We gave ourselves two days to get from Baeza thru Lago Agrio to Coca, and it's downhill all the way. If you check the map, you will see that we begin leaving the mountains as soon as we head east, and with each mile, we descend more until we are level with the Jungle floor. We also discovered that we had company...It's called the Trans Ecuador Oil Pipeline, and it's a really ugly, intrusive monster pipe that stretches from deep in the Amazon Jungle to the Oil Depot port in Esmeraldes in Northwest Ecuador. So for the next several hundred kilometers, this pipe was our neighbor, and since we were driving, we could see how it affects the local people.
Here is a news article from 2002 to give you an idea... http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1930671.stm
Here is another by the oil industry and gov't... http://www.hydrocarbons-technology.com/projects/sote/
There is no doubt that the world is dying for more and more oil, but it is shocking what happens to the areas that have to supply it. As all you gardeners know, you can get rid of weeds with Round-Up, but to permanently get rid of anything growing, (like in a driveway crack), all you have to do is put some oil in it. Well, these pipes are aging, and beginning to leak, and since they are under pressure, they tend to spray quite a bit of crude oil all around before someone gets around to fixing it. We saw one small leak, and everything was black all around, and it just flowed into a nearby creek for further distribution.
These oil lines are positioned along the road we took, and every home that used to front that road has a huge pipe (or many pipes) between the front door and the road. You can tell which home really had money, because about one in twenty have the pipe buried below their driveway, and all the rest have the pipe just sitting there. Or in many cases, the pipe is elevated over the driveway. In reality, the resident has to drop off the paved road, quickly, and duck under the pipe, because the clearance is so low. Many of the people have jerry built ramps that climb up and over the pipe, some have a few boards, and some just have a little 2' by 8' board for walking.
Now the news is not all bad...the oil companies built 110 miles of great road to follow along side their pipe. It also highlights how bad the rest of the roads are, however. Here is a pic of how the pipe elevates itself for some of the people to get in and out of their homes...We'll try to tell you how the jungle is impacted by oil "exploration" when we get to that part...
Oh, by the way, Rox asked our jungle guide whether or not the people were paid for having this big pipe go through their front yards...the answer was No...