Chapter 18::Table of Contents::Chapter 20

Chapter 19
Mishualli
and the Rio Napo

THURS. JAN 4.

Awoke early and got our shit together.

We toked up the last of our reserve pot, paid Segundo for the 30 days, and beat it off to the Bus Station. There we met Eve, Ann, & Elaine. We purchased our ticket and waited. Soon a bus came along going to Tena. We started to load our packs on but the ticket salesman came out and told us it was the wrong bus. That was the bus for the folks who hadn’t purchased tickets. The 3 French-Canadians I met in Otavalo were also going to Tena. One guy had purchased tickets but the other 2 hadn’t. They got on the first bus and took off. Soon our bus came along. We piled on and even got seats. Our stuff was put on top of the bus covered by a tarp, as it had begun to rain.

We had a beautiful scenic journey coming down the mountains. The one lane road was carved right into the side of the mountain. We drove thru small waterfalls and not so small creeks. An hour or so out of Puyo, it started to pour down rain. By Puyo the rain had stopped. We wandered around during our 20 min “lunch” stop eating bread and bananas.

The ride to Tena was thru the jungle, along gravel roads lined by tropical vegetation. When we arrived in Tena we walked around looking for a good res. We asked at the Tourismo, the guy wanted 40 each. Ann & Elaine found a place for 25. We walked over there but, evidently, Ann had talked to a tenant instead of the dueña. The dueña wanted 35. On principal, we went back to the 1st place. We checked in, walked off to a stand and got a typical marienda. I came back and took a nap ’til dinner.

At 6:30 we went out looking for food. N & I wound up at the fried chicken place. [1] A, E & E went to another place because there wasn’t enough chicken. After dinner we sat around E & A’s room talking about all their strange friends in England. Like the little grandma who would smuggle Hash into England in a big jar marked “HASHISH” and ridicule her son or grandson for not smoking. We marveled at their little battery operated fans.

Ann told of a friend crashing into the gates at Hyde Park and telling the cops she was drunk and only wanted to go home. They let her go and she proceeded to run down a traffic sign.

FRI JAN 5;

Awoke early to the roosters crowing. Put in the earplugs and went back to sleep.

Elaine later woke us up and we went down for breakfast with E & A. As we were leaving from breakfast, we ran into the 4 Americans from MPLS. Larry, Pat, Dan & Deb. They were also thinking about going to Mishualli. We went back to our hotel and got our gear ready to go. We walked down to the bus station and found a truck driver to take us to Mish. but he wouldn’t take just the 5 of us, so N ran back and got the others. The truck driver tooled around the block several times waiting for the other 4. When they finally arrived the 9 of us loaded into the back of his pickup with all our gear and off we went. Earlier, we ran into the 3 French-Cans who were going off to see some caves near Tena.

The ride to Mish. took about an hour. At one point along the 1 laner we had to pull almost completely off the road to let a road grader pass. As we tried to regain the road, the back tires spun and dug, one front tire completely off the road. We joked that for 15 S each (the price of the ride) we’d pull the guy out of the ditch. But he made it alright. Once in town, he let us off in front of the Hotel Negrito. There, in the back, waiting for the dueña, we played with the pet monkey. We gave him some beer to drink and he lapped it right up.

Eve & N. went off to check on another hotel. We looked at this one and the lady wanted 30S. When N & E came back they told us they’d talked the other lady down from 40 to 30. We tried to talk the 1st lady down but she wouldn’t budge. So we went off to the Balcon del Napo and checked in. We ate a quick lunch and proceeded to lie about in the hammocks. Larry mentioned that he had some pot. He rolled up a joint and we sat on the porch and toked up.

Then it was time for a swim. We walked down to the confluence of the 2 local rivers and photo’d and swam. The water is rather dirty but refreshingly cool. This is a beautiful place.

The river boats around here are maybe 30’ long, hewn out of one single log. We saw one little kid rowing along in one only 6’ long.   Another little kid was going around with a butterfly net. When he’d catch one, he’d put it inbetween pages of a book to hold it flat.

