This is a poinsettia tree in Vilcabamba.
For my blog post this week, I want to return to Ecuador. Last time, I told you about The Eleven Hour Bus Trip. Now it is time to leave Cuenca and go to Vilcabamba.
For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.
The bus ride from Cuenca to Vilcabamba was a little better because I got the front seat, right by the door to the driver’s cabin. There was a blue curtain across the door, but I kept pulling it back whenever people got on or off.
Besides the driver, there was one other ‘helper’ up there, and sometimes there were two helpers. Keeping my eyes on the horizon was good—I was not as nauseated. The helper seemed a little nervous about me being able to see him. I figured out that half the reason the bus wound so much was because the driver was avoiding potholes, like Hans Solo avoiding asteroids. At one point, one of the helpers moved the curtain over a bit more to block my view, but Rolf could still see the driver, who was eating fried chicken—with both hands—while one of the helpers was reaching across and steering.
This trip was only five hours long. There were no bathroom breaks and my bladder had lost all tone by the time we arrived in Loja. We had a bit of food at the bus station and waited for the connecting bus to Vilcabamba. This last leg of the journey only took an hour and a half.
Suzanne and Rolf in Vilcabamba
Our hotel is owned and run by a French couple. Everything works and is ultra clean. We look out on a garden and there is a hammock on our porch. Breakfast is served on the table outside our door—juice, tea/coffee, egg, fruit salad and homemade multigrain bread.
I think I’m going to like it here . . .
It’s time for another story from my 2007 Ecuador trip. Last time, I told you about The Jungle. After that adventure, we rested up in Quito for two nights. Then we boarded the bus for Cuena—it was supposed to be an eight-hour trip.
For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.
Dear family and friends,
We are safely and comfortably in Cuenca for a few days. On Tuesday, we left Quito on the bus at 10 in the morning.
The tickets cost $10 each and we pay an extra 25 cents each as we go through the turnstile, for terminal tax. We load our packs, they seem secure because the driver has a key for the compartment and closes it right after our packs go in. But we do not get a receipt. (We recently met an American couple here in Cuenca who had a problem with the ‘no receipt’, as one of their bags never arrived. Without a receipt, they had nothing to show the police, so they had to settle for $250 to replace their year’s worth of clothing, shoes, sleeping bags, etc. But we are lucky, our packs arrive.)
Once we get the packs loaded, we go to the bathroom. The toilets don’t have seats but they are clean, and toilet paper only costs 15 cents.
The bus leaves on time at 10 and as we are pulling out of the terminal, a young man walks through selling litre bottles of yogurt, followed by another guy selling bottles of water. Sort of like an omen that we will be here for a long time. Then the first sales presentation starts.
The place where the driver sits is separated from the rest of the bus. There is a glass divider and a door, and an orange curtain behind the glass divider so you can’t see where you are going. This might be intentional, so you cannot see where you are going on those narrow mountain passes. You probably don’t want to know. But for me this is a problem, because I can’t keep my eyes on the horizon. I am sitting by the window so I get a peripheral view, which is not as good as looking straight ahead.
On the glass divider there is advertising about how this bus “Sucre Express” has music, DVD, baño, and is safe and punctual. There is also a sketch in red lines of Jesus with a crown of thorns – with the red lines contrasting against the orange curtain. Sort of like, if you think You are suffering, consider how Jesus felt . . .
The sales presentation continues. I think the guy is selling ginseng. Costs $4.50 in stores, but for you, because he cares so much, it’s only $2.00 a bottle. He believes in it so much he would give it to you for free but he can’t. There is a magic demonstration where he adds “toxins” to a glass of pure water to represent the coffee, alcohol and fast foods that go into our bodies, and then he adds a magic pill and the brown water changes to clear. It might have been more effective if he had drank the water after, but he throws it out the window.
He lets people hold the bottles of pills. No obligation. And he points out the writing on the bottles, how this is a prestigious laboratory, how the bottles are hermetically sealed, etc. Then he collects the bottles back and – the most amazing part – some of the people purchase them.
An hour into the trip, Rolf has to pee. The door to the baño is locked so he goes to the front and knocks on that door. The driver has a helper who has the key. But the helper says that the baño is only for the señoras. Rolf disagrees and he gets to use the toilet. I use it too. Very tricky on these bumpy, winding roads. Of course, there is no water to wash your hands but I have my little bottle of alcohol cleanser. I can’t help it, I’m a nurse. I’m sure the locals think I am loco. Or is it locA?
