Monthly Archives: June 2013

Another nutshell because time is…

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A lovely breakfast from foods gathered at the Feria Libre Market

A lovely breakfast from foods gathered at the Feria Libre Market

Short.

We had our group effort breakfast and gosh, it was wonderful. Off to get the car from the garage…not safe to park on the street overnight we were told. A long back and forth with the garage attendant. Price not what we were told.  Rene was firm. Owner came and corrected the young woman manning the booth. Fifteen dollars for day and a half.

Out of town, quickly, thanks to David. Head to the town of Giron and a lovely farm of three hectares. Gorgeous but just too far out of Cuenca for musicians like us.  I would worry about Dave every nite if he had a rehearsal in Cuencaville.

 

Selso's farm in Giron near the Yungilla Valley

Selso’s farm in Giron near the Yungilla Valley

Every property we look at is like dating…it gets you closer and clearer to your soul mate.

Back to Cuenca with a couple of stops for snacks and drinks like PONY MALTA, my new favorite soda. I want to bring some home for u to taste.

Pony Malta, my favorite Ecuadorian drink.

Pony Malta, my favorite Ecuadorian drink.

 

 

In town, we parked on the street since it was daytime and took a rest. Dave and I went down the street to check out another parking option and sat by the river to contemplate the days happenings. Peaceful water does it every time.

Our evening plans included a quick dinner at the Cuenca Jazz Club that the threesome discovered the night before. Then off to the Cuenca Youth Symphony at a beautiful church…These kids and a few adult ringers were awesome with a violin soloist. And in the land of Eternal Spring….guess what one of their selections was??  Vivaldi’s Spring!!

A quick walk back to the jazz club and Dave was invited to play a bit and everyone loved his playing and that was cool! Taxi back to our hopeful parking garage and everything worked out.. of course it did..because that is the way this trip has been…No worries.

A clever name for the Youth Orchestra

A clever name for the Youth Orchestra

...that's David playing bass

…that’s David playing bass

 

This morning we have a breakfast set up with the father of a friend of mine and employee of R and Robin.  Then drop the phone off and explore north of Cuenca a bit.

I’ll fill u in a bit later…gotta run to breakfast!

Lazin’ around Cuencaville

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We got up late (not me of course…) and venture out to have breakfast. The drive from Banos took a lot out of me and I would venture to say, the others as well. So a leisurely day was in order.

We walked to what we hoped was a Belgium Waffle place. We had seen a flyer at  the Touristo office and the address was over near the Symphony auditorium. A good walk felt great after being cooped up in the car for so long.

Cuenca Symphony plays here

Cuenca Symphony plays here

As usual, the air was a bit cool and the sky overcast so I popped on my MILLS College sweatshirt..( so proud of our college graduate, Colette)… And off we went. We asked several people where the place was and got several directions that said over by the Auditorium and then turn left. We have been to the auditorium but have not explored the whole complex which contains a large bank with guards, A Ministry Museum, which had a ton o school children frolicking about maybe waiting for a tour and behind the auditorium was a whole area of…gardens with typical Ecuadorian crops, a bird house with about 25 screeching parrots and a wonderful park with ponds and creeks flowing thru it.

To get from the Ministry Museum down to the gardens was a series of wooden and dirt steps down, down, down. Dave and I ventured down, as we thought we could see a little restaurant near the bird complex.  He went right while I went left.

When I came around the corner and saw this whole huge cage filled with parrots I stopped in my tracks. I’ve always been fascinated by parrots: their high intelligence and beautiful plumage. I am not much of a bird person but I did get friendly with Vicki and Mitch’s parrot while in Mexico last year.

Vicki's Parrot, Paco

Vicki’s Parrot, Paco

This group was really going at it and the screeching was worse than a sixth grade band warming up…so I decided to try and calm the whole scene down and I started singing the Pachebel Canon in my best voice. Wow, did that quiet things down a notch!!!

Behind me was the little Belgium place with waffle irons but not a soul around so I asked the parrot keepers and they gave new directions….I guess this is a summer location and the main waffle hub is somewhere else.

By this time, blood sugar and tempers were low and high so we decided to head back to our neighborhood and find something. I had corresponded with the father of a USA friend and we agreed to meet for breakfast Sunday morning at the Wind Horse Breakfast spot. Lenny had suggested the place and Dave had checked it out earlier that morning (bless him) because that is where we ended up.

