The day was a full cycle of temperature extremes. We were shivering and damp in the morning, sweating in the shade during lunch, and back to being shivering cold again by the end of the day.
The night before we camped at about 9500 feet (~2900 m) and bundled up to stay warm. By late morning we were enjoying a fast, winding ten mile decent into the Chota river valley, 4500 feet (~1370 m), where the air was hot and dry and we were peeling off layers of clothes only to put them back on again as we climbed back up into the colder weather near Ibarra at about 8000 feet (~2400 m).
Things Fall Apart
Packing up in the morning we noticed that Sarah’s tire had a bulge where the inner tube pushed through a slice in the tread. We replaced the tire with a foldable spare one we carry for just such a situation. The extra tire is usually dead weight but nice to have in this situation. Without the spare we could have reinforced the existing tire with a dollar bill, duct tape or a section from a plastic soda bottle.
Our tires are about at the end of their lives. We have replacement tires being delivered, along with some other goodies, by Sarah’s sister when she visits us on the coast of Ecuador in about a month. Along with the tires, things continue to wear out.
The rain covers for our panniers are no longer waterproof, having degraded over time. Arkel (which has great customer service) is sending us replacements. On one of my rear panniers, the stitching failed and I ran the zipper off of the teeth. I couldn’t get it back on so I reversed the direction of the zipper and created a stop with a safety pin. I’ll try to find a shoe repair shop that has a heavy duty sewing machine to mend it sometime soon.
Also, my inflatable sleeping pad has a failed baffle seam, creating a bulge. NEMO Equipment (another company with great customer service) is replacing it. Sarah’s pillow¹, made by the same company, had similar issues where the baffle welds began to pull apart and leak. NEMO’s lifetime warranty covered the defect and they replaced it several months back.
Bicycling is a popular sport in Ecuador, as it was in Colombia. We encountered a great sculpture reflecting the love of the sport. Sculptures also seem to be placed along the highway, at the turn-off for towns. Bicycling in Ukraine and Russia thirteen years ago, similar sculptures denoted what the region or city specialized in, such as wheat production or scientific research. Many towns have statues of Bolívar but others have off-beat kitsch, straight out of 1950’s Americana roadside tourist traps. For instance we saw representations of a blue toed wooly mammoths and saber toothed tigers being hunted by club-wielding, loin-clothed men around the corner from Black Jesus.
We were lucky to find a fireman who was a cycling enthusiast at the fire station (Bomberos) in Atuntaqui at the end of the day. We were invited to enjoy hot showers and a warm bed in the bunkhouse. We even had the chance to slide down the pole to the garage where the emergency vehicles were kept, something I wanted to do since I was a little kid.
¹Yes, we carry pillows. They are a glorious luxury. In the past, I never used one, instead using a jacket or a balled up pile of clothes for a pillow. That system works fine until all your clothes are funky, wet or a combination thereof. Pillows make us happy and for us, worth carrying.