Only two days left of the South American extravaganza. Quito seems to be filled with gringos stopping by to see the equator (I can´t think of many other things they´d be here to see). Spent last night in Baños, soaking in a hot spring pool at night underneath a waterfall, chatting with two people I had met the day before at a hostel in Cuenca. Baños is highly recommended; I wish I had more time there now. Cuenca was a nice enough place - the ecuadorian equivalent of peruvian Arequipa (lots of old colonial buildings, lots of people), before that I was leaving the farm in Vilcabamba for civilisation after two weeks without chocolate and electricity.
I ended up working on the farm outside Vilcabamba for two weeks - twice as long as I initally intended, and not nearly long enough - if only I had more time! The farm is just starting up, and is primarily run by a Canadian guys called Yves. There are two donkeys (Pacito and Bonny), two chickens, two cats (Zen and Nezzie) and a dog (Rumbi) to keep everyone company. Most of my time was spent doing an inventory of what was in the
garden beds, and then weeding, feeding and watering the lower third of the garden. I also managed to grow some seedlings in that time (raidshes and rocket; the rest hadn't sprouted by the time I left) and transplant some trees during the full moon. It's the first time I had consciously planted by the moon (it's supposed to encourage deeper root establishment, and the locals think that the full moon brings more humid conditions), and the first time I had gone out during the night with the sole purpose of planting stuff. The trees looked like they had estabished pretty well, not even dropping a leaf. They were a type of Erythrina (E. edulis), with edible legume pods. The flowers are just as nice as those of the ornamental Cockscomb Coral (E. crista-galli) grown at home, and just as prickly! To the locals, they are known as Balue or Guato. There were plenty of other new plants to me, a lot of agroforestry trees (Sesbans, Fishbean etc.) and local fruits like the naranjilla (a relative of the tomato - unfortunately I never got to try one of the fruits).
The drinking water came straight from one of the springs on
the property, and both the shower and toilet were open-air features, with views to die for. Having a shower is definitely a new experience when you're essentially nude out in the open. It's not so nerve-wracking when you realise the closest neighbour is probably a few kilometres down the hill, and could only spot you with the aid of binoculars or a telescope - after a while you don't even care if they have these or not!
One habit acquired during my stay was waking up at 6:30am, either by the noise of the hummingbirds buzzing the tent, or by the sunrise itself. The morning light wasn't so bad in the tent, but when I was staying in the 'cubbyhouse' for the last few days the sunrise woke me up without fail. It's a habit I've managed to hold onto all the way to Quito. It makes for a much more efficient day when you can get everything done before noon, rather than sleeping til 11, then trying to squeeze everything in in the afternoon! This is why I've managed to stick to my tight schedule and get everything done in the last three days on the continent. The
only thing left is to visit the Mitad del Mundo - Middle of the World - which is the (false) marker for the equator line. They realised after GPS came in that it's actually 7 seconds off zero, or two hundred metres south of where it should be. So I'll visit the fake and the real equator lines and see if I can freak myself out with the thought that it's my first time in another hemisphere.
The other photos at the start of this blog are from my time in Huanchaco, northern Peru. It's basically a small beach town outside Trujillo. I chose it over Trujillo as it had the Totora reed boats (the same reeds used by the people on Lake Titicaca for boats and living on - floating islands of reeds on the lake), and it was also closer to the ruins of Chan Chan. Chan Chan is a nice change from the typical South American Inca ruins in stone. They seem to be built of sand adobe, and have partially stood the test of time. At the entrance to the site are lots of walls and buildings that have lost the fight with wind and
water erosion, and look like they are melting back into the ground. I was a little disappointed at first, thinking that the whole site would be like this, but then was surprised to see the main courtyard area and surrounds that had been preserved and reconstructed - they looked almost as if they had been moulded yesterday. A very interesting side trip, the last in Peru before entering Ecuador.
My next blog will be the last of the South American-based blogs, and will go over the highlights and lowlights of the trip to date. Before then, I'd like to say a big hello and thank you to the people I met along the way that helped to make my South American trip one I'll never forget:
Isabel (Canada) - Villarica and Pucon, Chile
Pedro (Columbia) and Monty (Canada) - San Martin de Los Andes and Bariloche, Argentina
Emiel (Netherlands) - Puerto Montt, Torres Del Paine and Punta Arenas, Chile
Tracey (New Zealand) - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Chad (South Africa), Petros (South Africa), Martijn (Netherlands) and Moritz (Germany) - Salta, Argentina
Clive (Canada), Miranda (Netherlands), Jordan (Canada) and all the other Volunteers - Villa Tunari, Bolivia
The Volunteers at
El Peregrino Farm - Mendoza, Argentina
Mircko (Canada), Kate (Canada) and James (U.S.A.) - La Paz, Bolivia
Hannah (Germany) - La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Cuzco, Peru
Edgar (Peru) - Miraflores, Peru
Yves (Canada), Sam & Sam (England), Marlies and Antonia (Germany) - Vilcabamba, Ecuador
Some of you I'll see again very soon, some later, and many never again. I had a great time with all of you, and hope you all had a great time on your respective trips as well.
Ciao for now. Until next time ...
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