Getting ready for this experience a second time in nine days!!!
It took over an hour of riding in and out of heavy traffic before we obtained our shuttle and started on the way up the mountain to Cuenca. I had worries, but not serious thoughts, about the prospect of Altitude Sickness. As we left the outskirts of Guayaquil and rid ourselves of the ultra poor and fanatically dirty “Industrial Area”, we began entering the tropical and green segment of Ecuador, that is responsible for a majority of the fruits and vegetables.
It was breathtaking and I was awestruck at the size of the banana, papaya, guayabana, cacao, lime, orange and mango trees and bushes. It was literally intoxicating and stimulating at the same time. Our driver was only interested in getting us to the destination so he could turn around and come back. So….photograph opportunities were few and far between and some were so fleeting, to be of no use.
It is difficult at best to attempt any description of the scenery, plants, waterfalls and rivers that border the brand new highway (It took 10,000 men over ten years to lay the rebar and smooth the concrete for this 90 mile stretch). It really is a feat considering the modest equipment and the frontier workforce. The canyons and wonderful nature portraits could not be duplicated, with a simple photograph and it was of no use to attempt to make such an effort.
I have a very weak bladder, my wife will tell you and at about 12,000 feet I suddenly had to go and it seemed that time was of the essence.When the driver stopped the van and I unloaded, the entire world spun on its axis. I was mortified and stumbled to my knees. A combination of the altitude and uneven ground left me with no choice but to fall to the ground. I was worried I couldn’t rise and thanks to Omar I managed to ascend and get my business done, leaning against a tree. I got back in the van quickly and told them I couldn’t possibly go through that again. Yet 15 minutes later it hit once more and I basically replicated the afore mentioned incident. I am not sure why, but the coffee really hit me bad that day.
Finally we got off the top of the mountain and started our descent (Thank you Lord!). We passed a great deal of lakes (I think there are 253 in that area of the mountains–they were gorgeous). The beauty escalated as we drew near Cuenca, and the indigenous population became more and more pronounced. As we entered the center of town the streets narrowed and the architecture grew more aged and beautiful. I was in a very great place and ready for the adventure. Thank God my altitude sickness was more restrained at 8500 feet than at 12,000 feet. We were at our destination.