Day 156: Tour de Paris

Day 156: Tour de Paris

Chantilly to Paris

Distance: 61.3 km

Time on board : 4 hours 28 mins

Average Speed: 13.7 kmh

Cumulative distance: 6897 km
Forgot today is Monday, a working day where everyone rushed to work. Woke up to see the hordes of cars rushing to Paris for work. On the hindsight, should have just skate to Paris yesterday which traffic is almost non existent on Sunday. Last night camped in the middle of roundabout. It was pretty comfortable to sleep if you can ignore the noise from traffic. Cooked my pasta for breakfast while waiting for the rush hour traffic to subside. But it doesn’t, so I continue skating, contenting the narrow road with them. Usually, they will overtake me by going on the other lane, but this time, with traffic,continuously flowing from both directions, it become a mammoth task to overtake me on a narrow lane. Soon, the traffic behind me began to pile up and it was going to be this way for 40km. No choice but to take train to Saint Dennis, outskirt of Paris.
Skating into colossal cities like Bangkok, Saigon and Hanoi is nothing compared to this. Though it may seem the traffic in Paris is significantly fewer than those in Bangkok and Saigon, due to narrow lane without any shoulder, it is unwise to skate into Paris on peak hour. In Asia, though traffic is significantly larger, but i felt safer skating into cities like Bangkok and Saigon because the roads are wider with shoulder lanes and vehicles move a lot slower  among the heavy traffic. Furthermore, they are used to sharing the road with slow moving mode of transport like bicycle and me.
Stopped at luzarches to grab a train to Saint Dennis, where I can find a safer road to skate on to Paris. Once I found river Seine, it become easy to navigate. Just follow the bike path on river Seine. First stop is stade de France, where France won their first and only World cup. Visited all other attractions including place de Bastille, Notre Dame, lovre, Effiel tower and arc de triumph. Paris was too expensive for me to stay in, since my fellow long distance skater Romain Bessiere the Globeskater with his girlfriend Maria Teresa Rabelo Rafael invited me to stay with them in Caen. Caen is located in Normandy, near D Day landing, isn’t my planned route at first. It is 250km west of Paris, so I had to take 2 hours train to Caen, where I was picked up by Romain at the train station. His girlfriend cooked me a great pasta and oysters feast. Normandy is next to the sea, thus it is famous for its seafood. 
Will stay with them for a couple of days to recuperate before moving on to Tours, where Panta Gruelon, another famous skater awaits me.

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Day 522: Goodbye Coast Hello Andes

Day 522: Goodbye Coast Hello Andes

Peru: Canete to Pisco

Distance: 55.6 km

Time on board: 3 hours 52 mins

Average speed: 14.4 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16, 959.4 km

The incredible feat of skating 105 km yesterday will not be repeated again as i am returning to the Andes soon. I covered most of the distance to Pisco already. Only 55 km to go. I booked a hostel in Pisco before I left Lima. If only I knew I could do yesterday’s 100 km, I would have to go further today as to get to Ica much faster. That is why you shouldn’t book hostel so soon. Well, Good to have a half day break after yesterday’s tiring skate. Slept in the restaurant’s lounge as it was too dark for me to pitch my bivy. The owner made me tea and breakfast for the morning. I only paid for the dinner last night. They were so welcoming. Since today is only 55 km, I woke up later and started off at 8 am. Received news that my good friend is going to be a father soon. Means I will miss the birth. Everyone is becoming parents after I left Singapore. I will have lots of kids to play with when I return.

Started off with a long descent back to the coast. The momentum continued on after the descent. Carried on to the flat land, pushing at 18 kmh for the first hour. Along the way, the coast was filled with abandoned buildings laid to waste. Peru got such beautiful coastline but it’s all wasted due to poverty and inequality. Maybe I could buy one of these abandoned buildings and build a hostel. That could be my future goal.

You might think my legs would hurt the most after a long skate. Wrong, it is my left arm. My pushie is always leaning left after the accident in Panama. My left arm have to exert more force to keep it balanced. After hours of skating, my left arm become an aching hell.

For the first hour, wanting to maintain my average 18 kmh, i pushed hard. After which, I slowed down upon leaving the flat coast. The breakfast given to me was marginal by my standard. By second hour, I grew hungry and had to pause at road shoulder to replenish my energy with peanut butter. While I was sitting on the road shoulder to eat, a group of police cars pulled over. I thought it was illegal to eat peanut butter on roadside. I saw them dashing down the slope, chasing after a bunch of guys running away. First time, witnessing a police chase. Worried that it might involve a gun fight. Then again, this isn’t USA. So I watched on, anticipating the police arresting them. I don’t know what hideous crime those guys might commit but I don’t dare to ask the police. Hence I leave them alone to do their work and continued my way.

Hoping to reach Pisco by lunchtime, just 14 km away there lies a big hill. Not wanting to climb on an empty stomach, I grabbed lunch at a restaurant before the hill. The restaurant do know how to strategically locate their business for hungry cyclists.

8 soles set lunch. Have to leave my pushie outside but within sight. The guys were curious and gathered around my pushie to examine like it is UFO from space. I didn’t bother or worried that they might steal my possession. They were just curious.

Before I entered Peru, travellers kept mentioning that Peru is more expensive than Colombia. On the contrary, there isn’t much difference. Costs incurred by backpackers is different from travellers touring on bicycles or skateboard. Backpackers have to pay for bus transport, stay in hostel and eat in cities and organise tours. My cost is way different. I can cook or eat in cheap roadside restaurants for $2 USD. I can camp for free in fire stations or somewhere in the wild. I am living on the cheap. Always ask the same demographics as you are.

Conquering the hill after lunch and arrived at Pisco by 2 pm. Rest before bidding farewell to the coast. Onwards I will be gradually ascending up the Andes mountain to Cusco.

