Sunday, November 25, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR ~ DAY 4

Riobamba... nice town. Not as pretty as Cuenca, but it has a nice main drag that has some really nice stores in it..and restaurants.

After we woke up we all met up fo breakfast at a local place we had spotted the nite before. They advertized waffles, pancakes and crepes. We the waffles were much larger in the photo than the 4 inch across ones that were served. The bacon that we paid extra for was maybe one inch across.. Randy was pleased with his microscopic sausage. We all got a kick out of our breakfast as all of our waffles, pancakes and crepes were served with chocolate sauce on it as well.. sigh.. it was tough but we managed to eat our "dessert" for breakfast.

Again we fired up the trusty Garmin and we were off to find our way out of town.. we did it! First try. Well, kind of. The road was being worked on so we were detoured.. The Garmin lady was not pleased.. "In 50 meters make a U turn".. oh shut up... We were all backed up on a dirt road with cars trying to get up a hill that was all muddy.. Mug bogs anyone? We decided that a local in front of us had the right idea as he took a sharp right and headed off in another direction. We followed and found our way around the steep muddy hill , boucing and bumping along the dirt road out to the main paved (thank goodness) road.

Our 4th day was pretty smooth, considering we hit MAJOR fog. So bad that we were creeping along at maybe 15 km. Then we hit some heavy rain, and one of the areas that we came to was awash in mud from the neighborhood next to the highway.. Randy had to come to a stop and slowly cross through the mud river. Once again... I was so taken over by what was happening I forgot to whip out the camera and take a picture.
Flooded road in a town we passed through..

We found a nice restaurant on our way back and had a lunch. (thought not as nice as the one in Puyo). The scenery was nice, the bath room was horrible.. Remember ALWAYS carry kleenex in Ecuador.



We had planned on staying the nite in Paute, as the rental car did not have to be back until noon on Friday.. but we were so tired. We drove staight through to Paute, dropped off one friend, then another in Cuenca and raced home. Off went our shoes. On when the REAL comfy clothes and back into our comfy chairs... ahhh. I love going on a vacation; cause then home feels twice as nice when you return.



Monday, November 19, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR ~ DAY 3

GOOD MORNING BANOS!

We had a great sleep and a nice leisurely hang out while we waited for one of our group to get back from their mornging STEAMBATH in a box! Yep. They got those in Banos too.

We had decided on a restaurnt that had an attached hostal. It looked like it was just a few blocks from our location so we headed off on foot to find it. Once we arrived (with some directions from a local) we settled down to a huge breakfast of fruit, bread, juice, tea/coffee and omeltes, pancakes.  It was delicious and decadent!

Of course we needed to walk a bit more to get our food to settle before we clambered back into the car. On our route we found a beautiful Peacock sitting in a bush giving us the evil eye.
Then we came across a little weaving shop. Randy kept going, but I stopped with my friend..we were enchanted. The weaver (Carmela) had done all the rugs, wall hangings and table runners herself. Her loom was very old and she had a weaving on the loom. They were all wool and she used all natural dyes... well I was sunk..

Randy showed back up and I did my best to convince him that we needed a wall hanging... I am a real good convincer..

Carmela and my cool wall hanging!
Now we were off to Puyo. I have to say this is the prettiest drive. The land changes from very tropical to sandy and hot, then back to tropical. It was fabulous. There are alot of gondola type businesses as well as ziplining.. called Canopy. You are zooming out over a very wide and deep canyon.. empty your bladder before beginning the trip. We all passed on this experience.
One of 3 tunnels we passed through to get to Puyo
A real wide area of the river
Tried to get a picture of the huge ferns.. can you see that one compared to the truck?
We stopped in a little town of Mera and walked around. It was HOT! There was a sad shut down Gondola ride across from the main square, we all walked over and looked across the river as we tried to imagine having the nerve to actually ride in one.

We went through a town called Shell, named after the Oil company that was based there. It had some nice playground equipment and something like Disney Characters (picture was too blurred). It just seemed so out of place. The Oil company is now gone. The town is still there.

Once we got to Puyo, we were off to find the recommended Balsa store. Of course we forgot our directions that our friend Chuck had given us, so after getting directions from the Itur office and several folks on the sidewalk, I gave up and called Chuck. We all were grateful to pile back into the car with the air conditioning. Hot and Humid, we were not very appreciative of.

