Chapter 20::Table of Contents::Chapter 22

Chapter 21
San Pedro
Quilotoa
Portraits in Baños

MON JAN 22,

N got up early after spending a late nite with the San P gang, and went off to the Ambato mkt.

I got high and went back to sleep. Later Chris came by to see if I wanted to go out for breakfast. We went over to Su Cafe but they were closed. We wandered over to another place and ordered up eggs, bread & coffee. There we were joined by Gordon & Frank. They, C, N, & V all had a very late nite last nite, going thru 2 bottles of McK, taking an unauthorized hot bath until the guard kicked them out, and falling down in the streets.

Today C. was going back to Otavalo and after breakfast I helped him carry his crampons, ice-axe and other goods left in our room over to his. We said good-by but he said he'd send me a telegram regarding the Otavalo Connection and our hike to Quilota. He’s expecting his girl friend to come and visit soon. He says “You meet the nicest people on the tops of mountains” I agreed. We parted and I came back to the res to get high & relax my aching legs. [1]

I spent the rest of the morn reading & dozing. About 1:30 N came back from the Ambato mkt. with a nice belt for his jeans and a little alcohol burner like Eve & Ann’s that he had managed to find. He went out to find alcohol & a container. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. About 6 he finally returned from talking to the local marble-men. He’d been given a nice 2 liter bottle that had once held rat-poison. It had to be cleaned before putting alcohol in it. In tossing it back to him, it fell to the floor and cracked. So much for that bottle.

Soon Val came over and she & N proceeded to play guitar until I could stand it no longer. I went off to the Merc. for a veggie pie. There I met a couple from New York and a fellow from Switz. who told about how nice the Quilota walk is. After dinner I came back, settled the meal, and retired. N & V had gone out to the Merc. just as I was leaving. When N got back he was still hot to trot with the guitar. He and Val sat around toodling until she left. Then I asked him to cool it and went to sleep.

Earlier in the afternoon, while looking out the window, I saw a beautiful iridescent green humming bird, with a tail 3 times as long as the bird’s body, flitting around the big red flower bushes by the sidewalk.

The locals have been burning off big sections of the hillsides. C. says the natives think the smoke makes clouds & brings rain.

TUES JAN 23.

Val came over and we all went out to Su Cafe for breakfast.

Maybe it’s something I’ve done or subconsciously am doing, but whatever the cause, N has been rather contrary the last couple days. At breakfast we discussed taking San P today. Earlier I’d expressed the desire to write this morn, but when I agreed to eat SP instead, N got upset saying he wouldn’t have eaten breakfast if he’d known that. I told him to do what he pleased, and not make his decisions contingent upon me. He cooled off a little and we came back to the res. by way of the P.O. We’d gotten a letter from Eve & Ann in Quito. They told us to write to them in Guat. City.

Back at the res we met up with Gordon and Frank who were also wanting to SP. Val brought over her little “yo-yo” grinder and we proceeded to pulverize our bag and some of G & F’s. F ate the most, followed by N & I, V & G. The stuff was God-Awful, even when swilled down with water. We smoked some in a j mixed with tobacco after eating. We sat around for about an hour, settling our stomachs. Then we all went off down the road toward the path to Rio Verde.

It was an hour walk to the trail’s start. Along the way G got sick and I wasn’t feeling too hot myself. But it was a beautiful day and I was just beginning to feel the effects by the time we reached the trail. Up the trail we went, N. in the lead with his walking stick, like Moses to the promised land. We climbed up and up, my heart pounding, legs aching, and head spinning. We got to the top of a rise and saw our trail far down below us. Moses had led us up the wrong trail. Back down we went. That exertion really sent me.

When we got back to the correct trail, I was amazed how far up hill we’d gone. I remembered little of it. The others went down the correct trail, but I decided to head back to Baños. I knew my legs wouldn’t hold out ’til Rio Verde, so I just put it in drive and started walking myself back to town. The San Pedro cactus high is a cross between acid & peyote. Not as heavy as acid, organic like peyote, but definitely electric. The wind crackling thru the trees, the clouds pulsing and changing hues, my head and thoughts were flying.

