EMMANUELíS 70% REPORT
January 19, 2000 -
Day 211 / 166 ridden
Companions, buddies, family, friends,
I decided to take a little time off after High School Graduation and before entering University to travel part of the world. Some people say that doing so can throw you off track for studying. However, I believe that I have and am learning many useful things as I bicycle the Americas solo:
I was out of the mountains after Quito, Ecuador, and enjoying of some flat grounds. I entered Banana Country. You may have noticed that bananas have stickers that say Ecuador on them. After riding through tunnels of bananeros, I will not allow differentiation between Dole and Chiquita bananas. One is no better than the other; they all grow together, across the street from each other. Banana discrimination is the last thing we need. Next time you go to the super market buy one of each.
Christmas Eve caught me in Milagro, Ecuador. I went to the most expensive Hotel in town. Hot shower, cable TV, room service, phone, queen-sized bed, even a key to lock the door. All for US$ 6. The Hotel compared to a US$ 100 one in the USA. The Ecuadorian monetary unit, sucres, has seen incredible devaluation during 1999. One dollar cost 5,000 sucres in January 1999, and ended up at 18,000 sucres by late December. This is bad internally for the country, but if you are a low-budget biker, you can eat all the mango you want. I really am enjoying tropical fruits. I have not yet learned to connect all the names with all the fruits, but I have kept my special diet philosophy: "If it looks edible, eat two or three." Lucuma, papaya, mango, lulo, maracuya. I had some chicken for my Christmas dinner and sat in my bed to wait for phone calls around midnight. This was my first Xmas without family members. I had been caught traveling before, but always around some relative. So I spent this Xmas with my Dad. God, His name is Jesus. He has come along the entire trip, and it doesnít seem like He will quit anytime soon. He wonít quit. Sometimes we quit on Him, but He wonít quit with us.
December 27 I entered Peru. This will be my second longest country so far, following my six-week trek of Mexico. There was a sudden change in vegetation. Peru has not yet developed artificial irrigation as well as Ecuador, so the true desert shows itself. The Peruvian money, soles, is not as devaluated as Ecuadorís. Even though Peru is still inexpensive compared to the USA or Argentina, it seemed expensive because I had gotten used to the very low expenditure in Ecuador. I was once again riding the Pacific and encountering very few climbs. Surely I would be able to make much progress. Surely?
The bike was in top performance. My new Rhyno rim and rear wheel is as straight as an arrow. Thanks to the donation and wheel-building power of Jim, Sharon, Dave and Joe at Sports Connection. The Pan-American Highway in Peru is the main artery once again, bordering the Pacific Ocean, and in perfect shape. Pavement, shoulder, reflectors, perfect road. Sunny days. Physical condition was also a go. I encountered head wind my second day in Peru. Just a windy day, I thought. Then another week of strong head and right-side winds, until I realized this is a windy country. The tail winds I enjoyed in the northern hemisphere have traveled this far and want revenge. Weather systems are reversed in the southern hemisphere. There are long stretches of empty dessert here in Peru, but in contrast with the Baja California dessert, which is dirt and rock, here in Peru we have great extents of sand. Sand began to harass small bike parts, penetrating into small crevices and grinding at metal. Imagine eating a sandwich that has fallen on the sand. That is how my bike feels when a chain is infiltrated by sand.
I spent New Years Eve at a Highway Toll Station with toll people and some Highway-Patrol-type police. They invited me to stay for chicken and I had a toast with tea, no alcohol for me during the trip, I decided. I missed family and friends a lot. I wanted to hug other people than a police officer who had had too much to drink. Iíve been able to access email here in Peru. I thank everyone who can send a line or two. It really makes me glad to receive such messages. I wish I could write personal letters to each of you, but that will have to wait a couple more months. When I arrive to any town with a population of 25,000 or more, I most probably find Internet Booths, at a low cost of a dollar an hour. My ICQ number is 58544139. Add me to your list if you want to have a chance to chat. I also access "mercados" in every city. There you can buy anything from food to jewelry to tools. Mercados are unorganized and crowded, so you have to learn how to cruise around in them.
My "per hour" average was significantly hurt due to the wind. Making progress through the dessert was slow. Long stretches of road seemed to take forever. By now I am immune to mountains. I donít mind if there are mountains ahead. I will climb them and descend them. My wind immunity was not yet built up, and slow progress tired me. A French cyclist in Canada who was doing my trip in reverse told me that the wind is all psychological. "The legs will keep going, the problem is up here," he said as he pointed to his head. I slowly began to learn this lesson. So now 9 mph seemed like I was going fast, rather than 15 mph. My average "per hour" mileage since entering Peru on December 27 is 7.92. Significantly lower than my near 10 mph I estimate for the entire trip so far.
