Chapter 19::Table of Contents::Chapter 21

Chapter 20
and the Heights of Tungurahua

Thurs JAN 11;

Awoke to E & A’s borrowed alarm at 5AM.

They were in the room right next door and awoke at the same time. Ann made us some coffee, and we spent our last moments in Mish. saying goodby to them while sipping coffee and packing our packs. My ankle was more swollen this morn. Our original plan was to go right to Ambato to cash bucks and get my glasses fixed, but I felt as tho my ankle could do no more than was absolutely necessary. E & A changed $10 cash for us so we could live for another day before having to go to Ambato. We woke Yehuda who was also going to Baños. We said good by, promised to meet again in London, and, after hearing the bus honking down in the square, loaded ourselves on with all the school kids.

We rode only to Puerto Napo. Once there we decided to hitch. The 1st car I flagged stopped but had room for only 1 person. Y went with them and N & I waited for the bus. It came along about 20 min later and we got on. During our 2 day Jungle Hike N had picked up a bamboo pole to use as a walking stick. He sawed it down yesterday with the help of my S.A. saw. It rode next to him on the bus. The bus cost us 50S each where as the ride last week cost only 40. We protested but it soon became clear that we weren’t the only ones being overcharged. Everyone else on the bus protested the altered rates, but to no avail.

The road to Puyo was dusty and rough. The driver stopped 3 times to buy “heads” of bananas (whole stalks) which added about 30 min to our trip. From Puyo to Baños the ride was smoother and more scenic. At Shell-Mera we had to stop at the Reten and “sign out” of the Oriente. During this time it was raining, but it didn’t last long. When we arrived in Baños it was crystal clear, hot, and windy. [1] We ordered up 2 chateaubriands at the Merc., dropped our packs off at the S.C. and went back to eat a much needed good lunch.

N. had left a note at the Merc. for Leslie before we left for the East, and when we got back the note was gone. His spirits soared only until he learned that some fellow, not Leslie, had taken the note. He then got pissed. Back at the res. we unpacked our stuff and I occupied some time by repairing my torn ground pad. Using a needle and fishing line, I stitched the tear back together. The job should hold if it doesn’t get too much strain. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, writing, and relaxing. Old Segundo came up and welcomed us back.

We went back to the Merc. for veggie pies for dinner. I wasn’t feeling very hungry so N. wound up eating 1 2/3 pies. We played a game of chess while waiting for our pies. I miss playing regularly with Ed & Doc, and felt very rusty. We strolled around the Plaza [2] observing the lack of action and then came back to the res. There we again cleaned out the pipe and caught a bit of a buzz. This is truly the last of our pot. No secret reserves and the pipe is as clean as a whistle. We sat around discussing ways to make sand candles and other types. We’re also going to try and make a small alcohol stove like E & A’s.


Awoke early and caught the bus to Ambato.

It was another strikingly clear day. During the ride we could see the snowcapped peaks of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. We also saw what we thought to be Tungurahua. A very impressive & scenic ride. Once in Ambato we strolled down the main drag looking for a bank. We didn’t see one directly and just as we were about to step into a shop to ask directions, we found the Bank of Guayaquil. They changed money for us at 26, but we had to sit around waiting for the big cheese to come back from somewhere to sign our receipts before we could get the cash.

Segundo told us there was an optical shop on Calle Bolivar that could fix my glasses. We asked a policeman for directions to that calle and, after asking in a pharmacy, we found the shop. I took both pairs of broken glasses in. The fellow said he could solder them back together in about an hour for 200S. I left the specs and N. guided us to a restaurant where we ordered up some greasy churrascos for brunch. We strolled around the market and several ferreterias looking for parts with which to fabricate a stove. We found nothing.

The hour passed and I collected my glasses. Both were repaired and in usable condition again. We caught the bus back to Baños, enjoying the scenic vistas along the way. Back in town we checked the P.O. for a letter from Hec. Nothing. Then we stopped at a hardware store next to our old Res. Delecia and bought 4 nuts & bolts and 8 washers to fix my camera bag. During the course of time, the rivets holding the strap had begun to work loose. An ounce of prevention and all that, I decided to fix it before it broke in the middle of nowhere. Back at the res I bolted down the fixtures on the sides, but realized that to do a really good job, I’d need 3 screws per side, not 2. We sat around writing until the shop opened back up.

