Twixt Navidad Y Nuevo Ano (Christmas & New Year)

CenParkVilcaMandangoBackground

Vilcabamba Central Park Mandango Mountain in Background

Holidays are not my strong suit. I usually just ‘sit them out’.  Reason being is that most folks tend to go a little wacky this time of year with unreasonable expectations.  Most of the wackiness stems from childhood memories or from some sense of not having done ‘enough’ or some other touchy stuff.

Think of me as doing the ‘groundhog’ thing about 5 weeks early. I usually surface from my burrow shortly after Jan 2nd.  By then, most of the emotional tsunamis have washed ashore and lots of the wacky people are into damage control. Things get back to normal pretty quickly.

I’ve been assessing my health issues. As in previous report, I still have some kind of respiration/congestion thing happening. Been to the pharmacy and have spoken with lots of other folks. Everyone agrees. No one knows what it is. I have heard other folks around here coughing the same tune as me. I usually get the worst symptoms at night which is not conducive to restful sleep. I toss and turn and am up frequently.  One nostril is sometimes partially open and the other is clogged. Mostly have to breath through my mouth… dry mouth, sip water, go to the bathroom, coughing fit, calm down, take a hit off the inhaler, lie down and do over.

Have not been getting out of bed before 10AM.  Only eating one meal a day. Not complaining, just reporting. It’s all part of living.

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My Medicines available at market and pharmacy

The fruit is a ‘sweet lime’. Cut it open and it smells like lime but has no tartness. It is mildly sweet. Been eating these for vitamin C. Was looking for cortisol cream for potential rashes along the journey, the pharmacy had only Dermosupril. The bottle, back Right,  has salbutamol and ambroxol chlorohydrate. Seems to open up my bronchial tubes.  I can breathe easier. salbutamol is the same med in my inhaler.  Alercet caps have cetrizina and pseudoefedrine sulfate. Helps reduce  nasal congestion but makes me jittery.  I found Sinutab capsules. They help  nasal congestion with fewer jitters.   Great isn’t it…  a medication list in an adventure blog.
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Check the  Coca Cola ingredients

Bet you wish you could find this where you are… no corn syrup.

Part of the gear I brought with me was a large plastic spray bottle from a company called Sawyer. It is reportedly one of the very best mosquito repellants, also works on ticks, chiggers, and mites. Only supposed to be applied to the exterior of clothing. Why I did not apply it to clothing before I left is that it says it’s effective for about 45 days. I wanted to get the max time out of it.

Here is a picture of the bottle and a shirt I doused with itP1000407

Here’s another pic of some more duds doused and drying out

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Have spoken with a few acquaintances during the past few days. Vilcabamba town is a small place. Everyone knows who is who around here.  Lots of different kinds of expats. Brits, Germans, Belgians, Mexicans, Canadians, and yes, those from the US of A. Some younger farmer types, some artsy hippie sorts, and some older disgruntled military types.  Many have bought here and are struggling to keep their small businesses afloat. A few are on some kind of pension.  They ALL have great stories.  Nearly everyone will be thoroughly acquainted with the ‘conspiracy’ threads.  Sometimes friendly and welcoming, sometimes  keep to themselves, all have their own quirks and are not attempting to hide any of them.

Because I have been spending many hours in my groundhog hole recently I learned a very useful thing. While cogitating about my upcoming arrival in the Amazon region I surfed on over the Brasil immigration process. Good thing I did. I WAS marginally contemplating going down the Amazon river all the way to Manaus, Brasil.  This was not a necessary part of my itinerary to fulfill my current personal recon mission. But, it was a ‘potential option’ in my mind.

Good thing I ran across this bit of info here and now. Brazil happens to be one of those countries that requires a visitor to get a tourist visa PRIOR to arriving at their border. No official Brazilian visa stamp in your passport UPON ARRIVAL at any of their borders and you will be turned back.  There is a set procedure for getting this visa. One must (and can only) get this official visa at a Brazilian embassy in your country PRIOR to travel there. For US citizens the cost is 140 bucks. This will allow you do visit for 90 days of a one year period. The duration of the visa is reported to be for 10 years.  Not too bad.

I suppose I could go to Quito (there is a Brazilian embassy there) and see if I could get the official Brazilian visa stamp there, but I don’t know if I am going to want to go all the way to Manaus by the time I get to Leticia. I might, but I might have had enough by then.  I’m really not into causing myself undue hardship. I am out to see a part of the world that is rapidly changing. I will have to think this one out a bit. Glad I discovered this here and now. Gives me time to think about it. If I were to have arrived at Tabatinga (on a boat) the officials would probably just say nope… where is your Brazilian visa.

Isn’t it great to live in a world where all the countries make up their own policies about stopping in for a visit such that when you arrive at their borders some say ‘Sure, come on in… No problem’ and others say ‘Hey, you’ve got to do… such and so… BEFORE you even get here’. It’s usually about paying MONEY.  And it’s about one country making a policy that forces people from ‘certain and specific’ countries to do ‘certain and specific’ things at ‘certain and specific’ rates.  Guess who led the way?  Good guess. The good old USA.  People from Brazil or Paraguay, or Argentina or Bolivia get hit with (to them, pretty stiff) these ‘fees’ before they are granted a US visa. So… the governments of those countries ‘retaliate’ or ‘treat in kind’. They do US citizen the same ‘favor’.  Pay up… or you can’t visit.

Didn’t used to be that way… even ten years ago.  That is why I say to people: “If there is something you want to do, you’d better get on doing it, because the ‘rules’ that allow you to do it now may (are sure to) change in the future. Grab it now. Sieze the day. Carpe diem.”

A few more Vilca photos:P1000410 P1000414

 

Thoughts from Vilcabamba

Revisiting the idea that it is environmental factors to which human beings are required to adapt, that is the cause of individual and cultural differences.

We would do well to keep in mind that all human beings have not only an external (the world around them) environment, but they also have an internal (their own thought life) environment. Both of those environments affect the behavior of individuals… and by extension, the generation of what tend to become cultural institutions.

http://anthro.palomar.edu/animal/animal_1.htm (Check out the second paragraph in particular.)

Life… all living things, including: monera, protista, fungi, plantae, and animalia have adapted and are continuing to adapt to whatever environment they find themselves.  Human beings are classified as animals.  It was a human who first invented the system that is used to describe specific, individual. living creatures. It continues to be (only) humans who use this system.  The purpose of the system was to make an inventory of living things so that we (humans) may gain an understanding and appreciation of the world we inhabit.

Here, it may be useful to notice that no other living creature (of which we are aware) has the ability to take such an inventory of life on our planet.  And, of course we know that there is no other living creature (of which we are aware) that uses language to the extent that human beings do.