We swam and strolled along the beach, collecting sand flea bites. Then we walked back to the Balcon and lounged some more. We watched a monkey who'd gotten loose come next door to visit another one. [2] The monkeys sat on the railing of a balcony, eating raw eggs and playing with the kids. After a typical dinner Larry, Pat, Dan, Deb & I walked down to the waterfront and burned one. The others had gone off to buy some fruit or something.

Earlier, just after dinner, a guide came over and talked to me about jungle excursions. He outlined a 1 day hike, a 4 day hike, and a 4 day boat trip. We’ll wait to talk with Duglas Clark before we decide.

We found the others playing pool by kerosene lamp lite. We played some pool, drank some beer, and closed the place down. We came back and sat around on the balcony ’til it was cool enough to sleep.

SAT JAN 6,

Awoke early to the fucking roosters (not to mention the dogs and honking busses).

I considered going back to sleep with the plugs, but opted for coffee with Eve, Ann ( ) & N. We sat in their room talking & drinking coffee for a couple hours. Elaine came in and joined us. Eventually we got a move on and went out to get info about more jungle tours. Just next door was a place run by the husband of the lady from the Negrito. He outlined virtually the same hikes as the guy from yesterday evening. The 4 day hike sounds arduous, but a 2 day hike/boat ride sounded good. We went off to find Douglas but he wasn’t home. His wife told us he wouldn’t come back until Wed. but, she added, we could go out butterfly hunting with his sister any day we cared to. A Definite Possibility.

After our info session we stopped at the local tienda and bought sardines, bread & lettuce. Came back up to the balcony and had sardine sandwiches for lunch. N., Larry, Pat, Ann, Elaine, and Stephanie (the long red haired, falsely accused and arrested one of the German girls from the Gran Casino) all went down and played volleyball.

We sat on the balcony watching tourists come into town. Several nationals came in including one little boy who was from L.A. but had been living in Ambato for the last 1 1/2 yrs. His father was a tour guide. He had pop bottle bottoms for glasses, and told some other tourists that the Hotel Posada had rats. He and his little Ec. friends played swing with the hammocks.

Soon the volleyball players returned and we all went down to the river for a nice cool swim. When we got back I asked Deb if she’d cut my hair. She did. She also cut N’s. . She did a good job. We sat around watching the nationals play volleyball, and more tourists arrive. When we got here yesterday, all the hotels were empty. By this eve. they were all full.

Stephanie, who is staying at the Negrito, had to come over here this morn. to brush her teeth because there was no water at the hotel. The lady said there won’t be water until it rains (April or so). Here there’s plenty of H2O. This morn I took an Entero-Vioform and some liquid Lomotil in the hopes that my shits would clear up.

After lounging, we went down for dinner. It was a real 3 ring circus what with some people ordering mariendas con carne/sin carne con 2 huevos fritos/revueltos or con carne y huevos. When the dust cleared, everybody headed out to check out the masked ball across the street, or to play pool. Some nationals have moved in next door to us at the hotel, so tomorrow not only will there be roosters, dogs & busses, but also crying babies. A grand slam.

The lady who runs this place is about 9 mos. pregnant, has no front teeth, and in spite of that, is very attractive. Every time I walk in or out she eyes me up & down. Either I look very strange to her or she likes me. I went over to play pool for a while. As we were playing, some kids dressed in masks came thru and then went over to the Rico Plato to the masked ball. After the pool game we all went over. As Eve had said earlier, the men (kids) were dressed in drag. Dan danced with one “girl”, then he asked Yuda, the Israeli guy, but he became very embarrassed. Then N. danced with him and pulled on his lemon tits.

I came back and sat around talking with Eve, Ann & Elaine. E & A told about being taken out one night by a couple Argentine guys. 1st from a bar to another bar, then to a “jazz club” that turned out to be a bordello. Ann had laid in on the line with these guys at the outset, so they were very upset when they found themselves at a hotel d’ hora. They struggled to break free from their would be suitors. At one point, after a particularly successful kick, Ann shouted to Eve: “Kick yours in the balls! I’ve just kicked mine.” Finally the police came along and took the 3 of them (the kicked one got away) to the station. E & A pressed no charges because the guy could get 5 yrs or something, but they couldn’t remember the name of their hotel so the cops could take them home. They made up the name “Ferrocarril”, which just happened to exist only a couple blocks down from their actual hotel. We were joined by Deb & Dan from the dance. We talked for a while, then the power went out and we went to bed. [3]

Earlier, some little kids had been running and screaming around the balcony. Eve yelled at them and sent them downstairs, complaining about people who couldn’t keep their kids quiet in a hotel. After we retired, Dan, Larry, and later N., started talking loudly with some 60 yr old birthday boy, his son & son-in-law. They made more noise [4] than the little kids and kept the whole place awake until almost dawn. Just as they wrapped it up - the roosters began to crow.

