Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday, March 4th, Santa Rosa, California


Few experiences are more satisfying time and again then coming home from a long trip away.   Sleeping in your own bed after 20 hours of buses and airports and planes is so good.  Especially if your bed is he kind that no hotel used by tours would ever afford.   Supporting every one of the shifting curves in each of our bodies without disturbing the other, long deep sleep just came not a moment too soon. 

Awakening to a neighborhood of friend’s morning walks, and driving off to work, our welcome greetings signal a return to normalcy in a community we love.  The box of mail our postperson brought to our doorstep bore invitations to re-emerge from controlled privacy.  Slowly, we walk back into a familiar routine which better supports our bodies, and eases our pace of change. 

Unpacking to either the washer/dryer or the pile of latest art acquisitions in search of locations, we take an inventory of the trip’s experiences and decisions.  Which clothes to replace, purchases to store, and memories to set into the back locations?  Comparing now available research, did we really visit the right places, have the best experiences, and learn the most we could?  And are really that much tanner and slimmer than we left?  Do our Panama (actually they’re usually made in Ecuador) hats make us look as cool as we think, and how much will we wear them?   When will we stop greeting and thanking people in Spanish? 

Refilling the hummingbird feeder, and sprinkling the pond with fish food, we’re welcomed back by those friends.  I notice that hungry blue jays are busy sorting through rain-gutter snared oak tree twigs, and helping reduce my often-postponed, precariously-perched, roof cleaning days.   My shout-out to them is only tempered by a wish they wouldn’t also drop twig-bomblets from the oak trees over the hot-tub while I’m in it.   But I guess my dodging is a small price to pay.

Catching up on the radio news, reversing vacation holds, and contemplating watching the many hundreds of hours of taped favorite series episodes our digital video recorder captured, we decide we’re back.  It was a wonderful 38 days which greatly expanded our sense of many different peoples, and brought us lots of new friends.  Now, we begin to integrate it all into what the rest of 2013 brings us.

Gregory and Pat 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Morning, March 3rd, Quito Airport, Ecuador


Well, this morning we're at the Quito Airport.  Only 18 more hours of flying, riding airporter buses,  and sitting at airports, and we'll be home.  By the way, for those of you who couldn't get to the YouTube video of the butterflies last night, I apologize.  In addition to failing to make it's access public, Google's YouTube staff spent some time fixing some jerkiness in it, and reposted it at another location.  It looks better now, and I fixed the problems so you should be able to get there from the original link.  Thanks very much to the Google staff.  They're following our blog too, and it's appreciated.

See you all soon.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday, March 2nd, Quito, Ecuador


The last day on any adventure (excluding the long flight home day) usually contains some wondering about if we missed anything.  And whether we'd do the trip differently now that we know what we do. Our answers on this trip are that we would put the destination for today (Mindo Protected Cloud Forest) earlier.  And we would encourage Adventures Abroad to include the National Museum officially on the tour.  But other than that, we'd not change a thing.

Alejandra, our guide for today, is terrific.  Very much like Diego and Wilson, she loves being a tour guide.  They all embody the reason why tour guides should be supported in their work.  Nation-building requires ongoing efforts by passionate individuals who know their country and want to help in mature.   Locally-raised, and well-trained tour guides, employed by a network of cooperating entities (foreign and domestic) are essential to enable travelers to understand a country.  They should be better organized to protect their rights and to expand their capabilities.  One of the lessons I've learned here is how valuable these unrecognized ambassadors are.

We began the day with a visit to Puluhua Caldera, a viewpoint overlooking a large valley containing a small village.  In a recently-contructed entrance area, we talked about the impact of the government offering free and unsupervised access to parks subsidized by advance payments from the Chinese for long-term oil exploration rights.  We all agreed that nothing is forever in governmental budgets.    

Mindo Protected Cloud Forest lies on one of the roads from Quito to the coast, and a spectacular road it is.  Alejandra's ability to navigate the landslide-prone route, while alerting us to every nuance of climate zone changes to plants and trees, amazed us.  The destinations she chose for us to visit, and the people she chose for us to support, again demonstrated tour guiding at its best.

What I like most about the Hosteria Mariposa de Mindo is their comprehensive approach to displaying the life-cycle of the butterfly.  Their facility is designed to let you get as close as possible to the entire process.

And the hummingbirds everywhere are nothing to sneeze at.

Later, we visited the owner of an orchid farm who cares for over 200 species, many of which were brought to her by the police as a result of raids on illegal orchid operations.  Her knowledge of each was extensive, and she seemed pleased to hear I would send her a link to the photos I took to add to her records.

Tonight, we had a nice dinner at the hotel, and packed up our bags.  Tomorrow, we fly home.

To see the photos we took today, click on Saturday, March 2nd, Quito, Ecuador.

To see a short video we made of the butterfly enclosure, click on Hosteria Mariosa de Mindo.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday, Mar 1st, Quito, Ecuador


We flew from Cuenca to Quito this morning, and were met at the New Quito International Airport by Alejandra, our tour guide until Sunday.  There are still some kinks to work out at the airport, but we sailed through quickly, and she drove us to our old familiar Quito hotel - the Mercure.   Circling the block a few times to overcome a broken down bus on our street, we finally got inside and were given a room right underneath the one we left before going to the Galapagos.

We've decided to rest today, but may go out to the National Museum later.  The Central Bank operates the museum, as the banks have a huge role in supporting the artistic community in Ecuador.  Americans might have felt better about bailing out the financial institutions if their banks did as much for the community as these do.

Tomorrow, we're headed to the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest, a 35, 000 acre reserve where 400 species of birds, and lots of orchids, waterfalls, and butterfly gardens await.  On Sunday, our flight through Miami to San Francisco begins at 10:15am and ends and ends late that night.  I'll try to post the shots taken tomorrow on Saturday night, and load up the MacAir and IPad with videos and games for the long flight home.

We made it to the National Museum.  Wow!  Their archeological wing is full of ceramic pots, and gold and silver pieces from the more than a dozen of their Pre-Inca civilizations (mostly coastal groups) dating from 4000 BC to 1000 AD.

To see the photos taken at the National Museum, Click on Friday, March 1st, Quito, Ecuador

See you all soon.