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ECUADOR     13-28/9 1997 DIARY  2

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Diary 1 2 3           Translate

 From Diary 1, the adventure continues out into the unknown.
17. We must awaken the portiere, to get out of the locked door. Last night, there was a café with bread around the corner, when we were looking for dinner. Now it is closed. It's actually quite hard to find a shop that has both coffee and bread, it is either or. It succeeds, and then we entered the local natural history museum in
Ambato. Here is a large collection of stuffed birds, fish and mammals and a lot of preserved reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects.

Everything from an adult elephant to ants. Much is Ecuadorian, but there are also animals from the rest of the globe.
A branch of the museum contains a freak-show. Largely deformed animal children, but also some adults. Mainly conjoined twin and trunk-like growth in the forehead. In the more serious section, there is a small shrub with about 100 different hummingbirds, hovering over us an Andean Condor with its wingspan of 3 meters, the world's largest flying bird (wingspan less but greater weight than albatross). In a show case, there is a bird with a 5 centimetre long, thin horns in the forehead, and 4 x 1 centimetres large claws on the wing edges. Does look authentic, but I did never heard of: Anhima cornuta, Unicorn bird. (A trip to the library reveals that its Latin name means: Spore Wing, its English: Crying), and it does exist.

With lungs full of formalin, we slightly coughing makes it down to the Colombian market. Meat, fish, vegetables, wrought iron and things in general. The town itself is a huge trade area, with a narrow strip of residential around. By contrast, large hinterland and far from the farmers come to sell their goods. There are 6 dominant business type: Shoes, bags, soaps and the like, clothes, drugs and ironmongers.

We strolling haphazardly, through the packed streets, looking for clean underwear. I promised a colleague, a postcard, but we have to date not seen one, not one! We get to the train- and the bus station. Walk up in the first and best bus and says "Baños". The driver says "Si!" And start the engine. Moving through the terminal, Jesper spots tourist number 20 in 4 days.

As with all other coaches. small jump-on retailers offers soft drinks (cola agua, cola lemon, cola cola), newspapers, candy, ice cream, fruit, fruit crisps and cakes. The next time the bus slowed pace, they are gone. Common to the buses is that they play good music, and even a reasonable level. The buses are not just for humans. In between, there are bags of grains, vegetables and the like, even some chickens and huge rucksacks goes into the bus.

Sheep, foot powered sewing machines, fencing poles and the like are referred to the roof, just as those who do not fit inside the bus. We are fortunate to always get a seat, there's good legroom, but I scrape the shoulders towards the ceiling if I stand upraised.

We drive through the 1,000 meter high lush hills. There are fields from the river to the top, some green, some ripe, others harvested. After 1 ½ hours we reach Baños, meaning; bathing. There is hot, cold, mineral and streams pools. The city has 16,000 residents and 50 hotels. It would be something of a tourist town, but when we jump off the bus, it looks like something from the previous quarter century. We go to the hotel, passing the Indian market and try a boiled corn, oink and gravy for 40 cents, served in a small plastic bag. One of the most delicious meals I have had for a long time.

We find what we believe it is a German, well organized hotel. There is a plan of the city, admonitions to the world is in energy crisis (save on water and power), scrupulously clean, ironed towels and they organizes horseback riding. We are fortunate; there is room on the morning ride. 1 hour drive of Jeep, 4 hours of riding on well fed horses in beautiful surroundings for 20€. We would like to go early, but can only start at 10:30. They take our booking, and we walk down to see the centre.

In front of many stores are candy-drawing workers. The nice cane mass is yellowish, and is added a red stripe in the final stage. Pinches a taste, and must admit; it tastes pretty good.
Indeed, it is a tourist trap. Lots of souvenir, plastic gadgets and restaurants. The number of neglected back-packet when astronomical heights (perhaps over 100), and we hurry the 3.5 kilometres to the city's zoo.

