March 11, 2008 - Location: Salinas, Ecuador
Rain, Desert and Floods
Greetings from Salinas, the billfish capitol of Ecuador. It was a long-time in getting here, but I made it! I am here to try my luck with the local marlin population. Hopefully my marlin luck has changed over the last 12 months. I have been maintaining good fish-kharma....... I will let you know how it goes. First off, I better relate my activities for the last couple of weeks. DRIVING.
Salta Province, Argentina
I left Bariloche on the 23rd and began the 2,400 km drive to Salta to fish for the famed dorado of the Juramento River. Before I departed I was warned by the guides that this is still the rainy season, so there is a chance the river might be unfishable. I tossed those concerns aside as I wanted to experience the dorados' ferocious strike and fighting ability.
On the drive up and completed the famous "Ruta 40," which runs nearly the entire length of Argentina. I guess it was nice to add that to the other notable roads that I have transversed, namely the crazy Trans-Siberian Highway and Chile's picturesque "Carretera Austral." I decided not to stop at a nearby street vendor and purchase a shirt adorned with "I completed the Ruta 40 and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!"
I was about 5 hours from Salta when the environmental signs that said "It has been raining very hard here for a while now" became noticable. I stopped by the guide shop anyway and was treated to a pleasant evening of beer, dinner and fishing stories. A big thanks to Alejandro and Gustavo of www.juramentoflyfishing.com.ar. I will be back!
The Andes and Northern Chile
This part of the drive was notable for the Paseo de Jama, the primary pass over the Andes in Northern Argentina. It contains an incredible 37 consecutive kilometers of switch-backs which took me from an elevation of 4,000 feet to 12,500 feet. The scenery is pretty amazing as well. There are lush green valleys, red rocks and lots of cactus. It reminded me of the American Southwest.
After entering Chile, the road continues to climb and eventually reaches a height of 15,726 feet. This is about 3,000 feet more than I have ever hiked, and I reached this summit without leaving the air conditioning comfort of my vehicle. If I had been feeling a bit more energetic, I could have stopped briefly to run up to the top of a nearby hill and officially "bag" a 5,000 meter peak! Instead, I pryed open a bag of Doritos and kept driving.
After dropping down to about 7,000 feet, I found myself in the stifling heat of the desert. Apparently, it is perfectly normal for a person to live in this part of the world for an entire lifetime and never witness rain. In fact, the only time a Chileno from this region sees water drop from above is when they take a shower!
Until now, when I thought of Peru I thought of lush green forests, Machu Pichu and occasionally dense jungle. Now.... I only think of desert. Peru has 2,400 kilometers of coastline and 2,300 kilometers of that is nothing but desert. I know this because I drove all 2,400 kms.
I stopped for my first day of rest in Blue Beach, a rather American-sounding beach community just south of Lima. Unbeknownst to me, I checked into a hosteria that is known throughout the world by the surfer crowd called Oscar Morante's Pico Alto. Each evening's activities centered around drinking beer and telling wave-stories on the front patio until the wee hours of the morning. This patio also happened to be under my bedroom window. So much for getting some rest. However, I can attest to the fact that Peruvians are some of the friendliest people I have met.
I crossed into Ecuador at 7:30am, thanks to the fact that I didn't realize that I missed a 3 hour time-change somewhere along the way. Perhaps that is why I thought Peruvians stayed up awfully late? This oversight actually worked in my favor as the scene at the border was only in level 2 Defcom-Chaos mode.
I spent a couple of days in Guayaquil, celebrating my successful journey of 7,000 kms (also my birthday, for everyone that forgot!). Guayaquil is surprisingly modern and clean. It would appear that Ecuadorians have embraced Western culture quite a bit more than other South American countries. The official money of Ecuador is called........ the U.S. Dollar! They do have some of their own coins, though.
I thought that Salinas would be a smelly sportfishing port, but it turns out that it is actually Ecuador's version of Miami Beach. There are all the tourist activities; laying on the beach, renting boats, waterskiing in the bay, parasailing, etc. etc.
The nice thing about Salinas is that it is primarily a vacation destination for residents of Ecuador. This keeps the disturbing "gringo sightings" to a minimum. It also makes for some humorous menu translations at the local restaurants. Since they don't rely on English speakers so much, I think some used an internet translator to do the work. This resulted in dishes such as "Pig bittersweet," "Pig crackling shrimp" and the very attractive "Fingernail of crab fried." To satisfy my curiosity, I ordered the "pig crackling shimp" and can honestly say that I am not sure what it was exactly.
Leif Milling arrived yesterday to photograph the action during our marlin trip. I can say with confidence that if we are lucky enough to land a marlin, there will be some nice pictures of it. Let's hope we have luck on our side this time!
That is all the news for now. Hope you enjoy the pictures. If you ever have the chance to drive through Peru, I would enthusiastically suggest that you take an inland route! Thanks again for your support and I will report back promptly with our fishing results!
FFG Merchandise Notice:
A number of people experienced difficulty in purchasing t-shirts and coozies due to a glitch in the PayPal settings. I apologize for this situation and my webmaster Scott Cocking has fixed the problem. Please re-visit the store, place an order and until the end of March, I'll throw in a free pack of coozies for your troubles! Thanks again for your support!
Chile re-deux! A brown from the Rio Simpson and one from a lake near Coyhaique. These photos were temporarily lost in my dead laptop back in mid-January. Since this update is almost is mostly about driving, I thought it would be a good time to break them out. On second photo, for perspective, my thumb is about 1¨ wide. This is one of the reasons that I dislike fishing from a float tube...... the photos are crap.
Another lost photo from Coyhaique......"Dr. Phil" Phil Black with a very fat Rainbow caught from the dock at Campo Chileno. We guessed this fish had been busy gobbling up mice.
A scene from the Rio Pico in Argentina. The fish is small but the vista is grand!
Caught in FRONT of the camera for once! The honorable Leif Milling taking marching orders at the Rio Pico.
The "Butterfly Blitz," retitled the "Mariposa Massacre" for Spanish-speaking audiences. Actually they are just resting on the LandCruiser's grill-screen. Really!
A couple of kids cruising the streets near Salta, Argentina.
Look at the elevation of the mountain I climbed....... in my truck! 15,726 feet at the top of the pass over the Andes.
A long-abandoned town along the Pan American Highway in Peru
A reoccurring desert scene; sand, rocks and open road
The LandCruiser profile in the evening sun. The ground along this section of road had the appearance of popcorn and it stretched as far as the eye could see.
The chaotic scene at the Peru/Ecuador border. I guess this crossing could be considered "porous." Customs and immigration were difficult to locate amongst the melee and unless I stopped to get the necessary stamps and documentation, no one would have cared. That is..... until I tried to leave the country.
From desert to tropics. A scene from the mellow ex-pat surfer community of Montanita, about 60 kms north of Salinas. 10 minutes later the rain stopped and the street vendors were back making a buck.
Flooding in Ecuador. Adding to the confusion at the Peru-Ecuador border was the fact that the town of Agua Verde was being flooded by the nearby river. Talk about micro-climates.... the residents just 1,000 miles south of here haven't seen the rain since 1976!!!!
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