Day 521: First Century in South America

Day 521: First Century in South America

Peru: Chilca to Nuevo Canete

Distance: 105.2 km

Time on board: 8 hours 45 minutes

Average speed: 12 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16, 903.8 km

I achieved many 100 km in a day around the world except south America due to insane mountains. Through ioverlander app, I researched there is a restaurant that welcomed overlanders to camp. However Rancho Grande is 105 km away. Possible,. I calculated if I started off early, with flat land, I could achieve fast skating pace and finished with 7 hours of skating and 2 hours of break. Even if I could not make it, at least I can settle for 80 km. Therefore, I set off at 7 am from my hostal.

Did my First 40 km in 2 hours 30 minutes, within my targeted pace. Afterwards, it was accompanied with long climbs. One moment, I was doing 8 kmh, then next 30 kmh. Targeted to arrive Cerro Azul 70 km by lunchtime, the target was becoming impossible with climbing. Lower my expectation and targeted 60 km for lunch. Still I will have 45 km to go after lunch. 8 soles set lunch and rested till 1.30 pm. With 45 km to go, calculated with slow speed of 13 km, I can arrive within 3 hours and slightly more by 4 pm. The flat land afterwards was accompanied by side wind from the coast, followed by more climbing. Looked like 4 pm timing will be further extended. One good thing about skating in winter is that I don’t have to consume much water in the cool temperature. I have to keep going to keep warm even when my legs were aching like hell.

Observed the disparity of wealth and inequality from the ills of capitalism. On the coast, exquisite houses sprawling next to beach and fenced off from the unsavouries. These houses wasn’t even occupied. They were summer vacation homes for the filthy rich. On the opposite of road, next to mountain, was the desolated houses for the poor fighting for spaces. In capitalism, the 1% control almost entire world’s wealth whereas the rest had to scramble for the leftover scraps. I am not saying the capitalism is all evil. Without capitalism, we wouldn’t have iPhones and advanced technology as no one will be motivated to innovate. Socialism isn’t all evil as well. The issue of socialism and communism is the leaders who demanded absolute power. If you follow Marxist theory, true Marxist society will be classless and without government ruling over them. The ideal Marxist society is completely ruled by the working class. In my opinion, a combination of socialism and capitalism will be ideal. Scandinavian welfare model came close. The rich are taxed heavily to benefit the poor. This way, the income gap is reduced and more equality.

Before lunch, I started with a bunch of 6 bananas to provide energy for the vast distance. Taken 2 piece per hour of skating. By lunchtime, all is finished. Replenished with another bunch of 6 bananas, sufficient for last 45 km. As hour goes by, I was tempted to stop for the day and camp by the beach, but I prefer to further my distance for the day then next day I will have lesser to skate. This goes for theory in life. Slog hard first before enjoying the later years. The daylight ended by 5.30 pm and the road gradually dimmed. I have little than 7 km to go. I pushed hard to arrive before it turned absolutely dark. 6 pm I arrived at Rancho Grande. They welcomed me with hot tea. I could camp in their backyard together with 2 other motorcyclists travelling northwards from Argentina. To support the restaurant, I had rather expensive dinner, Juicy fried pork.

Day 520: Long trek on skate deck

Day 520: Long Trek on Skate Deck

Peru: Lima to Chilca

Distance: 60.6 km

Time on board: 4 hours 50 mins

Average speed: 12.5 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16, 798 km

How I came about to touring the world on a longboard, it all began in 2013 when I stumbled upon YouTube series on 3 dudes skateboarding across South America from Lima, Peru to Potosi, Bolivia. It dawned on me that I can actually skate to travel. By then, Backpacking adventures become a fatigue to me. Sitting in bus, travelling from a city to another become a prison to me, trapped inside its window, unable to escape to vast wilderness I longed for. That is when skateboard touring comes to action. With just a longboard, I could access remote places that only rugged backpackers would yearn for. Watching fun antics of Long Treks on skate decks,Adam Colton, Paul Kent and Aaron Enevoldsen gave me the inspiration to start doing so.

Took 3 week hiatus in Lima to catch the World cup action, the single biggest sporting event on the planet. For 3 weeks, my daily routine involved waking up at 9 am and eyes glued on the TV screen to watch 22 men chasing after a ball and rolling on the ground upon a mere touch that couldn’t hurt a baby. Now in Lima, ready to trace the 3 dudes’ skate tracks all the way to Bolivia and beyond. Rewatched their videos and began planning to follow their paths. Except that I am in the middle of Peru Winter season. Already at Sea level, chilling temperature at 15 degrees, imagine the temperature at 4500 m in the Andes mountains. Mercury will definitely go south below zero. Had to do shopping to equip myself for cold winter nights below freezing. Additional Synthesis sleeping bag should do the trick, I hope. I will only know when I approach the mountains.

While my hiatus in Zig Zag hostel, I experimented cooking new recipes. Successfully added Aglio Olio, garlic oil sauce pasta to my increasing repertoire of meals I can cook on the road. To think, prior to my journey, I couldn’t even cook a meal to save my life. When I was young and foolish, I almost burned down kitchen in my home. Putting metal plates in microwave and cooking ceramic pot over a stove are sure recipes for disaster. That is why I was banned from the kitchen till now. From making pasta soup, I advanced to rice and eggs, to now Aglio Olio and Alfredo.

As I prepared to check out from Zig Zag hostel, I received a pleasant surprise from Kishor the Owner. He refunded me the money I paid for a week stay, which is $60 USD. That is a huge sum of money. Not only that, he gave me food for the road and new pair of pants which I needed badly for the winter. Kishor run this hostel to fund his charity in Peru and Bangladesh. So staying there, we are actually helping to feed the kids. Kishor operates several orphanages in Bangladesh and a charity 1 taka meal, where the poor only need to give 1 taka or $0.01 USD for a meal. In return, he gave me a bib carrying his charity name and asked me to take pictures with it whenever I traveled. With my pictures, he will show it to the kids in Peru and Bangladesh as an inspiration. If I can skate thousands of km around the world, nothing is impossible. The 3 weeks stay in Zig zag hostel has become my home, the longest stint in a hostel for this journey. Before I leave, Jean the hostel volunteer, made me a friendship wrist band. Reluctant to leave but I have to. Took my last hearty breakfast in Zig Zag before resuming my journey.

