Rubber Boots and a 24 inch Machete, $11.


We finally made plans to leave Montañita and travel onward… just as we started to get to know this this new English Girl who moved in next door. Oh well. We hopped a bus, bags up top, and got to Guayaquil. From Guayaquil Jon was in charge and we headed south to Vilcabamba – a small hippy town filled with expats who are retired (Apparently there is an Astronaut living here). Anyway, we didn´t stay in Vilcabamba long. We bought some rice and veggies from the Sunday market and then hopped another, very crowded bus full of chickens, children, and far too many people, to Tuminuma, a very small village in the hills circa de Vilcabamba (about 30 mins on a really horrible road, which was recently washed out by rain.. I don´t know how we´re going to get back to the farm). The farm isn´t there. We arrived at Tuminuma in the afternoon and started walking in a direction that seemed correct. From this village we walked up into the Churisco Valley for about 40 min where the farm we´re staying at, Never Never Land, is located. The hike was easy, but the journey a whole other story.

We were warned that we should bring rubber boots for river crossing, but really, who wears rubber boots – I´m American, I´ve got fancy hiking boots that cost more than a house. Needless to say I haven´t warn them since our hike up. The directions on the website for this place were a little vague and thus so was our trek. We went through gates and past forks, a little back tracking and contemplating, but when we reached the river we knew we were heading in the right direction – somewhat. That´s when it was clear I wasn´t prepared. We had to walk straight up the river. No river banks, no consistency in rocks. Just one wet foot after the next. Of course I made my dainty steps to preserve myself, but by the third step it was too late. Jon with his Teva´s ripped right up the river. After about 7 min of walking up stream we arrived at the much anticipated gate to the farm. There it was waiting for our arrival, a sign, the painted gate, the whole deal – then… locked. Disappointment only struck for 30 seconds and then we promptly hopped over both it and the gate.

We arrived at the farm, (http://chirusco.tripod.com/) met six people, four of whom where leaving either that night or the following morning, and had one kick ass dinner (fresh guac, fry bread, salad, and this yuca dish (not yucca)). The next day we had some time to get some work done, but more importantly we had a chance to look around. We learned that they recently acquired another piece of property and walking up the river was not necessary, rather we could have crossed the bridge – jerks. But to our delight we found fruit trees a plenty. Every day here I learn that there is a new fruit on the grounds. In fact, I think every plant here, aside from the weeds, is edible. There is coco, coffee, three veggie gardens, fruit trees, fruit vines, fruit bushes, chili’s… like I said, I´m still learning and it´s day 7 out here. The house is run like a little hippy commune not a farm.. in fact, I would never call it a farm unless I was refering to the fact that food is grown here. The owner is an American-Ecuadorian who moved down here. She´s really mellow and is just into people living there like it´s their own place. So we all cook and clean and work and eat and play and sleep and read and essentially live. There is no real farm work to be done here. We´re not plowing Fields or wrangling cattle, but I did collect about 5 pounds of coffee, scare some cows that we have (just two) out of a corn field, clear a field of weeds, build a gate, and clear some trees using none other than a machete (and a chain saw). For the most part though it´s raining a lot here and work can´t really get done while it´s raining, so we sit under the eves of ones of the houses and read and write and listen to music. The music is powered, as is everything else that requires power on the farm, which isn´t a lot, by a standard car battery that is recharged via two small photovoltaic. So, needless to say, sometimes we run out of power when it´s raining.

I think of ALL of you while I´m working or walking or sitting or talking.. it´s continual. It´s just too bad this environment is so far away from the states. I suppose there are similar places closer to us, I just need to seek them out. This isn´t the Ecuador of magazines or even of self guided tours of Ecuador. In fact, I´m not sure if this really is Ecuador. We drive and interact with Ecuadorians, we´ve talked to our Ecuadorian neighbors, the car, an old Land Rover (probably better than the one Dan drove in Africa, by a hair), breaks down and we take Ecuadorian buses and taxis, but really we´re in Never Never Land. And while on the farm, it´s a place removed and distant from any nationality. A fellow from a nearby farm comes to work almost every day, there is a 70 year old German exile, who lives on the land, the woman who owns it is from Virginia, and all the folks who come to the farm are global people from where ever you can imagine – though as it would be had, currently the two other volunteers are from, guess, Berkeley and … guess, Laguna Beach. So much for meeting exotic people. Good people though, for sure.

