The Gorge


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, November 08, 2003 was originally posted on November 09, 2003.

DAY 21:  When I ran into Dutchman Hugo on my first night in Baños, he told me about his adventures since he left Quito, one about the time he and his friend Alberto were threatened to be beat up by a group of villagers unless they respectfully ate cuy (fried guinea pig) with them.  (They snuck out the back door and ran away.)

“Quito is weird because you go there and even though you are traveling, you aren’t traveling because it is just like any big city,” he said.  “Only when you leave Quito and start seeing the smaller Indian villages does the real traveling begin.”

By the time you finish reading this blog entry, you’ll see what he means.

ONE OF THE RECOMMENDED THINGS TO DO around Baños in my Lonely Planet guide is to rent a mountain bike in town and ride the scenic mountain road to the next city of Puyo, 70 km away.  There you can take a bus back to Baños with your bike strapped to the roof.

Originally, Navid was thinking of going with me, but in the morning we couldn’t find each other at each other’s hostels.  We both ran errands and had breakfast separately but finally ran into each other at 11, which to Navid was too late to get going since he felt a bit out of shape.  He decided to stay in town, and so I went it alone.  No matter, I figured, the bike ride is recommended in the Lonely Planet guide, so there must be tons of gringos doing the same thing.

I rented a cheap dual suspension bike for $4 all day, which included a helmet, lock and chain, a tire repair kit and a map.  The young man at the bike shop pointed out the highlights of the road up until the 22km point where a store existed.  There, most bikers hopped on a truck back to Baños.  Whether I would end my journey there or press the extra 48 km to Puyo I didn’t know yet.

I RODE THE HIGHWAY OUT OF TOWN and it was more or less downhill, with only small sections of pedaling upwards.  I rode passed a dam and a hydro electric power plant, through a dark tunnel that cut through the mountain, and eventually made it to the beginning of the dirt road that hugged the gorge of the Rio Pastaza

Along the dirt path, I saw the Agoyan waterfall, slicing its white water through the greenery like an aquatic bolt of lightning.  There were some nearby smaller waterfalls along the trail for a refreshing mist amongst the hot weather.  There weren’t many other bikers around — I only noticed three other pairs of cyclists — and we all suffered from dust clouds whenever a car or bus would drive by.  I was wary of cars driving too fast on curves — one nearly skid off the edge.

At the overlook of the Manta de la Novia Waterfall, there were two options to cross the river and see it up close: via cablecar or via a wooden foot bridge reminiscent of the one at the end of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.  Finding out that the option that would fulfill a childhood fantasy of mine costed nothing, I chose the latter.  Most people were doing the same, and I could only assume they all had the same fantasy — or were just as cheap as I was.

I walked to the center of the bridge and admired the view and made my way through the jungle like environment near the base of the falls, spawned by the abundance of moisture.  At the base of the Manta de la Novia waterfall, I took some photos, including one with myself.  I walked back over the Bridge of Doom, but not before taking in another view with daydreams of yelling “You want the stones, let her go!” 

No one was around to appreciate it.

I RODE TO THE STORE that the bike store guy mentioned where I could hop one of the many private trucks for a ride back to Baños.  A boy came up to me and said something in Spanish I couldn’t understand.  I assumed he was asking if I need a lift back into town and I simply said “No, gracias.”  It was still a beautiful sunny day and I figured I might make it to Puyo after all. 

I continued down the road, down the valley.  I rode passed some more random waterfalls and through a small town.  One thing I didn’t see were fellow bikers, which started to become a scary thing. 

I rode about another 10km when I noticed it getting really dark.  Clouds were coming in and I could see in the distance a storm coming.  I was near a checkpoint in the road by a construction zone, which was all coned up.  And if that wasn’t enough of a sign to start heading back the other way, a loud thunderous boom filled the air from above.

I decided to be smarter than a teen in an 80’s horror flick and turned back the other way. 

A SHADOW HUNG OVER ME the entire way back.  The storm clouds chased me like an evil force and I was always trying to get ahead of the rainline.  However, it was all uphill from there and the rain eventually caught up with me.  Depressed, wet and alone, I had no choice but to pedal my way back to the store with the boy and the trucks.  Nothing made me happier when I saw it from around a bend and I got a second wind that took me there.

