A Travellerspoint blog

Leaving Puyo

Day 14

rain 25 °C

I am feeling better now and have decided today is the day I am leaving Puyo. Sorry I haven´t been writing much.. but things have been kind of hairy here.

Was lying on my bed watching an Arnold Schwartsenneger and Jamie Lee Curtis movie last night when I heard a comotion out my window. Some sort of street theater had erupted, same as the night before, and in a town of 24 000, about 130 people had gathered to see these two guys.

I audibly cursed myself for lying in bed watching a terrible movie. I could have stayed home for that... what did I fly 3000 miles for? It was dark out but with all the people and roving police officers I could feel safe. Not bothering with my hair or lack of makeup, I threw on a sweater and headed out the door.

I positioned myself at the back of the crowd, trying to observe the goings on without being noticed. Well surprise, surprise. It only took about 10 seconds. "Gringita!" the street actors had noticed me right away. I must have been practically glowing white.

They started rambling off in rapid fire spanish, and all I could ascertain was that they wanted me to get in the middle of the circle with them. I refused... I wasn´t going along with something I couldn´t understand. They persisted. Someone suggested I should donate $3 to the pot. Another person countered with something along the lines of "She´s Canadian! Make it five." The sad part here was that I was down to my last $2 anyways! The one place to cash travellers checks was closed.

I said a lot of "no, gracias" to all of their requests. They jokingly referred to me as ´leche´, or milk. In that crowd, I sure was. I was beginning to tire of the game. I pretended to slink along behind other people, which only made everyone laugh harder. I laughed, too. I may not have understood what they were saying or particularly liked the attention, but it was friendly nonetheless. They were just interested in me, and in having a good time.

After awhile, the furor died down. I was left in peace. I understood some of what was going on. They got the crowd to say ¨lights, camera, action¨before they did some things. Although my spanish is pretty terrible, I can understand more than I can speak.

A few minutes passed before I grew a bit bored of not understanding what´s going on... and I turned my attention to crowd watching. I started a game I like to play sometimes... find the hottest guy in the crowd. "But Sarah," my inner self argued, "you don´t generally find these ecuadorians very attractive!"

Nonetheless, I began to scan the crowd, selecting, watching, and discarding by turn. I was looking for a certain je ne sais quois.
Standing directly across from me, standing at the back, I found it. Him, I mean him.

He was perfect. He was so good looking in a non-ecuadorian way, I though perhaps maybe one of his parents were white. He had different features from most of the guys here. I can´t describe it. He had dark but clear eyes and dark hair, cut too short to really spike or style. He was wearing a dark, long sleeved shirt, and tan shorts, with running or other sort of casual shoes. A white shell necklace, the type that was popular at home five years ago, circled his neck. He had the look of a perfectly tuned athlete, and beyond that, was obviously a runner. He had those strong, lean legs, and tiny ankles, coupled with a strong, flat chest.

Perhaps, even while wearing shorts, a sweater, and my glasses, coupled with wild hair (that humidity has made it go uber-curly!) and no make-up, being a gringo made me bold. I decided to stare him down. Surely he had to have noticed me, it was impossible not too. But he seemed a bit aloof. Once I was certain I caught his eye but reconsidered. When the performers made their "gringita" remarks, he didn´t look my way. An amazing feat, since everyone was looking at me!

He turned and walked away from the crowd, climbing the stairs to a second floor apartment directly opposite the square, above a pharmacy. A surge of disappointment for this intruiging boy I would never meet. Pretending not to look, I could clearly see him move around the apartment, which was brilliantly lit with large windows. A moment later, he reappeared to join the crowd. Excellent.

I ignored him for the rest of the perfornance. Having plied the crowd with ample laughs and witty commentary, the actors were ready to rake in the dough. Instead of passing a hat or something as they do in Canada, they brought out wafers, like strawberry kit-kats, packaged in red shiny plastic, and began selling. I couldn´t see what other people were buying them for. "Gringita?" He came right up to me and I couldn´t refuse again. I gave him my last, very crinkled, american dollar.

Excited, he held it high, proclaiming, "The gringita gave me a dollar!" Pressing it repeatedly to his lips, he shouted something about using it to buy Marijuana, which the crowd, myself included, found halarious.

Soon it was all over, and the crowd, which I counted to be about 130 people (which, in a town of 24 000 at 10:30 at night is quite a feat- have you ever seen half as many people in a crowd in Peterborough, a town 3 times the size?) quickly melted into the night, in clumps of twos, threes,and fives.

Suddenly I realized I had won, it had worked. In the ten seconds where everyone was disappearing, mystery boy had not. He was merely loitering on the sidewalk, pretending not to have anywhere to go. His apartment was 20 feet away. The old dude, with no front teeth and a face like shoe leather, who had been talking to me during the entire show, suddenly grew annoying. He was pestering me, asking me something about where I was going to sleep? This was my window, and I wasn´t going to lose it. Firmly, I said "No, gracias" twice, and turned away. I wanted to be nice, but honestly, he was creeping me out.

