Monday, September 17, 2012

Living in Yanapamba

I wonder how many people are out there that are like Rachel and I were 3 years ago.  I was no longer invested in my job and life in the US.   I was ready for a life change.  Rachel and I weren't together yet.  She knew she needed a change too.  She had considered Alaska at one time.  How we ever ended up together in this piece of real estate called Ecuador I'll never know, but God does.  Now our life has taken on the permanency that goes with brick and mortar.  We are home.  We are nesting. 

Rachel is in the states on one of her family visit missions.  Mom and Dad are 92 so every visit counts from now on.  Those grandkids are little marvels of growth and changes in maturity.  Then there's the kids (in their 30's) that are making their way through life, just as we did.  I'm not sure I'd want to do that again.  We're just taking it one day at a time here in Ecuador now.  She's not with me physically at this moment but she's here sure enough.  She walks with me through our home.  She looks up at Cotacachi with me in the morning.  She pets our adopted dog Daisy as sure as I do.  I dance with her in our kitchen.  We promised each other we'd do that while she's gone. 

When Rachel returns we'll resume our life together.  We'll take our bus adventures.  We'll continue to make our nest a little more comfortable.  We'll thank God for this life we have together, our health, our families and friends. 


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Home in Yanapamba

Our first day in our house was joyous.  The daunting disarray and mess did not crush our spirit.  We've been in our new home for almost three weeks and every day we wake up in awe.  It's not that we own some sort of mansion.  At 1600 ft square it is far from it.  It's just that it is so right for us.  Every day we find new favorite spots; playing Mexican Train up on the terrace, passing the Kindle scrabble game to each other on the front porch on our rockers, sitting on the stools behind the kitchen island looking up at snow covered Mt. Cotacachi, Rachel in her craft room looking at Mt. Imbabura.

We chose NOT to have a dishwasher for several reasons, but not the least of those reasons is the sight from our kitchen window.  Washing dishes with a view beats a dishwasher and no view.   Mt. Cotacachi (kitchen and dining room windows) never gets the attention of Mt. Imbabura (front windows) but we feel it is a very special mountain also.

We did however opt for an oversized kitchen island and we're glad we did.  It seems like the kitchen is always a gathering place and in our home that is no exception.  We wanted seating on one side and lots of storage on the other.

Only our great room has cathedral ceilings and by pure dumb luck, I think we're happy with that also.  You see the house warms up all day and by evening everything cools except our lower ceiling rooms which is where we hang out at night anyway.  I really wonder if we will use our fireplaces much.

Our bedroom is a cozy example of how the lower ceilings give us great comfort in the morning when there is a bit of a chill outside.  We may use those fireplaces when winter sets in and the temperatures drop nearly a full degree farenheit. 

Ok guys, this is my pride and joy....the Man Cave.  Our woodworking maestro custom built this cabinet to exacting specifications to house integrated components that work together for the multi-medium sources of music CDs, videos, computer, and Play Station 3.  The programmable remote quickly jumps from application to application with a touch of the button.   The love seat recliner insures Rachel's and my complete hedonistic comfort in those subwoofer charged surround sound movies.  College football is right around the corner and we hope not to miss our Cyclones and Cowboys.  We skype with friends and family
and can even catch the local news back in the states from Slingbox.  We can be as connected with the world as we always have been.

We still have much to do to get settled.  Rachel will be making curtains.  We'll probably be getting some rugs to warm things up a little more.  We've just begun the wall hangings.

While the homes in Yanapamba have been under construction an indigenous family lives in a little block building close to us.  The father, Rodrigo is a laborer in construction and doubles as a security guard for us at night while construction continues.  The building will soon be removed and will be replaced with a nice guard house.  The family will eventually move to the new Yanapamba II construction site and live a similar lifestyle there.  In the meantime we are overwhelmed by the contrast in our homes and lifestyle.  You never have to go far in Ecuador to see the poverty.  Rodrigo's family actually has it pretty good compared to some.

