Chapter 9::Table of Contents::Chapter 11

Chapter 10
To Quito
To Galapagos

Mon Nov. 13:

Awoke before the alarm at 5AM. Went downstairs and shaved for hopefully the last time.

Then out to the bus. Got to Ipiales in 2hrs for 42P each. Passed thru more beautiful mtn scenery with the fog just beginning to lift. Mountains and clouds mixed to form nice vistas. It was just a busseta to Ip. and N. suffered from cramped legs. We sat in the front seats thinking that would give us more leg room, but right in front of N. was a small padded box that wound up being occupied during almost all the ride - hence cramped legs.

Once in Ip. we had a good 25P breakfast and trucked the 3-4k to the border. A nice down hill walk. At the border we checked out of Colombia & checked into Ecuador. Just had to fill out a piece of paper. No money check, no customs, no hassle. [1]

While filling out our tourist cards, we met 2 other Gringos from England. The 4 of us walked 1k down to what was supposed to be a tourist Info. center. No info there. By going to the info place we wound up on the old road to Tulcan. We started to walk. About 4k (uphill) later we finally intersected the Tulcan main road. N. stopped to tighten his laces & the 2 Englishmen got well in front of us.

We tried walk/hitching: turning around & sticking out your hand when you hear a car coming up from behind. Finally about 3k from town a taxi stopped & told us he’d take us to town for 20P each. We accepted. We picked up the Britishers a little farther down the road & were taken right to a Casa de Cambio. There we changed our remaining Pesos & cashed $20. Got 25S/dollar. Then, as we were walking toward the edge of town after saying goodby to the other 2 fellows, a collectivo micro-bus stopped and the driver told us he’d drive us to Quito for 70S each. The bus cost 60 and took 71/2 hrs. The micro-bus took 4. We waited around ’til 12 for the micro to leave & then, with a full load, we headed out.

First we went through an intermont basin filled with farms going off into the rolling hills. The vistas are grander here. Not so many steep, narrow valleys but more wide, flatter ones. Then over this basin into an arid mountainscape that looked much like parts of Nevada or Ariz. Cactus, sandy soil, mountains. By Ibarra it had greened up a bit and by Cayambe the valleys were again greener. Here we also saw our first snow-capped peaks. Kinda nice to see snow off in the distance.

During the ride we were stopped several times by Aduana checking passports & looking for dangerous items. They never touched our packs. One fellow was bringing in several hats & several pair of shoes. Evidently the customs folks got wise to 3 people on the bus all wearing identical new black hats. Some money changed hands & on we went.

Just before Quito was more impressive mtn. arid scenery. At places no vegetation grew at all. Here were more steep valleys but with sandy soil. Sitting next to us on the micro was a fellow from Guayaquil who bought us some mandarinas (mandarin oranges) like tangerines. Very good. Also bought an expensive (10S) popsicle.

Once in Quito we were directed by our bus driver to several cheap residencials. After walking around & finding a hotel (with elevator) for 80S each, we decided to take his advice, and finally found a place for 50S each. Residencial Occidente. The kid here has trouble reading printed Spanish, and when we asked for a key for the door he looked confused and said “Why, are you going out?” We used our own lock and key.

Being settled in a relatively cheap place - we walked about looking for cheap gouts. Found a good place with mariendas for 18S. Good soup, rice, creamed pots. & cauliflower, a little piece of meat & some half congealed raspberry jello with thorns for desert. It hit the spot. Topped off with a 10S beer (twice the size of Colo. beer) it was a good meal.

People here say “Mandé?” as in Mexico & gaseosas are called colas. Almuerzos are mariendas. We’ve seen more Fords & Toyautos & Mercedes Trucks than in Colo., there they were Dodge or Renault.

Settled back in the res. we discussed various musical groups like Beatles & F.Z. Then broke out the cannabis to celebrate our safe arrival.