Lima is a metropolitan city with a population over 8 millions. Naturally, escaping from the grasp of the city will be daunting. There isn’t any direct road to where I need to go. Had to zig zag around to find the road connecting Pan American highway. After a hour and half, escaped from the tight grasp of the city. Onwards, my speed was back to usual cruising pace. Pan American highway presented me with wide smooth shoulder. I don’t know how long will this road last. Enjoy while I can. Once crossed the border from Ecuador, the scenery drastically switched from warm lush green mountains to Brownish dusty desert. Skating along the pan American highway resembled a post apocalyptic world. Cold empty Desert with houses dilated without colours. No layers of paint to brighten the gloomy atmosphere. What is left is the brick houses.

Started late at 9 am after having breakfast in Zig Zag. Furthermore, after 3 weeks of inactivity, finding my rhythm and momentum is tough. Today, I opted for a short distance 60 km to kick off my leg to Cusco. After lunch at midway point, flat terrain became rolling hills. A good start to prep me for mountains in Andes.

At Chilca, approached the fire station but they turned me away. Since Chilca is near the beach, I considered camping at the beach tonight. As I went through the town, I spotted several hostal offering a single room at 20 soles or $6 USD. The cheapest hostal was at 15 soles but it was a tight squeeze for my pushie and it was on the 2nd floor. Instead I opted for next door hostal El Paraiso. 20 soles for a bed with shared bathroom. Good deal today.

Day 494: Adiós Ecuador! Hola Peru! Country no.25

Day 494: Adiós Ecuador! Hola Peru! Country no.25

Machala, Ecuador to Zarumilla, Peru

Distance: 84 km

Time on board: 5 hours 37 minutes

Average speed: 14.9 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16,715 km

The world cup is on. Since I am fast on the coast now, could afford the time to start later and catch few matches. Missed Portugal’s only goal scored by no other than Ronaldo by 5 minutes when I woke up late. After the match ended at 9 am, only then I can begin my exit towards Peru. The hotel was located in Centre and streets was jam packed with vendors selling food and stuffs. Cars could only move an inch at a time. My Motorola phone doesn’t have a compass. As result, I have difficulty finding my way out. My next phone, always check for compass before purchasing. I have to move few hundred metres before checking whether the dot is moving in the right direction. Once I found the main road to exit Machala, I am back to business. Took the auxiliary road which was a short cut. Naturally, the auxiliary road wasn’t well maintained. Still, managed to skate at a decent pace. My legs was sore from yesterday. Haven’t skate that much and fast since the Andes mountain. Soon, my legs got back to shape after a while, my pace picked up. The auxiliary road goes through acres of Banana plantation. Now I know where all the bananas come from.

18 km later, connected back to main highway E25. Straight road and bland scenery made focusing much easier to enter into the zone. Rolling at 17-19 kmh, until Santa Rosa, where i stopped to catch the 2nd half of the 2nd match Uruguay Vs Saudi Arabia. By then I already covered 35 km. No point for me to order lunch at the restaurant just to watch remaining 30 minutes. Ordered a litre of Powerade and some pastry to fill my stomach. Though today’s weather was cloudy and cool, nevertheless I perspired profoundly. The difference that in hot sunny day, my sweat will dry rapidly when I paused. In the cloudy day like this, my sweat never dries and instead adds on to the chill factor. In was shivering from my sweat in the restaurant. Once the match was over, I resumed skating to the next town arenillas. I calculated I have 12 km to arenillas, a hour before the next match Spain Vs Iran, more than sufficient time.

The road gradually transformed to more rolling hills. Still, it was just a bump from what I have been through in the Andes. Enjoyed the transition. Downhill, I could safely skate down at 30 kmh without having to worry about dying. This is the most ideal road for my touring. Not too flat boring or too hilly that I have to walk.

Arrived at the junction of access road to Arenillas but it was badly maintained as expected. Therefore, I continued on the main highway, longer but smoother. To enter into Arenillas, I have to climb a short but steepest slope ever. Even walking at 2.5 kmh, drastically reducing my average speed. I was late for the match, already 20 minutes into the game. Sat down for a long lunch till the match finished at 3 pm. By then, my body already cooled down after the 2 hour break. Restarting my engine was tedious. Took a while to regain my momentum. Last 23 km to Peru. At 60 km, Benjamin and Charlie from France caught up with me when I stopped midway to chase after a dog which chased me. Now I turned Predator, no more weak prey for dogs. The French cyclists started from France 9 months, crossing through West Africa before taking a sail boat to cross over Atlantic ocean to South America. They thought they would arrive at the border first. Instead, with my newfound pace, trained from Andes mountain, I was matching their pace. For a distance, I was riding with them at 21 kmh. With companions, I was motivated to ride faster. Wasn’t that hard to ride with them. If I spent longer in Andes mountain, I would probably overtake cyclists. Pacing the cyclists was a piece of cake for me now.