It was a much longer walk back, head time, but I made it back to the res at 3. I proceeded to drink water, and lay down with body rushes and soaring thoughts. I phased in and out of reality for 4 hours ’til the others got back. They never got any farther down the trail than the waterfall by the tunnel. The walking stick bit the dust. They were all hungry. Off they went to the Merc. I wasn’t hungry so I just got stoned and retired.

WED JAN 24,

Awoke ravenous.

Went over to the Paisano for yoghurt con fruit & granola, french toast, and a jugo. After stuffing ourselves we came back to the ranch and finished off our supply of smokeables. Then it was off to the baths. It was a nice clear day. I took my camera along and got some photos of old Tunk. It has much more snow now than 3 days ago. At the baths we did the usual hot, cold, hot routine. Towards the end of our stay I took some photos at the waterfall and around the baths. Val showed up a little later and we invited her over for dinner.

Before dinner our first task was to find a container for alcohol. We found a cheap plastic one at one of the trinket shops near the church. Then we bought alcohol, meat, bread, tomato sauce, butter, spaghetti noodles, and later I came back for whole toms, onions, and tea. We took the meat over to the Merc. to have it ground up. Back at the res we tested the alcohol burner. It almost gets hot enough to boil water, but if the pot is covered, it boils OK.

We started by brewing up the spaghetti sauce. I got a bottle of cheap wine from Segundo which went half into the sauce and half into N & I. We sat around reading and writing while the sauce simmered, smelling better & better. About 5 Val showed up. We bought another bottle of vino and started making the noodles and garlic bread. When these items were finished, we sat down to a spaghetti dinner that couldn’t be beat. We bought yet another bottle of wine and proceeded to get sloshed. Then we went off to the Merc. for a drunken game of chess and a piña pie. After that we came back to the res, guitared it for a while & crashed.

Thurs JAN 25,

Val came by this morn with 9 eggs.

We decided to make breakfast in our room. She cooked up some tortillas with flour, water, sugar & salt. I chopped up some veggies and cooked up a batch of pericos. N had his fried. The little stove works well for eggs but can’t get up the heat for tortillas. We had to use the gas one for that. For a while, at least, we’ll keep both stoves but just take the little one out packing.

After breakfast I went over to the P.O. and got another letter from home. The folks had received their gifts OK. The rest of the day was spent on chores. I got almost caught up in this book, mended my jeans, cleaned off and sno-sealed my boots, and read for a while. N came back after talking to a guy about building him a pair of sandals. He’s having a pair make for 250. I should go to the guy and get him to fix my boot. Today was a day of basic laying around. I’m coming down with a cold and didn’t feel like much exertion or action.

We went over to the Merc for a hamb. dinner. Segundo wanted to have a party tonite so we spread the word. N had seen a tall blond lady whom he lusted after at the baths today. She showed up at the party and he danced up a storm with her, only to receive a kiss on the cheek at the end of the night.

I met 2 fellows at the party who had just seen Elaine J. in Quito. They delivered a letter to us from her. She’s heading for Cuenca. She met E & A in Quito. Evidently their boat trip to Coca was adventure packed. It took them 14 instead of 7 hours due to first the motor breaking down and having to go back to Mish. to get another, and then to the boat being so overcrowded that it hung up on sandbars & continually needed to be bailed out as water was coming in over the sides.

I retired as the party music drifted to disco.

FRI JAN 26,

Val came by with 9 eggs again.

We made up another perico breakfast complete with tortillas. After breakfast she left with her guitar. At last I have a reprieve from the sounds of strings. Shortly after eating, Frank and Gordon came up with another fellow named Steve who turned out to be from Tofte. He and N. sat around trading names of people they knew in common from Grand Marais and Lutsen. Frank powdered up more SP and the 3 of them, excluding G & I, choked it on down. We sat around and talked for quite a while as it was raining outside and no weather for strolling.

