Travellers fatigue – Along the Panam to Ecuador
“I can’t go on, I’m not in the mood anymore.” Nicki had to listen to these words from me more than once in the last weeks. For outsiders it may seem as if we are on a never-ending holiday. We are living “the dream”: discovering new worlds every day by motorbike, getting to know people, enjoying life. But every long-term traveller also knows how exhausting it can be not to have a regular everyday life, to have to be prepared for something new every day.
I curse when the motorcycle looses contact with the ground in a sand hole. I curse when we have to pack up the soaking wet tent in the morning and flee from the rain. I curse when I discover a puddle of coolant or petrol between the two wheels. And I curse when I just want to buy a Coke in a shop and instead am being punished with the complete ignorance of the vendor. How do I dare to keep him from doing nothing in his shop? I curse too much. I am tired of travelling.
Time for a break
Yes, the rainy season in the mountains of Peru has afflicted us. We decide to head towards Ecuador to enjoy some everyday life and to sit out the rain. Our friends we met in Arequipa recommended us to visit the Hacienda Chan Chan. Beautifully situated in the mountainous surroundings of Cuenca and run by a US-American dropout family. On our request we get the answer that we are very welcome and that we can work for them in return for board and lodging. There is always work on the farm.
Viva la Panamericana
Meanwhile our tires are pretty worn out. The front tyre is still from Germany and has now almost 35,000 kilometers down, the rear tyre has after over 8,000 km no longer much profile. Because large motorcycles are rare in Peru, it is difficult to get new ones. So Nicki takes the bus to the capital Lima to buy new tires, indicators and a chain – a full-day challenge. To take advantage of the last bit of tread, we mount the heavy tires over the tank. It’s not comfortable to ride, but two thousand kilometres are still possible.
On the way to Ecuador we ride on the Panamericana. The expressway leads along the coast and has few curves, is rich in deserts and boring to death. But at least we make fast progress here and there is no rain. Besides it is nice to be at the sea again. In the Pacific Ocean we have perfect waves for surfing and can even swim with giant turtles.
New, old knowledge
Shortly before the Ecuadorian border we get our chain and our new tires changed. Yes, the hardcore ADV-Rider is supposed to do it himself, but we prefer to let the “expert” do it. But I start to regret it when I realize too late that the front tyre was mounted in the wrong running direction. I should have known better that here in South America you have to check everything three times by yourself…
As always, the border crossing is unspectacular. Only because of the huge tents of the Red Cross it differs from the previous ones. Venezuelan refugees get vaccinations, clean drinking water and medical care here. Due to mismanagement and corruption, a large part of the Venezuelan population has to emigrate. Because of inflation, the banknotes are no longer worth the paper on which they are printed and for many people it is hardly possible to get food. We have seen many Venezuelan families on the roadside who use cardboard signs to express their fate and ask for some support. Between the huge supply tents the situation is illustrated to me again very clearly.
When we arrive in Ecuador, we first have to get some money. Nicki returns disappointed from the first ATM. “It only gives us US dollars, we have to find another bank”. When the next cash machine also only has dollars, we get skeptical and ask an old man on the street. He laughs at us warmly: “Forget it, in Ecuador you only pay with US dollars since 20 years”. As always, we are unprepared and blindly trusted our currency conversion app, which displayed an exchange rate for Ecuadorian pesos. The currency change was a successful way to escape inflation. Meanwhile Ecuador belongs to the wealthier countries of South America.
Work to take a break
When we arrive at the Hacienda in Cuenca, we are warmly welcomed by Luke, Julie and their five children. And we even get our own house for the next month. What a luxury! The work on the farm is extremely various and there is something new every day.
We fertilize the pastures on the huge property, we chop and saw wood, supply guests with breakfast, maintain the water system and fill the milk vehicle with fresh milk. We are also working on a new homepage with an online shop for the dairy products. One task is really fun for us: We have to create hiking trails. For days, we walk several kilometres up and downhill to find the best paths. With the machete we fight our way through thorny bushes, build stone manikins and with buckets and brushes we make trail markings. After we found beautiful and well passable tracks and freed them, we walk through everything again with the GPS tracker, in order to create a nice hiking map on the computer.
Small note: The following section contains brutal scenes and cut off pork testicles. If you don’t want to read this, you should quickly scroll down to the sweet pork babies.
One episode on the Hacienda remains particularly in my memory: The boar Wilbert was bought to cover the sows on the farm. But Wilbert has a problem: He is too shy – or as Luke tells me: “he’s a coward”. The sows don’t let Wilbert get close to them and so he loses his function as a inseminator. Unfortunately, this results in new problems for Wilbert, because his new function is to be a pork meat supplier. Boar piglets, which are intended for slaughter, are normally neutered as babies, because the boar testicles develop androstenone and skatol which lead to stinking pork meat. But since Wilbert is already a big, fat boar, the castration is much more complicated.
Nicki, me and two Ecuadorians have to hold the struggling pig with ropes, while the veterinarian has to deal with Wilbert’s private parts with a big pair of scissors. Wilbert’s fearful screeching, grunting and screaming goes straight to my heart. As a man this scene hurts me especially. Wilbert “the Coward” obviously has the pain of his life. In Germany such a castration without anaesthesia would be illegal. Even the farm dog Lassie, who watches the activities, whines and loses a tear.
When the vet is finished, he throws the truncated organs into a bush and Lassie is happy about an unexpected lunch. The pictures and above all the sounds haunt me even longer in my dreams. As a meat eater I guess I have to go through this…
Besides the farm work we still have enough time to work on some of our own projects. We learned a lot on the farm and met some great people. Since we hardly spent any money and we could also work online for our customers in Germany, the travel break also significantly improved the travel budget. This may sound strange to the outsider, but the physical work could relax me and give me the much needed compensation to be on the road. And after this time-out from travelling I am highly motivated again to load the motorcycle and set off into the unknown.