Friday, February 22, 2008

awesome street art

I wanted to share this lovely testament to interspecies superhero love. I found it on a long wall in Cuenca. It makes me very happy.

Ha! I DO take pictures!

Hi everyone,
Sorry I haven´t updated in forever. I was up on a mountain for two weeks and then I decided to cross into Peru via a rather remote border (Zumba) that turned into two days of travel with like a gazillion and a half different inefficient legs involving buses, minivans, mototricycles and taxis. I´ve ended up in Chachopoyas, Peru, traveling with two very nice german girls with very large backpacks. We´re about to head out on a four day trek through the jungle (the third day involves horseback riding. Ponies in the jungle! Yay!) and some nice canyons.

I´m going to just post some random pictures in no particular order.
Here´s a picture of one of the various things I ended up traveling in to cross into Peru:

Taxi drivers really like to pimp their rides. Lots of the little mototricycles have LED´s and EL wire on them, so at night they drive around covered in flashing lights while blasting loud music. It actually really reminded me of being on the playa at night at Burning Man.

And here is a picture of Canoa at sunset:
The weight bench is made of bamboo, and the weight bar is a metal rod with chunks o´concrete on the ends. Such things are standard fare along the Ecuadorian coast.

The farm in Vilcabamba ended up being one of the oddest (and loveliest) places I´ve ever been. It was less of a farm and more an experimental permaculture community run by a former Canadian anarchist named Yves. The farm is wayyyy up on a mountain above the cloud line, which is both awesome because it means you get to live in the clouds (and chase them if you feel like it), but also pretty cold. At least relatively speaking. Here´s a view from the main building on the farm:

All the buildings are made of cob and adobe, mostly through the efforts of Yves alone, plus any unsuspecting volunteers who happened to show up at the wrong time. Here´s a picture of the cob kitchen during meal time:

And since that picture doesn´t really show its cuteness, here´s the kitchen from another angle:

Having a kitchen for two weeks was so wonderful! It had all the spices one could ever want, and there was always an entire hammock full of tropical fruits at my disposal. I learned how to make some pretty awesome chocolate mango banana empanadas. And I also learned how to make granola and chai, and how to make cob, and how to milk goats, and a multitude of other fun things. Oh and SHATTERED my previous record for longest period of time without a shower. I think it had previously been 5 days while at burning man, but... heh... 14 days. The hippies are right: you do reach a point where the texture of your hair and skin changes and you don´t get any more dirty, but it is a lie that you stop smelling. Such a lie. I smelled horrible until yesterday when I finally showered.

Volunteers on the farm pick projects that fit their time frame, so I made a cob planter box with sculptures of all the farm animals on it (which I neglected to take a picture of because it was still drying and really didn´t look very pretty yet), and then laid flagstones for a week. I got super sick while up there and ended up unable to eat for about three days, and boy let me tell you-- if you ever want to lose weight in a hurry, get yourself some sort of week long food poisoning that renders you incapable of eating, and then run up and down a mountain hunting for large rocks to lug back to your flagstone project.

On a related note, I had far and away the best valentine´s day of my life: I hadn´t been able to eat for the three days leading up to it, and then, on valentine´s day, I ate a mango. I almost cried it was so good. I think I might still have some sort of stomach parasites because it seems like any time I revert to a normalish diet, my body will have none of it. So I´ve sort of been eating actual meals every other day, with rice in between. It´s really annoying, especially because I can´t drink, and drinking is useful both as a means to meet more people to travel with, and to practice my spanish with reckless abandon. Language pratice, like haircutting and large scale painting, is an endeavor greatly aided by a few beers.
Here´s a picture of me soaking wet and covered in foam during carnaval:

I went on a nice hike to some ruins today. Here are some kids with their doggie and a see saw.

And here´s the view of the canyon. I don´t know if you can see all the waterfalls and what not in the background, there were about 8 of them.