Lately, Rachel and I have engaged Rodrigo's children in playing frisbie.  It is a new game for them and they seem to love it.  They seem natural at it.  The children have very few toys so tossing the frisbie around is a great treat for them.  It is a blessing for us to see their smiling faces.   Each day they dutifully knock on our back door and bring the frisbie back to us. It is a ritual of gaining trust with each other.  If we just gave them the frisbie we'd lose our connection.   Sometimes all it takes to bridge the gap between our ages, our cultures, our homes, and our languages is a simple toss of the frisbie.

I certainly don't have my form back, but it's great exercise and an unexpected perk from living here.

Now we have a problem.  Her name is Daisy.  Her Spanish name is too difficult so we just gave her a gringo name.  We have fallen in love with her.  She comes to visit us numerous times every day.  She's very pregnant.  She seems to be wanting to adopt us before the litter is born.  We have agreed to be petless but a face like this seems to just make common sense go out the window.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Inti Raymi in Cotacachi

In most parts parts of Ecuador and South America Inti Raymi is a celebration of the solstice and a new growing season that traces it's roots to hundreds of years ago.  Wherever the Incas had their influence, you will see it celebrated even today.  In most cases the necessary 'sacrifices' to appease and please the Incan gods have been disbanded and no longer is there actual human or animal blood shed.

Not so much in Cotacachi.  Each year in Cotacachi the 'celebrants' have their own rendition of Inti Raymi.  Local legend has it that the current form of celebration in Cotacachi may go back several hundred years to a place in time where the Hatfields had bad blood with the McCoys.  In this case the Hatfields may have been located in La Calera (near Cotacachi) and the McCoys in Quiroga (also near Cotacachi).  The Hatfields stole a sacred bull from the  McCoys.  Then to add insult to injury, they ate it.  Relations have never been the same since.  Today, Cotacachi is the place where groups of indigenous converge to 're-enact' this fateful bull theft and ceremonial blood letting.  It just so happens to correlate to Inti Raymi, ostensibly that perhaps the bull theft took place during that celebration hundreds of years ago.

The 'party' starts around the day of Inti Raymi, the 24th of June, give or take a few days.  At first the participants seem to be in good cheer albeit with a little sense of future conflict with the other groups.  Most participants wear pointed hats that appear to be like a nail head.  Many of them also wear chaps.  The chaps apparently are worn to help protect their legs when they start kicking each other in their ceremonial fighting.

We have had a bird's eye view of the revelers as they have marched and stomped past our apartment on Diez de Agosto on their way back and forth from their demonstrations on the main square in Cotacachi.

When they arrive at the square the stomping march seems to become louder and fiercer.  The whistling by the participants keeps the rhythm in concert and adds to the element of a warlike group.  One by one each group stomps in cadence and on command starts to circle, typically at the corners of the square.  In the first days of Inti Raymi it is festive with many spectators seated in front of the church to watch the men of all ages parading, whistling cadence, and in general having a testosterone party.  

Rachel and I enjoyed the color and festivities also in the town square.  We had the perfect setup to watch from the doorway of a little pizzeria.  The owner's daughter captured our heart and Rachel soon had her arms around her.  The little ones here are gorgeous creatures with smiles that would melt cold steel.

A couple nights later at least two men died and several were hospitalized in the ceremonial fighting.  This is not unusual.  It is not the first time there have been fatalities.  Blood has to be spent.  There are parts of an indigenous culture we can only accept and hope some day to understand.  I'm sure the wars we wage don't make sense to them either.   Right now we just pray for the families of dead revelers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Return to Cuellaje and the Intag

When Lee (MacGyver) asked me if I'd like to spend a weekend out in the Intag with him it was with mixed emotion that I said yes.  I always love it out there in the boonies and like every camping trip there is sure to be an adventure.  The mixed emotion came when I realized how much I'm addicted to my creature comforts like communication by cell phone, the internet, hot water, a stocked refrigerator, a reliable way to wash and dry clothes, etc.  I've become a lightweight with a soft tummy.

