Ecuador Travel Adventures
Tree Branch
Gail Howard's Adventures in the Ecuadorian Jungle
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Continued

Chichico jumped to Terry. Impudently, he scratched himself, and egged Cat on. Then he crawled up my leg, squealed, cocked his head and reached for Cat's tail. They raced. Cat almost got him.

"Chichico, don't do that," I warned. "It's dangerous."

"Naw, I'm going to get that cat," said the expression in his eyes.

Cat's head loomed up over the bed. Chichico casually scratched fleas. Cat jumped on the bed and Chichico nearly fell over in shock. Chichico loved adventure and loved to live dangerously. Another night we invited Cat in and set cheese down for her. Cat started eating the cheese. Chichico drank tea six inches from Cat's nose, acting very blase. Cat casually looked up. Chichico knew he was in dangerous territory and took off, legs peddling, beating the floor, his body still turned one way, legs moving the other. Cat ignored him and kept eating.

Chichico returned, thinking he should be a little more dignified. He sniffed around her, fascinated by her moving tail. He put his hand out to bat it, but didn't quite reach it. Cat suddenly became serious and started after Chichico as prey.

Chichico scrambled out of the room through a crack in the slightly opened door, skittered down the hallway, flew through the bannister rails and dropped with a thud from the second floor to the first.

I ran down the stairs. Chichico sat there, stunned. I reached for him. He ran away. I caught him. As I held him, he spread his arms around my neck and fell sound asleep.

Terry and I found a sitter for Chichico and set off for Huancayo. From Lima, we took a spectacular nine-hour ride through the Andes, traveling on the highest standard gauge railroad in the world. As we reached a height of 15,890 feet, oxygen masks were provided for the passengers.

The terrain was spiked with peaks and precipices, chasms and ravines. Although Huancayo is less than 200 miles from Lima, in route, we passed through 68 tunnels and 22 switch backs and crossed 55 bridges that spanned deep gorges and connected mountains. In many places, rock formations with layers of strata were turned sideways. Shallow water standing in fields reflected with mirror-like intensity the tops of towering mountains and clouds.

Near Huancayo, the land was so barren that Indians could barely scratch out an existence, planting one seed here and one seed there in the rocky terrain. Life expectancy for women was 29, and for men 27. Infant mortality rate was 7 out of 10.

I hired a guide who could speak Spanish as well as Quechua to help me take a "Gail-Up Poll" among these very poor people. My question was, "If you were granted one wish, what would you want most? Food? Shelter? Clothing?"

To my utter amazement, each one I questioned gave the same reply—a transistor radio. Food for the soul was evidently more important than nourishment, which was in extremely short supply.

Upon our return to Lima, our monkey-sitter brought Chichico to us. He jumped all over my back, arms, head and lap, pausing only to grab a pen out of my hand. Then he jumped from my arms and ran lickety-split up the stairs—wanting to be chased.

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The End!

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Ecuador Jungle flowers
© Copyright 2006-. Gail Howard.
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