We were also looking for a funnel, thinking that it might work as a top to our stove. We asked Segundo where we might buy one. He told us of a shop where we might actually get a stove of our design made to order. We followed his inaccurate directions, but in spite of them, found the shop. There, indeed, the fellow had all the tools and materials for fabricating a stove but, as luck would have it, he was leaving for a vacation or something tomorrow morning and so couldn’t do a thing for us. Back to square one.

We had decided to start cooking our own food again, so we stopped at a store and bought 2 cans of tuna. At another store we got noodles. Then at the hardware store I got the 2 more nuts & bolts & 4 washers I needed to complete the repairs on the camera bag. Then at the market we got bread, tomatoes and some little mandarines. Then it was time to buy gas for the stove. Segundo told us there was none in town. We checked at the gas station and another hardware store. He was right. We wound up buying industrial alcohol, not knowing if it would work in our stove or not.

Back at the res. I finished repairing the bag. The screws were placed with the heads inside the bag & nuts outside. I filed the burrs off the heads and padded them with mole skin. A good job. Better than new. After repairs it was time to make dinner. The stove still had some gas so we decided to use that up before experimenting with alcohol. We cooked up the noodles, added the toms & tuna, and heated the whole mess up before the gas ran out. We didn’t need to use the alcohol. Dinner tasted good and with bread it provided a satisfying meal.

After dinner we strolled thru town looking for drugs and/or women. Not finding either we came to the res and bemoaned the lack of things to do in town. There’s plenty of hikes and things around, but Baños itself is dull, filled with trinket shops for tourists, and little else. We bought a couple beers from Segundo, borrowed 2 sci-fi books from his little library, and came up to read and kill the boredom.


N awoke early and went off to the Latacunga mkt. I stayed behind and slept late.

I read until N. got back. He bought some crushed fruit, veggies, and rice. He got a ride from a fellow who told him there were indeed drugs in Baños. He gave no clues as to where to find them, however. We went out to lunch at the Merc. and played a game of chess. There we met 2 fellows who were going down to Mish. We gave them info as we could.

After lunch we strolled thru the plaza and then decided to go to the museo in the church. It’s only open on weekends. There was a small zoo there, containing several types of tropical birds, all very colorful. There were also some wild dogs, a small leopard-like cat, and some assorted monkeys. The cages were all very small (except for the monkeys) and barren. The tourists were enjoying teasing the monkeys and poking things at some of the bigger birds. Aside from the zoo, there were religious displays, mostly of elaborate robes, all embroidered and sequined. There was a room filled with paintings and statues of christ, some better than others, and most depicting excessive amounts of blood. Another room contained objects by various artisans, mostly “recuerdos of Baños”. In another there was a display of stuffed animals, mostly motheaten. Of particular note was the stuffed mtn. lion attacking a monkey. Fake blood dripped from the monkey’s mouth and the cat’s paws. Some people had come to the museo with a dog. It was on a leash, but it upset the caged wild dogs and cat, and walked right up to a stuffed jaguar and then jumped back, quite startled. I can’t imagine traveling with a dog. After touring the exhibits, we came back to relax for a while.

Later we made up a batch of guacamole and ate that with some good whole wheat rolls N got in Latacunga. We washed down the dinner with a beer and then decided to try our “full moon luck” again and see if we could locate some pot. There were lots of people on the streets, fireworks being launched from in front of the church, men pulling taffy on the hooks by the doors, all the little souvenir shops were open. We strolled thru the plaza and spotted a fellow we’d seen around before. He was sitting on a bench and we came up and inquired if he knew anyone who had pot. As it turned out, he did, but he could never tell when he’d see the guy. We told him to keep his eyes open for us, that we’d be around town for a while.

We left him and walked over to the Mercedes to drink a beer and play a game of chess. About half way thru our chess game, our friend from the plaza walked in. He had pot. I walked out into the street and bought 2 packets (200S) which amounted to about a 1/2 oz. or slightly less. I came back and N. paid the man. We finished our game and discovered, after having paid for the pot, that we were 4S short on the beers. We got credit until tomorrow. We came back to the S.C. and tested our new find. It wasn’t bad at all. We’d gotten spoiled by the good C-Bo, but this stuff is OK. I read and N played with the melting wax by the candles we have set up on 2 concrete pillars.