We bypass the Ecuador border town Huaquilla, instead we went straight for the border control. My original plan was to stay in Huaquilla Ecuador for one last night before Peru. Instead changed my plan when I met them. The border road haven’t any traffic. We occupied the entire 3 lanes like it was our grandfather’s road. However, the decision cost us dearly. Missed the Ecuador border point which was on the opposite side, and were forced to turn back 4 km at Peru immigration office to return to Ecuador office for our exit Stamp. In total another 8 km added to my distance. In a day, technically we entered and exited Ecuador twice. At both immigration offices, the officers didn’t know where is Singapore and whether Singapore is a country and require a visa for Peru. They had to call headquarter and checked the internet. My country spent 20 million dollar to host most important peace talks ever between Trump and Kim. All this goes to waste when immigration officers still wondered what is Singapore. What is the point of having the most powerful passport in the world where nobody knows Singapore. After moments of delay, I officially entered into Peru, my 25th country. There was a bomberos 4 km away in Zarumilla. Together, we rode to Zarumilla. Cairo, the volunteer in fire station welcomed us and even brought us around to find an ATM or money exchanger to get Peruvian currency Soles but to no avail. No one seemed to want USD. We have to ride to next town Tumbes 23 km away to get Soles, when it was already too late. With no soles to buy food, Cairo treated us to dinner. Though I was famished, but embarrassed to order more since Cairo was treating us. This was the first time that Benjamin and Charlie slept in a fire station. They have been wild camping or sleeping in roadside restaurants. Looked like I opened up a whole new world for them.

Tomorrow is the France Vs Peru. Every Peruvians we met was excited when they heard they were from France. We will start late to catch the 10 am match. Since in Peru, I definitely have to support Peru. I don’t want to die in Peru yet. I will ride to Tumbes 23 km away to catch a bus to Lima, skipping the northern Peru. Read reports that this area is notorious for robbery on cyclists passing through. Statically speaking, robberies happened one in every hundred but that is one too much. Enough to convince me to bypass this region. Better to miss it than risking the chance to get robbed and ended my trip prematurely. Furthermore, I planned to reach Patagonia by end of the year, only made possible if I bypassed. Anyway, I am in PERU!!

Day 495: Vamos Peru!

Peru : Zarumilla to Tumbes

Distance: 23 km

Time on board: 1 hour 27 minutes

Average speed: 15.6 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16,738 km

Today is France Vs Peru. Since in Peru, of course have to watch the game and support Peru. I don’t want to get killed here. The 2 French cyclists Benjamin and Charlie joined me for the game at a restaurant surrounded by local Peruvian crowd cheering for Peru now. The French couldn’t cheer loudly when France scored. Peru was unlucky not to score a goal. The match ended in France’s favour. We stayed on to watch the next match Argentina Vs Croatia. The Messiah Messi couldn’t lead his team to glory as Croatia shocked the superstars Argentina 3-0.

We left at 3 pm with just 23 km to next city Tumbes. I drafted behind the guys easily at 20 kmh and mostly at 18 kmh. Less than a hour, we arrived at Tumbes. The fire station in Tumbes was empty. We approached the church awaiting for the evening mass to end or we will sleep in the park tonight. Tomorrow, I will take the 20 hours bus ride to Lima while the guys will end their journey in Piura.

Day 493: Hello flat land! Goodbye Mountains!

Day 493: Hello Flat land! Goodbye Mountains!

Ecuador: Jesus Maria to Ponce then hitched to Machala

Distance: 60 km

Time on board: 4 hours

Average speed: 15 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16, 631 km

The world cup fever is on! Every 4 years, 32 top teams all over the world compete for the Ultimate prize! Been spending my days in Oswaldo’s home watching all the matches. I could stay to watch the final but Oswaldo and Adam had to fly off to Spain on yesterday Monday to continue their world tour. The original plan is to descend to the coast till the Peru border but Oswaldo warned me that E59 is the worst road in Ecuador. Entire road filled with Potholes, making my descent very uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous. Instead he suggested I skate another 1500 m ascent to Cajas national park at 4000 m. Then next day I will have 4000 m descent over 100 km. Oswaldo enticed me with the splendor pictures of Cajas national park. I was totally sold on the idea. Also, camping in Cajas at 4000 m would be an excellent testing ground for my camping setup for I will be skating in Peru and Bolivia Altiplano soon. If my bivy tent or sleeping bag didn’t work in Cajas , at least I got time to find replacement in Lima.

On Monday, ready to set off, upon opening the door to leave, I saw the rain drops. Forget it. I joined my amigos to take bus to Guayaquil while I dropped off at Cajas on the way up. At the park, I paid $4 for camping and dormitory bed. The ranger suggested I should really sleep in the dorm for it would be extremely cold during the rain. I insisted on setting up my camp outside. At least I have alternative. If things gone south, I can switch over to warm bed in refugio. I set up my camp next to the view to the Laguna. What a picturesque camp spot. It must be my most picturesque camp spot ever. Next I hiked around the lagoon. Following the designated path, I still managed to get lost. Well, getting lost is part of the adventure. Managed to find my way after getting my feet wet. Bad mistake, which later cost me dearly. My bivy tent really kept me warm through the cold raining night but my wet pants and feets wasn’t kept warm. Always dress dry before sleeping. At least I knew I had to find warm socks for the Altiplano. The condescension in my bivy tent built up as I had to close it for the freezing weather. My sleeping bag and bivy got wet but still managed to keep me warm. I probably will survive through Boliva Altiplano.

Next morning, the girls in the refugio were awed by me camping throughout the rainy night. The ladies from Argentina and Chile made me tea to warm up. I felt the warmth from the ladies. They were here on a volunteering trip in a village. I saw their equipment, colourful sticks and costumes. I would assume they are teaching the village kids circus arts. The rain still persisted on. 4000 m descent seems unlikely for me today. Decided to grab another bus to the coast where I could start skating. At the bus shelter, bumped into the ladies again. They were trying to thumb a ride back to Cuenca. In the bitter rain, they shared Argentinian drink Mate with me. Which I will get to drink more in Argentina. Is like tea on steroids, booster tea for me.

Caught the bus on the way to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and main port. I dropped off at Jesus Maria at 10.30 pm. What a name to start off the coast. Immediately, I shed off my winter clothes upon alighting. I am back to the tropical 30 degrees Celsius, no more freezing my butt off in the mountains. Upon skating, I could feel the abundance of oxygen which I was lacking in the mountains. As a result, I became more oxygen efficient, my muscles required less oxygen. I could notice my average speed rose to 18-19 kmh here in the flat land. Spending a month in the Andes mountains really does the miracle. No wonder athletes trained in the mountains with less oxygen.

