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Published: October 30th 2014
Left to Right - Hugo, Bolivar, Elvia, Paulino, Roberto up front. So much fun to wander around town with them all!!
Hola Blog Followers!
I spent only a couple of weeks alone at home, but I thoroughly enjoyed them! I had a few Scrabble dates with Shana, regular visits to the hot springs, gal pal lunches, and some artistic "bauble" time in my "art studio" located on the sunny upstairs landing of my staircase. Such fun to pull out all of my beads and shells and gems, bits and bobs, to stimulate my creative juices and visualize beautiful projects.
In September I enjoyed a visit from my indigenous friends, the Sacatoro family of Malingua Pamba. They stayed overnight with their Mama Julia (me) in my big rental house, and we enjoyed many tourist sites in and around Banos. We visited waterfalls, took the "tarabita" tramway over the river, soaked in the hot springs and walked all over town.
I enjoyed having relaxed time with Elvia & Paulino and their three sons (Bolivar, Roberto & Hugo), away from their village. Usually when I see them I'm travelling with groups of volunteers from Engineers Without Borders and we stay in the upstairs "hostel" at their home. It's
Grotto of the Virgen
Posing with the whole family beside the sacred water spigot near the in-town Banos waterfall (the Virgin's Tresses)
often quite hectic and stressful when we're there working, so it was great to spend a leisurely few days together at my home! Fun to cook meals for them in my huge kitchen, encouraging them to try some foods they'd never tasted. Quesadillas and french toast were a hit!
While the Sacatoros were visiting, they harvested the "mandarinas" (tangerines) from my 35 trees. The owner of my house sells the avocados, but leaves the citrus. SO, on the rainy morning of their departure they filled 5 huge bags with fruit to take back and share with everyone up in their high Andean village. We also found quite a few avocados that had escaped Don Carlos's picker hook the week before!
I made yet another solo driving trip from Banos to Puerto Lopez to take up my semi-annual substitute manager stint at Hosteria Mandala. Whenever I set off on the 9+ hour journey across the Andes, I make sure that I have an audio book loaded onto my ipod. It's amazing how a good story can help to pass the time. I try to get
Early morning departure from Banos led me past a crystal clear view of Chimborazo (Ecuador's highest Andean peak).
rolling right at the break of dawn (about 6:30 year 'round here on the equator). I'm usually rewarded by breathtaking views of the snow-capped Andes.
Just beyond the indigenous village of Salasaca, around the next curve and my heart leaps as a crystal clear view of Chimborazo and Carihuairazo form a stunning backdrop, their craggy snow-capped peaks brilliant against a sparkling blue sky. An hour later, as the highway climbed up and over towards Riobamba, I caught a glimpse of Mama Tungurahua in the distance, a plume of ash wafting from her crater. It took a few moments before I realized what I was seeing; I had never glimpsed her from this angle. Living on the flanks of the volcano, I can often feel her movement and energy -- but to see her from across I was struck by just how huge the mountain is!
Arriving on the coast I spent the first night in my old cabana near Alandaluz. The new owner, Angela was visiting with a group of friends from the US so we all shared a lovely dinner on
Tungurahua Ash Plume
Peek between the clouds to see Mama Tungu from across the valley. It was the first time I'd seen her from this perspective. My heart leapt!
the beautiful terrace that they've built. It's much easier to acclimatize when I drop down to sea level, so I was ready to hit the ground running and take up my post as substitute manager at the hotel the very next day. It felt great to be back - I really enjoy the daily challenges and variety that this job offers!
Once again I had the mornings free so I returned to yoga class, but alas after just a few weeks the teacher left to teach a course in Banos She and her family stayed at my house there and I was glad to think of them enjoying my home. We worked up a series of stretches and postures and it was up to me to continue with yoga on my own! I left my yoga mat spread out in my room to remind me and I managed to discipline myself to do at least 15 min to 1/2 hour each day. It kept my back feeling strong! I also made it a point to drive up to the Agua Blanca sulphur lagoon and go for a long swim. I managed
Five Giant Canines!
OK, so the brindle female Xanga is partially hidden behind ginormous Carbon -- YOU trying getting a photo of all five dogs in one frame!!
to get there almost every week!
Most mornings also included an hour-long walk with the dogs along the seashore. I tried to convince myself that bending down to pick up shells along the way was good exercise for my expanding waistline! Such fun to collect nature's treasures...except for that moment when I'd realize that the cool looking white shell was actually a splotch of bird poop! I really enjoyed beach time with the pups, watching them run and play and splash in the surf. Unfortunately, a number of injured blue-footed boobies came ashore this year. The dogs chased and caught two of them one morning -- I couldn't stop them in time. As I walked along, tears streaming down my face, I told myself that if the birds were so sick that they couldn't get away they would most likely have died soon, that it was a law of nature....but it was horrible to see.
I am madrina (godmother) to Gively, the daughter of one of the waiters at the hotel. For Gigi's 7th birthday I invited Freddy and his family out to lunch
Gively is the daughter of one of the waiters and I am her godmother. On her 7th bday we had lunch out, followed by a special pink cake! Here little brother Frixon got to help blow out the relighting candle!
and bought her a big, pink birthday cake! Can't believe how big the kids are getting. I was the emergency ambulance service when her little brother Frixon was born and now he's getting ready to start reading! I also have fun with some of the kids who are guests at the hotel, suggesting games they might like from among the owners' huge collection of (mostly wooden) games and toys.
As always is the case there were some unexpected challenges (the nature of the game). One Sunday night we had serious plumbing woes -- showers backing up, the laundry area spewing foam into the garden, and a broken pipe forming a lake in the parking area and leaving several cabanas without water. I called one of the gardeners who hurried over (with his three children in tow) and together with one of the waiters they managed to get everything fixed up -- at least well enough until we could get a plumber here on Monday morning! The washing machine kept breaking down and when I called the guy who'd sold it to us, explaining the recurring problem in a panicked way his response was,
Scrubbing Pots 'n' Pans
Giant doggie dinner bowls wait to be washed along with the spoils of a busy night at the restaurant. The kitchen staff works really hard (glad I don't have to do the dishes!)
"Do you think you're my only client?" What a jerk -- customer service is not a concept that has caught on much here!
As always I enjoyed meeting so many interesting people among the hotel guests. One German woman was here working with the Ministry of Education and evaluating primary school curricula...much like what I was doing in Benin, West Africa 20 yrs ago. Though she spoke some English and I can get by in German, we discovered that our strongest common language was Spanish and had several long, fascinating conversations. Another guest was a woman from Colorado who had been judging a horse competition in southern Ecuador. Her job as a show judge has taken her all over the world...interesting to hear her stories!
A few friends came down to stay during my stint as substitute manager. Walter is a jazz musician and music teacher who lives near Quito. I first met him here at the hotel almost 5 yrs ago and we've kept in contact. Jean Luc manages a hotel in Quito and he came down with our dear friend
Borrowed this foto from a friend who's a guide at the Machalilla National Park. Most folks come to see the humpback whales, and they stayed late this year - well into Oct (thank you global warming).
Patrick who owns a restaurant in Banos. I'm now in my last week of work and Jody & Pat just came down to spend a few nights. When I get free we'll set off on some adventures heading back north towards their home near Jama. I'll visit a couple more friends en route to Quito from where I fly out to California. Next blog - niece Jenna's wedding in LA!
PS - as always, a few more photos at the end -keep scrolling down to see them...oh, and drop me a note! I love to know who's reading my blog!
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