At Latacunga, two ladies in red shirts and caps board, carrying Tupperware containers of helados for 50 cents each. Homemade ice cream on a stick wrapped in a baggie. I get coconut, which tastes very good and the cold helps with the nausea. It would be better if I could see straight ahead but that only gives me the orange curtain and the suffering Jesus.
New passengers have boarded, and now another guy does another sales spiel on ginseng. He competes with the scratchy music from the loud speakers. He finishes and makes a few sales.
We stop somewhere. Quien sabe? The driver says 15 minutos and disappears. I decide to use the bus stop’s bathroom.
Bathrooms in this country are a special experience. I carry my own toilet paper. Use some to wipe the toilet seat – this place has a toilet seat, and it is wet. These toilets do not flush but there is a barrel of dark water with a plastic jug floating in it. I think the idea is to dump water in the toilet to ‘flush’ it – which is why the seat was wet before. I only peed, so I don’t worry about it, and besides, I just don’t want to reach in that barrel. Of course there is no water to wash your hands, but I pour a good dose of alcohol on my palms and rub for 15 seconds.
Meanwhile Rolf is grabbing a bowl of soup at a restaurant, which has a clean bathroom (he later told me) and even running water. However, he was sick the next day, so who knows about the soup. It’s about 2 pm, and so far I have only eaten that ice cream so I buy a sealed little package of Ritz-like crackers. Which are good for the nausea. I return to the bus, since the 15 minutes is up. And I wonder where the driver is. The motor is still running.
I get a window open for air. We are the only turistas on this bus and the locals don’t like anything bordering on cool. I sit by the window and sip water and air. And watch out the window.
The median in the road has an overflowing barrel of trash. A lactating dog crosses the road to the barrel, puts her paws on the top of the barrel, and searches. She finds a neatly tied green garbage bag, removes it, and carries it down the median. Then she sits down with her lunch between her paws and rips open the bag. She finds a takeout Styrofoam tray which seems to have a good meal left because she is eating for a long time. Then the tray blows away along with the rest of the bag’s contents. The trip continues. There is a third sales presentation.
About 3:20, the bus pulls to the side of the road and the driver and his helper get out, followed by just about every male passenger, including Rolf. I hear someone say “peligroso” – dangerous. I get out too, with my daypack – never leave anything behind.
We stand on a cliff and look at the blocked road below. The men are dispersing, peeing on various bushes. Women are out of the bus too. Many wear the indigenous uniform – hat, frilly knee-length skirt, colourful shawls. One is knitting.
The decision is made to drive to the blockade. Everybody runs back to the bus with the same enthusiasm as if we are off to swim at the lake on a hot day.
At the bridge below, a large truck is placed crosswise on the road, with its front tires flat. The duals at the rear are okay. There is no traffic on the other side of the bridge, because another truck blocks the bridge on the other side of the pueblo. This is a small indigenous settlement forgotten by the government and the rest of Ecuador, and demanding some attention.
At this point, some guy comes through the bus selling banana chips. A good sales opportunity.
There are no police or military but the media is there, with two cameras. Rolf talks with one of the other passengers, a metizo (not Spanish, not indigenous, a mix). We meet a lady from a different bus, Susan, from Vancouver. She has actually worked with a Belgian volunteer project at this pueblo and she tells us about the poverty here. The children get fed once a day, at breakfast, some boiled gruel. She ate the same gruel, got sick and left, and now she is touring. The volunteer project was teaching English and Computers, if you can believe it. The place actually has a computer, except it doesn’t work. They teach concepts on a white board – another story.
Nothing happens for about an hour and a half – except the men are crawling all over the truck and seem to be enjoying the diversion. There is no leadership. Or at least no one is taking charge. There are several buses in the building line-up of traffic. They seem to be waiting for the police to arrive, maybe. They do try rocking the truck, with about 30 men pushing. But the tires don’t roll.
Eventually, some guy gets an idea. I see him go under the truck and he is pulling some lines. I was afraid they might be fuel lines, and that he was going to blow up the truck, but what do I know? I tend to get paranoid around crowds. But then Rolf figured out that the guy was disconnecting the brake lines. And now the truck, even with the flat front tires, can roll.
The indigenous who have been monitoring our progress, now start to place rocks in front of the tires. Rolf crawls under the truck, removes a rock and tosses it in the river. This makes the travellers happy. There is renewed effort to push the truck to the side. And, amazingly, all of this is happening without anyone in charge.
As soon as the truck is almost clear to move off the bridge, another vehicle starts to crowd forward – to be the first one across. However a bus at the front, needs to back up, just a bit, to allow room for the blocking truck to be moved. The people seem to figure this out, and then they are backing up vehicles.