I knew that nearly anything could happen out at Lee and Susan's casita in the wild.  It could rain for the three days that we planned and we'd be playing a lot of scrabble and triominoes.   We may or may not get a ride back to civilization on the planned return date.  The primitive road could wash out leaving transport impossible.  We'd be eating beans and rice.  We'd be three days without a shower after grubbing in our earthy ways.

 What the heck! A change of pace is always good and God knows I'm anally (retentive) routine oriented.  Rachel knows this too.  In our nearly two year marriage we'd never spent a night apart other than her trips back to visit her family.  Her encouragement to go was all I needed to realize this would be good for the both of us.  I could tell that she savored having the house to herself to complete her creative projects uninterrupted by me.  I could leave with Lee guilt free.  I also knew that even beans and rice would taste good when we got hungry.  Lee and I would smell equally rank as well.

In the last moment Lee's good friend Tim decided to join us also.  They are the two tallest people in Cotacachi and are quite the spectacle when paired together, especially on a bus with no other gringos.  On our trip out there I got to know Tim and enjoyed exchanging war stories about our home construction.  Tim and Mary have a really lovely home in a different development and Tim was adamant about getting everything right in his build.   That takes enormous perseverance and I learned much from him.

When we arrived in Cuellaje two hours later we were a bit stiff from the two hour rumble over the foggy mountain pass where angels regularly keep the buses from careening off the edge to a certain demise.  We're used to the mountain angels keeping watch over us now so Lee was dozing and Tim and I were animated in our conversation.  The angels were really busy though.

Tim decided to stay in the hostel in Cuellaje.  Later he thumbed a ride out to Lee's abode where we had already received an invitation from the Ayala family to join them on a hike up to their mountain retreat the next day.  Lee knows the Ayalas well and had always wanted to see their primitive hideout so we gladly accepted their invitation.  Tim wasn't sure whether it would work out for him to be out to Lee's house early in the morning so he bowed out of this adventure.  I'm sure that Tim saved himself some really sore muscles in that decision but he missed an adventure that Lee and I will always remember.

Standing left to right is Wilman Jr, Jennifer,  Marlene, and Erica.  Wilman Sr. was busy with his caballo at the moment and unavailable for a photo.  We had but two horses to ride and the mujeres didn't seem to want to ride when offered.  

Wilman Sr. gave me the reigns first.  Lee had shared with him that I had a past and passion with horses.  I felt so privileged in that moment.  I knew that few gringos would experience what we were about to enjoy this day.  The easy ride on the road quickly melted away and we were off on a trail that would challenge even experienced riders, especially sin una silla (without a saddle).

The slopes we quickly encountered were often at 60 and 70 degree grades.  Our horses stumbled but did not fall.  I wanted to show the slope of the climb with a picture but with my camera in my right hand, the reigns in my left and my teeth gripping my  horse's mane, I couldn't get a steady shot.  Shortly after this picture the grade became even steeper and one handed riding with a camera became impossible.  Likewise, the drop offs from the trail became unforgiving.  They put crosses out for mountain traffic fatalities along the road.  There are certainly a few bones in the canyon below belonging to horse and rider that never received any fanfare.

I told Lee afterward that the Ayala family could be easily used in a Walt Disney movie.   In the center of the action would be little Erika with her infectious smile and a twinkle in her eye that told you that you would soon be in for yet another humorous surprise.  Young Wilman is the tranquillo and guapo teenage boy sure to be on every school girl's bedroom wall.   Jennifer, the quiet and camera shy chica guapa  may be a minor role in this movie but will certainly be a leading lady some day soon.  Then there is the glue to the family and any movie they would produce, Marlene.  With a smile constantly on her face and willingness to help everyone, it is no wonder that she and Wilman Sr. produced this wonderful family.

