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Rated: E · Non-fiction · Animal · #928781
A short account of one of my boyfriend's many random experiences while in Ecuador.
The Ecuadorian Menagerie

When we called at Ronald’s house this afternoon to invite him and Francis to come to the beach, his Mum had a favour to ask. She asked if we could quickly pop round to his Godmother’s house to pick up an oven. "No problem," I thought, "It won't take a minute." I was more than happy to help since the lovely lady had given me a free hair cut that morning. We set off down the street to Ronald's Godmother's house.

Turning a corner, we were greeted by the sight of an impressive set of wrought-iron gates which, along with a tall, chalky white wall, enclosed an even more impressive mansion.

“Very nice,” I thought, “but if the house is this grand then what sort of oven will we have to carry? An Aga?” I felt dubious-- I'm a bit of a weed. We buzzed the intercom doorbell and were let in through a side gate.

Inside the forbidding high walls the house appeared even more splendid, and when we rounded the back of the building, we saw a sun-drenched terrace descending in angular brickwork steps onto the greenest lawn I’ve even seen. It was a beautiful garden. We stared, enraptured.

But suddenly the tranquility of the secluded area was abruptly shattered. An awful ear-piercing crowing rent the air-- it sounded a lot like a turkey crossed with a seagull with the flu. Ed and I whirled round to see a miniature aviary which housed (along with a selection of quiet, diminutive parrots, budgies and canaries) the source of the racket –- two mysterious birds that actually looked surprisingly like turkeys crossed with seagulls with a terrible fever.

The unbearable squawking of these intriguing feathered beings immediately set off two dogs barking from the lawn. We looked down to where they were only to see, along with the disgruntled canines, a small, bashful deer and a pair of peacocks. The male was fanning its magnificant sapphire tail, as if the emerald-green eyes of all the tail feathers were scanning the garden in search of the origin of the noise. It was quite freaky.

You can tell I was in a poetic mood that day.

When the racket sibsided, we dared go down a spiralling set of carved stone steps that led to the lawn and discovered that the Aga was thankfully only a barbeque. However, the relief that we wouldn't have to lug an enormous cooker half-way across town in the sweltering midday heat was eclipsed by another fantastic sight.

What had caught my eye this time were two curious, giant rodent-like creatures, currently immobile and snuggled in the corner of their pen. We found out later that they were an animal that is related to the wombat, called a ‘guantas.’ I thought that they would definitely make better pets than rubbish little hamsters or Guinea pigs. They could probably bite much harder too... Guard-guantas-- now that was a good idea!

I added it to the inventory of items my friend and I had concocted that were supposed to guarantee us our millions in later life. I mentally filed it under 'sleeping bag rucksack'.

But the guantas were not alone...

In an adjacent cage, a sleek black toucan with a shiny blue beak sat on a branch and squinted at us out of one appraising eye. The smooth and elegant bird seemed somehow very intelligent-- suave and aloof., a bit like James Bond. I felt uneasy, like it might report on us to the owner of the house once we had departed.

"Cheeky bird," I muttered, as the toucan continued to regard us and log our every movement. We heaved the barbeque up the curved stone stairs and set off back to Ronald's mother's house so she could flame-grill our Christmas dinner. Makes a change from dry old turkey and burnt potatoes.

As we retreated from this spectacular secret menagerie with its bizarre assortment of animals, my predominant feeling was one of amazement and wonder-- Ecuador had surprised us yet again.

This place really was cool.

*Exclaim* Rowan and Ed, two of my good friends who are currently spending a gap year in South America, have a strange and rather wonderful encounter when sent on an errand to fetch a stove.

Adapted from an e-mail Rowan sent me around Christmas-time. Hopefully it reflects something of the freshness and humour of the original. *Smile*
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