Training Bulls in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

January 5, 2011 No Comments

Somehow I’d always thought of Ecuador as lying along the fat waistband of the earth, but hadn’t imagined that it would be so high in the sky.  Since we landed in Quito we’ve been at elevation and now, as we reach our destination at the base of Cotopaxi volcano, my lungs wince at 12,000 ft. We’re staying in a cabin set in rolling green fields beneath the majestic coned shaped volcano that towers overhead.

Although the air is thin, the green is so alluring that we want to be outside. It’s a beautiful morning and some local kids have told us where there is a nice babbling stream to walk by if we squeeze past this one fence.  As I pull the chain link to the side and squeeze by I remember the owner of our lodge mentioning something about the ‘toros bravos’.  Our driver Omar had also pointed out a practice bullring down the road where they test bulls for the market.  “Wait.” I freeze, hardly making it ten steps, “This isn’t a field for those bulls they raise for fighting, is it?”  “No,” says my intrepid husband.  “They’re only on the other side of that river and they can’t cross.”  ”Ok,” I think, “I’ll stay on this side of the river, but then what is the fence for?”

Muck, muck through the verdant fields we go in our wellys.  Blue sky and fresh green grass with volcano all around.  I try to be lighthearted and enjoy the sunshine, hey, after all I’m in Ecuador!  Then I step in some undeniably fresh cow patties.  “No, no,” he says again to this new accusation, “they’re not on this side.”  Suddenly I remember I’ve forgotten my sunglasses and desperately need to go to the bathroom.  But we’d set out on a nice country walk with two friendly dalmatian companions and G is determined to finish it.  He hands me some sunglasses and points to a rock which, I gather, means bathroom.  My eyes dart around and a dalmatian jumps out of some bushes ahead and almost gives me a heart attack.  Any minute I know I’ll be staring into the beady angry eyes of a 2,000 pound bull just dying to try out his pointy horns, steam will boil out of his nostrils and he’ll charge.

I decide my imagination is getting the best of me and vehemently yank down my pants and squat.  To my great dismay I’m wearing bright red spankers with some sort of gold metallic stars that the designers at Victoria’s Secret thought were hip.  They seemed cute at the time.  There I am a giant moon target with red muleta underwear leading the way.  I panic, close my eyes and pee for all I’m worth picturing the bull pitching me into the air at any moment.  Of course, it never happens, and off we continue.

I climb to the top of the nearest hill to see the view and look down to see 50 pairs of serene and wary eyes looking back at me, a mixture of bulls and cows.  The closest bull notices me but seems too lazy to climb as his nostrils begin to quiver.  Down the hill I scurry and into a ravine filled with water, splashing through the water and scrambling up the other side.  We’re back on the road, which makes me feel safe, and as we pass by the bulls I know my imagination wasn’t far off, as they stamp their hooves and lower their horns.


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