The Road into Cuyabeno
Texas oilmen named this laceration in the Ecuadorian Amazon "Sour Lake," Lago Agrio, and since it’s an oil town of 20,000, we know its prostitutes, bars and garbage-strewn parks fill with indigent colonists who follow our oil companies to the jungle. I think not of Tu Fu or Confucius, but Lonely Planet, which says "an oil town is an oil town." We take their word, walk straight from tarmac to terminal to a bus that will drop us 4 hours from here. Because we are norteamericanos, our hopes are high before we watch rain spit from an immense sky into half-built, wood-plank shacks on stilts, walls painted with political slogans and half-legible names of local consejeros, green hills dotted by handfuls of trees, and four parallel pipelines following our bus like one of the country’s mangy strays, flowing straight to graffiti on Quito walls topped with glass shards: NO FMI FUERA OPEC NO COMPRE TEXACO. Holding hands, we peered far ahead to Cuyabeno Preserve. Loaded into canoes for the 2 hour ride to our huts, we forgot the tanker trucks, derricks, and squat bunkers for oil workers along the road that reminded me of Dachau. Fernando, our guide, laughs a lot. We laugh, too, because we see squirrel monkeys, sloths, caimans, pink dolphins, and kingfishers. We sleep like los indígenas in thatched huts, dumb with fortune.
From The Coriolis Effect by Michael Dowdy. Copyright © 2007 by Michael Dowdy. Reprinted with permission of Bright Hill Press.