The Wind Horse was definitely an Expat hangout because there was not one Ecuadorian in there, save the cook and possibly the waitress, although her English was pretty fine.  I split some very filling pancakes with Robin and had the BEST hot cocoa of the trip.  Rene had Sloppy Joe’s and Dave had a bagel breakfast with passion fruit juice. We also read an Ecuadorian newspaper that was in English and caught up on Michelle Obama’s latest fashion statement, The Snowden happening, soccer in South America, etc.

I also noticed at breakfast, Donna, an American woman that we had met when we first came to Cuenca. She had been staying at the Hostal next door to ours.  She had been working with a real estate agent to find a place to live.  caught up and talked about farms and she told us of someone who is selling a farm…The owner of her Hostal so after breakfast we made a beeline to Hogar Cuencano and spoke to Celso and his wife.

It sounds like we might have the makings for a trip to explore a valley to the south called Yungilla.

After our morning activity, including dropping off extra clothes, because now it is too warm for the Mills sweatshirt…we go down the five flights of stairs and show Rene and Robin one of four rivers cascading thru Cuenca plus the park and our bus stop…

Down to the river. Up to our Hostel

Down to the river. Up to our Hostel

 

park by our bus stop

park by our bus stop

 

because we are taking them to the Feria Libre market by Ecuadorian bus…woot woot and only a quarter! To them it is all new and to us familiar.

Bus ride to Feria Libre market $.25...That's Rene, my baby brother

Bus ride to Feria Libre market $.25…That’s Rene, my baby brother

At the market we peruse the stalls with guinea pigs, baby animals, fruits, veggies, schlocky crap and we find Marta, our blender queen! She remembers us and is happy not only to see us return but we have brought new customers so she is very ecstatic!  I order my favorite mora juice and Robin has one as well. Rene orders a banana, fresca concoction and she starts putting all kinds of extras in it and he agrees to everything. When it came out of the blender, she poured it into a large juice jug, popped a straw in it and handed it to Rene with a big smile. Wow!! What a happy place.

Marta meets Rene and Robin

Marta meets Rene and Robin

After finishing our drinks and saying goodbye, we decided to purchase breakfast vittles for tomorrow (which is today, because I am up writing this on Saturday…). Dave found the cheese, Robin and I negotiated strawberries, bananas, eggs and avocado. Since I had forgotten my Shop n Cart bag, we made do with the plastic bags they gave us.

We then figured out our trip back, looking for, either the 11, 7 or 13 bus which came shortly and took a different route back home. Dave had us get off at one of the crafty markets which was great because we saw elderly women under a tarp doing a ritual cleansing of individuals. They used bouquets of herbs and flowers to lightly tap or brush the person interspersed with spitting on them. Yes, that is right…Spit. When they didn’t have any spit left they would take a long drink of water to get replenished. Now that is something we don’t see at the Growers and Crafters market!!

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cleansing with herbs and spit

cleansing with herbs and spit

Continuing along the route on foot we ran into construction…Streets being dug up…bricks and rocks being stacked for reuse after new pipes? are put in…Back at our Hostal, our bed is made and I laid down to put my weary feet up then fell asleep.

Our evening consisted of another Symphony concert which we again were late to because it was in a different location so we had to take a quick taxi ride to a “new to us” Auditorium, which was even better than the other concert hall….only missed one piece. Before the concert we  had a so so dinner at a non Sushi place àfter trying for an hour to find THE sushi place mentioned in TLP. It had moved, so we had replay of the Waffle place for dinner and a replay of our first Symphony concert for our second symphony concert. Got all that??

It was a wonderful concert but truthfully, I slept thru most of it with one ear open.

After the Concert it took awhile to get a taxi but finally we were on our way back…until three members of our group decided to go to a Jazz club. I headed home and should have conked out but got caught up in Shrek, the movie in Spanish…Still funny in any language.

Aside

We are in Banos, day 2 of our visit here and I woke to the sound of…what is it? Rain? Waterfall? Someone taking a shower? it was Rain and a virtual downpour. I took a hot shower and grabbed my IPAD (so grateful for this technology) to get out a few necessary messages. First to our Hostal in Cuenca…do you remember the name? You know there will be a test at the end of this..Posada del Rio on Calle Larga and Hermano Miguel. Will they have two rooms for us tonight?

I had a wonderful breakfast of two pancakes with fresh fruit, yogurt and maple syrup. The flavors of the fruit was stimulating: The pineapple had just the right zing to complement the banana, watermelon and passive papaya. YUM.