Ok, I´m getting super tired of writing and waiting for these pictures to load. I´ll post more stuff eventually. Love,


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

no pictures cuz I can´t figure out this computer

I know that pictures are way more interesting than my rambling, but my camera does not seem to want to play nice with this computer-- I hope this means there is something up with this computer, not that my camera has decided to not be friends with computers in general.
I´ve been hopping about like crazy for the past week or so. After Canoa, I ended up in Puerto Lopez and went to a place called Isla de la Plata that is supposed to be the poor man´s Galopagos. It was alright, but kinda a waste of money for what it was. I did see a lot of blue footed boobies, and learned an important lesson about myself: I do not like guided nature hikes. People walk so slowly! And yes, the first blue footed boobie is perhaps novel enough to warrant a photograph, and maybe even the second, but 20 blue footed boobies later do you REALLY have to pull out your cameras again, people?! I found that about a mile into the trail I was starting to have the really evil urge to run full speed towards whatever was being photographed so as to scare it off. Although a few days after that tour, I met a girl who had a pretty nasty cut on her foot because one of the blue footed boobies bit her, so it´s probably for the best that I didn´t try to chase them.
I got stuck traveling with a crazy man with a stick for a few days. I don´t really want to get into the whole story right now, but should you ever meet a chain smoking 50 year old named Charles who likes to tell you about how he is young and free at heart, just run. Quickly. Due to a tempermental ATM and a small coastal town that wouldn´t change traveler´s checks, I had to go with crazy stick man to the town of Montanita, which REALLY reminded me of any old northern california surf town, only international. Lots of hippies drinking in hammocks, lots of people selling badly rendered drawings of bob marley and pendants in the shape of pot leaves. Think Stinson Beach, but international and packed to the gills because it´s Carnaval.
Oh right, it´s the last day of Carnaval right now. The last three days have been absolutely nuts. Everyone celebrates by (of course) drinking heavily and getting everyone ridiculously drenched. Everyone roams the streets with buckets and super soakers and water balloons and cans of something that is a cross between shaving cream and silly string, and no one escapes unscathed. I saw a nun walking around with a super soaker! Gringos are particularly attractive targets, so I´ve been more or less dripping wet since Friday. Unfortunately this holiday is not conducive to things that shouldn´t get wet (sketchbooks and cameras), so I don´t have much evidence that it happened.
After Montanita I went to Guayacil for a day, and then onwards to Cuenca. Cuenca is a beautiful city and is far and away the cleanest place I have been in Ecuador. Unfortunately no one was around because everyone had left town for Carnaval, so mostly I just walked around a very pretty ghost town. I accidentally watched the last five minutes of the super bowl from a bar in Cuenca.
And now I´m currently in Vilcabamba trying to head to this farm I´m gonna be working on for the next two weeks. It´s silly, but I´m mainly procrastinating on getting a move on because I am deathly afraid of having to try to speak spanish on the phone. But sooner or later it will have to be done.
I´ve been traveling with all sorts of interesting folks from a panoply of countries including Holland, Switzerland, Israel, Germany, Ireland, England, Norway and Australia. It´s been fascinating to hear about the politics and social structures of so many different places, and also to hear the international opinions on what´s going on in America right now. It seems the general international consensus is that our country has managed to fuck up a really staggering amount in the past 8 years, and that no American travelers like George Bush. Yup, seems pretty accurate to me. Oh, and most people cannot seem to wrap their heads around America´s educational system and its health care system.
I´ve learned that people from Holland have very large watches. Like twice the size of any other country. And apparently Bolivia has an amazing selection of watches from the 80´s-- big assymetrical day glow sort of things (I met a girl from Ireland with an 80´s watch fetish).
And if I had to give one piece of advice to anyone wanting to travel to Ecuador, it would be: make sure you have lots of small bills. When going to either the strip club orto Ecaudor, it is crucial to have a bit stack of ones. For the most part ATM´s only give twenties, and then it´s almost impossible to find somewhere to get change without being glared at for being such a terrible inconvenience.
Okee, I need to dash. Love to all.