We found the Casa de Balsa. Its right on the main road as you come into Puyo, 3 story bldg, big sign.. sigh... we had driven right past it. We all supported the Balsa industry and piled back into the car to head back to Banos.
Our guy, in his new home..

After a quick lunch at a local almuerzo restaurant (oh yum it was great, big and $2) We hit a huge storm. Thunder lighting right over head and RAIN!  Gully Washer rain! We had to pull off the road cause we could not see..

Yeah, time to take a breather...
We arrived back in Banos and decided that a bathroom stop and Ice Cream were required to continue on to Riobamba for another overnite stay.

I must say here that we all wanted to find the SHORTEST route to Riobamba.. That did not happen.. we drove up and down the road, asking folks where the shortcut was.. police, GPS and locals... nada.. we ended up going up and down one long stretch of road 3 times before Randy decided he was taking over and making the decision to go to Amabato (off the map) then Riobamba.. no shortcut in the dark for us.

We ended day 3 about 7 pm in Riobamba, tired, and wore out, back at the Shalom hotel. Thank Goodness they had a rooms for the 4 of us. We crossed the road wolfed down a half decent burger, watched Ecuador beat Barcelona in Soccer and then went back to our rooms to relax... it had been one hell of a day!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR ~ DAY 2

We had made it to Riobamba, found a great comfy hotel within our budgets, and woken up to a beautiful day. The only thing we could think of was breakfast!

Luckily the nite before we had scouted our neighborhood and saw a place that looked like a good spot. They were full of the locals and they served breakfast.

I decided since I was on vacation I should have a Amaretto Cappaccino
With our stomachs full and our spirits high we were off to find Guano. This town is known for its Rug makers. Old style looms that we had been told go up 3 stories..

Our handy GPS and a few roadsigns later we were off the beaten track and into some gorgeous farm country. We found Guano, but we were so early that most of the stores were not even open yet. We meandered around and found the central plaza for the requsite photo op.

We never did find the 3 story rug maker, and to be honest we couldnt buy one anyway. I did take a video of a lady making a rug.
video
Randy bought that brown hat he is wearing. All handmade wool.. $13. He did not bargain. We also saw a rug we liked that was more of a toursity rug, but we bargained and got that one too. $30.

As we left Guano we all had varying ideas of how to find the road we came in  on... and the GPS didn't agree with anyone... so we wandered around and around and finally found a road out of town. We were concerned as these roads were not paved, or very primitive, and again the locals gave us looks like we were definately on the road less traveled. We continued on and eventually found our way back to the main highway and into all the little towns preceding Banos.

Just a little hillside farming!
We arrived in Banos much to our relief a little after 1. Checked into Hostal Timaru. The rate was $10 a day, the nicest thing was the flowers and turtle in the courtyard.

We were off to find lunch and see a bit of the town. We had a nice Pizza at Pappardelles. YUM, and a liter of wine.. Oh my.. thank goodness there were four of us. Here are some pictures of the town.
Cool painting on the wall of a local bar.
1990 Piaggio Vespa and a old Ecuadorian hippe.
One of the vehicles you can rent to tour around town

We wandered around the rest of the afternoon, then went back and rested until dinner. We went to a recommended restaurant the Swiss Chalet for dinner. We were all still pretty full from the wonderful pizza so we all had appetizers. After dinner we meandered back to our room and crashed. Another big day ahead. We were going to go to Puyo... the gate way to the Amazon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

4 DAYS IN A RENTAL CAR, DAY 1

After living here in Cuenca for almost 2 1/2 years we decided we needed to take a car trip.

We found 2 other folks who wanted to take the dare and just head out on the road to Banos Ambato, about a 7 hr drive away. Well, that is if you dont get sidetracked. We planned to drive from Cuenca to Riobamba on the first day.

Just a word here about the rental car and our route. It was a newer, manual, Grand Vitara. It was very clean and ran great, unfortunately it was  2 cylinder motor.

We were going over the Andes. This translates to alot of long steep climbs up... then down. The ups we were mostly down into 2nd gear going maybe 20 km an hour. The road we took is a wonderful road, but only two lanes with lots of curves, and ups and downs. To add to the mix there is rain, fog, cows, speed bumps (honest!), people walking on the side of the road, very very slow moving trucks and people passing on blind curves.