Awoke and went down to the Paisano for granola, fruit, and yoghurt.

We came back and settled the meal. N. went down to wash clothes and I read. I went down to check on his progress. He was talking to a Danish girl who had a tendency to complain about everything. We talked for a while about the jungle and Guatemala.

After clothes we walked down to the market to buy goods for dinner. Along the way I tried to take a picture of a fellow pulling taffy. He told me it was prohibited. I’ll try the telephoto next time. We bought meat, potatoes, carrots, beef bullion, and cooking fat. On the way back we ran into our Canadian “connection”. We invited him back for a toke. He joined us back in the penthouse and we raised a blue cloud.

He had to go, so N & I decided to cook an early dinner. We made up a stew with the left-over guacamole as sauce. It turned out all right. We cooked in Segundo’s kitchen. The Danish lady with the red hair was there. Very pleasant at first, but always finds something to complain about. We finished our meal, listening to Segundo’s operating instructions all the while. He had decided to try and have a party this evening. N was spreading the word.

We settled the meal and shortly thereafter, N went off to photo the soccer game between Baños & Ambato. It was a 2-2 tie. We settled the soccer game and sat around talking and doodling until party time. At no time were there more than 10 people at the “party”. But that didn’t stop us from listening to music, drinking beer, and having a good time. I talked to a fellow who’s a free-lance fotog. from Ottawa. [3] He told me to try Ilford Multigrade Paper & HP-5 (?) film. He gets his slides made into 4x5 internegs. for making prints. Also underexposes slides by 1/2 - 1 stop because he claims the interneg picks up a stop. A nice guy.

About the end of the party, the Danish fellow proceeded to roll and light a joint in the party room. N. implored him to do it outside, as old Segundo might just come in and start shooting at the marijuaneros. Our friend from Quebec also was about to roll a j when I told him to take care. I came up to our third floor room, toked, and retired.


Awoke late and decided to make omelettes for breakfast.

N went out and bought eggs, bread & butter. We munched some of our breads & cheese last night. Went down to the kitchen and made what amounted to pericos with tomatoes, onions, garlic, red pepper and eggs. Segundo left N. in charge of looking after the kitchen as he was going to Ambato. After breakfast a French(?) girl made us some coffee. Then N did his bit for Segundo and even swept the floor.

After chores we came up to settle breakfast and await Segundo’s return. We wanted to walk up the hill outside town, across the river, but couldn’t go ’til Segundo got back. In the interim N wrote a “come-travel-with-me” letter to Patty, and I washed clothes. Then I read for a while. Segundo said he’d be back by 1:30. By 3:30 I decided to go out taking pics. N felt obligated to wait for Segundo and stayed behind.

I walked over to the other side of the block, heading for the waterfall near the baths. As I was walking along, I saw a girl on a horse coming towards me. She asked me to help her steer her steed back the other way. The horse wanted to go one way and she another. I grabbed the reins and started leading the horse the other way. Every time a cloud of dust blew up along the street, (which is quite often around here) the horse would balk. Soon she got off the horse and we walked toward her friends and talked. Her name was Maria. She was born in Cuzco but had been living in Lima. She and her friends were going to buy Ecuadorian handcrafts and go to “Framce” to sell them.

We soon met up with her friends, a couple from Riobamba. The 3 of them were in town only for a short while, and were headed to have their pictures taken by one of the little “Polaroid men” lingering around the baths. As they were being photo’d, I took some pix of the baths & the waterfall. Then I came over to them to see their photos. They were no more than OK. After I finished looking at the best photo of the 3, Maria took it over and showed it to the horse, asking it if it liked the picture. The Polaroid man broke up.

I walked with them over to where they’d rented the horses. On the way Maria described how she disliked Lima, but was afraid to travel until her friend from Riobamba goaded her into it. But, she figured, she had good karma. She asked did I know karma? Yes, I knew karma. She went on to describe her religion, partly Catholic, protestant, Buddhist, Yoga, etc. It was the “religion of the young” she said. She asked my religion. I decided to avoid a long discourse and simply said mine was “about the same as yours”.

