Chapter 17::Table of Contents::Chapter 19

Chapter 18
Holidays in Baños
Saquisili Market

FRI DEC 22,

Awoke late and hung over.

N. went out and mailed the rest of his Christmas cards. He got back and we packed up our packs. Out onto the street. We went to say good by to Eve & Ann. They gave us a copy of Thomas Mann’s “Magic Mountain” and said they’d meet us in Baños for Christmas.

We started trucking down Calle Maldonado. We walked uphill in the hot sun with heavy packs and still sore feet. After a couple miles and still not being outside the city we decided to try our luck hitching. It took us almost an hour but we finally got a ride in the back of a big stake bed truck. The back was covered with sand so that to sit in the back, facing the back, you got eyes full of sand. To face forward, the wind blew so hard as to chill you and give earaches. We pulled out our sweaters and rode it out. About 60 k down the road, the driver stopped, gave us his address, filled up the back of his truck with old ladies & little kids, and drove off a side road.

We started hitching, but this time only waited 10 min. A little Jap. made pickup stopped and we climbed into the back with boxes of dishes and old shoes. Soon it began to rain. We pulled out the ponchos and made a tent over ourselves in the back of the truck. The wind slapped & flapped the ponchos around us. Outside Latacunga we stopped to see a lake and eat some little bread/cracker jobs. The first thing we’d eaten all day. We finally arrived in Ambato. We were greeted by an old fellow who helped us load off our packs. Shortly we caught the bus to Baños. I had to sit in a little fold-up seat right next to the driver. Every time he pulled the handle to open the door, I had to assist since the handle was right in my lap.

We were greeted in Baños by several little kids all trying to rent us rooms. We went with one and rented a small room with lumpy beds for 30S each, even tho the kid told us it would be 25. After this our first thought was food. Out on the street we immediately ran into Chris Cotton. He had arrived in town about an hour before. We inquired about Collin & Gazella. While trying to find the Mercedes Rest. we ran into another couple Gringos who’d seen C. & G. in town. On the way to their hotel, we met them on the street. They were with another fellow named Fraser. We all went off to the Mercedes but it was closed. So we went to another place farther down the road. Soon after ordering we were joined by 3 Australian girls - Barbara, Wendy, and Patricia, and a fellow from France named Allen(?) We all waited for dinner. N & I ordered chateaubriand and were the last served. [1]

After dinner we went off to the Aust. girl’s hotel. There was a big room complete with a nice stereo. Chris & Collin went out to round up more gringos. Several bottles of wine were bought along with a bottle of Scotch. We listened to Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, B. B. King, Commander Cody, and Janis Joplin among others. Everybody danced and drank. We were joined by about 10 other folks, making it a big party.

On Christmas eve there’ll be another party at the same place, the fellow says we can carry on ’til dawn. Not feeling in a dancing mood I came back about 10, worn out from the last couple days of late nite action. I smoked a bowl, wrote, and retired.

Sat. DEC 23,

Awoke late.

N & I walked down to the same rest. as last nite for breakfast. Chris, Barb, Wendy and Fraser were there ahead of us. We talked for a while then they left to go to the hot baths. N & I ate banana pancakes (like the banana “bread” Mama Rosita made in Otavalo) with more syrup. Then we had a bowl of yoghurt, fruit & granola. Very filling. With a glass of pure O.J. on the side a real 35 S breakfast.

After breakfast we went to the hotel Palace and talked to Maria (somebody told us about her) about renting a house. She led us to a house near the hill and showed us a little shack outside and a room inside, upstairs. Not a whole house and in pretty seedy condition. She knew of no other houses so we politely declined and walked on. We came back to our Res., toked a little, got our trunks and headed for the baño.

We walked about 2 k out to the hot baths. We payed 5S, got a basket, changed clothes (just like the Municipool in LaX) and joined Chris, Barb, Wendy & Fraser in the pool. There are 3 main pools. One is hot, hot - like a sauna. One is hot like a nice bath and one is cold. We sat in the hot one for a while, then in the warm one, then back to the hot, then jumped into the cold for a real rush. Then hot, warm, hot, cold, hot and then off to the near by waterfall. A bar had been constructed across the falls so you could hang on to the bar and let the water pound over head, back and legs. A great massage. Under the falls was a little cave just big enough for 2 people. [2] The falls rushing by in front of you, walls covered by moss, it’d be a perfect place to smoke if you could get it in without getting wet.

Then back to the hot, cold, warm, etc. N & I left after the rest of the folks. Walked back to town and inquired of our hotel mgr. about houses to rent. His friend told us to go and talk to Sra. de Luna but she wasn’t home. So we went to the market and bought a piña. There we stopped at a little stand and had a bowl of big noodle soup with rice and potato things on the side. Back at the hotel I tooted and crashed.

