Wednesday, November 7, 2007

High altitude shepherds
Originally uploaded by rdlurie

So here I’ve let another month pass between entries. How the time flies. I’ll try and catch up as succinctly as possible.

Lori and Colin Gatland from way out in the western edges of Ohio came for a weeklong visit at the end of September. I had met Colin several years ago in Spanish 101 at Sinclair C.C., in Dayton. He and Lori are always off on some kind of adventure or another, more often than not in Central or South America, so a weeklong trek to Ecuador was not highly unusual for them. We had a great time, and despite our abbreviated schedule we took in some pretty interesting and varied terrain. One of the highlights was our 3 nights at Hostal Cloud Forest up in Chugchilan, high in the Sierras, especially the hike from Quilotoa Laguna back to Chugchilan. Quilotoa is a dead volcano (3900 mt.), and its crater is filled with almost 800 ft. of brackish water with no known inlet or outlet. It’s quite a sight to approach the crater edge and to all of a sudden encounter the expanse of emerald blue water. All around the crater the wind was howling and it was quite chilly. The hike to Chugchilan took us about 6 hours, although it can be done in less time. We were lucky, and encountered along the trail a young (11) indigenous boy named Cleber who agreed to guide us as far as Guayama for 5 dollars. We were glad to have him, and he was great company. Parts of the hike are strenuous, especially the climb back up the valley to Chugchilan. The scenery was spectacular, but that’s the case throughout this entire country. We got back to the Cloud Forest in late afternoon, the day had grown quite warm; we dropped our packs, took off our shoes and enjoyed a couple of very cold Pilseners.

The day before, Colin and Lori had rented some horses and went way up into the bosque and the paramo. Since riding doesn’t suit my back, I opted for a long hike down into the valley to the river. About 2 hours down, and 4 hours up. On my way back, I passed a small mud house which had a few cola bottles perched on the ledge of its single window. I stopped to have a drink, and when I stepped in the door I found a woman and her daughter hard at work at a treadle powered sewing machine. Behind them were several dozen uniforms, which are required for most of the schools here in Ecuador. We talked for awhile, and I learned that they made a pretty decent living from the uniform business, usually about 140 dollars a month, sometimes a little more. There are plenty of places here where families get by somehow on only 60 or 70 dollars each month.

We left Chugchilan in the back of a milk truck, along with 2 new friends from Switzerland, whom we had actually met several days before, in Quito. It was a beautiful day, and a great ride, all the way to Sigchos. In Sigchos we had hoped to hop on a bus to Latacunga, but it was Election Day and the busses were jam packed until very late in the day. So the five of us pooled our resources and we found a truck driver who would take us the 2 hours plus to Latacunga. We piled in, ready for another pleasant trip through the Andes – the sun was strong, the air was hot. Within an hour, we had climbed thousands of feet and we were all freezing! The only thing that kept us from hypothermia was the fact that our driver picked up about 15 more people en route to Latacunga, and we all huddled together as the driver flew down the road. The weather stayed cold, even as we descended back to the Pan American Hiway, and we were all relieved to finally get out of the truck and into the relative warmth of the next bus. Our friends were headed for Ambato, and we were passing through on our way to Puyo, in the Oriente.

In Puyo, we mostly laid low for two nights, played cards, and took walks around town. Puyo, a hot and humid place, affords ample opportunities to go “el dentro” into the Selva, but we had neither the time or energy. We relaxed, for the most part, but we did visit Parque Omaere, a protected refuge of rainforest plant species. We lit out the next day for Tena, stashed our gear in a hostal, and went straight down to the little town of Misahualli. We met up with a boat owner named Freddie down by the Rio Napo and climbed into his canoe, the “King Kong”. In a moment, his family had climbed in as well, and we had a nice float for a few hours up and down the river. We encountered families panning for gold along the banks, families doing their laundry, and at one point downriver we stopped for a couple and their load of cargo which they had to get up to the mainland. I think the three of us would have liked to have had a little more time around the river, but Colin and Lori had a plane to catch back in Quito – so the next morning we were on an early bus out of Tena. We got back to Quito about mid-day, and then spent a few hours straddling the equator at the “Mitad del Mundo” park west and north of Quito. That evening we had dinner with some Peace Corps friends in Quito, and the next morning brought (for Lori and Colin) a 4 AM departure for the airport. All in all, a good trip.

Colin has created a nice link to Hostal Cloud Forest, listed over to the right - check it out.

OK, not very succinct, I admit. So I will close here, and very soon will post again about my recent site change and my new home here in Ambuqui, in the Valle de Chota.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice summary Roger...couldn't have described it better. I am glad that you didn't mention how bad my butt hurt after that horse ride... :o)

I made a big album of 11x14 images that I take around to show people. Why do 4x6 prints when you can have BIG 11x14...I like to see their faces when they see the pano of Quilotoa. Priceless...

Have a good one buddy! We are kicking around our next trip out there.