Bye bye Ms. Quito.
This story is written 2-3 months after while coming to terms with the events and separation, as this is the 'most likely' last leg of a long and exiting journey with Christina, at the end of this story we would separate.
C., for her part was influential, taught love, and to love spirit, C. taught antique art, culture and history, and the religions of the world, C. taught awareness for body and mind, how to heal and ask for healing, and speak to the universe, C. taught Latin music but never Spanish.
[How do you go about telling the last tale, ...?]
From Colombia we come and over the border I almost have to carry the stricken van that loses diff-oil by the wheel bearing, and we had to renew the breaks in Pasto already as a consequence. In Tulcan nobody wants to sell us SOAT-insurance, so we drive into the evening, and beer is not cold, as it is anyway cold on 3,500m, the snowy peaks of volcanoes not far glance upon us till night falls and the boys fall asleep hungry in the back, we are in Ecuador, and driving the nightly Andean pan-americana feel a bit like Saint-Exupéry's night flight pilots.
Ibarra so late, this is Friday, the 13th of April, the old cobble stones shine dimly lit, while the young and hip head for the karaoke bars and it'd be too nice to join them; C. and I could do with some drunk talking as Colombia gave us lots of headache. We fetch some Chinese rice instead, and beer, stick to the van and the boys wake and have a bite, no-more; they finish it all off in the early morning hours before I even crawl out.
Morning after a little tour we head around Imbabura Volcano to Otavalo and its Saturday indigenous market; the rare Peace Corps project gone successful, sun beats down and Daniel loses his hat, the first in a long series of hats and sandals that just part us.
The first time in almost 8 years the fab trek then passes the equator and nothing happens, I am not even even aware of it, such are the preoccupation. Quito then is three weeks and the ladies' old stomping ground.
It's cold and rainy on 2,800m and the elevation makes me feel breathless, the thunderstorms and lightening, sometimes hail, come in down from the eastern slopes of the valley every afternoon at three, you can almost set the watch, April is the rainiest month in Quito … [but how do I go and relate the rest?]
C. grew up in Quito; it is a homecoming of sorts; 'the house is falling apart' is the first she says. Her parents have lived here half their lives, they love my boys and do anything for them, and me. Every night we are treated to a presidential dinners, and I am handed a special mixed dry martini or straight scotch to the flickering of a chimney fire; to warm those limps, and lull mind and soul.
One day we head for the hot mineral rich thermal baths in Papallacta and later in our stay we would go back, 'cause they're so special; it takes crossing the paramos covered Andes at dazing 4,000m of elevation, back and forward twice, always in fog or rain or both. The hot springs on the other side at 3,300m then make drowsy, water is always fresh without a taint or smell, just hot, all is embedded in a nature setting next to a freezing white-water creek with the surrounding volcanos so near, much higher, but always behind clouds, who cares then really when it rains.
3 weeks in Quito, and I am still out of breath. The boys play outside when they can, with the dog, on top of the van and supposedly Samurais, or climb those 4m high perpendicular climbing walls in El Ejido park, they look so confident, press their hips close to the wall, reach higher, pull themselves up. I opened an account on my Mac for them so when it rains they can learn playing computer, and learn early, completely restricted, for just an hour a day, not between 8 P.M. and 9 A.M. Apart that we get around town just a bit; stomp C's old stomping ground just so much. We get to see the dentist four times in 2 weeks, my boys get their yellow fever vaccinations, they bravely look at the needle when it stings, I buy them new plastic sandals and hats against the sun, I get the van fixed, a new axel finally does the trick that did not work in San Francisco, Cancun and Panama City, and I get damn-cheap SOAT-insurance for 6USD a month.
Eventually we leave together, C. and I, and the boys of course, this is the 9th of May, but there is one thing to do, head a bit north to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo for the equator, as we are in Ecuador! and wait if something happens. Nothing happens and it is hardly worth the trip and traffic to see an old misplaced concrete monument, laughable and some 200m off the mark and they want money, money for nothing.
A day later we are off south to Cotopaxi National Park, despite the fact that we never could see Cotopaxi volcano from Quito, all due to clouds and rain. I just want to try, and maybe we'd be lucky. We enter from the pan-americana a bit south and drive a dirt track till a place called Mariscal, 3,600m high where we arrive late afternoon. Clouds hang deep, do promise nothing, still we head on higher for the plains at 3,900m and Laguna de Limpiopungo. And then we break through the fog, the skies open and show Cotopaxi volcano and glaciers. Amazing! When cold and darkness sets in, we help jumpstart a car of Indigenas who live somewhere around here. Then we return to Mariscal for a soup and a beer and night camp in the van. It feels good to sleep in the van again, and less cold than in Quito.
While David boxes his knees in my rips and Daniel tries to sleep across and makes space scarce for everybody else I think about the next morning's plan, maybe get up to the Refugio Ribas at 4,800m. But we wake too late, all is overcast, when we crawl out and I put the boys all the layers on that we carry. Shrugging off the cold we drive back to the plains and higher, the dusty track past wild horses to 4,500m where the road ends, as we (I) have an ambitious plan: Yes, C. bails out and stays in the van while Daniel and David and I try to climb these last 300m higher to the refuge.
