The ride south from Quito

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Working the mud for the tiles near Saquisili
Working the mud for the tiles near Saquisili (View on flickr)

Molding the clay for the roof tiles (tejas)
Molding the clay for the roof tiles (tejas) (View on flickr)

Watching the whole process
Watching the whole process (View on flickr)

We rode out of Quito heading south on Sunday morning to miss the busy traffic. But we did not succeed in missing the polluted buses that blew thick black exhaust straight into our taxed lungs. We had just been at sea level for 10 days and the re-aclimation back to 10,000 feet was taking me a few days. Chest pains, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate was not helped by the pollution emitted by almost all vehicles that passed us as we climbed to higher elevations. The city landscape was replaced with green pastures, cows, llamas, sheeps and small pueblos with amazing markets. I started to breathe a little better but about 20 miles outside of Quito, I called it quits for the day and we stayed overnight in Machachi. I spent the afternoon roaming around the markets where I bought a pair of high socks made of wool and looked at the traditional felt hats which ranged according to quality from $10-$50 and wool ponchos for about $15. Randy who can't tolerate shopping for a whole 5 minutes headed to the internet.

The next day we rode the Pan-American highway for about 20 miles and then found a back road that headed south through much quieter, farmlands. This road is what I like about bike touring. No traffic, no painted line, fresh air and rural folks who waved at us as we pedal past their adobe homes. It felt good to be on the bike again and feeling much better.

The first family we met was an indigenous family running a by-hand rooftile manufacturing operation. We had a great time with them, seeing how they work the clay with a cow and then form the tiles by hand. They get about 2 cents for every tile, and can make about 500 in a day. Thus the whole family working together might be able to gross $10/day. They don't have their own oven to fire the tiles, so have to turn them over to someone else.

Walking the bad road on a hard day
Walking the bad road on a hard day (View on flickr)

Resting on the bad road
Resting on the bad road (View on flickr)

We found our way to indigenous village called Pujilí. As we entered the outskirts of the town, a friendly old guy on a bike, who may have been hitting the bottle, caught up with us and escorted us into town. He was a delightful friendly fellow. He brought us to the only place to stay in town which is called the Casa Campesina, and is really a place for poor people who come to the market and have no place to sleep to spend one night but they take in anyone who needs a place to stay for absolutely nothing. The place is a whole complex with 8 or so different building. It is painted beautifully white and is supported by folks from Italy. It turns out there are Casas Campesinas in many towns, provided by the local Catholic church. We stayed in a dormitory room which sleeps 4 but had the room to ourselves. We slept on hand woven mats on bunkbeds with no mattresses but did have wooden slats. Three very old and poor women slept in the next room. The room smelled like people who have lived on a farm for a real long time and have not showered in ages. They where very cute in thier traditional Ecuadorian ponchos and hats. In the early morning they joined us for coffee before we all had to leave by 7:00 am. As a parting gesture we gave them 50 cents which they kissed and thanked God for the gift.

We took the back road to Salcedo which was a terrible ride because for 30 kilometers it was paved with rocks the size of softballs. All nicely lined up every 5 inches or so. Randy ate something bad yesterday so he was pretty sick. We managed to get to town after a spine splitting ride down to Salcedo. We found a nice hotel next to the center plaza. Randy is currently resting and recovering from this not so optimal day. I am amazed how strong he is, even when he feels sick as a dog, he rides strong without complaining.