Less than a hour, I reached in Naranjal, 18 km. All the lunches cost $3. Is it me or down the coast, food are simply more expensive. I miss the mountains now. Settled for Encellado, my favourite Ecuadorian delicacy. Sour taste suited my palate. Moreover, the restaurant was showing a world cup match, Poland Vs Senegal which I managed to catch in the final minutes. With my current lighting pace, I could afford to sit down and waited to watch the next match at 1 pm. However, the restaurant was closing for the day, they only serve lunch. What a bummer. Therefore, I continued on bursting through the flat roads. So flat, I could see the horizons. Nothing spectacular or breathtaking here to distract me. No more picturesque mountains to stop for photos. Soon, the flat scenery became boring. Cos of that, I can focus on my skating and breathing. Back in the skating zone.

The traffic was much faster than in mountains. Without any winding hairpin turns to slow the driver’s down, just only straight road, drivers simply step full on acceleration and zoomed past me.

My dream speed soon came to a halt, when the road deteriorated. No matter how strong my lungs are now, I couldn’t combat against road conditions. The condition wasn’t that bad. The surface was still smooth but uneven, making my balance tough. Still cruising at 15 kmh. I am not complaining, if this road condition persisted through Boliva and Chile, I will take it still.

Felt a cramp in my thigh around 50 km. For a long time, I haven’t been pushing for such a long distance. Cos in the mountains, most of the time, I am walking up or standing still on my board when descending. Rarely I truly pushed. This was the first time in a month, I actually solely pushed throughout. My muscles weren’t used to the strenuous workouts for ages. That is why I prefer skating in the coastal flat land, where I can just skate all the way. The cramp doesn’t really bother me as I was already reaching La Ponce, the destination town. 5 km from Ponce, a pickup truck pulled over and the driver Carlos offered me a ride. Only 5 km, I might as well get a ride further on. Carlos was on his way to Machala, 70 km from Peru border. I gladly accepted his offer, tomorrow I get to skate just 70 km to the border. With the flat land, it is easily achievable by noon based on my upgraded fitness. I opted for a hotel in Machala instead of the fire station, so I can watch the first match Portugal Vs Morocco at 7 am and start at 9 am. Since I am fast now, I can easily do it in 5 hours or so, then I can catch the 1 pm match.

All the hotels in Machala centre required me to carry my pushie up a flight of stairs. The staff in Hotel San Antonio helped me to carry my pushie up. 8 USD for a double bed with TV to watch the world cup and a bathroom. Not a bad deal. Except the WiFi is only accessible in the lobby. Anyway I will just watch football. Tomorrow or day after, I shall enter Peru, my 25th country.

Day 487: The Guatemala reunion

Day 487: The Guatemala reunion

Ecuador: Tambo to Cuenca

Distance: 70 km

Time on board: 5 hours 28 minutes

Average speed: 12.7 kmh

Ascent: 931 m

Descent: 1385 m

Cumulative distance: 16,571 km

At 3000 m, in Tambo, the night was chilling cold. That is for only 3000 m. When I get to Cusco 4000 m, I wonder how am I going to survive in freezing desert night. One step at a time. I started off at 7.30 am towards Cuenca, where I will stay with Oswaldo, whom i met in Trees house in Flores, Guatemala and with Adam too. It will be another reunion since 3 months ago. At that time, Oswaldo worked out the 3 main routes through Ecuador. One is the easy flat costal road via Guayaquil. Another is through Amazon forest, somewhere hilly and flat. The last is the toughest option, through Andes mountains range. Guess which route I took. The toughest with mountain climbs and I survived and thrived. The toughest is the most magnificent as well. Daily rides involve watching mountains unfold itself from far apart sand within it.

Today, at the start, another a minor bump. A car on the T junction hit my pushie. I was cruising downhill, i already saw the car waiting to enter into the main road but I couldn’t brake hard enough to stop in seconds. I assumed that the driver had already spotted me, so i just went ahead. Well he didn’t. He rammed into my pushie at a slow speed. A touch as my Singapore metro SMRT would claim when a train collided with another train from behind. Still, the driver didn’t notice my pushie was at his trunk and continued to drive on. I gave a hard slam on his car to notify him. WTF! Fortunately, no damages was done. Unlike my Panama mishap. Drivers can be really blind. That is why my number one rule on the road. If any larger and faster wants it’s way, always give way to him. Even if he is in wrong, you are probably dead even when you are right. Next always assume drivers want to kill you on the road. Nothing serious aside, I gave him my wtf stare and moved on. 3 km downhill before another 5 km of walking uphill to Canar. By 9 am, I am still at 8 km, as if all progress was halted. I checked on Maps.me that there lies another 11 km of uphill awaiting before the long descent. Another 3 hours of walking. Unlikely to reach Cuenca at this pace. Took a bus at Canar to Biblian where the descent lies. $0.75 for 20 km ride. Why so cheap? Cos the fuel is subsided by the government. 1 gallon of the usual petrol cost only $1.75. No wonder everyone drive here.

Biblian was another 36 km to Cuenca and mostly downhill. Lunch at Loyola where I had fried fish. Actually I dislike fish cos once choked by its bone during childhood. I misheard the chef, he meant pescado (fish), not Asado (roast meat). Cautionly I dismantled the bones with precision like a surgeon. After lunch, made my last 20 km except it was in dismaying condition. Average gradient of 1%. Not much but under these kinds of conditions.