About 3 the sun came out and they all prepared to go out. I gave the pipe one final cleaning and all 5 of us managed to catch a buzz. Then they split. I spent the rest of the afternoon nursing my running nose, coughing, and reading a Jane Roberts book called the Education of Oversoul #7. An esoteric ditty reminiscent of Eckankar. Thus another day was spent in virtual inactivity.

Gordon & I went over to the Merc for dinner, later joined by N & F. N had gone out taking photos of the crystal clear air and beautiful sunset. Everything was washed clean by the rain and the colors in the sky were truly remarkable. At dinner Franklin had cooked up a special comida of roast pig & mashed potatoes. It was quite good. When I asked the price before the meal I was told it cost 40. As time to pay rolled around, Mercedes tried to charge 50. I told her he said it was only 40. She let me get by with this price but others were charged 50.

While eating we were joined by Bill, a 70 odd year old guy from San Fran. who’s been down here 5 times in the last 10 years. In the “green book” at the Merc. he was on page 5. He’d had a fight with his 36 yr old girl friend and was headed back to Quito tomorrow. We also ate with the New York couple, Carlos & Regine. Nice folks.

After dinner we strolled around looking for Gringas or smoke. Neither could be found. As we were waiting in a store to buy candles, the power went out. It came back on shortly but it could have been quite dangerous in the street what with all the holes & concrete pipes laying scattered about. We came back to the res. but N went out again to try and find some smoke. He was unsuccessful. He returned and we both crashed.

SAT JAN 27,

Awoke and went over to the Paisano for breakfast.

Came back and spent most of the day reading Vonnegut’s Wampeters, Foma, & Granfalloons. This kept me busy as my cold was still acting up. It’s getting better but I didn’t feel like taking any chances. Later in the afternoon, N went out to photo the marble match. He came back and by that time I had finished the book. Then he had to go over and pick up his sandals. They weren’t ready so we went out to dinner. I sat and waited & waited for my chateau. N went back out & picked up his sandals just before his dinner was served. I sat and ate some of his fries ’til he got back.

After dinner we came back to the res. where Segundo was getting ready for another party. But he wasn’t doing very much. He’s had swollen glands for the last couple weeks. When 9:30 rolled around he still hadn’t opened up the room or set out the player. N & I roused him from his T.V. upstairs and he set up the stereo just as the guests began to arrive. There was a serious lack of ladies and drugs. There were 2 women (both attached) and about 12 men.

I played D.J. for a while and sat around and talked to Harry from Chicago, and Frank and some French guy. N went out to try and remedy the women/drug situation. He found neither. After other folks took over control of the stereo selections I crashed.

SUN JAN 28,

Awoke early and packed our stuff together to go to Quilotoa.

Frank & Gordon joined us and off we went to get some breakfast. After eating we bought some food in the market, I checked for mail at the P.O. (nothing) and we got on a bus for Ambato. In Ambato we made connections immediately for Latacunga. My pack was transferred from bus top to bus top and off we went.

At the police check point outside Lat. I bought some llullas [2] (pronounced “djudjas”). Once in town we made it to the bus for Zumbaqua. As we were waiting on the bus for it to get going, we had a snack of llullas and pop. There was a drunken native trying to get on the bus. He must have been about 16 and drunk as a skunk. It took 3 people to get him on. Finally we got underway.

About 45 min later we stopped in Pujili. Today happened to be market day. The driver got out along with a couple ladies and went off to do some shopping. A big fat lady wearing about a gallon of perfume sat down in front of me. We sat there on the bus for a good 1/2 hr, breathing putrid perfume and waiting for the driver to get back. At one point F went up and started honking the busses’ horn. It didn’t help. Finally the driver showed up but we had to wait another 15 min for the 2 ladies to arrive. By this time even the Ecuadorians were getting pissed. People were making comments about not wanting to sleep on the bus tonight. Finally the ladies showed, each with big bags of bananas, and we drove up into the mountains toward Zum.