I stopped at many restaurants in the dessert. They come along every 20 miles or so. There I fuel up with some fruit and bread to continue on. I saw a sign one day far away on the straight road. The sand was making music on my bike frame. My arms get tired from holding the bike against strong side winds. Restaurant, that is what I read on the sign. However, when I drew near I read Castrol Motor Oil. This canít be happening, was I actually hallucinating in the dessert? I never thought it would happen to me.
On January 10, 2000, I began to near the city of Lima. I met Eduardo, Paola and Guillermo in the dessert 6 days earlier. Three college students from Lima. They had seen me on December 31 as they headed north to some beaches. When they saw me again on January 4, they decided to stop to ask about my trip and offered me a place to stay at Eduardoís house when I passed through Lima. The road is not as flat as before, but the wind is just as strong. In some areas of empty dessert, tree planting has begun by the side of the road. Bikers coming through in some 8 years will enjoy the wind blocking power of these silent friends. I had one long climb right before Lima. Only small vehicles can take this road. Heavy trucks and such go another way. I entered a dense fog. I could only see 2 white lines at the worst of it. It was good that there was not much traffic and 2 lanes each way. I descended to a toll station and out of the fog. It was very humid, not quite raining, but if you walked outside for 5 minutes you would end up wet. I entered the City of Lima.
There was a lot of traffic, still 2 lanes each way. The road was very slick, I remember thinking that it felt as if though I had a flat tire when traction seemed low. It was just the grease, oils, and water combined on the road. There was an accident ahead between two medium buses. Police were already there. It was nothing serious, but the right lane was blocked. I made my way to the left and began to slow down to ask the policeman a question about my destination address in Lima. I heard a loud sound and then I was sliding on the road with a wheel rolling a mere 2 feet from my face. It stopped. What had happened? Another medium-sized bus had neglected to slow down when I did and hit me from behind. My bike and trailer made a 90-degree turn and then fell to the right, thus getting wedged under the bus. And I was still on my bike. My BOB trailer was just tall enough on its side to prevent the bike from going farther under the bus. The front wheel of the bike wrapped around the busís left front tire. And I was still on my bike. From the point of impact to the stopping point I was pushed by the bus some 5 meters. In a way it was good that the road was very slick, it acted as ice and prevented much road rash to my body. Not really the perfect place to be sliding on oil, but it helped out. And I was still on my bike.
I got up and looked at my bike under that bus. It seemed to fit perfectly, as if it where a puzzle piece. I apologized to the driver, Iím not sure why. All I know is that I donít like messy situations, so I think that is why I apologized. I was a little out of it, not thinking very straight. We moved everything to the side of the road. I had to ask the driver to back up in order to get the bike out. He blamed me for the accident. And so did the police that were there. I wasnít sure what had happened, so I took the blame. An eyewitness gave me a piece of paper with the license plate of the bus. I inspected myself and my gear. My helmet cracked due to the impact. Severe head injury would be the title of this report if I hadnít been wearing my helmet. I thought it would make it all the way to Tierra del Fuego. Maybe it will, but not on my head. My right side was completely black from the oily road. I could barely see some scrapes on my right arms, both knees, and right heel. The right side bag of my trailer was also black, with a small hole. I checked the gears and derailleur. Everything was fine. Amazing. Police wrote down my CDL number down while I told them that at least I made their job easier by having the accident right there where the other one was, that way they didnít have to go anywhere. They wanted me to go get cleaned up at a nearby clinic. I declined. I had a little over 2 hours before sunset and not much longer after that to get to Eduardoís house. If I stop now two things will happen. It will get late, and my body will begin to get sore.
So I continued on, my one-time crossing of Lima. Imagine these people who are in this mad race to get to the other side of Lima, just to turn around and go back to the other side again. Iím just going through once, just to bike it. People looked at me strangely. Half of me was unexplainably black. I got to Eduardoís neighborhood. An hour later I found his house. He was not there at the moment, so I was received by the maid, Alcira. Later I met Eduardoís sister Fabiola, his brother Ivan, and his nephew Fabricio. His older sister, Fabricioís mom, is out of the city for a few days. I decided I would take a rest day, to get my body ready again.
