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Sunday, April 25, 2010

More about Enjoying Matt

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck, Matt and I drove up to Ingapirca in Puff-Puff on Thursday. Ingapirca is the biggest archaeological Inca complex of Ecuador. The ruins are located about 2 hours away from Cuenca. They date from the 15th and 16th Century. Chuck and I have been multiple times, but this was the first time for Matt.

I think that Matt was thrilled the most by seeing the llamas that roam the site.

Here is Chuck checking out the temple of the sun.

Since we were in Puff-Puff we were able to tour around the town of Canar. We had our lunch there and looked around a bit. Here is a sculpture in the middle of a traffic circle in Canar that I had never seen before. It is quite unique.

On Friday, Matt and I took the red double deck tour bus. He did it last year and was game to do it again. On this particular tour, we shared the top of the bus with school children. They were enjoying a field trip.

When we got to the top of Turi, a nice man offered to take our picture. Here we are: a happy mom and son.

Matt and I spent Saturday morning shopping. We met Chuck around noon and went to the Mall del Rio for lunch.

This morning was our customary Sunday walk to town with Rich and Nancy. We got an early start and went to Cafe Austria for breakfast. On the way, we passed a little old lady outside of a church frying pastries. I succumbed, they were only 5 for a $1, we needed to keep our energy up until we got downtown. Matt captured us sneaking a snack.

We had a nice breakfast. Nancy and Rich had errands to do, so we went to the park and met up with some friends and went for more refreshments.

All in all, I think Matt is having a marvelous time. His visit will soon be over and he and I will be heading back to the U.S.

We are enjoying him while we have him.

Nancy (Chuck and Matt)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Puff Puff - Our little Red Dragon

Dear Family and Friends,

You may remember, awhile back I posted on the blog that we had bought a car. We bought the car (a SsangYong) in early March. It takes awhile for money to get transferred from the U.S. to Ecuador and for checks to clear the local bank.

The day before we left to return to the U.S. Chuck got a call from the dealership saying that their bank had cleared our check and that we could pick up the car. Chuck asked them to hold the car until our return. So for a couple of weeks, the dealership had our money and our car.

We returned to Cuenca last Thursday and Chuck called the salesman on Friday. Chuck decided to have an add on installed so the salesman told him he could pick up the car on Saturday at noon.

Chuck took the city bus over on Saturday and drove the car home.

Yesterday, we took it for it's first ride. Chuck wanted to drive up into the Andes (Caja mountains) to test the car's performance on the steep mountain climbs.

Before we left, I suggested that we should name our car. We thought and thought. Finally Chuck said that Ssangyong is Korean for twin dragons. He thought "Puff" might be a good name. We all agreed but decided since we were talking about twin dragons we should go with "Puff-Puff."

The trip went great....the road was great and not crowded and Puff-Puff performed great. The mountain highway was a cinch for her.

Since we were in the car and not in a bus or other public transportation, we were able to stop and explore and take some pictures.

Here is Chuck with Puff-Puff.

Here is Matt by a mountain river.

The scenery was great. I would just say when and Chuck would slow down so I could take pictures.

We drove all the way up to the top of the mountains. There is a place at the top called "Three Crosses."

Here is Chuck and Matt getting out of the car and Puff-Puff's rear end.

Here is Matt and Chuck posing behind the three crosses.

Here is a couple who were sitting across the road waiting for the bus. They watched us park the car and watched our every movement until we left. I am sure we were entertainment for them because we could hardly breath up there....14,000 ft. Slow walking.

On the way home, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant that specializes in mountain trout. I had never been to this restaurant before because it is away off the road. It would easily be possible to get there from Cuenca by taxi, but it would be very difficult to get there on the bus.

Matt took this picture of Chuck and I outside the restaurant.

And he took another one of "mama" fixing to dig into her fried trout.

Although we will not be using Puff-Puff for transportation inside the city of Cuenca. She will make it easier for us to visit surrounding areas, explore the rest of Ecuador and even explore the rest of South America.

