Bladders weren't made to be tested

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
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Trip End Jul 17, 2010


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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, June 7, 2010

The next little stop was in the small town of Otavalo. It's famous for having a local market where the indigenous people get to sell their wares. Great for them but everyone knows that Nic and I aren’t normally big on shopping when we travel and less so when we’re travelling for 7 months. With the markets being the only thing to do in town, we went for a walk to check it out and something did manage to catch my eye. It was a chess set. To all who know me well, you may be wondering, "I didn’t know that Colin liked chess...." Well, I’m terrible at chess but the chess set was pretty cool. On one side, the army was made up of Spanish conquistadors, riding on their horses will full Spanish regalia. The other side was made up of Inca warriors, in their full garb and riding llamas. Some haggling and 6 bucks later, the chess set was mine, ready to be shipped home from Quito to join the chess set I bought from Vietnam a few years ago. Now my ratio of chess set ownership to actual games of chess played is 2:1. Sheesh!

We packed the truck the next morning and the air was heavy with excitement and diesel smoke. Excitement due to the fact that this was the last drive day for the original gang that started in Rio some 4.5 months before, and diesel because Sam decided to start the truck early and give the back-locker team a final dose of black lung for old time’s sake. The back-locker is the section at the back of the truck where all the backpacks and sleeping bags are kept. We all get jobs on the truck and for 4.5 months, I was on the back-locker along with Theo and Ted, James signed up on back-locker for the last South America leg and we were happy to have the extra pair of hands for the last few weeks. We had our fair share of good times and bad times. Like the time that Ted knocked his head on a jutting corner, dropped a few curses and punched a small hole in the wall as anger relief. Or the time that I knocked my head on the same corner, dropped a few curses and punched a small hole in another wall as anger relief. Or the extremes of temperature we’d experience loading the locker first thing in the morning. We’d sweat up half the Amazon loading up in the Brazillian summer and freeze our fingers off in Patagonia a few months later. Or the head spins and light headedness we felt when throwing around bags at altitude. Come to think of it, I can’t really remember any good times, just the bad ones

It would be a short final drive to Quito, some 2 hours away and everyone was in a great mood. The weather was warm, the music was pumping and Theo (the truck barman) had a conundrum. A serious oversupply of beers.  Don’t say that I don’t do anything charitable. Warm South American beer at 10 in the morning is charity. Little did I know that in an hour, I would be paying for it.

Consuming 5 (maybe it was 6) beers in an hour isn’t the most Herculean drinking effort, I’ll admit. But what we found was that what goes in, must come out and the last 45 minutes of the trip were hellish. Our bladders were close to bursting and we were stuck in Quito traffic. Ted put it best when he said that he was seriously considering jumping off the truck anywhere in the city and finding a toilet then meeting us at the hotel. If he did, I would surely have joined him in the hunt for a men’s room. We got to the hotel just in time and the wheels barely came to a halt before the big orange door of our truck swung open and 4 guys piled out running towards the hotel toilet. Let this be a lesson to you kids, never pass up a toilet break when it’s offered to you. Never ever! In hindsight, we did have an awesome ride into Quito and I wouldn’t do anything different (except take that toilet break at the toll booth before the drive through Quito traffic).

The next task was for us to head out on the town and find some gifts for our two leaders/drivers, Juan and Sam. It’s common practice to give your drivers a tip for all of their hard work but a few of us decided that we would buy them some gifts to go with the cash. We wanted to buy Juan an acoustic guitar to replace the crappy one he brought along on the truck. We also wanted to buy Sam a new digital camera to replace the one that was broken in the sand dunes a few months before. Buying a camera proved fairly easy but finding a decent acoustic guitar proved much harder. We must have covered some 40kms driving around Quito in a tiny cab with 4 of us packed uncomfortably in the back before we completed our mission. The boys were extremely touched at the gesture and the gifts have been put to very good use since.

The next day we piled into another small taxi (didn’t we learn our lesson the day before) and drove to La Mitad del Mundo (translation half of the world) where there is a monument to the line bisecting our globe called the Equator. No it’s not a coincidence that Equador and Equator are phonetically similar. We had a ball there doing the usual touristy things, straddling the northern and southern hemisphere before we had enough and went back to the hotel.

My bladder has recovered and I’d like to think that I’ve learnt my lesson.....at least until I’m offered free warm beers again. Then I’ll say that I’ve done it before and experience has to count for something.

In our next blog, we say a sad farewell to our travelling buddies (and some happy farewells to people we never hope to see ever again) and we climb a stratovolcano, heading back to the dizzying heights of 5000m yet again. 
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