Tues Nov. 14:

Went out for breakfast to the same place we ate last nite but they weren’t ready yet. So we walked in a small circle looking for a Casa de Cambio. Found the one we were looking for but it wasn’t open yet. So we strolled back to the rest. and by then they were open. Went in but they didn’t have breakfasts. So we went next door for a café con leche, quessillo, bread, and fried eggs. I asked for "revueltos" but they don’t know that here. People eat light breakfasts, not like Colombia.

After eating we went to the casa de cambio we had seen during our stroll, just down the block from where we were. There I cashed a $100 checque for 2,635 S. On our way from the bank to the tourist office we ran into Katherine, a short, bucktoothed, curly dark haired, likable person. She’s a teacher in Canada. She stopped us on the street and asked if we knew a place to cash a Travelers Checque. We did the same routine again - first to one Cambio where they were now open but wouldn’t cash Am. Ex. So we went back to the one by the rest.

From there, K. told us, we could catch a bus to the T.O. Off the 3 of us went. Bus cost 1.40S. After successfully navigating our way to the T.O. we got info about Quito, the Galá. and Ec. in general, along with 5 free posters. From there it was a short walk to Ec. Tours where we received letters from home but NO FILM. Bummed to say the least, we retired to the FUENTE down the block to read mail and gather our thoughts. There was a possibility that the package was sent to the P.O.

From the FUENTE we went to Libri Mundi and blew a wad. Bought The Galápagos Guide, Spanish-Eng. dict., Backpacking in N. Peru, a big fucking map of EC., Tropic of Cancer, 2 Klein sci fi, and a latest J. Brunner sci fi. Felt the need to see words again. It’s been a long dry spell since Sot-Weed.

K. left us at Libri Mundi. She told us that the “Gran Casino” was only 40S per nite & lots of Gringos. We decided to truck our stuff there. First we trucked ourselves back to the P.O. but they were closed. So we went to the hotel, packed our gear & trucked back to the P.O. which soon there-after, opened. But they didn’t have our package either. Shit. So with packs still on our backs we went to the Gran Gringo and got a room on the 4th fl. through a narrow stairway that we had to negotiate sideways.

At the P.O. we saw a lady and a child that had flown with us from Miami to San. A. On our truck to the “Gringo”, we  ran into the two Englishmen from yesterday. They claimed there were even cheaper places (30S) up past the Indian Market on 24 de Mayo.

At the Hotel it became clear why it’s called the Gringo. Gringos of all shapes and sizes are here. K. is staying here. Many other straight to freaky looking people. Looks like a San Fran. cross section between 18 & 30.

Once checked in, we lounged about reading & writing letters, perusing books and relaxing. Later, in the courtyard out our room’s back door, I met a fellow from Israel. He was coming North from 15 mos. in the South. He told us about Tierra del Fuego, Puerto Montt, Bariloche, Painé (sp?) Chile and about how cheap it is to live in Peru and about trips to the Oriente around Puyo in Ec. and about the beaches near Esmereldas. We gave him our now defunct Colo. map.

On our way downstairs for dinner we met Ellie, a girl from San Juan Island, Washington. Short, with long blond hair, and a manner that reminds me of Amanda in Another Roadside Attraction. We ate dinner & drank beer & talked. Sitting a few tables down the line was K. of this morn. with another fellow. At the end of our meal she came over and told of less than promising possibilities of military flights.

After dinner, N & I & Ellie went back to our penthouse to settle a meal. Ellie talked about her 7 year old daughter; and her weaving, and learning to weave in a little Mex. village near Oaxaca. She told of her Island and how people are moving in with condos from Seattle. Her bag had gotten lost in Guayaquil. It was a Chinese Mail bag with Chinese characters and also "Retourné a Formosa". She told of her many boy friends. At least it seemed like many. Her ex- “old man”, her Mex. guy she just about married, another in Guat, etc. Seemed very interested and sensitive and somewhat taken back at being plopped in Quito after a 4 1/2 day ride in a Greyhound to Miami from Seattle, and then a flight right to Quito. That would do it.