Awoke about 6:30 and went out to dinner with Chris, Collin, Gazella, Fraser, Barb, Wendy, Patricia, Allen, another girl named Eilene(?) and N. We ate at the oriental place. While we were finishing our meal, an old guy comes up and stands by the door. Soon he starts to dance a little jig. Then he pulls a little mouth whistle out and starts whistling a tune and dancing about. All this going on in the restaurant doorway. Everybody watched and clapped when he finally finished. We handed him some change. Then he started playing with his false teeth. He’d put them in upside down, sideways, and backwards. Very comical and slightly gross. Everyone laughed and groaned. He finally went away.

After dinner Collin & N went out to play pool. Chris, the Aussie girls & Fraser went off for a nite cap with Gazzella. I came back to write and catch up with the last few days before the holiday blitz obliterates all memory. Eve & Ann didn’t make it to town today, or atleast we didn’t see them. We were supposed to leave a message for them at the Mercedes but it will be closed ’til Monday.

This morn at breakfast, the lady who runs the place received a Christmas card from someone in the U.S. They sent her a 5 dollar bill. (125 S) After confirming the value of the bill, the lady had to sit down for a while with tears in her eyes. This afternoon I was awakened by a sound truck playing Christmas songs. Christmas trees abound in windows with blinking lites and even the big pine tree in the plaza is lighted. Christmas in Baños with all the Gringos should be a real party.

SUN DEC 24,

Awoke and went off to the Paisano for breakfast. Had French toast with yoghurt, fruit & granola on the side.

After breakfast N&I checked with de Luna again about a house for rent. Some fellow (not the owner) took us in his truck to the outskirts of town and showed us a basic little house with a hole in the concrete for a shitter and running water outside by the “stone-op”. As we were leaving town, the fellow’s little boy was crying and making a fuss. Another guy tried to put the little kid into the back of the truck but he cried & kicked even more. So we drove off - the little one running behind the truck, screaming his lungs out. He followed us for almost 2 blocks, running his legs as fast as they’d go. Finally he just sat down in the middle of the street & bawled.

When we got back from looking at the house (we couldn’t find out the price because the owner was drunk) we came back to our room. We met Chris on the street and he came back with us and toked. Then he went off to his place to return either to go for a walk or play basketball. He returned but the court was closed and there wasn’t enough time to walk before the cock fights began. So we walked down to the arena to check on the exact time. Located the place and had a look around. The show started at 3. The ring was about 10m in diameter with 1m wooden sides. Around the arena were bleachers of wood, set at a very steep angle, 3 deep back to the walls on 3 sides. On the 4th side was the entrance to the ring and a small “reception” area where they sold the tickets, snacks, and settled bets.

The hall was empty when we arrived so we walked back to the Oasis bar by way of the basketball court (still closed). We bought 6 beers at the bar and took them up to join Collin, Gazella, Allen & Fraser who were playing a rather strange card game. Everybody got to deal 6 times in a row. With each deal he has to decide which of 6 different games to play until each one has been played. [3] The games are played like hearts in that each trick or heart or specific card or cards held by you at the end of the hand is counted against you, low score wins. We watched the game for a while [4] and then left with Chris to get the Aussie girls, specifically Barb, who has been getting it on with Chris. Barb was there but didn’t want to go to the cock fight.

We arrived at the ring at 3:15 and found a crowd of people. We payed 5 S and got some seats next to Fraser, Allen, C., & G, Wendy, Patricia, Larry and Jean. Larry and Gene were from Florida and had to be heading back to Quito on Monday. As we took our seats the fight was about to get underway. The “ref” rang a bell, the “trainers” released the birds after first thrusting them together to get them riled up. The birds started by jumping up, flapping their wings together and attempting to rake the other’s neck or head with big 2" steel claws taped to their legs. [5] After this they would raise the feathers around their necks and bob their heads, feinting and testing. Then they’d start walking around, necks together, attempting to peck first at feathers and then the skin around the head & neck. This proceeded for a long time, the necks of the dumb birds getting progressively bloodier. They’d throw in a few kicks just for excitement but the fight was really quite boring.

More exciting, however, were the men betting on the outcome. Constantly throughout the fight, there was banter between the trainers and individuals in the crowd, and between individuals themselves. At any significant change in the fight, such as an especially good kick to the head, or a fall by one bird, the betting suddenly heightened, everybody hustling to make a killing or cover a bad, previous bet. Chris soon left to get something to drink. He brought back a Coke bottle with some rum and limes in it. At the end of the fight neither bird was killed but both were bloodied. The looser just kept running away and would fight no more.

