I love to camp. But let me tell you, camping Ecua style is a whole different ball game. What started as a couple of friends throwing around the idea of getting out of the city turned into a fourteen person debauchery. Under the impression that we had two cars, twelve of us gathered at Lisa’s apartment, each laiden with excessive gear to camp in the cold for the weekend at the foot of Volcan Cotopaxi.
Trying to coordinate fourteen people coming from all over the city on a Saturday morning was difficult enough (what with everyone remembering last minute errands they needed to run, forgetting things, needing to weave their own sweaters, etc), but when we all finally arrived, we discovered unspecified “drama” had gone down and we were left with only one car.
Now normally taking a bus wouldn’t have been a big deal, but you can only take a bus to the park entrance, and from there you need a car or you will be walking for hours in the dark. On top of that, you can’t get cell reception, so if anyone were to take the bus we wouldn’t know how to coordinate meeting up, as there is no actual camping area.
Right, so, camping attempt fail? Ha. What sort of sissys do you think we are? Fourteen people can fit in one car, come on!
As we set off and settled in to the numbness in our limbs, we were feeling pretty impressed with our efforts, until we realized we were missing something. Someone is more accurate, and make that two someones. Hilde and Xavier! They would be waiting for us on the side of the road some 20 minutes outside of Quito! We should have realized it was almost too easy to fit all of us in the car, we were only twelve! Having decided it was futile to warn them what was coming, we watched the shock on their faces as we slowed on the highway, pulled them by their limbs into the last available pockets of space, and continued driving.
And then came the rain. Hard. Having heard the park closes at 4 pm to new visitors, we couldn’t waste more time stopping to cover the gear (and the boys in the back), so with mystery hands moving about like the writhing polyps of Ursula’s garden in The Little Mermaid, we managed to pull a tarp from the gear on the roof and cover our goods while continuing to speed along the highway. Despite feeling a little bit guilty for our more comfortable position inside the car, the girls finally decided to shut out the boys and close the back window, as water from the tarp was draining down our necks. Thankful for the remnants of old school chivalry that led to our lofty position, we started chatting and enjoying the comparative tranquility of our ride, until about 30 minutes later when we realized: hang on, it’s a bit too quiet back there. What’s going on? Are they alive? Are they miserable? Can they breathe under that thing?
We hurried to open the window and lift the tarp only to find six guys grinning from ear to ear. What were they up to??
Puntas is what. A strong “that sh*t will eff you up” kind of Ecuadorian alcohol that Wilson had brought along. They were drunk. But they were happy. Which got us thinking, and thinking, as it often does, got us drinking as well.
As we stopped for a bathroom break, the evening chill began to settle in and we realized we were fourteen wet and cold people lacking nature’s natural warmers: firewood and alcohol. We stopped on a random road and everyone took off in different directions, all on missions. Although we were in what seemed to be a bit of a ghost town, everyone returned from behind abandoned buildings and random corners with empty bladders, firewood, and alcohol. Missions accomplished.
We reached the park just before dark, where we soon encountered our next obstacle. The guards didn’t want to let us in. Partially because it was late, partially because half of us were gringos and they wanted us to pay them, aaaand partially because one of the boys fell over in front of them. Edison, whose car we were in, got back in the driver’s seat and announced that we weren’t allowed to be there as he simultaneously sped us off further into the park. Next thing I know everyone is out of the car, trying to move a giant tree that had fallen over so we could drive into the woods, replace the tree and cover our tracks, effectively hiding ourselves from the guards.
We parked the truck, and raced against the setting sun to get all of our tents set up and a fire started before it got too dark. Despite the wet firewood and Lukes hindering (though well intentioned) attempts to “help”, Dan finally got a fire going and we all tucked in around the warmth for a night of fireside jams, an Ecua attempt at s’mores, hot dogs inadvertently left in their plastic wrap, and (the most important factor of all) good company.
(NOTE: Due to cold and alcohol, some flesh and gear were charred as a result of this campfire. Campfires created as a result of this post are to be assumed at your own risk.)
The next day we wandered around the park, enjoying the fresh air and open space, sans complications, before heading back to the concrete jungle of Quito to resume our city lives. Until the next time that is.