Chronicles of the Wayward Moot

WELCOME TO THE MOOT, oh world-wanderers and word-whisperers. After two years of Peace Corps. After 2,200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. What. Comes. Next?


Put your reading glasses on....

How's it going, everyone out there in the other real world?  I'm sitting in my Castillo typing this on my laptop so's to save time on the internet later when I actually send this.   I'm trying to not so much cut down on the actual transmission of information and salutations, etc on the internet, but I am trying to limit the number of minutes/ hours that I spend connected since I learned what the slooooooooow connection is costing the city.   I don't think they'll start charging me because the time I use these days is still less than the time that the other people in the office total, and a lot of my work online is research and Peace Corps-related stuff….still I want to keep in good graces.


Listening to Iron Maiden on the stereo.  Got a few of their albums from another volunteer who just recently became the volunteer nearest to my site. (as the crow flies it's about 12.5 miles from here to there, but it would be a four hour bus ride to go visit him.  IMAGINE THAT!)  I was never into them at all when I was younger but for some reason this 80's heavy metal is really getting under my skin.   Strange.  I told this other volunteer about a group called Rhapsody so I guess this is fair play and good karma.


So what have I been up to lately since mom went back to the States?  Well I spent a couple of days chilling in Cuenca before returning to Zaruma, and then three days later my Chuffmate arrived for a few days to visit me here.   She got off the bus at around 6:30 pm and we were up at 5am the next morning to finish packing and to catch a ranchera towards the mountains….the plan was to spend a night camping up on Chivaturco (run a search of the blog to find some pictures of my first visit there as a reminder), a sacred Canari peak that rises more than 8000 feet above sea level with a flattish summit only about as big around as a basketball court and with incredible 360 degree views of the mountains and valleys in every direction.   Then we would either hike up 4000 more feet to Cerro de Arcos or else catch another ranchera to the start of that hike and then spend the day exploring the Arcos and the vast area of rocky paramo sierra that surrounds it, spending the night in a cave and returning the next morning.   Wellllllll, we made it to Chivaturco and had a sweet time up top, making plans to go find the strange spring that sprouts from the side of the dome-shaped mountain and to explore the lower secondary peak that supposedly has even more ruins than we saw on the way up…. But we nixed those plans instead opting to sunbathe and decimate our meager food supplies.   Such is life, we had a damned good time even if we didn't leave a twenty square foot area for about five hours!  The good ole Kelty tarp and some plastic sheeting were all that we brought to shelter us from the weather, and though we did get some rain and the tarp lines got so wet that one of the knots came undone (my fault prolly) and gave us a cold and wet surprise at about 9pm or so, we had an overall dry and thoroughly enjoyable experience.  The next morning we hiked down to catch the ranchera up to Cerro de Arcos and my friend Darwin was driving once again, however he informed us that there were no rancheras running the next day, leaving us with a dilemma:  Do we camp at the Cerro and trust luck to help us flag a ride down the next day?  If that failed we would have to walk for nearly an entire day without food in order to get back to Zaruma.   Another option was to do a rapid fire hike up to the cerro and back in time to catch the ranchera as it returned to Zaruma the same day and just cancel the overnight stay.   Since we were keen to chill by the Rio Negro for a while and munch some grub and brew some coffee, this seemed less and less viable since the hike up and back would be about three hours, leaving us with less than an hour to see the place, which was simply not enough.   Eventually we decided to eat, drink, and be merry, and then head up in the opposite direction to see if we could make it to Laguna de Chinchilla and back before Darwin made it back in the ranchera.   We stashed our big packs in the bushes and then took off on foot but an hour and a half of swift hiking above 10,000 feet still left us about fifteen minutes short of the laguna.   Soggy windy conditions and a lack of time meant we ended up taking a short break, sucking some candy down, and then returning to the dirt road via another way where we ended up losing the trail and streambashing for a bit along the Rio Negro to arrive once again where our packs were stashed with about five minutes to spare before the return of the ranchera which eventually took us (riding on the roof in wind and rain) back to Zaruma, 8,000 feet below.   Yay.  Wish I could have this much fun every week! 


