Ecuadorian Inspiration

March 31st, 2006. A small town 15 minute bus ride south of the coastal city of Montanita, Ecuador. Jon and I duck into a sand floored restaurant for an almuerzo and are led down to the back porch of the restaurant, the Pacific Ocean. Here we are greeted by a pair of hammocks strung under independent bamboo palapas. We’re then delivered Cuba Libres gratis and proceed to order another 3 rounds before our modest rice and meat arrived.

Under the dried leaves and robust bamboo of my very own palapa I felt safe. I was protected from the vicious equatorial sun while I hung, suspended above the lava sand below. The breeze pushed through the weave of the hammock and gave me just enough momentum to serve as a subtle rocker.

After almuerzo Jon and I slept beneath our palapas for the better part of two hours. Finally waking up we had to catch the bus home before there was no more. I had made my mind up. I needed to put a palapa in my back yard. The solution to all my hardscaping woes.

Thus on March 31st, 2006 the idea for my palapa was born.

Swiss Sisters

Okay – I know I thought I was done with it all and the next two days were going to be boring bus trips and reading books in air ports, BUT after I wrote that last entry we went for beers. It was good. Good Beer.

We walked down to the popular hostel in Cuenca, one we had initially avoided because of the noise and lack of Ecuadorian culture. Alas, we were essentially done with our trip so what the heck, we didn´t need any culture, rather we needed to start getting back into the American swing of things.

Looking at the menu, a half liter of beer cost $1.70 – the place was a little pricey, BUT what the hey, we´ll have just one and see who shows up.. perhaps someone we know.. Half way through our beer a friendly German fellow asked to join us, I presume to practice his English. He was nice enough and kept us busy chatting about anything and everything – as it turns out he too was a German Economist.. interesting. I became slowly depressed as a table of American girls had sat to dinner and were quite friendly in humoring my questions on recommendations. Unwilling to totally abandon our new acquaintance, we sat and talked, just us dudes. One beer soon became two and guacamole arrived at the table and still we talked with the German. Anticipating an uneventful night conversation dwindled and was about dead when Felix, our German friend had a visitor. A very friendly, very cute lady from Austria. Austrian.. I´ve never met an Austrian. She entered the conversation, with English, and my energy perked a bit. Then halfway through some sentence.. some unimportant excuse for attention of a sentence enter 3 more friends. Two Swiss sisters and their new Swiss friend. WOW. Eager to find enough chairs to accommodate and prevent attrition we were all back sitting within 2 min. of their arrival finished with greetings and kisses and the whole shabang.

Of course we all returned to the normal conversation – what are you doing, where you from.. yadda, yadda, yadda.. but there is a difference in talking to a glass of beer and talking to a very attractive smiling team of Swiss traveling sisters. – oh delight!

¨And by the way, those Swiss chicks were hot, like uncalled for hot.¨ – Jon

From Ecuador

2 Days until we depart Ecuador.

It seems not that long ago I was sitting on the beach in Baja California, Mexico with the Surf Club and I know it wasn´t that long ago that we were trying to convince Continental Airlines to let us on a flight out of Chicago. With our adventure almost over, it seems there isn´t as much to write about except lunches and taxi rides to find a bowling alley. I think I´m ready to be home and to not worry about how to say ¨Do you carry the Rambo Machete?¨ Alas, I will miss it a little, especially these keyboards with the super functionality, upsidedown question marks and such ¿?¿?¿ ñ ó .. .. I´ll add one last time to the travel blog before sealing it off until the next time I visit Ecuaodr when I arrive back in Tucson and with it perhaps a new collection of pictures from Jon´s camera.

A über long 5 page entry was added regarding our Sunday fun – and thus I didn´t send it out. I attempted to use MS Word to summarize, but Latin American Word just doesn´t assign the same importance to phrases. Thus I´ll attempt to summarise here – ¨We Went Hiking.¨
You´re welcome to read, as always.

