Bright colored blocks of laundry flit on roofs and over gardens. Dirty puppies imitate big dogs on side of road and roasting pig, top layer of skin gone, eats eternal apple. Antsy cat on my lap.
Mixture of Spanish, French, and Japanese overlap in airport bus. Old man beside me dressed in refined grey pinstriped suit…do I like his country? Yes. Yes, I do.
Less color in Cajas National Park. Grays, browns, washed out greens the higher we go. Higher, higher. Slow down for alpaca family crossing road. Two cars at Tres Cruces, breathtaking view. Altitude takes breath, too.
Blunt rocks jut skyward. Curves and more curves in road. Evidence of recent mudslide, go around. Police checkpoint ahead. Waved through, bus driver sighs relief. Passengers sleep except Triplet (three-legged cat extraordinaire) and me.
Feet don’t touch floor and feline heavy on legs. Black and white cows pepper mountainside, tied at edge of field as bovine lawnmowers. Two boys ride a pinto up, up steep and narrow foot path. Tiny shacks line road, one with door wide open. Barefooted woman inside at stove, no furniture, dirt floor.
Thin waterfalls cut through stubborn rock, little dried up ponds haphazardly scattered about. Red and blue dots morph into hikers far away. So small.
Trout farms, ponds, restaurants. Knickknack shop and another pig on a stick, this one big with body half gone already. Still eating apple, though. Then collapsed barns and chalky, chunky cinderblock houses.
Slow, snaky descent. Greener now, goats graze. Another police checkpoint. Waved through again at toll booth. Curvier and curvier. Struggle to keep cat level. Legs tired, hip flexors tight. Only two more hours.
Back up, higher and higher still until we look down on lumpy carpet of clouds. Ears pop. And pop again. How do they sleep through this? Another alpaca family claims the road.
Third police checkpoint avoided. Patient locals wait at unmarked bus stop. Big blue water tanks hover above makeshift houses. Must remember not to drink water in Guayaquil. Coming down, down. Driver rides brakes. Pop! Need some gum. Is that a banana tree?
So many curves, then abruptly, none. Road flat, straight. Air thick. Miles and miles of plantain trees, spooky green bags cover hanging bunches like alien cocoons. Keeps “bichos” at bay. Then cacao, sugar, rice, more plantains. Mr. Pinstripes points all out to me en español. Passengers stir.
Hundreds of fruit shacks in a row with green, yellow, and black mountains of plantains. Plump watermelons and coconuts. Men stand on wide, yellow striped traffic humps with sliced pineapple on sticks for sale. Family of four zip past on motorcycle, little girl in coral dress stands on engine. Shorts, tank tops, flip flops, hammocks, increasing traffic. Dogs dig siesta time.
Boom, ten lanes of traffic. Manicured gardens, elaborate statues of strong Ecuadorians. Multilingual chatter resumes in bus. Air dense. Hot. French-Canadian man fans wife with jacket sleeve. Mr. Pinstripes says we are close.
We arrive, road weary, happy to be still. Except Triplet, the cat. She prefers bus bounce.
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the humorous travel memoir, Thirty Days In Quito: Two Gringos and a Three-Legged Cat Move to Ecuador. She also writes adult parables and short stories as well as books about yoga and meditation. Kris is a determined chess player, an origami enthusiast, a classically trained pianist, and a playwright. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.
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