Before the next round could begin they had to decide what birds were going to fight next. This gave folks time to relax and collect winnings. One fellow, obviously dissatisfied with something, started blows with another, who was quickly kicked out by the lady minding the snacks. Back in the ring they had to find 2 birds of equal or almost equal weight who wanted to fight. Once they found two feisty cocks, they weighed them and set the odds. The bell was rung and the ring was cleared. [6] The bell was rung again and the fight began. Both betting and fighting went hand in hand. We stayed for 3 fights.

Before going to the ring Chris walked into a Farmacia and bought 2 boxes of Retalin, a form of speed. We popped a couple to keep us up for the party. After the cock fights I went to Chris’ room with Allen to get high. N. had gone ahead to the Santa Clara to practice guitar and hadn’t seen the fights. Allen, Chris & I sat around for a while drinking & smoking. Then we went over to the party.

There was a big Christmas dinner at the Paisano so many folks were still eating when we arrived. Still there were 15 people. Soon the hall was filled with dancing, drunk, gringos (40-50). We heard Doors, Dylan, Joplin, Cody, King, etc. Good tunes. I got very high but not too drunk. Talked with Wendy, the Aussie, about her husband and her life on the Great Barrier Reef. Danced a little and had a good time. Wound up necking with a little lady on the sidewalk around the corner from the party, but she went home with somebody else. I rolled back to the Res., toked, and crashed about 4AM.

MON DEC 25.

Merry Christmas.

Awoke very late and only slightly hung over.

Earlier, N & the rest had gone for hot baths. When he returned we went off to the Sangay for Christmas dinner. The dinner was to start at 1PM. We arrived shortly followed by Larry and Gene (from Florida). Then Barbara, Wendy, and Patricia (the Aussie girls). Then Collin, Gazella, Fraser, and Elaine (from Canada), Chris (Oregon) and at the end, Allen (France).

A good dinner was not had by all. First, the party started late. We weren’t seated until 1:30 and we had to move our own tables together (quietly please!) We waited while people around us were being served. We ordered some beers and waited. Soon we were served empanadas. These were devoured readily. Everybody was famished, hung over to varying degrees, and looking forward to a real “back home” type of Christmas dinner like big slabs of turkey and dressing with cranberry sauce and a salad on the side, wine or at least coffee. After the empanada we were served soup. We waited eagerly for what must be next - the main course. Finally we were served on great silver platters, covered with one thin layer of potatoes and peas. Scattered among the veggies were several unidentifiable pieces of what we presumed (only out of eagerness) to be turkey. The first piece I got was 85% bone and 5% skin. I was not alone. The “main course” was truly atrocious and everybody knew it. To be fair - the turkey was accompanied by a good tamale. We quickly finished off the 2 silver platters worth, 13 hungry mouths working eagerly.

After “dinner” we made many jokes about the awfulness and sparsity of the meal. Our host, a red haired, mustachioed, Englishman with a limp, we all thought, must realize how awful the meal was. He wasn’t just some dumb Ecuadorian, he was an Englishman, he knew Christmas. He came over to us and asked us if we liked our meal. We all groaned and several outright “no”s were heard. Our host asked “Seriously?” There was unanimous agreement. We complained that for the over 70 U.S. dollars we were paying - we were getting less than 20 dollars worth of food. Soon another platter of turkey and peas came out. This was doled out evenly, the last piece of turkey was split 6 ways - each one getting a mouthfull. The attitude of the Gringos was pissed - but laughing and joking. We were convinced that we wouldn’t pay the 130 S each for this insult.

Desert was brought in at this point. 2 little scoops of ice milk and a piece of cake. The postre was generally enjoyed and probably did more for the meal than any other course. After much discussion we asked for the bill and prepared our rebuttal. We called the manager over and Chris told him we were being grossly overcharged for the meal. That 130 S was ridiculous and we were prepared to pay more like 75. The manager said it wasn’t up to us to set prices. Then Gene told him we were quite prepared to pay the full 130 for a full meal, but this one had fallen far short. The manager paused, picked up the tab and walked away. Just before this confrontation, Wendy had talked to an Englishman in the Foyer who told her that the kitchen was understaffed and many people were off because of the holiday.

Our host returned with an altered bill; we were each charged 100 for the meal, 15 for beers, plus a 15% automatic tax. We payed up and as the manager walked away he said that he’d never do this (Christmas meal) again. “Not with us, anyway” Collin said. By the time we left it was 4:30. [7]

We walked to the Mercedes, now open, and I ordered up a veggie pie, still needing to achieve that Christmas glut. I could eat about 2/3 of it. The Mercedes is a small place with menus in 13 different languages on the walls. The meals are prepared one at a time. After eating I came back to the res. and settled the meal, read and crashed. N wound up going out for a walk with Elaine whom he has fallen “madly in lust” with.

