South American I’d go anywhere
South American somebody take me there
I wanna be, I wanna be, going back

Brian Wilson/Jimmy Buffet-South American 1998

We are back, and working our way through culture and climate shock.
The mercury hit 114 yesterday. We’re spending a lot of time in the pool. Our house and puppy-Cody were in fine shape thanks to our younger son, Jacobo, who was house sitting.

We flew out of Guayaquil close to midnight after spending nearly three weeks in Quito, the Oriente (jungle), and the Galapagos Islands.

Seldom have we thought as much, existed as vividly, learned and experienced as much, and seldom have we been so much ourselves, as in this adventure.

Highlights of this trip include:

-Staying at Los Alpes in Quito. A small family owned hotel loaded with old world charm. Spending several days exploring Ecuador’s colonial capital city. Shopping at the Mercado & touring the Casa de Culture Museo, impressed by the quantity and quality of the pre Colombian pieces.

-Soaking in the volcanic hot springs at Papallacta in the Andes.

-Nine day stay in the Amazonian Runa community of Venecia on the banks of the Napo River, tributary to the Amazon River. Backpacking into the rainforest, trekking through waist deep water. Taking a couple of canoe trips into Misahaulli. Dining on grubs and other exotic Amazonian foods that come from the Amazonian hunting and gathering traditions. Observing and taking part in a Quichua healing ceremony.

-Cruising to six of the Galapagos Islands on the First Class Yacht, Eden.
Observing, close up, the incredible variety of wildlife that included marine iguanas, giant tortoises, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, penguins, sea lions, blue footed boobys, owls and many more bird species.

-Snorkeling with the sea lions, turtles and a few sharks. (Gerry)

On the first part of the Journey………..

We were met at the Quito airport by Dr.Tod Swanson, ASU professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Latin American Studies Program. Tod
was raised by missionary parents in the jungle. His knowledge of Ecuador and the rainforest is first hand.
Quito sits in a valley at 10,000 feet. The temperature is similar to San Francisco. It was in the 60s during the day and low fifties at night.
On our first full day we toured “old town” with the students. Our tour included the San Francisco Cathedral and the governor’s house built in the 16th century. We enjoyed viewing 16th century art at the monastery and lunched at Cueva de Oso. That evening we dined at an Italian restaurant that provided a magnificent view of Quito.

The following day we took a bus up through the Andes, often travelling at 14,000 feet.. We stopped for a swim in the hot springs at Papallacta and arrived at Cotacochi after dark. Cotacochi was an eco-resort built by a German group but since turned over to the Quichuan Napo Community. We were given a very nice casita overlooking the Napa River. Gerry had the luxury of a hot shower. El Lobo bathed in the river in order to live as closely as possible to the way the indigenous Quichua communities live.

I was looking at all the life……

I spent my days studying Spanish, which is a secondary language to the community, exploring, and studying tropical plant diversity. Because Spanish is a secondary language, it is spoken slower and therefore easier for a student to practice.
We listened to Quichua residents’ ideas of plant relationships and their uses for food, medicines and building materials. When Tod was a young boy and bitten by a Bushmaster (poisonous snake) he was treated by a Quichuan Shaman with a plant remedy.

There were plants and birds………

Brilliantly colored butterflies and birds fluttered everywhere. Long columns of leaf cutting ants carried their cargo back to the colony.
In the evenings we sat on our deck which overlooked the river and sipped Chilean wine. We ate both traditional Quichan foods and every day Ecuadorian fare. We particularly enjoyed the fried bananas, pineapple, and potato soup, for which popcorn served as a garnish.

On a couple of trips to the river town of Misahaulli, the group enjoyed cervezas at Alex’s bar. Alex was educated at the U of Michigan and after a successful international career in structural engineering he returned home. He was real friendly and at one point smiled and said “You guys have Boooosh!”