Our Arrival Plan:
Jon and I will be arriving (according to plan) on an American Airlines Flight at approximatly 9:30 PM. We have a ride from the airport to Tucson from Lony, Jon´s pal, though we had a very gracious offer from Megan. If you´re wondering what I´m going to do when I get home.. I´ll tell you. I will take a shower. Hopefully there is hot water and shampoo.

Thanks for reading – see yáll soon.
Cheers!

John

http://bananas-to-ecuador.blogspot.com/

Into Heaven…

Jon told me he was looking forward to reading this one, so now I´m nervous…

After eating and sleeping and eating some more and finally going to bed for the night. Neither of us slept very well, but we slept. At nine we got down stairs for desayuno, Nescafé con leché y coco, bread, and fresh juice. Ready for the day we made it to the bus station and were on our way to Cajas National Park for the day. Armed with sweaters, and backpacks full of cookies and water, we felt invincible, Especially since I was wearing my Panama Hat – no sun burn today! Jon even put shoes on.

The bus crawled up into the mountains and we were on our way back to Guyaquil – except we didn´t have any of our luggage. After entering the park, the bus pulled over and kicked us off. Less one dollar in our pocket we were on the side of the road looking across the lake Toreadora, situated just below the ranger station for the park. Excited to set foot into adventure in the Andes we took our time walking down to the station from the road, taking time to notice the lama peacefully and picturesquely sitting in the grass looking out across the lake, as if longing for something. I imagine greener grass.
I was pleased to meet the ranger and discover that he was just like any US park ranger, mellow, eager to give us his opinion of the way we should go, particular about getting our information and destination, and most importantly, collecting our ten bucks. That´s what we get for being out of state.

Newly equipped with a bird guide, park map, and little ticket that said ¨Paid,¨ we started off on the ranger selected route. Down the hill to the lake, half way around, and then out. Out past this hill and that peak, around all those lakes, DON´T GO RIGHT, and then hook back around to the road about 4 km to the west. From there we should be able to flag a bus back to the station and then back to Cuenca.

*an aside…
The state of Ecuadorian soil.
Depending on where you are it could feel sandy, solid, squishy, or soggy and slippery. The beach, Montañita and Mompiche offer the sandy, while Cuenca, Quito, Guyaquil, and Baños offer solid. Squishy, soggy, and slippery, all kind of meld together sometimes. Vilcabamba and Otavalo were a little slippery at times, and Tuminuma was a little squishy. But no place yet had the hybrid version of it all as did at Cajas. …

So down we went. With my Timberland’s I was particular with where I stepped and Jon with his brand new Top Stars, the same. Because of the moisture in the hills, the ground was saturated to the brim. Where there was no vegetation there was trail, and where there was trail there was mud. So, we walked upon vegetation. Little guys, grasses and these funny plants that resembled sea enemies. I was so proud with every jump and tip toe, by the time we were halfway about the lake and ready to depart the very damp and hike through the slightly damp, my shoes were clean and purty. – you know there´s only one reason I mention this… okay, good, I´m glad we´re on the same page – around the first peak we went and into a Quenua (Cane-wah) ´forest.´ Now these Quenua are special for some reason or another, but for those of you playing the home game just imagine Mansanita bushes in the California hills, except bigger.. or you´re really small.. so you´re walking under all of them. Still clean, we walk down, under, through, and over these in tangled trees. Their red bark pealing as you traverse their monkey bar orientation. One hand hold out of every one is covered with lichen and moss and it oozes between your fingers leaving you feeling guilty for the heinous murder of some squishy animal – alas, I think, or hope, it was only plant life and not worms or larvae or baby chickens, I pray. Under your feet the Quenua play a different trick. The bark stripped and the wood bare, words like traction and sticky, standing and happy, are thrown out the window and thusly replaced with ¨Awe F$”K¨, and ¨Ho!y S*!T, here I go!!!,¨ and the ever present, ¨Agh!¨ and ¨Ouch.¨ With a grumble and a brief and gentle rub of the rump you continue along the trail. Not long after our forest slip and slide begun we became as you say – rained upon.