For sure an adventure is being had and stories are well on their way. We ate rabbit last night, the dog caught it, Jon almost lopped his thumb off, I now own a pair of fancy rubber boots (at 5.50 a pair, I couldn´t pass them up), and we´re burning plastic on an organic farm – go figure. I love it down here, but alas, I miss home and look forward to being back where I can quell my uneasy stomach with familiar food and toilet paper goes down the shoot and not into the waste basket. From Ecuador – until next time…. Ciao. Los Dos Jhons

Phosphorescence and Weird Dreams

After dinner we enjoyed some beach time in the spirit of REM. I hadn´t been night swimming for quite some time and forgot how difficult it is to see the swell until you have a mouth full of water and you´re upside down. The killer part of it all was the presence of happy little bugs, or angry – I couldn´t tell. On my way out to the water I found a cool little glowing bug. I put it on my finger and watched it crawl all around all the while blinking away. Then once we got into the water it was like we were robots. In fact, I may still be of the belief that I´m a robot while under water. The little phosphorescence attached and glowed on your skin as you moved, it was quite the site. It´s amazing what characteristics animals develop, or are given to them by the almighty creator.. which ever way you think it should be.In earlier news I woke up after having some pretty odd and vivid dreams, quite unpleasant. I think it might be the drugs. I don´t know for sure, so I´m going to give them another week or until I wake up sweating. After I woke up this morning, we went to go take care of business with the balsa board and alas were hit with yet another road block on the journey to getting a board. I should let Jon tell the story from here.

Jon:

Hi kids. So I was all set to buy this board. 9´2¨, tri-fin (fcs and a 10-inch box), and balsa. BALSA! BALSA!!! I spent like three hours trying to hammer out the deal (en español mind you), and we had it all worked out.

But first let me tell you about this one time I went to Las Vegas right before I flew to Ecuador, and when I was in Vegas I spent $800, but didn´t realize it because the casinos got me so drunk that I start telling proverbs.

So today I went to the ATM to get the money so that I could pay this man and he could start shaping up my awesome balsa surfboard. But the silly ATM was holding out on me. ¨Your transaction has been declined. Please contact your financial institution for more information.¨ At least I think that´s what it said. Silly Spanish.

So I had my new friend The ATM print me up an account statement because in my previous job as a detective I learned to never leave a stone unturned. Sure enough, I found the problem. Zero dollars. Crazy huh? I thought so too. So that´s when I went to the internet cafe, logged onto my bank, and found the next piece of evidence: a string of ATM withdrawals and one debit purchase of [DOLLAR AMOUNT UNDISCLOSED] at [NAME OF STRIP JOINT UNDISCLOSED].

So, long story long, I don´t have a balsa board after all. :(

Anyway, so we spent the remainder of the day thinking about what was to be done about the balsa boards and our stay here in Montañita, thus far it´s been quite inconclusive.. but maybe we´ll go to Guayaquil tomorrow.. maybe.

After our deliberation for the day we got into the water, did some body surfing and then ventured over to where our Californian friends were staying and as it happened there was a soccer game going on just out side so I decided to strengthen foreign relations and sub myself in. It was a simple game, 3 one 3 however once I was in it quickly dissolved into 5 on 1. I held my own. I didn´t necessarly win, but I was definatly a winner and respected myself after a game full of maraculous saves, shots, jukes, and it´s very own share of injuries including but not limited to a skinned knee and rocks in the foot. After the game Jon took a photo of the team all together, including me, and it wasn´t until they hailed to me ¨Hasta Mañana!¨ and I commented to Jon what a tough bunch of folks they were that he informed me that they were all 5, 6, 7 and 8 year olds. I still think I´m cool.

Well, after soccer we ate with the ladies, and after we ate we drew pictures, and after we drew pictures we went down to the beach and that brings me to the top of the screen. Thus ends the day.

WWOOFING and other Planning

WWOOFING and other Planning

Spending time online figuring out what our plans out of Montañita will be. Right now it´s a toss up between three, all in the Andes. Tina is in Charusco, Carol is in Tungurahua, and Jose is outside of Otavalo. Most of them seem to harvest similar things, though not all the same, Carol harvests some flowers while Jose tells us what he harvests ¿see anything out of the ordinary? Yeah, we didn´t either.

So, with this information, and information provided by our lovely new Canadian friends, our new route is looking something like this. Exit Montañita in the comming week. Travel south through the banana plantations and then up to Quito/one of these farms generally close to Quito where we´d work for a number of weeks having two days out of the week to travel about the rest of the country taking us up into the north west to the costal town of Monpiche where the surf is average, but the sites beautiful, as well as perhaps a trip to the east into the jungle where we hope to serve our left pinky finger to the animals. One way or another, we´ll be here, in Ecuador, doing .. something.

Oh, and you know that story about not letting the bet bugs bite? .. it´s never hit so close to home. I´m not sleeping with my pancho atop my bed so to avoid such horrors as bites across the geography of my body.. a fate our Canadian companions so unfortunatly did not avoid.