SUN JAN 7.

I put the ear plugs in and tried to sleep late.

I awoke hot, unrested, and with a slight ear ache from one of the plugs. I went down for breakfast and then came back up and sat around, watching the hang-over victims arise. We all sat around the balcony talking and joking about all the noise and lost sleep because of the loud party downstairs. A cockroach (this place has many) fell into Eve’s hair last night & she couldn’t get it out. She screamed and fumbled until Ann could get a light.

At one point during our morning of relaxation, the tour guide from Fri. eve [5] came by again. We talked to him about a 2 day boat trip. At first he wanted 500 S per but the fellow next door [6] was only asking 250. He finally came down to 250 and we told him we’d talk it over and to come back in the afternoon. I laid around in the hammock for a while. It was a hot, sunshiny day, just perfect for lazing. I finally crashed out and most of the others went off swimming. I awoke, groggy and hot. The swimmers came back, all well bitten by sand fleas, especially Stephanie. We sat around and talked some more.

All the nationals with little kids left this after. Our tour guide came back and we told him we’d go tomorrow. There will be 10 I think: N & I, E & A, D & D, L & P, Yuda and a French guy who’s been staying here but has talked to nobody. We had to go down to the marina to have our passports stamped. When we got back, we had to help Walter (our guide) put his boat into the water. The boat is about 2 1/2’ wide x 30’ long with a 40 horse motor. We hauled it over the rocks and finally got it into the water. A national who was helping push, would say, “One, two, three!” and away we’d go. We’ll save food buying and gear organization for the last minute tomorrow morn.

We went down for a typical fish dinner. Afterwards I got a J from L and N, E & I walked down to the beach & smoked. We came back and played a 3 way cribbage game. Elaine just won. I came up to write and arrange camera gear for our trip. Earlier, we had a discussion about the existence of fly shit. N. maintained that he’d never seen such a thing, A & E said sure there is. At the tienda next door, Eve pointed some out to us. She even claims they’ve worked out a way to do it on the ceiling.

MON JAN 8.

Awoke at 6 to the alarm.

Went downstairs to eat breakfast. Yehuda wasn’t in his room and we all wondered what happened to him. Also the Frog was sick, puking and shitting all night long. He didn’t go with us. After breakfast we went to the store and bought sardines, bread, carrots, lemons, & cookies. Just before our departure time of 8AM, Eve went down to the Negrito to see if Yehuda was there. He was. [7] He came hustling back and quick threw his stuff together.

We stored everybody’s stuff in our vacant room. Elaine walked with us down to the shore and we took group pix standing by the boat. She said good by and we climbed aboard. In the boat right next to ours, a dog had been sleeping. As soon as we got into our boat so did he. He obviously wanted to go too. A fellow had to throw a stick down the beach for him to fetch. While he was fetching, we cast off.

The 9 of us, plus our guide and 2 other folks (a couple) started motoring down stream. The other fellow (who turned out to be Douglas Clarke, the guide Dan & Ben advised us to see) stood in the bow taking depth readings with a bamboo pole whenever the water got shallow. The river was rapid and there were actually places where we were going distinctly downhill. The water was so swift that even after a drop of 1 or 2m over 50m it still was deep enough to navigate. We found out that the boat is 15m long, but less than 1m wide.

Our first stop was at the Anaconda Hotel on “Monkey Island”. There were several huts up on stilts with high peaked thatch roofs around the grounds. [8] We came to see monkeys but saw only one little one. It was an orphan, Walter said. The other monks had gone off into the jungle. Other than us, there was nobody around. We played with the little monkey & photo’d for a while. The monk would cling to your shirt just as it would to its mother. It was less than 1 yr old.