We are happy with her, she proved herself to be a fine little red dragon.

Nancy (and Chuck and Matt)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Matt's Visit to Cuenca

Dear Family and Friends,

After a week of shopping, and getting other chores done in Richland, we started packing to head back to Cuenca. The main purpose of our trip was to get our son, Matt, and bring him back with us. He will be spending his two week vacation with us. This is an annual trip for him.

Before we left for the U.S. we agreed to bring back some items for our Cuenca friends. We had them shop online and have their goodies shipped to our U.S. address. When we got back to the states, it seemed like Christmas with so many boxes to open. This worked out real well, because we did not have to actually do the shopping. They were able to pick out the exact items they wanted and pay for them, we were just the pack mules.

We also brought back a suitcase for U.S. friends Randy and Karen. They are moving to Cuenca the first of July and, like us, are only bringing with them what they can bring in suitcases. Bringing this extra piece of luggage was a real bonus for them.

Chuck drove to Minnesota to visit Merri, our oldest daughter, and the grandchildren there. He flew from Minneapolis/St Paul to Atlanta and met Matt and myself there. We flew from Atlanta to Ecuador together.

Here is Chuck and Matt in the Atlanta airport. It was a long day of traveling and we still had the long leg of the trip yet to go.

We finally arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Here is Matt and Chuck are just outside the airport with our six large pieces of luggage and our six carry on pieces. We sailed through customs and were glad to be back in Ecuador.

We spent the night in the Howard Johnson hotel in Guayaquil. Although I had made reservations and given them our credit card number, when we arrived at 1:00am they said that our room had been given to someone else. I raised such a ruckus that they canceled the reservation of another guest and gave us that room. The "ruckus" part is not something I enjoy doing, but in this case, it had to be done.

The next morning, Chuck secured a private van to drive us to Cuenca. We left our hotel at 11:00am and we got to our condo by 2:30pm. It is really amazing the difference the new highway makes.

After we passed over the Andes (Caja mountains) I saw the beautiful valley that takes us into Cuenca. Such a beautiful sight in itself, but because it meant we were almost home it was exceptionally beautiful.

We unpacked as soon as we got home. We put all the things for others on the dining room buffet. Then we realized we didn't remember what belonged to whom. So we shot out an email and invited the receivers to come on Saturday afternoon for a "claim your stuff" wine and snacks affair.

Matt took this picture of us all sitting around the dining room table catching up.

We still have one suitcase packed in the U.S., filled with requested items, so I guess we will be doing this again after I return from escorting Matt home. It was such fun seeing our friends. Even though we were only away for a couple of weeks, it seemed much longer.

We were anxious to get back to our Sunday walk. So Sunday, we got up bright and early and headed over to Rich's and Nancy's.

Matt was eager to join in on the Sunday walk. Thanks to his photography, I have some interesting pictures that we could not take ourselves.

Matt took this picture of the dedicated walking foursome.

This is a picture we could never take ourselves. Matt was lagging behind and made this picture. Now we know what we look like sauntering along the sidewalks to town.

As you can see, Rich and Chuck are quite a bit ahead of the two Nancys. Most of the time however, we are leading the way. Honest!!

Nancy and Rich have a wonderful post on their blog about our Sunday adventure. You can see our fun day by clicking here.

Monday, Matt and I headed to the modern art museum. We had a great time even though they only had one traveling exhibit. The others were still being installed and we will have to wait to see them.

Here is Matt getting a close up view of one of the art pieces.

And here is Matt, nose to nose, with a sculpture.

The museum is an an old building that dates back to the 18th century. The building itself is fun to see.

Our friend, Nancy did a blog about the modern art museum a while back. If you want to see click here.

Today we had a great adventure, but I will share that tomorrow.

Life is good!!

