Ecuador Monogatari, tercera cum cuarta maletas
Reporting from Galapagos upon trips in Ecuador mainland to Laguna Quilotoa and to the Volcano Cotopaxi
children, relatives, and precious friends
Confusion rules supreme! Mankind is distraught from bottom to top and vice-versa. Regular speech is banned and you have to express yourself in eights. You know the figures, numbers you are meant to draw very slowly while riding a ridiculous heavy motorcycle, Yamaha XT1200Z Super Ténéré, 261 kg please, between obstacles
while taking a course for a driving license. One moment of absent-mindedness and the monster is crushing you a leg, pie style, in a manner that you can sign for a wheeling chair. Think for a while, four wheels, side by side, much more secure that way…and I am sure that there should be some competition in this branch too!
Speaking of inattention I have to tell you what occurred to me recently. I am now in Galapagos, quite at the end of the first slice of my journey in Ecuador. Everything on this trip comes out in portions, a kind of traveling salami. When I will come back from Ushuaia (Argentina, on the strait of Magellan, nest of Croats, ex-war criminals refugees) via the moon, I will have the last slice of the Ecuadorian tour. Peru will be seemingly divided and consumed in two segments aka slices. One week first, before flying to Punta Arenas (Chile, on the Strait of Magellan, Croats-less) and three weeks after that I come back, the second Peruvian slice, I hope that you are following, from the Atacama (Chile again) desert. Please stand by; my tendency to self-appreciative talks leaves me open to the rage of the Greek Gods. They already hit me this night and I lost my alter ego, the smartphone. The smartphone which is my office number two, a decent image of my location upon the terrestrial blob and my only possible connection to the forces of order (police, enforcers, whatsoever)! Thank God, the mighty and only one, I am speaking about the Semite God (Deus otious, in vernacular the lazy-bones divinity) of course, my smart one was found by three American hotties, who humored an Old Man, and launched me an email, to come tomorrow and pick my double. May God, the same one, provide them, when the time will come, not too early, with handsome, devoted, loving, protecting, and even amusing husbands. But that is not the issue for the moment and I did not yet collect the phone. The basic problem is that I see too many things, too beautiful things, too many rich and elaborate takes to record them all, and forget to reflect upon them, just to put them down in order. And I took days off to slow the flow. In vain…I have to work extra hours, during the night, like now; life becomes unbearable…So after that, I crossed cautiously the path of some giant iguanas heading towards the sea, I got to the pension of the three enormously young Yankee Graces, fell immediately and desperately in love with them, collected my Smart, profusely express eternal gratitude, and retired on the edge of tears. What an emotion the size of a commotion!
So many things are driving me nuts. Please, divine paladin, restrain any unnecessary remarks. They can crush someone, particularly me. I will try another formula. I am striving to find the philosophical stone of the chronicler, but it demands years, and talent that I do not have, better to look for the classic philosophical stone that should bring masses of holly cash. Not? At least one can use the experience of the previous generations…But let’s go back to the start, Ecuador which is more or less firmly installed on the South American continent. The crust is shaking there on a regular basis…So, I deserted Quito, the friendly city, which between us, has the shape of sausage squeezed between two mountainous ranges, and went to Latacunga, one hour far away, through bus courtesy and ridiculously low price. Latacunga, is the junction to how to say, not to Villanova, do you remember Jimi? but to nature. I should use it as a springboard for the Laguna Quilotoa and the Volcano Cotopaxi. I am a methodical bloke, despite my appearance, and tackle nature (also people) by categories. I went first to the volcano, but I will speak about that later. The volcano diminishes people, making them smaller than they are, can you imagine? microscopic powder, fleas to roast, shameful dust. At least the Laguna is at one’s feet, more secure if you know what I mean. Well, that is a way of speech, in reality, it must be pretty boiling, no normal man should plunge into it; it
looks like the other blistering water mass I have seen in Japan at Hokkaido’s Jikokudani, the Gate of Hell. Long live the Hell, mankind’s preferred habitat!
Latacunga is a mostly boring place. They do not sell hard liquors the Sundays. What do they think they are? Swedes? However, central park is cute and elegant of sorts. I liked the use of two trees, a vegetal duo, a palm tree, and a conifer, with a related outlook, trunk, and crown shape. I call that resonance. I have to send the photo to Alain Dessarps, Chantal’s friend, a very distinguished garden designer to ask about names. I am crazy about names. Please, revered patron, do abstain from any remarks. I have dozen of photos of trees I am planning to send to Alain. When I will do all that? When I will finish this letter? In spite of being in Paradise, I had a knack for Paradises, all during this trip, it should be the age, I feel that uneasiness is invading me. So, let’s finish this letter with a sequence of “clichés” The Volcano Cotopaxi was looming on the way to Laguna Quilotoa. Indian business ventures are growing like mushrooms around it. Some of them are looking smart and have toilets with running water and some look like slum holes. It reminds me similar combination in the American Indian reservations such as the one of Mesa Verde. It must be a kind of racial slant, I like this dissonance. Indian women, which is an endless subject, are soundly local, emanate identity, and come from peasant origin if they are not already farmer’s wives. I know, I spoke about them but it is an enthralling subject. They fancy Bavarian hats, shawls, ankle length or knee short skirts, often in velvet, they are small, rarely stocky, and most often plump. They love to have their shiny black hair braided in a single tress, and wear stockings and shoes with low heels because they have to climb slopes that could ruin the back of a normal human being like nothing. When they are young their skin has a pronounced lie-de-vin tone, (stupid English call this wine red hue). Going up in age their cheeks tint moves into a deep, rich copper shade. But you know color and taste are extremely relative. I just mention it, because it is striking.
