A Camping Trip To Remember Pt. 2
I’m really not sure if I get much sleep, struggling with the cold and unfamiliarity of my tent after three months of luxury in a real bed. My tent is covered in a thick layer of ice when I climb out at 5am, and I spend the next hour taking photos and furiously rubbing my hands to maintain feeling. By the time I make it back to HQ, the ladies have breakfast well under control, again leaning over the raw open fire.
Nobody seems to notice when we have rice, potatoes and trout soup again.
After we all thaw out for the morning, the activities for the day start to take shape – everyone is extremely excited to go for a hike to find Chiwilas – an extremely sweet fruit that will take some getting, I’m told.
We’ve only been going for 20 minutes when a hilarious game of horse and bull breaks out, based around an old bull horn found on the ground. Kids ride on the shoulders of an adult and someone gives chase pretending to be a bull holding the horn on their head. An hour and a half later the game continues, even after we’ve hiked many kilometers over difficult terrain, everyone still smiling and laughing whenever the “bull” spontaneously decides to give chase.
Over the mountains and far, far away we arrive at our destination – a scrubby outcrop of brush and trees, rare at this elevation. Everyone dives right in, attacking cacti left right and centre. It turns out the highly sought after Chiwilas are the tiny fruit of the cactus which grow right down in the middle, past all the spiny leaves. With only my bare hands and a small stick, I quickly wind up with fingers full of spines and no desire at all to get more Chiwilas, which I’m not all that impressed with anyway (they’re extremely small and contain barely a drop of sweet nectar after biting through the pulp-like crust). I nap under a tree and can’t believe my eyes two hours later when everyone is still energetically going at it, lugging around sacks full of the tiny fruit. Even after my little nap I’m exhausted on the walk back, though none of the locals show any sign of fatigue, happily eating left-over potatoes retrieved from coat pockets and drinking out of every muddy ditch we come across.
Lunch, as you might guess, is rice and potatoes, now that we’re run out of trout.
I’m struck time and time again by how happy and playful these Ecuadorians are. Not just the kids either, even the adults get right in on the fun. Even after cramming into a car for a long, bumpy ride, eating the same plain food for every meal, sleeping in freezing conditions, traipsing for hours through mud and drinking out of muddy streams, every single person is still beaming, extremely happy to be surrounded by family doing exactly as they please.
The guys illustrate this perfectly by donning moss for their best Gandalf impersonations – much to the delight of everyone.
I know for sure now I’m ready to get back out in the wilderness for some serious camping & hiking.