Rag Traveler

Mar 4, 2009 at 6:00 am
Rag Traveler
Photo by Ross Gordon

As if it hasn’t been already, I think this is where my trip gets tough.

I have now officially been on the road for a little more than four months and have rolled just over 14,000 miles. That’s like driving across the United States three and a half times, coast to coast. Leaving the comforts I found in Ecuador has been tough and left me a bit lonely and unmotivated. Fortunately, one afternoon last week, the kindness of a stranger helped me catch a breath of fresh air and provided me with a more positive outlook on what may be ahead.

The past few weeks have had more than their share of fun and excitement. For starters, I spent more or less the entire month of February between two small towns in Ecuador, Riobamba and Alao. Riobamba is home to some 125,000 people, including the Larrea Family, and Alao is home to about 150 people in the mountains. I was introduced to Carlos Larrea through Chique, a friend I met in Cuenca, a town about five hours south of Riobamba. Through Carlos I had an opportunity to photograph Chagras (Ecuadorian cowboys), so I backtracked, which is something I never expected to do and I am quite glad I did. Carlos and his family took me in like a son and showed me the “real” Ecuador that most Ecuadorians never even see. I spent three weeks there, making new friends, working on his family’s hacienda (farm), going to rodeos, riding horses in the mountains, rounding up cattle, drinking Puro — Ecuadorian moonshine — with the Chagras in absurd quantities, and photographing all of it. It was a real treat and an amazing experience. How many 38-year-old, blue-eyed, salt-and-pepper hair colored, mildly chubby white guys from Kentucky get to ride a horse into the mountains of Ecuador with 40 farmers and Chagras? Not many, so needless to say I enjoyed my experience immensely.

I tearfully drove away from Riobamba four days ago and now find myself in Chimbote, Peru, poised to begin an amazing drive into the Peruvian Andes in search of further adventure. As I lay on my bed this afternoon feeling lonely and pondering my next move, Fernando, the hotel receptionist, knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to go for some ceviche. Of course I accepted his invitation and we headed out to eat. Lunch was amazing. Afterward, he took me to a local beach where we sat and talked, I spoke in English and Fernando spoke in Spanish and neither of us could understand a word the other was saying. But it didn’t matter at all because we were communicating perfectly.

On the way back to the hotel I was pulled over by a couple of Peruvian police, who didn’t like where I had my license plate on my car. Nor did they like the fact I had no Peruvian insurance. Once again playing dumb paid off as they got tired of trying to explain to me what I was doing wrong. They waved me on and now I need to get insurance — maybe in the morning, on my way out of town.

The road ahead looks promising, and I think I found a place where I can save 15 percent on my auto insurance.

Ross Gordon is currently attempting to drive around the world in a 1971 VW Beetle.