Furthermore; language is symbolic, meaning that words are not the actual thing.  Spoken or written language relate  only to the ‘interior’ environment of human beings, what goes on in our thought life; our rational or mental realm.

It does appear that the creation and use of language by the human creature was/is an adaptation.  All adaptations to an environment are meant to extend the lives of individual creatures making such adaptations, and hence, the species.  Life… all living things have the same prime directive, that is: to survive. Could  the ability to take this inventory be, in some way itself an adaptation?  Could the ability of the human creature to create language and to take an inventory of living things be a complex form of adaptation meant to enhance our ability to continue to exist?

On a personal note…   I have noticed that my own ‘internal environment’  is often disturbed by taking in language… and now, photographs and moving images that give me the sense that I am personally being affected by and must respond to,  the events that are transmitted to me via the internet.  This language and these images now form part of my internal landscape, my internal environment.  Anyone who uses the internet as a means of taking in information is now tasked with adapting to that partially artificial (…’is it real or is it memorex’…) environment.

There were two separate news stories that were reported recently that affected my internal environment and caused me to feel sad, helpless, and mildly threatened.

The fist report was about events going on in Mexico. Apparently, the drug war has a new player involved. The situation as I previously understood it had to do with two groups of humans who are heavily armed and who kill one another regularly. The one group is the group who intends to market, so called,  illegal drugs in spite of government regulation. This group is reported in most news reports as ‘the bad guys’. The other group of heavily armed humans is the police who are, it is reported, mandated, to prevent the so called illegal drugs from being manufactured, transported, or sold.

(Most sane people realize that because of the tremendous amounts of money involved that the combined conditions of temptation and power will inevitably lead to ‘corruption’)

What I learned recently is that there is now a third group of armed humans involving themselves into this scene. The new group is reportedly made up of ordinary people who live in the communities where the men who intend to sell the illegal drugs are active. The new group think of themselves as a militia or as vigilantes who intend to protect their families and loved ones from the violence brought into their communities by the drug trade. The official government, it is reported, does not like these vigilante groups any more than they like the guys selling the so called,  illegal drugs.

The vigilantes don’t care. They are committed to putting an end to bullets flying around their neighborhoods.  If the official government won’t or can’t do anything to stop it, they will.  So, now there are three groups of armed human beings shooting at each other in some communities in Mexico.

http://news.yahoo.com/bishop-vigilantes-lock-horns-mexican-cult-cartel-161631838.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CaCw7VS7W4A.57QtDMD

How does this affect me personally in my real, actual physical reality right now? It doesn’t have any effect. I don’t live in Mexico. I am not in the illegal drug trade. I am not a police officer. I am not a member of the vigilante group.  Yet, learning about this story affected my internal environment.  I suppose I benefit in this way,  it may be useful for me to know what is going on in someone’s immediate, real environment, in that it gives me insights about how others of my species are adapting to an environment that threatens their survival. It gives me a chance to invent, in my own mind, other possible ways to adapt.

The other story that disturbed my inner environment did have to do with something that is closer to my current real world environment. It had to do with the official government of Ecuador sending armed men in to the offices of a politically active combined group of indigenous peoples who have been organizing demonstrations protesting the planned and ongoing destruction of their home lands; their immediate, real world, environment.  The government of Ecuador has recently decided that it will begin exploiting the oil that sits within the boundaries of one of the world’s most pristine areas, and Ecuador’s own Yasuni National Park.

(just inserted the url links to the above story from two different sources and posted them here. (as above stories) When I visited this blog site (as a viewer)  and hit the highlighted links, I was redirected to a page that said ‘server unavailable’. This is strong evidence that internet monitoring and control of news stories exists here. If you go to either google or yahoo and type in your own search for the story you should be able to get it. Search something like: ecuador shuts down office of protesters, or indigenous environmental group. Just tried google search using these exact words: ecuador shuts office of pachamama.  It came up)

I was very much impressed and encouraged by the recently written and adopted 1998 Constitution of Ecuador.  It is the only constitution in the world that specifically spells out ‘rights of nature’ as well as the ‘rights’ of indigenous peoples.

When I learned of the news story of the official government of Ecuador physically closing the offices of these indigenous protestors who were acting in accordance with specific  Constitutional provisions and were doing so to protect not only themselves, but the ‘rights of nature’, I was again saddened, disappointed, and felt a bit threatened.

One would think that humans, with the ability to create language and to take an inventory of living things would behave in ways that would enhance their survival quotient.

How am I to interpret these events? How am I to make sense of them? They make no sense. It is as though human beings have lost sight of their own survival imperative, or that  some have thrown in the towel.

As long as the (specifically human) environment of the BUY-O-SPHERE  takes precedence over the environment of the BIOSPHERE, the survival of the species known as Homo Sapiens (as well as all other life forms aboard planet Earth) will remain at risk.

 

 

Vilcabamba for the Holidays

VilcaCentral(my pic) Central Church Vilcabamba

Take a good look at the above picture. Extreme R. is a real estate office, to the left is a tarp and someone is working on something, continuing L. is an ATM (there is another ATM to the right of the real estate sign), next is the church. In front of the church is a truck parked so as to unload musical instruments. The truck belongs to the Loja symphony orchestra. To the left of the truck is a restaurant, an internet cafe, and another bank with another ATM.  The church is at the extreme Southern end of the square.

The above is an often repeated theme for the layout of the central park of many a town/pueblo throughout Central and South America. The park is surrounded on all sides with small town streets. (sometimes, as here, one or more of the roads is not open to vehicular traffic) The other three streets (E,W, and N) have restaurants, hardware store, mini markets, another real estate office, craft shops, and tour agencies.

SoSideOfCentralParkVilcaView of a garden section at the Southern end of the park.  (see the front of the truck?)

Am staying in a hostel where I know the Ecuadorian proprietors. Only been here one night and a day. Have made contact with many previously made friends and acquaintances. Saw my welder buddy with whom I left my Henrob gas (welding) torch on previous trips here. He uses it regularly, I was very happy to learn.

Photo2011L.Man100yrsR.Ma 98yrs.

The above photo is of a wall mural hanging inside a local restaurant

Featured are these two young gents from Vilcabamba. The man on the left was 100 years old and his pal to the right was 98 when this pic was taken in 2011. I have seen the fellow on the Right sitting in a chair in front of his house on a street in town.  They don’t throw the old folks under the bus around here. They are respected and appreciated fellow members of the community. I saw a  man in his 80’s sitting on the ground cutting pasture grass/weeds with a machete, in the hill country not far from here. Just to get to his finca (farm)where I observed him would require you do hike UPhill for about an hour and a half.

