I’m just sitting here in the very nice common area of the Black Sheep Inn and thought it would be a good time to write another blog. Brooklyn, Tammy & I just finished an absolutely amazing 5 hour hike that started at the dormant Quilotoa volcano with a gorgeous lake in the crator. The weather was perfect and the scenery was some of the best we have ever seen. We got lots of great pictures that we will share another time. Tammy and Brooklyn are actually taking a nap at the moment to get ready for the New Years celebrations tonight. We will celebrate with all the travelers at the Black Sheep Inn (about 30) and also with the locals in the town of Chugchilan, Ecuador. Chugchilan is a very small villiage a 5 minute walk from our eco-lodge. On our walk back from the volcano (which should really be a separate blog on its own) we came across the beginnings of the celebrations in the town square where young and old were dressed up in all kinds of different costumes, dancing to live band music. People here in Ecuador find any reason whatsoever to celebrate but New Years is a big one. At 11:30 tonight we will be going into town to see all the life sized homemade dolls get burned, one of the Ecuadorian New Years traditions. Everyone makes stuffed dolls, some of them 5 feet high, the dolls symbolize someone they want to forget, someone who hurt or harmed them… it is a letting go ceremony of sorts. They wear cool homemade masks, much like halloween.
The main topic of this blog was to wish all our friends and family back home as well as our all the amazing new friends we have met on this trip a very Happy & Safe New Year. I also wanted to talk a little bit about all the amazing people we met.
At the beginning of this trip I was really amazed at how many single women take amazing adventures alone. My immediate thought would be that they are taking a big personal risk seemingly being more vulnerable than say single men, couples or families but have learned that none of them have experienced any problems what so ever and have had amazing lifetime experiences. First, in Quito, we met two younger women who were on a 6 month guided tour of South America. The first woman, a 19 year old, started her travels with her boyfriend in Whistler, Canada and then started her next adventure here in Ecuador by herself while her boyfriend continued to enjoy his favorite activity, snowboarding. She was from Switzerland and spoke fluent Spanish so she had no problem communicating with the locals. Her friend was a young woman in her late 20’s who had just finished graduating as a medical doctor in the UK and decided to go on a 6 month adventure before she had to hunker down with her career.
Next, in Cuenca, we met a wonderful woman by the name of Sunni. She was in her early 50’s and had already been in Ecuador for over 1 year. She is a mid wife originally from Hawaii and is still on a life long project/adventure to find the perfect location for a birthing center that she wants to start either as a single entity or part of a bigger project within an intentional community that shares her big picture views. Sunni touched our hearts and we hope to see her again someday.
In Vilcabamba we met an amazing women by the name of Gweneth who has travelled all over the world on her own. She has lived in Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and will be moving on to Peru in the new year. She was Tammy’s age and was had such a warm and kind personality, we enjoyed many hours of visiting with her before we had to leave Vilcabamba.
Also in Vilcabamba we met a young 20 year old Australian woman by the name of Amy who spoke Spanish really well and was on a multi-month adventure on her own in South America. She had also traveled in Europe on a one year exchange when she was in her mid teens. We spent time with her in Vilcabamba as well as in Cuenca on our way to the Black Sheep Inn. After Cuenca she was moving onto Peru and then Bolivia where she was meeting her Dad who was going to travel for a few weeks with her, finishing up in the Galapagos Islands. Then she was back on her own in Ecuador working on an organic farm for a number of months.
There are even more adventurous women that we have met but I would also like to talk about some of the men and couples we have also met.
In Vilcabamba we met an amazingly intelligent Danish man named Hubert (about my age or younger) who wrote his Masters thesis on Ecuador. He was fluent in Spanish, very good at English and spoke at least 2 or 3 other languages. He married an Ecuadorian woman and together have a 1 year old daughter, both of whom were currently living in a small village north of Quito. The reason he was in Vilcabamba was because he wanted to relocate there. He had just finished finding a nice little house in town for $200 rent per month. I really connected with him and will definitely stay in contact with him. His future project was to open a fitness facility in Vilcabamba. He is very passionate about physical fitness and good nutrition.
