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Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Road Trip - Part 5 - The Pictures that may have saved our Lives

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I left Macas fairly early on Thursday so that we could get home in the early afternoon. We had about 5 hours of driving ahead of us.

We turned west and started driving through the Andes. The road we were on was a dirt road just last year, but since it was newly paved, we were excited about trying it out. But, we should have taken heed when we came across places like this.

As we climbed into the Andes, there were wash outs and land slides to navigate. There were even signs saying that the ground was unstable. It is the rainy season here in Ecuador. The ground is soaked through and it had rained the night before. We just drove straight ahead and enjoyed the scenery.

There was one particular look out that was beautiful. Chuck asked me if I wanted to pull over and take pictures. Of course I did.

We were stopped for about 10 minutes. While we were stopped two passenger buses past us and several other vehicles.

After taking the pictures we continued on for about 3 miles and came on to this scene.

The bus in the picture is the first bus that passed us while we were stopped.

We got out of the car and walked up to survey the damage. We were shocked to see such huge boulders covering the road. Chuck and I shuttered to think what might have been had we not stopped to take pictures, as we would have been in front of that bus.

We knew that we would not get through this mess any time that day so Chuck said he knew another route. We turned around and went back to take another route through the rained soaked mountains. We started on the second route and got about a mile into it and came up on this:

Holy cow!! This road was completely covered too.

So the trip we were going to take....

turned into this:

We were three hours from Cuenca when we ran into the landslides but since we had to back track to get home the three hours trip turned into two days of driving.

We held our breath that the roads that we were back tracking on were clear. We were fortunate because although it was raining, the roads were fine.

I took this picture through the front windshield. Riding in the rain can be a bummer.

We got home safe and sound late Friday afternoon.

This Sunday, I am flying to Columbus, Georgia. I will meet our daughter, Kylie, and grandson, Bryce there. We will be driving across the south and southwest. I plan to post on the blog as we make our way cross country.

Chuck is staying in Cuenca, minding the "store." I'm gonna miss him, but look forward to the fun adventure.

Have a great weekend...


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Our Road Trip - Part 4 - Banos to Macas

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I left Banos, right after breakfast, on the third day. When we were there two years ago the road to Puyo from Banos was the last paved road before the Amazon rain forest. If you wanted to drive beyond Puyo it would be a dirt road only. But in the last two years Ecuador has paved the dirt road and you can drive to Macas and beyond on nice asphalt road.

Between Banos and Puyo it is very scenic. There are many waterfalls and a lot of tourist activities like bungee jumping, white water rafting, cable cars to cross over the river, etc. Chuck and I made only two stops on this trip. The first stop was to see a waterfall. We stopped at Falls Garden.

We stopped because the sign intrigued us..."la puerta de la verdad"...(the door to the truth). We parked our car and walked a short distance on a good path until we came to this gentleman.

His name is Antonio. He bought the property and has been improving it virtually by himself for the past few years. He is an artist and displays his paintings in a small hut. He has planted many plants from all over Ecuador. It is a very pleasant walk. He charges $1.00 for the entry fee to help finance his work. We gladly paid our dollar and started for the waterfall.

One of us was more daring than the other. Here is Chuck hanging out over the deep canyon viewing the top of the water fall.

I never saw the actual waterfall, but was thrilled with what I did see. Beautiful plants in bloom.

And while we were there, Chuck taught me something about bananas. There was a banana tree with a blossom and tiny bananas starting to grow. He told me that yellow bananas grow down, but on this tree, because the bananas were red, they grow up.

Here is a red blossom and those tiny red finger-like parts are tiny bananas starting to form.

Here is one a little further developed. The blossom has died and the bananas are starting to grow.

Chuck shows off some bananas that are even further along in their development.

It was quite interesting to see the different stages of a banana from blossom to fruit.

By the way, we never found the door to the truth, nor did we find out what the truth was.