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The above photo is facing North; taken on the West side of the park

I will go through my gear one final time, honing it  down to eliminate any ‘excess’.  Only want to take ‘essentials’ with me on the river journey.  The upcoming boat rides on the Rio Napo and Amazon river will be a very different way to ‘journey’.  It’s not an easy thing to decide on what to take and what to leave. I want to be prepared (yes, I was a boy scout) but I don’t want to be having to mind/maintain/watch over things I won’t be using.  Also, I don’t know what to expect about space aboard these boats. My research leads me to believe that they are ‘cargo’ boats… so….  my ‘cargo’ should be OK. The other issue is keeping a constant ‘eye’ on stuff, which is complicated when you are a lone traveler. Happily, I have (re)secured a place to stash my excess gear during my journey.  I know it will be here waiting for me when I return next year. It’s good to have friends.

Had a sidewalk conversation with one of the long time residents of Vilca who emigrated here from Germany some 20 years ago or so.  Roland is always interested in my adventures. He looks to be about my age (sixty something).  He said the Amazon is a journey he had always wanted to take but never did. He described an idea for a vessel he was thinking of building to do the journey. He was going to use pvc pipes applied to a catamaran design. He was interested to know how wide the Amazon was where the Napo flowed into it.  I assured him I would take note of it and take pictures as well. I also reported to him the story of the 80 something gent from England who recently crossed the Atlantic in a (industrial drain pipe) pvc pipe vessel.

I rented my first horse in Vilcabamba in 2011.  Went on an all day ride to a waterfall up in the hills and back. While walking around town I saw the man who was my guide on the horse trek. He was working on his 4×4 truck in front of his house. Angel, (pronounced Ang hel) had a left front interior door panel off and wires were poking out. He was pleasantly surprised to see me.  We exchanged a few pleasantries. He likes horses and he has a motorcycle. We have common ground. He asked  me if I knew anything about why his electric window wasn’t working. I told him I knew very little, but suggested that if there was electricity at the wires, that  it seemed to me it could only be one of three things. I suggested making contact with a wire directly between the batter and the window motor. If the motor worked then, I’d think it would have to be the switch or a bad ground.

He put the interior door panel back on and invited me to ride with him to give rides to a couple of friends who had called, not far away.  The pace is easy in these parts.  No one is in much of a hurry about much of anything.  They do real work around here.  Lot’s of it. Work does not dominate or control their lives.  They work to make a living. They don’t live to make a ‘working’.  Many folks here do not own a vehicle of any kind. Young folks tend to have small motorcycles. Most folks just ride buses and walk. Angels friends did not have cars or motorcycles.

Will be here for Christmas and New Year. Why not? I’ve made friends here and I’m not in that pressed for time.  The Amazon is not going anywhere for the next few months. It will be there when I get there.

 

 

Leaving Loja

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View of  Loja Central Park from the window of my hostel

Awoke yesterday and accomplished the following in under three hours… as a ‘walk-in’… no appointments:

1. Got my teeth cleaned.   2. Got a tetanus shot, a typhoid fever shot and script for anti malarial medications (a script is not necessary but I asked the doc to write it down for me to hand to the pharmacist)

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Sign over the entry of Loja dentist’s office as seen from the sidewalk

There are six dentists (signs displayed on the outside of buildings, seen from the sidewalks) within a ten minute walk of my hostel. Not knowing any of them, I just took a chance and entered one with a sign that appealed to me.  Walked up two flights of stairs and into the open door. There was a young man sitting behind a counter at a computer. I introduced myself and requested a cleaning. He said something in Spanish that I did not fully comprehend. He went on Google translate and typed it in. He wanted me to pay for a ‘consultation’ fee before the cleaning.  Cut to the chase. I negotiated a price that included the ‘consult fee’.

Received excellent care. He’d been practicing for about 10 years.  I was the sole client. He was his own secretary and staff. No one else in the office.  He went right to work. There was a regular dental ‘couch’ with the built in ceramic spitoon attached. He used a water injector cleaning tool and the usual suction device. Had all the needed tools of the trade.  Topped it off with an anti-caries preventative treatment. Total time from walk in to being back on the sidewalk… 50 minutes.

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See the letters on the building… my Loja hostal

The doctors office where I got the two vaccinations is on the second floor of my hostel.  Didn’t take long to find it.  I explained to the doctor that I was planning to visit the jungle area.  He positioned himself in front of  his computer and asked me a few questions about when I received my previous vaccinations and what they were.  He agreed with my determinations about what I thought I needed.  Again, no secretary, no staff, he is it. No fancy machinery adorned his office.  I have high confidence that this man is a qualified and competent physician. His diplomas and certifications (from a local medical school) were proudly displayed on the walls of his office.  He administered the shots, gave me a script for the malaria pills and told me when they must be started and that I must take 1 pill per day while in the jungle.  He gave me a printed copy of the dosages of the vaccinations and date received. I paid him. Done. Time between entering the office and departing for my room upstairs: 20 minutes.

Here are some statues that were scattered in the hallways of my hostal 

P1000357 P1000358P1000359Loja respects Art

P1000349A different view taken from the central park

If I were to settle in Loja I would not need a car or motorcycle to get around.   All needs are to found  within a comfortable walking distance. If I chose to venture further, buses and taxis are to be found everywhere. Everything is, at least at this point in time, a very good value.

P1000343A Cathedral in Loja

Goodbye Loja, at least for now.  This is a  very nice town with good food and good people.

Next entry will be from Vilcabamba.

Loja

Time spent in Banos is always well spent. Noticed that I have allowed the condition of my body to run a bit slack. Have to assess my ‘reality’ in this regard. Sure, I could give into the idea that I’m older, which is (thankfully) so, but I also know that I am responsible for not minding the store. I have neglected to maintain any kind of  exercise or dietary regimen.  Must attend to my own laxity in that regard.  Future activity demands it.

Seems that it requires more effort to make myself get up and get moving. Age? Maybe, but I’m about experimenting with discovering if it might be something else. I notice that when I become very interested in something… passionate some would say, that activity  seems to be effortless. Like when a 7 year old kid pops out of bed in the morning and can’t wait to get going. Life is new and everything is exciting.

Maybe maintaining a youthful state of mind has more to do with finding/discovering things that promote that kind of exuberance.  Instances of ‘losing myself’ in the pursuit of some experience or knowledge is what has driven most of my life.  Boredom, I think, leads to oldness and staleness. When people are devoid of  dreams or imaginative vision that inspires their behavior, life becomes dull and colorless.  “Would you like fries with that order?” — “Paper or plastic, sir?” — “Welcome to…”

‘Freedom’ has more to do with what goes on between one’s ears (thought life) than it has to do with anything else.  ‘Liberty’ has to do with what the current cultural norms deem to be allowable/tolerable in terms of human behavior. ‘Liberty’ can be curtailed/altered by outside forces… usually exerted by someone in a uniform who is equipped and trained to apply physical force to either ensure or prevent certain specific human behaviors.  ‘Liberty’ and enforcers tasked with controlling behavior, work in the physical/exterior world.  ‘Freedom’ works in the interior/mental realm. Once a person understands this, no one can take away their ‘freedom’.

