38. Travel Story

Peace or prison…

After my group went back home, I went to my friends in Mera. In total I had six and a half weeks, until my next tour would start on the 21 of September. I was hoping that I could spent some of that time working on the land of Merazonia.
I also had to go to the south of Ecuador and the north of Peru, to visit some places I didn’t know and which we will visit in my next tour.

Arriving in Mera, I heard that it could still take a lot of time before the legalization process and the court cases against the brothers would produce any results.
My friends were/are getting bored of all this waiting. They can not work on the land, because the brothers will threat them with machetes. The police can’t/doesn’t want to do anything anymore, before all the paperwork is done. They can’t chase them of the land with some big guys, because they would just come back with more family and friends and then where is the end?
Mera is only a small villages with not much to do. But my friends (or at least some of them) have to stay around, to speak with their lawyer, to sign papers, make decisions and put a bit of pressure on everyone, because if they don’t put any pressure on the processes, these will go even slower.
You can imagine that they’re having a difficult time. They’re almost like prisoners in Mera, with no date to be “released” from their punishment…
I couldn’t do much more than; be there for them and together trying to make the best out of it.

After we watched a movie on Wednesday the 16th of August, or actually it was after midnight, so already the17th, we got a power-cut. We didn’t see any lights for as far as we could see. All right, it was time to go to sleep anyway.

The next morning we still had no power. Well this happens more often, but not that there’s even no electricity in Baños and Tena. By the way, we haven’t seen any bus passing? Maybe there’s even less traffic? Is this related? Could this have anything to do with the lava that Toby saw yesterday evening coming from the Tungurahau, when his bus passed by on the road from Ambato to Baños?
Asking around in Mera, we hear different stories. Apparently the road from Baños to Ambato is blocked, but we don’t why. Some people say this is because there floated lava in the river that streams under the big bridge and they’re not sure how far this will come and if it can damage the bridge. Others tell us that the road is blocked with rocks which came out of the volcano during the eruption. The latest news is that there floated up to two meters of lava over the road! This would have been at the monument with the birds, at the beginning of Baños. They even say that they’re evacuating Baños!
It feels strange, we’re like an hour away from the Tungarahua and everything seems so peaceful around here, but we have no idea what happened last night or might still be going on around Baños…
The phone is still working, so I call a tour-agency in Baños. They say that there was a small eruption last night and that there is some ashes in the streets of Baños. A few people are volunteering in leaving Baños, but the volcano calmed down and there’s no (direct) danger. However, this same person also say’s that there are still busses going to Ambato.
Late in the afternoon the electricity gets back on, but without a television and a good radio, it is still difficult to find out what really happened.
On Saturday there are several busses going to and from Baños and we even see some with a sign for Quito. We had heard that one person got killed, 13 wounded and several people were still missing after the eruption.
Villages close to Tungurahua had been evacuated because they were covered with a thick layer of ashes and even the city’s of Ambato and Riobamba suffered from the ashes. We decided to get on one of the busses to Baños to finally see for ourselves what really happened.

The water reservoir from the power plant at this side of Baños was almost empty and looked very dirty. When we got out of the bus and walked through the streets of Baños, they were very quite. It looked a bit like a ghost tourists-town and everything was coffered with a thin film of gray/black powder, ashes. Even the keys from the computers in the internet café felt dusty.

During lunch we heard on the local radio station that people had to be careful with the ashes and how they could protect themselves best.
After lunch we started to walk in the direction of bird-monument. We passed by a small file with most busses and trucks, which were waiting for the road to Ambato to open. Apparently they were working very hard to finish an emergency road by today, so traffic could go directly to Ambato again. Since this road belongs to one of the only three roads connecting to the Amazone region it is an important one. Also, a ride to and from Ambato used to take less than an hour, but now took more than 12 hours!
The monument turned out to be further than we thought and halfway we got offered a ride with one of the trucks, which was transporting stones for the new road. The driver is the man from who my friends bought the second half of their land. The part without problems, but unfortunately not the part on which the volunteer-house is standing. He had bought this truck with the money that my friends paid for his land. Interesting how things can be connected ;-)

When we arrived at the bird-monument there was indeed a layer of dried lava covering the road. In fact, we had already been driving over the lava for the last few hundred meters! We got off the truck and we could still feel a bit of heat coming from the ground under us. Wow, now we finally started to understood how big this eruption had been!

