The South American Wilds

Currently Nat and I are tour leading down in South America. We scored a 20-day trip venturing through the Ecuadorian “Cloud Forest”, the Amazon, and Peru’s pacific coastline just to mention a few highlights.
The first night started in the chaotic and smog filled city of Quito. The group was excited to all meet up and we had our pre-departure meeting scheduled for 6pm. A few people we ran into before the meeting but the rest seemed to ooze out of the walls when it was time to come together. The meeting wasn’t the norm because there was another group there taking over the lobby, so we had to cram everyone in one of the downstair’s rooms. Not the most comfortable setting but Nat ran the meeting smoothly and all got done that needed to, except, one passenger was nowhere to be found. She hadn’t had any contact with the office nor the hotel, but hopefully she’d join us before we departed in the morning.
Next was the group meal, which we decided to join up with the other group who took the lobby for their meeting because we are running parallel with them in the second half of the trip. The Red Hot Chili Pepper served all 28 pax and 4 crew efficiently and with a high quality of food. Conversations were flying all over the place and you could feel the excitement continue to grow.
Although the energy was high, people knew that the next morning would come early, especially the crew as we decided to leave for the truck park at 5:45am. (In South America you can very rarely park the truck near your hotel and even sometimes your camps.) We ordered the taxi from the front desk and figure we’d have enough time to get to the truck park and beat the street closings for the local marathon that was to be run the following morning. (Surprise surprise, streets we needed to leave the city!)
The alarm went off and the stomach churned as the day began much earlier than we all would have liked. Our taxi driver arrive on time but we spent the first few minutes trying to explain our destination and get a good deal on our trip. Seven dollars was agreed upon and for the first time, unfortunately, this driving neither fast or furious. His route was off and he took us directly into the path of the roads that were to be closed, but were already closed!
Needless to say, none of us were impressed nor cared for us apologies. Just get us there!!!
Finally after a few u-turns and running red lights, we arrived to the truck park. Gracias señor, paid, and got to the next obstacle. The gate, which we had spoken with the owner the day before, was to be open and ready for us to depart at six. It was 6:20 and not a soul was stirring except for the “guard” dogs. More of noise makers than anything but they were good at that. Throwing our voices over the fence and the sounds of the dogs barking at our shouts, one of the crew inside the lot began to stir. He walked out slowly and made his way THE OTHER DIRECTION! Darren pleaded for him to come unlock to gate but he for some reason had to move a truck before attending to us. The stress was pushing us all to high levels of frustration and cursing.
The gate was finally opened and our trucks started with a rumble belching white plumes of smoke. Quito is at 2600 meters and the thin air makes it difficult to start at times. (Imagine doing this in Bolivia at over 5000 meters. It takes an ether mix sprayed in your air intake to give you a proper boost.)
The city of Quito is a unique blend of large roads, small cobbled streets, and avenues. One-ways and raised medians are always in your way.
We departed the truck park by 6:30 and we had figured it would take 40 minutes to the hotel. Arrrrrgh!!
The trip notes gave us a fairly direct route and since we were fairly early on a Sunday morning, traffic was thin. As we were getting ready to take the underpass to Rio Amazones, we found our first roadblock. Maps were pulled out and our cell phone was ringing from Darren and Bob. The 10th of August was a road we had taken a few times in the taxis and I thought I could direct us from memory. Although there was a low overpass we weren’t totally sure would be high enough. Take it slow and if need be, reverse back on the flow of traffic!
Luckily the truck made it under, our second near scrape since being here in Quito but bad news ahead. The road in front of us was yet again closed, but Nat was bound and determined to convince the police that we needed to get through. After a couple of minutes pleading nearly coming to tears, more for effect she said, they let us travel on the road we needed.
Time was cutting close as we were only a few blocks from our hotel and the excited passengers awaited us.
Driving on a road that had been shut down is great, police just kept waving us on and we rolled through all the red lights. Great that is until another roadblock unmanned is forcing us down to turn before we need. I start to turn and Nat decides she gonna take it down because we HAVE go this way. As she’s moving the barricade, a white police cruiser is coming towards us and we get both trucks thru before they reach us and Nat has it closed off again.
Three minutes to 7 and we make it to the front steps of the motel. You could see the anxious looks on the passengers’ face turn to smiles. Not a bad first few hours of our 20 day tour.
Photos and More to come as we head to the “Cloud Forest.”

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