It lies on a large table mountain. To get to it, we have to cross over a suspension bridge, 50 meters above the roaring river. On the other side of the garden, there are 150 meters down to the river and a fantastic view down the valley. The garden is truly exciting arranged: Each cage or aviary is a ravine, which is closed at the end of the stone, and overwrought with the network. Vegetation is original. Animals are local: Tapir, elephant tortoises, ocelot, river pigs, bears, macaws, condors, toucans, mountain lions, monkeys, parrots and small birds.

Well tired in Jesper’s knees and my feet, we walk out of zoo and may just wait, while some local pull them selves out of "our" taxi. We drive to the centre, and have coffee first, then food at a restaurant for locals. Oink and cooked rice, fried banana and potato and tortillas.

After the break, we look at the city's assortment of trinkets, shoes, hardware, wool, drugs, clothing retailers jungle expedition, offices, restaurants and various combinations. Here are the tourists, and we find postcards. Banks, however, can not exchange U.S. $ and will not take Visa. In front of a bank, there is a sign at an ironmonger: "Currency exchange", good values. Indeed, in 4050, only 1% below the normal bank rate.

While there are relatively many back-packers, but the local dominates the street. The many adults who simply are 1.20-1.50 meters fascinate me. The fascination is mutual, especially from women, who flirts a lot. They do in fact throughout the country. One, we asked about the road in the airport flight information box, was almost to climb out through the hole in the glass!

18. We get a hot shower at the German hotel, check out, but are allowed to park backpacks, until we come back from the horse ride. So we walk into the tourist town to get breakfast. One advertises with "Rugbrød" (Typically Danish rye bread) but we enter anyway. Then we just slouch around the city to get 3 hours to go, before we have to out and ride. Sit outside the hotel a half hour, till Jesper’s patience burst, and he goes in and asks if they have forgotten us. They have no forgotten us at all; there was simply no other who had ordered riding, so it will not happen. It was fortunate it was Jesper who asked. I had probably not taken it so well, that we had wasted almost a day in this tourist hell.

On the way down through town, we see 3 saddled horses. After some difficulties, we manages to book them for 13.00. Additional 2 hours in the tourist hell. Back, no horses, "Unfortunately, try 14.30 o'clock." "Fuck you and your horse and your city, we leave." Our success does not work in Baños, so we go further towards Puyo.

Walking out to the highway, waiting a cup of coffe’s-time, and then jump on the bus. We drive for 10 minutes and then stop suddenly. There are bars across the road, keeping a long queue. Then we'll drive again, but only up to the gates, then all climb out. People start to push a ticket boy into a corner, and we get all our money back.

So we are passing the gates, and crawl along with the other 18 buss passengers up on a small pick-up truck. The next 25 kilometres, we find out that they are making the one-lane mountain road into a two-lane, and stretching it through 3 tunnels. We'll stop, not quite unexpectedly again. In front of us a towering 15 meter high pile of debris and clay up. All jumps off the pick-up and starts to climbing. On the other side, one kilometres further along, a second pick-up is waiting.

All a’ board, and then it will go forward on the almost vertical hillside. 500-700 meters vertically down to the bottom of the gorge, the bottom completely absorbed by the massive river. Other 500-700 meters above us are the mountains peaks. Between them crosses eagles, vultures or condors the narrow strip of blue sky. A few times, we see 30-50 kilometres down the side of a gap. Some places are huge mountains ravines whose lush sides are cultivated in small plots. The road is carved into the mountain wall; in some places, the water drops past us, on the outside. We run in a tunnel, rock on three sides and water on the fourth. Some places are not that vertical mountain sides, and the water ends up the middle of the road - and us. We laugh and point with our Spanish-speaking fellow travellers, photographs and clinging on to the truck.

We'll stop again, this time by some military post. Like all other places we encounter the police or military, people are smiling and talking all together. They are there to help, not to suppress, and as such, they are naturally popular. We are checked and crawl back under the gates once more to a pick-up. I started the middle of the truck and ends on the back steps, after a tour cross the top of the sheeting. These three pick-up trips in these beautiful and exciting surroundings make plenty off  for the missed horse ride.