Thirty men, including Rolf, are pushing the truck to the side, and then there is room to cross the bridge.
During this time, the indigenous are peaceful, throwing water and not rocks.
We get through the pueblo, to the next blockade. Our bus’s men pile out, move the next truck and we are on our way. It is about 5 o’clock, there is another hour or so of daylight. The scenery is pretty, if you like rolling green hills that make me think of Ireland. But the effect is somewhat marred by the roadside garbage, with the dogs rooting through it.
After dark, about 6:30, it is rainy and foggy, and I don’t get to see much of the Incredible Scenery. I do see, out my window, the muddy gravel road, and I hear the blare of horns as buses meet each other on said road.
And I feel about as sick as I have ever felt with nausea. At 9 pm, we arrive in Cuenca, find a very nice hotel, and I swear off buses for life.
Except I have to get on another one tomorrow. I’m not sure I can do it. I may be stuck in Cuenca forever.
who now remembers that there is such a thing as Transderm V for motion sickness – but you can’t buy it in Ecuador.
I am enjoying Whistler in the fall.
The Village is peaceful. The crowds are gone. The weather is misty and quiet. The temperature hovers around 18, 19 and is perfect for walking or cycling.
And later today, it will be perfect for making a cup of tea, sitting on the balcony and writing a few pages.
In the time I went to school, I don’t remember ever having a teacher use this writing prompt. That may have been because I grew up in an agricultural community in Southwestern Ontario.
Summers meant hoeing beans, picking cucumbers, picking tomatoes and/or detasseling corn.
It was hard work and no one wanted to relive the experience in a school essay. When you lived on a farm, you worked on a farm.
Sometimes there were swimming lessons at the little pool in town, but I usually only got there for the July lessons. By August, there was too much work to do. As a result, I never moved pass Advanced Beginner. Although, I did have a pretty good dog paddle.
When I was twenty-four, I signed up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA and finally passed my Advanced Beginner and now I love to swim.
This summer, I was in the little town of Deep River, Ontario. One of my best summer vacation memories is jumping off the boat into the warm deep water of the Ottawa River on a hot sunny day.
That’s me on the far right, swimming with Makita, Liz and Ryan in the Ottawa River by Oiseau Rock.
Other than my trip to Ontario, I didn’t do a lot of summer vacation stuff because I was focused on the WIP. The Working Title is HIGHBURY and it’s almost finished. Almost. I am smoothing out the last two scenes and tying up loose threads. Along the way with this book, I discovered it was actually the Second book of a series. Once I am completely finished with it, I will begin the First book of the series. Nothing like starting in the middle.
I missed most of the summer movie fare, but I did see Guardians of the Galaxy. If you like the Marvel movies (The Avengers, Ironman) you will probably enjoy this one. I did. As usual, Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance. What a guy.
We had one BBQ in the backyard this summer with a few friends sitting around the fire. I will make sure to have at least one more BBQ in the warm days of Indian Summer.
And I only went hiking once, to Johnston Canyon, so I must make time to do at least Larch Valley this fall.
This summer, I signed up for an eleven-week session of drop-in Yoga. The Summer Sizzler. Turns out I love Yoga and I managed to get to 28 classes. I’ll go back to swimming at the Y this fall, but I want to do more Yoga.
Did you swim in any rivers, lakes or oceans this summer? Did you see any blockbuster summer movies? Did you take up any new sports or activities? How did you spend your Summer Vacation?
beach chairs from Bigstockphoto.com #5904213
corn tassel from Wikipedia
Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster from Internet Movie Database imdb.com
yoga from FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The story of my 2007 Ecuador adventure continues. This is a letter I wrote home after our two weeks in the Galapagos and our one week in the jungle.
For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.
Dear family and friends,
The Galapagos Islands are incredible. I knew they would be. I just didn’t know the heat would be so much. Getting back on the plane for Quito was wonderful.
The Napo River to the Jungle Lodge
We spent less than a day in Quito, and then flew to Coca, where we took a 45-minute boat ride down the Napo River to the Jungle Lodge. This was also hot, but only 29 degrees Celsius (in the shade) and there was major humidity. Very nice for your skin. I did a few jungle walks with the naturalist before I gave up.
Observation tower in the jungle
View from the tower
I think my stomach reacted to the Malarone (for malaria) or maybe it was just the heat. I don’t do heat well. That was me, lying in bed at night, with my ankles sweating, while I listened to all the interesting jungle noises, the cicadas, the frogs. One frog sounded like a construction vehicle when it’s backing up.