TUES DEC 26:

Awoke and went down to the Paisano to join the group for breakfast. Collin, Gazella, Chris, the 3 Aussie girls, Elaine and Fraser or Allen.

The Aussies were leaving so we traded addresses and kissed them all goodby. N, Elaine & I came back to the room and got high. Then we decided to walk toward Rio Verde and try and find the trail Ben told us about. 40 min down the road we ran into the older fellow we’d met while waiting for the bus in Ambato. We mentioned that we were still looking for a place to rent. (N. found out that the house we looked at Sun. goes for 1000 S. Too much.) This guy said he had a place. We were led upstairs, next door. There was living a family of 5 or so, but they could be moved down to the next house on a day’s notice, and the rent was 400S with lites. We looked it over and decided to get back to him.

We continued down the road looking for the other house to show Elaine. For some reason, we missed it. We walked on down the road, marveling at the sheer hillsides. The hills come right down into town, in fact there’s a waterfall that falls right at the edge of town . Back in the hills there was another waterfall. We walked off the road and admired the scenery near the falls. High mountain peaks shrouded with clouds, below, steep cultivated fields and trees. We walked past the falls and thru the tunnel. We found Ben’s path but didn’t see it until we were past the turn off so we stayed on the road. On the other side of the tunnel we turned back. Just as we were about to enter - 4 big trucks drove thru raising a cloud of dust thick enough to obscure the other end for a minute or so. People still inside came out coughing and rubbing their eyes.

On the walk back we found our first house and looked inside again. Not worth 1000 S. Once back in town we headed straight for the Mercedes. I ordered up a chateaubriand that would stand up in any American rest. Goood. Elaine went back to clean up. N & I went back to relax. A couple hours later we went to Elaine’s. Sat there talking and then went out to try and find a dance that was supposed to be last nite but was really tonite. It wasn’t tonite either.

We walked around until it began to rain. We pulled into a coffee shop and had something to drink. As I was about to pay for all - Elaine pulled out a bill to pay for hers. The rest. man told her she shouldn’t pay. He looked at me and said “it’s better that I pay, no?” Elaine began to laugh at his joke. Soon we all were laughing. Back at the res. I fixed Elaine’s umbrella and she went home.

Earlier at the Mercedes, as N & E & I walked in, I saw a very familiar face sitting at a table. I walked up and said “I know you - you’re Holly Munsen.” She was indeed. Now living in Bucaramanga, Colombia with her husband, she’s on a school holiday in Ecuador. We talked about all the Middlebrook people I or she could remember. She’ll come by later to trade addresses. It’s a small world when you start running into old friends in far away places. It’s one thing to meet someone on the trail and then run into them later on - unexpectedly. That happens to everybody who travels long enough. But meeting somebody from home is a rare occasion.

WED DEC 27 [8] :

Awoke and went over to the Paisano for breakfast. We met no one there.

We walked back toward Collin & Gazella’s, and Chris’ residencia. We met Collin on the way. I gave him my birth cert. so he could pick up any mail in Quito. He and G. are coming back to Baños on Friday. Chris is going back to Otavalo to see if Sheri is moved out yet. He’s going to wire me and then we’ll try and climb Cotapaxi. We said good-bys and see you laters. Not too often on the trail do you get a “see you later”.

We went up and inquired of Elaine what her plans were. We talked for a while. N has grown very enamored with this young lady. I like her, too. Then we came back, determined to move into the same hotel for the reason of harder beds. We found out that the owners of this place and the other one are one and the same. The names of the res. are the same, so it stands to reason. We came back here and inquired of the owner who told us there were no hard beds over there, but that she had hard beds here. She showed us #14 which, in contrast to our first room, has 4 complete walls, 3 beds, and room to set our packs. Even room to entertain. After changing rooms and toking - N went back to visit E. I wrote.

Soon N. came back and was ready to go to the hot baths. I grabbed my stuff and we waited down on the corner for E. While we were waiting we saw a truck go by carrying a lioness and 2 other smaller, wild cats. From this and the construction going on by the bull ring, we concluded that the circus must be in town. E. came out and the 3 of us enjoyed a leisurely afternoon in first the hot, then the cold, then hot, cold, hot, waterfall, hot, warm, [9] hot, waterfall.

Came back into town and went to the Mercedes. The Mercedes has the best veggie pie this side of California. There I ran into Holly again. We talked for a little while.  We were also joined by Fraser. At the end of the meal E & F joined N & I back at the res for a toke. E abstained and left early. F. mentioned that it might be possible to rent the attic of the Santa Claira (where we had the parties) We’ll have to check into that tomorrow.

