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Our drive from Cuenca to Vilcabamba

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So many climates. We started out in the cool but sunny temps of Cuenca at about 65 degrees and along th way to LoJa the temps climbed and climbed. At one point we were at 90 degrees. I drove all day while Rene took the front passenger seat and Dave and Robin were in th back. Dave came thru his stomach bug but was tired. We made it out of town on th Avenue of the Americas with no problems except I need to be more vigilant and understanding of round a bouts because there are a lot of them in Ecuador. We did a lot of climbing and the Jeep can really scoot when I need to pass a big truck, bus or a slow moving car.

I was amazed by all the climates we passed thru. The Pacific NW feel of Cuenca, to dry and warm down south to the tropical of LoJa and now to a temperate climate here in Vilcabamba. Now isn’t that an interesting name…say that a few times fast.

The high point yesterday, Sunday was finding Saraguro, a small town about two hours north of Vilcabamba. the Lonely planet mentioned that there was a Sunday market so we hooked a right and found ourselves I  the thick of it right about lunch time. We checked out everything via a quick walk about with a few stops along the way for discreet pictures. the people are modest and shy so using a blockage like Rene and David, I was able to use my spy skills and get a few unposed pictures of the local people.

And gosh are they a beautiful group. Black braids adorn the men with fish tail Frnch braids drapeing down their backs. They wear simple leather shoes or black garden boots. The women have long black skirts that might be of a wrap around style. But the fabric is stretchy and has fine tight pleats. their blouses are covered with colorful embroidery and their jewelry is either a single color or multi colored beaded neck wraps.  I bought one for Colette that I hope she will like. I also found some earrings for me and a cut hummingbird key chain. All in the beaded macramé style common here.

The town square included a magnificent church with carved wooden doors that must have been 14 feet high. We had our picture taken and you can see it on Facebook. In our walk around town we found two Plazas with beautiful flowers and cement benches where the locals sit and visit. Most of the elders are in traditional garb, described above but the teens are in jeans, tight and  Tshirts. AND most everyone has a cell phone and knows how to use it. I saw a very elderly man in traditional clothes sitting in the plaza using his red phone!!

After Saraguro, gosh I Wanted to stay there…we continued down the road and the roads are in great shape. In fact they look brand new. Most are two lane, sometimes four lane, clean except for an occasional pig, cow, donkey or dog. The other thing about this area are dirt bikes…they are everywhere. and the drivers go fast. Many use no helmets, sandals. yes Gods!! And on we went till…Loja, a large University town and then onto Vilcabamba.

We stumbled in here at the Izhchaluma Hostel with no reservations…just a recommendation from our friend, Lenny in Cuenca. Some of the Facebook Expats had also recommended it. The best part is they had rooms for us and the place is gorgeous. Rene and Robin went with a room with a private bath and ours has a shared bath with two of them not more than eight feet from our room. In our area we have no neighbors. All our rooms have two beds in them: a twin and a double. We put our luggage on th twin and slept in the double. Two nice windows with screens open up for fresh air.  I wish you were here. Pool. Bar with pool tables and ping pong, large dining hall, all open air, Yoga studio, free for residents, many trails some of whom we hope to traverse today. Directions on the trail map warn of being fully prepared for parts of the trail due to the nature of the country.

I quote: This part of the trail is only an option for the  adventurous. easy to get lost or die crossing the river or the climb afterwards!! Don’t go alone.

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No bridge. You have to walk through the water. Don’t intend if the river is high!!! After crossing, dangerous climb up through the forest. Be careful!!

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If you haven’t found the right river crossing till 2Pm, go back the same way you came from!!

Each night after dinner we play a card game called Tick. do you know it? I’m not a fan of cards but this one is fun for me. Rene has won the last two nights and I was th biggest loser last night with almost 300 points. Perhaps a new record.

The birds are really going at it as I sit on the deck right outside number twelve. I’m looking forward to a nice hike today. Perhaps sitting by a river and enjoying the scenary. I’ll let Rene do the driving today.

Hey, I figured out how to download pics to my Facebook page so drop in there for some additional dialogue and of course, pictures. Off to try the shower and grab some breakfast.

