My right knee has always been my weakest link. If anything would break down, it’d be that knee. It has a history of being prone to tendonitis and over-use injuries. I’m surprised, in the 12,000+ miles we’ve been cycling, that it hasn’t been a problem. Not a squeak. Until today.
Our first day leaving Quito was probably a bad way to start considering we had been off the bikes for 17 days and then the first day was entirely uphill. It’s a sharp pain in the upper, inner area of my knee. It hurts the worst in the downstroke. Hills are particularly difficult. I compensate with my left leg to the point that I’m nearly pedaling one-legged.
I started taking ibuprofen for inflammation and wrapped it with an ace bandage for stability. Ice would be ideal but is hard to come by. My sister’s visit has been timed well. The only way this is going away is if we stop biking for a while.
Shipyard in Manta:
Unfortunately, we decided to take a detour which added a little bit of mileage. We’re committed now, turning back won’t make it any shorter. We still have plenty of time so we were looking for a town to take a day off to rest the knee.
We wound up in San Mateo, a small fishing village. At first this place seemed pretty discouraging. There are no hotels. We’re off the main bus route and it’s clear that tourists do not come here, foreign or national.
We tried to inquire about camping at the police station, but the station was empty. And there is no fire station in town.
It was 5:30pm and we still had not secured a place to spend the night, so we decided to just head out of town and hope for the best. Sunset is around 6:15 so we were running short on time and I’m moving slow.
At the top of a hill, we passed a sandy lookout point on a bluff a short way from a house. There were a bunch of people outside so we stopped to ask if we could camp at the lookout.
The look they gave us indicated that they don’t get a lot of foreign travelers through here, and certainly not traveling cyclists. We explained our situation and they agreed that it would be a good, safe place to camp for the night.
Before going to set up our tent we stopped at the small store across the street for a cold drink. In short time, we attracted a large gathering and were answering questions about the bikes and our trip. The shop owner asked if I wanted to use the shower in her house. A very generous offer, but I declined, not wanting to impose.
Later on, after we had set up our tent, the older woman from the house nearest to us came over and invited me to her house for a bucket shower. This town is very concerned about our hygiene. Do we stink that bad? At first I declined because we really don’t want to impose or use the family’s resources when we camp on private property.
I had noticed the barrels of water as we passed their house, an indication that they do not have running water. But she insisted I would feel better with a shower and there was no arguing with her hospitality. I really did want to rinse off and we only had enough water for cooking and drinking.
I returned with her to the house and afterwards she insisted I take a bucket of water back to the tent for Scott. I tried to explain that he’s a guy and doesn’t mind being dirty. She responded something to the effect that no woman wants to sleep next to a dirty man. She had a good point. In appreciation, we shared some guayaba sweet snacks with her and the family.
Later in the evening, two guys from the house showed up to ask if we had food to eat. It was clear that they had been sent by the old woman to check on us. I had just finished cooking a ramen noodle soup. They didn’t look impressed, but they looked satisfied they could report back that we weren’t starving out here.
San Mateo, friendliest little village in Ecuador.