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  Annapurna Dhaulagiri 2005: IVAN VALLEJO RICAURTE: THE ONLY FLAG ON THE SUMMIT


Dear friends of Ecuador.

Nepal 18h43 Ecuador 7h54

When I write this note it is 17h43 of Saturday, April 23, I am in my tent inside my orange sleeping bag, warm, sitting down, letting ideas come to my mind in an orderly or disorderly way, and then with my pen I write them down in my notebook.  Now where you are (Ecuador) it is 6 minutes to 8 in the morning, some of you will still be sleeping, others are already awake and will be still under your blankets, some would be walking, jogging or working out on a bike, sweating, discovering or rediscovering how wonderful it is to communicate with your body, the hear, the muscles, talking to them, chatting with them to ask for help and to achieve the goal you have proposed, enjoying the attempt.

You are there starting a weekend day, I am right here, at the end of the afternoon of Saturday at 4,800 m of altitude at the bottom of DHAULAGIRI, after locating a place for camp II at 6,800 m.

Nepal 21h15  Ecuador 10h30

I have just talked with Ecuador via satellite phone and they have told me more or less with details the immense amount of events which happened in less than a week in my dear country, in my dear city.  How intense have you all lived these last days, these last hours while claiming the patrimony of any civilized society: respect and dignity.

It is true that I write from the Himalayas, at the bottom of DHAULAGIRI, one of the highest mountains of the world (8,163 m), and maybe I should tell you how my expedition is going, how is that matter of acclimatization to altitude; well, that series of details concerning the exercise of climbing this high summits; don't doubt that I will do it later.  But now I send this message, not to share these sportive event, to say it somehow, but to give my opinion over what happened in Quito, in particular and Ecuador, in general.

Why this?

Because I, long before I was a climber, have been and am an Ecuadorian, proud to be, who was luckily born in Ambato, a precious city which cradled me like a mother and then went to live in Quito; an enchanting city as well, who sheltered me like a girlfriend.

Some days ago when I was doing the approach trek to this mountain, with pain, with deep pain I learned of what was foreseen as a Chronicle of a shame foretold (paraphrasing the master): the return of the exiled; and I write just like this, without even saying, even sarcastically señor exiled, because it would be a useless waste of such a title.  I used to tell my students in Escuela Politécnica Nacional that becoming an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor or whatever is very easy; it is a matter of effort, of study, of discipline and you are there.  This in the case of people who are honest with themselves, because it is well known that you can even buy a professional degree when what matters is the end and not the means.

But the title of SEÑOR has to be earned with honesty, with transparency, with integrity and wisdom.  That is why I just say exiled, just like that.

When they told me about his return I felt offended, it was like a slap in the face with which they joked with me as a citizen.  I was ashamed with the fact of sharing the atrocity with my teammates of the expedition, when some of them still remember that I had a president that danced with exotic dancers.  The exiled returned, with everything he meant for us; and what is worst, as if nothing had happened he thought he had the right to speak the language of his race, the only language he has known all his life.  He thought he had the right to offend, to question prestige, to defame as he always used to.

While I was walking through the forest of bamboos towards this mountain a asked myself: Why, God, more of the same?

Now with all these events, brothers and sisters of Ecuador and Quito, I understand that you asked yourselves the same question, because the return of the exiled was simply the drop that spilled the cup with so much wrong doings.  That is why the women of Quito gathered, housewives, workers, executives, young ladies and girls with spoons and pots to claim just one right, dignity.  That is why my colleagues went to the street to scream and claim.

I know there were murderers, hired to shut the voice of dignity and that there were the boys of what was my Alma Mater, the Politécnica, to repel the aggression.

I know that in the beginning the claiming voices were less than a thousand, but they grew until they were around one hundred thousand, and that the force of that voice made barricades fall, that it advanced over the repressors until they reached the Palace to make the ex president shake in fear.  It was the force of that voice, which pushed the honorable congressmen to do in 45 minutes what they did not want to do in four months.

What did they need?  Will maybe?  The mood to do it?  Or is it that the force of that voice was the last resource?

I know there were dead, and wounded.  Receive all my solidarity from here in this moment of pain.  I make a balance of what I have just been told and only one question comes to my mind: Why Ecuadorians against Ecuadorians?

It is not fair from any point of view.  We live in the same land, sheltered by the same mountains, protected by the same sky, with the same stars and the same moon, sheltered generously by the same precious green of that jungle of ours, sheltered by the same Pacific breeze that licks the country warmly from the Esmeraldas in the North to Machala in the South.  We live in the same piece of land that luck gave us, in this part of South America and of Latin America, we speak the same language, but above all, we are Ecuadorians.  I then ask myself why do we go into these intestine fights, if we have enough with all that we have to do for the country, together, to push it up, to impulse it and take it to the summit.

However, the summit can not be reached by stepping on others, you get to that place first by conquering yourself and then helping one another with will, with effort and generosity, have AS THE ONLY FLAG the will to get together to the highest point.  One can not ascend there for the wish of power, of with the help of vanity.  Would we be able, brothers and sisters, to get to the summit, if Ecuadorians fight against Ecuadorians?

Dear friends, GOD will maybe let me get to the summit of the seventh highest mountain of the world.  If I do, my commitment is to carry the flag of my country in honor and dedication of the women of Quito and Ecuador, from the more adult to the little girls, who with spoons and pots made the voice of dignity claim be hear.

That is my commitment from the Himalayas.

With my love from Base Camp in DHAULAGIRI.

Iván Vallejo Ricaurte

Expeditioneer

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Dispatches

 

 

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