You are hereJourney to Nambija 1982. Part 1

Journey to Nambija 1982. Part 1

Saturday 20.August 1982
Arrived in Guayaquil – rough air trip from Quito; even the air hostesses were screaming – White faced pilot smiles sheepishly at us as he prepares for return flight. – Had a few drinks around the city and back early to hotel - Old BBC film of a Chippnedale, childrens’ cirus on hotel TV.- early to bed.

Sunday, 21.August
Flew to La Loma, then taxi to Loja –   trouble with taxi driver  who wants 1000 Sucres. We pay him off and he loses a trip worth three times that amount to Zamora; strange mentality. Loja in middle of Virgin de Cisne festival – 50/80,000 people some have walked 18hrs to get here – Meet up with Juan Fernandez, who should have been in Zamora – Marco Espinosa is also here in Loja – We are to leave for Cumberatzo tomorrow at 5 am- It is still only 8.30 am- lazy day – 6.30pm, met with Juan and Marco at hotel- had good dinner in an Argentine meat restaurant ,- only decent eatery in whole of Loja – Good company – Marco tells of problems with the MPD (Ecuadorian Communist Party)and how they are being  disruptive in nambija. – They want us to stay longer than planned to visit and photograph the ruins. (first we have heard of ruins). Marco says the Incas lived near the mines but I had read nothing of this in any text book – we got excited at the idea of discovery – we will now stay until 27th.

Monday,  22.August
Up at 6 am and went to church – breakfasted and John and I went to buy supplies – returned to find Cameron, in agony on the hotel dining room floor. His leg had given up on him. John took him in taxi to hospital. – Juan and Marco arrive with local journalist, Ecuador Espinosa and we sat around drinking Spanish brandy and he interviewed me for Radio Centenele de la Cordillero, as a ‘famous BBC reporter’. John got a good pitch as International photographer. - John collected Cameron from the hospital. He cannot walk. Sad news, he will have to remain in be until we return from Nambija.
Taxi to Zamora, arrive at 4.30pm – dust all the way – John and Marco visit someone to give him the bad news that a close friend of his was, recently killed in a mining accident – They return with news that 15 people have just been killed - they were rushing across a primitive bridge to catch a bus, when it collapse into the gorge it spanned.
Interviewed Prof Umberto Delgado, governor of the province – first scary news – he fears for our safety and will not give permission for us to enter Nambija – There have been problems with a Swiss archaeologist and gold hunter, Juan Moritz. – The miners think that all gringos, meaning us, work for Moritz. - A miner arrives and Marco and I try to convince him of our good intentions.

We spot  Cameron walking by the governor’s office – A friend of Marcos, a masseur for the local football team had treated him, given his leg a good twist and it was now as new – with this good news the governor relents and we can collect his safe conduct letter tomorrow – As Marco later explains, the letter will only serve to let the 6 man police contingent in Nambija, know of our imminent arrival. For the miners a piece of paper will not make any difference, as none of them can read anyhow. Bed at 10.00pm.

Tuesday, 23 August
Went to governor’s office to collect the safe conduct letter. Govenor had not arrived – 30 minutes later, the secretary arrives – Informed that the governor was  on holiday and could not officially sign documents – wait another hour until his replacement is convinced to sign the letter - Marco and Juan went ahead to Zamura check for possible problems – we sit around drinking beer for 2 hours until  M and J return- taxi to Cumberatza; our starting off point.

We have a beers and a grisly meat lunch in a cafe before setting off. – We shortly arrive at a bridge, the puente de Namirez, where the governor’s letter is gravely inspected by a solitary policeman – M and J are obviously known to him – Marco tells me that the police are there to look for criminals and that 90% of the minors in Nambija are on the run from the authorities. We are told that a good percentage of these are chauffeurs or bus drivers who, having been in accidents in which their passengers were killed, are escaping justice or the wrath of their victims’ next-of-kin.
Almost immediately we enter into jungle and struggle for miles along a mud and stone path – we meet friendly miners coming down from Nambija and are offered slugs of evil tasting aquadiente alcohol from their bottles.- 2.5 hours later we arrive in San Carlos – meet Calisto, vice-presidente of the mining corporation of which Marco is president. Calisto claims to be one of the first miners to find gold in Nambija (1970) and at one time had been falsely arrested by the police for drug trafficking. They did not believe he could have panned so much gold. – He now has money, owns six block built houses, including the first to be built in Nambija  and a small farm but is still happily mining with his children and will not move away.

Marco wires up a loudspeaker he had brought along and gives the 50 villagers a political speech, conservative in content  – As late as 1975 there were still Jivaro and Shua Indians living here but left when the miners started arriving – meet Fabian, a teacher who was posted here two years ago and is happy to stay another two as he converts his monthly salary of 500 Sucres, to gold and says he is winning. We are to stay the night, sleeping rough on Vincente’s mud floor.- Now at  780 metres – cleaned up in cold, cold river – friendly villagers offer more aquadiente.-Tomorrow  we start the second leg of the journey and must leave at 6 am, to be arrive at our destiny before dusk – The miners do it in one day.- Continually warned of the bad and dangerous people we are to expect –  hopefully there there are also a few good ones.- Given and cannot refuse more aquadiente by the locals, who will not even allow us to buy a bottle. Typical Ecuadorian hospitality –when we are alone Calisto produces three  bottles of Johnny Walker Black label and we empty them, drinking out of a chipped, half pint mugs  - Drunken sleep.

Wednesday 24 August
Up at 6 am. Woke up still drunk – Calisto does not want to accompany us because of some obscure problem – I personally believe he does not want to be seen at the mines with us Gringos – We wonder and hope that the police have already heard about us. – Breakfast, Calisto produces yet  another Bottle of JWB “for the cold”.- I am still  quite drunk when we eventually set of at 8.30.

Two strenuous hours of up-hill slog sweated the alcohol out of my system- gets tougher as were ascend – A trail was cleared during a Minga, (a Quechua Indian word for a village or group  (in this case the miners) project – a couple kilometres of 2 metre long, logs had been horizontally laid, forming steps, reminiscent of an Inca trail – they were murder on my knees- almost  grateful at the end of their construction, when the track to be once again  is deep clinging mud. – Frequently we find ourselves walking along a river bed -Differing reactions from miners passing us on their way down to Cumberaza – some friendly but more than a few definitely nasty – passing a hand across the throat was a frequent gesture to indicate what we might later expect.- I realize we would be in for harsher treatment if M and J were not with us - Two prostitutes on their way to Namibja laugh at our group as they overtake us on pack mules.- Getting more worried when a passing miner tells us that a hanging committee is awaiting us. – M and J no longer so confident.

Bryan Thomas

To be continued next week


    Enjoyable. When's the next part of the diary coming out?

    I am looking forward to the next part. Great adventure. WRG - Fly at a Smile-Price