Gradually change the landscape itself. We are moving into the Amazonas Delta, the weather is milder and with more fields, as the terrain flattened. A new set of road-blocks; gingo "passport in Puyos suburb Shell. We run for the office which will check the passports and jumps back up the wagon again. After 3 hours on the back of different pick-ups, we are in Puyo. It is 17.30, but fortunately the bank open. It just don’t help; they do not take Visa, and our U.S. $ reserve has shrunken questionable.

The situation is critical, we get to know where the nearest Visa bank is: In Baños, and neither the city nor direction is appealing. However, we intend to begin a long expedition into the sparsely populated Amazonas in Ecuador called Le Oriente. We walk Puyo thin, get something to eat and drink, and in the dusk, we set ourselves to waiting for a bus to Tena. It comes at 20.00 and we are driving through the darkness along a bad gravel road.

There are only 60 kilometres to Tena, but despite the driver's breathtaking pace, it takes 2 ½ hours. While we thrill of a full moon during the estimates emerging. Mountain ridges, palm trees and a few of the night animals are made of silver-like light. Good tender after today's transport, we grappling leave the bus and after a little fumble around, we captured the portiere to our hotel. Will immediately organized a 3 day jungle tour, and are supplied with rubber boots. This guy goes into chips by the size 44 of Jesper. Good René and his size 47 were not here! After a quick sandwich and coffee, we find our beds.

19. Early up, and out of town to find a writing pad and a new lock for my backpack. Back to the hotel to eat breakfast, and in the small village’s bank. A real bank: A Visa bank! We withdraw for safety's sake 1.1 million Sucres. Our transportation guide finds us at our bank, and with him, we'll drive into the jungle on the back of a new pick-up. A little hours through the crispy morning air takes us deeper and deeper into Amazonas and Le Oriente. We are now down to 300 meters altitude and the heat and humidity can be felt. We stop at 3 huts, 2 French and 4 Germans. Walks for ½ hour and are looking at piles hut camp, to be our home the coming days.

Jesper and I get assigned to a hut on 2 ½ meter high piles, dropping our backpack, and starts the first expedition: Waterfalls trek. And then you think, of course; you have to see waterfalls. Wrong: We must out and climbing right through and in them! We learn now that when the native Indian guide carries something along, it is for a reason, for example a rope, so it should be used for anything.

Together with the 2 French travellers, we head out of the camp. The guide shows us various plants that are used for something. Once they pick a fruit, offers it to a Frenchman, and ask him open it. He does, and strong, thick and very red coloured sap covers his fingers. We are told to use it to make face paint with. While the guide paint Jesper and the Frenchmen, I see the first ever more desperate attempts to get the colour of his fingers. First water, then with sand, but it is good quality. I refrain from the face paint; I am not Indian and would not want to offend them with piracy.

Water falls are heard before they are seen in the dense jungle. In the beginning, we are walking in the 2-3 meter wide river. So we will start climbing through the ropes and on great bamboo sticks with holes for feet and hands. Sometimes we can just stretch ourselves into the narrow crevice water has gnawed. When I get my boots filled for the 117 time, I spontaneously exclaims: "These boots are made for swimming!"

Astonishing nature, 100s of orchids, ferns, epiphytes, bromeliads and views from the mountain ridge. There are some spindles, including some with a leg span at 6 centimetres. One of these giants has spun across the path, and is getting sun baked Dane in the web. Insects are represented by colourful grasshoppers, crickets, longhorn beetles, hornets, flowers and beautiful beetles, butterflies and giant ticks. 2 centimetres big ants, whose bid makes one "logos." One leaf frog also reveals it selves. While taking a small break, the guide offers oranges. Garbage including peelings are brought back to camp. I call the conservation! We have heard about the different plants use, during their gruelling cicadas play music.

We reach back to the camp by 3,  and are offered soup and chicken. Then laundry without soap in the clear (and cold) river water. What is the promotional leaflet was referring to as "24 hours laundry. Back in 6-hut village, kids playing with 3 centimetres wonderful beautiful metallic green beetles on a string. I doses off in hammocks under our hut, listening to cicada’s song, river roar and the flying parrots chatter.