We made it to Alausi and drove down into the town to walk around. We decided that we did not want to constrain ourselves with trying to get tickets to ride the Devils Nose Train, and that we would just check out the town.

The road we took into Alausi.

St. Peter statue in Alausi
We got lost in the hills following our odd sense of direction and the GPS.  Little did we know this was going to be a continuing theme throughout our trip. We finally got back down to town and headed out towards Riobamba.

This part of the trip was relatively smooth and the drive was beautiful..we arrived in Riobamba around 5:30 and found a nice hotel. (Hotel Shalom 12.50 per person w/o bkfst. 16.50 with, and secure parking!) 

We took the hotels suggestion and found our way to a restaurant way off the main part of town. We had a Parradilla type dinner. I picked chicken and pork.. it was very good. It also came with blood sausage.. I did not try that.

We were pretty wore out so we all said good nite and headed off to our rooms.

Day one went real well, the weather was good, the scenery was beautiful, the car did pretty well for a 2 Cylinder, and all passengers were still smiling and laughing at the end of the day.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

THE SAGA OF THE ROYAL ENFIELD



"Isn't that the most gorgeous bike you have every seen?" These were the words out of Randys mouth, as we stood in front of the new Royal Enfield shop, waiting for them to open so he could go in and get a REAL good look at the bike. I knew it was over before it had begun..

When Randy and I were first married (10 yrs ago this month!), we each had our own salaries and split the bills according to our separate incomes, Randy's being a larger part of the whole. Worked great for me! No one telling me how to spend the extra money, and no guilt when I spent every extra dime on something I really really wanted or thought the kids really really wanted. Fast forward to now.

Essentially, I am now living off of Randy's good sense to have a pretax account all those working years, so we could drop out of the rat race "early" and "retire" to a country where our money goes further and the lifestyle is one we really enjoy. So, does Randy "get" to buy the bike.. well of course he does.

In Ecuador the saying Buyer Beware is a very real statement, and one that we as expats are just now coming to understand.

There are no Lemon Laws here. If you use the services provided and under the warranty there is nothing else they can do to "fix" the problem, well, its just your problem.

Randy loves this motorcycle. It ran well for about a week. Then he started noticing that is did not run well. After some major time in a shop it started to work well again. The weather was bad, so it sat around until one day "The boys" wanted to go up to the CAJAS  to try out  one of their new motorcycles at high altitude (13K ft elevation).  That is when it all went wrong very fast.

As they were returning the bike started to surge..not good when you are trying to go downhill around sharp curves. The only way it would not surge is in neutral. Randy managed to wrangle it down the hill without killing himself or others in the process.

Of course I am not emotionally attached to the bike.. my first thought was, well if we cannot go over the Cajas or Andes what use is it to us. We wanted to buy a side car and go traveling... lets take it to Guayaquil (sea level). Get it running properly.. and SELL IT! Vehicles and motorcycles do not loose their vaule here. So it was the fix I saw as perfect. Randy had other thoughts.

Randy has a great relationship with the shop owners and they have been trying to help him as much as they can. Whats odd is that the thought that they needed a Royal Enfield trained shop was not in the plan. They just sub'ed out the warranty work to a Yamaha dealer here in Cuenca.

Due to not having trained RE folks here, both Randy and Sebastian have researched the issues and found out that this model (which comes from India) is also having problems in India when they try to take it up into the Himilayas. So a "work around" is in the works. But we do not know how long it will be before those technicians can find the fix. Our guy Sebastian at the Royal Enfield is hoping soon, so his business does not plummet.

The bike has been back to the shop and the surging was solved with some minor tweaking, but the backfiring and inability to really ride in stop and go traffic is still an issue.

Our man Sebastian says a technician from India is coming in November, and Randys motorcycle will be one of those presented to the technician to find out why his runs so badly.

Until then, It sits. Randy still rides the scooter, and enjoys that. I have decided that I really do not like riding my scooter, as I am not a totally vigilant rider, and in this country you have to have your head on a swivel constantly. So until we get the motorcycle fixed, Randy rides alone.



Sunday, October 14, 2012

CLUE~LESS IN CUENCA

I have no clue what to call this blog. I keep thinking I should find something very clever to say. But alas.. nothing is coming to mind.

