Just a couple of days in the city of Coca were enough to drive me nuts. I felt alone in the crowd. The doctor had told me to rest for two or three weeks, but it sure wasn’t going to be in the city.
In the meantime, I had found a workaway address in Misahualli, some 150 km away, where I could stay until my ankle was healed while making myself useful.
My ankle didn’t hurt while cycling, so I was to try to cycle there.
There was the main road, but i was told the alternative road was also paved…and flat. Ha! That was going to turn out as a good joke.
First, before leaving town, I gave my old MSR tent away to a fellow cyclist. I had been off the bike for five months and knew it was better to get rid of unnecessary weight. The MSR hubba hubba had served me well through most of Africa and for a year and a half in South America. Yet, it had started leaking a bit, all zippers were worn out and the fabric of the flysheet had become very fragile causing big 20cm rips from time to time.
Unfortunately, the North Face tent that I had bought in Cusco, Peru, was awful and a very bad replacement for the MSR.
Adrian from Colombia had been traveling for 36 years, of which 10 by bicycle. I met him next to the park where he was selling his handicrafts.
It was great to be back on the bike. The road was winding through the jungle, up and down uncountable hills. I camped in a small, covered football stadium (most big villages have them). My friendly neighbors invited me to eat with them.
Then by 10 am the next day, I started having a very inconvenient problem: i couldn’t pee. Worse even, when I tried, an excruciating pain would hit my ‘you know what’. I would tried a couple of times more during the day, because my bladder was so full. Having to pee so badly, but being hit with that pain just before my pee would come out, almost had me shedding in tears. I truly hope I never have to go through that again.
The road also became challenging as the asfalt stopped and loose rocks appeared. I was now pushing my bike up on quite a few hills. Although loving the adventure, I knew this wasn’t the best recovery for my ankle.
I reached the Kichwa community of Shiripuno, slightly troubled about my peeing problem. If I couldn’t pee in the morning, I would have to hitchhike to the nearest hospital. I couldn’t spend more than 24 hours like this without knowing what was going on. Definitely not because cycling might make it worse?
The man I met in front of the shop, turned out to be the village chief. He and his family were super nice to me and made me sleep in a bed and fed me. Alejandro, aka medicine man of the village, massaged my lower back with menthol and gave me a tea of various herbs against prostate problems (although I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with that, haha).
Anyway, everything was ok again in the morning! Pfuu! What a relief.
Just as I left, it started raining again. It would rain every single day, but it didn’t bother me as it’s never cold in the jungle.
I did thought I had stopped travelling by river since selling our boat. But now I was cycling/walking up the road which looked like a river!
I asked directions in another Kichwa community. It was still raining and people invited me in, offering a hot drink. The man used to be a carpenter, but that all changed when he had a bad accident while cutting trees. After 1.5 years, he was still recovering from a badly broken arm and leg. I suddenly felt really stupid to talk about my ankle.
They were lovely. While waiting for her to come back, I started helping them making new gates. I ended up staying the day, finishing off the gates. They thought me some Kichwa and we went around the small village to meet their family and drink masato, which they call chicha here. I had only cycled 12 km that day, but in the end it’s not about the kms at all.
I got to Misahualli the next day, where I would help out Scott from Canada for a while. He had recently bought four hectares of land along the Misahualli river. A beautiful spot.
With my ankle being weak, I focused on fixing things around the house: wiring electricity to add lights and plugs/ fixing doors/ making shelves and a work top for cooking out of wobbly wood fetched out of the river.
Although I was having a blast at the volunteering, I realised my ankle wasn’t recovering. Hence I decided to move to Tena, just 25 km away. I knew taking the bus was the smartest option, but I just couldn’t brake the cycle of never having hitchhiked/taken the bus on this trip!
Once I got there, I knew I had to stay until my foot got better. It was time to take this injury serious.
Finally, after twelve days, I got a green light to move on. Yes!!! On to Colombia!!! I had 18 days left till my mom arrived in Cali, 900km away.
I tried to make the best of my time off the bike: working on the photos to make selections and backups, do some sightseeing, get some tests in the hospital to figure out my peeing problem (all good, nothing going on),… And go to the fysiotherapist every day of course to get some electric shocks sent through my foot.
It was hard to leave the Zumag Sisa hostal in Tena, I really felt part of the family! If you have to spend more than ten days in a city, a great hostal with great people is a lifesaver!
But I was really excited to be back on the bike!
The road winded through the high jungle, offering many waterfalls and caves to visit. Climbing back to 1400m was a good first test.
Getting close to the Colombian border, I stayed with a Kichwa family for the last time. We share food together and they give me a room for the night. Lovely.
My ankle is now strong enough to cycle, but I have to stay careful and do exercises every day.
Then I dropped back to the lower part of the jungle. The road straightened out and Colombia became tangibly close by.
I then camped on the 2nd floor of a hut overlooking the Sumaco volcano. It’s still rainy season and cloudy, but I was lucky to get a glimpse of it at sunset.
I had a warmshowers host for the next day. Walter and his family haven’t traveled themselves by bicycle, but once met a cycletraveler who showed it to them. They have enjoyed making foreign friends, taking selfies with them and helping travelers on their way ever since.
I wasn’t planning to, but they invited me to stay a day and visit the area. It was fun to paddle around the lake! Felt good being in a canoe again! Also met his family and went walking to a very old Ceibo tree. And it was beautiful to see their love for their baby they adopted one month ago.
He also took me with him along his job: selling perfumes in night clubs. I thought night clubs were disco’s, but they’re actually brothels. We went to six in total. Not my kind of place! As Walter was trying to sell his merchandise, I had time to observe these places. First of all, I was surprised there were a lot of people. It’s like a bar with small rooms of 2 by 3 m all around. Most girls are from Venezuela and have fled their country’s misery. It’s all very sick and sad.
Later that day, I got a message from Emmely, a Belgian friend with whom I went to college. She and a friend of hers, had been doing an internship as medical students in some hospitals in Ecuador and were now traveling around the country. So crazy to see her again on the other side of the world!
Next day! Border crossing!!! Yes, that’s right! Colombia!!!!