Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roadkill 1/1/3

When last we left you we had just arrived in Vilcabamba and were awaiting Jan (John for you English speaking folks).

Background: Jan is a trouble shooter for an international firm of Civil Engineers. They design and build tunnels and infrastructure, etc. etc. all over the world. The previous week Jan had been in Saudi Arabia, Prague and Sofia in Bulgaria. He then rushed home to Holland, packed his bag and left very early the next morning for Ecuador. This was Thursday and he was at it for 23 hours including a 5 hour layover in Atlanta. Well.......The United States of America was somewhat alarmed with Saudi visa stamps in his passport and proceeded to give him the third degree for 2 hours before letting him go on with his trip. In the end, Jan asked them why all the questions and somewhat amazed they told him it was 9/11! He then told them 9/11 was a "self inflicted wound. If you guys weren't the bullies of the world it never would have happened!" Amazing enough he did not end up in Guantanamo Bay!

He arrived in Quito at 10:30 Friday night and was back at the airport at 4 a.m. to catch a local flight to Loja (35 k from Vilcabamba). He had been told that the standby line would be at wicket 7 so he dutifully stood at wicket 7 until he noticed no one else seemed to be showing up. He then asked somebody from TAME (the local airline) and was told today it was wicket 9. Wicket 9 then had 50 people standing in line. He then booked a flight to Cuenca at 5:30 p.m. and thought he might take a bus from there. When he phoned us and told us his plans, we informed him that was a bad idea as it would be a 7 hour bus ride to Vilcabamba. He then proceeded back to the airport and told his tale of woe to a very kind lady who wrote a note to the afternoon supervisor explaining the situation and advised Jan to be there was 3 p.m. for the 4:30 flight. He almost got bumped from the 4:30 flight due to a mother and sick child situation but some other stand by passenger took pity on him and said since he'd been there since 4 a.m., she would give up her seat.

So Jan flew to Loja and hooked up with a party of Americans who were going to Vilcabamba in a van and offered him a lift. He arrived exhausted but happy to be there. Vilcabamba was the perfect place to him to start because the weather is warm and there is absolutely nothing to do there!

On our own trip to Vilcabamba our road kill sightings increased to 3 cows, 1 pig and 1 horse. The horse was mostly skeleton but we were able to come to our forensic conclusion based on the head having some skin yet.

We had a bat in our room in Vilcabamba and were forced to close our windows at night or Shelley would go EEEK. Apparently this bat likes that particular Hostel. The next four days we ate and took a cab ride around the country. Jan and Brian ate pig and we visited various markets and took in the sights. All of our connections with the local ex-pats etc. confirmed that this huge infusion of money in to this valley has had a negative effect on the local population as they can no longer afford to buy land there.

On our 6 hours bus ride from Vilcabamba to Loja to Cuenca Jan and Brian discussed the merits of buses around the world, the Ecuador infrastructure system and pot holes in the road. Jan took 375 pictures. He has travelled extensively in 3rd world countries and tells us that many of the situations we see in Ecuador are common in other poor areas (the half finished buildings, etc.).

We are really enjoying Cuenca yet another time as we show Jan the sights. We are leaving for the village of Alausi on Saturday and taking the fabulous train ride through the Devil's Nose on Easter Sunday (we checked to make sure it would run). This is purported to be one of the top 3 train rides in the world and expect to be able to ride on top of the train! From Alausi we plan to go to BaƱos (famous for it's hot springs) which is located on the North slope of the Tungurahua volcano which had a major eruption early in February causing evacuation of several villages on the south slope.

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