Chapter 8::Table of Contents::Chapter 10

Chapter 9
Lago la Cocha

Sat Nov 4:

Got up at 7:AM to catch the 8 o’clock to El Encano.

N. felt better and with heavy packs we set off to the bus. After buying our tickets and stashing our packs in the corner - N went to buy bread & cheese. During my wait there was a girl sitting on the bench who kept meeting may gaze. Verry pretty.

N. got back & we loaded our packs on the bus, mine in back, N’s in front by the door. The short 17P ride to El Encano was uneventful. Upon being let off a little ways the other side of town, we proceeded to walk up and down hill along this road paralleling the lake shore. We talked to a very friendly man who told us we’d have no trouble camping just about anywhere. [1] He said to ask further at the hotel.

Off we went about 4 k down the road ’til we finally reached the hotel. Saw a llamita along the walk. At the hotel they told us we could camp for 100P a day, but that gave us rights to all the hotel services like pool tables, etc.(but not food). No thanks.

Then we asked about free camping. The hotel man pointed back down the way we had just come, a proposed walk back of 4-5 km. There was another tent pitched down there which we had seen on our walk to the hotel. I had a sneaking suspicion we’d wind up having to go all the way back down and up the “other hill”. But then he said that we could go there by boat for 40P (about 1 km by boat). Being tired and anxious to set up camp we tried the boat ride.

It was a canoe shaped 5-7M boat with an old Johnson Sea Horse motor that wouldn’t start. [2] Our driver, a little boy of no more than 11, tried to start it as we drifted into the weeds. [3] N had to pole us back to open water and by then the motor had started.

The ride across was short and sweet. At the other side, however, we had to climb over another boat to get to land. This meant carrying packs over slippery wet boat boards. I stood in one boat & N lifted the packs over to me. I put them down to the dry ground. In the process N. strained his back.

[4] We set up camp next to 3 Colombians who were in a little yellow teepee tent. Our first concern was fire wood. We were forced to camp in a cow pasture devoid of burnable wood. Our friends next door said we could buy charcoal in town (1km away). Off we went to buy some charcoal. We stopped first to get water from a public faucet and then found out that we had to buy a whole 60 lb bag of charcoal. [5] It only cost 55P so we decided to build a charcoal pit and cook with style.

We trucked back to the campsite with the bag of carbon between us, like the way the little girls carry water. Back at the site we dug a pit with the machete about 12-14" square and 6" deep. Finally with some gas and dried grass and twigs we got a good bed of glowing coals. This established, we went fishing.

Broke out the two lines, hooks, sinkers, twigs for bobbers, and cheese for bait. The primary problem was keeping everything untangled and keeping the cheese on the hook. The secondary problem was that we were in the wrong place & using the wrong bait (frogs or earthworms were the things).

The water closest to us is only a waterway to the port from the main lake. It goes through a bog-land cow pasture and a slightly higher dry-ground cow pasture, where we are camped. We have to shoo the cows away.

One of the Colo. was shooting with his BB gun. He shot at pop bottles on a post, and got a few small birds which he claimed were worth trying to eat.

After fishing it was time for us to think about eating. We had munched all but 3 of the bananas for lunch. Put on a pot to boil and put some in ourselves. Made a delicious pot of stew with potatoes, onions, carrots, peas and rice. Even made toast with our asbestos screen and to top it off, tea - both kinds. The charcoal pit works well.

After sitting on the wet, cold ground all day, N. began to complain of lower back pains. By the time to crash out he was in real pain. Moaning and groaning and unable to either straighten up or lie down comfortably. He spent the night tossing & moaning.

At one point the Col's. from next door came over to borrow some carbon. They took a good load of it but nothing else.

Sun Nov 5:

Today finds N. in continued severe pain and inability to move freely .

During the nite it had rained and put our fire out. I got out early and with some gas and wet reeds, got a good fire. We cooked up oatmeal, raisins, the other 3 bananas, toast with dulce and tea. Throughout all N. was having great difficulty moving and every move accompanied by pain. [6] I’ll have to go and buy at least more aspirin. The strain happened while lifting the packs from the boats. It just took cold ground and lack of chairs to set in the pain.