He was standing on the sidewalk, body angled slightly away. I walked up to him. " Hola." I know I´m bold, but I just do what I want. "Hola", he replied. Damn my terrible spanish. Impossible to come up with something slick to say. I smiled. Introduced myself.
If I don´t know the words in Spanish, I´ll just say it in English. Its better than saying nothing. "Do you want to go for a walk?" and gestured down the street. "si". We tried to make small talk but he knows about as much english as i know spanish, which makes for a really quiet walk. We reached the first intersection.

"Which way do you want to go?"
"I don´t know, it´s your city."

Half spanish-english followed. I found out he´s 25, goes to school in Quito. Taking something engineering to do with oil, or petroleum. A very good career choice as most of the ecuadorian amazon is flush with oil. A very sensitive topic; the government feels it has the right to drill for oil in the middle of the land the Shuar, Waorani, Kitchua, and Aschuar have been living on for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. Most of the time, the native communities don´t even get enough compensation to build a proper school for their children. But that´s neither here nor there. I haven´t the linguistic capability at this point to get into and eco-political debate, and I am walking a quiet street with the hottest ecuadorian I´ve ever seen.

We come full circle to the park beside my hotel, which overlooks the city square. It may not have warm showers, but the view is unparalled. We sit on a bench to talk, I learn he grew up here in Puyo, and has two brothers, one older, one younger. I don´t ask about his mom, and he doesn´t mention her. Only his dad lives here. He asks me if I like dogs, he has a golden retriever. There´s a lot of "no enteindo" on my part, and laughing when we don´t know how to say what we want. I feel perfectly comfortable, as if the language barrier is a minor problem only. I can read his eyes perfectly.

I take his hand and we continue talking, sitting close. Something about him is very polite, gentlemannly. I must have given him an unconscious signal, as he leans in to kiss me. Under the rusty orange lights of the park, bored police officers and teenagers wandering the streets, a stray dog curled up a few feet away.

He stops and asks me if it is okay. What a sweetie. I smile and say yes. Its divine. We stop occasionally, to talk, and smile, before we once again find ourselves lost in the kiss.

I become wary about the PDA, and we leave the park, walking hand in hand, stopping to kiss in corners. We go back to my hotel, and I make him wait while I tidy my messy hovel.

A Claire Danes movie is on Fox, and we snuggle to watch. Its here where my writing skills shall become glossy, and for the first time in this epic story, I shall omit details. Suffice it to say that it was amazing although we didn´t go "all the way" for reasons I shall not elaborate on. And he´s even better looking without clothes.

Its getting late. He shyly asks me if he can stay, sleep here with me. Its not for convenience; his apartment is less than a minute away. He is very distinctly not a Western boy. He´s sweet and caring, and as much as my jaded soul will allow me to admit, I liked it. He must go back to Quito, to school, a manana, but wants to see me next weekend.

Sleep is a long time coming.


Its 630 when he wakes, and me in turn. He presses something into my hand. His white shell necklace. He wants me to have it. Brushing aside my curls, he fastens it around my neck.

Perhaps my 12 year old, romantic soul has reawakened. I swear I´m never taking it off.

Posted by SJS 09:58 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

Sick in Puyo

Day 11

rain 23 °C

I´m now in Puyo, Ecuador, having finished the tour yesterday, which was amazing.

But now I´m sick. I have been great all along, eating whatever (weird!) food they put in front of me, and being fine. But two days ago, all of a sudden, every time I smelt Ecuadorian food I felt like throwing up. For two days I could only choke down white rice and the occasional peice of fruit.

Last night I got to the capital city of Pastaza, Puyo, and hunted down the Italian pizza place. A ranch salad (oh who knew tomatoes, cucumbers and iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch dressing could be such an unbelievable delight to the palate!) and some pizza (I had been craving it forever!) with mushrooms and ham didn´t turn me off when I smelled it, that´s for sure. But two hours later, I´m back in the bathroom as my body rejects it, if you know what I mean. I took two immodium and fell into a troubled sleep , but this morning it was the same old, same old.

I was supposed to go to stay with the tribe today or tomorrow but I am putting it off a bit until I get better. At least here is a fairly big town and I can get things and/or help if I need it. I don´t think I want to go back into the rainforest until regain my health.

Right now it´s one thirty in the afternoon and I´m starvingly hungry. But every time I eat it ends in more pain. I know I have to go and hunt for more food, maybe some plain crackers and a banana. And more water. I´ve got to drink lots of water.

My one saving grace here, that has been helping me while I´ve been sick. Fox! The tv channel... most of the programs are in English with spanish subtitles. I watched Law and Order and One Tree Hill... and simpsons and american dad are on occasionally too. Gives me something to do at night while I lie in bed in pain.

Its suddenly stopped raining and has turned sunny and humid. Such is life in the Amazon!

Going out to find food...


Posted by SJS 11:18 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Leaving Banos via bike, hike, raft and canoe

Day 8

overcast 16 °C

Ended up in Banos instead of Puyo to meet the guide with my trekking poles but he´s not here.

I´ve booked a downriver trip that take me from Banos to Puyo via biking, hiking, whitewater rafting and canoeing. It will take three days, includes lodging (camping), all food, the guide, all the equipment, for $40 a day. I couldn´t pass it up.