I woke up with a sore neck and back on Tuesday, January 12. This required chiropractic attention, I knew it. I found a chiropractor in the yellow pages and together with Eduardo and Guillermo, aka Lalo and Guille, we went to see him. Dr. Schubell, an American living here in Lima "since four years ago yesterday" as he said. Dr. Schubell was very kind. He said my back was out of tune. A good movement here, a crack in the neck, another down here. "There, you are what we call reconnected," he said. "Reconnected, that sounds good," I said. He did not charge me for his services, and I thanked him and thank him greatly. If anyone ever goes to Lima and needs a chiropractor, go see Dr. Schubell and tell him the "bus mechanic solo cyclist" sent you.
My bike was treated at a local bike shop. They took everything off the frame, cleaned it, and put it back together. Mechanically the bike was fine. I bought a new helmet for my journey. Never ride with a broken helmet or without a helmet.
I needed another rest day. My right leg interior quad muscle was sore. I figured another day would fix it. When I woke up with continued pain on Thursday morning, I knew this was not just a sore muscle. Together with Lalo and Guille we found a kinesiologist, a specialist in muscle injuries. The head doctor, Dr. Vilca, was not in. He is traveling with the national soccer team. These people really do know about this stuff. His assistant, Dr. Gaby, treated me. She has been with Dr. Vilca for six years and knows everything about muscles. It turns out I had a torn muscle; I was right to predict that it wasnít just sore. She gave electric impulses to the muscle. That hurt. Then heat, ice, heat, ice, heat, ice, heat, ice, for about 25 minutes. That burned. Then ultrasound to help regenerate muscle tissue. That was just kind of weird. Then a special mixture of Voltaren and Norflex to help the muscle heal. That entered my body via a needle. I need to come back on Friday and Saturday for the same treatment and wear an elastic brace as well.
While conversing with a man at the clinic, and telling him of the accident, he told me he was a police officer. He said the bus was at fault for hitting me from behind and that the officers who where there at the moment should be sanctioned for not doing anything about it. I said the most probable reason for blaming me was that problems with a foreigner are not good, and since I was a little out of it after the impact, they used the opportunity to blame me. He said he regretted to say it, but that I was correct. I gave him the information of the bus, however, nothing can be done before I leave.
I added a little extra treatment on Friday and Saturday for muscle treatments. I had been limping due to the pain so this caused my right calf muscle to contract. And Gaby made sure to loosen it up. This was no little massage or tapping, she put a lot of pressure on that muscle and made it loosen up. This is the most pain I have intentionally endured my entire life. I screamed, bit a towel, and screamed some more. She just laughed. She said together with Dr. Vilca they make professional soccer players "cry and scream like little girls." "Yeah, make him cry," said Lalo. We have become good friends with Lalo and Guille. Lalo drives us everywhere. I taught them the rule for calling "shot gun" when traveling by car. I got it most the time, but Guille began to learn.
Sunday and Monday were days to relax, watch a few movies, and talk much with my new friends. Dr. Gaby said I had to run 15 minutes a day to get the muscle going again, so I did. Laloís mom arrived to visit from Andahuaylas, the Peruvian mountains, on Sunday. She can speak the Incasí language. The Incas are a big part of the culture here. The national soda is Inca Kola. Way bigger than Coca Cola or Pepsi. It doesnít taste that great, but I have learned to like it because everyone here drinks it. Together with my friends Lucas Gruenther and Dave Twining we were members of our own club, the NCC. Non Carbonation Club. I fell out of it my last day in Canada, when a host offered me juice, and brought me carbonated juice. So Luc and Dave win the NCC long-lasting award.
Back to Dr. Gabyís office on Tuesday for a last treatment. I am ready to go, she said. The muscle will hurt when I begin to use it again, but the torn section has healed completely. The fact that I take Centrum, one a day, helped speed up the healing process according to Dr. Gaby. Maybe. I know who healed me: The Lord Jesus Christ. He kept me safe during the accident. This could have been a whole lot worst. He provided me with excellent, helpful doctors, a place to stay at no cost, and helpful friends to encourage me to finish. As my relatives in Italy put it, this is a great time to praise the Lord for what has not happened. Being in His hands is the safest and smartest place where one can be.
Today I was ready to go, but decided to write my 70% report. If you recall, my original estimate for the trip was 17,000 miles, so my percentages were off. Slowly Iíve adjusted the percentages of my reports to fit my estimate of the total trip distance. My dad will meet me in Northern Chile to give me vehicle support for the last leg of my journey. That only means he will carry my gear, not me or my bike. Thank you all very much for all of your support. I seriously could not have made it this far without your help. Tomorrow I set out; we are almost there, letís keep going strong. Bike It Solo,
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