There are and have been many scientific investigations aimed at discovering methods designed to affect a person’s mental state…  thereby, affecting ‘interior/mental’ behavior. Aldous Huxley was among the first to point this out. Edward Bernays was among the first to achieve clear success in applying specific techniques. These techniques are a form of mental controls/manipulations that affect an individuals ability to maintain their own internal ‘freedom’.

Thus, we see, that  certain members of the human family actively and intentionally seek to control other members of the human family.  Liberty is controlled/manipulated in the physical realm. Freedom is controlled/manipulated in the mental/psychological realm. Apparently, some folks think this is a good thing. Others, not so much. I guess it all depends on your upbringing, training, point of view, opinion, belief system, station in life, or ‘spiritual evolution’ if you will.  Interesting,  is it not?

Extant cultures and revolutions within those cultures is and has always been about ideas and accepted norms having to do with ‘personal property’ and/or ‘ownership’.

Who gets to claim ‘ownership’ of anything? Who ‘owns’ you? That which has or exerts de facto ownership of anything gets to ‘control’ it, in any way they see fit. That is how it is and has always been.

Throughout South America there exist extant ‘tribal groups’.  Many still maintain and cultivate a ‘group identity’.  They dress in a certain way. They tend to specialize in specific trades. Some tend to agricultural pursuits. Some tend to animal husbandry. Some tend to fabric crafts. Some tend to metal crafts. All tend to trading and exchanging what they produce to get other items they  may need or want.

All of these tribal groups have been, and continue to be, affected by the Spanish influences to which they have been subjected for over five hundred years. The first ‘conquistadors’ were mostly motivated by personal greed that was hidden beneath the civilized cloak of the holy Roman catholic church.  That is a very specific difference between South and North America. It is useful to hold in one’s mind the specific contexts of the ‘protestant reformation’ vs. ‘the holy roman catholic church/empire’. The ‘pilgrims’ and the ‘puritans’ who came to the shores of North America were protestants.  Protest-ants.  What were they ‘protesting’?  You will have to familiarize yourself with Martin Luther to understand that.  Protestants have had very little historical influence  in South America… unless you understand that all the indigenous tribal peoples have been ‘protesting’/resisting  for a very long time.

Loja  (the wikipedia link)

Loja, (pronounced: Low Ha )Ecuador sits a bit more than 3 degrees South of the equator. Yet it has a mild year around climate because it of it’s altitude. Goldilocks would like it here. It’s not too hot, not too cold… it’s just right.

My room window looks directly onto a park.  Placed in pleasing symmetry around the park are benches, fountains, statues, trees (some Andean species of palm) and well trimmed hedges of various heights. It is clean and well maintained. There are always people in the park. Families. Young people, holding hands. Grandmothers/fathers, mothers carrying babies. People here look very healthy. They seem to be active and interested. Vibrant is a good word to describe this place. There is a mixture of dress here, some more formal than others. No one wears tattered or dirty clothing (except the very few folks who may be stretched out on a sidewalk occasionally). It is clear that people make an effort to look their best.  Cell phone devices are ubiquitous. Many folks are seen texting or reading messages. The world IS connected… trust me.  Anything you think you know, is known here. The only differences are in the cultural filters through which things are ‘known’.

Walking around the town yesterday (Saturday) I encountered small shops selling everything you can name. There is no need for shopping centers or big box stores here.  What you may find in certain ‘departments’ of the big box stores are being vended by private shop owners. Passing one (often less than 12 foot wide) shop after another one gets the sense that private enterprise is thriving here. Small restaurants, small gift shops, small electronic shops, small clothing stores, small perfume stores, small hardware stores, small shops specializing in all things ‘telephone’ older to the latest models, small book shops. There are narrow walkways leading into the interior of some buildings. Along the sides of these narrow walkways were beauty salon stalls, doctor offices, lawyer offices, cafes, shoe repair stalls,  stalls where people with  sewing machines will make you anything you want; from a suit, to replacing a lost button.

It is nearing Christmas. Evident is the same kind of gift buying activity as in the states but with perhaps less fervor. One does not get the sense that people here will be ‘overextending’ their reserves to satisfy an imposed false sense of obligation.

Loja is a small city with many museums. People here consider themselves to be educated and cultured. There is an emphasis on the arts. Many people play a musical instrument of some kind. They know the local dances. They celebrate the diversity of their particular place in South American history;  including the mingling of the indigenous people’s as well as the very evident Spanish influences.

There are several ATMs to be found in the city center. There are a dozen or more banks and ‘cooperativas’, (credit unions) represented here.  Ecuador uses the US dollar for currency. Odd as it may seem, many small shops and restaurants have a difficult time giving change for anything larger than a ten. The Sacagawea dollar coin is widely used. Very few one dollar bills here. There is a mixture of coins. The Sacagawea dollar, Washington quarter, Roosevelt dime, Jefferson nickel, and Lincoln cent are mixed with Ecuadorian minted 50, 25, 10, and 5 centavo coins.

I have the most comfortable bed I’ve slept on during the course of this journey. Have a private bathroom with a toilet that actually flushes well and have hot water that really works. Have hot water faucets on the sink as well as in the shower here. Hot water on a sink is rare in South America.  Have great internet service, great location, great value. Even though my window is facing the park, I am not troubled by traffic noise. Have been treated to the sounds of classical guitar and singing and church bells in the morning.  This being a cultured town;  there are no chickens, roosters, cows, llamas, sheep, burros or horses wandering the city streets. To be sure, all those can be found very near here.

Plan to get a  typhus shot and some malaria pills before I leave Loja.  Will  get my teeth cleaned here.

Then, on to sort through and secure my gear in a town South of here. Then, on to explore the Amazon basin and see what it is like to live in place where electricity is not on 24/7 and where the river is the road.  And, on to experiencing symbiotic Natural forces in a setting   not completely dominated by ‘civilization’, with the intent of perhaps learning  things (maybe re-learning) that ‘civilization’ has no vested interest in promulgating.

As comfortable as I am here, and as civilized and cultured a place that  Loja is…

Thoughts and images of the Amazon region inspire me to the degree that I feel like a little kid again, wanting to leap out of bed and explore the world!   I am grateful for the opportunity.

