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By this Author: tltisme


vertical gardens

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Itamar Sela (one of our hosts at Organizmo) worked for a landscaping company in New York City after he finished his three year Landscape Design degree at the New York Botanical Gardens. The majority of the large companies work in the city was centered around green walls and Itamar was first introduced to them there. After moving to Colombia with Ana Maria he began constructing his own green walls and incorporating them into the buildings they constructed. Itamar experimented with different materials, structures, arrangements, and plants to find what worked best in this new climate and in different settings. Itamar began his own landscaping company that in just over two years employees eight people. A year or so into operation he decided that the business was spending too much on pots and planters so he set up his own concrete forming shop run by one guy churning out planters from various molds. He has also set up a base for business operations in Bogota where he grows seedlings for his projects in a small greenhouse and displays the planters for clients to choose from. Itamar remarked that greenwalls have become fashionable in Bogota and there are more and more requests for them.
From hydroponic systems of timed watering and fertilization in high-class courtyards to stacked planters watered by hand, greenwalls can suit any environment, budget, or aesthetic.
The two basic categories seem to be either pouches or planters. Normal rectangular planters (window boxes would work but they don't have many things made out of wood here) can be stacked in such a way to allow plant growth from exposed portions to form a living pillar, or specially designed walls of angled planters allow plants to grow outward and upward.
One of the workshops for the Climate Champions of Colombia at Organizmo was constructing hanging chains of large soda bottle planters for an even 'greener' effect.
The pouch method involves a fabric or geotextile as they call it here (landscape cloth or filter fabric at home) of two or more layers made into pouches filled with soil and plant material.
Greenwalls are ornamental constructions just like most landscaping and flower gardens but their ingenuity lies in their use of space and ability to provide greenery and life in confined places. The design aspect for planting such a vertical surface turns traditional garden design on its head (or side rather) so that it becomes something more like a composition or living painting.
I have been most impressed by the idea of using this technique for herbs. Both aesthetic and useful, whether for cooking, teas, or live aroma, herb walls can merge artistic design and practicality just as the best gardens, landscapes, architecture, and ceramics do (in my opinion). Picking prime leaves from a wall is simply easier and more space efficient than picking from a bed, pot, or planter. Throw in the novel and often advantageous shielding effect of such a barrier and the ease of watering and weeding, and herb walls seem destined to become a more familiar sight in cities and towns around the world.

Posted by tltisme 20:35 Archived in Colombia Tagged gardens architecture greenwalls Comments (1)

Me gusta Ecuador

overcast 68 °F
View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

Yesterday morning Amy and I left San Agustin and made it to Pasto, witnessing and enduring the most mountainous, curvy, breathtaking roads I have ever experienced. Rising to over ten thousand feet at the highest and going back down and up again multiple times it was quite the couple bus rides. The Andes mountains of Colombia have been the most consistently impressive piece of the landscape and I can´t stop taking pictures of them. Today we crossed into Ecuador and are currently waiting in an internet cafe for our couchsurfing hosts for the weekend. The couple owns a horse farm outside of Otavalo and we are excited to stay with them for the weekend. We have many more pictures and words to share when we have more internet access.

Posted by tltisme 15:09 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)


(something I am still working on, J's are pronounced like H's in spanish)

sunny 77 °F
View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

While working at Organizmo I consistently admired the rocky topped mountain that rose above all the rest. Our hosts mentioned early on in our stay that it was a great hike and they recommended it for all their volunteers. Amy and I planned on doing it our first weekend but less than favorable weather and health forced us to postpone the hike. I wanted to get up early and do it the morning of my birthday but I was still recovering from the stomach bug and decided to push it back again. With workshops duties looming on the weekend, our last chance to reach the summit was Friday morning. Thursday night we filled our water bottles with filtered water from the kitchen and grabbed some grenadias, apples, and a peach and hoped for a clear morning.