Monkeys seemed to have taken over the town, and several stole items left unprotected, which were stored up in trees. At one point a pair of sunglasses was thrown down by one of the thieves, I guess they didn’t fit.

Every day was full and fun. The students were all bright and energetic, a joy to be around. Our Quichuan hosts were delightful.

Gerry was very impressed with the quality of the program and the dedication of Tod and his staff.

Abel and Tito, a couple of local boys, heard that it was our our anniversary and treated us and the group to a special musical performance. They ended each song with “Mas Vino!”

The air was full of sound…………

Gerry was remarkable on our overnight to the selva.(jungle) Seven months after hip replacement she was wading through waist deep water and climbing up difficult muddy slopes. It rained heavily through most of the night, but before the rain started the sounds of the jungle were amazing.

During a Quechuan healing ceremony in which a shaman ingested ayahuasca (a hallucinogenic, boiled from a rainforest vine), he talked about the wild pigs that have disappeared from the rainforest and gone to the inside of the mountains. He talked about the belief that the mountains will be opened one day and the pigs will return. Interestingly, this belief is also shared by the indigenous tribes in the Midwest, but instead of pigs they believe that the Buffalo will emerge from the bowels of the mountains and return.

Not far from Cotacochi, in May of this year, two tribes went to battle and 26 people were speared to death. One of the tribes was not even known to be in existence. The Ecuadorian government considered intervention but did not move troops into the area. In sharp contrast, just across the road from us the rain forest was being cut for a pipeline to the oil fields.

Our real adventure of the trip was when Gerry and I left the group and took a bus from Tena to Quito. It was running late and we just barely got aboard as it wasted no time at the estacion. The driver hurtled with break neck speed into the Andes. At one point a pickup truck cut in front of us to slow down the bus and a guy jumped out of the pickup and jumped on to the bus. I placed our full packs around Gerry to cushion potential impact. Snacking on trail mix was a mistake as it jarred down the wrong pipe and I spent several minutes choking.
El autobus made numerous stops along the way picking up campensinos with machetes. At one point a machete went sailing down the aisle of the bus and flew out the door. Road construction slowed us down as the bus got stuck in mud. The innovative crew hooked up a towing device and a caterpillar pulled us out. If you were a male you were not allowed to use the bano on board, it was only for women and the driver controlled the llave (key). If you had to go, you jumped off when he stopped to pick up a fare. You had to be quick and jump back on before he left without you.
The Latin music from the radio was deafening. However, as we were “cruising” at 14,000 feet, we were tranquilized by the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen and……. like a message sent from God, the haunting melody “Dust in the Wind’ came on the bus radio. We both got chills.

We spent the next two days shopping and sight seeing in Quito. We brought back over 50 little tesoros (treasures) Everything is muy borrato. (cheap)

We flew to Guayaquil and then to the island of Baltra in the Galapagos. We were met here, by our guide, Rafael, who turned out to be a great guy as well as a very informed naturalist.
We took a bus to the good ship Eden and immediately launched for one of the islands. We enjoyed great chemistry with the 12 other passengers who hailed from 4 different continents.

The desert had turned to sea………

Each night we would cruise to a different desert island and during the day observe the incredible diversity of wild life. We would hike and observe and snorkel. Some would dive.

The ocean is a desert with life underground and a perfect disguise above…….

Gerry bonded with several sea lions that would swim with her, playfully darting over and under her. What a feeling!
On her birthday the cook made her a special cake and we all celebrated that evening.
On our last night Rafael took us to his home to meet his family. Coincidentally, he had spent time at ASU, several years ago, in the intensive English Language and Cultural Program.

I hope that everyone on this mailing list has the opportunity to see the rainforest and the Galapagos at some time and understand how important the rainforest is to mankind and the other species that share Mother Earth.

With a simple click, you can save an area of rainforest land -- every day, for free. Just visit http://www.therainforestsite.com/home and click on the "Save Our Rainforests" button. That's it!
I wanna be, I wanna be, going back

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