We got back into the boat and tooled down the river to the Jaguar Hotel. So named because of the two captive jaguar-like cats in cages out back. There we also saw several more monkeys but they were very elusive. [8] The Jaguar looks like your typical Jungle Howard Johnson’s with beers and cokes at twice the going price. [9] We relaxed there for a while and then headed just across the river. Douglas stayed behind as he’s the official guide for the Jaguar.

Across the river, we took a little hike thru the jungle. We shook papayas out of the tree and had a little snack. Then we tried our hand at vine-swinging. We swung out over a piraña infested lagoon and back for practice, and then used another handy vine to cross a little stream Tarzan style. We saw many strange plants. At one point Walter sharpened a stick and threw it into the lagoon. He hit a fish which splashed and swam away.

We walked over another stream on a rickety log. There were 3 or 4 poles stuck into the mud along the way to grab on to, and nobody fell in. Our circular walk brought us back to the boat where we rested and went swimming. The current was so strong that swimming into it, you would neither gain nor loose ground. Sitting in the water was refreshing. We dried off and headed down stream some more. [10]

Our next stop was up a little river to a house where we had lunch. As I was getting into the boat the camera bag slipped off my shoulder and landed in the water. Amazingly, it floated long enough for me to grab it out again. Nothing was damaged except for the T.P. At our lunch stop at the house, I set the bag out in the sun to dry. We ate cookies and bread & water. The owner of the hut took us down to a nearby tree and showed us a small anaconda. Back in the boat we were only downstream a little ways when we came to another house. There Walter stopped & had his lunch. There was a surveyor’s transit in the front yard.

A little bit farther down the river we stopped to make camp. With his machete, Water made a frame for a lean-to out of tree stalks and some vines for lashing. Then he began to cover the “roof” with palm branches. This was about 1/4 completed when he built a fire to keep the bugs away and then he walked off to get some banana leaves to finish the job of roofing. [11] He & N. cut a bunch and brought them back. They had to go back again to get more. Evidently there was another house down the line with banana trees outside and chickens inside.

Once the lean-to was completed with more leaves laid out for the floor , everybody but me went off to another spot downstream to swim. The current was too strong at our camp site. I stayed behind and set up my hammock and mosquito net. When the others returned, Eve told me that there had been the # of sand fleas at Misahualli multiplied by a billion. She claimed she was one big bite.

We all sat on the shore and had sardine sandwiches and carrots for dinner. We stayed on the riverbank and watched the sunset. About 9 we retired. N & I slept in hammocks, the rest in the lean-to. I awoke about 1:30 very cold. I had only a short sleeved shirt over me and there was nothing to do but be cold. It was very difficult to fall back to sleep so I watched the moon set and finally dropped off.

TUES JAN 9,

I awoke before sunrise and laid awake until I saw N get up.

We took down our hammocks and by then all the others had risen. During the nite somebody had slept on my foam pad and in the morn. there was a rip in it about 6" long. I’ll have to try and fix it or else get it replaced. We went down to the beach and ate a replay of last nite’s dinner for breakfast.

Then started the long trip back. Our first stop of the day was at the house with the transit to pick up a little kid. He rode in the front of the boat taking soundings as Douglas had done yesterday. He must be an apprentice guide. Our next stop was at a small village. We walked thru the jungle for a while and looked at more plants. At one point N. saw a big, beautiful butterfly with eye-like spots on its wings. We got some fresh bananas & pineapples and saw more tropical plants.

Our next stop was back at monkey island, only this time we started on the other side of the island and came the long way thru the jungle to the hotel. This time we saw several monkeys of various types. They were uncaged but rather tame. As we were sitting in the restaurant hut drinking colas, one monkey swung up into the restaurant thru the gap between roof & wall. He came down and sat on the table right next to me. I scratched & played with him for a while and then he went off into the kitchen and came back with a piece of bread. He sat on the table and ate lunch with us. We also saw the little monk. from yesterday. Yehuda became very attached to him and sat holding him all during our rest stop.

Back in the boat I was soaked by the wind blowing the spray up onto me. Just as I would get dry the wind would shift again and I’d get soaked again. This continued all the way to Mish. At one point on the way back we all had to get out of the boat and walk around a particularly shallow rapids. Walter & the little kid walked knee deep upstream with the boat until there was enough water to float us all again. Finally we made it back to the port.

