Guayaquil to Corona de Oro. 27th till 30th of March 2019.
Are the choices you make always the best? I know I always say you can only know this after trying a certain period, but that you at least need to take a decision. You can always change.
It was hard leaving my parents now. When we decided last year that we were travelling too slow, that with the current speed we would never reach Patagonia by December 2018, that we preferred slow travel; we changed and aim to reach Patagonia by December 2019. That this would mean spending a long period at one place somewhere. Besides, I wanted to spend Christmas 2018 in Belgium/Netherlands. That being so, Frank suggested to use this time to spend a longer period in Belgium. My parents offered the possibility to live in an apartment close to them. When we made the decision to spend our ‘winter stop’ in Belgium we booked a return ticket for March of this year. Did we already have a hunch or was it mainly that a return ticket was not really much more expensive than a one way ticket? Let’s say that timing could not have been better as we were able to help during a challenging health period with my father. Everything has now been stabilized, but it still felt strange to leave as we would now leave any new challenges to themselves and my sister.
It was a precious period, as I left home 30 years ago to live our life 250 km further North in the Netherlands only visiting every 2-3 months. I was and still am torn between the need to help and to continue our plan of spinning to Patagonia. With the stabilized health of my parents and us getting older we decided to continue our dream, with the certainty that you can always be home within a week time.
Our first days in the saddle have passed. We tried out our new bikes on which we biked less than 50 km before flying out and first impression is very promising. Detailed info and what we like more (or less) compared with our previous setup is to be posted in a separate blog.
What a strange feeling it was to arrive in a suburb of Guayaquil after a 14 hour flight with a stopover in Quito and a marathon of 5 films of which we watched Bohemian Rhapsody together (did you ever try to synchronize your screen with your neighbor so you could watch together?). As we would arrive late we pre-arranged pick-up and hotel, only the pick-up did not show up. No worries as our Spanish is now good enough to solve this problem. After a small delay of an hour we were on our way. It felt as not having been away at all.
At least the hotel still had a room, small but clean and downstairs sufficient room to reassemble the bikes.
As we have seen quite some discussions on several blogs/social media on how to transport your bikes we made a small summary of how we did it.
Taking your bikes with you on the plane.
- Try to book a direct flight, bit more expensive but less risk of damage or loss.
- Check with the airline the way they need to be transported. Most airlines make it mandatory to use a bike box which you can get from a bike-shop or at the airport (check if available). We reused the one we got in Guayaquil last November. We recommend to use a bike box as it protects best, but we have had to use just cardboard, bubble wrap and lots of tape in the past, because there was no box available.
- Pre-register extra luggage. Even if you would only take hand luggage you still have to register your bike. Most airliners will charge for transporting the bike. If you pre register it is often more economical and if you don’t the bike may even be refused. We paid 100 euro per bike from Amsterdam to Guayaquil.
- Ensure to check the maximum weight. KLM allows 23 kg. Ours were 24.8 because we only removed the pedals. Next time we also take our saddle as carry on luggage. This time we were lucky as we did not have to pay extra but I remember once that we had to pay extra 200 Euro extra for 2 kg overweight!
- Prepare your bike
- Not always necessarily as shown in the picture, our boxes were actually too small for the bike, so saddle off, front wheel out, handlebar completely off. Frank fixed the handlebar to the top tube, after protecting the tube with foam tube isolation.
- If the box is big enough, you will still need to put the handlebar lengthwise. Note that a bigger box is heavier.
- If you take out your seat-post pre-mark height before removing.
- Reduce air in your tires.
- Protect all items which could scratch. NOTE that your bike may be turned up-side down and things will be piled upon them. So pack it that the bike does not move inside the box and that loose items can’t float around.
- Protect and secure loose items
- We used this time as protecting material the material Santos is using to transport their bikes to their dealers. Later we re-used that material to reduce bumping of the front panniers and our lunch box. You can also use bubble wrap, carton, your clothes.
- Remove as much as possible and take it on the plane with you when you think your bike will be too heavy.
- Some sources suggest you have to remove the oil from a Rohloff hub, but we never did.
- When closing the box make the box extra strong by using plenty of duck tape.
- Be on time at the airport as you have to drop your bike at odd size luggage.