Friday dawned gray but the sky looked encouraging and we were on the road before seven. A short walk down the paved road toward Tabio and we turned up toward the mountain.
Still paved for another half kilometer or so, we passed houses and barking dogs. As we reached the end of the pavement a short-haired black dog and his smaller brown and white companion greeted us. I thought they were just after the end of my cheese sandwich breakfast and tried to ignore them. We continued upward, the trail beginning up through the woods as we left the houses and farm animals behind, but the two dogs tagged along. The trail was a stone and concrete affair for the first kilometer or so before it gave way to packed earth and washed out ravines through the dense growth of bamboo, bushes and small trees. Occasionally hikers before us and water had branched off onto divergent trails but they all came back together soon enough and the way was easy to follow. As we steadily climbed up the steep hillside I tried not to worry about the warning of robbers on the trail we had received from a stranger driving past days earlier. Our hosts dismissed the warning, saying they had hiked the trail many times and never seen another soul, let alone someone waiting to waylay climbers. This made sense, if someone wanted to rob people there were far easier places for them to do it than halfway up a mountain where very few people ever went. I continued convincing myself not to worry while I conjured up creative ways to hide my camera if a robber materialized. I was also growing fonder of our canine companions by the minute as they trotted along with us and would give us an early warning of other humans. Unless they were the thief's dogs and were leading us right to their master...

After only an hour of climbing the clouds lifted and the stone face of Juaica emerged above us. We were close! By 8:30 we had reached the top, a small clearing with a few hardy trees and the remains of a fire. We followed a trail down toward the cliff faces of the peak, eventually we found the edge and a good rock to sit on while we ate our fruit and Clifbars and observed the valley below. A spectacular view!
My GPS told me we were at 10,036 ft, the highest I have ever been outside of Colorado I believe. Organizmo was about 8,500 ft above see level so our climb was only about 1,500 vertical feet but we must have adjusted well to the altitude in the valley because the added height did not have any negative effects on us. We picked out Organizmo by the greenhouse roof and could make out the two domes (black at this point). We could see both Tabio and Tenjo on either sides of the valley and over the next mountain ridge to the far valley nearing Bogota. Three hawks rode the thermals and sailed past our breakfast spot and the sun beat down on the panting puppies who collapsed in the grass next to us.
We enjoyed the view and our rations before beginning the walk down. We were reinvigorated and very glad we had gotten the chance to climb Juaica. I spent most of the descent scoping out walking/self-defense sticks and finally finding the perfect bamboo pole and hacking it down with my knife. Amy tolerated my stick hunt and we met no one on the way down though we did hear chainsaws and glimpsed a man herding his cows along a different trail. The mountaineering dogs remained with us until we reached their home again and we bid them a fond farewell. We returned to Organizmo before noon, feeling accomplished and invigorated.

Posted by tltisme 15:00 Archived in Colombia Tagged landscapes mountains hiking dogs Comments (1)

Interesting info: Colombia

View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

Bogota is a city of over 10 million and has been plagued with terrible traffic. Recently they have enacted a simple policy to reduce vehicles on the road called pico y placa (peak and plate): each weekday four different final digits of personal vehicle license plates are not allowed in the city limits between 6am to 8pm. This results in an individual not being allowed to drive on two weekdays a week unless they can afford to own two cars! Even this can backfire as the digit combinations are rotated every six months. Public transportation abounds in the form of buses (as well as countless little yellow taxis) so the policy simply keeps some cars parked (40% of personal vehicles daily) during the work week but does not seriously inhibit personal transportation. This seemed comical when I first heard it but overall it is a very simple and effective policy that has been adopted in other cities in Colombia (including Medellin) and around the world. Traffic is still bad at rush hours so I cannot imagine what it was like before this policy was implemented.

Blockbuster is a booming business here. Apparently Netflix has not entered the market, I haven't seen any Redbox or other video rental stores either but Blockbusters are very nice and popular.

Gasoline is around 8600 Colombian pesos a gallon. When we first arrived the exchange rate was nearly 2000 pesos to 1 dollar but that has dropped to 1770 to 1 currently. That makes gas around $4.75/gal while diesel is cheaper at around 4 bucks. Overall Colombia has not been cheap for us. Food is less expensive than the States (a nice daily lunch or dinner special with soup and a small desert is btw. $3-$5 in cities) and taxis are cheaper (but we only take them when really necessary) but metro rides are around a dollar and bus fares are comparable to US ones for the most part. We expect it to be easier in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia to stay on our tight budget.

Fingerprints are used for everything, sometimes with a signature, sometimes in place of one. Changing money and buying a cheap prepaid cell phone (about 20 bucks for phone, SIM card, and starter minutes) are when we have come across it but we are told it is a very common practice. Amy almost put her thumb in the ink pad before the woman at Comcel grabbed her pointer finger.

Rat tails and mohawks are very common. I had a rat tail in Kindergarten...I still remember it fondly, and a mohawk briefly when most of the UMW soccer team got them for the homecoming game. It seems the real footballers here all have hawks and the majority of adolescent males have some variation of the haircut.

