International Writers Magazine: Ecuador Cajas: Fishing
Quirks of Cajas
looked like a big banana. But a few minutes earlier, she didnt.
Without warning, the skies turned overcast and a light rain began
to fall, which was typical for Ecuadors El Cajas National
Park; sporadic weather was the norm. Consequently, my next-door
neighbor, Sheik, unveiled the bright yellow poncho that matched
her blinding rubber boots. Removing the plastic shawl from her backpack
was the easy part; putting it on, however, proved to be much more
challenging for the lanky lady.
Like a bug desperately
trying to escape a spider web, my spindly, dark-featured friend struggled
mightily as she tried to wear her lemon cloak. Sheik just couldnt
seem to locate the appropriate holes for her head and arms as she constantly
punched in all directions. To make matters worse, the powerful mountain
winds violently flapped her saffron wrap, making the poncho puzzle even
harder to decipher. Finally, after a thorough process of elimination,
the long-haired Costa Rican popped her head through the right place.
She looked exasperated.
Watching my graying friend the entire time, I couldnt help but
burst out when she finally got the raincoat on. The Tica heard my cackling
and whipped around to stare at me with an evil eye.
"Ha, Ha, Ha..!" Sheik yelled, mocking my laughter.
Then, as if someone was playing tricks on her, a strong gust suddenly
blew by my neighbor and practically stripped the poncho from the Costa
Ricans body. The wind abruptly lifted the wrap over Sheiks
arms and threw it around her neck to make it look like she was wearing
a sunny apron. I crowed even louder.
"Shut up! I dont even know why I brought this thing!"
the annoyed woman exclaimed.
Quite irked, she then stomped off, heading towards a distant lagoon
to catch up with her husband, Juan José. My frustrated friend
also stuffed the burdensome poncho back into her bag while she marched.
Keeping my distance, I followed Sheik, figuring that I should join her
because we made the hour-long trip from Cuenca to supposedly "fish
with Juan Jo."
On this gloomy Sunday, Sheik and I were nonetheless chasing her Spaniard
spouse instead of fishing with him. Be that as it may, I wasnt
surprised. I had been through this before. The previous time I fished
"with" the bald man, I hardly saw him. The middle-aged, soft-spoken
Spaniard invited me to El Cajas six months earlier to spend a relaxing
day of fishing in the peaceful national park. But as soon as we arrived
at Laguna Luspa, Juan José bolted.
The avid angler couldnt stand still. He continuously threw his
line into the far-reaching, pristine lagoon while rapidly skirting the
shoreline until he disappeared into the foggy distance. An eternity
later, Juan Jo returned to the same spot where he had abandoned me,
sans fish and ready to go back to Cuenca. It definitely wasnt
the best Sunday I had spent during my 9 months in Ecuador.
Therefore, I was armed with a Canon, not a pole this time around. I
knew I wouldnt be able keep up with the fleeting fisherman and
wanted something else to do rather than lose Juan Jos lures and
freeze while playing the waiting game. Very familiar with her hubbys
restlessness, Sheik, too, brought a camera.
the midday clouds periodically sprinkled rain on us, Juan José
ceaselessly searched the rugged terrain for the best spot to cast
his line. Sheik and I followed far behind, keeping the tall fellow
within shouting distance as we snaked across the verdant hills and
snapped endless photos of our peaked surroundings. Besides taking
pictures of lagoons and vegetation, the Costa Rican and I even got
some close-ups of several llamas eating from the grassy hillsides.
I was actually surprised at how unconcerned the llamas were about
our presence. Based on their obvious apathy, these animals had most
likely seen humans before.
Eventually, Juan Jo decided on a place to park. Going with his gut,
he stopped at the bouldered bank of a small creek, which slowly
flowed downhill from a vast lagoon. Furthermore, the Spaniards
intuition was apparently right because he caught three small trout
within a span of fifteen minutes.
Sheik, who was by
his side for the third catch, was ecstatic.
Seeing that the fish were continuing to bite, Juan José then
yelled for me to grab his tackle box, which he left on the rugged bank
further downstream. Quickly approaching, I scooped up his gear and just
as I was about to make my way towards the couple, I lost my balance
on the stony shoreline. I frantically reached for a jagged rock to regain
my balance, but landed on my butt and sliced open my right hand in the
process. To add insult to injury, Sheik and Juan Jo didnt even
notice my fall because they were too focused on the water.
paw a bleeding mess, I immediately grabbed a white bandana from
my backpack. I winced as I delicately wrapped the painful laceration.
And when I approached my neighbors with a tackle box in one hand
and a bloody cloth in the other, the Tica and her husband felt it
was time for a break. The three of us went to a nearby patch of
land to eat lunch on a trio of boulders, which made for great seats.
Grimacing from the gash, I focused on my enormous bologna sandwich.
Several bites later, I suddenly realized that Sheik was staring
at my injury. She put her sandwich down, walked over, and kneeled
in front of me.
"Let me see that," the Costa Rican said as she grabbed
my wounded hand.
my shoddy wrap, my neighbor shook her head and untied my loose bandage.
Not only was Sheik dressing the cut in a much better fashion, but she
was also doing it in half as much time. I was a bit embarrassed.
Then, the Tica smiled at me.
"This is what you get for making fun of me," Sheik said while
tying the final knot.
Even though my hand was throbbing, I chuckled at her wisecrack.
Still trying to ignore the sharp pain in my paw, I subsequently joined
my companions discussion about the on-again-off-again weather
we had been experiencing. As I thought about the parks ever-changing
climate, I also reflected on the other things I had witnessed that day.
I recalled my first llama sighting in El Cajas, Juan Jos random
discovery of a spot teeming with trout, and my tumble on the rocks.
Moreover, I pondered how my first two visits were completely different
from each other and how this trip was nothing like those ones. Fully
living up to its erratic reputation, the park had been predictably unpredictable.
Glancing at my watch, I noticed it was just after 1 PM. I knew Juan
José would want to make use of the several hours of daylight
which remained. And while I wondered about the upcoming afternoon, I
could only imagine what else Cajas had in store for us.
Nelson December 2008
Sunday morning. Thats always my answer whenever Im asked
what tops my list about Cuenca.
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