At last, 3 pm, arrived in Oswaldo’s home. He wasn’t in but his brother opened the door for me. There was Adam too and Oswaldo returned home soon after. We were reunited once again. Cuenca will be the last days of traversing Ecuadorian Andes mountain until Peru as I planned to descend to coast. AHH how I miss the oceans and flat roads. Oswaldo warned that route 59 to the coast was much worse than I experienced today on. I will see again or plan another route or bus down. Anyway, I have already completed the toughest portion in Ecuador.

Day 486: One dollar Treasure

Day 486: One dollar Treasure

Ecuador: Chunchi to Tambo

Distance: 51.4 km

Time on board: 7 hours 21 minutes

Average speed: 7 kmh

Ascent: 1481 m

Descent: 734 m

Cumulative distance: 16, 501 km

My watery poo and Squeaky stomach still persists. Maybe I am allergic to Ecuador food or alcohol. Been farting, Blurring and pooing to purge the toxic in my stomach. A joke I shared with Laura and magic hair. When I farted, I am speaking French cos that is when French sounds like to me. Same goes to German when I blurped. Pooing relate to Singapore cos SingaPoo. Get it. Past few days, I have been speaking good French and German as well as Singlish.

Marked several spots to sleep for the night, basically skate as far as possible towards Cuenca. Started with a downhill but marred by several patches of broken road and construction sites. Had my work cut out with many long climbs. Not into a km on the way, a driver slowed down to hand me 1 USD . It may be a paltry dollar to you but to Ecuadorian average wage of 400 USD , a dollar meant alot to them. It meant that guy just passed me his treasure. 1 dollar can buy me a 1 litre bottle of Powerade or half a lunch, which is a great deal to me. I took it as a sign of encouragement to push on. I mostly walked up most of times apart from sections of mellow road and a rare downhill, which helped to push my average speed to mere 7 kmh.

Making slow progress, I took a few breaks. Either I skated up and took lots of break to catch my breath or walked steadily without having the need to catch my breath. 11 am, I only managed a paltry 22 km. Treated myself to a sugar cane juice to power up. There was a lunch stop, but I believed I could skate further till 12 pm. With the downhill, I covered more grounds. 12 pm, hit 32 km. However, there wasn’t any lunch place or towns nearby. Stopped at a dirt track side road for lunch. Before I could get my cooking gear out of my pushie, another pickup transporting a family came by. Was getting too crowded for me. Munched my Ritz crackers and continued on.

Couldn’t take it, just 11 km to next town Zhud. With 7 km of uphill and 4 km of downhill, it would be mission impossible to arrive before I collapsed of hunger. Stopped by a drain with a spectacular view to mountains. My MSR dragonfly had the same issue as Magic hair’s stove. It failed to lit up, probably it was cogged and required cleaning. Without any internet access to YouTube tutorial how to clean MSR stove, I am in desperate needs. No fire, no food. Another shining angel came by in a pickup. He gestured if I wanted to get a ride. Yes of course, but I am in midst of cooking my food though in failure. Senor Miguel patiently waited for me to pack my stuff and helped me to load up my pushie and longboard. He could only drove me to Zhud, a short 9 km away. That is good enough for me to get food there. At Zhud, he invited me to lunch and to my surprise, he paid for my lunch. $2.50. It must be my lucky day to encounter 2 angels today. Senor Miguel made his way towards General Morales while I continued my way southwards.

While skating, at the same time, I was searching for a suitable spot to camp. It had been a long time since I ever wild camped in Mexico. Central America cheap hostal and fire stations made me lost my sense of adventure. I had been pampered by comfort for too long. Anyway, at my current pace, I really needed to camp somewhere. There were several great camp spot with the view of mountains but it was too early. I planned to continue till 4 -5 pm and if there was the perfect spot, I will take it.

My nemesis dogs kept on hounding me. On several occasions, when dogs hounded me, their owners beat them up. Somehow, that brought a satisfaction to my heart. The owners tried to discipline them but it was in their instinct to chase skaters and cyclists. Wasn’t the owners’s fault that they had no money or skill to train them.

4 pm, it started to rain, I thought rainy season was behind me already. Put on my poncho and pushed on. The poncho was actually the stoppage to cover the gap on left side of pushie so things don’t fall off. Since poncho was on me, there was nothing to prevent my things from falling off. My 5 litres of water fell off onto incoming traffic and was crushed. There goes my plan to camp. No water no food no camp. Left 500 ml on my camelback. Had no choice but to persist to next town Tambo. Tried to hitchhike but to no avail as everyone was rushing out of the rain, leaving me no alternative but to make my way to Tambo on my own. Luckily it was only 4 km more, 1 hour if I walked. Only 2 km of walking up and the rest of it was downhill. Checked the first hotel, but it had too many steps to carry my pushie up. Tried another one. Hostal Chasky was much better. $10 for a room with shared bathroom. Just what I need to rest more for my sick stomach.

Day 481: Ice Cream in Salcedo

Day 481: Ice Cream in Salcedo

Date of entry: 7 June 2018

Ecuador: Latacunga to Ambato

Distance: 50 km

Time on board: 4 hours 42 minutes

Average speed: 10.7 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16,414 km

I realised that my hotel I slept last night is 4 star hotel with a hostel dormitory. That explains that posh interior design. My $10 goes a long mile. Only 42 km to Ambato and mostly downhill. I can afford to sleep in late and enjoy the hotel breakfast. Set off after 9 am, had to begin with walking through cobblestone streets of Latacunga before connecting back to the highway E35. Anthony the bike mechanic who fixed my brake warned me that I will encounter 3 km long climb. That doesn’t deter me as I had plenty of time to walk up since after that will be nice mellow downhill.

Passed through Salcedo, famous for its Ice Cream, multi Layered popicle of flavours. The streets were filled with shops and stands selling ice cream. Tried the strawberry and Moca flavor for $0.60. For it’s price, it is worth more than that.

Leisurely cruised down till I spotted a bus remodelled into a restaurant. Just in time 11am, might as well drop in. Though lunch set was at $3, slightly more than I usually paid. Just couple of cents more. But for the novelty of eating in a bus, it is worth. The waitress insisted that I take photos of me and my skateboard with pushie next to the bus.