Later K. came up and knocked on the door. She came in and we discussed Galápagos alternatives. She’s going to try to get the one remaining Military seat she thinks is available. After the 4 of us talked more about travel, Quechua, goddam big packs, and the piece of driftwood, smooth blue rock, and bald eagle feather that E. had in her hand woven bag, K. left and shortly after so did E. We settled the evening and retired.

Wed Nov. 15,

Awoke late and went down for breakfast.

We decided not to go to Immigration but to go to Ec. Tours again. and to buy tickets for the Gal. Catherine left a note on her door [2] saying she’d meet us at the FUENTE at 10:30. While eating breakfast, she came in. We went to town together, riding the #3 bus. At Ec. Tours we tried to remember the name of the guy to whom we’d written. They didn’t have our film but they did have 2 letters for N. filed under “A”.

After a jugo to collect our thoughts, and trying on some very nice Oltovalo Sweaters, we went to Met. Tours. Ec. T. told us flights were booked into Jan. Met. T. told us they were booked ’til March. We walked to the TAME office and without any trouble got reservations on Friday’s flight. Then walked 3 blocks past the McDonalds, Queen Burger, and Chicken King to the ticket office and bought the tickets. Feeling exhilarated at the aspect of the Galá. the 3 of us rode the bus back to the Cafeteria San Francisco and had 1/4 pollo and another big beer.

Just as we got back to the Hotel it started to rain, even some small hail. We spent the afternoon lightening our packs. We’ll leave stuff behind here for 15S. We pruned at least 25-30 lbs.

After lounging and being pleased with our existence in Quito in general, we went down to meet C. and go to the Hojas de Hierba. She said she was going with another fellow and they’d take the bus. N & I wanted to walk. We strolled through the old part of the city enjoying the architecture atmosphere, and pretty women.

We stopped to eat at a little restaurant run by a Korean man who spoke to me in English. In the restaurant we met 2 girls from Calif. who were coming N. from Lima. One of the ladies, when I told her I was from Minn. said “LaCrescent”. I just about shit. She had lived in LaC. from ’69-’72 on a farm somewhere up North Ridge. She was going to school in LaX at the time.

After dinner we walked to the Hierba and got there just in time to meet C. and her 2 Swedish companions. Also seated with us were a couple from New Mex (Santa Fe) (sounds like a “nice part o’ town”) and another unidentified lady studying weaving. The Hierba is a funky old house turned into a coffee shop / veggie restaurant / gringo hangout / folk music center. We listened to native tunes from Bolivia, Peru, Chile played on guitar, violin, and charango (made from an Armadillo) Good tunes. The Hierba had fresh strawberries, fruit salad, O.J., wine, pita bread, tahini sauce, and many more mouth watering delights.

We rode the bus back to the Hotel. Quito is a nice city. Filled with old charm and surrounded by mountains. It’s a cosmopolitan city with many Western goods for sale, and Eastern, for that matter. Nissan, Toyauto, Ford, Radio Shack, McDonalds, Sport World, Yoga retreats, you name it, they got it (just about). A fine place.

Spent the rest of the eve planning our stay in Ec. It’d be nice to spend 4 mos here.

Thurs Nov. 16.

Got up somewhat later than we’d planned. Went down for breakfast and met Catherine.

After breakfast we went off to the Immigration Office. The #3 bus took us close but we didn’t know how far down it was. We got off about 10 blocks too far down & had to walk back. When we found the office there were about 15 people ahead of us. Another fellow came in right behind us. He was from Seattle but had lived near Two Harbors. He was visiting a friend in Oltovalo. We also met a Peruvian/Ec. double national; and a fellow who claimed to be a Private Eye in Los Angeles (or S. Cal.) but now wanted to open up a car dealership in Quito. He told us how bad it is to have a Peruvian Passport.

We waited for an hour or so and then were ushered up stairs to see the Col. While we were waiting in his office, another sub/col. came to the door, saluted, asked permission to enter, entered, toes not exceeding the green rug, stated his business, got his answer, clicked his heels and ran out the door. The Col. gave us 90 days with no problem.