Getting your bikes out of their travel box is as delivering a new-born animal. You never know if it will be damaged or not. Also this time they came out without any damage!
While Frank was assembling I took my time to stock-up on some food and ensured to have a local sim card. We love to travel with a local sim and data coverage as most of the time it enables you to have google maps access on the road, but also to be able to use the data to call home on WhatsApp.
Shopping for some basic necessities, I was shocked with the cost of a small head-and-shoulders shampoo (180 ml) costing here 4.8$! If you know that average income is 475$ per month, can you imagine spending 1% of your income on shampoo?
Just after noon chaos turned into order and we decide that we would not stay in this suburb but bike a few hours to get used to the heat and bikes.
Luckily it is flat, pity it is a busy road and I wonder why we are doing this. Getting a high-5 and lots of smiles, eating great food and fresh fruit, makes us flowing again.
We find a very basic hotel in Virgin de Fatima and return to our routine of Frank writing is his diary, while I shop for food. Returning to our routine of Frank making breakfast with our electrical water heather and me making a slow start. Next day is 95% flat and only a very short climb, we saw on google maps that there would be a guesthouse just before the next day big climb and found out it was a Christian Retreat Centre. No food but a bed (with new mattresses) in a dorm! What else do you need especially when it starts to rain. By the way, the name of the center is “Quizas Hoy”, meaning “Maybe Today”.
Getting back into the biking flow is a challenge for me. It has nothing to do with how I sit on my bike as we managed to do a bike fitting just before leaving. Again thanks Wilco from Balk in Nieuw-Vennep to find a time-slot for the bike fitting!
This last day of our first 1/2 week in the saddle is our first day biking into the mountains. We contemplated if we would follow the coast for 200-300 km or already go into the mountains. As we are eager to see if the smaller 45 front sprocket will make it easier and because we would like to bike the final stretch of the TEMBR we decide to bike to Cuenca. First we can follow a few kilometers the main road and see our first landslides.
And yes I have again the nausea and dizzy spells and need to stop every so many meters to get off my bike and sit at the side of the road. But I am not too stressed, as I now know it will improve after a few kilometers. It does mean that we are slow. After a few kilometers we can choose between gravel or main road. On map-out the gravel road is indicated as a white line, shorter than the official road but it means also way steeper. A great gravel road where trucks are forbidden and only a bus in the morning and evening will pass. A few cars and a few motorcyclist is all we see. Oh yes and a male tarantula looking for a female.
We soon notice that with the new gear set-up we are able to bike much longer uphill without pushing or is it also because we have smaller tires and less weight? Each has 5 kg less and this means that when I need to push I can push my bike on my own but don’t mind when Frank helps me once in a while.
Little Big Town.
Early afternoon we already know we will never reach the aimed Molleturo and we are torn between camping (but no flat spot in sight) or hitchhiking. We try to stop the bus but he does not take bikes and there are no pick-ups going our direction. We chat with a local who is walking up-hill to his village who confirms that the only possibility to move faster would be to find a truck taking us. A big dump truck stops but we can’t lift the bikes so high. So we struggle further and arrive at Corona de Oro, a small settlement of 35 people where we meet again Tommy we had a chat with earlier. As it is already 17:00 we ask if there would be a spot where we could set-up our tent and his sister gets us in touch with her uncle who is the guardian of the school and community center. We get the key of this space and he shows us where there is a toilet. This is also why we have changed our tent (main reason is it is much lighter)! Now we have a stand-alone tent of which we can also only use the inner tent, which is ideal when you want to be protected against any crawling and flying animals. I have to say that the 2 person version of our MSR Hubba Hubba is VERY small, so we have to sleep head to feet to ensure enough space.
Juan our guardian, offers the possibility of his wife cooking for us, we gladly accept and offer to pay, which he gladly accepts. In such a poor environment we offer to pay for our food and shelter, even when being invited. Of course people can refuse, but we often see that they are very glad that we do! Do you do the same?
Before a great meal with chicken and rice we are first invited by Tommy and his family to have a drink of locally brewed liquor, closing perfect first days of being on the road again. OK today was maybe not that far, only 17 km, but with an ascent of 1800 m! More climbing to do in the next few days. Stay tuned how we cope with crossing 3,950 meters.
Do you recognize the flower below? In pink or bright red, spread as drops by the wind between lush green.