My hat drooped and my jeans and perfectly preserved shoes were wet. We hid under a rock and examined the map. Jon pulled out his fancy smanchy GPS – why didn´t the bus lords pluck that from the sky on our way to Quito? eh??.. anyway, we tried to rectify ourselves with the map. For the first time since we started along the very well marked trail we actually looked at the map. Now this map… I´m going to bring it home so y´all can have a purty look at it, doesn´t make any sense. Starting with the longitude on the left it then gives gridded numbers like 6-89, 6-90, 6-91.. etc.. all the way till 7-15, then it provides the other longitudinal coordinates, 79 degrees 7 min 18 seconds to 79 degrees 23 min 31 seconds.. there was no smashing 6-89 into those cords. Frustrated we folded the map up, shoved it into our back pockets and kept on keepin´ on. Jon with his idea where we were and I with mine. I´ll be the first to say, I was wrong. After loosing ourselves in the forest and then above the forest we took a break, attempted to decipher the map one more time and then, from a higher perspective found the trail and were back on track – except we didn´t know what trail we were on. The map was horrid. After sometime in the forest and then out onto a bluff overlooking another lake we determined where we were. Soaked and already starting to get tired and frustrated we opted to walk back toward the ranger station. – perhaps we´d give up for the day, with our ten dollars paying for an ankle mud bath, or perhaps we´d seek higher ground, ten going to the full cleanse of body and soul.

Back at the lake the rain was gone, our shoes were still wet, but they´d been that way for a while now and one hardly noticed. Looking left, across the lake, the ranger station, with it´s smug roof and fancy concrete paths mocked us, and even further past that the fancy highway that buses drove upon carrying smug dry passengers to their happy dry homes to eat their warm, well cooked meals, sleeping on their soft dry beds. Ooooh, Left – the emotion it evoked. Looking down one only saw their shoes, muddy, soaked, and behind the darkened leather cold toes wiggled just enough to move warm blood in and cold blood out. In front of that was the map, the map with lines intersecting and colors representing, the map that placed us some where within 30 km of someplace, there it was in our hands as we looked down. In front of us the trail back around the lake which ended us to the left, and behind us, well, trail we had just walked, muddy and covered in memories. That left right.

Now right didn´t seem so bad after justifying why all the other directions were so aweful, but as it turns out, perhaps we should have done better analysis. 365 meters later we´d be questioning our decision to take the high road. To our right a seemingly small peak, compared to the jagged peaks about us, promised a wonderful view of the park, local to us, as well as a challenge that we easily met. So we began, at approximately 3,900 meters. Unlike trails of the California Sierras, or the Colorado Rockies, or even that of Ecuador´s Volcanic trail up Tungururha, this one went up – straight. It was unfortunate we didn´t have the Chinese technology of thousands of stairs to climb. Instead, just muddy foot prints and clumps of tall grass – the same grass, as it was, which is used to weave the fine Panama Hats of Ecuador.

Our eager pace fell to fast and fast fell to consistent and consistent finally ended with sitting. The air seemed to lack a certain smog – or something I couldn´t quite put my finger on. Light headed and ready to vomit we sat, breathing heavily, and exchanging half words between every four breaths. Are we THAT out of shape? Thankful to have 625 mL of water a piece, as soon as we were confident we wouldn´t breath the water, we sipped in order to achieve semi-natural vital signs. Our next steps were slow and deliberate. Heavily planted feet guaranteed less slippage and slower pace allowed for less exhaustion though we still took breaks at every available rock out cropping. As it was, we were essentially climbing a rock face, thus there were frequent stops.

Finally we were at the top. We could see it, the post stuck into the tallest rock sitting atop the peak. 10 meters, 6 meters, 3 meters, defeated! We were defeated. Just as you took your seemingly ultimate step and looked up there it was, a higher point one more hill up from this one, taking a break to console each other we kept on truckin, after all we couldn´t stop there, not with the pain in our lungs and the burning of our legs. 10 meters, 6 meters, 3 meters, was this some kind of sick joke? If I had a nickle for ever time…. we kept on. By now the rain was long gone and had been replaced by a bitter wind. The kind of wind that asks for your hat, but takes your hands, your nose, your ears, and anything else that is cinched down tight enough. It kept my water cold, but my hands were ablaze just as much as my lungs. Jon was equally incapacitated. We rested under yet another rock. This one quite large and quite apt to squish. I´m glad it didn´t. From our safe house the wind was a little less bitter and the view was promptly moved from our footing to the spectacular horizon.

