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  Ecos del Oriente, Lago Agrio  DX news
By Nick Grace C.

Our bus pulled into Coca, a jungle town with no paved roads, at 5 AM. Coca is the home of Radio Cumandá, a station that once was on SW, and what a weird feeling I had hearing its sign-on from a street vendor’s boombox!
Elsa and I stood by the side of the road for almost an hour waiting for a big bus, but the only thing to pass were chivas – pick-up trucks with four rows of benches used as public transportation in the Amazon. 
"Come on," I insisted, "Let's get on one!" 
Elsa wasn't too keen on the idea, being a urban lady of the Nineties.  But as chiva after chiva zoomed by screaming "Lago, Lago, Lago!" she finally caved in.
Lago AgrioAnd so we climbed onto the back of one not knowing that a lovely and bumpy 4-hour ride was waiting for us... 
Lago Agrio didn't even exist twenty years ago, but after oil was discovered a boomtown was born. It's a hot, humid, and bustling town with a population of hustlers and aggressive Colombians. In fact, walking around in Lago Agrio felt more like traveling in Indonesia than in Ecuador! People try to hawk everything from watches to tiny pet monkeys on the street, but since most people are there to make money I doubt much is really ever sold. Only two streets have running water, and luckily for us, one office with service is Ecos del Oriente where we were able to refreshen ourselves once again.  At least Elsa was smart enough to... 
We pushed our way through the crowds to a sign-less building and asked the yuca and banana vendors sitting in front where Ecos del Oriente is. Thats the door, they laughed pointing to what seemed more like an opening to an abandoned building. We went inside and headed up a bleak stairwell, where painted on the wall were the words ECOS DEL ORIENTE SIGA. Up to the third floor we went, but the office was empty. So we went back down and found Olímpica FMs little studio. The announcer greeted us and called Luis Velástegui, director of Grupo Radial Continental. 
Mr. Velástegui brought us up to his office and explained that Ecos del Oriente, once a rare catch on 3270 kHz, left SW in 1995. It didnt make any money, he sighed. SW transmitters, he says, cost about 15 million sucres (US$3000) a month to power, whereas FM transmitters cost 9 million sucres (US$1800) and pull in more advertisers. Do the math.  It just wasnt a feasible service to maintain. 

Oriente studioEcos del Oriente remains on 1510 kHz MW, however, and is part of the Grupo Radial Continental network, which includes two television stations, two MW outlets and 6 FM stations. This is Ecos del Oriente, he joked as we walked into the studio: a single mixer, two turntables, a tape deck, and a wall of LPs. On the roof of the building, however, are signs of more prosperity. Mr. Velástegui proudly showed us his companys two satellite dishes that are used to capture various television programs.  "Oil is what moves this town," he said as he pointed to massive refineries looming on the horizon. 
We went back down to his office and he offered to type up a quick verification letter for a reception I had of Ecos del Oriente somce years ago.  Elsa looked at her watch and whispered into my ear "We've got an hour, Nicolás, there's no time to see the antenna!"  I took it as the clue that it was...

Before the two of us left, Luis urged us to try Ceviche de Boa, a local delicacy of Lago Agrio. And so we indeed ordered the dish later that morning and can now say that snake does taste like chicken.  Unfortunately, it also gave me an horrible case of gastrointestinal problems!  With little time to spare, we bounced from cafe to cafe looking in vain for a bathroom with running water.  (Toilet paper is uncommon in Indonesia, so I can easily make do with water and my left-hand - however, as I quickly realized...  Water is uncommon in Lago Agrio, a city named "Bitter Lake" in Spanish.) 
Feeling absolutely dehumanized, I lumbered onto the bus with Elsa feeling deathly ill.  And what a surprise...  For the first time ever in my travels around the developing world this had to be the bus to break down in the middle of nowhere.


Well, we finally did make it back to Quito after our marathon through Ecuador's interior.  As exhausting as the excursion was, getting to know the radio stations and the people behind the microphones was well worth the effort.  What is certain is the coming decline of short wave in this country - unless, of course, the Church has anything to do with it!

Copyright ©1998 by Nick Grace C., All Rights Reserved    
Permission to reproduce and/or quote information from this site for non-profit, educational purposes is freely granted, always provided that proper reference of the site and sources be included. Reproduction and/or citation for profit and/or non-educational purposes is expressly forbidden without prior consent from the author.
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