A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

My meager return to blog writing

I have not written much for the blog in a long while. Well, I have written brief descriptions of stops on the map and attempted to manage my mounting pile of digital images but I haven't continued my enthusiastic writing from the beginning of the trip. Luckily, Amy's blog writing has waxed as mine has waned and I have been able to contribute the pictures to go with her well-picked words. I have grown quite fond of my camera and enjoy pulling it out of my pocket to snap quick images in order to better share and remember experiences. I will blame some of lack of motivation for writing on the ameobas and bacteria that infected me for probably more than a month before I felt weak enough to get a test at the doctors (my self diagnosis of parasites was probably wrong but made me feel better for a little while). Now the little guys living in my digestive tract have been conquered by modern medicine I hope, I sure feel better.
In an attempt to get back in the swing of posting my writing I am publishing a couple brief little things that were written in my little pocket notebook. I carry it everywhere with me now and it is filling up with bus routes, hostal names and numbers, notes on plants and building techniques, email addresses of new friends, recomendations of destinations, and all manner of other jotted lists and numbers. One page contains ideas for pieces to write for the blog but many are still just titles at this point: Latin Futbol, Ecuador: Microcosm of South America, What does climate change mean for remote rural farmers? The microeconomies of buses, and others that have yet to take much form. Hopefully I will get the chance to elaborate on these ruminations soon, perhaps at our next stop volunteering in the eco-art village of Sachaqa or after while we float down river into the Amazon jungle. For now this is what is done. The poem was actually written in Colombia when I first experienced the Granadilla (a type of passion fruit) and sought for a way to share my fascination with it, now it has returned to my life for an even better price in Peru! The mountain list was inspired by our time at our last volunteer post in Ecuador just a week ago. Feel free to laugh at both!

Posted by tltisme 08:46 Archived in Peru Tagged writing Comments (0)

Ode to Granadillas

Alien fruit
orange teardrop

puncture your crisp peel
reveal your slimy innards

like a halloween brain

like frog eggs or fish eggs (but too cheap to be caviar)

odd to touch see and taste
but always so refreshing and delightful

so juicy and sweet
yet your seeds add a hearty crunch

I won't stop slurping you
for breakfast dinner and almuerzo.

Posted by tltisme 08:30 Archived in Colombia Tagged food fruit poem granadilla Comments (0)

Why and Why Not

to live on a mountain...

all seasons in one day 77 °F
View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

Sacred Suenos Permaculture farm

Sacred Suenos Permaculture farm

Why to Live on a Mountain:
1. The View
2. Going down to town is easy
3. You enjoy building stairs and terraces
4. Amateur meterology becomes a hobby (there are no pros anyway)
5. You get to look down on everyone else
Why Not to Live on a Mountain:
1. Flat(ish) land must be made
2. Coming up with supplies is hard
3. Stairs must be made everywhere
4. Erosion and mudslides suck
5. Flat ground becomes boring

Posted by tltisme 08:22 Archived in Ecuador Tagged view landscape mountain stairs living permaculture meterology Comments (0)

Goodbye for now Ecuador. Hello Peru!

We’ve come to the end of our time in Ecuador, a 3-week-turned-month-and-a-half adventure through a relatively small country with immensely diverse peoples, landscapes, climates and cities. We have come to know the people and the country much more intimately here than in Colombia, perhaps because of the amount of time we’ve spent or the amount of times we have been sick in people’s homes... In any case, there has been an undeniable warmth about the people we have come to know here.

The idiosyncrasies of each indigenous community have been fascinating to experience through each community’s colorful markets and festivals. Ecuador’s food has been at once predictable and full of little surprises. Our volunteer experiences have been peaceful, but animated by an eccentric crew of international volunteers. Meanwhile, couchsurfing with a pair of horse farmers, a systems engineer, a volunteer firefighter and a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer from Texas, injected dynamic energy into our experience in Ecuador.

Highlights include the majestic Quilotoa Crater Lake in the Central Highlands and a cozy hostel-with-woodstove stay,P1010383.jpg the Spanish streets and colonial buildings of Cuenca, P1020092.jpgP1020102.jpg eating in dozens of markets, swimming in the coast at Las Frailes,P1020009.jpgP1010994.jpg and waking up above the clouds, high in the mountains outside of Vilcabamba.P1020322.jpg Most important, however, are the relationships we have formed out of working with and sharing space with strangers.
Now, we will cross the border from Ecuador into Peru at La Balsa, into a much larger, touristic country that promises more volunteer opportunities, mountainous hikes, the Amazon, Incan and pre-Incan ruins, and at least another month of travel.