She asked if I was traveling alone. I told her about N. She asked “Where is he now?”, “He’s back at the res.” “Is he as nice as you?” I had to laugh and pause to think - “Sure, he’s at least as nice as me.” Finally they dropped off their horses. I got Maria’s sister’s address in Lima to send copies of the pix I took of her. I also got her friend’s address in Riobamba where it might be possible to see her again when we pass thru. We parted, me with the knowledge that I’d see her again someday, maybe in Framce.

I continued my walk up to the cemetery. From there I walked back into town, photoing the political writing on the wall. By this time it had started to cloud over, I tried to photo the street crew working, but there wasn’t enuf light for good contrast. So I came back to the res where Segundo still hadn’t returned. I ate some bread and the last of the cheese.

We waited until we could wait no longer. We headed out to the Merc for burgers and just as as we were leaving, Segundo came back. At the Merc. we met Willie again. He’d taken the hike up to the cross and beyond up the ridge. Said there was a good view of Tungurahua when the clouds cleared. N & I played a couple games of chess, and the came back to the res to toke & retire.

Willie carries a Polaroid with him (he’s only traveling for 5 weeks) for giving pictures away. At one point during my walk today 2 little boys, dressed in their blue & white school uniforms, stopped and asked me to take their pictures. I took a shot of the 2 of them. The older little boy looked at me and asked “Where’s the picture?” “It’s in here” I said (pointing to the camera) “Get it out of there!” he replied. “I can’t” I said and proceeded to walk away. Sorry, not every camera is a Polaroid, little kid.


Awoke relatively early and went off to the Paisano for breakfast.

We came back to the res. to toke before our hike. It had rained earlier and was still slightly drizzling when we set out for the hill across the river. We walked to Puente San Martin, a bridge which passes over a gorge a couple hundred feet deep. From there we took a trail over to a point that overlooked a waterfall just after the gorge. Then back to the road only to turn off on another trail about 400M later. This trail followed up a valley with steep switch backs and dusty footing. We met several Indians coming down with loaded burros. At one point as we stopped to re-tie our shoes, we were watched from up the hill by several school kids out on recess. When we got up to them, they asked us to take their picture. I obliged, but it was the same trip as yesterday: Sorry kids - this ain’t a Polaroid.

We continued up the trail until it looked as tho the shortest way to the top lay cross-country. We hoofed it thru somebody’s corn field and made it to the top of the ridge in about 2 1/2 hrs. We walked along the ridge back toward Baños until we found a nice meadow in which to sit, get stoned, and wait for the clouds to clear. After about an hour, the clouds began to lift from the valley. Tung. was still clouded over off in the distance so we occupied time by admiring the scenery, and N attempted to spear butterflies with his walking stick. We took off our shoes and walked along the ridge (only hitting one nettle) to the T.V. tower where we could see Baños down below. We walked back and waited for Tung. to clear.

Finally the clouds began to break up around the top of Tungurahau, and I took a couple shots of the snow capped peak. We were just getting ready to go down when we heard a noise in the distance. It grew closer and we identified the sound as a helicopter just as it flew over us and on down the valley. We watched it fly down between the mountain ranges on either side. Over at the tower we waited another hour or so, just getting sun and enjoying the view. The top cleared again for a few minutes, we photo’d, and headed back down. The top cleared one more time on our decent. As we were about 3/4 down, we ran into Willie sitting along the ridge. We stopped and toked for a while, then finished our walk down. We got back after 6-7 hrs on the hill.

We dropped off our gear and went to the Merc. The cook was just leaving as we arrived so we sat around and waited for 2 hrs. for him to return. I spent the time playing chess with his little kid. A good player but the best he could get was one draw. I then played N. One game I spotted him a rook, another a queen. I won. The cook got back about 7 and we ordered chateaubriands.

We were joined by a lady named Valerie whom we first met, along with her boyfriend, in Otavalo (the guy who wanted to play chess) and later met and gave a snorkel to in Quito. They went to the Galapagos and immediately both got hep. She recovered and came back, he didn’t and is still in a hospital out on the islands. We talked for a while and invited her to come over for a toot. We sat around talking, doing Monty Python & Firesign Theater routines, and telling stories until she left. We crashed promptly thereafter - both being exhausted.