Avianca Airlines…

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patience and perseverance. After three meetings with Avianca, many phone calls we found ourselves again at the Cuenca airport and the Avianca office. the reasons listed that the suitcases are not in our hands:

we left no phone number FALSE

we left the wrong number. False

we didn’t leave an address.  False

They don’t know where the cases are TRUE

We kept insisting. I mean what did we have to lose. No clothes, shampoo, anything. Finally one woman admitted the mistakes, vowed to make it right, kept digging and found out that one of the cases was indeed in the Cuenca airport and that compensation would be given. She found the case, it was red which matched up to Rene and we also found out that Robins was still in GYE and would arrive the next morning and would be delivered to our hostel by eight AM. compensation was handed over in dollars, we exchanged paperwork for a claim to United Airlines and we went out to dinner.

Meanwhile, back at the hostel David is feeling ill. He was up most of the night and in the bathroom. By afternoon he is done with the bathroom but very chilled. an extra blanket is found, soup from the Colombian restaurant around the corner, rice from our dinner, herbal tea and he is feeling better. we will not leave first thing in the morning…we will have to wait for the last suitcase and hope that Dave is back to 100%.

It is Friday night and Calle Larga is hopping with young people, old people, everyone is OUT and about….we are relaxing in the TV room and it feels great.

Life with no suitcase…

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I hope I have mentioned that we are traveling with my little brother, Rene and his wife, Robin. When they arrived at the GYE airport, their luggage stayed in San Salvador. Not just theirs but theirs and about twenty other customers. It was not a happy scene. well, that was Tuesday and today is Friday…hmmm, put yourself in their dirty underwear and you possibly could imagine how they feel.

With occurrences like this you either believe or you don’t believe and we have one of each. Jennifer, of Avianca airlines assured us that the suitcases would be on the next flight to GYE and would then be flown to Cuenca and be delivered to our Hostel. That would have occurred Wednesday. it’s Friday and Rene and Robin are still in the same clothes from Tuesday.

If you don’t believe, then you’ve known for four days that no luggage is coming and you decide your course of action and demeanor.  However, there are no clothes here that fit a man of Rene’s stature. Robin on the other hand, could go out and outfit herself in Ecuadorian clothes and look really cute.

Robin has been on the phone and Internet AND down at the Avianca Airline office here in Cuenca for several hours today. She found out that her bags are in GYE (4 hours west of Cuenca over the Andes Mtns) and Rene’s bags are still in San Salvadore with all the Halloween candy he brought from Costco!!

We head back to the Avianca office at six PM to talk to the Supervisor who will either tell us the truth or tell us what thy think we want to hear…which is a standard custom in this country. I’ll keep you posted…

Now other happenings…yesterday we met up with Lenny and Sharon for breakfast at Bananas restaurant and then walked back to the hostel to hand over the items we brought for them including the forty three pounds of fabric, ten boxes of gluten free brownie mix, cat treats, ear buds, stun gun (for feral dogs), shirts and a few others things. Lenny took Rene and Robin to the Avianca office so they could ask about their luggage…like where the heck is it”?????

Sharon and I headed back to the hostel to load up the fabric…did I say forty three pounds? luckily she had brought a great big suitcase with wheels to hold all her treasures. Once we loaded it up, she got a cab to a friends house but left the suitcase with us. Lenny returned with the luggage-less-ones and we hauled that sucker of a suitcase to the Jeep and we took him home. We got to see their sweet home and two cats plus Sharon’s amazing quilt creations and her sewing room. Now we understood the fabric…cotton fabric including sheets and towels are hard to come by In Ecuador.

After leaving Lennys we were to meet up with Sherry and Mark, two retired teachers from Cleveland. We found each other thru the FBook Ecuador Expat group when I Saw pictures of her home…my dream house which I had seen on my first trip to Ecuador. They are still renting that house but are also building their own home just up the road.

They live on a beautiful hilltop, just outside of Cuenca with their kids: Finn and Natalie plus a heard of Nubians, who are due to deliver today. Today is also Finns 11th birthday.

While we were walking down from the construction site back to their rental home, we met a family who was harvesting potatoes (papas).  They offered Sherry and us a sack full of potatoes (we declined graciously).  During the transfer of potatoes and conversation the Mama explained that they had some property down the road for sale. They offered to lend us their son, Thimsu? to show us the hectare.  So off we went down the road…it was a lovely piece of land but still not flat enough for me and my farming needs.