Also in Vilcabamba we met an amazing man named Bill from Portland, Oregon. He was in his mid 60’s and had an amazing 6 master degrees (yes 6). He has been traveling since the early 70’s and was very worldly. He spoke 5 languages, his second being Japanese and his third being Spanish and his fourth being French; all fluently. He had so many stories to tell it was just amazing to sit and listen for sometimes hours on end. He liked to talk a lot and it was sometimes rare to get a word in at all but it was worth it to hear all about his amazing adventures and experiences. Brooklyn really enjoyed spending time with him. 3 years ago he bought 47 acres of land for around $14,000 in the rural part of Malacatos (about 20 minutes north of Vilcabamba). He took us on a tour of his property which took at least an hour to walk and it had unbelievable views, natural springs with perfect PH water and incredible diversity in vegetation. He has been taking his time with this property; first he had to build a road to the sight that he picked to build his home. Then he had to get the electricity to that spot. His intentions this time in Ecuador were to get the foundation for his home finished by early January and he was staying till at least March to see how much further he good get.
Another man by the name of Holgar, who was our horse tour guide for our two horse adventures in Vilcabamba was just a really great person. He was Ecuadorian and had a German wife and a 4 year old daughter. We spent two full days with him, met his mother (an amazing woman who has a total of 10 children, Holgar being the oldest at age 30). Holgar and his wife very kindly showed us their dream home that was at the last stages. It was built on about one acre on the edge of town with an amazing view. They really did an amazing job designing and contracting this home. Holgar speaks fairly good English (much better then my Spanish), German and of course Spanish. He patiently tried to teach us Spanish on our tours of the mountains but it will take more than a couple of days for my old brain to be good at Spanish (I’m not even that good at English).
When we were staying at the amazing Hostel called Izhcaluma (the best place we have stayed by far in my opinion) we met a couple who’s names were Ian and Toni (Toni is a woman just to clarify). These two were on a very cool 10 month motorbike tour. They started by flying their 2002 BMW 1100 adventure motorbike to LA, California. By the time we had met them they had been traveling for 5 months. They left Vilcabamba the same day we did on their way to Peru and by the end of their adventure will end up at the Southern tip of Argentina. Ian will be visiting Vancouver for some seminar in the fall of 2011 and we have tentative plans to go for a dirt bike tour of my favorite spot to ride; McNutt Mountain. It is funny how you can connect so strongly with people in such a short period of time. It is also amazing how many very cool, adventurous people there are from around the world.
Finally, for this blog, we also met a very cool guy from Australia who was on a 3 month adventure of South America. He had already traveled in South East Asia earlier in his life but had always wanted to tour South America. His opportunity came in a strange and unique way. For a number of years he worked on a small van putting lots of love and care into it. One day he was driving with his girlfriend in Australia when a full size bus broadsided them and completely destroyed the van. They weren’t hurt too badly and recovered quickly. The insurance company paid out a very fair amount for the van and so he decided he would take this money and some of his savings and finally adventure in South America. He actually broke up with his girlfriend for the trip, it meant that much to him. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with Tim. He helped me re-discover Table Tennis, a sport I really enjoyed and was fairly good at in my high school days but hadn’t played for at least 20 years. We had a blast. We also spent a lot of time on the pool table and actually held it from about 7pm till 3am Christmas Eve, we just kept winning as partners which meant we just kept on playing new challengers all night long. On Christmas Day evening Izhcyluma decided to hold a tournament for both pool and table tennis. There were 10 very competent competitors for table tennis and 8 for pool. I ended up winning both which was completely unexpected and a pleasant surprise. The other cool thing was that the 3 finalist in pool were Tim, Ian and I. We had to play 10 games to finally determine the winner at about 1:30am. It was such a great time with new, potentially life long friends in the middle of a 30 day adventure, on the edge of a small town in a small country called Ecuador.
I did not expect the impact of meeting so many and more amazing people when we first embarked on this adventure. It has really been an incredible bonus.
One more time; HAPPY NEW YEAR. See everyone back home next year.
Adios for now,
Tammy & Brooklyn