There wasn't much to go on. It was just a name, Casa del Arbol, written next to a corresponding pinpoint on a poorly-rendered map. The artist had given it much in terms of flourish and color, but was of little help for direction other than the indication that Casa del Arbol was above everything else he had marked with a pinpoint. Tiny stick figures smudged with blue pants indicated a hiking trail. I wondered if the artist had ever been on a hike before.
After a handful of wrong turns and rough scrambles up streams walled ten feet to either side, the sun met me on one side of a pasture as I clamored through a tunnel of branches. At the other end, like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, sat the rickety treehouse, surrounded by an animated family of three generations from Guayaquil.
Treehouses have been a consistent theme this year in travel, so I was excited at the prospect of climbing into this one. But after ascending the ladder that led inside, I found the door shut tight with a coil of wire. It looked like the owners didn't want anyone to go inside for a long, long time. Not until the floorboards were fixed, or someone had resolved the problem of gravity and long falls. But in the meantime, there was always the swing, offering to let a lone rider touch empty space and the void that began at the lip of the ridgeline. I scurried towards it like a gangly magnet.
My stunt on the Swing at the End of the World wasn't an end in itself. It opened the door of conversation with the Guayaquileños, and I was suddenly being peppered with questions in rapid Spanish: Did you walk all this way? Are you staying in town? Where are you from? We talked about Alaska and Ecuador, my silly shoes, and what the hell I was doing walking and swinging don't I know how dangerous that is!!
And with each inquiry and response this family endeared itself to me, and I to them. They left after a few minutes to return down the mountain, but came back just as quickly with another question:
Do you want to come with us? We're going to see the waterfalls!
I thought for a minute before responding.