As we got higher, the farm land in the valley gave way to grazing land. We saw many herds of sheep, goats, and a few llamas. The farther we went, the more barren the land became. In some places there was absolutely nothing growing. The mountain peaks were craggy and jagged. After about 2 hours we pulled into Zumb. We got out and had a cola at the roadside stand, then started walking. The handbook said it was a 3 1/2 hr walk. The locals said it was 3.

All along the first part of the walk (along a good gravel road) there were cactuses growing next to the road. There was a good sized canyon paralleling the road, and with the mountains in the distance, it was a scenic but desolate looking area. We ran into more herds of goats and sheep and I managed to photo one. All the little kids we encountered along the way would ask us for a sucre. At first we gave them some change as they looked as poor as any people we’d seen so far. Later on we realized we’d be broke by the end of the walk if we kept handing out sucs, so we gave money only to those who gave us info. We came to a fork in the road, at which 3 little kids were sitting. We asked them which way to go, they told us to the right, we gave them some sucs and kept on trucking.

After an hour and a half or so my feet began to get sore. I had worn only my tennies and my little toes were feeling the pinch. We asked a couple folks how far it was to the lake. They both told us it was 2 - 3 k. Good, we thought, as it was now about 4:PM. The trail to this point had been fairly level, but now it started going up hill. Another 1/2 hr passed and we asked another fellow in a car how much farther. He said [3] another 1/2 hr to the crater and another 1/2 hr down to the water. We didn’t want to believe it was still that far, but his info turned out to be correct.

By about 5 it had started to cloud up, mist, and get cold. We put on wool jackets and took a little break along the side of the road. My hands were so cold I couldn’t button the top button of my shirt and my feet were really paining. The houses that people live in around here are nothing more than small dirt walled huts covered with thatch roofs. Life up here must be very hard.

We continued our uphill walk thru the fog and finally reached the crater. Then it was a steep, sandy, walk/run/slide á la Tung. to the water below. It was so foggy we couldn’t see the lake until we were almost down to it. We got to the bottom about 6. We had started about 2:30 so the handbook was right. For some reason we hadn’t brought water with us, thinking a lake so far from people couldn’t be too bad. I filled up the canteen, iodized it, and waited.

My feet hurt so bad I had to take my shoes off and go barefoot even tho it was quite cold. N went off to find fire wood. G & F did the same. N came back to our campsite, a relatively flat, sandy spot near the water. We tried to get the tent up but it was rather difficult getting the thing to stand what with a 3" layer of sand on top of rock. We managed to pound most of the stakes in, but it seemed a very fragile success.

Then it came time to cook dinner. I tasted the water but it was too brackish to drink. The lake drains nowhere, and people bring goats & cows to the water to drink. It was surrounded by goat shit and had a ring of white foam around the shore. The lake was nothing more than a salt-water cesspool. I decided then & there I would have nothing to do with that water. I’d go thirsty before I’d drink or cook with it. By this time it was getting dark, my feet were sore & cold, my mouth was dry, my temperament none too pleasant, and I thought “Whose Idea was this, anyway?” I rolled out my sleeping bag and crawled in while N, G & F got the fire going and tried to cook rice with the iodized water. It turned out to be inedible. So we had tuna sandwiches and a banana (no water) for dinner.

F & G didn’t have a tent so they laid out 2 sheets of plastic and their ponchos to sleep on. N crawled into the tent and we crashed. Shortly thereafter it began to rain. G & F huddled under their plastic until about 1AM. I put out our pots and pans to collect rain water and when N & I saw how cold and soaked they were, we told them to get into the tent with us. So we squeezed 4 folks into our 2 man tent. F put on my wool jacket, G shared N’s bag and we tried to sleep.