 

 

 

Beautiful Banos

P1000314Was in Banos during the 7 day ‘blog blackout’… No internet steady enough to post.. Took the above pic of a poster displayed in a shop window. Recognize the ‘floating rock’ idea? Ever see the film Avatar? There are scenes in Avatar that are very much like this poster. Banos reminds one of that mythical, far away, (Pandora)place in the film.

internet everywhere(Photo credit: funnyandhappy.com) Where’s my damn signal… one bar… zero bars… wtf…

The good: makes me focus on what is actually in front of me… the actual terrain, people, food and how it all affects the real me. The bad: Feeling ‘out of touch’ with the people who know me and who (I am happy to report) are interested in my whereabouts and my experiences.  The ugly: Not much of that to report except for the feelings (inside me) of frustration that were the result of MANY attempts this week to be faithful in the updating of this blog. Latest instance of that frustration came in the form of two electricity failures in my new digs. The other frustrating part of not being able to post regularly is that it breaks up my sense of momentum. I miss the ‘feeling’ of steady movement/motion when it’s absent.  Makes me feel ‘out of control’.  OK. I get it. Lesson learned. I’m NOT in control.

Despite the fact that the connection here (now in Loja) shows all five bars!… I was in the process of posting when the power went out, not once, but twice. The first time, no one was in the office to whom to report the outage . Had to shout (politely) and wait. This prompted a young lady (under the guidance of an Ecuadorian gentleman guest) to flip the MAIN breaker back on. It worked… for about an hour and a half.  The second  time, also just as I was about to post… no electricity.  I went downstairs again (three flights) and saw the gent who checked me in supervising two men who were (apparently) replacing the ‘faulty’ main breaker (for all the electricity in the entire hostel). I was told it would take ‘media hora’ (half an hour). Two hours later electricity seems to be holding steady. Internet  connection strength showing five bars!

What do I learn while traveling? Lots. About specific differences in specific locales, about ‘cultural contexts’, about how environmental factors affect the specifics of a particular culture, about how there are numerous different ‘cultures’ within the boundaries of so called ‘national borders’, and about how my own internal environment (personal thought life) is affected during the course of my experience of traveling.  Travel can and often does, make me feel ‘crazy’ one minute and ‘wise’ the next.  Sometimes I feel lonely and other times I feel connected to everyone. Travel (my brand of it) is a way of experimenting with/testing  one’s personal ‘beliefs’.  Travel, to me, is simultaneously challenging and personally edifying.

The more I do it, the less I can be ‘sure’ of anything and the more I realize that the world of ‘certainty’ is an illusion, and the more I realize that to go through life being ‘uncertain’ is perfectly fine. To understand that I live in an uncertain world is to gaze unflinchingly at  life and to recognize myself as a man who is daily surprised at the complexity of the process of ‘disillusionment’. Be careful what you ask for. Ignorance, it is said, is bliss. Maybe; but you can’t ‘dis-cover’ anything if you choose to remain ignorant. The process of ‘dis-covery’ is the process of knowing yourself and your relationship to the world you inhabit.  Such as it is.  (P.S. There is no ‘is’… your world and everything in it, including you, is always changing)

BANOS – (supposed to be a mark over the ‘n’…  Spanish pronunciation is: Bon-yoce)

P1000185(my pic) Painting in museum inside the ‘Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water’.  Yep.  In the painting is the local volcano, Tungurahua (pronounced: toong goo raw wah, emphasis on ‘raw’). Last time I was here it was actively spewing ash all over town. This is not unusual around here. It is the heat from Tungurahua that heats the water that fills the public mineral baths. Zero cost to ‘heat’ the water. Nice, huh? (if you can tolerate the uncertainty of being buried in hot ash some day) The painting also shows ‘the Virgin’ who is reported to have been seen by a few local believers in times past. There have been many ‘miracle cures’ attributed to the baths.

I say; let those who will, believe what they want, long as they don’t make me a ‘bad guy’ for believing what I want. What I know for sure is that it makes me feel great sitting in the water of these mineral baths. I know from past personal experience that ‘transdermal uptake’ of minerals is (for me) real.

Banos has been a ‘tourist destination’ for many decades. On weekends the place is packed. It is a destination for Ecuadorians from all parts of the country as well as people from other parts of S. America and the world. It is considered a major ‘extreme adventure’ destination. You can hire guides from any number of scores of different companies that specialize in adventures that include: 3 to 4 day trips in the jungle,  ‘canyoning’… (get in a wet suit and helmet and rappel into deep gorges with water gushing down around you) ‘swingjumping’ (Jump off a bridge in a harness, without the ‘stretch’ of the cord) paragliding, horseback riding, rent a quad or a motorcycle or a bicycle and traverse the ‘rutas de cascadas’ (route of waterfalls).  Competition is abundant here so it tends to bring costs down and variety/quality up. That include the restaurant fare.

P1000231Cuy (guinea pig) being cooked over a charcoal fire directly in front of a restaurant, as seen from the sidewalk. (my pic)

Hard not to like the place. Very easy to get comfortable here; not conducive to continuing the travel process. Only complaint (as noted above) was  internet service. The story was that there was this one special person who understood the mysterious workings of the internet (The town’s ISP guy) and that he was away in Quito and would not return for at least 48 hours. (…six days later, the internet was iffy everywhere in Banos). I tried to post while at a restaurant that advertised wi-fi. The service was interrupted every 10 minutes. Frustrating to the point of quitting or throwing a fit. I opted to accept it as a ‘local condition’, and no longer bothered myself by attempting to log on to that frustration.

P1000310Lots of waterfalls to experience here

After a 25 minute hike down to bottom of the trail I was winded. The 35 minute hike back up kicked my butt. I’m in need of a physical overhaul.Sitting on my butt watching the world go by from the seat of a a motorcycle for a year and a half was not like roller blading across the country.  Bottom line: I need more exercise to feel good about myself.

P1000305(my pic) Pristine pool formed by the falls

The hike comes at the end of the ‘chiva’ ride from the town. You view several falls along the ‘ruta de cascadas’ along the way. A ‘chiva’ is a tarp covered bus/truck with rows of seats for tourists. The route takes you through about 3 tunnels carved through solid rock. You can rent a bicycle (all downhill) and traverse the route (about 30km). P1000258(my pic)Yes, that rock is directly over the chiva and the roadway.

There is a stop where you can allow yourself to be harnessed up and connected to a cable that will zip you (hence ‘zipline’) across a gorge to a lower station on the other side. The drop below is about 300 feet. The span is about two football fields long. This is NOT Disneyland, nor is it an online game. Some folks hang upside down all the way across. No kidding. I chose to sit that one out. Obviously works great for a lot of folks. I didn’t have confidence in the equipment.  I did get on a cable car that whisks across a span further along on the route.

P1000279(my pic) View of Manto de la Novia falls taken from a cable car spanning the gorge

Drop below is about 200 feet.  There were 9 other folks on the cable car. It shudders to a stop in two places for folks to take pictures. Once near the falls (here) and once directly in the middle. You can see parts of the cable car in the lower left and right of the pic.  Manto de la Novia means ‘the Veil of the Bride’.

