| || |
5-7, 2003 |
Fred didn't feel like playing
cards, or he would have taken us all
Things have been going well down here in the
southern hemisphere. In fact, I guess I haven’t written for
a while because not too many things have gone contrary to prediction.
The buses we get on seem to be able to go the entire trip’s
distance without having to stop and pour water over the burning balding
tires. With Sam’s shaggy hair and ever thickening beard, and
my unfortunate habit of talking to far too many people on the street,
we have definitely run into a few strange characters, but that is
to be expected.
Anyway, the kayaking in Cuzco was great. Two other tourists went along
for the trip. One was from England and the other from Wales. I’m
very careful to specify that one of them was not English. They couldn’t
speak much Spanish so by default I became the translator. One of the
local boys, whom we were teaching how to play cards, asked where the
two guys were from. Since the Spanish word for England was right on
the tip of my tongue I said they were from England. Arlo, the guy
from Wales, understood enough of what I said and replied: “I
know one thing for sure, I’m damned well not bloody English.”Then
I kinda laughed because this type of talk is exactly how the English
are sometimes portrayed. That made things even worse. I told Arlo
that I knew he was from Wales but did he really want me to try and
explain that to this kid. He said he did. I did my best to explain
where Wales was and how it was connected to England but I’m
sure the kid understood.
Anyway, we had taught this kid how to play Tonk (a game usually played
with monetary stakes on the line). However, he sure didn’t have
any money, and truth be told, neither did I, so we decided to play
for entertainment value alone. We quickly found out that Tonk doesn’t
have much entertainment value without money on the line so we taught
the kid how to play hearts. I did my best to explain the different
strategies of the game. Unfortunately, the kid was a pretty quick
learner, or I was good a teacher because the damned kid kept me from
shooting the moon after only playing three hands! I knew he had caught
on when he let out a big laugh watching me put down a 25 by my name
and a one by his. Arlo was happy as well because he had given the
kid the heads-up on my intentions after seeing the cards I had passed
him. That’s what I’m here for, improving international
relations through card games. Maybe I should head to North Korea?
I left the Apurimac River valley with a few more friends, quite a
bit of kayaking experience, a cold I caught from the English guy,
and numerous mosquito bites. Sixty-seven on my right arm. I think
the other arm was pretty similar and my legs were up there as well.
I would have liked to have had an exact count, but what kind of loser
counts all the mosquito bites he receives? OK, so I’m a big
dork, I never said I wasn’t. I also got what I called my rubber-band
wrist sensation. No amount of push ups or water skiing could have
ever prepared me for how sore my right forearm would be from the kayaking.
Whenever I would rotate my wrist you could feel the tendons rubbing
together and they felt like a rubber band stretching to breaking point.
It went away yesterday (more than a week later) after the jarring
from the constant digging in of ice axe must have put the tendons
back into place.
Anyway, Sam and I flew back to Ecuador and headed to
Riobamba, which is our base for mountain climbing since it is the
closest big town to Mt. Chimborazo. This was on a Friday and the following
day we headed to the hills. This, of course, was a Saturday but not
near as lugubrious as the previous. We were excited to start the last
phase of our acclimation and we pretty easily ignored the fact that
we were missing college football.
We stayed in this cooperative community at a place called Casa Condor.
Our food for an entire four days cost $20. Lodging was $5 per person.
Anyway, we did some day hikes and basically just breathed the thin
air. We went to bed by 7:45 every night because it was dark and there
was nothing else to do. We woke up at 5 a.m. because the dogs were
barking at the herds of sheep that were being sent out into the fields
for the day.
Sam has this alarm clock (which we never seem to need because one
of us always wakes up before the thing is supposed to go off). This
clock has a thermometer on it. We put it outside to see how cold it
was and it wasn’t out of our sight for more than three minutes
and it was gone. The only one around was this little kid. I went to
him and asked about the clock. He became very defensive and said he
didn’t know anything about it. He could see I wasn’t going
away so he said perhaps a dog had jumped up and snatched the clock
off the four-foot ledge. I said that was definitely a good possibility.
