My name is Clarke, and about three weeks ago, I was 34,000 feet in the air somewhere over South America—and I hadn’t used my litterbox since Long Island.
And that was the good news.
See, my sister, Shelby, and I have been stolen from our home, drugged and dragged onto some godforsaken aluminum bullet to be ogled and prodded by strangers.
The worst news? It was our own people. Calling it “an adventure.”
I convince myself these drugs are just that good. It’s a dream.
And yet here I am, led by Brandon and Michelle through the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and one of the many voices in my head keeps yelling about KFC.
Not chicken, mind you. KFC soft serve ice cream.
We “roll green,” as they call it in South America, of passing through the initial customs interview of paperwork and, then, through random lottery—which frequent travelers say is about half the time in your favor—a glorious green bulb lights up and we get to just walk on out into the humidity and chaos of Carnival.
None of the men with the guns hassle us.
Shelby first remarks at the insanely long line of spectators at the arrivals gate at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night after about a day’s worth of travel—our humans kept us awake the entire trip.
They drug you, and then nag you constantly to see if you’re coming down yet.
I just took that sedative-laced pill pocket treat, like, five or 20 minutes ago, Dad! Relax!
We head outside and the humans start asking important questions, in a language they both failed to learn pre-trip, about everything from the exchange rate to long-term car rentals.
They use the American dollar, idiotas, and a car for three months is way too rich for your blood, mi amigos.
I try to take in every last meow of Spanish that I can memorize and utilize. Talking like a niño is better than being a mute.
The four-wheel-drive vehicles we’d need to get up the hills start at about $5K. Better hop in a $100 cab ride to Rio Chico tomorrow and use buses and taxis for at least a month. The humans decide on the seemingly infamous Hotel Air Suites—the closest lodging to the airport—and grab a cab.
America is calling for the humans, after, in quick succession: an epically scary taxi ride into a city that, during the night, requires a ton of faith in humanity; a dingy hotel stay complete with a switch of room (no AC), sans upgrade; and a diet of strictly protein bars.
And all The Colonel offers is ice cream.
Back at the airport the next morning, there he was, smug and smiling in red and white above a store with soft serve machines and endless toppings. No chicken.
I’m baffled, and hungry for them.
Upon leaving the airport, now for the second time, a stubborn, mean old man driving a beater to match his shirt keeps nagging us to hop back in his taxi. He had picked us up at the hotel and charged us a ransom for the ride here.
We tried to avoid him, and Gabriel, with his jolly smile and shiny yellow taxi, helps us. He explained to me the favor he was doing us: saving us from three hours with that man. His English was perfect.
After already acknowledging and agreeing with Gabriel’s well-constructed sentence, Brandon tries explaining to him how he was saving us from three hours with that man—in Spanish. Silly humans.
Gabriel didn’t mind. He was more than used to it after 20 years of driving tourists. We all laughed, together.
By the time we get to Rio Chico, I feel like we’ve been smelling each other’s butts for three hours straight.
But we aren’t close to home.
No Wi-Fi, no cell phone signal and no clue where to go.
After more than an hour of trying to find the right dirt-bike path—an unnamed road filled with mud so thick it cakes to your sandals like a snowshoe, not to mention the fresh cow manure as green as grass—Gabriel starts to drive his prized taxi up the mountains.
I still need a litterbox.
Gabriel makes it half way, and with the help of a small man with huge muscles, Roberto—the self-described “guardian” for the duration of our stay—we all carry the luggage to a bamboo luxury treehouse.
I’m about to catch this gecko, when Mom and Dad lay it on us. This is home for the next 36 days, so get used to the birds, bugs and heat! Drink plenty of water, those drugs were pretty intense!
Now the humans sit inside all day and work. What they don’t know about The Adventures of Clarke and Shelby won’t hurt them.
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