Nancy (and Chuck and Matt)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trip to the oriente - 5 - Animals

Dear Family and Friends

This blog will focus on a few of the animals that Brad and I encountered in amazon rain forest. We had an excellent naturalist and a skilled guide, and were able to see many exotic animals close-up. These encounters were the highlight of our visit.

The lake at the Sacha Lodge is a quiet place to swim in the heat of the day. Brad and I were in the lake every day, like this:

The second day we were at the Lodge, after lunch, and after our free time swim, we attended a class on fishing for Piranha !!! After our teacher caught one, he said, "Come to the other side of the dock, and I will show you how a Caiman eats a Piranha !!! !!!" Wow, and we were just swimming in the lake - Yikes!

Just to show the scale, here is the Caiman as I saw it from the swimming pavilion. It still looks big to me, but we were told that it was small.

The biggest birds we saw up close were "stinky turkeys". The real name is Hoatzin They stink because they are unique - they eat leaves and digest them with the aid of bacteria. Their digestive system is closer to a cow's than to that of other birds because part of their crop acts as a rumen. The chicks have "claws" on their wings and use them to climb trees, but we saw only adults like this one:

We saw ther smallest and largest primates in the rain forest. The Pigmy Marmoset, the smallest, was hard to photograph. We saw a family of them scrambling up and down a tree trunk.

The next larger primate was the Owl or night monkey. These are nocturnal, but our naturalist knew where one was nesting in a hollow tree. We menuvered our canoe under the tree. Then the guide rapped his paddle on the side of the canoe - the noise woke the monkey, and it looked at us.

We saw and heard troups of Squirrel monkeys jumping from tree to tree. Supprisingly, the noise associated with them is produced by the trees rather than vocalization. We quickly became adept at associating the crashing sound of palm trees flexing with the presence of Squirrel monkeys.

The Howler monkeys which we saw were too far away for photography. We observed a troup of them quietly sleeping in a distant tree. We heard another troup who were over a kilometer away, but did not spot them.

We were very fortunate to see Capuchin monkeys close up. A troup of them came right down to the water's edge while we were on a canoe trip. Our naturalist said that he haad never seen them that close in all his years in the rain forest. We were treated to a dominance display by the alpha male, but my camera batteries were too low to make a movie. He stood over us and glared. Then he picked up a large stick, snaped it in two and threw ther broken parts down with a dramatic jesture as if to say "see how strong I am - you better leave my family alone". I do have a photo of part of his family.

On one of our walks in the forest, the guide spotted a movement on the leafy ground. Both the guide and naturalist started hunting for whatever was moving. Finally, the guide caught a tiny Poison dart frog and held it for us to see. (We were not allowed to hold it because of danger of contamination of the frog from DEET on our hands) The poison is on the skin of the frog, so the guide washed his hands after releasing the frog.

Next time, I will summarize our experience at the Sachia Lodge.

Your friend and mine,


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shopping and Eating in Richland, WA

Dear Family and Friends,

It is seems quite odd to be back in our old house. When we left for Cuenca, we rented it out to a trusted friend. Our friend keeps the house in good repair and keeps the yard looking great. We have one room that is OURS. This is the room we sleep in when we come to town. It is a very nice arrangement.

Here is a picture of the living room we knew.

Glenda is an artist. She lives in color and has made the house reflect her essence.

So, in a way, it doesn't even seem like it is our house any more.

We have spent the last few weeks shopping on line and having the items shipped to this address. Glenda has been putting our packages in our room. When we arrived it was like Christmas. We were opening boxes and finding things that we had forgotten we even bought.

Before leaving Cuenca, I put together a shopping list. Since we have been here all I have done is shop and eat. We have had a wonderful week of catching up with our friends and family.

But the highlight of our trip has been attending the kindergarten singing performance of our grandson, Cannon.

Here he is in the black and white stripped shirt, all smiles.

And here we are, Mimi (me), Heidi (granddaughter) and Cannon. How wonderful it is to be able to reach out and hug.