Thurs DEC 28,

Awoke brite and early to Elaine knocking on the door.

We quickly dressed and headed for the bus. We were going to the market at Saquisili. Got to the bus just in time. I was barely awake. After a brief wait for the 1st mate to wake up, the bus was off.

First to Ambato, then Latacunga. In Lata. we got an Indian bus. We had to stand, bent at the neck the roof was so short. The ladies in the back of the bus all had chickens. The lady next to me (sitting below me as I stood bent over) was nursing her little kid. First one tit, then the other. Something very natural about a mother nursing a child. Once in Saquisili the chickens belonging to the ladies were grabbed by expectant onlookers, seeking the best bargains of the day by beating the produce off the bus.

Our first stop was to eat breakfast at a little stand near one of the market squares. Cost 24 for the 3 of us. Then off to the market. There must be 6 different squares in town, each one filled to the streets with goods, Indians, shoppers, and tourists. Light on the tourists. But they tended to get swallowed up by the sheer size of the crowd. People everywhere. The first square had food, the second had animals, the 3rd had more food and hardware, the 4th had weavings and clothes, the 5th had food stands, and big woven mats used by everybody for everything from floor mats to wall hangings. We bought some good whole wheat bread and wandered aimlessly, shooting many pictures.

We hitched back from the market to Ambato and took the bus from there to Baños. [10] We came back to the res. N. went out to check on the attic at S. Clara. He ran into Holly on the street and sent her up. We talked and traded addresses. N came back and we talked even more, reminiscing about the big New Years Eve Party. A very fine lady. [11]

We read for a while after H. left. N. had found out nothing because Segundo was out. N. went out and got E and the 3 of us went back to the Mercedes where we again ran into Holly. N & I played a game of chess. After dinner N&E&I came back and toked and talked. Then N & E went out for coffee. I stayed behind (2’s company, etc.) to bring my journal up to date for the first time in 5 days.

FRI DEC 29,

Awoke late, feeling lazy.

N. went off for breakfast, I ate the good whole wheat rolls we bought yesterday. I read and dozed off before N. got back. He had talked to Segundo and he indeed had a room with a bed for 400 S. N said we didn’t need the bed, so S. said 300 S. Plus we get to use the kitchen. Without even looking at the place I decided to take it. We packed up our stuff and checked out of the Delecia.

Once at the Santa C. we navigated our packs up 3 flights to our new “home” as N. says. It’s about 2 1/2 M x 8 M with a sloped ceiling from 3M to 1 1/2. It has a good hard bed which we converted into a couch by bunching up the mattress against the wall like a bolster. It also has a funky wooden deck chair which, when padded with the foam pad, is quite comfortable. There’s also a closet with sliding doors into which we can place our packs. The only window is 3/4 x 2M, in two sliding pieces. It looks out over an old bath, the church, and cemetery. The mountains loom up in the distance. We settled in to our little wood room with the tile and tin roof.

We decided to take a walk out of town towards Ambato. N went to buy smokes and I went back, having forgotten cameras. By the time I met him in the plaza, he was busily engaged in conversation with a young lady named Jill. Her Eastern manner (Connecticut), olive skin, and busy mouth reminded me a little of Joe B. She and N. traded cynicisms and I listened on. Soon a friend of hers came up. He introduced himself as Mike.

Collin & Gazella showed up, having just returned from Quito with no mail. They went to the Mercedes to eat followed by us, our walk curtailed due to the greyness of the day and our mounting hunger. First we stopped by Elaine’s. She was home but just barely awake. She’d slept in ’til 1 PM. She said she'd dress and meet us at the Merc. We joined Collin & G. Later we were joined by Holly and Tim, and Elaine who sat with us.

After this late lunch, N & I returned, still looking to find Segundo. He wasn’t back from Ambato yet. He’d told N. that we could use some mats stored in the next room. We didn’t want to wait for him to return so N climbed the wall and passed the mats over. We set out our sleeping bags and settled right in. About this time Segundo came back. We went down to greet him. He didn’t seem surprised at our presence. Soon N. and some other fellows had talked him into letting them use (practice for the New Years Party, they said) his electric guitars (2), bass, and amplifier. They practiced, audible throughout the building. I dozed off.