Banos breakfast

Then I took a walk in the rain to see this little town of Banos. t reminds me so much of Ashland with all it’s quirky spots. The people in this town really like Art, from our Hostal walls, to the sides of the schools, businesses and private homes…Art is here in Banos. pics later..

right across from our Hostel

right across from our Hostel

After checking out of my Favorite Hostal in Ecuador, (Chimnea), we loaded the car and headed out of town.  Our goal today is Cuenca but there is a lot of territory and mountains in between. Hopefully NO DETOURS.

We headed back up to Ambato and traveled thru the Jean Town of Salasca and jeans are being unloaded as we pass by. Its odd that a whole town is about jeans but here it is.

Salasaca, the Jean town!

Salasaca, the Jean town!

Again we find the Panamerican Highway and off we go to the south.  TLP is seriously lacking in many parts of this journey to the south.  I kept careful notes of the names of towns and travel times, etc. so I can pass it all onto TLP folks. Our Barnes and Noble laminated map is pretty good but many small interesting towns are not listed.

We stopped in Cajabamba for lunch and found a roadside barbecue with a whole pig just waiting for us. Potatoes, pork, steamed corn and brined onions, tomatoes and lettuce and of course, Fanta. Very tasty. After lunch we explored a bit trying to find our sweet spot and we did and we ordered our sweet Pan. Gosh, did we get  the looks as we walked around. Especially from the school kids.

a whole pig on a spit waiting for us!

a whole pig on a spit waiting for us!

Cajabamba lunch

Cajabamba lunch

 

Cajabamba for lunch

Cajabamba for lunch

 

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I jumped out of the car to take this pic: This little piggy goes to market.

By the way, the rain did not follow us too far and the rest of the day was dry except for FOG! The fog rolled in around three and consumed us. It cut greatly into our speed but Rene is a very safe driver and we are still here to tell you about it.

Along the Andes roads there are blue hearts on the pavement. we found out that these are where people have lost their lives in accidents. One such curve had one large heart and four small hearts:  one adult and four children. There are also crosses at some places like we see in the states.

Lost lives: slow down

Lost lives: slow down

The best part of the day was in the town of Gaumote. TLP had mentioned that it had a Thursday market and today was THURSDAY!!  I was soooo excited to see what it would be like and it fulfilled all my expectations. They could have left me there…I have many pics to show you when I can but let me describe. The dress was pure Ecuadorian with the dark skirts, socks, white blouses, gold jewelry, and bright wrapped blankets around the shoulders…What stood out to me was the hats….brown felt or white ones with rounded top and a dark ribbon circling the base. Add to that VERY short people and you have it.  We had to keep a sharp eye on Robin because she blended in quite well. We did not let her buy a hat or we would have lost her in this colorful crowd.

I managed to find some very beautifully crafted tablecloths, scarves and belts…all made on a loom with gorgeous dyed yarns. Another thing that made this so much better than the Otavala market were the animals. I saw people sitting around talking and on a rope leash would be a lamb, cow, pig or what have you. The people come to this market from all the far reaches of the region. They come crammed in the back of trucks, on busses, by foot, by donkey…They come And then they leave and so did we. Gosh, it was great!!

Guamote

Guamote

Guamote

Guamote

Guamote

The tablecloth lady

The tablecloth lady

Where's Waldo?

Where’s Waldo?

Typico family

Typico family

time to go home

time to go home

Time to go home

Time to go home

Everyone gets a seat

Everyone gets a seat

We kept running into the dense fog and then we came out of it to blue skies and fields of an unidentified colorful grain… maybe amaranth or could it be quinoa, the new popular grain that is all the rage in the US?

Is it Quinoa?

Is it Quinoa?

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With the sun setting and Cuenca just a few kilometers down the road, Rene really put pedal to the metal. We had very little problems navigating our way into Cuenca, even tho I had left the Cuenca map deeeeep in my suitcase. In no time we were on our little street ringing the bell at 4-18 and seeing Ms. Torres. And since almost everything on this trip has been wonderful, of course she had two rooms for us!

After settling in we took Rene and Robin to our favorite Columbian restaurant just around the corner and then to Tutto Freddie’s for ice cream. Cuenca was just as we left it…relaxed, clean and friendly. what’S on for tomorrow? got plans? I’ll be sure to include you…Night.

Cuenca: Tutto Freddis

Cuenca: Tutto Freddie

Awed by the Andes….

In a nutshell…

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Banos day two?

