Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Whose house is that?

I ask our guide, “Who owns all these big houses?”
“Migrants.” He replies. “They leave Ecuador for the US and other counties where they can make more money. When they return here they can afford to buy land and build these big houses.”
I ponder this as I work on catching my breath and wiping the sweat and dirt from my face. Alfonso, our guide for the day and a part of the Canari tribe in southern Ecuador helps to keep the Canari culture and customs alive by providing a bird’s eye view into the life of an indigenous Ecuadorian family. From traditional food to a lesson in botany, by the time Alfonso taught Carl and me how to plow the field using two oxen, I was pretty impressed by this guy whose parents are 90 and 99 years old and have never had the need for traditional medicine. Their knowledge of local plants, teas and special remedies has been keeping Alfonso’s parents and the rest of the Canari tribe in excellent health for hundreds of years.
With the plow in one hand and whip in the other I look out to the country side where the Andes Mountains provide another breathtaking backdrop to an area where Alfonso and his family have been living off the land long before the Spanish set foot in South America. That particular view was also what prompted me to question Alfonso about the large homes dotting the landscape. Just below, in the valley smoke is curling up from Alfonso’s small but modest home complete with an outdoor bathroom, only added to appease the many western visitors who visit Alfonso each year.
When I asked Alfonso about the biggest problem his people face, he did not answer that they are hungry, uneducated, and penniless or disease stricken. He answered that he was afraid of his people losing their culture and customs because of getting "swallowed" up by those “big houses” closing in just over the hill.

Slothing in Ecuador

Our view from Hotel Milan in Cuenca

Cuenca has turned out to be a wonderful place to unwind… at least our hotel room watching American movies this first night has been fabulous. An afternoon and evening of “sloth” is what we call it, thank you very much. If you don’t know what I am talking about, “Slothing” is a term defined by the act of doing nothing, or moving as slow as a sloth. It also includes eating and drinking while lying down, making the most out of a t.v. remote control and falling asleep fully clothed without brushing your teeth. Carl and I coined this term the first (and only) time we treated ourselves to a “day of sloth.” It was in January of 2007.

Putting Down Our Packs

The Devils Nose Train Ride in Riobamba, Ecuador

The five day five city tour after leaving Quito started with Latacunga and then off to visit the famous Salisquili Market. Then off to Guaranda for our evening stroll. The enchanting Salinas came next heading to Riobamba to catch the highly anticipated and slightly disappointing train ride “El Nariz del Diablo” (The Devils Nose). The actual ride itself was an incredible feat in engineering, but too many gringos for us way up there. In the end though, the only thing worth sharing about that experience are the pictures.
After unpacking and repacking our bags, moving hostels and perfecting my Spanish in asking for rooms, cost, one bed, hot water, ect., we finally landed in Cuenca. Cobble stoned streets, old churches, old fashioned ice cream parlors and to top it off, a hotel room on the third floor with a killer view of the San Francisco church and plaza. My aching shoulders thanks me as I put down my pack… for at least the next few days.

The town that could not tell time

“What time is it?” I yell. Tired and recovering from a small case of altitude sickness the last thing I felt like dealing with at that particular moment was the situation at hand. Carl and I could not figure out what time it was. I mean, it seems simple enough, right? Four wrong clocks and about 2 miles lugging our packs through Guaranda trying to catch the next bus south to Riobamba proved to be a bit more challenging than we had anticipated. Carl and I purposely travel without a watch, I guess as a peaceful protest against our lives back home. Ruled by our day timers and to-do lists, the freedom one acquires by simply telling Father Time to “bleep” off for a little while can be quite exhilarating. Of course, this only works when I do not actually have a need to know the time. At this junction though, we need to catch a 2pm bus. I know that when we arrived in Guaranda it was 12:30pm. Since then I have seen clocks for 11:00am, 4:30pm, 2:25pm and 6:45am and my phonetically perfect, “A que hora es?” has only gotten me a few shrugs.
As I trudge up and down streets huffing and puffing, feeling somewhat lost without a plan, a schedule and a universe that is making it harder than usual for to dip in and out of reality as I choose, Carl (who is on an eternal holiday as far as I’s concerned sometimes) just laughs at me. He just laughs and walks up on ahead, looks around the corner and points to the bus station.
My entries from this point will be written “after the fact.” I can assure you my journal is full to the max with our wanderings around South America, but due to a few majot technical mishaps, the words and photos had to wait until we came home to find their home a la blogger. I hope you enjoys the rest of our blog as much as we enjoyed making these memories. Buen Provencho!

Thursday, July 31, 2008



Definition: Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely.

This entire trip has been a bit of the word you see above. Finding unexpected friends in strange places to special moments shared. The word is worth a nod from these two amigos for sure.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

We´re Moving!!


Our new home!

Just kidding.... well, sort of. We are having a total love affair with the town we have found, way off the beaten path for sure. Salinas. About 3,500 meters up, rolling hills, mas verde, emerald and forest green, wildflowers everywhere, SUN for the first time on our trip, crazy blue sky. A town known throughout Ecuador for their homemade cheese, chocolates (sorry, we ate it all), meats, wool, eco-tourism and sustainability. Fresh clean, crisp air. Spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and on a clear day (which thankfully we did have) a glimpse of Ecuador´s highest peak, Volcan Chimborazo, thought by some to be the highest peak in the world due to it´s location being farthest away from the center of the earth.
We did find a small house, land and cows included for a very reasonable price. We are thinking about it.