Then the tent fell in. The rain had softened the sand and the main peg at the front had pulled out. The wet tent laid against our bags and got them wet. N went out to try and put the stake back in. It held for a while, but just as we had fallen asleep, it caved in again. N fixed it again but by now everything was damp if not soaked. The peg held and we finally fell asleep, F wedged between N & I and G curled up at the bottom of the tent. I slept with damp pants and my face in a puddle of water.

As F & G were getting into the tent, we treated ourselves to a sip of collected rain water. The first real water in almost 12 hrs. Every one slept fitfully. It was almost dawn before the rain stopped.

MON JAN 29,

We awoke about 6:30 wet and cold.

We had planned on making Avena for breakfast but without water it was quite impossible. We had collected enough rain water to give each of us a good drink, but that was all. So we ate bananas, mandarines, and cookies for breakfast. We packed up our bags and tent, still wet, and started the long climb back out of the crater.

The rain had packed and hardened the sand so it was not nearly as slippery or dusty going up, but it was still uphill. It took us almost an hour to reach the top. About half way up we met a little kid who followed us the rest of the way up, asking for money all the way. However none of us were feeling generous. On the way up we took some pix of the lake. [4]   The lake is a mile or 2 in diameter, surrounded on all sides by peaks. It used to be a volcanic cone.

Once we reached the top we took a break to view the landscape. 2 teachers came up and joined us. They lived near by and didn’t have a car. We were hoping to catch a ride to Zumb. but they told us no cars came along this road and the only bus had passed at 7. So we started our long downhill walk.

An hour later we came to a truck parked in front of what turned out to be a small store. The little kids all ran up to us asking for sucres. The truck wouldn’t be leaving for a while but we did avail ourselves of the store’s colas. Every body got a big laugh when I tried to walk into the store with my pack on and it hit against the top of the doorway. A cola never tasted as good as those did. F & G had dried off from walking, and everyone’s spirits picked up after the long needed drink.

Off down the road we went, the marvel of all the locals. One little kid came up asking for bread, I gave him a cookie. A shepherd noticed me readying my camera to photo him and shook his head. I refrained from photoing him, but another fellow stopped me and almost demanded I take his photo. I tried to tell him I didn’t have a Polaroid, but couldn’t get the idea across, so I didn’t take his photo either. A little later we ran into a lady with a big German Shepherd walking toward the lake. She was a Gringa and we gave her directions and warned her about the water.

By now my feet had begun to hurt again. I was wearing my shoes untied, to try and make them as loose as possible, but it didn’t help. By the time we reached Zumb. every step almost brought tears to my eyes, and walking was 9/10 will power, 1/10 physical ability. When we finally reached the road I was mentally exhausted from fighting the pain. I took off my shoes and inspected the damage. I’d never seen anything like it. My little toes didn’t have blisters, they were blisters.

We sat along the roadside drinking colas and eating the last of the cookies. Soon a little pick up truck stopped and took us to Lat. I sat in the back, barefoot, huddled under my rain jacket, watching a chicken on the floor, as we drove thru wind and rain. F had my wool jacket on, N his, and G wrapped in his poncho. It was a cold, windy, and some times rainy drive, but we made it to Lat. The only bit of excitement was when we were stopped at the police check point outside Pujili. N thought we’d have to show passports and he’d left his in Baños, but we didn’t.

Just before Lat. the driver got out and charged us each 20 S. We hadn’t anticipated that but it was the same as the bus. Once in Lat. we climbed on a bus to Ambato. I was still barefoot and got a few looks from the locals. The ride to Amb. was short and sweet. Once there we got on another bus to Baños. I put my shoes back on. The bus stopped and picked up 5 school girls, one of whom sat next to me in the only empty seat. This caused many giggles from the others as she was sitting next to the “meester”. One of them said hello to N and asked him how he was. “Horny” he replied. The bus had an out of alignment wheel and every time it went too fast down hill the bus would shake and rattle. The school girls got off for fear the bus would explode.

