Vacas y campesinos de Galera

Aug 15, 2019 | 4 comments

A couple of years ago, while in the far reaches of Ecuador’s northern coast, I found something out. I had known to never fully trust any map since I was a scout. But I didn’t know the inherent differences in a “lighthouse,” as the term is used along the Atlantic seaboard of North America, in comparison to the mapmaker’s use of the same word. It’s also likely that this difference in understanding of the word was garbled by the fact I was in Ecuador where things are never the same as I might think or expect them to be. Even though I am highly guarded in not having any type of pre-expectation of anything in Ecuador, these things do slip in on me at times.

Edie and I had left Tonchigüe after buying some seafood and El Fantasma, our truck, was pointed toward Club Cumilinche. Past there Galera waited, hopefully with the goal at hand, a “lighthouse.” We wound down through dense coastal jungle that looked like it was out of a lost worlds movie. Even though we were a little south for FARC-styled guerrillas, it did seem the ghost of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara wandered nearby. Twisty roads brought us into Galera and then, our quest for the lighthouse came to a resounding end.

Moored offshore was a large buoy with a very bright flasher attached to the top. No tall historic structure of hand-hewn stone blocks reached for an azure sky while nestled on a rocky out-cropping. No large prismatic lens blazed toward the ocean. No small windows with quaint muntin patterns were in view. No hermit of a long-bearded tender with a cap riding jauntily on his head was to be seen. All to be seen was that buoy incessantly bobbing up and down. We were looking at each other in shock as Fantasma’s motor purred smoothly keeping the a/c blowing cold air in the hot and humid environment. We burst out with laughter simultaneously at the error of our thoughts and our plan. Edie peeled a couple of bananas for a snack and I brought the truck around to bear on the main road which was actually little more than a pig trail.

We were back in the area recently again on another quest. Satisfying the ever gnawing pang for more adventure is serious business. We both knew there was something of photographic substance deep in that jungle, but what could it be? We do shoot wildlife, the kind with fur or feathers, but those subjects weren’t our objective. Some human “wildlife” would be fun though as long as it was safe. I turned El Fantasma toward the dense jungle growth. He slipped into the damp and leafy shadows with the familiarity of a returning interloper.

Within a few minutes, we were halted in our forward travels by Brahma. Hold on, I don’t mean the Hindu Creator god — he’s probably got more important stuff going on than hanging out on some coastal jungle road right off the equator asking Gringos to pull over. I’m talking fifty head or better of prime looking Brahma cattle. There must have been some grassy areas nearby where they had been grazing. Right now, two campesinos were re-pasturing the herd.

Here in Ecuador, cattle are led right down the middle of rural roads until they are introduced to a new area for grazing. It’s the same in the Sierra, the Andes, where I live, but the campesinos are dressed more warmly. They do share the commonalities of similar cowboy lifestyles and they all wear those signature rubber boots. A cowboy with rubber boots?! My, my…Marshall Matt Dillon would surely be quaking in his grave. Yeah, but it’s Ecuador and instead of the dusty streets of Dodge city it’s the jungle of Galera where rain is the daily expectation.

I didn’t want to spook the herd since we were riding in a big white ghost. I held back giving the campesinos plenty of room to accomplish the job at hand. That worked out good for me because my camera and lens combination lent themselves to the subject matter. The cows are just dropping down to the left from the higher roadway. Such is life in the rural, coastal jungle areas of Ecuador and such is my life, chasing down one adventure after another with the woman of my dreams. To put Edie’s and my adventures into the their correct perspective, I’m quoting M.C. Hammer, “U Can’t touch this…”

Brian Buckner

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