The logistical need for a good reliable address while on long term tour can’t be overstated. Getting stuff sent, sometimes seems like an overwhelmingly difficult task, since it requires the effort and goodwill of people both at the point of sending and, also, at the point of reception. While there is certainly a lot to be said for not relying on equipment that can’t be easily maintained with available parts, that can be a pretty rough row to hoe and consequently I have ended up holed up in Tumbaco for the best part of four weeks waiting for a series of parcels to arrive.
First, it was the parts for my new wheels, sent from the UK; next, a package containing some new Mondial Marathon tyres, from Schwalbe in the US, to replace a couple of XRs, that failed to fulfill the expectations raised by their venerable reputation; and finally, in the face of a stove that required dismantling and rebuilding several times during the course of preparing a simple meal, a last minute emergency maintenance kit from Primus in Sweden.
Since the wheel parts came from a few different companies in the UK, I had to enlist the help of Lindsay, my beloved fairy godmother in London, who collected them together, repackaged them and sent them on their way via courier. They arrived with the minimum of fuss and incurred no duty charges.
The replacement tyres from Schwalbe are ostensibly freebies but Schwalbe will only agree to send them to a US address. Catriona, one of my oldest friends from Australia, just happens to be in the process of moving to LA to pursue her career as a film director* in Hollywood and so is on hand to receive the tyres and send them on to me. She is kind enough to augment the package with a some wholesome goodies such as tea-tree oil and Dr Brenner’s liquid soap. Sadly, this package gets caught up in customs, and by the time I negotiate a creaky unwieldy bureaucracy and then pay $55 dollars to release it, the freebie tyres turn out to be quite expensive – especially on top of the $89 Catriona spent sending the box, an amount that the Customs officials of Ecuador, somewhat unfairly, include in calculating the supposed total value of the package!
I love my Primus Omnilfuel stove, however, it has been labouring for some time on a diet of poor quality dirty petrol and performing significantly below par. Magnus, from Primus, in Sweden, is a very helpful** when I describe my difficulties with the stove and instantly offers to courier a maintenance kit to me.
Getting spare parts for the maintenance of my bike and other equipment all comes down to foresight and planning – qualities that, unfortunately, I am not always overly endowed with – and thus I end up waiting… and waiting… and waiting… Luckily Tumbaco and Quito, between them, provide a positive wealth of opportunities for improved health and happiness on tour. By the time I leave, I have new friends, my bike is in excellent shape, I’ve been to the dentist for the first time in a couple of years, I have hopefully eradicated my intestinal friends, the amoebae, who I now know by name, I have started a long-term war against toenail fungus (after having lost a toenail or two), and received all sorts of goodies from far-off places.
I have to offer enormous thanks to Steve (and his family) of Warm Showers for letting me stay for such a long time in the cane cutter’s cabin that sits on stilts, slightly incongruously, in this mountain climate, at the end of the backyard.
Steve is a keen cycle tourist himself and he and his family have quite a few cycling and mountain adventures under their belt.
* If you happen to be in Australia be sure to go to see Sattelite Boy, Catriona’s first feature film, when it is released in the cinemas some time in the next month or two.
** I wish I could say the same for earlier contact with other Primus people – but all’s well that ends well.