I washed dishes over our lovely fire, set N. back into the tent, and retired to tend the fire and wave at passing boats and cows. There are hills 360° here, almost like Lake Annecy in France. The same kind of cultivated hillsides, with trees higher up, and the big tourist hotel in the distance. Perhaps 25-35M away is a ship canal. The boats go by 1M below ground level, so that sitting by our fire, all we see are heads and boat tops chugging by, trying to keep the motor running.

I went into town after a short walk the other way to the mouth of the canal. In town I got some water, cheese, breads and aspirin. Spent a lazy afternoon of getting high and trying to make N. comfortable and relaxed enough so his back would relax. To N. relaxing is hard work. He’ll “relax” for a while and afterwards his cramps and strains will be worse.

Made up a fine batch of Terranaut Stew for dinner. The usual pot., carrots, onions, rice and soup mix with bread (steamed on top of boiling water) good cheese and dulce de g and tea. [7] After settling the meal and setting the dishes out to rinse in the expected rain, we retired, N. having only marginally less pain. His main concern was with taking a shit.

At one point during the night standing naked and pissing, I saw Orion overhead.

Mon Nov. 6:

Awoke to find N. feeling better but not recovered.

Spent a leisurely morn. getting high and starting up the fire. Made glop with dulce de g. and some toasted breads that turned out like English muffins. After washing dishes and lounging about, we decided to go into town for some provisions. During our preparation of breakfast an older gent. walked by and talked to us for a while. Just as we were finishing eating he came back the other way and gave us each a little bread roll.

Today we have rigged up our rain/wind cover a bit differently. The space blanket between tent & packs has been replaced by my poncho. The grommet fits the tent post which eliminates tying, the material is stronger, it covers both packs on the other end and is staked to the ground next to the rain fly peg on a 3rd corner and tied around the packs to the tent pole rope. [8]

By the time we were ready to go to town 3 little kids had gathered to watch us. They just stood 4M away and watched like we were on display. N. decided to stay behind and watch our stuff. I went into town and got rice, eggs, salt (she emptied half into a bowl so I could buy 1/2 kilo.) and more good bread. Then over the railing-less rickety wood bridge to buy bananoes & hot peppers. The walk back was slow & careful due to unwrapped eggs and falling apart banana bunches.

Back at camp, the kids had disappeared. Upon discussion, we decided I should have gotten tomatoes & other items, so N. decided to walk back and test his back. He got more eggs, toms & cigs (he’s trying to quit). Decided to make a fine meal but the fire had its flaws. Cooked up the rice just fine. But come time to fry potatoes & the fire just can’t hack it. Got round to the pericos which turned out the best of all but the fire was dead by that time. Couldn’t even make toast or tea.

After a nice sunset we settled back to some serious toking. It rained most of the night and for the first time in several days I remembered my dreams.

About dinner time a fellow came along and offered to rent us a boat for 50P/hr. [9] We may take him up on it later in the week. Spent 85P today.

Tues Nov 7:

It rained most of last nite.

Awoke late this morn to find my pack somewhat dampened but not wet inside. We decided to try frying again this morn. But try as we might - and try we did - we couldn’t get a fire going to save our souls. Using white gas, wet paper, wet charcoal and matches it’s hard to burn more than gas. So after several frustrating failures, we had a cold lunch of bananas, dulce, cheese, bread, and water.

We walked into town to buy gas, potatoes, bread, cheese, eggs and get more water.

During our abortive attempts at fire building this morn, a fellow pulled up in a boat next to where we’re camped and motioned over to me. I went to his boat and saw he had a small 9" trout which he looked like he was giving to me. Indeed he was. I graciously took the fish and he & his wife motored off into town.

On our return to camp, we toked up and thought about Ec. & the Galápagos. Gal. is going to cost lots.

Less than one week left in Colo. Hard to get fired up when you’re camped for free & your buddy has a sprained back and is movin’ slow. Life’s easy here. And down-right nice if it don’t rain.

About this time we decided to fire up and fire up the fire. Using dryer reeds, wood chips, charcoal chips, gasoline & a good spirit, we got the fire roaring. Decided to cook up the rest of breakfast. We managed to fry up the trout, with lemon, and some pericos, and even had enough fire left for toast, dulce & dish water. N. caught about 5 frogs during the course of the morn. By lunch time we realized that those frogs wouldn’t get used today. We let them go. We’ll have to wait for N’s back to improve before we go fishing.