Feeling good - we walked down the street and stopped at a Pasteleria called Baguette or something on Amazonas, and bought a little cold meat pie and a piece of strawberry pastel. Only slightly sated, we were drawn in to Queen Burger where we ordered up a Whopper and a Strawberry shake.

Then to Ec. T. to see about film. There was a letter from Hector saying he had mailed the film, but he didn’t say when. After not getting the film again today - we walked down the street to cash some cheques. $300 each. We cashed for 26.30. There we met Bill, a fellow from Colorado who’s presently living on credit, waiting for lost money to arrive from New York, going out with a beautiful Italian girl, and trying to deal with a spaced out partner in Colo. We talked with him for a while and then did a little run around looking unsuccessfully for pipe tobac.

Caught the bus back to the Sto. Domingo Square from which we went to a papeleria and bought a note book. Came back to the Hotel where I wrote an acknowledgment to Hector and in the midst of a power failure - took my first good hot shower of the trip. What a luxury!

We took our clothes to the laundry lady here at the hotel. She charged us 150S to wash almost all our clothes. By the afternoon they were all hanging out and almost dry, just outside our door. We dried ourselves from the showers & finished up letters to go to the P.O.

About 3 it began to cloud up. Shortly thereafter we decided (Cath. had joined us by now) to go to the P.O. and do shopping for the Islands. Out into the rain we went. Got our letters mailed [3] and then off to a dry goods store. We bought rice, lentils, lard, hard candy, dried soups, oats, chocolate bars, panella, powd. milk, matches, soap, instant coffee, a bottle of Ecuadorian Cognac & a bottle of Scotch! Then went to a supermarket and got cigs. Then off to a drug store for pain pills for N’s back, too expensive; rags for C.; and a weigh (145 lbs with tennies, duck pants & a wet jacket).

We came back to the Hotel. C. got talking to somebody else, so we brought all the goods up to our room. Sitting outside our door in the hallway was the French fellow who had been standing outside last-nite, trying to identify stars. We got to talking about stars and things while N. finished up another letter he’d forgotten about - to Leslie (from San Andres Is).

Jil, the Frenchman, wanted to eat dinner with us in the cafeteria here. But first N. went off to the P.O. Jil & I went into the cafe, but it was full. We decided to catch up with N. and eat elsewhere. Out of the hotel we ran, looking for N. We found him just as he was coming out from the P.O. We went to the San Francisco for dinner. Had pork-ribs, potatoes mashed with cheese, avocado slices, some corn that tasted like whopping big pop-corn old maids, and a big beer for 30S. Satisfied - we went back to the Hotel. J. and I looked for stars from the 4th fl. “observ. deck”. Shortly, not recognizing any, I went inside.

N and I packed up all our stuff for tomorrow. We’ve got 3 big stuff sacks full of stuff to leave behind. Maybe 40 lbs.

Later I went out to take a leak, J. was still out there and he had located all (just about) the constellations visible. Aquarius, Capricornus, Aries, Eridanus, Pegasus, Andromeda, Cygnus, triangulum, etc. Nice to learn the Southern stars.

Fri Nov 17:

Awoke to the alarm at 5:30. We'd packed most of our stuff up last nite, so today we just had to put the bed back together & walk out the door.

We met Cath., stored our stuff at the Casino for 30S, and walked to the corner where we got a taxi to the airport. When we got there, C. met two guys from Italy who were going out. There were also the 2 Americans, Dan & Ben, whom we had met at the TAME office. For some reason or another C. didn’t like Dan and for that reason didn’t want to travel with them.

We ate a breakfast of coffee & sweet rolls at the airport, got on the plane, and took off. Our first stop was Guayaquil. Along the way C. was trying to line up other folks for a boat once we got to the Islands. She wanted to travel with the Italians but they could only go out for a week and wanted to do more diving. After reboarding at Guayaquil she met 2 Dutch folks: Gaap (pronounced yop, rhymes with top) and Else.