I don't really even have a topic. Do you want to hear about my weaving or knitting.. nope. Randy's current passion of watching every episode of Wagon Train with a little Rawhide mixed in? No? Should I go on and on about my daughter's upcoming nupitals?  Hmm.. OK, well let me tell you of the..No, I already told you about that.

OK, let me be honest. Where ever you live you have day to day things that you do. That's about all we have done!

Sometimes I feel like a blog resolves itself into one of those crazy Christmas letters that you get that tells you all about someones job, their kids education achievements and on and on about the grandchildren. I'll try not to do that.

We have met a ton of new folks coming to Cuenca. I never can remember their names because I only see them for a few scant seconds.. then months later its .. oh hi, I am sorry, I have forgotten your name. A lady here always introduces herself. I was very happy the first 7 times. Now I remember her! She says she always does that to let anyone off the hook.  Great idea.

Our weather is good, getting warmer. We are looking forward to maybe a trip to Banos Ambato with friends... hmmm. what else..

We are happy, healthy and enjoying our life here. We are safe and somewhat sound. We are not being taken over by drug runners, nor engulfed in a tsunami or a lava flow from a volcano. We are not even getting any rumblings of earthquakes.

I will catch you up on all the continuing excitement next month; I bet you can't wait!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

RIVER WALK WITH THE EL NOMAD CREW

A funny thing happened on the way to Ecuador..in 2010. I met a lady (on line), who lived only 90 miles away from us in Washington. She was young, pregnant, and going to drive all the way from Washington to Ecuador (with a small portage of the car). Her husband is Cuencano and they wanted to live a life that included alot of hands on with their daughter as well as their International Immersion business, El Nomad.http://elnomad.com/
Cuenca was it.

Since that time, I like to think we have become good friends, and occasionally we get to join in events they sponsor, like this river walk to a grand opening of a new coffe shop.
Randy likened it to a death march... Becca sets a brisk pace!
The new place is called La Jaleria, it is located on Ricardo Darquea Granda 3-65 y Jose Austudillo (esquina). So if you walk all the way along down river towards the broken bridge and keep going, it is right there by that next bridge (the unbroken one) Very nice place, very modern, and "hip". Here is the pictures I took.


Outdoor sitting area. Notice the chalk people "holding" up the plants.
Free snak'ems on the counter...
Everyone getting settled.
Not sure what these are... but added a neat look to the bathroom mirror
Loved the "Ear" handles..
Becca and Kesha.. Kesha scooping up her espresso
Close up view from across the river.
We had a nice time. The gallery in the back is full of great art, clothing, jewelry and purses. To top it off the food was good, and the ambience was fun. Oh and I hear that there are 3 apts above it.. the penthouse is currently available to rent! If you like walking up 4 flights of stairs that is.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

VARIOUS PHOTOS IN CUENCA

I am getting so many pictures on my camera that I need to clean out the ones that are just.. stuff. Some I have put on my FB page already, and some are in these blog posts. But some are just so random that I never put them in anywhere.. so before they are no more I thought some should just have the chance to be viewed.

My favorite tree in Parque Calderon, they trimmed it all back but it will come back all green.

Cool pots and statue

My plants in the green room are doing well..
An old patrimonial home we got to look at
And just in case you missed it in the photo above.. Randy with his new "do"

Friday, September 7, 2012

VACATION TIME ~ OFF TO VILCABAMBA

The weather here in Cuenca has just been dreary and cold; so when some friends asked us if we wanted to go and "Warm up in Vilcabamba" we jumped at the offer.


The trip to Vilcabamba is a long 4.5 hr ride over the Andes, over and down curvy roads filled with animals, cars, trucks and on this ride there were people... yes, young people all over both sides of the road. Walking and biking. They were all decked out with backpacks, rolled up pads for beds etc. We decided this must be some type of religious pilgramage. If it wasn't when they started, I am sure they found religion somewhere along those steep trecherous roads.

