Friday, May 21, 2010
following my nose
Posted by Gin
We ended up getting turned around, either hiking too high or too low. We scanned the river for signs of another bridge, but the Pastaza twists and cuts deep; it can be sometimes hard to see into the canyon from far above. With a hot, hungry, cranky kid on our back, we turned around.
Towards the beginning of this trip, I made some half hearted attempts to find the Sauce bridge, with no luck. Then, on one afternoon when I was going stir crazy with a little too much family togetherness time, I studied the map, laced up my running shoes and trotted out determined to find it.
I soon reached the town downstream, San Vicente. I saw encouraging road signs for La Puente, but no evidence of the bridge. Some local kids tried to direct me back to the main bridge in Banos. When I explained I was looking for one closer, they directed me further downstream to Ulba. "No hay otro puente mas cerca??" I pleaded. An older boy intervened, and confidently waved me along.
With nothing to lose, I followed the trails of his gestures down a long quiet road. I could hear the river raging, but saw nothing that looked like a bridge approach. In fact, the road appeared to dead end. I almost turned back, but not eager to return home so soon, I edged over the top of the road and saw a foot path zig zagging steeply down.
The river got louder. The narrow path plunged another level to reveal a small bridge, swaying in the sun. I had been looking for a modern, car carrying behemoth, and was treated instead to wooden planks, grimy cables and perfect solitude.
The angling late afternoon light followed the river and warmed the tall canyon walls. I studied the fierce currents thirty feet below and the calm band of blue sky a hundred feet above, and declared it to be my new favorite place. For not the first time in Ecuador, I thought about Middle Earth, and how it is now so much easier for me to visualize Tolkein's terrain. Goblins and hobbits and elves oh my!
I crossed the bridge and scrambled up the steep, rocky path. Up and up until I found a warm spot to sit in the stubby mountain grass. Looking back over the river valley and towards Banos, I was surprised to see both the elusive volcano's peak, and the stunning Ulba waterfall (you can sort of see the waterfall in the pic below.) With deep gratitude, I soaked in the sun, bent my ear to the sounds of the trees and bushes swaying in the canyon winds, and slowly swung my head back and forth to take in the outlines and details of the expansive view.
On the way back, I thought I smelled lilacs. Memories of midwestern spring surged, and I spent 10 minutes sniffing up and down the road, looking for the source. A corner plot of tall white flowers? Maybe. The garden fronting one of the nicer houses? No. The grove of citrus trees with delicate blooms. . . maybe? maybe?? Sniff, sniff. Nothing. Come back breeze!!! As soon as I walked away, I caught the scent again and dashed back to the trees. Unable to figure it out, I proceeded home, eager to share my new favorite place with Michael and Miguel.