Falls!

Trip Start Nov 24, 2007
1
6
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Trip End May 15, 2008


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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, December 10, 2007

Returning from our wonderful jungle excursion in the Cuyabeno Reserve we headed back west toward Quito through familiar green mountains and valleys on our way to the San Rafael Falls, a thundering cascade where the Rio Quijos virtually comes to a cliff and drops 475 feet. Joined by the two Australian guys we met on our jungle trip who could supply endless comic relief to any situation, we were all not the least bit disappointed to be on our way and escape the mugging humidity, stench and grody streets of L. Agrio that greeted us as we returned from our four nights in refreshing solitude. Although we knew that there must be at least place to stay near the falls, we weren't sure of the costs for accommodation because it wasn't your typical backpacker stopping point and on top of that we had no idea if it would even be open because it was a long bus ride and we were set to arrive at around 22:30pm. Our hope was that somewhere nearby we would find a small houses owned by some local husband and wife who recognized the opportunity for taking advantage of the random passerby and witfully converted their extra living area into basic cubicle-like accommodation for travelers like us. That couple whom you repeatedly see all over South America that run their own local establishments are probably sitting on a nice fat stash of cash too.

Back aboard the death-express (bus transportation in Ecuador) we said our good wishes to the future of the Oriente snacked on a few roadside treats freshly or very unfreshly made and set out on our way once again. After enough 50 mph curves to seriously make one nauseated and multiple attempts by the bus driver to overtake slow moving banana trucks and old little cars on entirely blind curves and downhill grades, I was beginning to ask myself if I should start writing a goodbye will, not that I own much of anything anyway. It happens every day. Each time you step on board a bus down here the conductor drives like a speed racer on a bad or good coke high depending on how you see it I guess and you surely believe your live is going to end soon enough and you'll end up 500 feet down some steep embankment in nowhere Ecuador in an unidentifiable heap of metal. Better yet, you know all too well that every other bus driver out there is doing the exact same thing and probably on very little sleep to boot! What does that do for ya? You guessed it Einstein, it increases the probability of it happening! As I was getting at though, with each experience that you live to tell about you become more at east until one bus ride it dawns on you that you really have no concern in the world and you actually enjoy watching your bus swerve back into its correct lane to dodge an oncoming truck. At the end of the day  they just become the same ordinary road maneuvers that each and every driver effortlessly has mastered. After all, Time is money and these guys know it, live it and drive it. And on top of that, rest assured parents, we are safe anyway because "Dios Es Mi Guia." which reads "God Is My Guide" and which adorns 99% of all buses somewhere near the driver.

Before I knew it, looking out the window and pondering whether or not I have lived a full enough to be happy with myself, a florescent accommodation light and a San Rafael Waterfall sign blurred past the bus window as fast as the speed of light. Wait a minute! Is this not Ms. Frizzle driving the bus and are we not on the Magic School Bus headed to explore the human body? I swear we told the driver five times where we wanted to be dropped off and he acknowledged it! Too late now! There went our stop and we were now flying down a steep grade wondering if he knew something that we didn't. Maybe the sign was just telling us the SR falls lay ahead? We ran to the front just to make sure and after five minutes of pointless discussion, we were dropped up at 22:30 in the middle of nowhere on a steep grade 1-2 miles downhill from the hosteria. As we slowly made our way along the edge of the road, sidestepping trucks and buses doing the same crazy driving as our previous bus driver and probably wondering what on earth we were doing this late on the road we eventually made it. To our avail, the light was off and the dogs were out on the prowl. We meandered up the path, shouted a few "Holas" and soon found ourselves at the best $10 accommodation money could by. We even got a deal. Hot and sweaty even at that hour of the night, instead of showers we all took a moonlight dip in the river-fed pool and rejoiced, 'HECK YEAH' albeit a little more vulgarly! I can still recall the memory of that 'Heck Yeah' refreshing swim too! Perfect water for a midnight dip...

The next morning we arose at six and got a move on to the falls. We were given advice from the hotel owner that if you arrived at the entrance to the park early enough in the morning you maybe able to sneak by without paying the exorbitant $10 entrance fee, a 500% markup from the national citizen price at that. OK, so it really is a small price to pay but common, does it really have to be that big of a discrepancy? I'd give more than two even if they asked for donations but $10 is a little hefty in my opinion. So anyway, feeling moody after our night of adventure we hiked down the trail in silence, everyone in covert/stealth/save-dinero-mode. We quietly tip-toed past the first entrance. Nice. Home Free? Damn! The ranger had just woke up and stepped out of his house/building down the road (inside the park) and obviously wasn't expecting anyone because he wasn't even dressed for work. Nice as he was however, we did manage to fix a discount of 50%. As it turned out, he told us that the people who stand at the entrance normally were not there yet because it was a Sunday and they wouldn't show up for work that day even though the park wasn't really officially closed. Once Aussie Josh heard this we had the upper hand and the discount was bartered under the notion that we all knew the guy who was probably going to take the money anyway and go back to sleep only to tell the other park officials the next day that nobody came to visit. Instead of the official slips of paper that so fortunately seemed to be 'locked away' that day we wrote our names on a little sheet of paper paper and went on our way. Both sides ended the negotiation with a good sense of satisfaction I'm sure. We were saved $20 altogether and he made an easy $20. Probably an honest three days work.

As for the San Rafael waterfall? Stunning.         Pictures don't even do it justice.
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