The land here is amazing. Banos, a town of 12 000, is poised on the rim of the Andes, and the road to Puyo plunges down into the Amazon basin. Apparently this trip is one of the most amazing, astounding things you´ll ever see, going from up in the Andes to almost sea level in the Amazon basin.

Last night, for $3, we took a volcano tour up to the top of this mountain. It was great fun. Once the bus left town, we climbed up to the roof (yes while it was still moving). Sitting on the roof was amazing-- this bus wound back and forth, the mountain on one side, and a gorge and the river on the other. Often, we´d shriek and duck as trees would come rushing at us, attempting to knock us off the bus. Great fun!

Gotta run. The tour leaves in five... they are just buying more food (for me).

Love you all!


Posted by SJS 07:38 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Climbing Volcan Guagua Pinchincha

Day 6

all seasons in one day 21 °C

Hello all;

Well I summited my first mountain today, the active volcano Guagua Pinchincha. At almost 5000 m above sea level, it was by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But I didn't quit... just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and taking breaks whenever I could no longer move. At that altitude, you feel as if you are suffocating and can't get enough air. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, nauseated, and completely out of breath in turn or all at once.

At the top, we were amongst the clouds and above all forms of plant life except for some random lichens clinging to the rocks. Snow still existed in sheltered areas, and the peak was whipped with cold winds, making the hat, gloves, scarf, and coat a necessity, even though it was 20 C at the base. A foot behind the concrete pillar marking the summit, was a 700 m drop into the crater that was filled with lava and hot gases. It was kind of nerve wracking, knowing one slip would undoubtably send you to your fiery death. However, since the crater was filled with clouds, you could not see the lava, only smell the sulfur rising from the murky white depths.

The one downside... I left my trekking poles in the guide's truck. He was, however, a super nice guy and since I have his business card I have emailed him tonight and will call him tomorrow. I was planning on heading to Puyo tomorrow morning, but if I have to wait to get my poles I will. They were not cheap and I'll need them for other mountains.

bye for now


Posted by SJS 20:06 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Exploring the Indigenous Market in Otavalo

Day 5

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Today we went to Otavalo, a city three hours north of Quito by bus, for the famous Saturday market. Rows upon rows of crafts, weavings, carvings, paintings, jewlery, clothing and a whole bunch of stuff no one really needs. Except for an Alpaca sweater, mitts, hat and scarf. Everyone needs those, and now I have them. Super warm and soft, Alpaca wool is a from a species of llama and all the softest textiles are made from it.

I could write every day, all day, fill a thousand journals and still not finish what I had to say; not be able to do justice to the things I have seen here. Shiny black pigs who sleep on front lawns. Elderly ecuadorian women, shriveled with the sun and hard work, carrying heavy loads to the market without shoes, feet no longer resembling human apendages. Cows that seem to graze wherever they want. The fact that I saw four different soccer games in three minutes. The number of empty, gutted structures near Otavalo. A patchwork of multicoloured fields that extend so far up the mountainous peaks as to make one wonder how they are possibly farmable. Dogs everywhere, eating what they please, and dying by the side of the road. Corn growing in every concievable space on the property, between buildings and on lawns. One type of Quito police who wear brown uniforms with shiny spurs and a long sword. The spongy, porous, dry hard soil that forms the roadside cliffs and seems to be able to be carved at will. The fact that the ecuadorian buses are more comfortable than those at home. The way that the bus assistants/fare collectors call out the destination repeatedly "Quito, Quito, Quito!" and try to usher you towards their bus.

The flora is no exception as well. I could draw, imagine, a new plant every day for the rest of my life and not be able to create such incredible diversity, the sheer number of insanely weird plants that exist here. Even the plants growing out of the roadside cliff baffle me with their complexity and uniqueness. An attempt to draw some of the plants ended up looking like something from a Dr. Seuss book; I did not think such things were possible on planet Earth.

I don´t know who told me that there´s no dusk near the equator, but they were wrong. The clouds are lit up with glorious hues of golds, pinks and baby blues, and the light reflects on the ochre cliffs.

I envy these rural people. A family digging together in their field, an old farmer leading a dairy cow across the road, a truck full of bananas, a small girl wrestling with a puppy on the dusty front steps of her house. Life seems simple here, fraught with hard work yet full of family and leisure.

Tomorrow I am climbing the volcano Guagua Pinchincha, at 4784 m, it will be my first real ascent. It´s organized by the hostal here, costs $40 for the day, including breakfast, lunch, transportation, and the guide. It erupted last in 1999, sending a gigantic plume of white ash into the air. My alpaca gear will be very useful as it is cold on the summit.

Well, plenty more to write about but that will have to come later. Its 1108 pm here right now, and I barely got any sleep last night. I decided to have one club night out here in Quito and it was a TON of fun.

Night, all!


ps-- I am leaving the hostal Mon morning on my way to the Amazon. After that, once a week is going to be the maximum I´ll be able to post, as the tribe does not have internet! Only if I do a day trip to the closest town will I be able to write.

Posted by SJS 20:32 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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