Trips through West Africa, through the Pyrennees and the Alps, the Continental Divide trail through the Rockies in the US, and many other similar rides are common to these riders. My roommate, James from Virginia, has been a racer for many years. He has done the Tour Divide 3 times. It’s an amazing unsupported race from Banff, Alberta through the Rockies on down to the deserts of the Southwest and ending in a dusty little border town. Much of the 2800 miles follows the Continental Divide Hiking Trail which is a rugged trail carved through the Rockies with big climbs and steep drops. One has to carry everything you may need and cook along the way. You really have to be a minimalist in your packing strategy and damn tough getting through the snowy passes and dry desert areas. Long, long days on the bicycle. It is a race. Wow, is all I can say. He has also completed the Iditabike race which follows the Ididarod Sled Dog Course from a little north of Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. About 1200 miles, it begins a week before the sled dog starts and only accepts bikers who have shown they can complete extreme races. Unsupported. Wow, again. Many others on this trip have similar backgrounds. I am really the biking novice. I hope that I can hold my own. I certainly won’t be racing altho technically this is a race. James is approaching it as a race. He has also been an ultra runner competing in 50 and 100 mile races. He’s a quiet, sensitive guy who is very calm and quite friendly. Great guy for a roommate.
My roommate had a bad experience with Delta on the trip down. Delta’s written policy is that you can have one bag free on this international flight. The second bag costs $75 and the bike cost $150 plus has to fall into both linear measurements and weight restrictions. I got my 2 bags and bike here under those rules. When James got to the airport in Virginia to start his trip, Delta check-in told him that there was a baggage embargo and he would only be allowed one free bag and one paid one. So he had to call his bike box a bag and scramble to find a freight company from the airport to expedite his other bag to Quito. The tariff for this was just over $900. Yes, that’s not a misprint – $900. He’s been unsuccessful in contacting Delta from here nor have they responded to his emails. The bag is currently stuck in a port city on the coast hung up in Customs. They have a problem here in Ecuador with people bringing in goods to sell for profit so they are suspicious about his bike equipment unaccompanied by the bike rider. Through all this James has been cool and calm. If it were me Delta would be able to hear me swearing all the way from my hotel in Quito. We leave Quito for good on Saturday then it will be hard for that bag to find us down the line. One of our Bike Dreams people is doing what she can to get it released from Customs. I hope that today will be the day for that.
I spent the morning going to the bank to exchange some of my $100 bills for $20’s. Ecuador uses US currency but it’s difficult to use big bills. So altho I was told to bring big bills they are hard to deal with. Not quite like walking into the Credit Union or bank in Grand Marais. You have to weave through a phallanx of guards to get to the counter. One of the guards tried to extort a couple of dollars to let me through. Thanks to the Italian/Canadian friend Camren’s good command of Spanish I was able to easily get this done. Then breakfast at a great little Eciuadorian Hostel and now a little rest as I woke at 4am and wasn’t able to get back to sawing logs.
Are you wondering when the hell I’m going to get on my bike? So am I. Some of the people have gotten out for rides but the traffic is crazy and I have little experience biking through such crazy conditions so I’m waiting till I have to – then we will leave the city and much of the congested crazy traffic.