February 14, 2010
Time to go home.
There is so much of Ecuador that I will miss. For starters, I will miss the closeness of everything. I will miss crowded buses and packed markets. I will miss the jungle pressed tight against me, the intimacy of the Cosanga gorge, and the soft peaks that frame every horizon. I will miss riding in the back of cattle trucks on dirt roads. I will miss the rain on the tin roof at night. I will miss cool mornings on the Quijos and sweaty afternoons in Tena. I will miss rivers that go on forever.
So many evenings here my forearms ache just to hold the toothbrush. Lying in bed at night, I can feel the fatigue settle over me like a warm blanket. It is the good kind of hurt, the burn of tired muscles. It is the kind of exhaustion that makes me look forward to sleep.
Watching the sunrise through the airport windows, I think about all that this place has taught me. On my first trip, I remember coming here thinking I was strong enough to tackle anything. This place scared me shitless, and taught me that I wasn’t.
Like floodwater, kayaking here eroded my ego, and taught me to be small. It taught me that there isn’t always going to be an easy way out. It taught me that often what matters is not whether you’re right or wrong, but whether you’re committed or not. It taught me that chaos is okay.
Through the many lessons over the years, Ecuador taught me that paddling is not about overcoming the river, but rather learning to live within it. It is learning to gauge the current and the obstacles, to read the water and the landscape, and to understand my place among them.
In time I discovered that from this knowledge grew a trust, both in the river and myself. As the trust grew stronger, I found myself surrendering more and more to it. With each day the trust came closer to faith, and the physical experience of kayaking transformed into a spiritual odyssey.
Even here in this glass-encased terminal, I can feel the raw, uncontained power of the river. I long to be out there amongst it, to hear the water exploding around me. I would give anything to drop through one more horizon and for a few seconds be one again with the energy of that divine spirit. This is what I will miss most. This is what kayaking means to me.
In the months ahead I will daydream of dark gorges and diagonal waves, of the jungle burning with fiery petals. I will make believe that the doves are parrots and that the blue jays are oro pendulas. I will lay in bed at night and listen to the rain, and wonder if it is raining in the paramo.
Mostly though, I will think of the feelings I had here and the wonderful people that shared them. I will pray that in the future I might someday return, to once again find faith in the cool waters of the Andes.
For now though, I must give thanks. Thanks, that for a few precious moments, I got the chance to part of the world that is kayaking in Ecuador.
February 14, 2010