P1000287(My pic) View of Manto de la Novia from other side of the gorge

 

 

 

 

Thoughts Between Otavalo To Banos

CentralOtavalo(My pic) Central park in Otavalo

This post is playing ‘catch up’… arrived Banos 3 nights ago.

Here are a few ideas about how the experience of looking out of a bus window might be  analogous to the experience of forming ones ‘worldview’.

Imagine you are on a bus and looking out the window. You are in a window seat on the left side of the bus. Your view, therefore is approximately 90 degrees (to the left) of the direction that the bus is traveling.  Now, imagine that the bus is on a two lane road with a center dividing strip. Along the route, in the center dividing strip are planted trees at regular and irregular intervals. On the other side of the center dividing strip is the other lane of traffic traveling in the opposite direction from you, you see cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles heading your direction and you see the left side of them as they pass your window.

One the other side of the road there are shops and houses and yards with trees and animals and people in the yards. You can see that just to the rearof the houses is a steep decline.  You can see that the decline goes down to a river.  You can occasionally see the river. Off in the distance you can see the other side of the river and you see that the terrain begins to slope upwards. Further off in the distance, you see that the incline crests and beyond it you see that there is another mountain chain behind it. You see the sky and clouds above those distant mountains.

BusQuitoQuitumbe bus station in Quito taken while waiting for bus to Banos

What I have described above is a series of parallel features of a passing landscape. There is the 1st ‘layer’ of the trees in  the center strip that pass by your view not more than 4 feet from your window. There is the oncoming traffic ‘layer’ that passes by your window maybe 20 feet away.  There are the varying ‘depths’ of objects in the scenery on the other side of the road, beyond the oncoming traffic; the roadside stands (25 feet), the shops and houses (between 50 and 75 feet), the trees and people and animals (between 25 and 75 feet). There is the river a distance down from the slope behind the shops, houses, trees, people, animals, (300 to 600 feet).  There is the scenery on the other side of the river and up the slope on the other side (200 yards to a 3/4 of a mile). There is the mountain crest  beyond the crest of the immediate one (3 to 5 miles or more). There are the clouds above and beyond the distant mountain crests (5 to 15 miles or more).

Your eyes and your brain process ALL of these parallel features simultaneously as you look out your window, and as the bus is in constant forward motion. The road the bus is on is not straight, it has many curves. The road is not on flat terrain. The bus route has inclines and declines as well as the curves. Your eyes, your brain, and your MIND process all of these passing images/features and movements as they occur to appear out your window.

Are you experiencing BEING with all of those images/features as you pass through the land? In some mysterious way, you must be because you ‘take them all in’ as they pass before your eyes.  There is not  time nor opportunity to become ‘personally involved’ nor to develop ‘opinions’ about any particular image or feature, but you do ‘take them all in’, do you not?  This is what seems to me to be an example of ‘observing without judgement’, and without ’emotional attachment’. There is nothing to lose nor gain by simply being the observer of the passing views.

One can only experience, now.  There is no such actual thing or place as ‘past’. There is no such actual thing or place ‘future’. Notice the operative verb: ‘is’.

Now, for the real mind bender.  What if everything is ALL ‘now’? What if (as in looking out the window of the bus) it’s ALL one enormous simultaneous event? What if there is no ‘separate’ anything? What if there are no ‘different’ times or places or individual components?  What if, (like looking out the bus window) our ‘consciousness’, creates individuation and otherness because we are not yet practiced enough to ‘take it all in’ alexgrey_vajrayana_1240204364_1240219437simultaneously?

If you find the above observation useful to you in some ‘parallel’ way, please put it to use in some pleasing way for yourself and others .  If not, that’s OK too. Nothing is wrong.

Have been noticing that everywhere there are experiences that lead me to contemplate life as ‘omniplex’.  (Vajrayana, the diamond way… one pathway to ‘enlightenment’… Gee whiz, kids!… are all those rituals really necessary? )

Meanwhile, back to describing the journey.  (de scribing… isn’t that…  un writing? mmmm)

On to the next post.

 

 

Surreal cemetery, living green sculptures and white stone sepulchers

Been a few days since the last post…

Got a taxi from the Metropol in Ipiales to take me to the border. The immigration process exiting Colombia was very simple. Next, walked down the steps of the building and across the bridge into Ecuador I went. There is a pedestrian walkway that runs in the center of the roadway. About 200 feet from the Ecuador side of the bridge is the immigration office there. There is a large parking lot in front of the entrance. Entered and was given a blank form to fill out detailing my info and purpose of visit. Many countries have similar forms… but not all.

BridgeColEcuaBorder

The immigration officer asked me if this was my first visit to Ecuador (trick question… because I had a brand new passport). If I had answered no, hoping that they would not check and then they discovered that I had been there before, it is unknown what might have happened, but for sure, it would not have been to my benefit. I did answer the question in the affirmative, stating that this was my fourth entry into Ecuador.

The man turned to his computer and asked when was my last visit. I told him. He tapped his keyboard a few more times and then grabbed his stamp machine (the magical temporary visa stamp!) and then took a pen and wrote something over the stamp he had made in my passport. He placed my passport in the metal tray under the thick glass between us and slid it in my direction. I retrieved it and inspected the stamp. He had written over it with his pen, ’57 dias’.  That meant that my stay in Ecuador was limited to 57 days. 

The normal stay for people visiting for the first time is 90 days. Ecuador calculates their ‘year’ as 365 days like everyone else. Difference here is that many countries do a ‘do over’ at the beginning of every ‘calendar year’.  Not Ecuador. They calculate their ‘year’ as counting the time spent in their country beginning with your last entry. My last entry was sometime in May of 2013. I spent 23 days of my 90 days. So, my next 90 day period does not begin until May 2014. 

I already had US currency (that is what is used in Ecuador) so no need to exchange currencies. Total time elapsed from arriving at the ‘border’: 70 minutes. Now, having officially exited Colombia and having officially entered Ecuador I was ‘free’ to proceed further. Got a taxi to take me directly to the cemetery in Tulcan. Ride took less than 10 minutes. Fare 3 dollars.

The municipal cemetery of Tulcan, Ecuador is something that I stumbled across on the web. Didn’t know it existed. It is highlighted in most guidebooks as an interesting site. It is.

Words and  pictures can only begin to give the reader or viewer a sense of this incredible place. It is magical in an eerie sort of way.

EntranceCemeteryTulcanENTRANCE TULCAN CEMETERY (my pic)

The topiary gardens cover over a hectare of land. A hectare is about two and a half acres.  There is not one piece of the topiary that is identical with another. They are all different. Topiary is the art of trimming a living bush, tree, or shrubbery in a way that closely resembles the way a sculptor chisels a piece of marble or granite to create a sculpture. The difference of course is that marble and granite are rocks and bushes, trees, or shrubberies are living things.

