Gray Days in Banos

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July 4th 2015
Published: July 5th 2015
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Greetings from Banos!Greetings from Banos!Greetings from Banos!

The clouds parted for a lovely evening swing up at Casa de Arbol in the hills above Banos. This swing at the end of the world has become famous due to a photo on Instagram.
Greetings from rainy, cold Banos! For the past 3 weeks it has rained almost constantly, causing massive mudslides which have blocked the roads down into the Amazon. Temperatures have dipped to record lows, one night dropping into the 40’s! Banos is in a subtropical zone, halfway down the eastern slopes of the Andes; nonetheless some of the rain has been more like sleet, icy needles of sideways rain. And the winds!! Every night hundreds of guavas are blown off the trees beside my driveway

But allow me to backtrack a bit – in my last blog entry I wrote about “fighting City Hall” about the bars on the beach. Well, I’m happy to tell you (cue the music) “I fought the law and I won!!” The hotel owners were very grateful for all I did, above and beyond the agreed upon work and they showed their appreciation generously.

I planned my departure from Puerto Lopez so I could stop in Manta for one more chiropractic adjustment (thank you Dr Larry!) and lunch with dear friend Moya in Canoa (nice to catch up after almost a
Psychobauble on the loose...Psychobauble on the loose...Psychobauble on the loose...

I really let my imagination run wild as I used up wacky toys and baubles to create this silly clock which I gifted to Karl, administrator of the BIB (Volunteer Children's Library in Banos).
year without much contact). I made it all the way up to Jama in time for dinner and Scrabble with Pat & Jody & Boby.

My plan was to stay two nights at their place, so the next day we drove down to Bahia de Caraquez to take care of administrative stuff. I was able to do my banking while they settled up with the IRS (called SRI here). Fortunately for all of us, even though the SRI was hounding people to bring their status up to date, once they contacted (and scared) us, they offered a period of amnesty so that we didn’t have to pay back taxes. They had been pestering me about the truck I sold without an official bill of sale, way back in 2011 – but all is settled now with no fines or fees. Hooray!

I headed inland to Cheryl’s coffee farm near Nanegalito. The roads are excellent now, and several new shortcuts have been completed so it seldom takes me as long as I think it will when I have a big drive. I stayed two nights with Cheryl,
Esther Mayra Oto's BirthdayEsther Mayra Oto's BirthdayEsther Mayra Oto's Birthday

We didn't have a candle so we opted for a straw! Feliz Cumpleanos amiga!
visiting the new retreat center she is building on the hill above her house (the name is Above The Clouds). I am inspired by this amazing woman who makes things happen!

On to Quito for a few days (I don’t love the big city!). My friend Betti (whom I helped move out of her apartment a few months ago) was coincidentally booked into the same hostal where I always stay. She was in Quito for her daughter’s graduation. I was invited to the post-party (due to start at 11:00 pm – waay past my bedtime) but declined as I was starting to feel a bit punk. The following night we all went to dinner together (Betti & Steve, Sofie the graduate & her sister Maya visiting from DC).

I also met up with a family from Malingua Pamba who are now living in Quito. I met the Oto family when I was working with Engineers Without Borders high up in the Andes and when the priest came to town for baptisms, I got roped into being the godmother of the two youngest daughters. I’ve kept in
La Familia OtoLa Familia OtoLa Familia Oto

Lovely to spend time in the park with this dear family. Glad the kids are getting a quality "city" education for two more years.
contact with the two older daughters via facebook and we made plans to all have lunch together. Thanks to facebook for reminding me that it was Esther’s birthday, so I picked up a cake on the way to the restaurant where we were to meet. It was a lovely afternoon – the eldest daughter, Jeaneth, is now married and has a toddler and her family made the trip up from Latacunga (over 2 hours by bus). After lunch we walked to a park and watched the Adrian, still a bit unsteady on his feet, dash and tumble on the uneven grass.

On Monday I had an appointment with the gynecologist to get the order for the MRI (IRM here – Imagen de Resonancia Magnetica). The imaging lab couldn’t fit me in that same day, so I made an appt for the next morning and made arrangements for the doctor to collect my results and communicate them to me via email. The purpose of this exam was to see if the tumor that was detected in Nov has grown or changed at all. The MRI confirmed that it is a myoma (a tumor, not just a
Hello Again!Hello Again!Hello Again!