By afternoon the sun was coming out occasionally, drying off all the damp items.

The town near here is very small, I don’t really know if it’s part of El Encano or not, but it’s a port with several before mentioned boats, houses built up on stilts, and 3 or 4 bridges going over the canal in town. The main commodities are charcoal and split wood. Big open sided busses loaded with charcoal. There are perhaps 20 houses in the town.

About dinner time, with the fire still going strong, we decided to cook up a pot of chicken w/letters soup supplemented with peas and carrot. Bread, dulce, and cheese on the side. After dinner we reflected upon our existence as “Terranauts”. Our own little Tranquility Base here.

Wed Nov 8:

The days slip by in stoned progressions.

N. is still suffering so much from pain that he can’t walk into town. This injury is beginning to concern me. I, too, am suffering from the old Constipation Blues. Must be the change to our own cooking that’s blocking us up. Not sick, just plugged.

This morning dawned brite and rain free. We got the fire going with reeds and gas. It’s kind of a rush out there gathering rushes for the fire. Like folks of antiquity gathering their existence from the goods around them.

After a breakfast of glop with dulce, bread & cheese, I began to feel even more plugged.

My forehead & nose are peeling, my hair is greasy & dirty, my one change of clothes is getting well worn.

Camping is fine, but except for town, we’ve gone no place very far from camp. Sitting around stoned, living cheap, waiting for Ns back to heal.

After a while I felt slightly better and made an excursion into town for bread, aspirins, Alkyseltz & panella. The fruit & veggies stand was closed again today.

The afternoon was spent lying around in the sunshine enjoying the lack of rain. I even picked up a bit of sunburn on my face. Several folks dropped by later in the afternoon; a fellow with 3 little tykes, an older couple with little child, and a couple others. We managed to write a 2 pager to Doc and invite him to Bolivia. We did the same with Ed. Although it would be nice to see them again - it would be very strange to see them in Bolivia.

As the afternoon wore on the sun remained out and the hillsides were green with pastures and trees. It’s quiet here. At times all you can hear is a bird chirp or wind rustling the tent.

We decided to fry again after our earlier failures. This time we got the fire going hotter by adding wood chips (the machete is useful again). We fried the pots. in the fry-type pan, not the sauce pan as we did before. Also fried fewer at a time. The fire lasted well throughout the pot. and almost through my scrambled eggs, but N. had to coax and puff to get his eggs done. [10]

After dinner we settled the meal & settled back to watch the sunset. Magnificent color 360° Better than any T.V. or movie.

At the close of the day N. was still suffering from pain in back & legs and my bowels were still congested.

Thurs. Nov 9.

Awoke this morn. to a monumental relief of internal backlog.

It rained only briefly last nite but despite that, we decided to opt for the stove this morn. N. awoke feeling better but shortly fell into a bit of pain in the hip. We did get to fry up the last of our oatmeal with panella, bread, cheese, & water. The stove worked well enough to heat the oats, and 2 more pots of dish washing water.

Just before breakfast a fellow came along and told us he had boats to rent. He’d take us to the other end of the lake and back for 250P. A bit high, but wanting to see the lake, we decided to go tomorrow about 11 or so.

The lady at the store we’ve been going to daily always seems somewhat bothered when she has to wait on us. Maybe we come in during lunch time, but it is a store. Plus the fact that she’s so short. She can’t be more than 4 1/2’ tall. It’s hard to relate to a little Indian or Mestizo lady who runs a store on the shores of Lago La Cocha. The pace of life is so slow here. You’re forced to move along slowly by the nature of the surroundings. There’s little to do and much time to do it in. There’s time for laying and watching the bugs.

After settling breakfast and lounging about for a while, we decided to take a walk into El Puerto for fruits & veggies, but the stand was closed. So we walked the rest of the way 3 more km into El Encano. N’s back was well enough to complete the trip but he was stiff and moving slow. In town we bought more Quaker Oats, cookies, bananas, tomatoes, and then came back to El Puerto for bread and eggs. [11] While N. was filling the 2 1/2 gal. I took a couple photos.

We got back to camp just as it was starting to rain. The wind had shifted & we got stuff wrapped against the rain just in time. Retired to the tent to wait out the rain. Spent time getting high, munching bread & cookies, playing 40 card solitaire, and when all else failed - sleeping.