About 9 PM Collin, Gazella, Elaine & N came up to tour our new room. Elaine liked it. We decided to go off to the circus. C & G did not go. N, E & I bought 30 S seats in the bleachers. The show consisted of a couple trapeze, tight-rope acts. A balancing act where 2 fat ladies come strutting out and lie obscenely on little benches, then ladders are balanced on their feet. A little girl climbs up to the top of the ladder and snakes back down between the rungs. The clown acts had little clowning and a lot of dialogue. An old magician traded places with a pubescent assistant he had bagged, boxed, tied, boxed, tied again, and covered by a curtain, supported by a big metal stand that the assistants at first couldn’t negotiate thru to the main ring. The juggling acts consisted of the typical barrels and cubes with the feet; pins, hoops, and flaming torches with the hands.

One buxom middle aged lady came out in a skimpy silver bikini, tits trussed up around her neck, and proceeded to dance to some fast Mexican Rock. The animal act consisted of one old toothless motheaten male lion, whose only claim to fame was that he wouldn’t chomp off the trainer’s arm when he stuck it in his mouth. The other lions, females, would roar and skulk about the ring, looking ferocious. One was trained to shake hands, and at no time did the trainer ever have to do more than act. After the juggling act, one of the female assistants walked amidst the crowd, pinning tiny pictures [12] of something on the men’s arms. Then she’d ask for 5 S. N. gave her 5, not having the slightest notion what it was for.

Later the Magician and his sidekick came by selling personal horoscopes. Not to mention the candied apples, taffy, little view scopes, and other sundries sold by vendors as at a baseball game. On the whole, it was a motheaten, unspectacular affair. We walked Elaine home & retired ourselves.

SAT DEC 30,

Awoke feeling lazy. N. had the shits and growling guts today.

We went down to the Paisano for breakfast. He only drank 7UP. We found out that here they’re having a New Years Eve dinner with several courses including rhubarb pie. This sold N. Then we walked off to the Farmacia to buy some Alka-Seltz. On the way back we ran into Fraser in a little rest. We sat and talked about the Galapagos ’til N’s guts forced him to get back to the ranch. There we settled the meal with the last of our pot.

N. went down and borrowed an acoustic guitar from a Frenchie downstairs. He came up and practiced while I tried to write and read thru the noise. He can sit and sing to himself for hours on end, making concentration almost impossible. The only time I can get any silence is either when he’s out running around town or asleep. It begins to get on my nerves living with a walking juke-box that has no selector buttons, volume control, or on/off switch. Soon the Frenchie came up and provided more noise.

I was saved by Segundo, who came up just about pineapple time. We sliced up the juicy sucker and then N went downstairs with Frenchie to play the electric guitars some more. Given some reprieve, I read Magic Mtn. ’til it put me to sleep. N. returned not feeling well and also retired.

About 5PM we awoke and went down to the Mercedes for dinner. There we met Collin & Gazella and Elaine. We sat around talking and soon were joined by Fraser. C, G, & F are planning to go to the Galapagos. E, N, & I gave them such info as we could. Then the 3 French-Canadians that I met first market day in Otavalo walked in. Then who should come in but Eve and Ann. We exchanged warm greetings and listened to their stories about Christmas in Quito. They never got a return to their telegram, so finally had to call. Of course, everything was alright.

After dinner we came back to the S. Clara where N and another Yank named Kevin hacked away with guitars in preparation for tomorrow’s Party. [13] Old Segundo wants to have a cover charge of 10S. This has upset Collin, who is impressing me more & more as an immature disco boy. About 10 the practice session broke up. I had finished my bottle of wine and came up to bed.

SUN DEC 31.

Awoke with my guts still in a bit of a turmoil.

N went out for breakfast but I declined. When he got back we decided to get Eve & Ann and go off to the baths. We went to their hotel but they weren’t in. I went ahead to the baths with towel & soap while N. went back to check if they were at the Paisano. On my way up to the baths I ran into them. They said the pools were too crowded and didn’t even try to bathe. I walked back into town with them, expecting to run into N. on the way. We didn’t. E & A & I and a Swiss fellow ate lunch at the Chifa. [14]

After lunch I came back to the res. N. was there, just back from the baths. He’d taken the short-cut, which is why we didn’t meet him on the road. I wrote for a while. Soon a fellow named Mike, whom we met in the plaza a couple days ago, came up with N. He had just returned from climbing up Tungurahua. You go out of town and take the turn to the baths, then take the first road to the right. About 2-3 hours up you come to a house where you can rent the key to a cabin another 3 hours up. Once at the cabin there’s a gas stove but no heat. From there it’s a good day’s walk to the snowline & back. Then down the 3rd day. He’d not gone up to the snow and took only 2 days.

When he left I occupied myself with cleaning out our dope pipe. [15] I scraped the resins off onto some tinfoil. Just as I was about finished, Mike & N came back up with a joint that M. had found in the street. We toked that down. Then N & I went down and listened to Segundo’s stereo (testing out the tunes). Soon S. came in and had N. make out a big sign listing prices (admission, 10 S) and the fact that no Nationals would be admitted, and no outside bottles could be brought in, or inside bottles brought out.