Then he decided to go with the story and said that his dog was very
bad and was always taking stuff and hiding it near his house. He then
walked straight down to his house and reached into the straw thatch
roof and came up with the alarm clock. There, he said, the dog usually
likes to bury things in our roof. I asked the kid to keep an eye out
for any other dogs that went after our stuff. He said he would do
his best. Later that night the community had a meeting to decide some
things. The kid was standing next to his dad and I was waiting my
turn to ask where Juan the guide was, as I needed to talk to him.
The kid was very nervous and you could tell he thought I was going
to tell on him. I gave him a wink and he looked like the weight of
the world had been taken off his shoulders. I had a friend after that
and nothing else turned up missing. Guess the dogs found other things
Our last day in Casa Condor we went to Templo Machay, which is supposedly
a sacred temple of the Incas. It’s actually just a naturally
occurring cave on the side of the massive Chimborazo. Our guide had
a strange way of staring at you without really looking at you. He
would do this for five-minute increments whenever we took a break
from hiking. Suddenly, I just wasn’t all that tired. A 30-second
breather would do. This guy was off-key. Not as off-key as Diego,
our jungle guide who had had malaria three times, but still strange
enough to make you want to end the hike as quickly as possible.
The next big thing was our final hike. The peak was Carihuairazo.
It’s the sister peak to Chimborazo but only 5,020 meters. Still
taller than anything in the continental U.S., it’s nonetheless
only a stepping stone compared to Chimborazo. It has a glacier on
it so it was good to strap on the crampons and the ice axe and do
some real training. The summit was a little tough because we had to
scramble up class-three if not class-four sleet-covered rocks and
ice. Sam and I made it to the top without any altercations. We had
a good rapport with our guide Eloi and he said we had a good chance
of making it to the top of Chimborazo.
This brings us to last night. We went to a sports bar/pizza place.
The night before we were treated with watching Pudge Rodriguez drive
in the winning runs against the Giants. We had seen earlier in the
Internet cafe that ESPN would be showing the Auburn v. Tennessee game.
We were so excited we could hardly contain ourselves. We couldn’t
wait to see some college football. Even if it was the SEC, anything
would do. So, we get there early. At 6:30 a special presentation on
the shooting of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Swimsuit Calendar came
on. Good news, right? It’s obviously a 30-minute filler before
something else comes on and besides who wouldn’t want to watch
Dallas’ finest parade around Mexico in swimsuits? Sam and I
are enjoying some Ecuadorian Pilsner and munching on what Sam called
the best popcorn he’s ever had in his life. At 7 more good news,
a rally car special in Italy. This is great, nobody could stand to
watch this junk for longer than 30 minutes. If all goes well the pre-game
will start at 7:30. Then it happened, the TV showed Chile and snow-covered
mountains. Then the next thing I know I’m watching women’s
downhill snowboard racing. It was awful! I mean who races downhill
on a snowboard? I was very depressed.
I don’t want you all to think all we think about is football.
For instance, the other day we were sitting on the side of a road
waiting for a car to come by so we could hitch a ride. Sam and I were
arguing about international relations and the U.S.’s role as
the hegemonic power (Drs. Samhat and Hartman-Mahmud would have been
so proud!) Things were heating up and lines were being drawn in the
sand, but just then a pickup truck with an empty bed (a true oasis
of a sight) came by. We flagged him down and huddled down below the
Speaking of international relations. I’m not sure how many of
you follow the news. I’m not talking about the type of news
that would inform you of the latest trouble how a central Kentucky
pet-store owner has been accused of feeding cats to his boa constrictor
but about what has been going on Bolivia. It seems we got out just
in time. Just last week more than 2,000 tourists had to be given a
military escort to escape the town they were in. The workers’
party has declared war on the president of Bolivia. I told Sam not
to worry, if things get bad here we can always seek refuge in our
neighboring country to the east, Columbia. Ummm, maybe that’s
not such a great idea after all. No seriously, Ecuador is very stable
and very friendly to tourists both in the city and the countryside.
We’re not in any danger. That’s enough for now, as my
rubber-band wrist is starting to tire.
We leave for Chimboraz tomorrow morning. I think we’re ready
and I’m confident we can make a good push for a summit bid sometime
on Tuesday morning. Wish us luck!
T.J. ’03 and Fred
| || |