The second stop we made on the way to Puyo was in the town of Shell. Yes, that is Shell, named, I'm sure, for Shell Oil. This town came into existence during the time that oil drilling was being done in Ecuador by foreign owned companies. This town has a nice long airstrip, across the highway, the entire length of the town. It was built by the oil companies to have access to this remote area. (No paved roads back then)

The reason we stopped in Shell, is because Chuck's cousin and her missionary engineer husband built a hospital there about 40 or more years ago. We wanted to see if we could find it. It was not that hard to find because Shell is a small town. For those of you that know Irene and Ken, you might be interested in seeing the hospital that Ken built.

We drove on to Puyo and only made one stop. Chuck wanted to go and look at Amazon tourist junk uh I mean souvenirs. He had one particular object in mind....and he found it and bought it. And here he is proudly taking it back to the car.

I won't tell you what it is quite yet, but you may can guess by looking at the package.

After our shopping we headed out again, this time in new territory. The further we rode the flatter the land became and the thicker the vegetation. It brought back some memories from my childhood. It reminded me of rural southern Georgia and Alabama during the fifties.

The vegetation, the heat and humidity, the weathered board small houses with rusted tin roofs seemed strangely familiar.

Sorry that this is not a good picture, but considering that I was taking pictures through the car window at 60 mph it's not too bad. Mainly it gives you an idea of what it is like.

We got to Macas about 5:00 pm. We found a nice (well as nice as possible) place to stay the night. We went for pizza and turned in early for a quiet evening. Oh, by the way, Chuck got the honeymoon suite.

Next time I will tell about getting home to Cuenca.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Road Trip - Part 3 - Second Day in Banos

Dear Family and Friends,

Since the our hotel of choice was fully booked, Chuck and I had to find another place to stay for the next two nights we were in Banos. We chose the hotel that we stayed in on our previous trip there two years ago - The Hotel Santa Clara. This hotel was perfect for us because they had a secure place to park Puff-Puff.

Although the Hotel Santa Clara includes breakfast with the room charge, we chose to walk a couple of blocks back to the La Posada del Arte for their delicious breakfast.

Chuck chatted up the owners and learned of a bicycle route they like that goes into the mountains surrounding Banos. If you do this tour on a clear day you can see the volcano Tungurahua. The road is mostly dirt and/or rock but it was well maintained and safe to drive.
Our second day in Banos was a perfect day to take this tour in Puff-Puff.

As we climbed out of Banos up the mountainside we were able to see both Banos and the volcano.

Here is another view looking from Banos to the east (away from the volcano). Such a beautiful valley.

The higher we went the further we could see. We were even able to see the top of Chimborazo, the beautiful mountain we saw driving to Banos.

It was interesting to see the hot houses the farmers had built. I thought all hot houses were for roses, since that is a major export from Ecuador, but these contained tomatoes.

Since the volcano Tungurahua is still active, every year or so it starts spouting and the villages and towns surrounding it have to be evacuated. We saw many signs indicating which direction to go if the volcano starts acting up.

Here is a (school bus?, taxi?) taking a load of kids up the mountain side after school. They were so cute because they knew I was trying to photograph them. Luckily the driver was driving real slow because, as you can see, the kids were hanging off the side of the truck bed.

It was a fun day of exploring.

Hasta la próxima vez, (Until next time)


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our Road Trip - Part 2- First Day in Banos

Dear Family and Friends,

After our beautiful ride up, we arrived in Banos about 5 pm. We checked into our hotel, La Posada del Arte.

We wanted to stay there all three nights, but they were already booked so we only had one night there. It is run by a U.S. couple from Colorado. They have done a beautiful job of decorating it.
Breakfast is included and they have wonderful big breakfasts with many choices.

Here is Chuck on the enclosed porch our first morning there waiting for breakfast to be served.