I can just lie there for a short time, then it's time for the next trip. "Back garden" offers many dining benefit- and medicinal plants. There are cocoa, yucca, avocados, vanilla, pineapple, coffee, tea, lemon grass, and then all of those, I do not know, and it was not sensible of in Spanish. While I have been busy assessing mosquito attack the damage to my coloured lower legs, Jesper are offered a taste of something which in his red-painted facial expressions must be extremely bitter.

A group of low palms must suffer, as we learn how to build huts. The stems are used for skeleton, leaves split and installed so they lock together. A palm-leaf roof can last for 10-15 years. I would not rule out, that I would have learned more if we could the same language, but mostly we encapsulates.

We walk back to the camp along the 15-20 meter wide and roaring river. The camp is actually a 3 family village with a few guest houses. The men are guides, one for the Germans, one for us and the French. The women cook food and the children clean and wash up. I ask, if I can get coffee, I have not symptoms, but we just went through some bushes. Of course, I can get coffee, Nescafe!

Chatters with the French about the earth in general and with the German girls on what we have done so far in Ecuador. One tries to speak English, but always ends up in Spanish. We don’t admit, of course, we speak German. They are also red painted in their faces. The Germans have obviously started their holiday with a 2-month Spanish course in Quito, but still thought it was difficult to commit themselves. “We must be excellent at Spanish, as we manages to get around like that.” “No, we can not a word!” And it was the last thing we talked with them about.

Creeping darkness comes and I get a candle to keep my diary records at. There are dishes on the table and I feel most of all as a guest in a private home. Well, that is actually what I am. We get steamed yucca with vegetables and cheese. Night sounds take over; leaf frogs from the forest Rana’s from the river, the crickets everywhere. Fire flies swarm and collides.  I find some 6 centimetres large Death Scull Cockroach; Blaberus cranifer. The shower is really just a loose collection of small bamboo stalks, and Jesper think that the door lock by whistling. I think it does not madder; one can easily see that there is some one in it (and whom).

Going back to the hut in torch’s light. Hut stands on its 2 ½ meters high palm strains. The floors are mahogany, the walls of split bamboo or small giant bamboo. Fixes the mosquito net and goes out like a candle in the wind.

20. Breakfast consists of fried banana slices and fried egg. Then all 8 tourists and all of the village residents walk into the lagoon. It takes 2 hours to get to the little lake, which is very deep, created by a high waterfall. We swim in the cold water and bathe in the hot sun. I find tadpole, small Rana and a walking stick, which, despite its slim body has amazing colours. In the air hover 40-50 different butterflies, water nymphs, dragonflies, bees, wasps, flies, beetles, moth, and other interesting creep.

We head a bit back, to get the lorry tyres we brought along. They are connecting 3 and 3, and we sail down to camp with 20 kmh. For each fleet, there is a guide to ensure that we hit all the big stones. Like all other places, openings reveals one magnificent view after another.

We are quite cold, but with a fantastic experience, we riches the camp. With ravenous appetites we throw ourselves on the giant banana and yucca soup, full of pasta with a radish-like root, probably some Fabaceae. Then all collapses in a siesta calm.

Some think it is too hot for a walk in the jungle, so I have organised a fishing trip. It is cooler down by the river. As we go down to the river, the guide talking loose, and I must admit, I grasp more and more of his Spanish. I fish with boiled yucca for 10 minutes and then handover the pole to a Frenchman who received land crayfish of the guide.

Along the river there tiny poles up on shore. Each has its puddle size and colour variation of the tadpole. Between the poles are large stones that are completely overgrown by mosses, orchids, ferns and epiphytes. I walk into the thick jungle. Almost impossible to penetrate, but with patience, caution and flexibility, I manages. The number of species are overwhelming. 40-50 meters tall trees, covered with bromeliads up to 1 ½ meters, orchids, ferns and various epiphytes. High up from the air; roots and creeping plants. Birds, frogs and insects are constantly heard but rarely seen. Giant butterflies and beautiful flowers like the green wall that surrounds me. I could reproduce it on the photo, but this is too dark - and way too much.