About 6 S. closed the doors to “rest the stereo”. N and I walked around town for a while, buying candles and cookies. About 7 we went to the Paisano and had dinner. We bought a bottle of vino from Segundo for our meal. We were joined by Kevin & Shelly, 2 folks from Colo. Kevin runs a river excursion business. They had purchased many ponchos, bags, and wall hangings. After dinner they came back and smoked the results of our pipe scrapings with us.

Soon Gazella and Elaine came up and shortly thereafter we all went down and joined the party. Collin played D.J. to the distaste of us non-disco fans. I met 4 folks from Mpls. 1 fellow works in Anoka. I talked with K & S for a while, working on another bottle of wine. Soon N. left only to return later on with E&A. They had celebrated English New Year at 7PM (12, London time) and were well into the Scotch.

As midnite approached it became clear that there was more action in town than at the party. The local custom is to make straw dummies representing the old year, then to lite them on fire at midnite. All this accompanied by much drinking & festivity. Just before 12 we all went down to the main street where partying & effigy burning was in full swing. One of the effigies was of John Travolta. A group of maybe 20 gringos, all from the party, converged on one large group, complete with band. Soon we were all dancing in the streets to the wide eyed amazement of the locals. We partied there for 1/2 hour or so and then all came back to the S. Clara. After another couple hours of disco fever I could stand it no longer and came up to retire. [16]

’79 JAN 1 MON,

Awoke very late, not especially hung over, but not feeling like assuming a vertical position.

N got up about 9 to check out the baths but soon came back and crashed. [17] We awoke again about 1PM. I read most of the afternoon. N. went out to buy some goods for lunch. When he returned he was with E & A. They had survived the party. We talked for a while and decided to meet at the Mercedes for veggie pie at 5. When they left, N. washed clothes and I read. By 5 he had finished and we strolled to meet E. & A.

The Merc. was closed so we ate dinner at the Chifa. [18] Then on our way back to the res. we noticed that the Merc. was now open. We walked to Collin & G's. room to tell them. There we found Kevin, Shelly C & G & Fraser, playing that strange card game. When they finished we all walked back to the Mercedes. [19] I played 2 games of chess with Kevin, we both won one, neither of us feeling very sharp. After dinner (again) we went back to C & G’s room and talked for a while. C,G,&F are readying to go to the Gal. K&S are heading back to the U.S. with all their purchases. Elaine may well be coming with N&I to the Oriente on Thurs or so. We all traded addresses and I came back to the hotel to write.

When I arrived, old Segundo told me he’d lost 300 last nite because people had walked out with 10 bottles @ 20 S each and someone had stollen a bottle of scotch. At one point during the party last nite, he came walking thru with his rifle slung over his shoulder. A very paranoid fellow.

TUES JAN 2,

Awoke and composed a letter to my folks after putting it off for too long.

Once the letter was complete, N & I gathered up our trunks and headed for the hot baths by way of the P.O. It was closed. So we continued up to the baths and spent an uncrowded afternoon soaking. It was a beautiful day, clear and bright. Most of the days so far have been cloudy on the verge of rain, but today was beautiful. The only drawback was the wind. The wind howled up valley, raising clouds of dust.

After bathing we came back down to the Mercedes for veggie pie. [20] I was starved and wolfed it down, which didn’t help my still slightly upset stomach. N found a book at the rest. and stayed behind to read. We found out that the guy who owns the rest. also teaches ind. arts at the local school. His wife works in Quito and he takes care of the rest. and 3 kids.

N. pulled a fast one on me last nite and revealed a small unsmoked “reserve” that I didn’t know about. I came back from lunch and toked. Then it was time to work. I took all my dirty clothes down and started to wash. As I was wringing my jeans, a cute frenchie came along and started to wash out a shirt as if I wasn’t even there. Then she looked over at me, almost surprised that I was still there. She said “10 minutes” and had soon finished her shirt. I finished the rest of my clothes and retired to read. The wind blew my sox and T-neck down but the sun dried them fast. Finally about dusk I pulled them all back in.

A little later, N came in with Elaine. N’s guts were on the rampage and at one point he left the room flying to the toilet. Elaine told about her travels in Asia and her friend “crazy Marg” who would beat up the locals and then regret it later. She became a gypsy for a while, wrote bizarre letters to her 9th grade teacher, picked a hole in the top of her head, and vomited at every nervous moment. Makes me glad I’m only traveling with N. E. told many stories about herself & friends in Vancouver. After a long night of talk we retired to Tales of the Incredible.