Awoke and went over to the Paisano, sore thighs and all.

There we met a couple of Yanks (Jill and Steve?) who we had run into in passing several times before. They were just on their way out of town to Riobamba or somewhere. Before they left they introduced us to an old fellow named Max who was eating by himself at another table. Max told us of his life in Calif. with his Japanese wife and 3 daughters. Evidently he vacations in S.A. every year, or has at least for the last 5. Jill had met him back in Eureka before her trip, and had run into him along the trail. She asked Max why he refused to talk over his & her upcoming S.A. trips before leaving the States. Max said “I come down here every year. What would my wife think if I brought a good looking chick home and started planning a trip to S.A.?”

His philosophy is “If they want to talk, let ’em learn English.”

As we were finishing up our breakfast, Valerie showed up. She was supposed to meet us at 8 - 8:30. It was 9. We came back to the hotel, got our shit together, and went off to the baths. On the way up I stopped [4] and got a letter from home. Hector has received the package; now I await a letter from him, exposing our faults in exposure. At the baths we did the typical hot, cold, hot, waterfall routine. N dove off the top of the bath house into the cold pool. He came up with scraped elbows.

I walked back from the baths before N & V and sat around writing. They arrived later, but went out again to get food for dinner, and to get V’s guitar. They returned and I was treated to all of N’s “three songs” and some of V’s. She has a very nice voice and sings Joan Baez type songs. After the serenade, we contemplated dinner. They were unable to score some meat and N was averse to tuna so, not feeling particularly vegetarian, we decided to go out to the Chifa for filipmiñong. There we met up again with Max who told us the same stories as he had at breakfast.

The cute little girl who is the daughter of the owner came over to Max at his request. He put his arm around her and asked her if she wanted to go back to Ca. with him. She couldn’t understand a word of his English but had a big smile none the less. He kissed her on the forehead and let her go. He said he had asked the Mama if her little one could go to Ca. with him. Mama had pointed to her older (13?) daughter and said “Take her” [5]

After dinner we stopped to buy eggs for breakfast. We parted company with Max and headed back to the res. As we were a block or so away from the res. we heard a voice calling out “Viva McKenzie.” It had to be... it was - Chris Cotton down from Otavalo with Ice Axe, crampons, 60 retalin, and a desire to climb Tungurahua tomorrow. C, V, N & I all came up and settled the meal. We talked Chris out of going tomorrow and put it off ’til Fri. We spent the rest of the eve talking.

At one point Segundo came up to leave some rat poison for our nightly raider noticed a couple days ago. He got involved in telling a long story about a 70 yr old guy who married a 17 yr old girl and sired 3 kids before kicking off at 80. Later he again came up and very excitedly asked us to turn off the lights and give him our passports. There were some Immigration officials inspecting the res. Evidently the attic is not a rentable room, so he had to hide us. We sat in the dark waiting for the officials to leave.

Soon Segundo came back up with our passports and started telling us about his safety measures to keep away false officials. Before he’ll open the door for them, they must present credentials. Otherwise he’ll pull his ever ready revolver from his belt and blast ’em. A paranoid fellow. He asked V. if she was going to spend the night with us. She was noncommittal but it became clear that he wanted her to leave. She did and this took Segundo out, too. Chris crashed on the bed.

Thurs JAN 18.

Val came by with more eggs for breakfast and woke us all up.

She and N. went down to the kitchen to start the food. When Chris and I got there the door was locked with no key and no Segundo in sight. Soon S. came along but told us that the stove was broken. We managed to get him to open the door anyway. I got my little stove, brought it down and started frying the veggies for pericos. The gasket was shot, with flames shooting out every 10 secs. I cut another gasket and then came the fun part of tightening down the top. It took N, C & I all torquing on the little bastard to get it 1st tight enough so it wouldn’t leak and 2nd tightened past a certain point so that the cap could be put on without hitting the control valve. That was the hard part. Using S. wrench we finally managed to tighten it down sufficiently to make it work.

