To Quito with a companion

An Ausse WWOOFer that we had breifly met in Vilcabamba, Beq is doing an around the world trip that makes me just a little jellous, while at the same time thankful that I get to go home in two weeks. While in Cuenca Jon and I had hailed a cab in front of a café window she was sitting at. What dumb luck. Since then we´ve been traveling together. It´s nice to have change I suppose… it makes playing guessing games, like ´´infinite questions,´´ more fun.

Cuenca to Chordeleg hoping to find a guitar to buy. Walked the block, Went to an artisans shop, Was tempted to buy a Wooden chest then a leather bag, We bought finger puppets instead. Bus rides held the most entertainment for the day….

Cuenca to San Bartolome hoping to find a guitar to buy. Off the bus. Asked where to go. Back on the bus. Dropped off at a genuine guitar shop. Wood chips on the ground. Jon discusses custom jobs. We walk to the next shop. Just down the road – half an hour. Second shop has little more to offer than two guitars and a trail back to the road via their corn field. Guitar shop next to the bus ´stop´ … I like the way they plastered their adobe and fashioned thier door jam, guitar was not worth the time. The bus took us back to Cuenca in time to eat pizza and drink wine with Beq. It was our third night eating Oreos and bagged milk before bed. This time we enjoyed dessert and in the park – Beq accepted our invitation.

From Cuenca up to Ambato. In Ambato we ducked into an Ecuadorian Casino to do some light research and found A) Slot machine use doesn´t entitle you to free drinks, B) small spenders don´t get Johnny Walker for free, C) it´s possible to both win and loose in Ecuador just like in Vegas. After we had done a sufficient amount of research and the casino refused to serve any more drinks we headed back to the hostel for the night, woke up in the morning and caught the bus to Baños.

In Baños at the foot of the Volcano Tunguara. It´s raining. The first day was beautiful with the valley clear and the clouds hovering at the tops of the mountains about us. Waterfalls cascaded down shear cliffs and green gripped at the slopes. You could feel the ambient hope of every plant that their particular slope wouldn´t fail this day. I was able to hike up the hill in an attempt to get a glimpse of the great Vulcan across the valley. I found a nice little structure on the side of the hill with a bench and a beautiful view of the city of Baños. The clouds still hung about the tops of the mountain across the way. I sat and read in hope that the clouds with wisp away with the afternoon. And they did. The clouds, as if distracted by a more tempting mountain top, snaked up and out of the valley, revealing one low hilltop. I paused from my reading, eager to see the spouting lava mouth. To my dismay the clouds, uneasy with their absence, quickly spilled back into the valley making an evening view improbable. So I finished up my book and walked back down the hill to the hostel. In passing a map of the area on my way up to the room I discovered that a little research would have saved myself some disappointment. The volcano was above me, not across, I was on the North slope of Vulcan Tunguara. Alas, it was dark then and the next day the clouds came in and the rain came down. The only volcano view was looking over our shoulder as the bus rolled back to Ambato on it´s way to Quito.

… Arrived in Quito, dropped our gear, and found an Internet café.

– Home in two weeks.

Finally two knobs in the shower!

10 hours of travel and three buses over, we´re off the farm (the farthest south we shall go on this journey) and in the third largest city in Ecuador, Cuenca. After almost three weeks of lying about, gardening, hiking, and building a bridge, we´re ready for some new sites and sounds and panama hats!

Back in time …..

* Fell a tree – stuck myself in the head with a 4 inch spine – head ache. Milked the cows – roped the cows – grabbed the bull by the horns – drew a diagram – made butter, buttermilk, sour cream, and cheese. Rode the horse – walked the horse – on the school bus – went to school – taught some English – drank with the local ´on duty´ police officer – taught more English – explained a Beatles song to 40 Ecuadorians – said the alphabet over and over again – Dos Jhons make a presence. Remembered my Boy Scout lashings – strained my back – finished the bridge. Ran out of gas – started cooking on open flame – rain – made more bread – salty bread – it´s hard tack – ´it IS nice to have a fire in the morning!**´. Packed up – cleaned up – enjoyed some cane wine with Hans – said good bye – off the farm.

To Cuenca!

