Man down – Riverside camp to Chumbes (55k/18,757k, +3,300ft)

(August 8 – written by Nancy)

Well, today was an interesting day and even now at 7pm it is still continuing to be interesting!  Our riverside camp was very quiet last night though we did have some traffic passing after it got dark.  It’s always somewhat disconcerting to see headlights on the tent when it’s dark outside, but that was only because the road turned and crossed a bridge just at the spot we were camping.

Unfortunately Dave had some stomach problems overnight, which meant multiple trips out of the tent and not a whole lot of sleep.  This morning he wasn’t feeling too well and the cold, frosty and wet camp didn’t help too much.  Our rainfly was sopping wet from condensation and frozen in a few spots.  Dave was moving slowly but he did eat some oatmeal and have some coffee to warm up.  We eventually moved our things into a sunny patch in an attempt to dry them, which helped a bit but we still ended up putting the rainfly away wet.

We had about a 23k climb first thing this morning so as Dave was moving slowly we packed up and took off while Philipp and Kathrin took some more time in the sun to dry their things, knowing they would catch up to us.  Dave was really struggling up the initial 3k climb to our intended campsite last night and by the time we got there we needed to pull over so he could rest.  He just had no energy and the slightest climb was too much for him.  Dave never really gets sick, especially with stomach problems, so this was pretty unusual.  We decided we needed to find a ride at least to the top of the climb or further if we could as he did not feel like he could make it.

Philipp and Kathrin arrived shortly after we pulled over for a rest and we all tried to stop every truck that came by to see if we could get a ride.  We were not having any luck and were just sitting in the sun when a cycle tourist came up the other way and stopped for a chat.  He was on a trip back to Columbia after having worked in Buenos Aires for 6 years.  He said that there was a small village just a couple of kilometres down the hill where he thought there were some trucks that might be able to give Dave a ride.

So off we all went to the little pueblito of Matara.  We pulled over at a small store and Tine went in to see what she could find out.  The woman running the store said that yes, taxis and camionetas (truck taxis) came by regularly so we decided just to hang out in the sun until we found one.  Dave was feeling pretty poorly and laid down on the cement porch area of the store to rest.  A few minutes later he had a rather unfortunate vomiting episode – fortunately after the first incident (not sure what you call the first throw up in a several throw up episode) he made it over to a kind of washing area where it was all at least slightly contained.  Poor guy…  though he did feel a bit better after it was all out.

Tine went above and beyond the call of duty and got a bucket and broom from the lady in the store so that we could try to be good tourists and wash off what was now on her front porch.  Not surprisingly she did not hesitate to hand over the brush and bucket!  Dave lay down again and tried to sleep a bit while we jumped at every car, truck, tractor or vehicle of any kind that went by in either direction.

We were not having any luck though until a local fellow came over to see what we were doing.  After explaining the situation to him he ended up going up the road a bit with Tine to a car taxi that was parked at a house.  They came back with the good news that the taxi could take Dave and his bike and bags to the small town of Orcos, which was about 40k away and on the long downhill to our intended destination of Chincheros.  So, we piled all of Dave’s bags in the backseat, put him in the front seat and the bike in the trunk and off they went, with plans for us to meet him at a restaurant on the main road where he could rest until we got there.

By this time it was close to noon so it was pretty clear we wouldn’t make it all the way to Chincheros today.  Philipp, Tine and I took off to ride the 20k of uphill.  It wasn’t too bad of a climb though there were some steep parts and all of the drama of the morning made it feel pretty hard.  It would have been very hard for Dave to have ridden it in his condition.

We could feel the temperature dropping as we climbed up to 4100 meters and it was pretty chilly as the wind picked up.  We finally made it to the top and stopped to put on warm clothes for the downhill.  The road was full of switchbacks with some nice views but I didn’t take many pictures with my phone as I wanted to get down to the spot to meet up with Dave to make sure he was okay and Dave had the camera.  So, sorry, not many pictures today.

I had seen Philipp and Tine behind me a couple of times, so when I got to the turn-off to Ocros I had to check the map as I thought the restaurant was on the main road, not down in town.  That’s what my map showed, but I wasn’t sure that they knew that.  So I waited at the turn-off a bit, which turned into quite some time as they didn’t appear.  I had a funny friendly chat with some locals who were speaking Quechan, the local dialect, with a bit of Spanish as I waited.  They eventually told me that there were two entrances to town and that there was a restaurant up ahead on the main road.  So after about 30 minutes I went ahead to the restaurant to see if I could find Dave.

