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To South America … Again

View of Quito’s Old Town

View of Quito’s Old Town

Once again, Martine does not want to travel with me. Her continuing problems with back pain when sleeping in soft beds and almost continuous irritable bowel syndrome makes her want to stay close to home. This year, I will go to Ecuador, especially to the Andes region.

The good news is that I will not be traveling alone: My brother Dan expressed interest in joining me. The last time we traveled together was in 1979, when we did the circuit Mexico City-Villahermosa-Palenque-San Cristobal de las Casas-Oaxaca-Mexico City. It was the same circuit described by Graham Greene in his book The Lawless Roads (1939). We traveled by air to Villahermosa (not a high point in any sense of the term) and by bus the rest of the way back to Mexico D.F.

Dan and I are, I think, good traveling companions. He’s not very interested in ruins (there aren’t that many in Ecuador), and he is very interested in native crafts (as am I). He has already been to Guayaquil and the Galapagos and said that travel to the latter was much too regimented. I was hoping he didn’t want to go there again because (1) when we’re going is the wrong time of the year (October/November) and (2) Zika.

At this point I’ll tell you a couple of anecdotes about traveling with my brother. We were in Palenque at the time of the Christmas Posadas, and Dan loved the coffee served in the area—it was grown locally. When we were in a café one evening, a shoeshine boy came up to us and asked if we wanted a shine. Dad slipped his foot out of his sandals and set it on the stand. The trouble is: As far as anyone could see, he was wearing only bright red socks. All the locals burst out laughing. No matter, I was wearing leather boots and gave him my business.

Another Palenque incident fortunately turned out the right way. Dan ducked out frequently in the evening to satisfy his coffee cravings while I remained behind reading a book. I heard a commotion in the street, and Dan came up shortly after. Apparently, a police informer tried to sell him “magic mushrooms” (psilocybin), and Dan guessed his intent at once. No sale.

There are some other stories from that trip that I’ll write about some other time.

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