Finding a denitst in highland Ecuador

Sydney. It had been raining here for 4 or 5 days, almost non stop. outside all wet and grey sky. Windscreen wiper blurring the view.

This reminded me of my home country, Germany. When I grew up, we had rain spells which would go for weeks, in particular in the northern city of Hamburg.

Apart from incessant rain, we have these really long winters, where the day starts at 8 am and finishes at 4 pm. Of course worse further up north.
But these long periods of doom and gloom, the constantly damp environment and the cold, wants you to immigrate, what I eventually did. Though now we circulate between years of draught and periods of flooding. But that is, how it goes.
Remembering Germany, I remembered one of my trips to South America. Strange how the mind plays sometimes.

So one December in the early 70’s came and our work would wind down, I took long holiday. 6 weeks was normal, since we were given 30+ days annual leave, plus overtime. So I tried to go to where it would be sunny and warm and, being young, exiting.

South America was a favourite destination in those times. I had some friends there and ……, but that is another story.

Altiplano sheep

With my photographer friends in Ecuador, we undertook a long trip from Quito in the North to Cuenca in the South, across the rugged mountains and hazardous roads. But exiting and of course scenic. Passing the vulcano Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Cotopaxi behind cloudes

On the way back we decided to avoid the main highway and use the back roads. Often unmade, gravel tracks.
Our rented Honda Accord often struggled due to low oxygen in the high altitude, steep climbs, rough road and the load of four adults, plus gear. Struggled to the point that often the passengers had to walk, while the car just made it. Since I was the only one with a drivers licence, I had the pleasure to always be sitting in the car.
But the weather was clear, sunny and, being December, not to hot.


As it happened, the malady of toothache befell me. Now there is probably nothing worse, than being in the middle of nowhere and having severe toothache.

So what was the reason and how to fix it. The drive back to Quito was still a few days away and high up, as we were, there were only a few village with very small population around.

But my friends, which spoke fluently spanish and some of the local Quetchua soon found out that there was a dentist some 30-40 km away.

Indio girl of the highlands

So off we went and arrived just after dusk had settled. A small house, which we had to find with the help of some locals, accommodated the dentist.
Full of trepidation, I went in.
Now remember, we were 10,065 km away from Germany and on the highlands of Ecuador. So you would imaging my surprise in being greeted in Germany by a highly competent doctor, who solved the toothache in next to no time.
What had happened? In one of my fillings, to much sugar, was an air bubble. Being at the high altitude for a prolonged time, the air expanded and an infection had developed. So a quick drill, some antibiotica and a new filling, solved the problem.

But a German speaking dentist in this remote location?

As it turned out, he had studied dentistry in Hamburg, my home town and decided to go back to Ecuador to help the local population.
Their and my luck.

So travelling can be exiting and full of surprises. Unfortunately we often forget these small, but important incidents, but they add the colour and show us how fantastic our world can be. Sometimes, totally unexpected.

Desert flowers on the Ecuador altiplano
Desert Road at about 3000m altitude
Indios on the way.
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