Lee got his chance with riding as well.  His long legs nearly circumvented the girth of these horses making the ride just a little more secure.  The next day our muscles would remind us that we aren't in the condition of years gone by.

 The last stretch of our horseback / hike was without horses.  The jungle like terrain was way too muddy and slippery for a horse with rider.  Wilman gave the horses a slap on the rear and they knew what to do and where to go.  We were on the home stretch to the little cabin and a brief repast.  I was thinking we had already put in a days worth of physical energy.  The walk home although mostly downhill would prove to be an even bigger challenge as the rain clouds gathered.

Destination met.  It felt so good to just sit down.

Little Erika had her job tending the cooking pot for her mom.  We had no idea what we were in store for!

Lee even got his specially prepared vegan diet.  Ok, maybe not especially prepared but sin carne.  Mine was con carne de vacas!

Speaking of carnes de vaca, the origin of my tasty beefy almuerzo quickly became apparent.  The cattle all seemed to know that Wilman had arrived and that he brought with him the tasty and essential micronutients needed to complete their diet. Their sleek coats demonstrated Wilman's understanding of bovine nutrition and care.  As a former beef producer, I applauded his efforts.  As we spoke of the breeds present in his herd we found ourselves engaged in the universal language of cattlemen.  I was at home on the farm.

Wilman and I are not only fellow cattlemen.  We are fellow jinetas (horsemen) as well.  You never put your horse in unnecessary danger.  After our short discussion we chose wisely that riding back would be muy peligroso for both horse and rider.  Wilman gave each horse a swat on the rear and they immediately knew the drill.  Away they went slipping and sliding without riders.  The rest of us faced the muddy return with a mixed feeling of amusement and dread.

Arriving on the main road we were at once happy and exhausted.  The road that hours ago seemed so primitive looked now like a super highway.  Our five hour hike nearly complete we gained a little bounce to our step.  Lee and I laughed about Erica whose antics along the trail were like that of a young goat, capricious.

The comforts of a chair were indescribable upon our return to Camp MacGyver.  My mud soaked shoes recovered and so did my muscles.  I felt so humble.  Lee and I had gone on a journey that would have drained a conditioned athlete yet the Ayala family bounced on home like they could do it daily.  I guess that's because they do.  There's no such thing as a lazy         Ecuadorian in the Intag.  For that matter, there's no such thing as a lazy farmer anywhere in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Eternal Spring in Cotacachi

So what is the climate REALLY like in Cotacachi?  It is comfortable, steady, and somewhat predictable.  It is never COLD and never HOT.  Some call it eternal spring. There are hundreds of things that I love about Cotacachi, but the weather is among the top five.

Snow dusts the top of Father Imbabura

If you ask 10 locals about the climate of Cotacachi you will most assuredly get 10 entirely different responses.  Perhaps people are numbed into complacency.   You see there are just two seasons in Cotacachi, summer and winter.  No, I don’t mean Currier and Ives Christmas nor am I talking about those Lazy Crazy Hazy Days of summer either.   Winter here is sometimes rainy; summer is nearly always sunny and fair.  Summer is June through September. 

Brahma calves graze and lounge in lush grass in this pasture just outside Cotacachi in summer and winter.

The average daily temperature is 61 degrees every day all year long.  That means you top out on average about 71 and bottom out at 51.   71 feels like 78 here by the way.  It has something to do with the 8000 feet above sea level thing.   The sun also rises and sets mas o menos the same every day also.

I used to live in northwest Iowa.  Our winters there were as harsh and as long as in Minneapolis.  When my sister’s family came to visit in winter from Fairbanks they’d be chattering from the cold.  I made a promise to myself in January 2010 that I would never endure that kind of winter ever again.  I haven't.

Rachel is from Oklahoma.  110 degrees in Tulsa is not that unusual and it can go on for weeks.  Oh, and they have high humidity too.  We will never pay for heating or air conditioning ever again, ever.  We will be able to go for a walk outside in comfort every day, the rest of our lives.