Up at 6, hot shower, blog while others sleep, try to download pictures, get frustrated, eat breakfast, take pictures, car trip into the AMAZON (can u believe it!?), hike to the Devil’s Waterfall, book it back to Banos for 4 PM massage, find R and Robin, eat filet mignon dinner ($7.50, can u believe it??), walk to thermal baths located at the base of a gigantic waterfall right in the town of Banos, sit in medium hot pool while craning neck to see top of waterfall, visit with elderly madre next to me in soaking pool, return to Hostel Chimea, blogging blog, watch Peru and Ecuador play soccer, beddy bye ’cause I am a noodle…

Hostel Chimnea, Banos

Hostel Chimnea, Banos $8.50/night

Art in Banos

Art in Banos

the Banos Cathedral

the Banos Cathedral

Banos Falls, at the bottom are the Thermal Springs

Banos Falls, at the bottom are the Thermal Springs

Thermal springs from a nearby volcano

Thermal springs from a nearby volcano

See that bridge? I stood on it!

See that bridge? I stood on it!

Diablo, Devil's waterfall

Diablo, Devil’s waterfall

Quito to Banos via the Andes

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Banos from our Breakfast lookout

Banos from our Breakfast lookout

All day with just a hoe till the day is done.

All day with just a hoe till the day is done.

I’m up at my usual sixish and ready to tell you of our yesterday: our last day in Quito. After a difficult night of trying to sleep with an accompaniment of banging, chiseling, pounding and no water, hot or cold, we preceded to check out. We had also been in need of clean clothes and had given our two bags of dirties to the front desk lady when we checked in yesterday morning.

In such a circumstance, no water, no sleep…I would expect some sort of price reduction for our troubles but all we got was a “I’m sorry” and “OH, you also owe Twelve dollars for your bag of laundry”. Well, we paid it, mainly because I was sorely in need of clean undies being on day two of the last pair. Robin did get a two dollar reduction to her total because she did her Doe Eye look and it worked.

If I didn’t mention it, part of our laundry is also waiting for us in Cuenca due to a misunderstanding of the hours and days open of the recommended lavendaria across the street from our Posada del Rio Hostel. They agreed to hold it for us till our return (in just a few days now!!!).

I will add another David Strength: Super packer…Dave has been in charge of loading our many suitcases each morning and he uses the small back area of our wonderful Suzuki to its optimum capacity.  Remember we also are carrying a large bag for Alex full of his hats. See him in Lithia Park on the fourth to purchase one. (Another innocent plug for local commerce…).

Alex and his hats...

Alex and his hats…

David had also done some map research and had figured out an efficient path for our exit from Quito.  Once out of the city we would be on the Panamerican Highway, which evokes thoughts of four lanes, signs, lines, etc. And much of it is but some spots are under constructuion from two to,four lanes, have no lines or are dirt.

The town we are looking for is called Latacunga. Now isn’t that a fun word to say!?  Let’s all say it three times right now: Latacunga, Latacunga, Latacunga!! North of Latacunga we will take the Quilotoa Loop and venture into the high Andes and indegineous villages for a look see.

Unfortunaltely we encountered a detour (one of several today) and although the entry into the detour is VERY clear, once in there are no signs OUT and so we follow the crowd but the crowd is not always going to Latacunga.

At one point, in need of a bano we stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and Rene suggested I ask the motorcycle cop ifs we are on the road to The Loop. In my best Spanish, I asked and he replied that I needed to go left up ahead, Largo, which we now know means LONG not slow as in a musical sense..and then hang a right. I repeated the directions back to him with hand gestures justo to be sure and thanked him and headed back to the car.

Afer settling into my seat, I noticed that he had moved his cycle right in front of our car. Could he be offering a Police Escort!? Yes, Indeeedy! I quickly explained that we needed to wait for David who was still in the bano and then we were ready. Off we went, with Rene staying right on the tail of our Angel.

Police escort near Lasso

Police escort near Lasso

 

Police escort near Lasso

Police escort near Lasso

As we followed in close pursuit, we noticed he would use his cycle siren to tell people to move along quickly or Get Out of my way for the transport of Lost Gringos. after several twists and turns he pulled along side and motioned for the final right turn and we Thanked Him Profusely and continued on our way to the loop,turnoff at Lasso Ecuador. which of,course we missed due to lack of,signs. after a bit of backtracking we discovered we had been in Lasso and contined with a bit of trepidation up the road into the HIGH Andes.