After breakfast C & I went downtown to check on mail and allen wrenches for one set of crampons. No allens to be found and the guy in the P.O. was retarded or something so I couldn’t even find out about mail. Chris wanted to call his mom in Oregon but you can’t make collect calls from Baños. I stopped again at the P.O. and some other slightly more together fellow looked in every pile but the right one for letters. I couldn’t get him to look in the correct pigeon hole so we went back to the res with 3 strikes against us. Back at the hotel we tried to get one set of crampons to fit C’s boots just using a pliers. It didn’t work. I tried that set on my boots and they fit just fine. C. tried the other set on his boots and they also fit OK. One problem solved.

N wasn’t feeling too good today with body aches & gut gurgles. C, V, & I decided to take a walk up to the cross. At the last minute N decided to come along. We trucked up the hot, dusty trail for about 1/2 hr. At the cross we debated whether or not to go farther. We decided to save our strength for Tung. tomorrow. Going down there were places where we had to trot thru inches of dust to keep from slipping. We raised clouds behind us. Back down, C & V decided to go off to one set of pools near the Bull Ring while N went off to the Salado to try and soak out his pains. I stayed behind and wrote.

About 3:30 I went again to the P.O. hoping that the real lady who works there normally could find the letters that somehow I knew must be there. Sure enough, she was there and so were 2 letters, one from Hec. & one from the folks. Hec related a long story about how my journal interested the customs officials. Allusions to pot, etc. evidently excited them, but you can’t be arrested for writing about getting high. Hec. said the ASA 200 at least, was turning out good. The letter from my folks acknowledged receipt of presents and contained some pix taken at Christmas. I came back to the hotel and began writing a letter to Hec.

Soon N returned and shortly thereafter C&V returned. We listened to guitar music for a while and then went out for dinner at the Chifa. We wanted chicken but the waiter told us there was no chicken. We walked back out and had gotten about a block away when the lady who runs the Chifa came calling after us. She said they did indeed have chicken, so we went back and ordered up 3 quarters, N not feeling well enough to eat. During dinner we decided to buy another 1/2 chicken and cook up some rice and take the mixture, pre-cooked, up to Tung. to be heated up there.

Earlier in the day, just after our walk, we bought some other goods like tuna, noodles, bread, chocolate, etc. all for our climb tomorrow. We met Max again at the Chifa. He gave V. directions to get to Immigration in Quito, as she has to go there tomorrow and extend her visa. We took the chicken back to the res. and cooked up a batch of rice, mixed the stuff together, and put it in a plastic bag. It became apparent that N. wasn’t going to climb tomorrow. V left and we all retired, looking forward to tomorrow’s assault.


Got up a little after 6 and loaded up our packs.

C & I walked into town for breakfast. Then we bought some Valium & McKenzie for the road and started walking. [6] About a 1/2 hr up the trail we stopped and ate some Retalin. There we encountered a little kid on horseback who told us it was possible to rent horses for the climb. We seriously considered the idea. Another 1/2 hr. up the trail we came to the store that sold tickets for the refuge near the top. We registered, paid our 30S each for 2 nites, and then asked about horses. The guy would take our packs up to the refuge for 100S. That sounded good so we accepted. He ran off up the hill to get the horse and another ice axe. We waited for him to come back.

We killed some time by playing a game of pool. Soon we got restless, after waiting an hour, so we headed up the hill without our packs. What a difference! We met some folks along the way who steered us to the right trail. At one point we must have made a wrong turn but with the help of 2 native ladies, got back on the trail. Still not entirely convinced that we were on the right trail, we walked slowly ahead until we ran into an old, hard of hearing fellow who insured us we were on the right trail. He guided us around a bad spot, but we still hadn’t run into the guy with the horse and our packs.

We went up the trail for about another hour and then decided to stop and wait for the guy with our gear. We waited in a nice little clearing for an hour before the guy came along. When he got there we carved up a piña and drank some water. Then we proceeded slowly up the trail for another hour and 1/2 or so until we reached the refuge. Our guide cleaned out the refuge, washed the pots & pans, even swept the floor. While he was cleaning, C. was over in the trees gathering fire wood. We could see old Tung in the distance above us, as well as all the way back down to Ambato. I gave our guide 2 chocolate bars for his walk back and he departed.