Everyone was thirsty so we went off to the Rico Plato for ice cold beers. We bought some bread and ordered up scrambled eggs. Once our late lunch was over, I felt very exhausted. I came back to the room and crashed out. [12] I got up for dinner but could eat only a little as my stomach was not feeling too good.

There were 3 Australians staying at the hotel who had a tape player. I came upstairs to crash after dinner and fell asleep to the Rolling Stones. Later that evening I was awakened by obnoxious punk-rock blaring from their machine. I asked them to turn it down. Then N came up to bed and he also asked them to turn it down. They didn’t. I went out again and told them to “turn that shit off” but I was ignored. Everybody was trying to sleep and it was past 11PM. N. went out 2 more times but they seemingly had no respect or sympathy for sleepers and refused to moderate the volume. I put the plugs in and dropped out. Only to be awakened later, first by guitar music and singing, and then by loud talking and laughing all from some Ecuadorians partying downstairs. They carried on ’til at least 5AM.

WED JAN 10,

We arose early and ate breakfast.

Yesterday N & Yehuda talked with Douglas Clarke about taking an expedition into the jungle to hunt butterflies. He said he’d take us for 50 S each or 400 S for a group of 8 or more. Eve, Ann, Deb, Dan, Larry and Pat all turned down the opportunity. N & I & Y went over to DC’s house about 7:30 and waited for him to finish breakfast. A fellow staying at our hotel who’s an insect specialist also came with us. He and DC both had nets and the Prof. had a jar of alcohol for bugs other than butterflies. We were joined by 4 Israelis, making a perfect sized group of 8.

Douglas finished breakfast and then we started trucking up the hill outside Mish. Our first stop was to pick bananas. Then we came across a bush with little blueberry like things that D said were good for making necklaces, etc. Within the first 1/2 hr. D told us more stuff about various plants than Walter did in two days. Walter was a nice guy but didn’t talk very much. D, on the other hand, seemed to know everything and was glad to share his knowledge. Along the walk D & Prof. would stop and net various butterflies, killing them by squashing their heads. The Prof. also caught many other bugs. N & I photo’d those more colorful specimens.

The walk up the hill was pleasant. It was cool because we were in the shade. Every time D or Prof. caught a bug we’d all stop and look and get to rest for a minute. D showed us limes, papayas, palm hearts, [13] and oranges. He said that after a walk thru the jungle you could always come back with a full stomach just from the wild fruit.

The jungle was thick and over grown. At one point along the trail D had to hack away underbrush so we could pass. By 11 we had reached the top of the hill. At one point during our climb up, we met a fellow on his way down. He was carrying, on his back, a lady seated on a chair, supported by a tump line. She didn’t look at all well. D explained that she was having trouble delivering her baby or something, and was being taken to a doctor in Tena.

At the top we rested under 2 orange trees. The oranges were green but that didn’t stop us from trying to eat them. The Prof. explained and demonstrated the correct way. First the outer skin is cut off leaving the white membrane all around, then a hole is cut in the bottom of the orange. Then, by squeezing, the juice can be drunk without having to eat the bitter inner membranes. We sucked down several oranges in this manner and it was far superior to the usual peeling and eating.

We took a different trail down the hill. Just as we were starting down the Prof. said it looked like rain. Sure enough, it began to pour about 15 min later. D. cut banana leaves for us to use as umbrellas. They worked marginally well, but the real problem was footing. The soil was very much like clay, it provided good traction when dry, but when wet was very treacherous. I’d take one step forward and slide for 2 more. More like skiing than walking. I didn’t fall but came very close. I was wearing only tennies which was good. My boots would have provided a little more traction but would have gotten soaked and taken days to dry. The rain lasted about a 1/2 hr. During this time we just put our heads down & walked.

Then the rain stopped and soon the sun was back out. The trail was still sloppy, at times we were up to our ankles in mud. By 1:30 or so we reached a clearing and a little village. N. found out that the big butterfly he saw yesterday was worth up to $75 to a collector, and that there was a particularly rare one that D had never found, but was worth $2,000.