What we discovered on this barely two lane road was the villages and farming practices of the High Andes. Hillsides covered in crops. Hillsides so high that my neck ached from looking up. And up those hillsides are farmers and their families, planting, harvesting, tilling the earth as they have for thousands of years. By hand, one row at a time. Incredible. and the cows who must graze these hills should have two legs shorter than the other two but don’t..We also saw cow herders tending their crew of 1-5 cows alongside the road. Highway maintenance is accomplished in this way. Very efficient.

My favorite Cow herder

My favorite Cow herder

Roadside Maintenance with no herbicides

Roadside Maintenance with no herbicides

My 2nd favorite cow herder

My 2nd favorite cow herder

 

Roses under these tents

Roses under these tents

lotsa these

lotsa these

 

Slides a plenty

Slides a plenty

Road crew working on a sheer dropoff

Road crew working on a sheer dropoff

Back to the road. One to two lanes if we are lucky with washouts and landslides. As they slice thru these mountains they do not fortify the sides so down they come tumbling down and it all must be cleared by hand, mostly. we saw road repair crew dangling over sheer drop offs and said a little prayer for them and hope they are earning a good wage.

Along the way we see mountain lupines, Shasta daisies, pine forests put in due to reforestation efforts, farms, kids getting out of school in colorful uniforms, and villages.

Lunch in Sigchos

Lunch in Sigchos

We stopped for lunch in Sigchos, which actually had a big sign. We found an eatery with people in it and orderd our soup and meal..all for $1.50 per person. Hearty, filling and good. In the square women are selling barbecued chicken necks, corn and plantains All from their grills right on the street. Even after a full meal it smells wonderful.

Chicken necks and feets roasting in the town square

Chicken necks and feets roasting in the town square

High Schoolers coming home from Band practice

High Schoolers coming home from Band practice

Quilatoa loop church

Quilatoa loop church

After our meal we decide not to proceed past Sigchos but to backtrack. The road in the map turns from orange to gray to dotted gray…We head back 1.5 horas to the main road and Lasso still making one wrong turn but it wasn’t too bad.

Now we are back on the PanAmerican Highway and it is wonderful. New pavement with lines and more construction a happening. Ecuador is spending it’s oil money on….Roads, Infrastructire and FREE education for everyone. No war involvement here.

Now we are headed down the road to Ambato where we will make a turn to the east and our stop for the night in Banos Pondoa with thermal springs fed from the local Volcano Tungurahua. We won’t make you say that three times…Each town seems to have their specialty…Salasaca is jeans. Yes jeans. Trucks of skinny jeans. Every shop filled with jeans.

Salasaca. the Jean town

Salasaca. the Jean town

The next town is seedlings. Trays of veggie starts, flowers all ready for planting. And winding down we find our weary bones in Banos. We pick a hostel from TLP and check for rooms. Hostal Chimenea and they have rooms and hot water. This is a very nice place, clean with white walls, wood floors and bright artwork on the hallway walls to our room. At $8.50 a person per night we are blessed.

Hostel Chimnea in Banos...My fav at $8.50/night

Hostel Chimnea in Banos…My fav at $8.50/night

Waterfalls near the back of Banos...at the bottom of the falls are some Thermal Springs

Waterfalls near the back of Banos…at the bottom of the falls are some Thermal Springs

View from the top of the Chimnea Hostel breakfast room

View from the top of the Chimnea Hostel breakfast room

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They even have off street parking for us in a bamboo covered area. We unload, meet the folks hanging out in the lobby, a young man from France who wants to know about Cuenca. We unpack and head to dinner after getting a recommendation from a couple from New Zealand. They have just spent four days in the hospital due to Salmonella that they  picked up in Colombia. This evening, after taking their malaria meds, they are heading into the Amazon with a tour company. They take time to show us two dinner spots both mentioned  in the handy TLP.

Now it is 8:45 and I am hungry so off this blog for vittales and adventure. We hope to do the thermal springs today, hike to a waterfall and have a massage. The life, eh??

No water of any kind…

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…well some of us are a bit snitty this morning due to a night of banging, chipping, chopping through concrete and no water of any kind…Hot or cold. Plus a sewer smell all night. Our room was great but the water issue is challenging for some of us.

We are hoping breakfast will deliver…the juice is great, eggs and hot cocoa are on the way. We hope to stay in Banos tonight where there are volcanic thermal pools which means HOT water which hopefully will turn things around for some of us.

But we gotta get there first…

Quito to Banos...so any Volcanos

Quito to Banos…so any Volcanos