Finally in Baños we bought some little banana fritters from the lady in front of the market, and I limped back to the res. We strung up a line in our room and hung out the tent & sleeping bags to dry. We decided to celebrate our return so N went downstairs and got a bottle of McK from Segundo. F, G, N & I sat around until dinner time drinking and talking about drinking. At the Merc. for dinner we ordered up chateaus, fries & pies to go with our bottle. When that one was finished, N went out and bought another but this one was bad. Chris Cotton had mentioned the same thing happening to him in Otavalo, but we drank the stuff anyway.

I played a couple games of chess with N & Val, then, wearing F’s thongs, came back to the res in a drunken, frazzled heap, and crashed.

“Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God”

TUES JAN 30.

N got up very early and hustled off to Ambato to cash money.

I slept until he got back which turned out to be about 11. He Val, F and later G (to a small extent) all ate SP today. Last nite F had found a frog who had a smoke connection. Later this after G would go check on that. The SP was not powdered as before, but just wetted into a little glob and choked down. They claimed this was the best way yet. They sat around for a while and then went off to the baths. I gave my cold and toes the benefit of the doubt and stayed behind, reading Eden Express by M. Vonn. In this way I passed most of the afternoon.

Around 3 G went down to the park to see if he could score. About 5:15 the others came back from the pools, cruising. A little later G showed up with a little. The guy first said “nothing”. Then showed a whole cig pack full, then sold half at the last moment. G & the rest of us tested and approved. He had to return to give the guy some SP as payment. We suggested he take a full cig pack, but only give the guy half.

V, F, N & I went off to the Chifa for dinner. G stayed behind with stomach cramps. At the Chifa we inquired about taking a photo of the cute little girl there. We’ll return tomorrow & shoot. After dinner we stopped in a trinket shop to visit one of N’s “marble men”. I wound up buying a post card of old Tung. to send home. Back at the res, V, G, F, N & I all settled the meal and listened to N play guitar. I read E Exp. ’til about 12 when everybody left and we retired.

WED JAN 31,

Awoke and went over to the Paisano for breakfast.

When we got back we began the long process of packing and getting things ready to go South. N. went down and started washing clothes while I started moving into my pack. We had shit scattered from one end of the room to the other. The tent was hung from the ceiling, books, papers, and odds and ends ’til you couldn’t even see the floor. I proceeded to pack stuff slowly.

When N got up from washing, I went down and did some of my own. Val had come by. When I finished washing the 3 of us went over to get the little girl from the Chifa to take her picture. She was still eating lunch so we waited for her to finish by drinking a coke. When she was ready, her mother sent us off with her sister and a little boy. I took a photo of the 3 of them in the park. Then we found a Polaroid guy and got 3 pics taken. [5] The 1st of N & I and the 3 little kids we gave to the girl. The second of N & I & the girl went to N. The 3rd didn’t turn out so we had to do it over. I got that one. We walked back to the Chifa. Her mother praised the photo and treated us to a jugo de mora.

We then walked over to the Mercedes and took a picture of Franklin and his 3 kids in front of the doorway. Then I took a photo of N & Val with the little girl from across the street that N had taught to wink. Then we walked back to the res. Along the way I photo’d 2 construction workers next to their cement mixer. Back at the res, N was to go to Ambato with Segundo to buy more records. Before they left I took a photo of S. in front of the res. with his rifle & pistol. Earlier N got some shots of the men pulling taffy.

N left and I resumed packing. I wrote for a while and finished Eden Express. Then I crashed, still suffering from a bad head cold. N returned about 6 and we went off to the Merc. for a final chateaubriand. After dinner we talked S. into letting us listen to the new records, N & I, Val, Gordon and Frank listened to Jazz, Cat Stephens, Linda Ronstadt, etc. The fellow from whom G had scored the smoke was also there later, cruising on SP, but he had no more smoke. My cold sent me to bed early.


[1] First I washed a big load of all my dirty Tung. clothes.

[2] like thick crackers

[3] in English

[4] it wasn’t foggy

[5] The pix cost 50 each.

Chapter 20::Table of Contents::Chapter 22