Hola and welcome to the travel/monitoring blog for my February 2013 sabbatical trip to Malinguapamba (MP) in the highlands Ecuador south of Quito. The project area is in Cotopaxi Province, in the general area known as the “Cotopaxi Loop,” a popular trekking destination characterized by steep volcanic terrain, warm friendly people, and lots of chicken soup. Project coordinates are 00.82336° South and 78.86495° West at 3,300 to 3,800 meters (10,700 to 12,500 feet) elevation.
The core week of my trip was spent in and around MP (Blogs 9-20) studying local geology, ecology, and water-collection strategies for the communities of MP, Tunguiche, Pucara’, and Guantugloma. The first 3 communities have benefited from a series of education/potable water/irrigation/hygiene/erosion control projects over the last 10 years completed by local “Mingas” (community work days) in collaboration with the Centro Educativo La Minga (CELM), Engineers without Borders (EWB) Denver Professional Club, Rotary International District 5450 (Rotary), and the ERM Foundation (sorry if I missed anybody, there has been so much support).
Rotary, EWB, and CELM are gearing up to work with the Guantugloma community to the southeast in an expanded effort over the next 3 years to build on local success and replicate lessons learned in MP. I was on site between larger team efforts last October and next April, in order to monitor progress, facilitate upcoming grant proposals, and offer vocational training to local workers. Along the way I had a chance to hone my Spanish , work on a low-tech low-maintenance water-intake design, and work with CELM and kids on a watershed-focused coloring book (fun!).
In preparation for my work in MP, I took a few days in Quito to get acclimated and learn more about Ecuador’s colorful history and culture(Blogs 2-3), and spent a few days with Jean Brown + Don Marcelo including a drive along the Quilotoa to learn about ecology especially pioneering species at similar altitude/setting as MP Loop (Blogs 4-5). Spent a week in Baños for intensive Spanish lessons and some serious hiking to get into shape for the MP field area and to learn about Andean geology/ecology/agriculture (Blogs 6-7). This last part was important to tune my eye to local baseline and tune up my field techniques. Final preparation included a visit to local Rotary Club in Latacunga to cultivate that relationship(Blog 8).
After my work in MP, I took advantage of the many hiking trails to get to know more about the Quilotoa Loop from a base in Isinlivi, then trekked to Sigchos on way home (Blog 21).
All in all a wonderful trip that far exceeded my expectations – wonderful helpful people, beautiful country, and the opportunity to become fully immersed in Spanish in two Mingas: our Minga Scientifico with the Guantugloma Water Committee (Blogs 18-19) and a Construction Minga to replace an infiltrator water intake at Malingua Yaku (Blogs 10, 12-13). Our Ecuadorian friends have serious hustle and are a real pleasure to work with as they develop their own expertise to help themselves and their neighbors in the best sense of sustainability per Rotary Future Vision.
TravelBlog.Org offers a great tool to keep family, friends, and extended team updated on my progress and helped quickly answer a number of monitoring questions real time, well, almost real time. I see the photos show nicely on a mini-laptop but are somewhat grainy on larger screen, but overall feel very pleased to reduce my post-trip reporting needs and I am now organized for presentations with higher resolution photos.
My sincere thanks to the MP community for their hospitality and friendship, Pam Gilbert and CELM for guiding me (actually lassoing me) into this wonderful opportunity, EWB for welcoming me onto the team, Marco for Spanish tutoring, family and friends in Grand Lake for support, and to Rotary for promoting service above self while having fun!