(From Ecuador News Magazine: Tulcan:

—Creator Jose Franco himself is buried within his cemetery under the Sculpture of the Green Holy Field. Franco left a written ode that reads, “In Tulcán, a cemetery so beautiful that it invites one to die.” His five sons continue the maintenance of the Topiary Garden Cemetery and the creation of its fascinating shrubbery to this day.—)

BELOW: THE MAN WHO’S VISION IT WAT TO CREATE THIS PLACE

TheMasterTopiaryArtist

What a marvelous idea frothy with contrasts!  This place is one man’s idea of a sacred dedication comprised of living beings from the plant kingdom contrasted with the remembering of departed humans (which in scientific terms are animals) living plants/dead animals. Jose Franco began his life’s work in 1957.

Some of the sculptures are repeat forms of a series of arches. Some areas give the feel of being enclosed in a kind of massive green, castle courtyard.  Some of the sculptures are of various human forms, some animal forms. Some whimsical, some sacred. Some of the sculptures resemble large green ‘tiki gods’ reminiscent of Easter Island. Some are like totems. 

Standing at the entrance to the cemetery one can only see one of the walkways. The experience of ‘perspective’ is powerfully present. One can see that the (approximately 15 foot) walkway is lined on both sides with a near continuous hedge of topiary. Off in the distance are glaring white stone edifices. These visual feasts are contrasted with the sky that is filled with white to grey long clouds that loom against a blue grey sky. I took many pictures and a few videos. Upon reviewing them, it is evident that they in no way capture the scale or the variety of the place.

BELOW IS A CRYPT.  IN FRONT: A QUOTE OF LEONARDO DA VINCEP1000159

BELOW: AMAZING LIVING SCULPTURES IN CEMETERY OF TULCAN, ECUADORP1000139

Tulcan (as are all parts of South America) is home to indigenous tribal peoples.  These humans have made this their home for at least 10,000 years. Some archeological evidence suggests a human presence in South America as far back as 20,000 years. Long before the European/Spaniards arrived, there existed these tribal human cultures.  One can sense an ancient connection to this land, this place, in the faces of the inhabitants. The faces here have the appearance that tells of strength, health and overall contentment.

Why some humans seek to rule, dominate or control others is something that I do not fully comprehend apart from recognizing that it is so. 

From what honest investigators have discovered (have actual physical evidence of) is that the first humans were all African. From Africa we (as a species) began fanning out all over Europe, then East to Asia, and then floated to Melanasia, and Australia (the Australian aborigines are still very much a mystery). The best guess at interpreting the evidence is that there were at least two different times when the earth went through ice ages followed by thawing events.

It was during the ice ages that humans migrated from Northern Europe, across the Bering sea on an ‘ice bridge’ and into what we now call North America.  The first human immigrants fanned out across the North American continent. Gradually more humans migrated Southward.  It therefore, seems to me, that South America is indeed, the real ‘New World’ as far as humans are concerned.

Back to the tale of my intrusion into this land…

After spending a bit over an hour at the cemetery I got another taxi to take me to the bus station. Arrived there about 11AM.  There are so many people who travel by bus here that buses are going every direction at nearly any time during the daylight and often into the night. The cab driver nearly handed me off to a bus that was departing immediately. My luggage was picked up from the pavement where the taxi driver put it on the ground from his trunk…and off it went in the hands of one of the men from the bus. I paid for my ticket to Otavalo and saw my bag enter the bus I was going on.

One thing I learned having been in this part of the world before is to keep track of your luggage! Don’t assume anything. Watch, ask, and be absolutely sure. Many times (but not always) bus attendants will put a sticker on your luggage and then give you a matching numbered receipt that you must show to retrieve your luggage from the compartment in the underbelly of the bus upon your arrival. I have found that the rural Andes highland people to be generally very honest and hardworking folks. As everywhere, there are exceptions to the rule. Trust wisely.

 

12 Hours on a Colombian bus

Checked into the Hotel Metropol, Ipiales about a half hour ago. Glad that the report I read was correct, there are two hotels directly across the street from the bus station.  Ipiales is 5km or less to the Ecuador border.

I’m pooped. Left the hostel in Cali 8:10AM. Got to the station just in time to catch an 8:30AM bus to Ipiales.  The bus company’s name: ‘Transipiales’. There were not enough passengers to fill a big bus, so they put a 15passenger mini bus into service. We pulled out of the station about 8:45AM.

Then the adventure started.  (Will post a few pics of the trip tomorrow, I’m too tired to slog through the process right now.)

About an hour South of Cali we were flagged over by the Colombian ejercito (army). The driver pulled over to  place that was far enough off the road to make it safe for the passengers. A man in full military field dress, complete with helmet, flak jacket, etc, instructed all passengers to exit the vehicle. The men were given a full pat down search. Had to stand about a foot and a half from the bus, then lean against the rear of bus with both hands. Many passengers were asked to present their ‘cedulas’ (ID).  I was patted down, most thoroughly around boots and legs, not too much around the waist, nothing above the waist.  It was conducted without much bravado, just routine stuff to these guys, I guess. When we remounted the bus (less than 15 minute stop) I asked the man sitting next to me if this was normal. He indicated in the affirmative.  Business as usual around here.

After being underway for about a half hour, the driver pulled over to the right of the road, slowly. I detected a ‘plunketa, plunketa, plunketa’ as we slowed to a stop. Flat tire.  Left front.  The driver went right to work, opened the rear door, lowered the spare, located the lug wrench and the jack and got right on it.  Our location was less than optimum. We were on a two lane road with speed limits around 50mph (80kmph). Trucks whiz by, a few serious road bicylclists passed. Most passengers got out to smoke or urinate in the grass, being very modest in choice of location and aim.  Having been a limo/bus driver myself for many years, I felt bad for the thirty something driver. His shirt was white and spotless.

FlatFrontLeftDone

Front left flat: done

A couple of male passengers and myself stood by and gave the driver both moral and physical support. A few stood their ground about a foot into the road from the curb, so as to give the oncoming traffic a clear picture that something was going on and that they needed to slow down and/or swerve a bit to miss us.  After the lug nuts were removed and the flat was taken off, I offered to position the spare on the hub. I was wearing jeans and farm coat. I said ‘permite mi, senor, usted tenge limpia ropa’. (please let me help, your clothes are very clean). He was surprised and pleased. All I really did was help a little. No less than the other folks.  Myself, the driver and one other man made quick work of putting the 8 lug nuts back on. The driver finished the tightening, lowered the jack and put the jack and lug wrench away. The other man and I rolled the flat towards the rear where the driver placed it back in the cradle under the carriage. All the luggage was put back in it’s place. We all reboarded and back on the road.  Total time, about 25 minutes.