The Clouds had receded from where we were and hung about the taller peaks. The mountains seemed different from the others we´d seen in Ecuador. While the hills of Cuenca and Vilcambama slowly melted and withered with time, these seemed to grow larger. The rocky buds atop each crest, with enough water, sun, and time, would bloom into taller, more grandiose pillars of nature. Massive implications of mother Earth´s Dominance. Perhaps into Heaven they´d reach.. perhaps the one we were aboard was on it´s way right at this moment. I couldn´t feel it move – I suppose I was just impressed. Below the towering sides, forests of Quenua snaked their way up ravines and crags, weakness in the design of superiority or strength of symbiosis. Below the forests, a black opal mirror had been shattered and strewn about – dark and then spotted with color and magnificence rivaling that of the tallest peak. Each lagoon was connected by pieces of silver thread and as the sun peaked in and out of sight so did the river beds below. What a place to rest. Alas we must keep on, the view at the top – if such a place existed, would be magnitudes more spectacular.

The following peak was too a fraud, but finally we arrived. Making a full scan of the local horizon, we were indeed at the top of this seemingly unimpressive hill. 4,265 meters later we were pooped.

Jon pulled out his Pentax and did his best to take a full panorama of the place, I wrote a bit in my journal, and Jon fell asleep for a short bit with a handkerchief over his eyes because in the magnificence of it all. Blue patches of sky polkadoted above our heads and the sun had come out to play. The top´s purported spectacularity was indeed legit.

Time for decent. Not wishing to evoke memories of old we started down the other side of the hill – by the map, this was the lighter way. oooh, that map. At our first cliff we were curious, at our second, perplexed, the third we scaled. Finding ruts carved out by rain water and waterfalls we were able to wedge our selves down each seemingly preposterous trail head and onto the next with unimpressive falls and highly impressive tumbles in between. Tired and sore we wish we had in our possession cardboard and at times resorted to skiing across grass tops with prayers of cactus and cliff free landings. After our half hour decent we arrived back at the lake and the ranger station couldn´t look any better. Another fifteen min of carefree shoe placement landed Jon in the lake once, I with mud about my face and chest, and both of us within ten meters of the station. Stopping briefly to talk with a fellow, local Ecuadorian Biologist, about his beautiful country, our travels, and the awesomely taxing hike we had just returned from, we hoofed it up to the road to thumb the next passing bus.

The sun slowly disappeared and the wind began to prod. I tried reading to avoid thinking about it, but I knew I´d be cold soon enough. I could see my breath. The bus never even put on it´s brakes.

Our biologist friend with his daughter and wife and another couple pulled out of the drive and turned back toward Cuenca. They stopped and pointed in that direction. We spent no time at all trying to decipher language, we were in the 1990-something Jeep with the door closed, warm.

All of them spoke very clear English and the words that one didn´t know another would. They were interesting people who loved their country, regulars at the park on weekends, the liked the Beatles and we listened to them the entire way back. The were good – genuine. The dropped us off closer than the bus would have and happy to have met new people and to be so close to a shower and dinner we were back at the hostel in a flash.

Tired and beat – we´re both satisfied with our decision to earn a good nights rest.

