Few experiences are more satisfying time and again then coming
home from a long trip away.
Sleeping in your own bed after 20 hours of buses and airports and planes
is so good. Especially if your bed
is he kind that no hotel used by tours would ever afford. Supporting every one of the
shifting curves in each of our bodies without disturbing the other, long deep
sleep just came not a moment too soon.
Awakening to a neighborhood of friend’s morning walks, and
driving off to work, our welcome greetings signal a return to normalcy in a
community we love. The box of mail
our postperson brought to our doorstep bore invitations to re-emerge from
controlled privacy. Slowly, we
walk back into a familiar routine which better supports our bodies, and eases
our pace of change.
Unpacking to either the washer/dryer or the pile of latest
art acquisitions in search of locations, we take an inventory of the trip’s
experiences and decisions. Which
clothes to replace, purchases to store, and memories to set into the back
locations? Comparing now available
research, did we really visit the right places, have the best experiences, and
learn the most we could? And are
really that much tanner and slimmer than we left? Do our Panama (actually they’re usually made in Ecuador)
hats make us look as cool as we think, and how much will we wear them? When will we stop greeting and thanking people in Spanish?
Refilling the hummingbird feeder, and sprinkling the pond
with fish food, we’re welcomed back by those friends. I notice that hungry blue jays are busy sorting through
rain-gutter snared oak tree twigs, and helping reduce my often-postponed,
precariously-perched, roof cleaning days. My shout-out to them is only tempered by a wish they
wouldn’t also drop twig-bomblets from the oak trees over the hot-tub while I’m
in it. But I guess my
dodging is a small price to pay.
Catching up on the radio news, reversing vacation holds, and
contemplating watching the many hundreds of hours of taped favorite series
episodes our digital video recorder captured, we decide we’re back. It was a wonderful 38 days which
greatly expanded our sense of many different peoples, and brought us lots of
new friends. Now, we begin to
integrate it all into what the rest of 2013 brings us.
Well, this morning we're at the Quito Airport. Only 18 more hours of flying, riding airporter buses, and sitting at airports, and we'll be home. By the way, for those of you who couldn't get to the YouTube video of the butterflies last night, I apologize. In addition to failing to make it's access public, Google's YouTube staff spent some time fixing some jerkiness in it, and reposted it at another location. It looks better now, and I fixed the problems so you should be able to get there from the original link. Thanks very much to the Google staff. They're following our blog too, and it's appreciated.
The last day on any adventure (excluding the long flight home day) usually contains some wondering about if we missed anything. And whether we'd do the trip differently now that we know what we do. Our answers on this trip are that we would put the destination for today (Mindo Protected Cloud Forest) earlier. And we would encourage Adventures Abroad to include the National Museum officially on the tour. But other than that, we'd not change a thing.
Alejandra, our guide for today, is terrific. Very much like Diego and Wilson, she loves being a tour guide. They all embody the reason why tour guides should be supported in their work. Nation-building requires ongoing efforts by passionate individuals who know their country and want to help in mature. Locally-raised, and well-trained tour guides, employed by a network of cooperating entities (foreign and domestic) are essential to enable travelers to understand a country. They should be better organized to protect their rights and to expand their capabilities. One of the lessons I've learned here is how valuable these unrecognized ambassadors are.
We began the day with a visit to Puluhua Caldera, a viewpoint overlooking a large valley containing a small village. In a recently-contructed entrance area, we talked about the impact of the government offering free and unsupervised access to parks subsidized by advance payments from the Chinese for long-term oil exploration rights. We all agreed that nothing is forever in governmental budgets.
Mindo Protected Cloud Forest lies on one of the roads from Quito to the coast, and a spectacular road it is. Alejandra's ability to navigate the landslide-prone route, while alerting us to every nuance of climate zone changes to plants and trees, amazed us. The destinations she chose for us to visit, and the people she chose for us to support, again demonstrated tour guiding at its best.
What I like most about the Hosteria Mariposa de Mindo is their comprehensive approach to displaying the life-cycle of the butterfly. Their facility is designed to let you get as close as possible to the entire process.
And the hummingbirds everywhere are nothing to sneeze at.
Later, we visited the owner of an orchid farm who cares for over 200 species, many of which were brought to her by the police as a result of raids on illegal orchid operations. Her knowledge of each was extensive, and she seemed pleased to hear I would send her a link to the photos I took to add to her records.
Tonight, we had a nice dinner at the hotel, and packed up our bags. Tomorrow, we fly home.