I saw Dave’s bike as I came upon the restaurant and the tent tarp out drying in the sun but I couldn’t see him.  I figured he was in the restaurant but as I pulled in it looked closed.  Then I heard rustling and out poked Dave from under the tarp.  He had set up a nice little resting area there against a wall and had the tarp over him for warmth.  He got there about 12:30 and it was now almost three so he had some good resting time there in his little cocoon.  Once he got up he did look and seem better – tired still but a bit better.

My homelss man husband

My husband, the homeless man under the tarp – yup, all my dreams have come true!

The meeting point

The meeting point.  Too bad it was closed, I’m sure Dave would have liked a warm tea.

We thought we could see Philipp and Tine down in the town public square so rode down the second entrance to see what we could find.  We parked in the town square and I went to speak to a policeman standing there to see if he had seen other cyclists and what the accommodation options were in this little town.  Well, no, he hadn’t seen any cyclists so that was a bust.  I got something for Dave to drink at a little store and went to check out the accommodations.  I could only get into one and it was pretty rough – 3 beds in one room, 15 soles per bed (for 2 people), and a shared bath with no hot water and no toilet seat.  And the room was basically a basement so it was absolutely freezing already at 3pm.

So, what to do?  Back in the town square another fellow told us that we should ride on to Chumbes, about 11k further downhill, as it was warmer there and there was a hotel there.  I went to speak to the policeman again and he confirmed Chumbes was a bigger town, would be warmer and there was a hotel there.  So, we waited a bit longer for Philipp and Tine but then finally left about 4:15 to give us time to get there before dark.  At this point we were not sure what had happened to them.  We didn’t really want to leave without having a chance to make sure they were okay but we needed to get somewhere Dave could get some rest if he was going to have a chance at riding tomorrow.  We asked the fellow in the park to let the other cyclists know we were headed to Chumbes if he saw them.

The 11k to Chumbes went very quickly, though we did stop to chat briefly with another cycle tourist coming up the hill.  Alee was from Melbourne and had started in Ushuaia in December and was on his way to Alaska (  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to chat too long as we all needed to get to our destinations before dark.  We also asked him to tell Philipp and Tine our plans if he saw them.

Alee and Nancy

Alee in shorts, us in rain gear.  No prizes for picking out who’s riding uphill and who’s riding downhill at this point.

We arrived in Chumbes and found a funny little hospedaje – there seemed to be a couple of hostels but no hotel so not sure what people meant.  The town is a bit bigger as it seems to be a bus stop so there are certainly more stores and restaurants.  As we were getting settled in our fairly primitive room (no hot water so no shower but there is a toilet seat, though not sure it’s too great to touch it…) we heard some voices outside and sure enough here was Philipp and Tine!

Our room 1

It really is hard to understand why this shower is not working – everything looks in tip-top shape!

It turns out that when they were putting on their warm clothes at the top of the hill they inadvertently left one of their panniers on the ground.  They didn’t realise it until 12k down the hill.  Ackkkk – I can only imagine the panic I would have felt!  They pulled over, Philipp took all of the bags off his bike and rode back up to the top of the hill to collect the bag.  No worries, it was still there so he picked it up and rode back down to Tine.  From there they rode into town to try to find us, eventually hearing from a couple of people that we had ridden on.  And here they were.

Just as they were getting settled in their room the power went off in the whole town.  We went out to see what we could get for dinner and went into the one restaurant that seemed to be serving food.  We ordered by flashlight and then the lights came back on just as a big storm whipped through, with the wind blowing hard through the front door.  We had lots of thunder and rain as we ate our dinner – Dave made a good effort to eat some chicken soup and a bit of his eggs on rice, drinking two cups of tea along with the meal.

As we left the restaurant it became clear they were one of the few places with lights – they must have a generator – as it was absolutely pitch black everywhere else.  Thankfully Philipp had his headtorch so we were able to make it back to our hospedaje, where Dave is now asleep and the rain is still coming down.  Hopefully it will all be done by morning and we will have power back so that we can at least have a cup of coffee before we head off.

Pretty wild day….

15 thoughts on “Man down – Riverside camp to Chumbes (55k/18,757k, +3,300ft)

  1. Poor Dave, what a hard day. Hope to see a report tomorrow that all is well again. Thinking good thoughts. Nice photos from the road yesterday.

  2. Sympathies to you both – bellies can certainly wreck the day. ‘At least” there was a car available, and it was downhill to Chumbes.

  3. Best of luck Dave and Nancy, I know this no fun for either of you…. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this a 24 hour thing!

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