'sticky' and gnats, mosquitoes and other insects buzzed around us. Beautiful as such places
are, they are malarial and unhealthy.
The avillo tree is very common in Lower Ecuador. It grows to the size of an average chest-
nut tree, and its leaves are large and roundish and of a beautiful green. The fruit is large and
round and contains seeds which are used by the natives for a strong purge. When the bark is
avillo trees, and if one has to be felled they build a fire around the trunk and burn it. The reas-
over the body and face. Practically every avillo is full of scars where people have had a quick
slice at it with their machetes as they passed by.
I slept on my saddle, taking good care to choose a place where there were a little air and
as few insects as possible. Of course, I always used my mosquito net and wherever I had my
doubts about the water I put two or three drops of iodine into a glassful.
Istartedearly,forIhadbeentoldthatthe cuesta (steeptrail)waslongandoneoftheworst
imaginable. There are many places where riding is absolutely impossible, and where one has
to consider oneself lucky if the animals can pass without accident. People who have never
travelled over one of those neck-breaking trails, over loose rocks, up high steps, over surfaces
slippery in places, where a horse is likely to come to grief at any moment, would take a real-
istic description for imagination or exaggeration.
We had only a short distance to go that morning and then we started zig-zagging up a
long, narrow and rocky trail. Halfway up the temperature became much lower, but the effort
of climbing made us drip with perspiration. Presently we were wrapped in shifting fogs and
could only see a few yards ahead. However, the higher we climbed the lighter did it get, and
finally we came out of the mists. The atmosphere was clear as crystal and glorious sunshine
filled me with new life; not the depressing sunshine of the low tropical regions, but the clear,
invigorating and joyous sun of the mountains. After many short stops to recover breath we
reached the summit, and what a panorama I beheld! It seemed as though we were on a high
island, and below us an endless white ocean with mountains sticking out of it. Here and there
mists, driven by swift winds, came rolling up a ravine like huge waves hungrily licking an is-
land, or again the clouds rose slowly like the smoke of some huge fire.
My clothes were wet with perspiration and the animals were overheated, panting and drip-
ping,butIbegantofeelthecold.Thesuddenchangefromthetropicsto tierra fria (coldland)
is dangerous and it is advisable to keep moving.
For the next few days we followed trails that led over high passes and down into valleys.
We passed through several small settlements where we usually spent the nights. Most of the
mountains are covered with dense forests, the trees are full of moss and grey lichen, and
make these forests difficult to penetrate, except by following the trail.