I just smiled this morning as I was riding my bike along this meadow.  I could see the snow on Mt. Cotacachi and knew it would never fall in this land of Eternal Spring.

Do I miss the change of seasons?  Well I loved spring in the US.  It was always a thrill when I could find my mailbox again.  The promise of new life, color, and beauty put an extra bounce in my step.    I also loved the fall.  The color of the trees was just God going crazy with His paintbrush.  I miss that a lot.  The only thing I didn’t like was the promise that winter was on its heels.  The visual euphoria was short lived.   Life seemed always to revolve around the dread of winter.

I stopped my bike to visit with this handsome young couple walking to Quiroga for work this morning.   I was rambling away in my feeble Spanish as the young man smiled, looked directly at me, and began to speak in fluent English.  I told them Rachel and I used to live in Cuenca but we followed our heart to the Imbabura.  He said he left New Jersey to return home to his bride and live the life he knew he was supposed to live.   I just wanted to hug them both.
What do you wear in Cotacachi?  Well, again you will get many answers to that question.  You will see many answers to that question.  In the same moment in time you will see an indigenous man with a warm coat and hat and a gringo like me in a t shirt.  I’ll be on my bicycle wearing a t shirt and a sweatshirt over it at 7:30 AM.  By the time I get back for breakfast the sweatshirt is tied around my neck.  Eternal spring

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hacienda San Isidro

A week ago our good friends from Cuenca, Mike and Patty Grimm invited Rachel and me to join them for lunch at Hacienda San Isidro.  San Isidro is a well kept secret among the locals of the Imbabura it seems.  I only knew that we had to go through neighboring Quiroga and from there it was by guess and by golly.  Only a few locals could direct us to the right road (path).

We had one of those days that all of us will remember the rest of our lives.  The views from the hacienda were stunning and never seen by your average tourist.   I loveTaita (father in Quichwa) Imbabura and photograph him ad nauseum.  To see Mt. Imbabura in this way on this day was special.  All his subjects (the villages of Cotacachi, Otavalo, Quiroga, San Roque,  San Juan de Illuman, Peguche, and Atuntaqui to name a few) seemed to lay peacefully at his feet.

We had a wonderful brunch but the personal tour of the hacienda by the owner was what made our day.  Mike and Patty did a blog for this day and they took some beautiful photos.  Please visit their blog.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I admire people who at nearly 69 years old take up a challenge that would be daunting to those half their age.  Lee Wright is one of those people.   His knowledge, skill, and experience enable him to do extraordinary things.  Yes, he's MacGyver.   Then there is Lauren Pohn who at nearly the same age is willing to extend herself into the unknown without much experience at all.    If Lee lived in the 1840's and 1850's he would have been a wagon master in a wagon train going across the sierras.  Lauren would have had the faith in her own tenacity to get on that wagon train, leave the comforts of Boston and go west.

But even Lee and Lauren need help.  It takes a local who knows the lay of the land and the people who are married to it. It also takes someone who has some serious complimentary skills himself.  That person would be Patricio Galarza.   Patricio just happens to be Wright's and our architect at Yanapamba. Patricio also has a passion for this Ecuadorian agricultural paradise known as the Intag.

The Intag is a region west of the village of Cotacachi but still in the Cotacachi canton.  It is an area that represents a piece of the old Ecuador much less affected by the Pan American Highway.  You see the Pana is like the main artery of Ecuador and those that travel and live along it see a relatively populous and commercial Ecuador.  If you want to see the road less traveled, you must get on a less traveled road.

The Intag region is generally lower in elevation than the village of Cotacachi which at 8000 feet above sea level cools to the low 50's at night and only reaches the mid 70's during the day.   I found the Intag to be a little more humid as well.  I'm sure that 70 inches of rainfall annually is a contributor to that effect.  The soil is rich there too.  Too much rain you ask?  Not really.  You can plant things on a slope that almost defies gravity and water doesn't linger there longer than necessary.  But I can tell you that it makes the rivers and streams rather robust.