About dinner time the rain stopped and we made a dose of stew with peas, carrot, rice, & dried soups, all on the stove again. By now it’s burning car gas and seems to work well except for blowouts around the gasket. I just blow out the lower flame and keep on cookin’.

After dinner we settled the meal with the rest of our available pot. Hopefully N’s back will be well enough to ride in the boat & it won’t rain.

Fri Nov 10.

Awoke to a nice shiney morning.

N. got up first and while he was walking around the camp - the guy who was going to take us to the other side of the lake stopped by with 2 small trout for us. He also had a big 12"-14" rainbow trout but he wasn’t giving that away. He told N. he’d send some little kid back to show him where to fish. Soon a little kid (12-14) with a limp and a stick for a cane came along and off he & N went fishing. I loitered about camp.

After a while I walked down to see how the fishing was going. The first thing the little kid did was to put on a smaller hook. The ones we have are too big for little 6" trout. While I was standing there the kid caught a real little one - 4"-5" but it was hooked through the upper jaw and wouldn’t live if let go. So I trucked the fish back to camp and put it in water with the other 2. Brought N’s ground pad back to him, and another fishing line.

They were using bread, de-crusted, mashed with water, and formed around the hook like a tear drop: [12]

I went back to camp to fire up the stove & make breakfast. While I was puttering another little kid came along and watched me. He told me he was the brother of the kid helping N. fish. After that he just stood & watched me for about 15 min. I made glop with dulce, powd. milk, panella, and bananas. With bread & cheese, a hearty breakfast. By the time stuff was cooked N. had come back with no more fish.

We waited around ’til about 11:30 (the guy was to come at 11) when none other than the little kid who helped N. fish showed up driving the boat . The other guy couldn’t make it. So we tooled across to the other side , about an 1 1/2 ride. Behind us we could see the rain falling & by the time we got across it was raining on us slightly.

By boat this lake is like any other, wet & flat. The scenery was nice but about the same as where we were camped. Once on the other end , we tried fishing in the aforementioned style, sans pole, reel, or live bait. Got nothing. There was a small village at the other end like El Puerto. After gathering some fire wood we tooled back to camp. An interesting if not a bit too expensive afternoon’s diversion.

At camp we got gas can & camera and rode with the boat into town to get change. Bought eggs gas & bread & paid for the boat. Also took a few pix . Back at camp we built a fire of charcoal, wood splinters & chunks from the gathered wood, reeds, and gas. It worked the best of any time so far.

We boiled up the rest of our potatoes, fried the 3 small fish & made a monster batch of pericos with 6 large eggs, 1 large tomato, 3 onions & 1/2 red pepper. Just as we were finishing cooking the meal, it started to rain again. It had been clear when we got back from our boat ride. We sat in the tent door eating. By the time the eggs had cooked, the trout were bone-cold. We tossed them to the dogs.

We set our dirty dishes out to rinse - and fell asleep to the heavy patter of rain on the tent top.

Sat. Nov. 11:

After much rain last nite, today dawned bright & clear. The ground & everything was wet. Our stuff - protected under 2 ponchos - stayed mostly dry.

We set everything out to dry in the sun & tried to start a fire. No Chance, Jack. Burned up most of our gas & reeds in a futile, smoke making effort. Cooked up glop & even dish wash water on the stove again. After washing up, drying out, and packing up - we walked into town, all our stuff on our backs & a 1/2 used bag of charcoal between us.

Just before we left the guy with the boat from yest. (not the kid) and wife stopped by to wish us good luck. So too did another man who had walked by every day on the other side of the canal.

We managed to sell back our unused carbon for a big 14P. Whole bags cost 60 - we paid 65, half used bags are worth 30, we got 14. About right for 2 gringos.

Trucked up into town, N.’s back feeling stiff & sore, but better. Stopped for Colombianas at the grocery store we stopped at for oats & cookies a couple days ago. On the way out of town we were stopped by a fellow weeding his onion patch (lots of onions around here). He & N. talked for about 5. He admired us for just taking off & traveling.

On down the road about 1km an open sided bus passed us by. Then 1/2 km later another one did, but it stopped about 100m up the road. We made it in time to be loaded in, our packs in back on top of the milk cans. During the ride, the back of our seat fell off on one side.

