Sig and Tony and Deb's Excellent Adventure

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Flag of Ecuador  , Loja,
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ahhhh, I type this note as I lay in my glass fronted cabin, built by German craftsmen, in the lush Andes Mountains of southern Ecuador, CBC Calgary Radio playing in the background on my laptop telling me about the horror that is playing out in Japan, the sun and the birds just waking up here, a donkey up the mountain bellowing out his hardships and I meet another day with awe. OK, I live a pretty fine life and this piece of it here in Vilacabamba Ecuador is going to be really hard to give up sometime next week.

It is hard to get my head around the peacefulness and solitude of this place with the sadness and fear of the reality of what is going on just across the sea in Japan.  The power of a wave, the randomness of location and the reality of the consequences when combined.  I think about the fairness off it all and where a greater plan fits in. 

This is all the more relevant in this little village as it is a mecca for a bevy of strange characters from all over the globe.  My two buddies, Siggy, a Nowegian  and Tony, an American, and I made our way through the beautiful Andes from Cuenca over a week ago.  We came in Tony's truck and it was a treat to again have the freedom of a private vehicle;  we could stop where we wanted and I was responsible for trip planning and map reading.  We were headed to Loja, a city in southern Ecuador, and on the way I found a lovely gentle little town, Saraguro, to stop for lunch.  This little town is home to an Indigenous group who still dress completely in black:  the women in black wool skirts and shawls and very cool wide brimmed hats, plain on the outside and black and white patterned inside.  They wear beautiful wide, collar like,  beaded necklaces around their necks, giving some personalization to the common black outfit.  The men wear black knee length shorts, black socks and shoes and have their hair in a long single braid down their back.  They have a very traditional Andean look, albeit different from other places in Ecuador, yet very handsome.    The outstanding skill of the women is in creating these magnificent wide bead necklaces.  They had them for sale in the town square, not really for tourists as it is clear that very few tourists stop here, but for each other and I saw men and women buying each others goods.  It was a really nice stop on our 4 hour journey to Loja.

Loja didn’t turn out to be as pretty and I can’t write the words that were flying around the truck to describe the place.  We searched all over the city looking for a place to stay and my very colourful truckmates had me howling with laughter with their commentaries.  I have to say I don’t think I have laughed as much continuously as I have with these guys.  The three of us together make for a 'three stooges’  rountine at every turn.  Siggy, a thirty something perpetual traveller – I think he is into year 8 or so, continuing around the world, again and again, and Tony, a 60 something, retired ‘burned out, broken down, (his words), dentist from West Palm Beach Florida (Jupiter) – originally from Boston, now living  here in Ecuador: somewhere between Manta and the next perfect Kitesurfing beach.  You couldn’t put a more eclectic trio together and we crack each other up.

It didn’t take too many minutes in Loja for it to be clear that there was no way we were going to be happy in there so Siggy talked us into heading up?, down? over?  the mountain towards Vilcabamba.  We all had reservations a few days later in this little village having heard great things about a particular Hostal.  It was fully booked because, technically it was still Carnival week and Vilcabamba is a popular spot for Ecuadorians to spend Carnival.


With a hope and a prayer we headed out of Loja and over the Mountain towards Vilcabamba.  The drive is beautiful.  I realize that ‘beautiful’ is an overworked term I seem to use over and over,  but these old, Inca terraced, lush Andean mountains are uniquely lovely.  They are high, soft and lush, completely green with stunted foliage:  terraced to facilitate corn crops built on perpendicular slopes, and are different from any other mountains I have seen.  They give me the feeling of a warm soft blanket on a chilly night.  There is a completely different feeling in the Andes, so unlike the raw, new, ‘anything is possible’ feeling of the Rocky Mountains where I live.  These are mountains with experience:  the people working the fields and wandering slowly on foot along the roadways, also look very worn and wise.  There is no sense of hurray here – it is a place for reflection and thought.  The people are not exuberant like Mexicans, not outwardly joyful like the Costa Ricans, not loud like the people from the Caribbean and completely unlike the frantic energy of Asians.  The feeling here is like sitting with a wise elder – it takes time to build a relationship, time to have them decide if you are worth trusting or not, but you just know that if they do, there will be a rich reward when they choose to share their pearls of wisdom.

Our first stop in this pretty town was a great $10 night, private room, private bath, breakfast included Guesthouse in town (Hostal Margarita).  It has a swimming pool, a beautiful garden and seemed perfect.  Three rooms were available – we each grabbed out piece of paradise, I choose the back of the place… and then……I immediately realized the error of my ways…….my nemesis……f’in roosters.  Not just one or two – a full yard of caged, fighting stock, roosters.  Cock fighting is still very big all over South America and it seems like my room overlooked the Ecuadorian Olympic Cock Training Facility.  For those of you new to my blogs, I learned very early in Thailand and then Cambodia, that Roosters do not just ‘Cock – a doodle –do" in the morning like nice Canadian Roosters.  In the rest of the world they scream, not 'doodle-do',  day and night.  If one starts, the rest seem to be ‘spurred’ on – get it? And join in the abysmal chorus.  Anything and everything sets them off and I guess when you are training for your one and only fight…they fight to the death,  maybe you are high strung, nervous and have a lot to get off your fluffy chests.  Three nights in this place and I was ready to become a Cock Fighter (killer)myself…….yeah, I can hear the comments….thank you very much.

So I was mucho mucho thrilled ( note the correct usage of Spanish tenses), when Saturday rolled around and we could make our way up the hill to this little place of solitude called Izhcaluma.

As the rest of the world hurries and worries, I am, again, so grateful to be safe and calm and happy.  My heart goes out to those in Japan.
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Hilary Ramsey on

Love your stories should write book!

Gwynne Roy on

Deb, I am enjoying your blog so very much, and agree that you most certainly should write a book. Do continue to have a wonderful time. Sincerely, Gwynne

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