The ride from Loja took us up into the southern highlands of Ecuador through rolling hills and had it not been for my ears consistent whining, the increase in altitude would have gone unnoticed. The countryside is an amalgamation of sights, smells, and sounds… I suppose such is any experience… just go with me on this one… For a bus ride it was remarkable. We passed pristine pastures, sheep, pine trees, adobe buildings next to wood sided ones next to piles of block, next to the beginnings of a new structure next to a pile of muck, workers roping cows and children chasing sheep. Every new valley had new sights and every climb out had new turns and exciting swerves and curves. ¨Gracias!¨ signaled the stop where we make a passenger drop. After 6 hours of travel we dipped into our last valley and saw only the lights of the large sprawling city. A cab ride from the bus depot to ´downtown´ via one ways, through narrow streets, and over cobblestone roads helped to make the city seem smaller than it really is. Consulting our Lonely Planet we identified a number of hostels and concluded we would do our own reviews. We soon dropped our things and went in search of some milk and Oreo cookies to accompany our television, separate mattress covered beds and quiet quarters, our reward for the long day of travel. With the church bells in the morning we woke up to the joy of the first left knobbed*** shower since leaving the states.

Nescafe and Jugo has got us ready for the day. The city is alive this morning.

John

* In the style of the writing of Kon Tiki – a book I´ve recently begun to read and finish (you should pick up a copy from your local library)

** Jon spent the better part of 2 frustrated hours trying to get a decent fire going… we needed hot water for coffee! As soon as fire was indeed produced (and what a fire it was!) Tina (freshly arisen from bed) strolls up casually behind us and says “It IS nice to have a fire in the morning, isn´t it?” Like King Edward IV telling his lovely maid, Lucy, “It is nice to have serfs, isn´t it!” as he enjoyes his fresh cheese and turkey.

***look at your shower at home and tell me what the left one does.

¨No Se Puede Mostar La Página¨

….our first internet cafe computer screen reads.. so we´re forced to move on, but it´s still by far the best internet cafe I´ve ever been in.

Easter Day – We´re still on the farm, la finca, but Yesterday morning we started the day milking cows – a good wholesome farm activity – but caught a ride into Vilcabamba to have some yogurt and use the Internet later that day and then stayed the night. So we´re in Vilcabamba now. There is an amazing Internet cafe here. The computers are situated atop a terrace where you look over the entire valley of youth and the town back droped by the lucious green hills, challenged only by blood red exposed cornis´where landslides from over saturated earth cut through mother tiera, ploughing timber and stone into the gully´s below, which then roll back into the mountains shrouded by an airy mist that hangs for most of the day. Because of the day church bells ring every half hour and echo off the adobe walls of every building in town while chickens and burros champion each other´s wild call. This is Vilcabamba.

Elsewhere in the hills lies the small town of Tuminuma, a 30 min buss ride and one dollar fare. Where today at 3 we´ll go to Mass for Easter and for the Batism of one of the children of Andres, a local who comes to work with us on the farm, who Tina will be God Mother of. From this two tienda town with ice cream and a shop keeper named Maria who´s smile is delightful every time I ask for a two cold Fantas, we walk over a bridge, up river, and 30 min into the Churisco valley passing corn, cows, coffee, fruit, and fences, finally arriving at the hammock where I spend most of my time because we haven´t been working a whole lot.. unfortunately, but I have been writing, so that´s good… I suppose. The owner, Tina, isn´t very demanding of us and has only been on the farm for about 4 nights out of our two week stay thus far leading Jon and I to refer to the farm as ¨ours.¨ Thusly, I´ve taken up the sport of reading. I brought along a book ¨Tesla,¨ but our farm came fully equipped with a library of sorts, so i´ve begun to peruse and charge through some of the texts, easy ones to start with – but defiantly good ones. I finished Anthem one day and then Into The Wild the next. Though Anthem encouraged me to read more Ayn Rand, Into The Wild was a reflection of my silly quest for adventure and the trials of attaining that adventure and thrill. I then passed the book over to Jon and he finished it just today. (for any of you who´ve read into the wild, don’t be afraid, we’re taking precautions and using our noggin – for those of you who haven´t read it, do). Yesterday I picked up Kon-Tiki at the local book exchange where we exchanged ´dollar bills´ for a book and some peanut butter cookies. They were delicious. So far so good with Kon-Tiki – hopefully it lasts me longer than 3 days.

Plans to travel on. On our walk out of the picturesque Churisco Valley that hides our quaint little plot of fruit trees, Jon and I noticed that our Ecuadorian adventure is about half over and it´s time to get going and see more of the country. Thus we think at the end of this week, after we get something done on the farm, whether that is building a bridge, an outhouse, bamboo bed, or all of the above, and we enjoy some of Han´s, our German farm-mate, home brewed cane sugar wine. Apparently it tastes like Chery after a number of months. We think we´re going to head north, as heading south would lead us to the customs booth of Peru, toward Cuenca… and then up into Quito, with possible stops along the way, by the following week. From Quito we´d head back toward the cost to see some of the tropical coastline and do some more surfing before returning south to Guayaquil for our return flight.