Our camp in the sugarcane fields was well hidden from the eyes of man last night. Insects were a different matter. Mosquitos, which I wish would go extinct, with little to no consequences, found us with their heat, visual and chemical sensors.
We awoke to the distinct, annoying, high pitch whine of my arch nemeses. Sarah was down nearly a pint of blood from her shower the night before. As nature urgently called, I wished I was wearing a diaper rather than face the onslaught of vicious women awaiting me outside the protection of our tent.
After packing up camp, on our way back to the road, we passed a man in the middle of one of the harvested fields, who looked totally befuddled by the aliens on strange bikes emerging from the paths that divided the cane fields. This expression was only bested by the cattle crossing our path, cutting us off, briefly, from the road.
The road today took us through quite possibly the most delicious place on earth for more than one reason. The first was Manny.
As always, we were hungry but it was a bit early for almuerzo (lunch). Most restaurants told us to come back in a half hour or so. Sarah spotted a restaurant that was open and we met Manny.
Manny lived in New York City for five years and worked at Goodfellas Pizza before returning to Ecuador where he opened his own restaurant. The food was great, especially my breaded chicken and the vegetable soup starter. It was only after we finished that he mentioned he makes real NYC pizza. Unfortunately we were stuffed from lunch, otherwise I would have ordered one.
The second reason that this was the one of the most delicious places on earth was that we were surrounded by sugarcane fields, banana plantations and cocoa groves.
After lunch we passed a man riding a bicycle who sped up to engage us in conversation. He was on his way to work. Like most people we meet, they can’t believe we are living on our bikes. Conversation turned to his family and his current destination. He pointed to a field of bananas and told us that was where he worked. I inquired about his job and he told me he was a banana engineer. A banana engineer? I wanted confirmation. “Ud. es un ingeniero?” To which he replied “¡Sí!”
Before I had time to ask additional questions he bid us “Buen viaje” and turned down a side road to go to work. I’m still wondering how you engineer a banana. Maybe genetically. If that is the case, I want a cacao/banana hybrid.
The mountains loomed large in front of us. I had a lot anxiety about climbing back up into the mountains after so much time off the bikes. At this point we most certainly had lost all the extra red blood cells accumulated while at higher elevations and our pedaling legs were a bit out of condition.
Our legs burned as we slowly crept upwards. The climbing started at the end of the day and we made it about 16 km (10 miles) into the climb before we started looking for camping. We found an old portion of the highway, blocked off from the main road, that nature had started reclaiming. It even had a river nearby which we took advantage of by washing our clothes and ourselves.
To ward off cramps as we settled in for the night, we made sure to eat a few extra of the delicious bananas that we had carried up from the most delicious place on earth.