Bart & Tracy come to Ecuador each year and we usually manage to connect! Little Gabriel is a real character - lots of fun together!
fibroid) and it continues to be as big as a small plum (a fruit that is called a ‘claudia’ so the doc and I refer to her as my Claudia!) No change in size or vascularity which is all good news. Since I’m not in pain and don’t have any bleeding, nothing needs to be done at this time. In six months to a year we’ll do another imaging session to keep tabs on Claudia.

When I got out of the MRI machine I felt dizzy and faint – they had to find somewhere for me to lie down for awhile before I ventured out into the city. I made it back to my hostel, but for the next several days I was unable to move from my bed. I had vicious headaches, fevers and sweats and awful diarrhea. After 3 days of feeling so ill in Quito I just wanted to get back to MY bed in Banos. Fortunately, Shana was driving back down with me – I don’t know if I’d have set off alone the way I was feeling.

For the next week
Chamana FallsChamana FallsChamana Falls

Rivers and cascades gushing with extended rains. A favorite place to bring visitors is always Regine's Cafe Aleman at Finca Chamanapamba.
I was mostly horizontal. I couldn’t keep any food in me and the fevers continued. Every day I felt weaker until I could barely make it up and down the stairs. It became clear to me that I was suffering a severe Crohn’s flare-up, worse than any I’d experienced since I was first diagnosed 15 yrs ago. I pushed fluids, went for a blood test to make sure it wasn’t anything worse, and slept A LOT. This was not the ideal diet plan! Little by little I started to feel better, was able to eat bananas & yogurt, made some chicken broth and regained a bit of strength. I’m now back to 100%, but it was not a fun 10 days, I can tell you that!

I started feeling better just in time for a much awaited visit from Bart, Tracy & Gabriel (their 5 yr old adopted son from Quito). They had been guests at Mandala a few years ago when they first adopted Gabriel, and I met up with them last year when they were visiting Quito. This time they stayed a few nights at my house and we had lots of fun

This one only caused a 15 minute delay on the road down towards the jungle. Water has amazing force and gravity dictates its path.
in spite of the terrible weather. When the skies cleared for a few hours we hung up the hammocks and played ball in the front yard. When stuck inside we colored and drew and read books.

We tried to drive down the Ruta de las Cascadas (Waterfall Route) but the roads were blocked with so many landslides that the traffic backed up and we just turned around. Sitting still, stuck behind dozens of huge trucks was nobody’s idea of vacation fun! We did go as far as Chamana Falls and had a lovely lunch at Regine’s Café Aleman (a favorite of mine since the 80’s!) One morning Bart, Gabriel & I had lots of fun at El Salado Thermal Baths while mom relaxed at home.

Between visitors I enjoyed the hot springs as often as possible. Even if it was raining it didn’t matter – you’re wet or you’re wet. The biting cold winds were not so fun, running from pool to pool. I had to swim and exercise hard to keep warm! In addition to frequent Scrabble marathon days with Shana, I reconnected with some
Sherryne, Silvia & MeSherryne, Silvia & MeSherryne, Silvia & Me

Getting ready to hike along the river, past the pre-cascada to the Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron) Falls.
Banos friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I also had time to indulge in some creative baubling (my mosaic picture frame decorating hobby). In spite of the rain I was reminded why I really love this area – the powerful energy of nature (rushing rivers, lush green hillsides and the rumble of the volcano which has just started up again) and wonderful people (both local friends and other foreigners I’ve gotten to know).

The next visitors to arrive at my house were Silvia (long-time friend who sells handicraft in Puerto Lopez) and Sherryne (an American woman living in Puerto Lopez whom I’d only met a couple of times). I had to loan them sweaters and fleeces and wool socks – the day they arrived was the coldest yet and these coastal gals are not used to shivering! All bundled up we drove up to the Swing at the End of the World (made famous by Instagram fame). The sun broke through the clouds and we had a pleasant hike to the Treehouse (Casa de Arbol) and valley views as we each took a turn on the swing.

Me & SilviaMe & SilviaMe & Silvia

We stopped a dusk for hot choclate at Cafe del Cielo with a view of Banos in the valley below.