On the plane we met 2 folks from Washington D.C. who were going on a cruise for $900 each. Wow. Also, C. told Dan that she really didn’t want to travel with them. O.K.

We still had to find some more people. We were 5 and needed 1 to 3 more people. When we got off the plane at Baltra, a fellow met us and said he’d take 6 people for 2000 S/day. He said he could take as many as 8 which left us 3 people to find. He said there were 3 other people already at Puerto Ayora looking for a boat. They turned out to be the 3 Germans, 2 guys & a girl, who had gotten out on the military flight Wed. We met up with them and by the time we were all ready to rent the boat, the capt. said the boat was no longer available. Another group had come along and hired the boat for twice the price. Capitalism at work.

But there was another boat for 8 people for 2500S per day. We all sat together at the restaurant trying to barter the capt. down to 2000S/day. [4] We managed to talk the capt. down to 2300 S/day.

Next we had to plan our itinerary. The Dutch folks couldn’t travel for more than 10-12 days. The same with the Germans. They had to be back by a week from Tues. to try and catch the military flight. We fiinally planned an 11 day voyage excluding Isabella, Ferdinand & Tower, all islands we wanted to see. But that’s all right.

Then came food. We all sat around the table comparing lists of what we had and what we had to buy. During the proceedings - Dan came over to us with a problem: they couldn’t find any more people for a boat-full. They asked if we could take one of them with us and the other would go with the other boat that had been hired out from under us. The capt. agreed for 2500S/day for 9 people.

As the food negotiations were drawing to a close, Mike - one of the Germans, made a big deal about the fact that they’d spent 1600S on food, we’d spent 500S, and the Dutch even less. How to reconcile that fact? He was concerned that on board there would be confusion over who ate what food. About that time I went out to look at a pelican with C. Soon N. came out and said there was a problem. Mike - the German, had pulled out. Evidently he had originally wanted to go out with the other 2 “Yanks” and the Italians. This pressure into another group, plus the food thing, made him pull out. Then the other 2 Germans decided to also reconsider.

It was late in the day, we had hired a boat for 9 and suddenly had only 5, we had made all sorts of elaborate food plans - all for naught. So N. ran off to talk to the Yanks & we tried to reason with the Germans. They were confused & non-decisive. The Dutch couple, N, and finally C., decided our best bet would be to go with the Yanks as 7.

It finally became clear that the Germans weren’t going to go. Then there was the confrontation between Dan & Catherine. He told her he wouldn’t go with us if it would spoil her trip. She felt bad about snubbing him and in her own way apologized. Finally they agreed, the Yanks would go with us, the Germans would go with the Italians who would pay for 10 days but stay out only 7.

It was dark by this time. We went out to the boat (N, C, G [5] ,E, & I) and loaded off the German's stuff that had been loaded on when they were still going.

The capt. went off to town. We were finally on the boat with a crew of 7. We broke out the pot, scotch, brandy & Pisco and had a party. Sat out and looked at the stars. Just as we were about to retire, the two other Yanks showed up - drunk from town. I talked with them for a while before sacking out myself. They held no hostility for C. and just wanted to have a good time.

I went to sleep with the rocking of the boat and anticipation of all we would see.

[1] We were given only 15 days at the border. We’ll have to extend in Quito.

[2] She didn’t even try to get on the plane and couldn’t have anyway but stayed up ’till 4AM thinking about it.

[3] At the P.O. N borrowed my other pen and through lack of comm., in giving it back it got forgotten.

[4] Earlier: after our arrival at Baltra we took a crowded(!) bus to the channel for 10S each then across the channel in a crowded launch (the people had to move to the back so the motor was in the water) for 20S each. Then once on Santa Cruz - we had lined up a car to take us to Puerto Ayora, 40k away, for 40S each. On the first boat ride all of our group came across except C. We had to wait for the second load to come across and then took a long, dusty ride to the other side of the Is. While waiting we saw Frigate birds, pelicans, pencil urchins & crabs along the rocks.

Chapter 9::Table of Contents::Chapter 11