Continuing on, Ryan from Switzerland caught up with me. He too, is cycling to Patagonia. He was in the casa ciclista Tumbaco days before us. Ryan detoured for some hiking over the week, which account for me overtaking. More mellow downhills to come, soon I arrived in Ambato outskirts. Didn’t know Ambato is a large city, skating from outskirts to the centre takes 10 km. I checked on maps.me that there were 3 KFC branches here. Definitely a big city. At 36 km, I passed through a bike house and tents. It could be another casa ciclista for us to stay. I rang the bell but no one answered. Anyway, My plan is to head to fire station in the city centre 7 km with steep climbs. Since I got the energy and time to cover more, might as well continue as planned. Therefore tomorrow I will have less distance to climb. The street to Ambato centre is insanely steep. Even walking up with my pushie is impossible. I have to take another alternate longer route. Still steep climb, but at least I can walk. Spotted the first fire station, there is another further up, so I continued on. However, the fire station I wanted to sleep for the night, turned me down. Oh dear, that means I have to skate back down 7 km to the bike house. That is fine. But tomorrow will be an issue. I have to climb back that 7 km. Skated down a little before I grab the pickup taxi. There are pickup taxi services in Ecuador, basically like house movers. At least I don’t have to fold and rearrange my pushie into a normal sized taxi. With this, I can chuck it at the back. Returned back to Bike house and arranged with my pickup taxi driver to drive me back to the fire station tomorrow at 7 am so that I don’t have to climb back up again. For 5 USD, it is alright since next days I have free accommodations.

At the bike house, someone answered and let me in. But I can’t stay there. However, the owner know a warmshower host. He called him and Marco drove over to pick me up. He has a small jeep which couldn’t accomodate my pushie so I have to leave my stuff in the bike house and come back the next morning. Marco will drive me to the bike house tomorrow morning. There was Ryan in Marco’s house. Marco lives in 8.2 km north from Ambato which I already backtracked. I thought I was in trouble having no places to sleep. But in a tick of fate, I had Marco to rescue. He treated me to the “medicine” or Puro local Ecuador rum. Getting drunk tonight.

Touring is like a scope of ice-cream, you never know what you going to get.

Day 480: Ecuadorian Hospitality

Day 480: Ecuadorian Hospitality

Ecuador: Lasso to Latacunga

Distance: 24 km

Time on board: 1 hour 50 minutes

Average speed: 13.1 kmh

Cumulative distance: 16, 414 km

S

Spent 3 days in Casa de ciclista Tumbaco kindly hosted by Santiago and his family. Apparently, I wasn’t the first Singaporean here. Wai Yueng and Rajiv, both I knew cycling down to Patagonia years ago. However, I was the first to arrive on a skateboard. Every day, I had to take 2 buses to Quito downtown. If not I skate up 500 m high over 15 km. Ecuador bus are really cheap. 25 cents for a ride regardless of distance or time. Walking up and down Quito isn’t my idea of relaxing and chilling. Quito isn’t flat. No wonder I hardly see any obese Ecuadorians in Quito. Walking up at 2800 m, world’s 2nd highest Capital is not an easy feat.

On day 478, Monday, the 3 couples in the casa decided to leave. Yves and Fred, Adrian (yes another Adrian from France) and Mollie, the British Sarah and David. So i might as well join to leave together to make space for the next batch of cyclists coming soon. After dily daily around to pack their panniers by 9 am and taking the obligatory group photo with Santiago, we finally left. The 3 couples decided to ride together but I couldn’t join them in their route as it will be dirt road all the way. I stick to my busy pan American highway. After climbing the mountain for 18 km, I recalled the guy from Ecuador who I met in Pasto, Colombia. He had a pizzaria nearby. Dropped in to say hi along the way. In the end I stayed with him (Juan Carlos) for 2 days. Funny how some decisions can turn to be.

I was lucky actually to meet him. His restaurant La Fucina was supposed to be closed on Monday and Tuesday. But he was there to oversee the renovation in his restaurant. I was there at the right time right place. He and his wife Cecilia invited me to stay with them in nearby town Conocoto. Juan and his wife worked in Italy, making pizza for last 15 years Before returning home to set up their pizza restaurant. I tagged Juan along and he fed me with his pizzas. He pleaded me to extend my stay by another day or more and offered to drive me to Lasso, so I can make up for lost time. A free stay, meal and a ride. Of course I took up the offer. The next day, he with his 2 young school going daughters and his wife brought me to a road trip to hot spring 200 km away, actually I skated pass it many days ago. The drive was 4 hours long, extending to the night. By then, I was too exhausted to enjoy the hot spring. Returned to home at 3 am. Ecuadorians will go to a long extend to enjoy.

This morning after sending his daughters to school, he drove me to Lasso to continue my way. Along the way, I spotted Yves and Fred. Strange, they left Quito 3 days ago and they are still here cycling. They must have done a detour. Probably, will meet them again soon. Juan dropped me off at Lasso where I continued my journey towards Patagonia. Why Lasso? Cos Lasso is the start of downhill towards Ambato. I had enough of climbing for the days.

I bid Juan farewell, thanking him for his awesome hospitality. It is hosts like him, that I took eternity to reach my destination. If I keep on meeting people like him or Santiago, I will never reach my destination. I started the road with long but gradual downhill. However, the headwind counteract with the downhill. In the end, I still had to push but in a faster manner. Juan mentioned that Lasso is famous for its ice cream. I stopped at roadside stand to buy the Lasso ice cream for only 75 cents. In such chilly weather, I must be insane to eat ice cream but it is something I have to try.

