"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The kitten and climbing Imbabura

I´m still alive! It´s been a very long time since my last update so I´m definitely going to skip a lot of what´s been going on and just focus on a couple of recent things.

The first is I´ve been sick again but this time it was just a regular cold. Pretty boring compared to other stuff I´ve had (giardia being the most interesting). Unfortunately, I always seem to get sick when my community parties - which means they play music very loudly all night long from 7 p.m. to morning. And last week was the celebration for San Francisco de Asis (Assis) so I actually went without sleep three nights in a row, after my cluster´s get together at which I also didn´t sleep. Fun!

And then about a week ago I did something a little impulsive.

After my weekly Andean flute lesson, I pretty much galloped to the Plaza de las Gallinas, the small animal market. I went right to the pet section and found an older woman with a tiny cage full of meowing kittens. I asked the price - $1. I didn´t think I could beat that, but I looked around just to see what other kittens were around. But I went back to the lady and asked for a macho, a boy...just as I found one I liked, a little girl walked by and spilled her entire pop drink in the cage. All the kittens squealled and cried as the woman pulled out my kitten, which was also crying. Oh boy. This was it. A dollar? I asked. The woman balked and paused as though to reconsider her original price, but then nodded. She plopped the kitten in a disgusting bag reeking of rotten eggs and we went off to catch a taxi, crying kitten and all.

On the bus I put the kitten in a box and tossed the bag, but he refused to stay and much prefered to curl up and pass out on my lap all the way back to my site, a 2-hour ride.

Now he´s pretty much litter trained but he´s the most annoying creature in the world I´ve ever met. Around 5:30 a.m., or maybe earlier when the roosters begin crowing, he wakes up and sticks his face in mine, tickling my nose with whiskers or biting my cheek or fingers.

Part II: Imbabura

Last week a couple volunteers, an RPCV and myself went north to Ibarra to climb Imbabura volcano. It´s something like 15,100 feet or so high and was supposed to be somewhat of an easy climb. Of course, things don´t ever go according to plan.

The picture above is of Quito and a lovely nevado, snowy mountain, to what I thought was the north but it´s looking more like Sincholagua which is more to the southeast. I´m not sure. There are just so many... anyway, Quito is where we all met up.

That afternoon we continued north beyond Otavalo and to the pleasant city of Ibarra. We had to walk a little to a park where we caught a bus to La Esperanza...but unfortunately the bus was full and got even more packed as we continued, making it very awkward and uncomfortable for us with backpacks.

Soon enough we reached La Esperanza and the bus driver apologized for forgetting to let us off the bus at the hostal Casa Aida. No problem though. The hostal owners put us on the choza, the sierran-style straw-roof house where we relaxed until dinner. Dinner was awfully expensive ($4) and included a lentil soup, potatoes, cabbage, and meat if you eat that. We bought water, asked for lunches the next day, and arranged a ride for 5 a.m. to the trailhead.

The next morning we woke at 4:30 a.m. and scrambled to get ready. The hostal owners were already up and cooking and gave us our meal. Right at 5 a.m., our driver pulled up and we piled in.

It was about a 30 minute ride and we arrived in the darkness. The trail starts on a cobblestone road but quickly turns to a faded grass trail that also blends into a wider dirt track after passing over barbed wire. And up we went. Beyond pastureland, the trail gets extremely steep and the going was slow but still enjoyable as dawn came and clouds rolled in and out. Eventually we reached a less steep ridge that curved up counterclockwise. Morgan and I continued and Ricky and Angie stopped towards the top of the curving ridge. At that point we were all rewarded with an incredible view of nevado Cayambe, a glaciated volcano, floating above the clouds. And the summit of Imbabura, completely snow-covered, came into view.

So up a rocky gully we went for a while until we reached the top of another ridge. Along this ridge we encountered the snow, and the going gets tricky at this point. The trail winds up through rocks getting increasingly steep and more exposed.

Eventually we reached a spot where we were actually rock climbing, and Morgan mentioned she was pulling moves she would do on a rope. We poked and prodded around looking for a safe route up and I climbed down to a small saddle for a view to see if we could go around this rocky section, but we were totally confounded. Morgan sent a text to ask a Peace Corps climber friend if she could call us (amazing that we had service!). I got the call and we talked over where we were (exactly where we should have been) and what the problem was. The problem is, the route may be getting more and more exposed as time goes on, and snow just makes the route a whole lot more dangerous. So the three of us agreed it was time to head back. But the crater rim was so close and the summit so tantalizing...the ridge just begged to be walked. It wasn´t worth the risk, though, and being excellent advocates for self-preservation, we began the long descent back to civilization.

But we both want to return to Imbabura another time to climb it when there´s no snow on the rock climb section. And next time I´m probably going to bring my helmet because the rock is pretty rotten. I´m excited to try again because the entire hike was so enjoyable.

In my ´mountain a month´ plan, my occasional time to leave my site, I´m going to be attempting El Corazon and then Illiniza Norte with another Peace Corps Volunteer...granted we get permission. I´m super excited about Illiniza Norte! This should happen the last weekend in November.