We flew from Cuenca to Quito this morning, and were met at the New Quito International Airport by Alejandra, our tour guide until Sunday. There are still some kinks to work out at the airport, but we sailed through quickly, and she drove us to our old familiar Quito hotel - the Mercure. Circling the block a few times to overcome a broken down bus on our street, we finally got inside and were given a room right underneath the one we left before going to the Galapagos.
We've decided to rest today, but may go out to the National Museum later. The Central Bank operates the museum, as the banks have a huge role in supporting the artistic community in Ecuador. Americans might have felt better about bailing out the financial institutions if their banks did as much for the community as these do.
Tomorrow, we're headed to the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest, a 35, 000 acre reserve where 400 species of birds, and lots of orchids, waterfalls, and butterfly gardens await. On Sunday, our flight through Miami to San Francisco begins at 10:15am and ends and ends late that night. I'll try to post the shots taken tomorrow on Saturday night, and load up the MacAir and IPad with videos and games for the long flight home.
We made it to the National Museum. Wow! Their archeological wing is full of ceramic pots, and gold and silver pieces from the more than a dozen of their Pre-Inca civilizations (mostly coastal groups) dating from 4000 BC to 1000 AD.
First, thanks for all of your birthday wishes. Celebrating my 65th by going to see Ingapirca was the perfect present. On the way, we stopped by El Rocio, a church built on the site of yet another miracle and vaguely reminding us of a small European castle. The views of the town of Biblian from the walkway around the base made you understand why so many early empires cherished these valleys.
Ingapirca has been called the largest Inca ruin in Ecuador. To call it Incan is not the whole truth, however. Though the stones which finished the Temple of the Sun are mostly of Incan design, the site was made by an earlier civilization known as the Canaris.
For almost a thousand years before the Inca, these stone temples served as the home of the Canaris leadership, and were used to chart astronomical movements and guide agricultural decisions.
But the Incans were good at incorporating their foes cultures into theirs, and it didn't hurt their PR to be defeated by the Spanish in so grand a style. So we branded everything found as Incan. But if you ask any local who built most of what is in Ecuador and Peru, you'll get very proud responses which reveal the complexity of these early advanced building communities.
That wonderful dinner we had last night was not well received by Diego's stomach, and he sent Wilson Galarza to fill in for him today. As Wilson explained, "We're the two best tour guides in Ecuador", so there were some high standards for him to meet.
He didn't disappoint us. Today, we enjoyed another great day in what is a truly great South American city. Cuenca has grown in the last 40 years into one of the best combinations of pre-Inca, Inca, colonial Spanish, Republican Ecuador, and modern 21st century experiences we've seen. Its cosmopolitan population brings a rich blend of sounds, smells, colors, and experiences.
Walking around the city's center, on pedestrian and bicycle-freindly streets, illustrates why almost 4,000 Americans have established homes here. The river walks alone are worth the trip, and the climate just adds the desert to this beautiful menu.
This is an unusual morning post, but we've a few minutes before breakfast, and then off with Diego to drive to Cuenca. I thought that I'd add some notes about the Galapagos. We're healthy, but Pat's knee is still keeping her from walking well. We're icing it at night, and everyone was patient with our pace. My coughing is still episodic, and comes when I try to talk too much. Is that a good thing?
First, the boat. Klein Tours owns three boats in the Galapagos, We were on the biggest, which holds 100. With 80 passengers, and 70 crew, we were very pampered. Each day, we'd be awoken at 6:45am by Kari's voice on the intercom, informing us that breakfast was being served at 7. At 8, we'd begin disembarking by groups of 16 to zodiacs with our guides (we were Cormorants with Javier) to go visit the island that our boat had moved to during the night. After a n hour or two, we'd return for lunch, and head back out afterwards to another part of the island.
There are lots of islands in the Galapagos, and our tour took us to five of them. Each has different variations of mostly the same animals and birds, as you all know the evolutionary reasons. I found myself surrounded by really good photographers, and chose not to try to top them in great shots of the animals. Two in particular said they'd let me use their photos when I get home to construct a great album. stay tuned for that. I did get some shots in the photos you can see in yesterday's post.
More in tonight's post. Off to breakfast.
Something is still very wrong about the process of linking photographs to these posts. Several times now, I have re-loaded the photos in the spaces where there appears thee "minus" signs. Each time, the minus re-appear. Also, many of my photos are not making it to the albums. It's a real bummer. I'm not happy, and will get to the bottom of it. Probably not until I return though, so i'm crossing my fingers that it does not get worse.
Off to breakfast on Wednesday. We're touring Cuenca today.