The Laguna, which is the subject of my letter, is of a beauty that is beyond description. It is enticing, appealing, bewitching, alluring, tantalizing, beguiling, and compelling. More, its splendor is suddenly revealed, unveiled, and intangible. Do you follow? Green emerald, barely rippled silk areas sown with golden sparks are cautiously vibrating while tenderly encircled by a jade blue, much more silent, elliptic fluid surface. The whole, a kind of liquid Mata Hari in a repetitious virginal state, troubles the view and fires the senses.
God had pity on me and send a thick fog to cover such impossible perfection. I thank him from the bottom of my heart and went to look at a bunch of Indian gents who were roasting lamb intestines (they look like pork legs??) with a kind of gas burner and then cooking the remains into a giant kettle (tripas de borrego). Down-to-earth cooking, but sound, solid, subtle, if you know what I mean. If not accustomed, you can easily die of this concoction. Much tranquilized, I boarded the bus after this reflecting upon this funny issue of having intestines passing again through bowels, a symbol in a symbol. I had once with Fiona, a joyful Chinese friend in Bangkok, some pork gut and I survived. Then, I returned to Latacugna under the rain.
Here comes the Cotopaxi fortress. Gloating like a proud Billy goat after my gallop in the Pichincha Mountain I approached the monster with the airs of a king coming home. The giant hit me immediately on my greasy phalanges sets, fingers, and toes I mean. Let’s say that till 4000 meters we were cool. We, being ME and two French honeymooners. They exist, they are rare but you can get some here and there. So, four thousand were fine, and the guide was feeling well too, till we hit the parking lot. Naturally, we rode into a car! But as soon as we left the car things started to go from bad to worst. Thank God, the same one, I had a stick I bought in Quito. Steep slopes, what can I say? They were forcing me to frequent stops during which I was looking for air. Cotopaxi was announcing himself as a different animal than the gentle Pichincha. The young male honeymooner, an asthmatic bloke, seemed close to collapse; kind of lie de vin, see above, outlook.
She was feeling pretty well. What can you expect? Women, I was always argued are the strongest sex, men lack mental muscle, are hysterical, and continuously search for their mothers. In the beginning, the mountain was nude, and we were above all vegetal adventure, but soon, we had to cross more and more frequent snowy patches and hardly progress under a drizzling fog. After a while, the snow blanket expanded but was neither pleasant to look at nor to taste. Dirty white I will say, either because of the smog or of the fog! It started to bother me that I have to share the climb with other people. Alone, I would find my rhythm, for sure. Also, the guide irritated me; he told us he will wait in the car, and suddenly the midget popped up on the trail, feeling fine. Telling that he is accustomed, somebody asked him what? To cheer myself I was repetitiously thinking of Tesholama and Kim traveling in Himalaya and the difficulty Kim had to surmount notwithstanding being a very young and tough fellow. It helped me a lot but I was not able to get rid of the sensation that the more up I go, the bigger the mountain and the more distant the target became. At a certain moment, the guide said the magic word: refuge. I plodded furiously forward, the honeymooner was looking terminal, and with the last strength, I reached the goal and desperately searched for a toilet. It was none. The refuge was in a full reconstruction phase. The solution was immediately found. A miracle occurred. I began to feel well, mountain activist like and I proposed to continue… From the parking into the refuge we did 800 meters in 55 minutes.. There were 200 meters more to reach and hit the ice field border. Nobody asked us to jump into the caldera.
I strongly jockeyed for it and the honeymooners agreed to try…after less than five minutes they announced to me that they want to reach the camp base or die on the spot. Cowardly I accepted and chose the first option. It was over. The way back consisted of a direct plunge down. No more zigzag stretches, down towards the abyss bottom. On the way down we met some
few, very few, climbers, real ones, especially a group of old French derelicts, in full gear, people around fifty and more, using climbing sticks, taking the mountain abreast and making hail. They gave the impression to play this game twice a day. I found this attitude disgusting and prepotent, show off I will say, but I decided not to go more around with honeymooners.
Exhausted and respectfully,
Laguna Quilotoa, tercera maleta