We broke out the McK and a couple Valiums. After a drink and a relax in the sun, I came back in and heated up the chicken/rice mix with some veggies. With bread & scotch on the side it was a good dinner. I felt a little spaced out upon our arrival at the refuge (probably due to the ritalin) but felt much better after dinner. Then it was time for a fire. With the help of a couple paper bags and some gas (we didn’t need our stove as the refuge has a nice 4 burner gas model) we got a good fire going. The only problem was the smoke wouldn’t go out the chimney. Every gust of wind would send smoke into the room and tears to our eyes.

We let the fire burn down, looked at the stars and lights off in the distance, and then retired to a night of restless sleep. I fell asleep after much tossing, turning and listening to the wind, and later the rain.


Awoke to a foggy, rainy morning.

We decided to wait as long as possible before heading up, in the hopes that the weather would clear. We made up a breakfast of Avena but had no fruit or Arrope de Mora so it was rather bland. We washed the dishes, I wrote for a while and Chris, who slept even worse than me, napped for an hour. Then he went out and began to gather up more fire wood for tonight. I cleaned up the cabin and packed all our stuff back into the packs. We’d been told of “ladrones” coming up and robbing climber’s gear while they were up the hill. We stashed all our stuff under the stove in a little storage area secured with a big stump. We didn’t expect trouble, but better safe than sorry.

We finally started up about 11:30. The weather hadn’t gotten better, in fact it started to rain again just as we left. I was wearing my jeans, net t-shirt, turtle neck, wool shirt, Otavalo jacket & rain jacket, with my stocking cap, gloves, and boots. I carried my camera (sans strap) at first in my Gortex pocket but this soon got wet from the rain so I transferred it into my wool sweater where it rode very well. It had the normal lens on and I carried the wide angle in my other pocket. Armed with ice-axes (mine turned out to be too short, but serviceable) and energy, we began the climb. The wind was howling around us, the rain was freezing to my jacket, and the fog let us see at most 50 yds at a time.

We got up to the 1st white marker and kept going up the steep grade. The traction was bad with loose rocks at first and then snow. The snow was packey and actually provided slightly better footing. In memoriam to all the folks in Minn. I made and threw a commemorative snow ball. After an hour of steady hard work, we stopped for a chocolate bar break. At one point the sky cleared enuf for us to see down into the valley for a couple minutes. What a view! Then it clouded up again. More up hill over loose rocks. I’d stab the ice-axe into the ground, then push with both hands to get myself up. Then reach out and stab again.

Another hour and 1/2 of this and I was mentally ready to turn back. It was a replay of Puracé. I had visions of getting to the top again and having nothing to see. I stopped on the trail, leaned on my axe, and let C. go on ahead. He didn’t really want to go on alone, but didn’t want to turn back either. He said he’d go up for another 10 min. and see how close we were. I waited. About 20 min later 2 things happened almost at once. First, the sky began to clear and it became apparent that we were close to the top, second C re-appeared and shouted that we were only 20 min from the top.

The clear sky & good news revived my energy and I began again to struggle upward. We had to transverse across a very steep snow covered area from one ridge to another. Using the axe, I’d sink its head into the snow and haul myself along the face, hanging only onto the axe. It was steep but the snow was so deep (6"- 8") and soft that falling was not a real danger. The sky cleared completely and within 1/2 hr we were at the crater. The view was incredible.

We were higher than 90% of the clouds, the sun was shining, we were surrounded by snow, the crater, maybe 200M across and 100M deep, on one side and what looked like a glacier on the other. We could see big crevasses along its surface. C. decided to try the crampons and headed back up the glacier. I stayed below and photo’d the crater & glacier. About 15 min later C. came back down and told about seeing a “bottomless crevasse”. That rather scared him so he came back down.

It was now almost 4 PM and high time to come down. The 1st part of our decent was on our asses sliding thru the snow, using the axes as brakes. Once thru the heavy snow, we started “skiing” down on our boots. We’d take one step forward and slide for 3 more. Then into the loose rocks. This was even more fun. The sliding was quite controllable and a lot faster than the long struggle up. Soon we hit the hard ground and this was the slowest as we could only go one step at a time. C. lagged behind with tired legs and a blister while I went ahead to the cabin. My jeans were soaked from sliding thru the snow, my shoes were wet, but we had made it to the top.