We arrived in Vilcabamba by  2pm. We stayed in town at the Le Rendez-Vous Hostal.. a great place  http://www.rendezvousecuador.com/
Here are some of the pictures I took while we relaxed and enjoyed the warmth!
This was a full rainbow, but I could not get back far enough to get the whole thing.. it was amazing
Of course we went out and ate, ate & ate. In town there is this juice bar that has all kinds of wonderful, good for you drinks, as well as healthy type food (We didn't eat there), we did go to a chinese restaurant that was great and another restaurant http://jardinescondito.minihostels.com/ where they had mexican food that was nice and spicy (we were very happy), then on another day we went to eat lunch at a local bar. We had been told by some locals they had the best burgers in town. I had soup... it was marvelous..but here is the Burger Brennie got.. yes that is guacamole..Randy and Brennie agreed, it was a wonderful burger! Randys burger had a huge hunk of bacon and BBQ sauce.. for some reason I did not get his burger on "film".
It kind of squished out when she cut it in half.. oh well it was definately worth the effort. And those fries were very tasty indeed.

Brennie was very hungry because she had gotten up that morning and went on a 2 hour horseback ride (Why do they say "horseBACK ride".. would you ride anywhere else on a horse?) Anyway, as Randy and I meandered up a side street we heard the clopping of hooves on the asphalt. Here they came barreling down the road. I managed to snap this one of Brennie.. I think she was having fun!



We had a great time, exploring Vilcabamba and Loja, as well as playing cards and just enjoying the scenery and warmth.

Randy enjoying the sun and scenery while he smokes is cigar.
I prentended to sleep on the way back so i did not squeal and gasp as Clarke passed on blind curves; Brennie worked on her rag rug.. just as we entered Cuenca she completed it! Laura Ingles has nothing on Brennie!

Monday, August 27, 2012

BUT WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY?

Really, I don't have a clue.. unless I look at the calendar. Randy and I do not have a set schedule.. thank goodness! I have had to start writing things down and telling folks to email me to remind me of what we are doing... in case I don't look at the calendar! So here is my August.. first part, not so much to do... last part.. picking up..but there were all those days when things just happend!


Clarke continues with his monthly Texas Hold'em poker nites... I continue to always bring home more money than Randy. We have had some nice dinners at our neighbors house. Peter and Karen, live right up the street and for some reason we hardly have a chance to visit.. well other than Karen saving my bacon when I mess up my knitting. I also got invited to a kind of "secret pal" birthday party. It was fun, lots of laughter and just ladies enjoying their special day.

Finally I managed to work up the courage (after being hounded by a person who will not be named) to begin the Bunco games. I was a bit nervous at the beginning but we all got going and then everyone realized this was a very easy game and alot of fun! I told others that if the noise level was any measure of the fun... we were having a GREAT time. Randy was hiding out upstairs (he had a cold) and he said it was VERY loud. After Clarke's confession that he had a great time and was really surprised that he did; Randy might be convinced to play next month.

I have been hanging out at the house working on a huge knitting project, so I have dedicated a few hours a day to this, and then I do other projects.. I know, doesn't sound like me at all... I have become possessed. People show up at the house and I bring out the projects, smiling and showing off my latest creations. I know they have no interest, but I do it anyway.. maybe that is why we are not having too many visitors any more?
So here you go...This is just a tiny bit of what I have been doing.


No its not a hat.. its a hand towel... the top is a loop to button on the fridge or stove!

Randy has been busy with getting his new motorcycle "matriculated" as well as figuring out why he keeps getting stopped by the police on his scooter. They talk, he looks confused.. "no entiendo.." they wave him on..

After some talks with folks at the motorcycle shops and other friends that are Ecuadorians we found out that even though the matriculation on the scoots say they are good for 3 yrs, you still have to redo the paperwork each year! Hmmm interesting huh? So off he went to get all that done, then realized that the Honda dealer had not returned our original papers after they did their part. Thankfully, the people at Honda are great folks, and had all our papers in their files.

During one of our shopping forays Randy spotted a remote controlled helicopter sales booth... tick tock..he was thinking about them ... well he bought one (my only input was to tell him he had to start with the beginner one)


After our purchase he charged it all up and flew it around the house. We were told it's just for indoor use as its very light. What they failed to tell us was that the teeny tiny battery in the copter itself will only hold a charge for 7 minutes.. yeah.. so he doesn't get to play too long.

Can't pass up a chance to show you this sign.. I have wanted to take a picture of it for 2 yrs. I finally got the chance... Until next month!