Sometimes when we travel the backroads of Ecuador, we encounter surprises. It happened just a couple of days ago when we decided to follow a sign belonging to the Yanacocha Reserve that didn’t lead to their regular parking lot. It’s a small sign just before their entrance that points to the left and says Bosque de Polypsis. We know from experience that we can hike to a point with the same name but it is a long hike indeed and we thought that a road might mean a short cut.

The Road Less TraveledUnfortunately, the road led us only to a dead end… a gate that was locked. We later learned that we need only ask at the entrance to the reserve and they can lend us the key. The road itself requires a 4-WD vehicle. We figured that out in just the short distance that we drove before being able to turn around.

But the road less traveled wasn’t a total bust. I met Hannah, the woman who herds the sow and piglets that live at the farm nearby.

On our way back down the mountain, we found Hannah, her crew of piglets and a huge sow walking down the middle of the road. The sow did not like strangers and started to trot at double speed down the mountain. At first, Hannah didn’t seem to mind. She even dropped the lead she was using to keep control of the mama pig and let her have free rein.

Herding the SowI decided to get out of the car and walk in between them and our car to make sure no stray piglets ended up getting lost. Hannah smiled and asked in broken Spanish if I wanted to take more pictures. I couldn’t refuse such an invitation, even while worrying how Hannah was going to manage her pigs and how we had obviously caused a huge problem by casually driving up and back down her farm road.

Eventually, Hannah decided that the pigs needed to turn around and go back past our truck so that we could continue on our merry way without further disturbing their normal walk. She somehow jumped in front of the sow and with a switch managed to get her to change direction, piglets running fast ahead. But the sow would have nothing to do with that big blue vehicle. Instead of passing us, she decided to take a detour under the fence. Hannah and I grabbed the lead before she could get away. But it placed all of us next to the fence line making it possible for my husband to slowly creep by and we could finally leave the piglets in peace.

Hannah gave me a friendly wave and when I asked her name, after giving mine, I felt like we had made a small bond between two cultures. My apologies may or may not have been understand. I think Hannah spoke Quichua far better than she spoke Spanish and it is a language in which I know very few words. I am sure she was breathing a sigh of relief at our leaving. I am even more sure that we were quite the topic of conversation at the farm later that day. She probably thinks the entire situation was as crazy as we did, but for entirely different reasons!