The Adventure Gene

Love Ones and fellow travelers, in last weeks’ post I referred to Johnathon Haidt’s Ted Talk about the moral matrix we have bundled up inside us when we pop out into the world all covered with amniotic fluid. The unique molotov cocktail of the 5 matrix ingredients that is each of us, constitutes a pre-disposition to our being a “stupid liberal” or a “stupid conservative”. He goes on to say “Liberals have a high dose of the personality trait of “openness and  to new experience, they crave variety and diversity, whereas conservatives crave the familiar, the safe and dependable”. Adventure seekers versus safety seekers. 

Other scientific research has gone so far as to talk about an “adventure gene”. Science has made a direct correlation, to the DR(dopamine receptor)G4 gene and the thrill-seeking, adventure chasing personality. (And guess what, science is pointing to a correlation between the DRG4 gene and ADHD). There are now DRG4 clubs, DRG4 user names on email addresses, even DRG4 cartoons and super-heroes. I presume shortly there will be a DR-G4 summit! 

Given that I am a stupid liberal and an adventuress I presume I am made up of a healthy dose of moral matrix 1 and 2 with a dollop of DRG4. I fear for my future as I am married to a stupid conservative whose idea of adventure is a round of golf! 

Which brings me to my own love of adventure. WooHoo! I just love it! If I try to think of the most adventurous thing I have ever done it would have to be my road trip into the Ecuadorean Amazon. (It was sadly a rather long time ago which may be telling me something, but if it is, I am choosing to ignore it.)

It was in fact 1976, the occasion, the wedding of my oldest brother to his Ecuadorean princess. It was a memorable affair, with 5 consecutive meals served over the course of 2 days of non-stop partying (a Latin thing I think). We had to flee into the jungle to survive. We were driven to Banos, 3 hours south of Quito at the base of the Tungurahua volcano. (Banos means “baths” in Spanish and it refers to the miraculous healing powers of the local springs after a visitation in 1596 by the Virgin of the Holy Waters). 

death-road.jpgFrom there we were on our own. We caught a decrepit, rusty, old local bus, affectionately christened the “Cotapaxi Taxi” packed to the gunnels with men, women, children, chickens, dogs and pigs, through the Cotapaxi region and over the Ecuadorean Andes. The narrow road hugged the side of the rugged mountain and it was probably a blessing that a gentle mist shrouded the sight of the shear drop to the bottom of the gorges, thousands of feet below. It soon became apparent that the clear liquid that the bandito bus driver was swigging out of a coca-cola bottle was NOT water as his driving became increasingly erratic.  

325907832_f5362ad53e_o.jpgThe road was so narrow in places that if we encountered a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, one had to back up to a safe passing area. The aroma of bodies packed tightly together in a confined space encouraged us to seek refuge, with some other gringos, on the top of the bus. We sat, hanging on for dear life to the metal railings that held the luggage in place on top of the bus as it swung merrily and precariously on it’s way, through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery I have ever seen.



Managing to survive potholes and landslides we finally came to the end of the road at the charming little town of Misahualli, the gateway to the rain forest of the Amazon jungle of Ecuador. Keep in mind, this was 1976. The guidebooks say that wildlife sightings are rare now, but on our excursions we saw Toucan, Howler Monkeys, Three-toed Sloths, snakes and all sorts of fascinating critters. 

2398260079_d18722f683.jpgFrom there we went by motorized dugout canoe down the Napo River into the Amazon to Coca. The river was swollen and angry, the result of heavy tropical rains. Swirling rapids carried along massive uprooted trees as if they were toothpicks. Picked up by the river’s current we travelled fast downstream, tossed around by whirlpools of floating debris. We passed small clusters of Quichua Indians dressed in loincloths, adorned with feathers, eking out meagre livings by the waters edge. We arrived at Coca to find the “natives” restless.

 The locals were hostile towards “gringos”. We had to report to the local passport office where we were surprised to find “officials” with large weapons. Passports were stamped and we headed into town where there was a frosty chill in the air. No-one would give us a room for the night. No-one would sell us food. A vague story emerged that they were protesting against the government as several bridges had washed away in the deluge and lives had been lost. This was a forgotten frontier and virtually self-governing but they relied on the central government for certain things. We were genuinely frightened and keen to head back to Quito but when it came time to leave no-one would take us. Stone silence. We tried to convince the same driver who bought us but he shook his head in fear. It became apparent that the villagers felt a few gringos quietly detained in town might add to their bargaining chips. We were HOSTAGES!  

We finally just piled into a boat with our packs and waited. After some time we looked up and saw that the entire village lining the bank, including the guards with their guns at the ready. There was a lot of yelling and screaming in a language we didn’t understand but we got the message and sheepishly vacated. We negotiated a bed for the night but were woken up several hours later and shepherded in darkness back to the river where a German aid worker was waiting in a canoe. He had heard of our plight and arranged to get us out of Dodge. While the trip downstream had taken a few hours, the trip back took all day, the little vessel battling against the strong current and stopping periodically to administer vaccines to the Quichua. We arrived home ravenous and burnt to a crisp but pretty happy – oh Yeah!

  Live Life To The Max!        

pics courtesy Allan White Flickr (Death Rd Bolivian Andes), Tom Frog Flickr (Napo canoes)  

5 Responses

  1. David Says:


  2. Colin Steley Says:

    She is a Queen, some have described her as a Godess.

    Im printing up these shirts at the Local American Club on the day of the election that read, “Socialism; winning the hearts and minds of U.S. Americans”. The US tried to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Vietnamese to win the war… back, back in the day. Things have changed but the shit smells worse by the day.

  3. Lois Keane Says:

    Clearly you are stuck with the gene Peg—evermore the adventuress. The territory you cover on your blogs, and your clever knitting of diverse topics just one of many ways it manifests.
    Loved the Turkey story. Every person deserves a mom like you!

  4. To The Max Says:

    Dear Adventuress,
    Enjoyed this post which certainly lives up to its name. I’m glad we helped facilitate “the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done”. I think my “Ecuadorian Princess” was secretly tickled.

    I’m also very interested in liberal vs conservative genetic science – please send me what references you have. In the meantime I’ll try to think what/where I read about the propensity for lateral thinking – was it Edward de Bono?

    Regards to your “stupid conservative” – I presume you mean the one who keeps you from fizzing off into outer space?

    Love Colin

  5. Gray Amphlett Says:

    Love your writing Peg. Your Ecuador adventure brings back memories of my own travels from Edmonton to Rio in ’86 via the Mexico City Olympics, and on down the Pan Am Highway thru Central and S. America by all sorts of scary and bone shaking modes of transport. Weren’t they fun times. Cheers, Gray.

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