There are a lot of things in the Amazon. Ants first come to mind. Everywhere there are ants. Trees too. Leaves. Vines. Naked kids in those trees. Rivers. Kids playing in those rivers, naked. But no internet. There are signs, however, that claim to offer internet, but any inquiry results in the same response: no electricity, no signal, bad connection. It’s for the best. I’ve been living and loving every passing second with nature. Time ceased to exist.
After leaving the Casa de Ciclista in Tumbaco, Max and I pedaled east toward the green stain on the map where roads end and rivers begin. Jungle thoughts so absorbed us we forgot to account for the mountain ridge that stood like a wall between Ecuador’s dry, high central valley and the tropical Amazon basin. In Colombia both Max and I had biked up much more difficult mountains, but never after a three week rest and never with headwinds that were the wrathe of God himself (herself, itself, you understand). Several times we were blown into the ditch, laughing aloud with each almost crash…then it got old. We began to wonder what so seriously pissed God off. In the end, I confess, we hitched a ride up the 4,000+ meter mountain, wedging our bikes and trailers on a flat bed between cinder blocks and two-by-fours, shivering at the summit, smiling upon descend into Papallacta where US $1.50 hot springs awaited us. In the steaming pool we met Becky, a local teacher, who offered us her one-room home on the school grounds for the night.
The next few days were downhill, smoother, with short bursts of pedaling that pulled us over small hills and projected us into roller coaster curves that ended at mountain bases. On one such descent I recorded a twelve minute video. As soon as I have access to a faster internet connection I will upload it to my video section.
Highlights along the way: conversation with indigenous protesters on highway who painted our faces with warrior designs (post soon); a riverboat ride and stay in a man’s jungle home; medicinal plant lessons from same man while hiking through his property; and more.
Now outside of Misahuallí,—The Gateway to the Amazon—we’ve set up camp on a small dirt cliff overlooking the Napo River. Four nights now we’ve camped here, and will possibly stay four more while building a balsa tree raft (more below). The property belongs to a family who let us stay and use their stilted home as if it were our own. The father is a respected Shaman who has guided us through several traditional ayahuasca rituals. The oldest son pans for gold in the river, bringing home the equivalent of US $75 each evening in test tubes filled with tiny, flaky specks. The mother makes chicha at night while Max and I huddle around the camp stove staring at stars. The kids—all nine of them—endlessly rummage through our things like curious monkeys, jumping on our backs and demanding we bathe with them in the river. This is home until we set off from their doorstep in a home-made raft. The oldest son has traveled several times downriver toward the Peruvian border. Together we will build a raft, cut trees, lash logs, construct a shelter and fire pit, load the bikes, then float. Final destination: Iquitos, Peru.
Please note: I may not have internet for awhile, perhaps a week or more.