Monday, 28 November 2011

Day 29: Don't miss the Equator (197 kms)

In Africa, Peter and I missed seeing nearly everything of "importance": the pyramids at Giza (we got lost), Mt Kilimanjaro (shrouded in clouds), the Equator (distracted). On this trip, I resolved to be more organized, prepared or both. On the day we were set to cross the Equator, I studiously watched my GPS and eventually found the precise point on the road where the display went all to zeroes (photo). We then made a slight detour to Ecuador's monument to its namesake: La Mitad del Mundo. Every country needs a small way to show itself in the centre of things. (Brings to mind the map, by an Australian, that shows that shows the southern hemisphere above the north and New Zealand cruelly split in two on the extreme peripheries.) The monument to la Mitad apparently not in the exact right spot, and my GPS confirmed this. We took a photo anyway.

Arriving at la Mitad we met two Aussies on big GS bikes with Florida plates. These guys were on a "circle to circle" trip and intended actually to ship their bikes to Antarctica. Me: "Will you be able to ride over there?" Leader guy: "Doesn't matter. The bikes just have to cross both the circle lines with us." Maybe C2thecabo needs a better gimmick.

These fellows asked about weather we encountered. I stammered out, with some guilt, that we'd had only a couple of rainy days. They were aghast; they made it sound as though they'd had rain nearly every day up to that point. In retrospect, we entered Central America at just the right time: mid-November is when the hurricane season has pretty much blown itself out and the rainy season is drying up. The problem is that most trans-America riders want to leave from Alaska and it's too cold by October. We solved that problem by leaving earlier and taking a break (Nathan and Peter), leaving late from further south (me), and going fast (all). When we told them our schedule, the Aussies said, "that's about the fastest we've heard of so far." It wasn't necessarily praise.

Sure enough, that afternoon we got some serious rain just outside Quito. We took shelter in an Internet cafe and did some TCB.

That evening we paid an unannounced visit on Nathan's host family from when he lived in Ecuador a decade ago. They were seriously excited to see him, and welcomed me warmly too. They insisted that we stay the night, which we did. Some of the kids who were just babies during his stay were now in school and studying English using the dictionary he left behind.

Ecuador is another country with ambitious development plans afoot. Road and infrastructure construction is everywhere. I took from Nathan that the village had changed a lot in ten years too. The political slogan is "La revolucion ciudada esta en marcha", and this was branded throughout the countryside on huge billboards. Most people seemed proud of this ambition and excited by its tangible evidence, but irritated by the high level of taxes.

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