Ready, set, push!

A look back at our ride from Puyo south to Macas where we did everything possible to avoid the main roads…

After setting off from Puyo at midday, we wound through sugar cane fields and indigenous communities before arriving at our first tarabita (a gravity-powered cable car above the Rio Pastaza). We loaded our bikes with the front wheels hanging outside the steel car, and after paying $2 our ten-year-old attendant gave a running push and jumped aboard as we went screaming across the river. The cable bowed with the weight of our bikes, and we lost momentum just before the end platform and began sliding backwards. In a quick maneuver, the boy jumped on top of the cable and began pushing with all his might, shoes slipping on the greasy cable. After exchanging glances, he waved to his older brother to send the retrieval car. For our second try, two waiting passengers and both brothers all pitched in to give us a hefty push. This left us 20 feet from the platform, again beginning to slide backwards. When the boy grabbed the cable to pull, James joined in, and we inched our way, hand over hand, to the platform. Success! Jet black greasy hands were a small price to pay to not be left swinging above the river overnight.

We set off again, this time on dirt roads past tea and pitahaya fruit plantations, arriving to the next town just as an ice cream truck rounded the bend. James fired all cylinders to ride up alongside the cab and ask what flavor. Two cones later, we were on our way to the small, manicured plaza for our lunch break.

Recharged, we rode another 20 km to reach the second tarabita just before sunset. Two girls who had arrived by moto moments before had called the operator to come down after hours. Lucky for us! After he loaded them and their scooter and sent them across, he helped us into the cage. With a whoop and a holler (from us), we went flying again, this time across the Rio Palora. We reached the other side, and after a few moments of confusion when the cage began retreating back with us still aboard, Katie jumped out, grabbed the tow line, and quickly tied us off.

With storm clouds gathering, we pitched our tent under the cable car awning and bathed in the river. Over dinner, at least four other families came to take their evening baths as well. After dark, the winds picked up and lightning began flashing, just as the two girls from earlier came back with a police escort to return to the other side. Everyone helped them aboard in the thunder and wind and with a few yelps (them this time!), they went racing back to the other side.

We slept peacefully, with the occasional arrival and departure of locals riding across. The best was in the wee hours of the morning when a boisterous woman arrived. We weren’t using our tent fly, so we leaned up, wished her good morning from our sleeping bags, and asked her the time. In a beautiful, sing-song accent she said “a las cuatro…NO…a las cinco” (four, no, five!). It sounded more like “a laaaaas cuaaaaaaaatro….NO!…a laaaaas ciiiiiiiiiinco.” We fell back asleep smiling and have been singing her accent to eachother along the road ever since. While the sun rose and we ate our oatmeal, we watched a group of school children in their white shirts and gray sweatpants load into a car and head off to school. We rinsed our mug in the river, and set off for another day of unpredictable adventures.