An hour after putting on the spare tire, we were once again flagged over by young men in uniform. Almost the same routine. No pat down searches this time. All passengers had to produce a document, me included.  Another soldier boarded the bus while all the passengers were standing on the side of the road. We could see him do what appeared to be a thorough search of the passenger compartment. I asked if I could take a photo. To my surprise I was permitted to do so.  I took a pic with a couple soldiers and myself, I hold the camera at arms length and then estimate where the lens is pointing. Got a decent pic. Took a few more of the coffee and plantain growing across the street. Total time, about 15 minutes.

Another half hour later, the driver pulled into a service area. There was a small restaurant, and a llantero (tire changing man).  All the passengers once again exited the bus and by this time some were no longer smiling.  The llantero had all the tools necessary to change tubes, tires and can get whoever pulls in back on the road asap. He went right to work loosening lug nuts, employing his jack. The driver opened up the rear door, removed some luggage, and lowers the the cradle in which rests the flat tire. He rolled it over to the llanteros shed.  The llantero had the tire clear of the rim in minutes. I went to the restaurant and got a couple small containers of yogurt. I don’t like to drink anything when riding a bus all day. No explanation necessary.

FixingFlatHaving flat tire repaired… get food… and we fix flat tires

Took some pictures of the restaurant and a few of the beautiful terrain. It was a really nice day. No rain, only partly cloudy, not humid, in the 80’s F.  The tire guy had the tire repaired and was putting air in it when I returned from the restaurant. The driver told him how much pressure he wanted in the tire 60 (somethings… I don’t know if they use psi or not). The spare tire was returned to the cradle, the once flat tire, now repaired was placed back on the hub. The lug nuts were tightened. The luggage replaced in the rear. The passengers reboarded the bus, The driver paid the llantero.  Off we go again. Time spent: 30 minutes.

About an hour later we pulled into a bus station in a small city named Pastaza. A few people get out, a few get on. Total time at the bus station: 15 minutes. Off we go again, weaving our way through the city traffic. We had  been on the road (including all those stops) for four hours.  The driver looked  confident and happy to have the flat fixed and riding with spare. The bus was full. There were no empty seats.  I asked the man sitting next to me how long would it be before we get to the next bus station, where he was getting off, another city names Pasto. He told me 4 hours.  OK.  I glanced at  my watch, 12:30PM.  If there are no more unexpected stops, we should pull into Pasto bus station before 5PM. I knew that from Pasto to Ipiales was about 2 hours.

The driver negotiated the inclines and declines and  the never ending curves as well as anyone driving safely could. There were many other vehicles on the road.  Tractor trailer trucks, fuel hauling trucks, medium sized cargo trucks, pick up trucks, buses of many different sizes, a fair share of motorcycles, and a few cars.  We were often behind slower moving semi tractor trucks.  The road was only two lanes. Never ending curves, making for blind corners, cannot see around the corners. Never ending inclines and declines. I recognized some parts of the journey from having ridden this road on a motorcycle not more than two years prior.

We were making fair progress, the driver did manage to safely pass many trucks. Clearly, to do this safely in these road conditions, is an art.  We had been on the road for about two hours and… the bus pulls into a restaurant.  There are specific stops where the buses make arrangements to stop on regular basis. This was one of the ‘regular’ stops.  All passengers exit. Some go into the restaurant and order food. Some head for the banos (bathrooms).  There was an outside sink and single faucet to serve those who availed themselves of the bathrooms. For cabolleros/hermanos (men) there is a urinal trough positioned away from sight of the mujeres (women)  bathroom.

ArbolKapokReal Kapok tree in parking lot at rear of restaurant

I like to take advantage of being upright as often as I can while I’m on these all day bus trips. I ordered another two small yogurts and walked around outside.  I think I hit the ‘tracks’ function on the Spot device at this stop.  As I was walking around taking in the gorgeous scenery, I notice a uniformed soldier walking around in a field about 200 feet away from the restaurant. He was carrying a field radio. I could see him adjust the antennae and speak in the microphone and watched as he spoke and adjusted and listened. Looked like he was looking for better reception.  I thought to myself: “Just how many uniformed young men are lurking in theses beautiful hills?”  Unknown. I also do not know if it is necessary. I just don’t have enough information to form a judgement. I have heard (and read online) that there was a time, not all that long ago, when buses were boarded by armed men (revolutionaries?, I don’t know) and the passengers were robbed at gunpoint.  I have heard (and read online) that these occurrences no longer happen or are very rare.  I asked and was again surprised that I was allowed to get a photo of two more soldiers who showed up at the restaurant in full combat gear.

ColombianRegularsNofPasto

The ‘regular’ stop took about 45 minutes. Once again we were underway. This time the terrain became more curvy, and steeper. More traffic. Hence, we were going very slow much of the time. We finally pulled into the bus station in Pasto about 6PM.  To my surprise, all the other passengers got off at this stop. There was only myself and the driver left. I thought we might be taking on more passengers. That did not happen.  I was once again surprised (lot of surprises happen during adventures).

After having been parked at the Pasto bus station, the driver opened the door where the passengers get in, and grabbed my ‘carry on’ bag and pulled it out of the bus. He handed it to me, and a piece of paper. He then quickly  opened the rear luggage door and grabbed my other bag and said I should follow him.  We walked briskly towards another mini bus. It was now dark.  He handed off my luggage to a man who turned out to be the driver of another company. The piece of paper my original driver had handed me was a ticket for passage to Ipiales on this new (to me) bus.

I could understand the dilemma. I was the only passenger left on the bus I arrived on.  It would make economic sense for a company to not want to proceed 2 hours with only one fare and then have to return.  I could have objected… ‘Hey, I bought a ticket to Ipiales with ‘Transipiales’ …(the name of the company I bought the ticket from in Cali).  I didn’t make  squawk because  I really understood the maneuver. I don’t know whether the driver bought the ticket with ‘cooperativa integral taxis belalcazar’ (the new bus company) or not. Maybe this is standard operating procedure. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is I got to Ipiales in the time that I was originally quoted in Cali… 12 hours.

The trip of Pasto to Ipiales did take 2 hours. It was dark. The road conditions remained, up, down, back and forth.  The last hour the bus could not have been doing more than 35mph. We were traveling safely.  The driver pulled into the bus station in Ipiales at nearly 8:30PM. Departed Cali 8:30AM… 12 hours, as quoted.  Nothing to gripe about.  Adventures… ya just gotta love ’em.

Did hit the ‘I’m OK’ button on the Spot device while standing in front of the Hotel Metropol. Hope the message got sent.  If not, this is being sent through cyberspace… now.  I’m logging off as soon as it’s sent. I’m beat.