The short (25P [13] ) ride left us in Pasto about 12:00. After checking into the hotel Londres and taking a well needed shower, we went next door to the Venecia for a well needed lunch. The same old stuff accompanied by Colo. T.V. We had to wait for about 10 min. for change for a 100P note.

While wandering around after lunch looking for a chocolate bar, we saw a movie theater with a double feature 1: Piraña 2: The Magic Sword with Basil Rathbone. We decided to go. To two hicks just in from a week in the campo, any flick, especially English speaking, looks good. We still had about an hour to kill before show time so we hustled back, broke out the pot, got high & went to the double feature. [14] The only notable thing about the film was that just near the end of Piraña, the power went out. During the 10 min. it took to get the generator running, there were many whistles, cat calls & a few fire crackers.

From the flick we stopped at the local Pasteleria for cookies & filled cake and then came back to a meal of sardines, bread, almost filled cake, very crumbly cookies, and water. Settled the meal & retired to sleep on a soft bed.

Sun Nov 12:

A laid back day in Pasto.

Awoke late and went next door to the Venecia for a good breakfast. During the end of our meal a Colo. came up with an almost empty bottle of Aguard. and offered us some. Turns out he works in a wheat factory or something, has a wife by shotgun wedding complete with Police, and 1 1/2 kids. He’s 21.

After breakfast we wandered around town looking for a newspaper or hard cookies. We wandered through a big supermarket - dept. store. Big by Colo. standards. Wound up trying to by 31P of candy bars with 27P. No way, José. So bought one c.b. and headed back to the Londres. There we settled the meal & occupied ourselves by playing with my little slide rule and trying to figure the answer to the chess board/grain of rice doubling per square puzzle. Approx. 1x1019 grains. Talked about numbers & math.

About 12 we got the munchies again (having had at the chocolate with almonds earlier). Took a long walk up and down the side streets looking for a suitable Pasteleria. Wandered many blocks watching all the people & seeing Sunday life. Encountered a paper boy & bought a copy of El Pais. Wandered farther to a Pharmacia for T.P. and Atomic Balm or something for N.’s back. Finally bought some good little wheat rolls & some cream puff flavored donut type things. On our way back to the hotel, another fellow with a bottle of Ag. stopped us on the street, made us take a swig, shook our hands, and walked off.

Back at the hotel we munched the sweets & breads & read the paper about the extinction of dinosaurs by supernova radiation; and about the “Miss Colombia” beauty pageant in Cart.

We’re down to our last 100P. We’ve spent $700 U.S. Yankee Dollars between us in the last 60 days. Not bad. The lady at the hotel here came up for payment for tonite. N. talked her into waiting until tomorrow (when we’ll cash a $20 and pay for 2 nites at once) by showing her our last 100P and saying “We’d like to eat tonite - this is the last of our cash”. It worked.

We also figured out today that we don’t have to be out on the 15th as we’d previously thought but, technically, we must be out by the 13th - tomorrow. We won’t make it. Hopefully Tues. won’t be too late.

We had dinner next door (the other side) and came back to the hotel & were again asked for rent but this time by a fellow. By this time we’d spent our remaining Colo. cash so we tried to cash a $10 bill. After much haggling N. finally got 320P (the guy wanted to give 280) and paid rent. Not feeling obligated to stay another nite - and not really needing to cash money now - we’ll try and get to Quito tomorrow.

[1] Another man on the bus told us the same.


                          more like this
                         some don't have tops


   much longer & shallower

[4] After a short walk around the  bend . . .

[5] The charcoal is just bits of burned wood, no uniformity in size or shape, big clinkers and little chips.

[6] At one point I was helping him reach the “basic all 4's position": standing behind him as he kneeled, lifting his stomach area with both hands to try & straighten his back.

[7] While cleaning up from dinner a couple fellows pulled up in a boat and called me over. They made me drink some Aguard. and offered to take me around to the hotel for some reason. I declined.

[8]    p Fire

[9] 50P for motor; 20P for oars

[10] We cooked up our last tea bag with some panella, very good&sweet, like a solid chunk of brown sugar. Also ate our remaining cookies&hard candy.

[11] The little lady wasn't there today. 2 young and short girls took her place.

[12] bread around hook

[13] 12 1/2 each

[14] Before the flick started, they played some really good guitar music over the P.A.

Chapter 8::Table of Contents::Chapter 10