Total, 10,500 miles (16,085 km)
After Colombia I of course was excited to arrive in a new country, this time the lovely Ecuador. The start went well as I rode to Otavalo and had a few days in the wonderful market town before heading on to Quito. The city was great and I stayed in what was probably one of the best hostels on the whole journey, the Secret garden. From here I had 4 days on the road heading towards the coast and flat ground. Just south of Santo Domingo, my journey changed.
Below is what I wrote in my journal 24hours and no sleep later. All the video from Colombia and Ecuador is gone plus, (bar 2 I had posted to Twitter) the photos from Ecuador.
A bad day in Ecuador.
Free camping, its what all us adventure cyclist do. I´ve done it all over the world and never had a problem. Today my luck ran out. After a long day on the wheel, where 51 miles were covered I entered an area where there were many camping opportunities. My first attempt to camp fails when a family walk out of the bush and see me. Staying on the right side of caution I say hello and move on to find somewhere else. A few miles further along the road a nice path appears that goes off into a plantation. Here standing by the side of the road I wait until there is a gap in the traffic so nobody sees me dive off into the bush. Walking in 100 yards, then another 50 yards off the path gives me a nice safe place for the night, or so I think. After pitching up the tent and having unloaded the Penny I sit down and start to prepare for a nice evening. Off in the distance I notice someone moving through the trees. Probably just a farmer, they sometimes find you, and a friendly smile and hello always sends them on their way without problem. He disappears, and I assume he didn´t spot me. Five minutes later he returns and is with a friend and making a bee line toward me in the tent. Still I´m unconcerned, and prepare for a cheerful encounter. When they get to within a few yards I realise something is wrong. No smiles, animals on the hunt. The first guy who is about 35 reaches into his pocket and pulls out a gun, this is serious. The other younger man with stave in hand helps drag me out of the tent. With the gun to my head I´m in no mood to argue against their blows. My options are limited, stay calm and pacify. The aggression is real and frightening. With a gun to my temple I try to make them understand that I´m no threat. The plastic rope they bought is lashed about my ankles and wrists. I´m able to pretend by twisting my wrists that the bindings are tighter than they really are, leaving myself a small way out. Now I´m thrown on my side, and worryingly my head is covered by my jacket. Shouts of unintelligible Spanish fire between them, and the muzzle of the gun presses hard down above my ear. This isn´t adventurous or exciting, just terrifying. Possibly they now find my computer or camera, the pressure above my ear disappears as their foul glee increases. Seconds or minutes pass I couldn´t really say, then I´m pulled up and shown my credit card, they want the pin. By way of encouragement to lessen my reticence the barrel presses hard into my temple once again. My resistance fades quickly, but screw them they can have the pin, just not the correct one. They demand to know how much is in the account, I lie and their greed is palpable. I just hope that they both leave to go to the ATM. Having been thrown down again with covered head I can´t understand their Spanish as they shout at each other, but I feel the last of their haul is being loaded into my backpack. Argument and agitated discussion ensues, they now seem to be deciding what to do with me. The barrel is back on my head, I try and talk with a calm tone, I have to remind them that I am a human, a gunshot in a forest won't be heard, but they don´t need to do it. The younger is, I think more reticent, time stands still. The pressure of the gun disappears, and I now expect the blow to fall from the cowards stave. I lift my head from the ground to lessen the shock of the expected crack. This anticipation is something I hope never to experience again, slow immeasurable seconds, waiting, time, the clock ticks. Is the calm real? I ask for water, no answer. I´m up, they have gone to the cash point. My bonds are off in two minutes, and I curse as my bare feet sprint back through the plantation. Bursting onto the road the people who constantly stop for their photo´s now don´t want to know. Finally after about 50 cars pass a decent human stops to help. He calls the police and they arrive in 5 minutes. Having been put on a bus back to Quito and well away from where it happened about 20km south of Santo Domingo, I can take a very deep breath. I´m left with my Penny, pith, tent and sleeping bag. Pretty much everything else is gone, clothes, electrics, even my toothbrush. But I still have my hand written journals, passport, and a fast beating heart in my chest. The next few hours show the real Ecuador, kindness abounds, I´m given shoes for my bloody feet, food and money by the people in the bus station. My journey is now over and I´m heading home to take a deep breath, see my family and friends, and have a pint in an English pub. I do still believe that 99% of people in the world are kind, caring and lovely human beings. Unfortunately on this occasion I met the last and lowest 1%. Joff
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