The Rio Quijos Eco Lodge sits not far from the bank of its namesake river, a well-known and -regarded star in the constellation of meaningful places in the river kayaking world, with many miles of class four and five rapids though the stretch the lodge sits on is lazy and calm. Across the river is a wall of green, forty feet high and infinitely detailed, overwhelming in its undulous profusion. The perimeter of the well-maintained property is the same, trees stacked on bushes competing with palms and bamboo for space in the alluvial soil. Banana plants grow between the stone-lined gravel pathways that lead between newly built cabins and a large timber and stone lodge. Off to one side, a ragged net hangs on a volleyball court whose edges are growing in. The lodge is simple and rustic, made from local materials (funny how the locavore lifestyle we pay such a premium for in Seattle is just how life is in much of the world), and pleasingly authentic, the furniture made from fitted stripped logs, the interior subtly modern, the rooms walled with rough-cut planks stained a pleasing and comfortable dark walnut color.
Michael was downstairs when I woke up, stretched out on the more-aesthetic-than-functional couch watching Netflix. His color was improved, and he looked to be in good spirits, though he was still pretty weak. I met Kathy, the lady in charge, and she made me breakfast while another man — whose name I never learned but who also worked at the lodge — kept yelling ‘El Toro!’ at Michael and telling me Michael’s problem was too much masturbating. I agreed, but I agreed much more with Kathy’s opinion that it was likely some kind of food-borne parasite that had done Michael in. I was inclined to agree, both because she probably sees this kind of thing all the time and because Michael is always hungry (that he hadn’t eaten in days told me a lot about how sick he’d been) and not always picky about what or where he eats. Kathy was obviously quite taken with Michael, who has the sort of unthinking charisma that both causes and comes from things just kind of working themselves out in his favor most of the time. It gives him the sunniest outlook, and because he’s genuinely happy most of the time people respond very positively to his presence, which perpetuates the cycle (a quick f’rinstance: on his way down to Ecuador, Michael managed to get his river kayak, packed with gear, checked onto the airplane for free, just by being Michael and saying ‘aw, shucks, I didn’t know’). As super-powers go, it’s a pretty good one.
But every super-power has a downside. Intestinal parasites are immune to charisma, and because things mostly work out for Michael he hadn’t done his traveler’s due diligence before coming to Ecuador. He hadn’t gone to a travel clinic and made sure his immunizations were updated and that he got whatever vaccines might be necessary for where he was going. He didn’t have a bottle of wide-spectrum antibiotics just in case, or a stash of over-the-counter vitamins and meds to keep his body strong. He’d declined the fifty or sixty extra bucks for the catastrophic travel insurance (you know, to deal with situations exactly like this one) when he bought his plane ticket. He hadn’t even learned any Spanish.
And it had worked until the parasite. After all, here we were, in gringo paradise, because Michael, being Michael, had scored a gig as a river guide for the tour company occupying the eco lodge, who were putting him up for free in this lovely gringo bubble in paradise.
At least he picked a good spot to get sick in. Continue reading “One Man International Rescue Mission: After Action Report, Part 3”