In Bolivia we visited the gynaecology for Zoë. She suffered from a very unbalanced period. Luckily it was not too bad, Zoë had a cyst that would automatically disappear with a three monthly medication. In Quito we go back to the gynaecologist to check whether the cyst has disappeared. Fortunately, the treatment room and the attending doctor feels a lot more familiar to home than the experience we have had in Bolivia. Though, in Ecuador they do not seem to be very tactical in communication either.
'So young and so many problems' are the first words of the doctor while Zoë still lays on the doctors couch. Zoë's eyes glide immediately to those of Olivier. With a questioning look she tries to find out if she has missed something. "What are all those problems?" Zoë asks confused. "You have three problems," the doctor says. 'Your IUD is too low so you can get pregnant, you have policystical ovaries and I see a 6 centimeter tumor here', says the doctor. "It has to be removed," he continues, while he gestures that Zoë can dress up again. With a head dizzying of the question marks, we are suddenly back in the waiting room. Silently we put ourselves side by side. "What do you think?" Olivier asks. "I have no idea," Zoë says. A few minutes later we get a form in our hands. 'if we want to sign it’. In high medical terms we read the Spanish report and leave the hospital. When we are outside, the tears flow, Zoë is shocked by the unexpected news and confused by the uncertainties. Olivier stays down-to-earth and tries to appease Zoë with the little knowledge we currently have. As long as we do not know anything, we can not panic.
Fortunately, we have a lot of auxiliaries at home. Lieve, Olivier’s mother is a doctor and has an extensive network. We have been in contact with a colleague from Lieve since Bolivia. We are in good hands and we can get the explanation by email in Dutch. We have to wait for a response so we decide to travel on and not worry too much about it. We are invited to stay at a tourist hacienda, a country house, and enjoy good food in exchange for a professional video. We stay near the famous Cotopaxi. Like kings we sleep in our five-star bedding and like princes we ride on a horse. A interesting change to the usual nights on our inflatable mattresses. After this literally rich experience we leave the south behind us and for the first time in a year we are back on the equator. We cross the imaginary border and are back home in the north.
We do our last, but not least, kilometers in Ecuador. As we know, in Ecuador it is choosing between busy suffocating main roads or quiet, narrow, but wall-steep roads trough the countryside. Cycling over the main roads, we pass hundreds of hikers with heavy bags on their backs. For the first time in our lives, we are seeing a refugee problem up close. It is intense and heartbreaking. We see groups of Venezuelans on the way. In Peru and Ecuador we spoke with several of them. We spoke to Venezuelans who started their own restaurant, hoping for a better life than in Venezuela. We hear how two boys walked and hitchhiked for seventeen days to arrive at the border of Peru and sleep there on the flour between ten others. We do not only hear, but we also see them daily. Their bags are filled but with nothing more than blankets and a pile of worthless money. They look at us, the one waving at us with a big smile from side to side, the other looks at us sadly. They sell the money or just distribute it. Venezuela was once a rich country in South America. People had a confident life, but with the hyperinflation these days, even a bread is priceless. Peruvians and Ecuadorians don't like them, they just think they are murderers, they are thieves and they do not want to work.
One evening when we are just off the main road and looking for a back road, we knock at a house asking for a shower and a place to pitch the tent in the garden. She looks at us contemptuously for a second, and then asks gruffly 'where do you come from?' If we tell her we come from the Netherlands and Belgium, every tense falls away. A few hours later we are sharing stories accompanied with a big plate of food. There is no tension and we even get invited to stay for the night. She want us to stay in the room of her son, so we can sleep comfortable. Laughing with her herself, the house lady tells us that she was afraid we would be Venezuelans. She says that when we asked her for a shower, she walked inside and stood in front of the image of the holy virgin. She asked 'what should I do? tell me, what should I do?’. Now she says, she had made the right choice and she is happy the holy virgin protected her. In the morning we are having breakfast, we realise how quickly we became part of another family. When 'mum’ says goodbye, she says with tears in her eyes that we are like children for her. We wave to the two sweet farmers while we cycle away. When we turn around and sniff the new day, we are silent from the mix of gratitude and guilt that flows over us. We are an experience richer, a family warmer, a good night's sleep grateful, but also the fact that we are white, travellers, Europeans and not Venezuelans are making us free birds with a free way to choose.
The last days in Ecuador we cycle through a paramo. A climate at altitude with unique vegetation. To get there we have to cross a terrible cobblestone road but it is worth all the effort of the world. We are alone in a magical land full of strange trees. The sun accompanies us and we celebrate exactly two years on the bike here. A party couldn’t be more complete. We celebrate to two years of adventure and freedom. However Zoë feels like a captured free bird. The body is free but the mind is captured by thoughts and uncertainty. A week ago we said ‘Just continue enjoying’. As simple as it sounded, as disappointing it feels. Olivier also feels a strange load on top of the beautiful Ecuador. 'We simply can not enjoy' he confirms. Unjustified we give our self the right to blame it all to Ecuador, so we can give it another try in Colombia. The country of the FARC and drugs. A little danger and tension might distract our thoughts?
Or does that sound very reasonless?