The boy asked me the same question in Spanish that I didn’t understand, but this time I said, “Uh, sí. A Baños.  Y una Coca-Cola.”  I went to a table where (I assume) his father was, and he went to get me a cold Coke.  I drank about half the bottle outside in the rain when the father went into the house and walked out with a sawed-off single barrel shot gun in one hand and a shell in the other.

I don’t know about you, but I had never been in this sort of situation before — alone, wet, stranded at a mountain house in the middle of nowhere with a guy who suddenly has a gun and a bullet in his hands.  I’m surprised I didn’t hear any banjos. 

Two thoughts entered my mind: 1) Erik, you should really get the fuck out of here; and 2) Erik, you should really get the fuck out of here.  Fortunately, these thoughts passed as soon as I saw the guy with the gun walk right passed me and down a path down the valley.  I figured he was going to hunt something for dinner.

I looked down the gorge but there were too many trees and it was too steep to get a good vantage point.  Then, amongst the pitter patter of the rain, I heard a loud gunshot. 

I asked the boy “Que es eso?” (“What is that?”) and he said something in Spanish I couldn’t comprehend.  But he said it so nonchalantly like it was no big deal, that I figured his father was just killing an animal for food afterall.  But the man came up with his gun and nothing else but what looked like an empty beer bottle, after of which I thought 3) that I should really really get the fuck out of there.

I didn’t know what to do and I was starting to think that the boy’s original question had nothing to do with a ride back to Baños since none of the guys with the trucks were budging when I picked up my bike.

THERE WAS A TEENAGE COUPLE nearby, waiting on the side of the road.  By the way they were dressed I could see they weren’t from the villages and were probably from the city.  I approached them as they were trying to hail a bus back into Baños.  Just my luck, within one minute they flagged one down and I ran with along with them with my bike.  I helped the conductor stick the bike on the roof and tie it down as the rain was still coming down.

It felt so good being on that bus, driving passed the sights I had seen just a few hours before when the sun was still shining.  However, I was still wary of pickpockets on the bus, and kept a hold on my bag as we went through the dark tunnel. 

The sun was coming back out as I arrived at the Baños bus terminal.  I got my bike off the roof and rode it to the store — which was closed.  I didn’t know what to do so I locked it to a nearby post, hoping they wouldn’t charge me another day for not getting the bike back in time.  But I went back later on the in the day and found the guy to check in and returned my helmet as well.

WHEN I GOT BACK TO THE HOSTEL, I inserted my key but the the door just opened before turning my wrist.  I searched my belongings and fortunately nothing was missing — nothing important was left out in the open and all my valuables were hidden and locked down.  My bed was made and the garbage had been emptied so I figured it was just a cleaning service.  Perhaps the woman I told in the morning that I was staying another night never told the person who cleans up the rooms that I wasn’t leaving yet.

With so much excitement in the day and my body all sore, I just stayed in all night.  The first Matrix movie was on broadcast TV (in Spanish) and I knew just then that watching a lot of fake Hollywood guns beats confronting a single real gun any day.

Next entry: Liquid Hot Magma

Previous entry: Hot Bath

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Comments for “The Gorge”

  • indy! (pause) behind you! (echoed)...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  01:42 PM

  • Beautiful shot of the gorge, both the pic and the story reminded me of the sayahadri range in western india, complemented with waterfalls and roadside drinks (fresh lemon water n hot tea). Out here the tea vendor came out brandishing a big knife.. (hahahaha it was just to crack open the coconuts and not my skull!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  01:45 PM

  • Kali Ma! Indie! I thought the same thing. (GMTA) I’m not sure answering “yes” to everything is the way to go now.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  01:50 PM

  • LOL I agree with Dtella.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  02:06 PM

  • Erik, great story…
    By the way, if you like scary wooden footbridges, you’ll LOVE trekking in Nepal!