I will be adding more funny facts to this post when I come across them. If you have a question about any post leave a comment!

Posted by tltisme 09:59 Archived in Colombia Tagged facts Comments (0)

Sunrise, school uniforms, and stopped on a mountain road

getting the bus from Bogota to Medellin

semi-overcast 79 °F
View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

We woke up at 5:30 yesterday morning and were out waiting for the bus in front of Organizmo by 6. The sun was rising behind the mountains and the mist was heavy on the fields. We were leaving a beautiful place but we were excited to see more of Colombia out the bus window and get on with our travels. We flagged down the Bogota/Terminal bus and were on our way. Monday was the first day of school after summer vacation for kids in Colombia and plaid skirts and colored sweaters were everywhere. There was a Bolivariano (highly recommended to us) bus to Medellin leaving at 8:20. We thought we would have enough extra time to buy a cheap cell phone and snacks for the around 10 hour ride. We underestimated Bogota traffic at rush hour on a monday morning. P1000421.jpg
Normally only a little more than an hour, we rode that bus nearly three through stop and go traffic to its final stop at the bus station. We thought the next Bolivariano bus was not until 11:30 but when we got to the window the woman told us the next bus was in diez minutos. I ran to grab some food while Amy got the tickets. A couple of arepas (pancake like corn or flour cakes sometimes with cheese inside), a salami and cheese sandwich or something like that, and a random roll that I picked went along with our other provisions onto the bus. Luckily we had brought a generous amount of water and other fruit and granola bars.
The bus was nice! (Interesting security measure: an employee walked down the aisle after everyone was seated with a video camera to document faces) It was not crowded and we relaxed as we watched the development of Bogota fade into the hills.
Our route took us down from the mountain chain where the capitol lies (the Cordillera Oriental), across the Magdalena River valley, and back up into another piece of the Andes, the Cordillera Occidental.
Fields of what looked to be a red grain, quinoa I believe.
Crossing over the Rio Magdalena
Nearing sundown on a winding mountain road we thought we were getting close, maybe only a couple hours away, when the bus came to a halt. The bus had stopped a couple times earlier for a few minutes on a piece of one way road where work was being done or something but after a few minutes the engine was turned off and we knew this delay was a little different. All we could see from the bus was a line of vehicles ahead of us curving around the mountainside. After about half an hour a few vehicles passed heading the other direction but we realized they were just trucks and buses from further ahead in line who had given up to seek an alternate route. I have no idea how large a detour they had to go to get around or even if they were trying to do that, they may just have been going back, going home, assuming this road would not be passable for a while...After three hours a police car drove past, up the line of cars. I think there was an accident and in our remote location this was the first responder. Later an ambulance, other emergency vehicles...by this time I was trying to sleep so I wasn't paying as much attention. It rained for a while and I was glad that at least we had the bus to wait in. The onboard entertainment was still working with the bus off and I half watched Casino Royale in dubbed Spanish. Daniel Craig would have gotten to the bottom of this roadside snafu in less than an hour I am sure. Just after midnight the bus cranked up and I thought we were back in business. Then I realized we would be getting into Medellin at 2 or 3 am. We had arranged to stay at a girls appartment on Couch Surfers (more on this amazing network later) but had managed to email her with the kindle from our sticky spot on the side of a mountain in Colombia to say we probably wouldnt be getting in until late. She replied with concern and said to call when we got in, she would be going to sleep around 12. The bus stopped again and turned off, false alarm, just moving up I guess. Sometime around 3 or 4 am we finally began to move again and kept rolling. Amy and I had been concious of rationing our water and were down to just PowerBars and fruit leathers in our pack, we wondered how the rest of the passengers were as content with seemingly no water. In the United States it would have been a bus of very angry people but somehow everyone on board accepted this massive delay with a shrug. One of the few locals living in the area came to sell coffee to passengers at one point and it sounded almost like a party out the door of bus for a little while with laughter and friendly banter as the drivers and passengers passed the time. Anyway, we finally got off in Medellin about 7 am. This was our first glimpse of the city this morning as I groggily tried to put my stuff back in my pack and enter a new urban area. P1000446.jpg
21 hours total on the bus for what was supposed to be a 10 hour trip...yikes.

Posted by tltisme 18:41 Archived in Colombia Tagged traffic bus Comments (0)

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