So the lovely Chuffmate left really early yesterday morning to go back to her site and I headed into the office to see what use they could make of me.   It was decided that I should go to the orquideario (orchid collection/museum) owned and run by a guy named Marco who lives a few minutes outside of the city.   So, after having a fat lunch and reading in my hammock up on the roof for an hour or so, I met up with a lady friend (the one whose family spent the day with Mom and me) and we went to check this place out together.   WOW.  I won't go into all of the cool stuff that Marco and I talked about regarding tourism development and the sometime ineptitude of the municipality that I work for, but I will say that he has a SWEET establishment with hundreds of species of orchids and bromeliads and other rare plants, several really nice dogs, some very amiable parents, a small farm with fruit trees, a tilapia pond, and a guest room that is basically a stand alone treehouse with a large real bed and a real flush toilet.   That thing was awesome…  (Hey Mom:  $8 a night per person, and that includes breakfast with the family the next morning! Forget the Marriott!)   I'll certainly be visiting with Marco again soon as he has some great ideas on how to take the concept of tourism management in the area in some new and better directions…


Fast forward to today.  I finally have a bike.  Peace Corps eventually got around to taking my requests seriously and so this morning was my first chance to get acquainted with the ancient and beastly relic that they sent down for me on a bus a couple of days ago.   The gears are poorly adjusted, the brakes are loose, it weighs as much as the Parthenon (and is prolly just as old), and the tires were way low on air.   Okay, first things first, go buy a bike pump.   An amazing thing about Zaruma is that whenever I think it's hopeless to feel I could ever locate some particular item in the city, be it a certain grocery thing or a bit of equipment, etc, I always end up finding some hidden corner store that carries just what I'm looking for.   Today was no exception.  On a Saturday morning, when many of the stores are closed and the produce market is busy like a metaphor for something really busy, I was able to waltz into an open ferreteria (hardware store) that I never had even stepped foot into before and purchase a bicycle pump for a cool 3 dollars cash.   High roller, I know…  After a confusing time of figuring how to make the weird Ecua-pump head attach to the stem valve on the bike's tubes, and a fitting of my helmet straps, I was ready to go.


Dude.  DUUUUDE.  Zaruma is all hills.   I don't care how shitty the bike is.  I don't care how dumb I look riding around with a 200 year old bicycle and a brand new helmet.  This place is the BOMB for mountain biking!  En serio.  Con leche.  Shit.   Wow.  From my front door I went downhill FAAAAST and descended about 400 feet, then hit a road going into the city on the west side and climbed it until I was 200 feet higher then my apartment.   From there I passed the native tree nursery that I helped collect seeds for, then continued climbing on a dirt road through the hills past mines and remote houses, oh man I just went and went and went for more than an hour all the while soaking in the blazing morning sun and the incredible views and the bustle of life on an Ecuadorian Saturday.   After rising and rising above the city I hooked around to the eastern edge and crested the hill where the water tanks are.  From there it was a lightning fast four minutes of downhill with the brakes threatening to end my life around every turn, and then at last I was back at home drenched in sweat, hands covered with grease from resetting the chain three times, my head full of ideas on where I could buy some new brake pads and cycling gloves.  



Oh yeah and I guess I worked some today too, as once I was cleaned up I spent about six hours in the tourism office helping plan the style and location of a series of tourist-oriented signs that the municipality is hoping to get funding for from the Inter-American Development Bank (or something like that…I'm still learning.)   Good times.  I'll be back in the Cuenca area Monday and Tuesday and then back here just in time to catch a bus to Guayaquil for a HUUUGE tourism fair/exposition in Ecuador's largest city this weekend.  SWEET.  Life is good.  - Mountainjedi


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