    Posted by Sarah  on  11/09  at  02:38 PM

  • i am still interested on what that kid was trying to say to you. Maybe he was asking you if you wanted some fries to go with that coke…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  03:07 PM

  • Holy crap! Next time you don’t understand something, ASK TO HAVE IT REPEATED… S-L-O-W-L-Y! God knows what that kid said. He could have been speaking to his dad, “Hi gringo, would you like to have the crap scared out of you? Dad, get the gun… we’re going to have some fun!” As for the bridge, I thought of Donkey… keep moving, don’t look down; keep moving, don’t look down. The photos are great, especially the jungle shot.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  03:13 PM

  • Awesome pics!!!  The countryside is beautiful!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  03:26 PM

  • oh, poor you!  i could just imagine your face when you saw that gun!  funny at the same time though.  it got me to say, “uh-oh! what’s Erik gonna do now?”  ahahaha…glad you got outta there alive!  *phew!*  i guess you’re coming back in one piece after all grin

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  03:48 PM

  • I was in Corsica for 7 weeks as an exchange student in 1990.

    My host father had a gun, which he used to shoot rabbits that were eating the vegetables in his garden, behind the house.

    I was a vegetarian at the time, which was quite confounding and amusing to him and his son, Laurent.

    One evening, host p?re decided to bring one of the killed rabbits into the house, to cook for dinner.  He did so.  My vegetarian heart was aflutter.

    During dinner, my host brother Laurent stabbed the rabbit’s head with a fork, look me in the eye, and chomp on it while giggling maniacally.

    Anyway:  it occured to me that the man with the shotgun might have been doing nothing more than shooting varmints.

    Just in case, though, I advise you to buy a bullwhip, with which you may tug guns, swords and the like out of the hands of the bad guys.

    Posted by MrMacDowell  on  11/09  at  03:57 PM

  • um, yikes??? You have to admit, when the gun came out, suddenly poo was the main topic on your mind again.. smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  09:11 PM

  • I’d have to agree with MrMac on the bullwhip idea… Maybe you could add a safari outfit to complete the look.

    Stunning photos as usual. (I was going to say stunning shots, but the pun was unintended.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  09:16 PM

  • yea, i agree with christy.. PLEASE tell me you know how to say “can u please repeat that slowly?” in spanish?
    apparently hicks are everywhere in the world.. please be careful

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  10:12 PM

  • Flashbacks of Paulinskill trail in the rain at night? Riding by the hillbillies with the rabid dogs barking at us as we cramp up in the cold? Alan’s nipple not available to share?

    Shots are awesome. I remembered the baths from that episode of globetrekkertv with what’s-his-name ?(not Ian, the other tall white guy from Globetrekkertv).  I also remember the footbridge! So cool that you’re living an episode!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  01:02 AM

  • Wait a second, you get back to your room and your trash is gone??  My God, man!  What kind of place are you staying in where they steal a man’s trash!

    Your post involves neither drinking nor poop.  What gives?

    Posted by Matt  on  11/10  at  03:47 AM

  • boram boram
    boram suram

    what no crocks? no machete?

    sigh, you gets to do all the cool stuff.  thanks for the pictures.  You know the indy collection is now out on dvd.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  04:09 AM

  • ...and i thought moving to seattle was going out on a limb.  congrats on your journeys & your writings (i just stumbled across your site tonight); i’ll be reading back to see what you’ve been up too, and if you find yourself in the pac nw, give a holler.

    Posted by Goldie  on  11/10  at  09:46 AM

  • I WAS THINKING, on the mountain trail in the gorge, there was a point were there was the left and right tunnel, and I went right… hmmm… I should have remembered to “take the left tunnel”...

    MATTO:  I am still waiting for a case of feces that can best my explosive diarrhea in Quito…  perhaps in Peru!

    GOLDIE:  No way… how you been… glad to see you’re still around… no more ‘Boken, huh?  Anyway, pass the link around in Pac NW!

    DUAINE:  Yes, I actually contemplated getting it before I left, secretly hoping someone would have just gotten it for me for my bday…  No matter, I’m living the life now and by the time I get back the UBER INDIANA JONES COLLECTION will most likely be out, hopefully with a free action figure of Short Round.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  01:08 PM

  • to get out you must take the left tunnel….

    u become like dem…

    it was the black evil sleep of kali…

    i step where you step, i touch nothing…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/10  at  01:24 PM

  • yikes.. what a day! you had all sorts of adventures…  GUNS & all!  great story, great pics!!

    i’m behind… must go read day 22 & 23..

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  02:14 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Liquid Hot Magma

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Hot Bath


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