International Writers Magazine: Ecuador from our travel archives
the Chor-Princi Trail
gloomy Sunday morning sky chilled our bones as my specs-donning
friend, Andrew, and I waited for our connection. In fact, the two
of us were an hour east of Cuenca, catching up as well as comparing
our respective English classes at CEDEI (Centros de Estudios Interamericanos).
Despite the early
hour and brisk air we were breathing, Andrew and I were actually happy
to be away from the city wed both been calling home for the past
several months. And although he had been through this routine a number
of times before, this was the first occasion that Andrew was in these
parts NOT to teach English. Besides my need for a daytrip, I was interested
in seeing where my friend had educated schoolchildren, given that he
had instructed groups as large as fifty.
"This should be our bus," said my fellow teacher, noticing
the grumbling auto approaching us from our right.
As the dirty white coach crept closer, I noticed the lines strange
name slapped in blue lettering across the vehicles broadside.
Moreover, the words, Chor Princi, were oddly spaced apart; painted several
feet from each other. Mr. Pratt and I immediately decoded the meaning
of this unusual label nonetheless.
"Chor" was short for Chordeleg, which was the town surrounding
the decrepit street corner we were standing on. "Princi" represented
Principal; our destination that was 45 minutes away.
After dropping its passengers off and circling around the pueblos
center, the banged-up bus came back to us a few minutes later. Overwhelmed
by his stench, Andrew and I quickly boarded and immediately headed to
the back, sitting far away from the putrid-smelling, weathered Ecuadorian
we followed on. Still, even though we had escaped the odor up front,
a pair of rowdy, very young boys used the couple rows of seats behind
us as their playground while the bus began to retrace the road from
which it came.
to our right, Andrew and I were distracted by something other than
the kids to our backs. We were not only fascinated by the far-reaching,
healthy countryside, but were also a bit scared by the steep drop-off
just below our window. While the near-empty, filthy coach roared
around countless curves and blind bends, the two of us wondered
how many vehicles had fallen off the dangerous dirt road (which
was hardly wider than our bus) and into the Andean unknown. Andrew
and I were also surprised that we hadnt heard more news of
busloads that had perished due to the narrowness of this risky roadway.
That said, falling to ones death wasnt the only obvious
hazard of this perilous pass. A person could have been buried just
As the bus pushed southward, my friend and I scanned the towering
dirt cliffs that stood just beyond the windows to our left. During
some stretches, there was absolutely no space between the earthy
walls and the road. Furthermore, since there were no barriers erected,
the hillsides looked like they could crumble without warning. And
given the frequent rains that wetted this region, mudslides also
had to occur every now and then. Fortunately, we only came across
the aftermath of a collapse, which didnt claim any victims.
More than a half-hour
into our ride, the bus abruptly stopped. Looking out the vehicles
large front window, Andrew and I saw that the road was blocked by a
huge pile of dirt. In addition, there was a red backhoe clearing the
mound with its bucket. We, however, could see Principal in the distance,
and, therefore, told the driver that we were going to ramble the rest
of the way.
Apparently knowing something we didnt, the driver, on the other
hand, suggested that Andrew and I wait. The graying, diminutive chauffer
confidently predicted that it wouldnt be much longer until he
could get through. The man was right.
A few minutes later, my fellow gringo and I were stepping off the bus,
ambling downhill into the tiny community of Principal. The gray clouds
on this early-July morn hovered low, covering the peaks of the villages
surrounding green mountains yet providing a fascinating backdrop for
the pueblo ahead.
First, Andrew showed me his "classroom" in the town center,
where he taught on a handful of Saturdays many months before. Sometimes,
he used the band shell that rested on the southern end of the basketball
court we were standing on. On other occasions, he taught colors, animal
names, and other basics to the kids (who walked almost an hour from
Celel, a village to the north) on the cement below our feet. I couldnt
stop thinking about how challenging it must have been to work with no
desks, whiteboard, or even a room for that matter; especially since
there were dozens of students at times.
After touring his former workspace, Andrew showed me the rest of Principal,
which didnt take very long. Nevertheless, I saw some charm in
the puny township due to its vibrant colors, beautiful location, and
most memorably, the friendly townspeople who often greeted us while
we moseyed along their muddy streets. I definitely felt pleased as we
exited the pueblo.
Leaving Principal, Andrew and I began our march, retracing our earlier
bus route on foot. We wanted to absorb the incredible scenery and get
some exercise. And despite the fact that we had originally planned to
hike only two or three hours before catching a bus, Chordeleg still
lingered in the back of my mind. Part of me wanted to rove the entire
way back. I just didnt know if Andrew was game.
the morning fog lifted and the sun broke through, the two of us
constantly ogled the Andean ambience and maintained a good pace
as we bullshitted past a few different villages. My friend and I
also sauntered by numerous indigenous folks, stepped out of the
way of passing vehicles, and talked about Andrews upcoming
union with Mara (María Raquel), the Ecuadorian girl he was
about to marry. In truth, we were so busy chatting that we didnt
realize how far we had wandered.
Pressing on, Andrew
and I eventually broke his previous record around a couple of hours
into the trek. My friend explained that he and another English teacher,
Lauren, had tried to wend their way back to Chordeleg after a Saturday
class in Principal some months earlier. Notwithstanding, their lack
of water and protection from the intense rays above forced them to hop
on a passing bus. It was shortly after his story, however, that Andrew
recognized some scenery that wasnt TOO far away from our destination.
Consequently, we decided to go for it.
at the Bullring
Our legs and feet progressively grew tired along with the intensity
of the searing sun overhead. Still, Andrew and I were convinced that
Chordeleg would pop up at anytime in the distance. And so, the two of
us kept moving forward, determined to reach the cantons capital.
We were too far in to give up now.
After a few long, blind mountain curves only led to longer, blind mountain
curves, Andrew and I finally saw the distinct twin towers of Chordelegs
yellow and green church in the distance. As a result, my friend and
I quickened our steps to town, dying to board a Cuenca-bound bus that
both of us felt we had earned.
Five hours after our tour of Principal, Andrew and I were slumped in
our seats, thinking about our days accomplishment as the auto
rolled westward. Although we were exhausted and sore, Andrew and I believed
the trek was very worthwhile because we had accomplished something that
was far from easy.
"Make sure you tell Lauren when you see her," Andrew told
I laughed and assured him I would before we went our separate ways from
Cuencas bus terminal.
Curious, I unfolded my Ecuador map after hobbling into my apartment
later that afternoon. I wanted to see if the villages Andrew and I walked
through were even on it. Unsurprisingly, there were no dots between
Chordeleg and Principal.
Be that as it may, I certainly dont need a map to think of Celel,
Delegsol, Buena Vista, Puzhio, and Soransol.
Im also sure Ill see them again someday.
Nelson September 2008
Highly outnumbered, wounded bulls entered the rowdy arena to be stabbed to
death by costumed men.
on Santa Cruz
was good. I was recently reunited with my girlfriend, Amanda, who I
hadnt seen in over 5 months, and we were in a place that many
people only get to visit in their dreams.
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.