WED JAN 3,

Awoke with the gurgles.

We laid about while N wrote but finally hunger got the better of us and we went off to the Paisano for breakfast. There we met Elaine, Eve & Ann. After breakfast I walked to the correo and mailed the letter home. I came back to the hotel and read some old TIME and Newsweek mags from last Dec that E & A had lent us. Soon N, E & A came up. E. gave N. recipes for veggie pies and we sat about talking about food; making it, eating it, and shitting it out. We more or less planned our trip to the Oriente, projected to begin tomorrow.

We talked and traded info for a good while and then decided to go to the museo. On the way out we ran into Elaine again. We all walked up to the church but the museo was closed. So we walked thru the church looking at the paintings of miracles attributed to the local virgin (represented by a statue above the altar). After tasting some of the holy water, we went off to the Merc. As we were sitting around earlier, Segundo came in and told us he was sick. He looked yellow and had towels around his neck because of a “tumor”.

At the Merc. the guy was just about to leave to teach but he had just enough time to make us some pies & burgers. As he finished our meals, he walked out the door. So there we were eating and people would come in looking for food. The kid told them there was no food. They looked over at us, shrugged, and walked out. Someone only wanted 7up but we had the last of those, too.

I came back to the hotel. Upon my return I was again accosted by Segundo who was now seemingly cured. He told me all about some thieves that had broken into another residencia. The police caught 4 of 7, he said. They were “marijuanáros”, children of rich parents who didn’t want to work, they just drank, smoked, and stole clothes off the line. He went on and on. I agreed, very bad those marijuanáros.

While waiting outside the church for N. to finish reading all the paintings of the miracles, we observed a very strange religious ritual. A monk, dressed in white, carrying something book-like against his chest, and carrying a jug of what proved to be holy water in his other hand, came up to a taxi parked outside the church, and had the driver open the hood. The monk read from the little book, made the sign of the cross over the exposed engine, sprinkled it with holy water, and proceeded to walk around the car, sprinkling all four sides and the driver with holy water. The hood was closed, the monk went back inside, and the cab drove off. Also inside the church we saw a little shop, “god-shop” as Eve called it, complete with Jesus key chains and other religious paraphernalia.

Upon my return from lunch, I wrote and read. About 6:30 N came back and we went off to the Merc. for dinner. When we arrived, the place was filled with “frogs”. They sit all day in our kitchen downstairs, then, en masse, they go off to the Merc. and keep the poor guy running for hours, then they come back and sit in the kitchen. They live down there. We’ve developed an unconscious prejudice against the frogs, they’re very clique-ish and won’t go out of their way to be friendly.

After our return from dinner with E, E, & A, we came back, wrote, and packed our packs for tomorrow’s jaunt into the East. We’ve decided to go right to Tena, skipping Puyo.


[1] Chris told us that Doris’ husb. was still in jail, and that he’d had a falling out with Sheri. He won’t go back ’til she’s moved out.

[3] tricks, hearts, queens, K.of hearts, run, all the above

[4] After cards we ate good chicken at a chicken Place.

[5] The birds were plucked under their wings and around legs. Before the fight the trainers would take a mouthfull of some clear liquid and then spray it onto the bird’s head & under it’s wings.

[6] The trainers would open their little cases and pull out the claws to be put on the birds.First the legs are taped, then the claws are affixed with wax, then taped over.

[7] Larry and Gene left for Quito right after dinner.

[8] Break alone; C C&G left; moved rooms; N talked with E; I wrote_saw circus; went to baths; Ate at M & saw Holly again; talked. Joined by Fraser. Came back and toked with F&E.

[9] Elaine told about travelling with Collin. She’d gone back to live with some guy and Collin went back sick with Hep. He returned with Gazella and she returned when the match didn’t strike.

[10] The circus is tomorrow night.

[11] Holly told the story of the Texan who’d hold “prayer” meetings. He’d take out his little bible, choose an appropriate verse, read it, call the meeting to a close, rip the page out of the bible, and proceed to roll a joint with it.

[13] The lions from the circus can be heard roaring off in the distance.

[14] At lunch, A told about getting burned & dislocating her shoulder in Argentina. She spent 1 month in a hospital and it cost her nothing.

[15] Collin came by to borrow a pliers & screwdriver to fix his zipper.

[16] The locals kept partying ’till almost dawn.

[17] They were even more crowded today.

[18] Eve told that in South Africa they celebrate for 2 days, Jan 1 & 2.

[19] We ran into Elaine somewhere along the line.

[20] The Frenchie N played guitar with burned his face very badly by trying to blow gas out a tube and make a long flame, it backfired.

Chapter 17::Table of Contents::Chapter 19