We are back in the dusk - no fish. Reaches the camp, where boiled corn - with fish is served. I get flown down by a firefly which turns out to be a 2 centimetres large beetle of the Elateridae family. The entire rear part of the belly can be turned into a crisp yellow light on the front there are 2 "eyes" lighting up green.

Back in the cottage, I pack my backpack with all the clean clothes. Only what I have on, are not clean. Some was washed in the river yesterday, some was cleaned by rafting and climbing the waterfalls. Jesper spend his time chasing down a bunch of 2 centimetre big ants from his bed. When we later get a good night cup of coffee, he demonstrably pills he a 5 centimetres high moth up of his coffee. The kind of people should stay home on the concrete jungle!

I get my forehead-light and walk for a good hour into the jungle. I see a lot of animals, including kneeling mantras. I turn off the lamp. Everything is dark black around me, except the sky. Not only are there more stars in the lunar sky than I've seen before. There are also the clearest star mists one can imagine. Along the river, in a fringe of a wood, depicts the breathtaking ballet of a flock firefly. They can be seen kilometres away.

Given the battery lifespan, and my feeling of total helplessness without, I returns to camp. Coming closer, I hear they have beaten off a celebration of local music. Feast and celebration, with more sad songs from the surrounding area over the guitar, drum and violin. Watching a few songs, and then to bed. Get a rocket: The men never leaves the camp alone at nighttimes, and I had not even brought the dogs along! They have otherwise followed us faithfully on all expeditions. If the men are forced out, they walk all seven and with all dogs. Guess they have some big cats here....

21. Wake up early by a vigorous cocks crow. Get up, brush teeth - and puts myself in hammocks, which I see the sunrise over the river. Breakfast consists mainly of cooked banana. Now it's time for last solo expedition into the wilderness. Morning sun's life-giving rays lure morning stiff lizards and grasshoppers out in the open. Parrots begin to fly high squawk from their beds to their daily pasture. Coming to a clearing, which is teeming with small birds. Singers, flycatchers, finches, a single hummingbird, pigeons and above them all: the Eagle and condors / vultures.

Once back to camp, we begin the journey down to the taxi. 3 days without Coca Cola signs are at an end. Dropped off at the bus terminal in Tena, and buy the last two seat tickets to Puyo bus. We await a sandwich time, and then driving through the dense jungle of dirt roads, this time in daylight. The area is relatively flat in some places, open clearings make room for fertile plains, but it soon closes in to dense jungle again.

In Puyo, we buy tickets for Maca. Jesper will fix, so that we get to sit right beside the driver. All the buses we travel with, has the engine in front, so there is a driver and 2 seats, luggage space, and then the other passengers. We are waiting an hour, which is used to food shopping and a look around the terminal area, which vibrate with voices and a sheep bleating.

The bus departs as everyone else, in time. We continued down through the upper Amazonas delta. Along the way, there is open forest, but the ground vegetation is extremely dense, so I guess, it has been cleared.
We reach a large river, with a narrow suspension bridge. Bus stops and we walks on, wait 5-10 minutes and then into a new bus.

After a few kilometres, the ticket boy takes over the steering wheel - while driving. He concentrates enormous - to dust off the speedometer - it does not work, by the way. Gear shift is something we (maybe) learn tomorrow, but he is almost infallible when it comes to hitting holes in the ground path.

From time to time  primitive huts appears up along the 200 kilometre-long, side tackle highway. People come out and look, while the bus passes.
Sangay, the world's most active volcano, are emerging. There will be periodic smoke / steam out of the top, and when darkness come, we see the top several times, light up by the lava. The front light reveals opossum and guinea pig. I have not seen a single traffic killed animals during the week. Either the miss – or they eat them.

We reach yet another major suspension bridge - which has no deck. We use the parallel walkway to cross to the waiting bus, on the other side. In the dead of night we arrival at Macas. While we are on the terminal, we buy ticket to Cuenca. 11 hours for 42 kronor.
We sniff a bit around the city, enjoy a plate of pollo, and walks up to the cathedral and scouts vain after Sangay. Macas is a special city; we encounter two local English speaking people here!

We continues undaunted in Diary 3





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