As a former Iowa corn and livestock farmer I see things relationally to my past life.  I could jump in my air conditioned, sound proofed tractor, till the soil, plant my crops, spray with bad stuff and watch it all grow weed free and with a dependable outcome.  In the fall I'd be in a heated combine and the grain would flow like a river into the hopper.  The grain would then be mechanically elevated into massive bins where it was exactingly conditioned for storage.  The winter was spent on the computer analyzing stochastics to determine the best time to sell.

It's not like that in Ecuador.  The six figure tractors and combines are replaced with legions of willing workers that toil happily, share in the food wealth and support their families with their wages.  Iowa and Ecuador are on different planets agriculturally.  I know just enough to look at the dynamics of both of them and marvel.  Sometimes the old way is the best way, especially when you're on the slopes of the Andes.  You can rest assured that Lee won't be padding Tenneco’s or Monsanto's corporate profits. He will help feed many families with healthy food.  That's a novel idea!

So here are the four of us, the inquisitive displaced farmer/banker (me), MacGyver (Lee), the pioneer woman (Lauren) and the architect (Patricio) who makes dreams a reality.  The pioneer woman (Lauren) wants the architect (Patricio) to figure out how to build a bridge over a rampaging river to her property.  MacGyver (Lee) needs Patricio's truck to deliver a very heavy load of floor tile to his casita on his little farm. I'm just there to add a little muscle for the tile delivery and to share in the adventure.  Patricio is just a kind and generous man who takes the day off to help his gringo friends realize their dreams.

Our route took us from Cotacachi through Quiroga, up to Lago Quicocha, and off on a pretty primitivo road that would keep us bouncing in our seats for the next 3 hours.  As we gained in altitude we lost our scenery.  We had entered the cloud forest that kept us in a dream like state until we broke through on our descent into  the Intag.

It was the Face of the Inca that greeted us on the descent into Apuela.  I still don't know whether the Face was sculpted by man or by nature, but it is an amazing likeness none the less.

Apuela is a functional, no frills Andean farm town.  A general store sells fertilizer, cement,  fencing supplies, veterinary medicines, paint and nails.   Another store sells sandpaper and light bulbs.  Like many other pueblos in Ecuador, the tiendas in Apuela don't necessarily sell a logical array of goods.  It's just what the vendor decides to sell.  Once you get used to this system of commerce you have made your first step in acclimating to Ecuadorian retail.  

Likewise, the transportation system fits the roads or the lack of them.  Buses from Cotacachi and Otavalo reach Apuela once or twice a day subject to washouts and rock slides.  Once in Apuela your transportation locally is in a truck-bus (see above picture) when a sufficient number of pasajeros induce the local conductor to fire up the engine.  Uncle Juan may also be able to offer a ride in his pickup.  Otherwise caballos are an excellent choice if the distance is long, the grade is steep, and the roads are missing.  If you're not fortunate to have access to a horse, then your God-given feet do just fine.

When the work is done Ecuadorians like to play.  They are as good at play as they are at work.  I'd put this local team against some of the best college teams in the US.  Their teamwork and athleticism is amazing.

After about four blocks we reach the other side of Apuela and are headed again to the campo (countryside).  Our next stop is the smaller pueblo of Cuellaje.  

Cuellaje is laid back, neat, and clean.  Everyone says Ecuador is like the US in the 1950s.  I beg to differ.  Every city and town is different. Cuenca is uber-modern with some wonderful historic architecture.  Cuellaje is more like 1930's or 1940's Midwestern USA with a Latin twist.  Since cell phones don't work here there's a bit of an isolation factor.  Even the road doesn't get you to the big time (Cotacachi) in a hurry.  Nobody is in a hurry anyway, so what's the point.  Let's face it, technology, communication, and infrastructure changes culture.  I like the culture here just fine.