Our cottage for sleeping
We were at the Jungle Lodge for seven days, and for five of the days, we did Spanish lessons. And we slept a lot. The heat and humidity make you very sleepy.
Spanish lessons in the open air dining room
One day we visited a Chechua home. More culture shock. I find I don’t do culture shock well. I have decided that there are two kinds of people in the world: travellers and non-travellers. I am a non-traveller. Though, I have to say you don’t often get to watch your Chechua guide reach into a swamp and pull out a crocodile. And damn, me without a camera. Esta es la vida.
We returned to Quito yesterday, and we leave again tomorrow. Somehow we keep bumping into people we have met before. It’s that kind of place.
We stayed at Loro Verde.
In Quito, you can sleep. Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in three weeks, with the temperature under 20 degrees Celsius. It was heaven. And my stomach is starting to feel semi-normal.
Today, we did errands. First we found a shoe repair, and got Rolf’s sandal fixed, and his back pack mended. While waiting, we talked to the guy who was polishing shoes. This started in Spanish. Then the guy started using English. Rolf spoke Spanish and Bradley spoke English. Bradley was born in Los Angeles, of American dad and Ecuadorian mom, but he likes living here. Part time he works in the shoe repair place, polishing, and part time he works as a guide at the Explorers. He asked us where we were from. Alberta, I said. He knew of the place because, he said, Alberta is where the Titanic sank. He told us he knows all this stuff because he reads Watch Tower magazine, and then he began telling us about the Jehovah Witness. Rolf didn’t mind because he was getting Spanish practice. The backpack and sandal were repaired quickly, and all for $2. Rolf tipped the guy a quarter, for being so rapido.
After that we headed for the school, La Lingua, to pick up our certificates for doing 100 hours of Spanish. We had lunch with the director and her husband, and that took about three hours. Time moves at a different pace here.
Now, we are at La Sala, using the computers. It’s about 6:30 and time to decide on a restaurant. I’ll find Rolf and see how he’s doing with his emails.
Tomorrow, it’s the bus to Cuenca, for eight hours. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but apparently there is this incredible scenery that needs to be seen. I have seen so much incredible scenery I just don’t know if I have room for more. Hopefully, the bus won’t fall off the cliff and I will be able to write more emails. This bus trip is, I think, the last major adventure component of the trip. We will take another shorter bus to Vilcabamba and then fly back to Quito.
Oh yes, now I remember. There is one more adventure after this. We will do our last week in Baños, where Tungurahua is smoking. The volcano has not blown up for about eight years, and if it does while we are there, hopefully the wind will be blowing the right way.
Rolf completed his bicycle trip. On May 9, he flew to New Orleans, then bicycled up the Mississippi River Trail. On July 1, he reached the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca in Minnesota. From there he continued west across North Dakota. On July 9, he crossed the border into Saskatchewan.
The next day, he made it to the little town of Midale, 80 km from the border.
Saskatchewan is prairie. And while those vast yellow fields of canola are beautiful, the headwinds are challenging. Rolf decided to finish in Midale. The next morning, Friday, a local gave him a ride to Moose Jaw. On Saturday, I drove from Calgary to Moose Jaw and met him there and then we toured “Dog River”, half an hour south of Moose Jaw.
Corner Gas is set in the fictional town of Dog River, which is really the little town of Rouleau, Saskatchewan. This is Corner Gas.
The award-winning Canadian sitcom ran for 6 seasons from 2004 to 2009. Last month production started for Corner Gas: The Movie. It will be filmed at the original location in Rouleau with the original cast. Here is a summary of The Movie from the Corner Gas website:
It’s been five years, and there’s still not a lot going on 40 kilometers from nowhere. But that’s all about to change as the fine folks of Dog River, Saskatchewan face their biggest crisis ever. Brent and the gang discover that the town’s been badly mismanaged, leaving residents with little choice but to pack up and leave. As residents make one last rally to save Dog River as they know it, they discover a devious plan by a corporate giant that would change life for Dog Riverites forever.
Rolf and I had a perfectly sunny day to visit Corner Gas and Dog River. Here I am at the Police Station where Davis and Karen hang out.
And this is the newspaper: the Dog River Howler
Let’s not forget the grocery store.
Back at Corner Gas, Rolf and I are sitting outside Lacy’s coffee shop, The Ruby. (She inherited it from her Aunt Ruby.)
Behind the set, you can see the movie trailers.
Rolf is posing in front of the gas pumps. The place looks so real that people sometimes stop while looking for gas.
And across the road from Corner Gas, the Dog River grain elevators.
Have you seen Corner Gas? Are you waiting for the movie? Who is your favourite character?