Our first day in Banos we just stayed in the town and explored. We had been there before a couple of years ago so we just enjoyed the ambiance. If you are interested you can see a post about our first trip to Banos two years ago by clicking here. First Banos Trip

We spent our morning walking around the town. We enjoyed our lunch at a sidewalk table of a restaurant and watched this artist as he did a pastel portrait of this little girl. He had quite a crowd watching him work. The little girl sat perfectly still the whole time we were eating.

In the afternoon we visited a library for children run by an American ex-pat couple. We had a marvelous tour. But I will save that for another time because it is a whole post in itself.

After visiting the library, I sat in the central park while Chuck shopped around town. It gave me a chance to enjoy the quaint town and people watch.

I watched Chuck head down the street to do his shopping.

I watched men working.

And then I spied this little figure across the street.

With all the activity going on around me, men working, tourists exploring and locals going about their lives, this little lady sat quietly on the corner across the street. I watched her and wondered what her story was.

I got distracted by some other sights and was surprised when I looked up and saw that this lady was right in front of me with her cup out for money. I gave her money, took a quick picture, but of all the things I saw while sitting there, this little lady is hauntingly in my memory. This was a case where mere money was not nearly enough.

When Chuck returned I told him about all the things I saw and how this lady touched my soul.

We then walked over to the Cathedral and went to see the museum that is connected to it. Chuck and I enjoyed exploring the inside courtyard.

We went inside the Cathedral.

Then we walked back to the park and watched the late afternoon suns' rays of light on the hillside.
All the while I had images of the lady with the cup going through my heart and mind.

We had a nice dinner at the Swiss Bistro and turned in early.

God Bless Us All.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Our Road Trip - Part 1- Going to Banos

Dear Family and Friends,

When Chuck met me in Quito, after I returned from escorting Matt home, he said he was ready to take Puff-Puff on a road trip. He had a route planned out. We would go through the Andes up to Ambato and cut across to Banos. We would spend a day or two in Banos, then we would descend out of the mountains to Puyo and travel through the low lands of the rain forest to Mendez, where we would climb back up to the Andes and return to Cuenca.

Here is my attempt at map making to try and demonstrate our route.

We left Cuenca early last Sunday morning. Chuck chose Sunday as the starting day because the traffic would be lighter (less big trucks). It was a bight sunny day...hardly a cloud in the sky. Such a nice day for travel.

This picture was taken about an hour's drive north of Cuenca, near Biblian. We live in such a beautiful area of Ecuador.

A little girl on the mountain side.

We stopped in the town of Zhud for a coffee break. I took these pictures in a matter of 30 minutes or however long it took us to drink our coffee.

This man and woman are discussing the cow legs for sale. The lady brought them to town and is selling them out of the back of her truck. We have learned from our trips to the market here in Cuenca that cow legs are cut into slices and used to make soup.

These two youngsters were more than happy to pose by Puff-Puff.

We watched a truck (taxi?) being loaded with passengers. The truck was headed south, we were headed north. Maybe they are on their way to Cuenca.

The next two pictures shows a contrast in clothing styles between the southern and northern Andes. Every town has a different style. The first lady is dressed in the style of the area of Canar. On her hat she has two little balls dangling from the back. Sometimes, we see the hat worn with the balls dangling from the front. We have heard that if the balls are dangling in the front it means the woman or girl is single. Once they are married the hat is turned and the balls are worn in the back.

This young lady, enjoying time with her friend, is dressed more in the style of the northern Andes. She has on black clothing, the skirt is long to her shoes. Although you can't see it in this pictures, she is wearing a necklace of beads similar to the bracelet on her right hand.

Just north of the town of Riobamaba we got a fantastic view of Chimborazo. We pulled off the road for this picture.

A few miles further, I snapped this wonderful shot through the front window of the car.

This is not a common sight. Usually this mountain is covered partially or completely with clouds. How lucky we were to get a view of the whole thing.

We continued on to Ambato where we turned east and headed to Banos.

We arrived in Banos around 4:00pm.

I'll share about our adventures around Banos in the next post.

Have a nice weekend.