Even the residential areas of Cuellaje are tidy albeit weathered.  All things man-made have a story, a history, and a bit of soul. Would I live here?  Well, not yet.  If the world comes tumbling down, definitely. Cuellaje doesn't need the rest of the world.  

So now we're on the short leg of the trip from Cuellaje to Lee's little casita in the campo.   

The views along the road are like that in Fellowship of the Rings.  I kept expecting Bilbo Baggins to step out on the road at any time.  Instead it was Juan Valdez' son Juanito.  Well, use your imagination.  If you go on this trip and don't fall a little more in love with Ecuador then you don't have a heart anyway.

So now we're off to Lee's casita with the floor tile and the unloading process.

We can only get so close to the casita with the truck

So I finally get to contribute a little to Lee's adventure in Andean homesteading.

Lee's slippery little dug out steps down to his house weren't the best match for carrying 50 lb packages of tile.  We all wanted the tile and our limbs to be unbroken so using the grassy slope was the better bet to achieve our mission.

Lee and Susan's casita will soon be the 'weekend retreat' where guys go to tell tall tales, drink cerveza, listen to the roaring river, catch trucha (trout) and help Lee plant his many thousands of coffee plants and bananas.  I'm pretty sure Susan is going to be a willing weekend sojourner as well, but I think we'll have to do a few updates in the kitchen first.

Lee turns dreams into reality though and you can see the makings of something really fun happening soon.

From Lee's little outpost near Cuellaje we all jumped in Patricio's truck and headed to an oasis of food and comfort at Nalgunvi Restaurante and Hostel.  

Lauren, Patricio and Lee were ready for some delicious food by the time we got to Nalgunvi.

We didn't even have to catch our own trucha

Los frijoles fueron enormemente deliciosos tambiƩn. The beans were enormously delicious also.

Nalgunvi is also home to some wonderful hot baths from the natural volcanic hot water sources.  People from Quito have discovered this and have taken the bumpy and sometimes treacherous road all the way from the capital city to enjoy a relaxing weekend.

For Lee and Patricio and me this was male bonding time.  Patricio built Lee and Susan's house nearly a year ago.  He is nearly finished with Rachel's and my house now.  Patricio has made our life in Ecuador just a little closer to Heaven.

After lunch our journey continued to the second goal of our trip: to see if Patricio could build a bridge across a raging river for Lauren.  Along the way we encounter a few more granjas (farms)

and a few young granjeros (farmers).

Lauren was excited to show Patricio the river by her property that she had been telling him about.  

Just a little river......

The river had a nice footbridge.  There were no vehicle bridges.  That was what Lauren wanted to get across to the house she hoped to build.  Anything on either side of a waterway for 7 meters is public property in Ecuador.  Any bridge that Patricio and Lauren builds will belong to everyone who chooses to use it.  Our house in Yanapamba suddenly looks so simple.  

Once on the other side of the river we walked up a steep trail that led us ultimately to Lauren's land.

Patricio kept sizing up the river and the banks on both sides.  He knew that torrential rains would swell the river to three times the size it was this day.  A well built bridge could be swept away in an instant if not anchored by heroic engineering means......

To find out about the rest of this story tune in next year at this time!

Patricio took us next to his own land in the Intag.  His land lies directly adjacent to Rio Apuela.  You could tell that this land meant more to him than any other earthly possession, including his beautiful Mercedes!  

Our trip home was without much chatter.  We were all tired.  Patricio is a wonderful driver and he made a dangerous and surly road pleasant and beautiful.  I'm sure in his mind Patricio was contemplating all the challenges that lay ahead in designing and building a bridge over that raucous river.  What materials and equipment will he use?  How will he get them there?  Can he get the skilled labor he needs within walking distance?  Will the bridge be a blessing or a curse?

Patricio can build you a house in Yanapamba II much easier.