(Awesome photos by Jon)

 

Cost

After spending the day in Quito, we arrived in the northern city of Otavalo last night and did a good deal of spending today … but I’m ahead of myself….
Quito is a city.. there are taxis and rapid transit systems, one way streets and central squares, large parks and planted trees, thugs, friendly residents, and hills to walk up and down. They have skies that cover with clouds and rain that comes down.. and then rain that really comes down, blue skies, tall buildings, colorful buildings, mountains that stretch into heaven and houses built upon them. There are poor children and poor families, rich drivers and rude spenders, there are loads of tourists, English speaking waiters and English menus, drunk fellas talking about Castro and a strange addiction to Che Guevara. Most importantly there were two very handsome fellas that arrived and walked around with no purpose for several days.
Jon and I, having spent the majority of our time in small towns in Ecuador, are not quite sure what to do with ourselves in a genuine bonafeid city. Unfortunately we quickly resorted to US tactics.. spend money.. at least tried to. We searched for guitars to buy, we both got shaves from the local barber, we looked at buying street art, toured about the old town, taking pictures with Jon´s camera.. as the whereabouts of mine are still unknown, and finally we did it.. we went to the casino(s). We went to 5 separate ones. We gave them our money.. but damn it.. they just gave it back over and over again along with drinks and food. For every meal we went into the casino, threw down our dollars and promptly ordered a beer (then scotch) and a ham and cheese sandwich while they stacked the chips in front of us. Needless to say, we weren´t being very adventurous in Quito.
Our third night in Quito we were able to get a hold of a friend of Andrew´s from Oregon´s School of Architecture, a girl by the name of Gabbi. She´s a native Ecuadorian and lives in Quito. She got a good portion of her education in architecture from Oregon, but her degree from a school here in Ecuador so that she could immediately start her practice. Fortunately she was well educated in Oregon about beer and made sure we ended up someplace that served good beer – by no means on par with the micro-brews of Oregon or Colorado, but better than the national brand, Pilsener. She kept good company too and it was neat to see how much she loves her job and her country. She told us that she made more money as a truck driver (yeah, she was doin´ long hauls) in America than she does as an Architect down here. It was the best way I could think to practice my Spanish, speaking English with a Spanish speaker.. right??
The following morning, after a quick review of our time line, Jon and I made the decision to trek up to Otavalo to see the market (which is simply a larger scale of what we´ve seen in Cuenca, Ambato, and Quito.) the next day and then out to the coast in our final week here.
Otavalo is a small city that serves as the hub of commerce for the area of weavers. There are large markets every day here where they sell their crafts and Wednesday and Saturdays are even larger. Given this is where we´ve done most of our spending I thought I´d give a quick run down of the scale of costs, including some spending in Quito…
Hour of Internet Time: $0.60
Taxi Ride to Casino: $2.00
Scotch, Sandwiches, and Meat Balls on a toothpick while we gamble: $0.00
Walk home counting our winnings: $0.00
One pound of laundry service to get the casino smell out: $0.26
Bus Ride to Otavalo: $2.00
Nights Stay at Residential Santa Fe: $8.00
Sweater in Otavalo: $5.00
Hammock in Otavalo: $9.00
Cost to ship the hammock(s) home: $?.??
Almurezo: $1.00
Propositioned in the park… in Quito.. on Sunday: ….
(Jon tells this story)
The day was sunny, but the breeze kept the intense warmth of the Ecuadorian hotness under control. The sharks were out. Strolling along a walkway in the park, we browse the various local arts & crafts for sale… the shark eyes her prey.While admiring some graffiti on a statue, John is approached by a strange and wayfaring woman. The following is a translation of their Spanish conversation:

Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Do you speak Spanish?”
>John: “A little.” (A slight overestimate… poor guy.)
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Good. If I have something valuable to you, could I trade it for something from you?”
>John: “What?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something very special for you.”
** At this point, I take a few steps backwards and whip out my Pentax and start shooting, because I know this is going to be good. **
>John: “What do you have?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Something very valuable to you.”
>John: “What do you have?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something you want, and you can give me something for it.”
>John: “I don´t understand.”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Do you want what I have for you?”
>John: “I really don´t understand.”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something for you which is very valuable. Do you want it?”
>John: “Jon, what is this she talking about?”
>>Jon: “Prosssstitution!”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Yes.”
>John: “Oh… no thanks. I don´t, uh, I don´t need that. No thanks. Are you really a prostitute?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Yes.”

Poor guy…

… priceless
I got a hold of a Miami Newspaper yesterday and saw that we haven’t attacked Iran yet.. if we do, will someone let me know. :) Home Soon Enough.. time for a milkshake.

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.