The clouds remained away for the rest of the eve. giving us good views of the top until sunset. We kicked back with the 2 beers we’d purchased at the tienda, ate the rest of the valium, and basked in our success. I hung my jeans & sox out to dry, and proceeded to mix up a good batch of tuna-surprise. We finished off the McK, ate dinner, and even had some leftovers. We tried to make a fire again but most of the wood was wet due to the rain last nite. It smoked us out again.

C. put some Ben Gay on his aching legs, let the fire burn out, and we retired. I didn’t sleep very well again but C slept even worse. He woke me up complaining about something in his eye. I looked but couldn’t see anything. It was red, puffy, and tearing, making it impossible for him to sleep. He finally figured out he’d gotten Ben Gay in his eyes and just let them water until it was washed out.


We got up early after a fitfull nite.

Made up the left over tuna surprise and coffee con leche for breakfast. It was another rainy, foggy morn. We washed all the dishes, swept the floor, packed up all our gear, and prepared to get wet. The trail back down the hill was pure mud. It was raining hard, the path was steep, and where the path went between dirt banks, it was like a big mud slide. With my pack on my back to throw off my balance, I managed to slip and fall a couple times. Once I thought I wouldn’t be able to get up, my pack was wedged between the dirt walls and the mud gave me no traction. As C. said later, the walk down was one big uncontrolled mud slide. At times the mud was 3"- 4" deep with no way around.

About 1/3 of the way down, we turned off the mud path and headed cross country. Shortly thereafter we realized we were lost. We zig-zagged across cow pastures, thru barbed wire fences, and down more mud chutes. After wandering downhill for another 1/3 of the way, we were both drenched and my legs were beginning to feel like rubber bands. Somewhat later we ran into the same little old man from Friday. He told us we were only a short way from the store, and that I had rented his ice-axe. We gave him the axe and hoofed it to the store. There we plopped our gear down and I noticed the damage done to this notebook by the rain. I sat and drank 3 colas, being very thirsty, probably due to the ritalin we we had taken before departing down.

At the store we asked the fellow how much we owed him for the horse, axe, and a beer, all purchased on credit. He told us he’d send his wife to the res. to collect the cash after we got there. He said 150 for the horse, 50 for the axe & 15 for the beer. But Fri. he told us the horse was only 100. We bartered a bit and finally got him back down to the original 100 S. Satisfied, we headed back out and down the hill. The rain had stopped but we still had to slog our way back into town. On the way down one of the mud chutes I had ripped a knee on my jeans. They were covered with mud, as were my boots, and we must have made quite a sight walking thru town.

At the res I was ready for peace, quiet, and pot. But it was not to be. We arrived to a party of N, the Canadian “connection”, and 2 other fellows, Gordon [7] from Britain & Francisco from Scotland, who were busy handing out San Pedro Cactus and smoking pot. I took the pot but passed on the San P. I was feeling pretty raggy from 2 days of hard work, little sleep, and ritalin, so I wasn’t very happy to see a party.

I hung all my wet clothes out on the line and came back up and got high. The Canadian left as did G & F a little later. I relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Around dinner time we went off to the Merc. for burgers. C. bought a bottle of McK and Val joined us for dinner. We sat around talking, drinking, & eating. Everybody else was cruising on the San P, but I decided to come back and crash, ending a long adventure on the mountain.

Earlier in the afternoon as we were sitting around smoking, the wife of the store owner came by to collect the money for the horse, etc. She again said it was 150 for the horse. Both N & I tried to tell her that her husband had changed his mind on that score, but she refused to believe it. We wound up paying her 200 instead of 165.

[1] We met Y on the street. He came up and looked over our penthouse but then split.

[2] There’s a lady who sells hard boiled eggs on the plaza. Her nasal cry of “Huevos, huevos, huevos" cracks me up every time.

[3] Willy

[4] at the P.O.

[5] Before we left a PCV from Hudson, Wisc. came over and talked for a minute.

[6] The bus hackers asked us if we were going to Riobamba. No, we’re going to Tungurahua. You got a bus going to Tungurahua? You have to take a place over there, they said.

[7] Gordon had a note book filled with some very nice drawings inspired by Indian patterns and San P. N photo’d the best of them.

Chapter 19::Table of Contents::Chapter 21