Fortunately, the weather improved the next day (hooray!) and we were able to drive along the Ruta de las Cascadas down to the Devil’s Cauldron Falls in Rio Verde. We did have to stop a few times for road crews to clear a rockfall that the rains had caused and a creeping mudslide – you could actually see it steadily gushing its way across the pavement.

We had a lovely hike along the river, past the “pre-cascada”, the “neck” of the falls and onto the bridge to view the falls themselves. There had been a recent landslide just across the valley; huge trees uprooted and flanking the swath of muddy brown. Looking more closely I could see a a thread of water trickling its way down the naked earth scar. Where a mudslide has occurred, a waterfall is born.

We got back to Banos just in time for my next visitor. Silvia & Sherryne were leaving on the night bus for the coast so they helped me change the sheets for Roger’s arrival. We all went out for a lovely dinner, I dropped the gals
Small SouvenirsSmall SouvenirsSmall Souvenirs

Printer's box from an antique shop in Atlanta finally made it down so I can display my mini memory objects from my many travels.
at the bus terminal, and then Roger and I played some late-night (and early morning) Scrabble. We have crossed paths all over Ecuador as his work takes him on the road a lot, and I have been up to see his farm in the north, but this was the first time he’d been to my house.

While I was working on the coast, the owner of my rental house had painted the interior Before my slew of visitors arrived my landlord came over and helped me put in nails to hang my artwork. I was still unpacking things that had been stored in my brother’s attic, boxes which I brought down after my last two visits in California. It was fun to hang my printer’s box and adorn it with miniature souvenirs from all over the world. My brains been swimming with memories of travels in Africa and Asia. Makes me feel a bit of wanderlust....

So now I'm getting ready for the next slew of visitors. In the coming 3 weeks I will have visits from a former teaching colleague (Caro taught French in Atlanta
Baby Boa StowawayBaby Boa StowawayBaby Boa Stowaway

I took my truck to be washed and look who was hiding under the hood! We took him to the Serpentarium for the next chapter of his life!
and she was also my Yoga teacher), her friend Brigitte who teaches at the Alliance Francaise in Atlanta, the daughter of a former teaching colleague (Amy is finishing a month of rural volunteer teaching in Ecuador) and a former student (Pauley, who used to live in Quito and is now doing her PhD in Canada). Scarlett the truck had been through some muddy drives, so I found a car wash place close to town so I could run some errands while she was being cleaned. I returned at the agreed-upon time to find a cluster of people staring at my engine.

Look!! They waved me over. A beautiful baby boa had stowed away under the hood and now, frightened by the spray of water, was slithering up my windshield. They ran to get an idigenous girl from the jungle who knew how to grab it right behind the head and they plunked it into a deep bucket. "Let's go take it to the Serpentarium!" my friend Berta the sugarcane vendor urged. The car wash dude told me they'd pay good money for a young snake like that, but I told the girl she
Agoyan FallsAgoyan FallsAgoyan Falls

With the hydroelectric dam above fully open the waters crash and froth like crazy!
take it over there.

So now I'm off to the airport in Quito (only 3 hours drive with the newest bypass roads recently opened). Next blog installment will detail my adventures with the upcoming visitors. Ecuador's amazing natural beauty is best appreciated when shared!! You who are reading this, plan to come visit me!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Hanging BridgeHanging Bridge
Hanging Bridge

To get the best views of the falls we descend this suspension bridge.
Mirror FrameMirror Frame
Mirror Frame

Baubled with glass jet beads from old jewelry. Fun project! It's for sale in Nynne's shop for $25.

5th July 2015

Good to catch up.....
You sure stay busy, Jill. Keep on enjoying life and people there......Jim
8th July 2015

nice to be back on your list!
You're doing a lot of hosting. Make sure you take care of your health, you....Sorry to hear that the Crohns has flared up... Love, Julia
9th July 2015

Such a busy, busy bee!
Delightful hearing what has been going on, Jill. Biggest, biggest congratulations on the Mandala beach issue. Pheeewwwwww! Would have been a total game changer. Warm beautiful days here. Hope to see your face soon. xoxoxoxoxoxo, Jessie

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