We continued down the hill ’til we came to what looked like a stream bed filled with big mossed over boulders. D explained there was a sub-terranian stream here and suggested we walk down to where the water came out. It was a beautiful site. Big boulders all over made the walk tricky. Slippery moss caused 3 people to slip and loose their footing, landing on asses. At one point, stepping down from one rock to another, I stepped over on my right ankle and it hurt like hell. I heard the tendons tear and by the end of the walk it was quite swollen. I limped down to the waterfall and, in spite of my pain, enjoyed the scenic beauty of the place.

We headed back upstream to the trail and finished our walk down to the road. At the road we were still 1/2 hr away from Mish. by car. D inquired of a fellow who had a truck if he’d take us to Mish. but he wanted 10S each. The bus only cost 4 and would be along at 2:30 We sat and waited the 20 min for the bus. As I was waiting, I reached to take my glasses off to clean them and the bow on the left side just snapped right off. A bit of a bummer. I tossed the now useless specs into the camera bag. Soon D. said that he heard the bus coming. Nobody else heard it, but sure enough, 30 secs later it came around the bend. D made a comment about having “bionic ears” as we climbed on top of the bus.

The ride to Mish was short and we spent the time ducking low flying tree branches. Once in town we piled out and headed straight for the showers. I hung my mud soaked pants and sweat soaked shirt out to dry and washed myself off. Back up on the balcony I sat and talked with E & A and the rest about our trip. [14] Despite the bugs, rain, mud, twisted ankle and broken glasses, I had a great time and felt as tho I’d really seen something of the jungle. N. went down and played volleyball with D and the Israelis.

The Prof. and his precocious 8 yr old boy sat on the balcony making triangular envelopes to put the captured butterflies in. The Prof. had caught a big 4" grasshopper down by the river (he went hunting some more while I was showering) and Yehuda was holding it. It grabbed on to his shirt and wouldn’t let go. Y pulled and before he knew it one of the 2 big back legs was pulled off. The Prof. didn’t seem to care and the now crippled hopper flew down into the street. N came back up from volleyball having jammed his other thumb (he got the 1st one a couple days ago) and proceeded to envelope his butterflies. The Prof’s little boy babbled on & on, not being understood by anyone. I wired my glasses back together but it won’t work for long.

N. went down to DC’s house to eat yucca but I stayed behind and ate downstairs. We realized we were growing very short of spendable sucs, and had figured we had just enough to make it back to Baños tomorrow. After I’d finished eating N came back and E, A, D, D, P, L, & I all sat around the table downstairs talking about what assholes the American Customs and Embassies are. A & E had payed $30 for a U.S. visa and still didn’t get what they wanted. Most Americans don’t realize how hard it is for foreigners to enter the U.S. just for a visit. The visas are issued arbitrarily and without rhyme or reason. Some people get lifetime, multiple entry permits, while the next person in line may only get 2 days or nothing at all. It has nothing to do with money, looks, or legal convictions, it’s just up to the asshole behind the rubber stamp.

We went upstairs and finished up the eve talking with E & A. We’ll miss them but perhaps we’ll be able to visit them in London. We learned earlier that Walter is in fact a student, more or less, Of DC. An apprentice guide.


[1] The power went thru several  fluctuations, the music on the juke box would slow, then stop, then start again. Finally the power went off all together. It came on just as we were finishing.

[2] we discovered later that this mono is able to untie itself

[3] Preceding sleep, there was 5 min of cockroach squashing by E,A,P,&D. The cockroaches do no harm, but grow to 3" long & look disgusting.

[4] Drinking Rum and going next door at 2AM to get another.

[5] WALTER

[6] HECTOR

[7] He may have been visiting his Israeli friends or Stephanie, we never determined which.

[8] There were also parrots here, caged up.

[9] There were some beautiful wood  carvings inside.

[10] Back in the boat we were passed by the 11:30 boat to Coca. We recognized Elaine sitting in the boat. We raced to catch them, shouting her name. She couldn’t quite believe we were meeting up so soon.

[11] When Walter came back he had a spot of blood on the end of his nose. He’d cut it while gathering banana leaves.

[12] We heard about a little  kid who cut his jugular vein while cutting cane. He died.

[13] These same plants are used to make Panama hats.

[14] N. gave the little blue berries to Eve and she borrowed some fish line from me and made a bracelet

Chapter 18::Table of Contents::Chapter 20