We will make a long, fragmented journey to Chachapoyas, with two other volunteers we met in our time at Sacred Sueños: Emile, a Quebecois biologist, who has a 2-month run of volunteer work, and Fabian from Switzerland, a practiced traveler on an open-ended journey through South America.

The deep beauty of Ecuador has made its impression on us, but we must forge ahead… onward to Peru!

Posted by AmyERichards 21:12 Archived in Ecuador Tagged peru in end of to highlights ecuador weeks six Comments (1)

Counterfeit Cash

During exchanges with vendors here, bills are nearly always checked for authenticity, although we hadn’t felt the need to take the same precautions about the cash we were handed until recently. Aside from monopoly money, I had never had fake cash in my possession until one afternoon in Puerto Lopez. Puerto Lopez is a coastal town with access to national parks, the “Poor Man’s Galapago’s” and a steady stream of tourists. We were about to find that where there are tourists, counterfeit bills are not uncommon.

In our case, we had jumped at a long-awaited opportunity to snorkel off the coast of Ecuador, the day after arriving in Puerto Lopez. We had bargained for a decent price for a half-day boat trip to try to snorkel (often each person in a group pays a different price, and vendors or guides keep close track of what they told each person)… So we met with about 10 other people near the beach and gave the second half of our payment to the collection woman. We needed change (which tends to elicit complaints) so she opened a super-compartmentalized wallet which contained a great deal of large bills. She fished around a bit and handed us a $5 bill (Ecuador’s currency is USD) and $3 in change (they use $1 Sacajawea’s instead of bills [apparently all of that pre-credit card subway change was being funneled into Ecuador]). So we gladly accepted our change without paying careful attention to the bills.

After an enjoyable boat ride, but no snorkeling because of murky water after storms, we made it back on land. I asked the woman who took our money how they charge people for snorkeling trips when they know there will be no snorkeling… she came up with a number of excuses and more or less walked away.

Later that day, we went to pay for groceries and T.L. found that his five-dollar-bill had mostly disintegrated, after getting wet on the boat. He paid with some coins and when we stepped onto the street, he showed me the bill… a laughably fake disintegrating piece of paper. Counterfeit money!
My instinct was to go back to the snorkeling place and explain what had happened, but we discussed our options before making moves: go to a bank, go to the police, go to the woman who gave it to us, try to put it back together and use it, call it bad luck and forget about it. My feeling of having been wronged said no to the last two options, so we asked our hostel owner how often this happened and what he suggested we do.
He said in the past, a great deal of counterfeit $20’s would come in from Colombia, but more recently, counterfeiting $5’s had come into practice because they went more unnoticed. He suggested the only way anything might be done about it would be to go directly to the woman who had given it to us, because the police were corrupt and the banks wouldn’t do much either.

We walked back to the tour office and I announced to a group of 6 or so people that we had been given a counterfeit $5 that morning. No one moved from their hammocks or their chairs, but everyone asked me to come show them the bill. Each shook his head, affirming that “no vale nada”. They began to explain, however, that the woman I had paid wasn’t there.

After a few minutes of describing the woman and some debating about how fat she was (one of the first things people ask when you try to describe a person is if they are fat, no offense to any of the fat people in the room). They finally determined that it was Julia, la gorda (the fatty), whose mother had cheated one of the man’s mothers out of $50 ten months ago. Of course, that must be her! After a series of phone calls, they summonsed Julia la Gorda to the tour office. We sat and waited as other people filtered in and out while the others related our story and passed around the five to the newcomers.

Finally, after a bit of waiting, Julia la Gorda appeared and was directed to T.L. and I with our disintegrated cash. We explained our story and she quickly denied that she gave it to us, but under the scrutinizing eyes of her peers, she changed the five without too much prodding. She proceeded to show us the rest of her real $5’s and how to tell that bills were counterfeit, while T.L. continued to try to give the new $5 backs to her, because he didn’t understand that she was actually giving us one. When we finally had the $5 back, we thanked her and left, perplexed at the exchange. Earlier we were sure that the snorkeling-free trip cost us an extra $5 that day, but we walked out with our $5 restored.

We have no way of knowing whether Julia la Gorda knew the bill she handed us was fake, whether she was part of a larger counterfeiting ring, or whether she was totally innocent. In the end, a wet boat ride made it so the bill was taken out of circulation and we have learned to be more conscious of the bills we receive in our travels.

Posted by AmyERichards 14:40 Archived in Ecuador Tagged puerto five ecuador bill lopez dollar bills fake counterfeit duped Comments (0)

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