While dropping our laundry off – I know, us American babies – we watched very intensely, it was the most excitment I´ve had for days, as a local kid led a trail of corn under a bucket held up by a stick attached to a string. Something I´d probably only seen on Dennis the Mennace. Sure enough the pidegon gobbled up every one of those pieces of corn, all the way under the tub, so percisely propped up… then Snap! down it came. Alas, the bird escaped, but we enjoyed watching every minute of the game.

I think that will end my broken and misspelled entry for today.

….Arrived here in Ecuador….

Arrived here in Ecuador and traversed customs just fine, though our bags where behind us by a few hours, at 6:00 AM on Wednesday. We spent the morning at the local University playing frisbee on their basketball court and talking to students who showed us a good place to get some breakfast. They´ve got some killer fruit here. We then jumped in a cab back to the airport and thankfully had no problem getting our gear. There it was nice and tidy in the American Air baggage cage. Hooray! Once we were set to leave the city, we did. Taking a taxi to the bus station a very friendly kid showed us the proper bus to get on, and promptly took our money in exchange for a ticket and a tip. We got front row seats on the bus that cruized through the hills to the coast, stopping every so often to pick up and drop off – standard bus fare. At one city the bus driver looked at us and started giving us the ¨this is your transfer routine,¨ I think normally I´d have more caution in such an exchange, but they seemed so admit about the whole thing that it was hard not to trust them. They graciously pulled our bags out of the bottom storage and sent us on our way, toward the other bus. This bus crew quickly hiked up the ladder on the side of the bus and pitched both our bags onto the roof with one hand … strong dude, I think my bag is at least 60 pounds. This bus ride was much more cavalier. Fare was collect by an 8 year old and then given to the old woman right next to me who was the curator of the operation. As for roads, they have them, but it´s like driving in Costa Mesa where repair is few and far between. Knowing this, the drivers take the liberty of avoiding every pot hole possible putting us on both left and right shoulders, making it easy to get to know your neighbor. We finally got to Montiañita where, with our bags, we were quite obvious about our arrival. We picked a spot to stay (The Happy Donkey), got our keys, paid our $3.50 and dropped our gear to scope out the rest of the ´town.´

I´m not really sure how describe this town. It´s small and it´s touristy for other Ecuadorians. After being here for a number of days I´ve learned that this is the beach city for the locals. The city´s extent is a road, that I´ve dubbed Una Via after the only existent street sign, full of mixed use residential. Bars and shops under hostels and habaticiones, essentially rooms for rent. Outside of Una Via there are a few tiendas, but nothing more than some small homes and the main road. Our hotel was at one end of Una VIa and had a view of the bread shop across the way, it wasn´t so bad for living in Ecuador, but….We met some Canadian ladies who moved into our stay the second night and collectively agreed that we could find better living else where, so now we´re neighbors at a much nicer place down the road.

Today was the third day of surf for us. The first day I was surfing a 6´10´´ and preformed fairly well for not knowing the break, the following day the surfing I did was split between a 9´4´´ (the one I was able to walk the nose on) and a 6´8´´ which I had some rides with. The break here is just like San Clemente, beach breaks with short rides, left or right, and fairly inconsistent save the point. The point is where competitions are held and where all the skilled surfers end up. Not being the best short boarder in Montañita, I´ve yet to experience the point surf, though it looks much better than what I´ve been on so far. Further, I´m officially an international ´Surf Instructor.¨ The Canadians are finishing their 3 month stint in Ecuador here in Montañita and wanted to learn to surf. Of course it´s in their best interest to save the $12 for lessons and enjoy their time in the water with some nice American fellas, so yesterday for our services they paid the rental fees. Thus my first bit of work down here.

We´re not sure how long we´re going to stay at this beach resort. We put down $100 for 10 nights at this new place where we´ll both get our own room, bathroom, and hammock. – I think after a while we may be too burnt and too lazy to stay any longer. Though, before we leave Jon´s thinking he wants to buy a balsa board (about $500 for a 9´) I´m thinking I´ll just learn how to make balsa boards and come back to the States and sell those puppies. ¿eh? (you like that double question mark¿? that´s using a fancy Latin keyboard for you.)

I got sick for about a day thus far, not good odds I know, but I´m feeling better now and am going to pay closer attention to what kind of things go into my system. The Canadians said they´ve had their stints of sickness and gave me some pointers on places to go-things to get if it doesn´t settle it´s self out.

Otherwise I´m lying in a hammock and surfing in 73 degree water, it´s tough to beat. Until next time I´m safe and content.