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Published: August 13th 2010
Picking up wood for the nursery
Our second day in Pusir was quite eventful, to say the least. We had made our usual round in Ibarra, picking up some wood for the nursery and water for the day. About 30 minutes outside of Ibarra white smoke began billowing up from underneath the bus as we were climbing a hill on the Pan American highway. Paul pulled off to the side of the road and Fernando said it might be a good idea if we all got out while they diagnosed the problem.
As we unloaded our belongings Fernando and Paul crawled under the bus. Keep in mind we are on the side of the Pan American Highway and huge semi trucks and buses are roaring past in both directions. As we are all standing along side the road a police truck pulls up. Two officers get out, one wearing a standard black, gray, and white camouflage uniform. Fernando had a short conversation with them and next thing we know Brenda, Cynthia and Donna are piling into the back seat of the truck. Since they were working in the clinic it was decided they needed to get to the village as quickly as possible. Apparently it was
a harrowing ride. Donna said they drove about 100 miles an hour down the Pan Am highway in order to get them there quickly.
The rest of us waited around to see what the diagnosis was for the bus. After about 30 minutes word spread that we would have to catch a ride the rest of the way because the bus brakes were shot. Paul was going to drive back to Ibarra and have them fixed and we were going to go on to the village.
In Ecuador, you do not have to wait at bus stops for a ride. Especially along the Pan American Highway. Initially Fernando was trying to flag down one of the Greyhound-type buses that were a regular site along the road. When that didn't work he began flagging down private vehicles. After about 20 minutes of trying he finally got a farm truck to stop for us (see picture). All 15 of us piled into the truck for the remaining 45 minute ride to Pusir. Since the truck would not be able to negotiate the rugged road that took us directly to Pusir we were dropped off at the bridge and walked the
Brenda, Donna, and Cynthia getting a lift
rest of the way across the rickety suspension bridge.
We spent the day playing around with the kids and I got my first taste of sugar cane. It doesn't really taste like the sugar we are used to because it has not been processed. It is juicy so once you suck it dry you spit it out and tear off another piece. I was also learning Spanish from the kids and they were learning English from me. A group of them gathered around me at one point near the shed and would point at things and say "En espanol es...." and then they would say "En inglis?" That went on for most of the morning until lunch.
I found out that the kids would get whatever was left over when we were there. We usually ate something specifically made for us since we were not accustomed to the local cuisine. It was usually something like a piece of chicken, some rice and beans. It dawned on me that the reason the kids would wait around outside of the schoolyard was that they were waiting for us to finish. I understand the logistics behind this but it still bothered
Bus repairs along the Pan Am Highway
Note Fernandos legs sticking out from under the front of the bus. Paul was all the way under the drivers side but cannot be seen in this photo.
me. I just never got used to the idea of these kids waiting for our leftovers. From then on I tried to ask for smaller portions because I wanted to make sure I didn't waste anything.
Work wise we didn't do a lot that day and we got beat pretty bad in a game of futbol / soccer.
Around 4:30 we found out that the bus was still not fixed and was still in Ibarra. So our only other option of getting back was hitching. Once again we walked across the bridge where several trucks were going to meet us and take us to the side of the Pan American Highway where we would once again flag down a bus that would take us to Ibarra. Fernando had decided to put all of the women and children on one bus with a schoolteacher who was also going back to Ibarra and the men would get on the second bus with him. So we left Pusir as we had arrived that day, by foot, and most of us were running low on bottled water because it had been left on the bus.
The women were put on their
Our sweet ride
Here we are piling into the back of a farm truck for the rest of the trip to Pusir
bus and a few minutes later the rest of us piled into a second bus. I took a seat near the back of the bus next to an Ecuadorian (or maybe Colombian) who had apparently just gotten off work. He slept most of the way until the checkpoint.
Along the Pan American Highway there are several checkpoints / toll booths. When we were in the tour bus we would glide right through. However, we were now on a bus that ran from the Colombian border to Ibarra so the police would board and check for illegals or anything out of the ordinary. As soon as we stopped at the checkpoint several women boarded the bus selling oranges and mango's. They got off and then two members of the Nacional Policia got on. One waited in the front of the bus as the other slowly made his way to the back, glancing in seats as he went. I was so exhausted that I didn't really pay attention. Until he turned to me and asked for my passport. I complied and watched as he flipped past the picture, stamps, and personal information and stopped on the page that lists emergency information
and other useless items. About that time I saw Fernando talking with the officer at the front of the bus explaining who we were. I got my passport back and we were on our way. I later found out from Fernando that the police are not allowed to randomly check passports. It was an interesting experience and I can understand why they do that considering the proximity we were to Colombia.
Apparently the women and children were exposed to hardcore porn on their ride. Television screens are mounted on the backs of the drivers seats. Ours was turned off but from what we were told by the women theirs was on and they were playing hard core pornography for the entire trip. The children were told to shield their eyes and the women looked away. I don't know which bus ride would have been more eventful: being harassed by the police or an hour of hardcore porn. I would prefer to have neither.
We arrived in Ibarra and ended up walking about 4 blocks where we rendezvoused with the rest of the group. Once again we flagged down rides, this time small taxis, to take us on to
Even though we made it to Pusir, that was only half of the days events. We still had to get back to Ibarra that evening.
the Hacienda.....sans porn and police.
That night after dinner Fernando introduced us to Norteno whiskey. We sat around the bar and took several shots while we drank our second pint of Pilsener beer. Norteno has a black licorice taste and isn't bad.
I went to bed around 11:00 and about 11:30 I woke up covered in sweat. As soon as I realized I was covered in sweat I got the chills and a bad stomach ache. This lasted all night and regardless of the exhausting day I did not get a second of sleep. I was experiencing by first illness in a developing country.
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