A thick fog this morning when I open the shutters. The air coming from the window is not cold even though it’s February. It reminds me so much of Ecuador when we got up that first morning in the middle of the jungle. The mist was everywhere and we could just about distinguish the river and the trees ahead. The muted colours and the sounds of the thick jungle for this new day and just for us. What a treat.
The long pirogues slicing the river under the moonlight the night before. Wasn’t it magical? We were sitting one behind the other clutching our bags thinking we could just disappear and no-one would ever find out. Do you remember? We had no idea where we were going and we had to trust that young man with his paddle standing on the stern. No torches, no lights they said. Three pirogues following each other. It had been such a long day and we were so tired, no one was talking. By the time we got to the place, a bamboo structure with accommodations everywhere on stilts and not a glass pane. Only mosquito nets. I remembered that detail because there were no reflections in the windows. The air was warm and humid, and it stayed warm and humid the whole time we were there. Of course, it was. This was Ecuador with a dry season and a wet one. And that was that.
In the middle of the compound a pool with lights underwater. Everything else was in semi darkness. The fruit bats were flying low and fast hunting the unaware insects above the water and it was like a dance, mesmerizing. It’s amazing how they never collided into each other given the sheer number of them.
And this is where we met and our friendship started. You had come with Chris, your best buddy and long-time best friend, and I had gone alone. We shared a room in Quito before that long cliff hanging bus drive, something like 10 or 12 hours. A drive that should have taken just a few hours but that was without the breakdowns and the road works. The taste of sweet potato chips on the road side, everything and anything was a source of wonder.
The long hikes in the jungle in wellies, best protection for snakes they had told us, and surprisingly comfortable. I remember the story from our local guide of the tribe that fought the building of that huge road that was destroying their forest. When nothing else had worked that oil company had sent a priest to meet and negotiate the road. The priest never came back and the road never got finished.
The cockatoos and the monkeys, 4 of us in that canoe and no one else. Just silence but noisy as hell. And then those huts by the riverside when we got there long after everyone else. The damp and uncomfortable mattresses and the tarantulas in the corners.
On lorries inner tubes we went down for a couple of hours, following the river flow, letting ourselves be carried …we saw young school children in uniform following the river on their way to school…
And that time when we got caught in a storm on our way to camp. Coming down the side of the mountain we were holding on to each other like a long caterpillar. It was steep and the water running thick between out legs was making walking unsafe. We got drenched in no time at all and I remember needing to pee badly. We could not stop, we had to get to safety before night fell. I hesitated only a couple of seconds. My wellies were already full of water, so what the hell! And then the relief…The warmth in my boots, such an incredible freeing feeling that got me to laugh out loud. I wanted you all to try it. But then when we finally got there and hang our clothes, mine stank of piss and the stench lingered on and on.
On some of our treks we ate some of the jungle fruits. One of them was like a gigantic pod inside of which segments with big seeds and reminiscent of bananas were lodged. Delicious. I had put some seeds in my pocket and forgot all about them.
Back in London when I got my clothes out of the washing machine, there were a few germinated seeds in my pocket. Don’t leave anything, don’t take anything. I had no intention of bringing them back. They had simply got forgotten. I planted them and put them on our windowsill. I promised myself that if they grew into seedlings I would go back to Ecuador. Well… our local squirrels made sure I didn’t.
So many great memories. How long ago was it? 20 years?
Happy birthday Tina.