It was dusk and we needed to get down the mountain so we said our goodbyes and headed down the lovely eucalyptus lined dirt road. We thought we were lost but kept believing we Were heading in the right direction and we were. We saw some interesting sights including a llama on the side of the road. We stopped to take a picture of the llama and as we stopped he put his ears back and I KNEW what that meant. Spit!!! I once had a run in with a llama and spit and the smell and texture made a lasting impression on me.  We high tailed it past the animal after a quick pic.

We did make it back to our hostel and had dinner at Noe, a warm, beautiful Sushi place. I mention warm because my socks and shoes were soggy and wet and I was cold. this cool wet weather is very unusual at this time of year – or so everyone tells us.  we sat by a fireplace and had a wonderful meal. Heading back to the car it was raining once again. But we were full and warm and it didn’t matter.

Got our car!!

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I heard a light rain last night. this morning no rain. I had a HOT shower which felt soooo good. Dave and I decided to walk to th car rental place but discovered along that way that we w e really getting on each others nerves. After 26 years of marriage that can mean one thing….We need food. so we stopped in an itty bitty place and tried to order but no English spoken there so I pointed to a plate of food that another customer wàs eating and they understood. a nice piece of chicken, rice and plantain in a wonderful sauce. it turned out that one of the cooks was from Peru and did speak some good English so we had fun speaking to him.After paying our bill ($2 each) we headed back to the side walk and after a few blocks discovered at the  rate we were going we were going to be late…a horrible bind to be in if you are a Virgo. so we flagged a cab and afire a five minute, two dollar ride we found ourselves at the Condo ready to sign for our Jeep.

We  are  renting a car  thru a new business called CuencaCarShare and we are glad we went with  the Jeep. After the paperwork I drove us back to the hostel and there was Rene and Robin outside waiting for us.  we told them about the breakfast place and they went there while we got some maps from our room. Parking is a big headache here but I managed to find a place to parallel park. Ever since I was sick two years ago with pneumonia I have had the darnedest time parallel parking and today was no different. Lotsa pressure with cars backed up and honking plus a certain person giving helpful advice.

We found Rene and Robin and headed to the car and out of town to Tutupali EC,  a small barrio about 40 minutes to the south. It’s  beautiful out there and we stopped to look at a house under construction. the road up there was a muddy mess and we were so glad to have the Jeep and its four wheel drive ability.

Where the property lies and just below is a sweet little school and a church. it looks like they are expanding the school with a new building and we could hear the children  reciting Math problems with vigorous voices in a sing songy manner.

After a quick bathroom break in the school’s outdoor toilets (which were very clean) we headed down the mountain and back to Cuenca.  Now we had to find a parking place because Everyone has recommended we NOT park the car on the street so Rene checked out a place we have used in the past and they had an opening. We had quite a time understanding the price and timeframe but the attendant was VERY patient with us. W think it will be ten dollars.

It is so close that we walked back to Posada del Rio Hostel and took a nap. I worked on my blog and noticed pictures appearing on Facebook from our morning adventures.  Robin’s new phone takes excellent pictures so go to FBk for the pics because I am STILL unable to download pics to this blog. tomorrow morning we have breakfast with Lenny who might be able to figure out what the snafu is.

Tonight we headed to the Cuenca Jazz Society to hear Jim Galla and Juan on the bass.  We had a fine meal and Dave sat in for a few numbers which is always a thrill for me. he usually plays LATE at night or for a private party so I don’t usually get to hear him perform. We met a couple from Vilcabamba, a city to the south that we will visit next week.  They have a forty foot boat that they have traveled in and now have found a piece of land to build a 900 sq foot house on. Steel beams, he designed it and I think we will see it when we travel south to that area. Hopefully, a picture will be available for you to look at or us your imagination.

tomorrow we have breakfast with friends and hand over things we have brought for them from the states. we also get to visit my dream home where Sherry and her family live with their sweet goats. Off to bed now. Tomorrow will be another full day.

Picture problems..

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As mentioned, before I left Talent I bought the nifty ” camera to IPAD” Apple transfer tool which works great. It transfers my pictures from my camera to my IPad. But I still can’t download the pictures into my blog. Frustrating. someone told me that Apple and WordPress are not compatible and I would need to download an App called Photoupbucket or something like that with an acronym of PUP. well, that didn’t work either. I am stumped and hope to get some help with a friend in Cuenca who is a Tech wizard. if YOU, Yes, you have any suggestions please leave me a comment. Until then checkout Robin Pare’s pictures on her Facebook site.