My Ecuadorian friend, told me that in Quero, the village where she lives, the people hadn’t slept in the night of the eruption, because of the tremble and the ash-rain caused by this eruption.
It was strange to think that Mera also isn’t that far from Tungurahua and we had no idea what was going on. Mera seems to be one of the closest villages that wasn’t affected at all, because it is situated in the right direction.

Monday I left Mera for my short trip to the south. I went to Ambato, from where I would get on a bus to Cuenca. In Ambato it was strange to see that everything looked gray, covered with a thin layer of ashes. And how people in the streets were walking with mouth caps to protect themselves.
The first hour in the bus in the direction of Riobamba, felt surrealistic as well. The ashes in the air were almost like a thin mist which made everything looking gray and somber like a rainy day. Only now it was dust and people with mouth caps were trying to clean it. Like I was watching a movie through the window of the bus, unbelievable.
The bus drove further to Cuenca, slowly the effects started to get less and disappeared in the end.

From Cuenca I went to the pretty, but quite village of Vilcabamba. Situated in a valley with beautiful nature, they say that the average age of the people in this village reaches the highest ages of whole Ecuador and maybe further. It seems to be a nice place to spent your old days ;-)

After Vilcabamba I crossed the border with Peru to go to Piura, officially the oldest colonial city of Peru. There is not much left to prove that and already the same evening I took a bus to Chiclayo.
Chiclayo was a bit more interesting, but this was mostly because of the history of places around it. Great museums, like Bruning and Museo Tumbas Reales, which are not even in Chiclayo, but in the nearby place Lambayeque, tell interesting stories about the past of this area. Stories about old cultures like the Moche, who build big temples and burial tombs for their kings. The outside of Tumbas Reales is even build in the shape of how one of these tombs must have looked like 1700 years ago. This tomb is called the tomb of Sipan and is been excavated since 1987. Because it was first discovered by thiefs, the archeologists lost some artifacts, but when they looked deeper they found the remains of a king with all his needs for a good after-live.

Now I’ve seen what I wanted, it was time to go back to Mera. I should be just on time to hear the fresh results of again an other inspection to prove that the land belongs to Merazonia. This time a judge would decide about the results of this inspection and this will be the highest prove my friends can get.

This inspection didn’t go through, because the inspector had a cold. However, almost two weeks later and one day before the postponed inspection, we finally got some good news; The results from an earlier case against the brothers came back and they proved them guilty on violently entering the land of my friends. They would have to go to jail for two months and pay a 200$ fine for lawyer costs…
Don’t ask why one case has to prove that the land belongs to Merazonia, while the results of an other already accepts that. No-one knows how this works, but however the brothers appealed against these results, it still gives new hope.
If it is not really necessary, we don’t want the brothers to go to jail, because we’re not sure what they will do if they come out, but maybe now they will take my friends serious? Maybe they’re now willing to make a deal and end this whole nightmare quickly and peacefully?
Let´s hope for everybody that the brothers get a bright moment and understand that this would be the best solution for everyone…

When I write this story it is already more than a month after the second eruption of the Tungurahua. The volcano stayed calm ever after and for as far as I know it even stopped smoking after the last eruption.
Tungurahua rests peacefully, but my friends are still having a difficult time. The brothers still don’t seem to believe that they’re about to go to jail. But maybe they do start to understand how serious it could get, since they didn’t show up on the land last week. Instead they had send two family members to “protect” the land while they’re fighting the case against them.
At this moment there’s no way of predicting what will happen next. In this situation one of my friends now has to stay on his own in Mera, because of money problems and urgent private problems for my other friends.
I feel almost guilty to leave now for my tour and I wish him and the others all the strength and luck they need and even more.

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