| || |
18-20, 2003 |
Fred says "Welcome to
Howdy! I guess by now I should be saying Hola!
Anyway, the flight down was a pretty good one. I was sandwiched in
between a first-year college student from Ambato (a city in Ecuador)
and a nice lady who works for an embassy here in Quito. Got some phone
numbers and advice on what to do in certain cities, so that was good.
Sam Beiting, on the other hand, sat next to some guy who was coming
down here to prospect for more oil. When Sam mentioned that he might
want to work for the EPA, the guy did his best to incite Sam into
an argument (he called the EPA his favorite enemy). Sam was not impressed,
said the guy was incredibly boring, and resorted to watching the in-flight
movie The Bulletproof Monk, which was pretty boring and cheesy
in its own right.
Sam and I graduated together last May. He’s a fraternity brother
and we roomed together three of our four years at Centre. He was a
double major in Spanish and anthropology/sociology and played on the
football team. He was also highly thought of in our fraternity, so
I was glad to have him along.
We spent our first day in Quito planning the rest of our trip. First,
a five-day jaunt into the Amazon Jungle, then fly to La Paz, Bolivia,
head north toward Lake Titticaca, eventually get to Cuzco to see Machu
Picchu and then fly back to Quito. We will then head to Riobamba where
we will acclimatize further, climb a couple of mountains (the tallest
being 5,200 meters) before we attempt Chimborazo (6,310 meters).
When talking to the travel agent about the trip I heard her ask on
the phone if this was the week there were going to be 40-plus young
kids from Quito staying at the camp. Alarmed, I asked if that was
the case but she assured me there would be only 12 tourists. Relieved,
we took the all-night bus trip to Lago Agrio, near the jungle, oil,
and Colombia no less. The bus trip, only 250 kilometers, still took
nine hours because it was on dirt road switchbacks losing more than
8,000 feet in elevation. Hey, it only cost $8 though! Anyway, we get
to Lago Agrio, go the pre-arranged meeting point, and are greated
by a busload of kids from Quito. More than 40 of them actually! Score:
Ecuador 1, Gringos 0. Another three hours in a small pickup and two
more hours on a motorized canoe we arrived.
We caught Piranhas, saw a bunch of birds, insects, a few caymans,
and hundreds of different plants and trees. On the next to last day
in the jungle, our guide Pato (means duck in Spanish) a French couple,
and I head off into the jungle to go and learn about the insects and
medicinal plants. Only an hour into the hike the guide starts talking
about these honey bees that don’t sting (picar). Earlier that
day I had Pato clarify for me the difference between picar (to bite
or sting from an insect such as a mosquito) and morder (to bite like
a dog). Pato swore up and down that these bees would not sting (picar).
Well, we get right by their hive and they react like any bee would,
they swarm their attackers. Just as Pato is about to deliver his oration
on these honeybees that don’t sting, the French girl yells “Z
ze Picaaa” (Si se pica) yes they bite/sting. Then I feel all
of these bites all over my neck, arms, hands, and face. We all run
away and are swatting bees for the next 15 minutes. I told Pato they
might not sting but they bite like hell! Score: Ecuador 2, Gringos
Well, we leave the jungle and are headed back to Lago Agrio. Naturally,
we are crammed into the back of a four-door pup truck. The driver
stops in every little town to try and pick up more passengers (after
all there is still at least two square feet of room left in the bed).
He also gossips about who was drunk last night or checks up on his
latest business deal. Now, both Sam and I have really sore butts right
about now because we have either been paddling or riding in canoes
for five to six hours for the past five days. Just as I’m thinking
to myself (only in Latin America can a 250 km trip take nine hours
and a taxi driver feel no guilt about doubling the time span of a
delivery because he has a few things to check up on) this is what
is going through my head when Sam looks at the guy chatting with taxi
driver who happens to be nearly toothless, much like the past three
people we have stopped to talk to. Sam says “not too many front
teeth around here, eh!” It was classic. Then it dawned on me,
this is awesome! I love this stuff.
Score: Ecuador 2, Gringos 1.
No really, I am having a great time. I think Dead Fred enjoyed the
jungle. When we arrived, it was a big day for all of us (50th anniversary
of Fred) in arriving in Ecuador. We sprang for a nice play to stay
at the steep price of $12 a night. But now we’re back to reality
and paying $6.
We fly to La Paz, Bolivia tomorrow. We have 10 days between then and
when we fly back from Cuzco, Peru, to Quito. Then it’s on to
Gotta go now.
T.J. ’03 and Fred
| || |