You really can go as slowly as you want, to try to master your breath, but when fog and gusty winds bring snowfall and bitter cold then the senselessness of the adventure becomes clear quickly, we turn around, the GPS shows 4,715m, I think we went almost half way. But nevertheless I am proud that my boys showed the will, and bite to push forward. With red faces we're back in the van. Just how did C. know it was senseless from the beginning?
Cotopaxi facts: 5,897m, second highest mountain in Ecuador, active volcano, dangers for Quito which is just 28km north, wiki.
Rivers are yellow/brown, lagunas black.
Via the really bad back roads we go one more time back to Papallacta and paddle in the steamy pools till late while it rains. Next morning we dip down deep the Papallacta River valley, via endless curves, into the Amazon basin. Ever deeper we follow the oil pipelines and graffiti ask for reparations to be paid by US-oil companies for past environmental disasters. Somewhere a bus has gone over a bend just the very morning, no traces that he tried to break, police block the road for 2 hours. From 3,300m to 300m in a short day, we reach Nueva Loja, a rainy outpost in the Amazon jungle and Lago Agrio and the boys get a first sense of what a jungle is, walking slippery muddy paths around lagunas and past huge trees, strange plant and animal life. Yes, the rains sweep through, come and go, pound the Andes slopes hard, this is the high of the season.
A further 100kms down the road northeast we find the Cuyabeno River (wiki) that flows into the Aguarica, which flows into the Napo, which flows eventually into the grand Amazonas.
This is still just the outer edge of the huge Amazon basin, a flat jungle of humid tropical rainforest harboring an amazing wildlife diversification, and the weathers fly overhead bringing ever more rains, cool and warm, hard and soft. With a group of three American and English girls we share a tourist boat down the yellowish/brownish Cuyabeno, where the crocs, anacondas and piranhas reign and I constantly tell my boys to keep their hands out of the water. Thick branches of trees form a tunnel overhead, while we float downstream, acacias and picky palms grow out of the water and lianes back into it. Then overhead the colors turn black, the clouds cram the skies full, then a rustling in the leaves and drops on the water can be heard some time before the rains hit, defying the pouring we raise our heads and look up to spot the tirades of the squirrel and capuchin monkeys high in the canopy.
On Laguna Grande, we watch a group of three Amazon sweat water dolphins reemerging for air intake several times. The Americans and English then go for a swim in the middle of the black lake, the piranhas are said to remain closer to the banks.
A tourist boat with tourists and the tourist action, the tourist talk of our guide, but! now we learn something.
50kms one way into our journey, hundreds of curves down the Cuyabeno, we dock at the muddy banks in Puerto Bolivar, a bush village on the Rio Cuyabeno, no commercial boat is allowed to stop here, just indigenas can bring in and out what they want. We follow the indigenous woman, that's been on the boat with us and she demonstrates the preparation of pan yuca, yuca bread from felling the bush and digging out the roots, to the grating and winding out of the water, to baking the shreds or flower on the wood fired iron stove, a fascinating process; yuca is an important food staple that is also called manioc or cassava, and not yucca which is the palm.
On our way back again we get completely soaked in heavy rains, and the bends of the Cuyabeno River last forever, needless to say we lose one of the boys hats to the River Gods. That evening C. has a fever, 38.5°C and thinks she's going to die on the spot.
Mishualli and on.
It seems C. and I are finally losing it forever.
After oiler's Coca and cosy Tena, we grant ourselves a break for a swim on Misahualli's sandy banks on the Napo River; there are busses, dogs, pigs and the monkeys and the tourist monkeys are spoilt, steal your food from your restaurant plate if you don't eat quick enough, which my boys don't.
Near a ferry over the Napo further into the jungle, the boys play on the lanchas, while we ponder over a tired beer in the heat, eventually the twins sink a starter key of one of the engines, and a boatman complains, it costs me 10USD. Evening in Puyo, and there's nocthing but bad food in the rain which we don't eat 'cause it gives food poisoning. It rains all night and it rains all the way back to Quito via Baño, where we don't even stop.
The end, a play of the Gods.
So on 19th of May the boys and I leave 'home' in Quito, leave C. behind, and shortly after while driving down El Oriente bypass it strikes me, I have written down 167,200kms when I stopped last night, the milage which I write down every day. Just these magic numbers sum up to 16, Christina's birthday, and its significance is raised due to the fact it shows at C.'s home address. I am just a little superstitious, but believe in God or destiny, and a general ability to communicate with the universe through meditation. Traveling all those many years has taught me instinct, to read a situation, its dangers and opportunities.
So there is the magic 16, again, and I had taken lead from it before. At the next opportunity on the carretera I turn the van around, return to Christinas'. Christina and I met in Africa, and she said that something struck her, that I was her soulmate and that she had met me before in a different life but that we messed it up then, so she had to return to earth again and again instead of going to another, the next, realm. So she met me again for a purpose, and I would find out what my role was in the play of the Gods and the universe.
The boys and I stay this one more day in Quito; the numbers are important - maybe, they're saying that something important has indeed been lost, maybe again, - no-more, that is what the numbers say!