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the art of waiting

The logistical need for a good reliable address while on long term tour can’t be overstated. Getting stuff sent, sometimes seems like an overwhelmingly difficult task, since it requires the effort and goodwill of people both at the point of sending and, also, at the point of reception. While there is certainly a lot to be said for not relying on equipment that can’t be easily maintained with available parts, that can be a pretty rough row to hoe and consequently I have ended up holed up in Tumbaco for the best part of four weeks waiting for a series of parcels to arrive.

First, it was the parts for my new wheels, sent from the UK; next, a package containing some new Mondial Marathon tyres, from Schwalbe in the US, to replace a couple of XRs, that failed to fulfill the expectations raised by their venerable reputation; and finally, in the face of a stove that required dismantling and rebuilding several times during the course of preparing a simple meal, a last minute emergency maintenance kit from Primus in Sweden.

Since the wheel parts came from a few different companies in the UK, I had to enlist the help of Lindsay, my beloved fairy godmother in London, who collected them together, repackaged them and sent them on their way via courier. They arrived with the minimum of fuss and incurred no duty charges.

The replacement tyres from Schwalbe are ostensibly freebies but Schwalbe will only agree to send them to a US address. Catriona, one of my oldest friends from Australia, just happens to be in the process of moving to LA to pursue her career as a film director* in Hollywood and so is on hand to receive the tyres and send them on to me. She is kind enough to augment the package with a some wholesome goodies such as tea-tree oil and Dr Brenner’s liquid soap. Sadly, this package gets caught up in customs, and by the time I negotiate a creaky unwieldy bureaucracy and then pay $55 dollars to release it, the freebie tyres turn out to be quite expensive – especially on top of the $89 Catriona spent sending the box, an amount that the Customs officials of Ecuador, somewhat unfairly, include in calculating the supposed total value of the package!

I love my Primus Omnilfuel stove, however, it has been labouring for some time on a diet of poor quality dirty petrol and performing significantly below par. Magnus, from Primus, in Sweden, is a very helpful** when I describe my difficulties with the stove and instantly offers to courier a maintenance kit to me.

Getting spare parts for the maintenance of my bike and other equipment all comes down to foresight and planning – qualities that, unfortunately, I am not always overly endowed with – and thus I end up waiting… and waiting…  and waiting… Luckily Tumbaco and Quito, between them, provide a positive wealth of opportunities for improved health and happiness on tour. By the time I leave, I have new friends, my bike is in excellent shape, I’ve been to the dentist for the first time in a couple of years, I have hopefully eradicated my intestinal friends, the amoebae, who I now know by name, I have started a long-term war against toenail fungus (after having lost a toenail or two), and received all sorts of goodies from far-off places.

I have to offer enormous thanks to Steve (and his family) of Warm Showers for letting me stay for such a long time in the cane cutter’s cabin that sits on stilts, slightly incongruously, in this mountain climate, at the end of the backyard.

My current home... the back of Steve and Maria's tiny house and big backyard in Tumbaco.



Steve, Maria and Carla gather round to admire my bike...

... while Ramon experiments with the possibility of wheels and gravity.

Steve is a keen cycle tourist himself and he and his family have quite a few cycling and mountain adventures under their belt.

Steve uses just about every available opportunity to embark on an adventure and so we set off on an overnight mini-tour which encompasses...

...sights such as the horrifically polluted Rio Guayllabamba, which drains out of Quito.

After dropping down to this particularly low point, we make our way...

... into the far more charming valley next to it, which boasts hot (well, at least luke-warm) springs, where we spend the night at a hospedaje,...

... before climbing...

...and climbing (no, not on that road, thankfully), fifty kilometres, or so, up and around Volcan Cotacachi before dropping down towards Otavalo and getting a ride home.

It was an epic weekend's ride. Thanks, Steve.

Home again, where I can admire various snow capped volcanoes from my cabana when Tumbaco isn't enveloped in brooding wet season clouds.

On a clear day, though, all the peaks peek out and climbing up to Quito offers some spectacular views of Cotopaxi.

Quito doesn't boast a lot of cycle paths and the traffic is pretty unforgiving but there are a few nods...

... towards an aspiring bike culture.

Ah, South American cuisine. (Sigh.) I wasn't brave enough to try Chicken a la Coca Cola myself...

... but with a little persistence some more appetising fare can be found.

* If you happen to be in Australia be sure to go to see Sattelite Boy, Catriona’s first feature film, when it is released in the cinemas some time in the next month or two.

** I wish I could say the same for earlier contact with other Primus people – but all’s well that ends well.

{ 10 } Comments

  1. Jim Bangs | May 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I am always amazed by your posts. The life you have carved out for yourself out there on your bike and the experiences. Makes for a great read. Also gets me fired up for my little tour and s24o’s this summer. Glad you are finding some good health and bike upgrades to get yourself rolling again.

  2. Tony | May 11, 2013 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Mmmm chicken and coca cola? I wonder where that comes from? I was reading recently about one of the first pro Chinese cyclists racing in Europe and his speciality when he cooks is chicken wings with coca cola!

  3. Jens | May 14, 2013 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    Am back in Quito for a couple of days and used the time to redesign and update may blog. Getting ready to go to Galapagos.
    Happy trails and hasta la vista baby


  4. Derek | May 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Hola, I still follow all your twists and turns, the greasy details, the stove and the tyres and the spare parts. I am in a different world, in Albania, still enroute to Istanbul. Tirana is a pleasant surprise, relaxed, unpretentious. No one has a job but everyone sits around drinking coffee and chatting all day. Very sociable place. Of course the city is a dump, but this does not bother me.


  5. mauricio mahe franco | May 21, 2013 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    ana siempre recordando tan solo un instante
    saludos desde colombia.

  6. mikeonbike | May 21, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    Glad to see you’re restocked and ready for the road again. Please let me know what you think of the Mondial tires. My infatuation with the XRs runs pretty deep, but I’ll keep an open mind. Safe travels and best wishes.

  7. anna | May 21, 2013 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Hey Mike, glad to see you are still on the road! You’ve travelled a long long way since we met on the Cassiar Highway.

    Have you still got XRs? They are kind of historical by now…

  8. mikeonbike | May 21, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Historical indeed. I kept a folding version ‘just in case’ but even that one has been retired by now. I run Marathon Plus these days – great on the highway and a crap shoot everywhere else.

    Have you any destination in mind or are you just taking it day by day?

  9. anna | May 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Destination…? Well, the world at large, I guess. South-ish in South America for the moment, then maybe Africa, Europe, the East, Asia, etc…. Let’s see.

  10. Melda | October 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Funny I should read this now (yes, just catching up after a long absence!). Jakub’s mum told us a few days ago about a Chinese specialty – Chicken and Coca cola. I’m still dying to figure outa veggie version to give it a try. Just once!

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