As I was approaching Latacunga, my stop for lunch, a dog sneaked behind me and caught me completely off guard. He bit my shorts, which I wore since the beginning of my tour and missed my leg by inches. If not it could be fatal for me, another possible end to my trip. As a result, I clutched my brake too tightly, the brake cable snapped. No more brakes. Bloody Damn Dog. In my fury, I chased after him but he was too quick for me. If not I would beat the hell out of it and cook it for lunch. Bloody dogs!! What is their problem? I can tolerate them barking at me but biting me and almost killing me is way off limits. I hereby declared dogs are worst enemies! The next dog that try the same on me, I swore not to show mercy and unleash my full fury. They will be food for me. Yes I understand dogs are territorial creatures and trained to defend their territory. I wasn’t even invading their territory, why the attempt to murder me. I have the right to defend myself as well.

Now the brake cable snapped, no more brakes to control my speed. Trying to stop before the traffic junction without brake is dangerous. The momentum that my pushie carries is enormous. Without the brake , I am unable to slow down my momentum. Had to stop in Latacunga to find a bicycle shop to fix it where I could have gone on further. Latacunga is a tourist destination where travellers stayed here to climb the Cotopaxi mountain. I managed to find a fairly cheap hostel and a bicycle shop next to it. I paid $ 10, and had a pleasant surprise. I thought I am paying for a dorm bed, instead i got a single room. Went over to the Andes bike shop to fix my brake. Encountered several hiccups, their cable was too short for pushie. They directed me to a hardware shop to buy a longer one. I bought it and then the cable head was too small. Oh shit, that is it. The end. No brake controlling my downhill speed, I could be on a free fall. There are many more mountains to climb in Peru and Bolivia. The boss kindly lent his mechanic to bring me to another bicycle shop to find the suitable cable. I thought finding a 16 inch wheel is searching for a needle, finding a suitable brake cable is another level. I followed the mechanic Anthony several blocks and to find the bicycle shop to close for lunch till 3 pm. We once gathered at 3 pm to find the cable. Andes bike shop fixed my brake at no cost. They waivered the charge for fixing the brake to support me for my journey. My journey is back on track again except for the dogs.

Day 474: Middle of the World, Equator

Day 474: Middle of the World, Equator

Ecuador: Cayambe to Quito

Distance: 66.6 km

Time on board: 6 hours 17 minutes

Average speed: 10.6 kmh

Ascent: 834 m

Descent: 1255 m

Cumulative distance: 16, 370 km

Officially today I have crossed the Equator line, Latitude 0 over to the South Hemisphere. Singapore, my country, isn’t actually on the equator, we are 85 miles north of equator. So technically I have never cross the equator before until today.

Have to split my way with the ladies as they have a warmshower host in Quito which he only accept maximum of 2 guests. Anyway I have plans to stay in the Casa de ciclista Tumbaco, owned by Santiago, where cyclists transversing through south America will converge there. Got issues chewing my food especially burgers where I have to open my jaw big to chew. My jaw is hurting and Magic hair seems to know what is the problem. She heard me grinning my teeth in my sleep every night, that caused my jaw muscles to overstrain. Now I have to cut my food and chew in small portions.

I am 7 km away from equator line, definitely I have to stop by the monument for photos. Therefore, I can only start off from David’s house later in 7.30 am as the Equator park opens at 8 am. Skated to the Cayambe centre to buy breakfast, packets of cracks so that I don’t have to open my mouth so wide. Downhill after Cayambe for 6 km before raising up another 1 km to Quitsato, Sundial indicating the Equator line. Arrived there at 8.30 am, still they are not opened yet. The staff saw me and asked me to wait for 5 minutes for them to prepare. There are 2 equator monuments in Equator, one is north of Quito, which is more touristy. This one is less touristic, runned by local community. I paid 2 USD entrance fee. The guide explained to me interesting facts about the equator in Spanish. I could understand his Spanish explanation completely. Actually, the world we know doesn’t run exactly from north to south as we viewed the map. The world is in fact tilted. The conventional world map is made for us humans not to panic and confuse. Got the guide to take photos of me skating in middle of the World line. Am I in North or south hemisphere?

The road to Quito is going up and down but mostly down. Got few scary downhills and real steep uphills. Mostly I could skate up the hills and walk some of them. By noon, made 36 km, got Almuerzo set lunch for 2.50 usd in a comedor. Lunch was agonizing for me as my jaws is causing me excruciating pain.

At Quiche, spotted another couple of cyclists Sarah and her boyfriend which I forgot his name. They too were making their way to the casa ciclista tumbaco. Only issue is that I don’t have their exact location, as they don’t share it openly in Facebook. I suppose it is for security reasons. The couple pinpoint the location to me and we are off our way. My left shoe soles started to deteriorate. I got this pair in Honduras and lasted me through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and half Ecuador. But I would say central America is considered flat by Ecuador standard. The real test comes in South America Andes mountains. Anyway It should last me another 20 km to Quito where I will get another new pair.

My latest phone Motorola G5 doesn’t have a compass which makes navigating hard. I almost took the wrong road, luckily I noticed the road sign E288, I am supposed to stay on E35. As the E35 highway approached Quito, the capital, traffic increasingly becoming hectic to 3 lanes but with a hard Shoulder, which makes it comfortable for me to skate. Just as I reached Tumbaco, the suburb city of Quito, the sky poured on to me again. With steep downhill on wet surface, my brake nearly slipped up. That is it. I walked down the slope when I have to. I reached the street indicated but it was the wrong address. I skated up and down the street in the heavy pouring rain, asking the shops if they knew where is the casa? One restaurant owner gave me WiFi to contact my friends who have been there before. My friends promptly directed me. It was on the other street, just 200 m away. I quickly made a dash through cold chilling rain and against the traffic. I got no time to go the right direction. At last, arrived at the Casa, where Santiago and his family welcomed me. There were a lot of cyclists camping in his backyard. The French couple, Sarah and her boyfriend, Yves and Fred and few others were there. After days of climbing in Ecuador mountains, time for me to recuperate for few days.