I shelved this series a while back when I made the questionable decision to self-host my blog. In the ensuing craziness I let this series slide but now I am picking up where I left off and plan on finishing the damn story for anyone interested in discovering just how foolish I can be (plenty, believe me).
Fun Fact: Tomorrow my site will go down for a bit of “maintenance” and will then rise up from the digital ashes and look Amazing thanks to the mad skills of one Julie Deneen of www.fabulousblogging.com so be sure to check back on Saturday to see The Tattoo Tourist’s fresh new look!
After recovering from my cow-shit covered shame we all headed back into Quito the following day. Now Chris and I circled each other warily – jockeying for position and trying to gain an edge in winning Assaf’s affections. Meanwhile a vibrant foreign city packed with fascinating sites, history, architecture and culture went largely ignored around me as I divested virtually all of my energy into making a rather indifferent boy like me. Ahhh youth.
We continued to go to bars and hang out as a group and after a few days Richard and Assaf decided that the next grand adventure would be a trip down a river and into the jungle to meet a tribe of natives “unspoiled” by westerners.
The plan was to find some local people to build us a couple of rafts, buy the necessary supplies and then raft down the Napo river until we reached Santa Rosa where we would hire some local people to hike us about 12 hours into the jungle. I know what you are thinking – sounds like a perfectly solid plan!
We were not shooting completely blind here. Assaf knew some people who had done exactly this and they said it was great. Of course they were Israeli and as I was beginning to understand Israeli’s had an insanely high tolerance for risk and discomfort – kind of prided themselves on it. In addition to the ringing endorsement from Assaf’s friends we also visited the military consulate in Quito to acquire topographical maps of the area in question so we would “know where we were going”. Pretty foolproof – no?
Our group consisted of lovely Richard, the man of the hour Assaf, Richard’s Irish friend Adrian, Chris and I. Assaf and I spent a thrilling afternoon negotiating with soldiers to acquire the necessary maps and then we all loaded into the bus and took the approx. 5 hour ride to Tena – the gateway to the Amazon. At the time we visited Tena was a small agricultural community with mercantiles and small cafes and hostels catering to the odd traveler and local people travelling via the river. We grabbed lodging in a simple hostel and began acquiring supplies and looking for raft builders.
I don’t know if I will ever again get the chance to walk into an old-fashioned mercantile and buy sacks of rice, boxes of tea, machetes and rubber boots but I can say it was a uniquely satisfying experience. So was hiring an entire family to build us two balsa rafts which set us back a whole $50.
It only took them two days to complete the work and this allowed us plenty of time to prepare for the trip and for me to frequently flounce around in front of Assaf in the hopes of catching his eye.
He finally cracked under the strain one afternoon when we were hanging out in our communal room avoiding a thunder shower together – and alone. I was stretched out on a cot with my feet braced against the wall reading to him aloud from Dostoevsky (because if you are going to be dramatic then you definitely want to get some Russian literature involved). During a pause in my reading Assaf finally admitted he felt he had “made a mistake”. A Cheshire like grin spread across my face as I asked him to explain.
He was contrite. I was victorious. Chris was shit out of luck but Assaf was a “gentleman” and didn’t want to hurt her feelings – they had been a couple for almost 4 days by now – so we agreed to not act on our feelings until we finished this particular journey. It was going to be a long week.
Finally the rafts were complete and we headed down to the shore to begin our journey on the Napo which (according to Wikipedia) is possible “by painful canoe navigation, its upper waters may be ascended as far as Santa Rosa,”…” river may be penetrated as far up as its middle course, where it is jammed between two mountain walls, in a deep canyon, along which it dashes over high falls and numerous reefs.”
And how did we prepare for what was obviously a challenging journey? We brought 8 bottles of rum and commenced drinking and singing dirty rugby songs (compliments of Richard) the second we poled away from the banks.
it’s all rum drinking and laughs until you get menaced in the jungle and crash your raft on the river…
Stay tuned and look for the “Witch Doctors, Wine Coolers and Woe” tab on my re-vamped site to keep following the story!