Saturday, May 24, 2014

My Daily Walkabout

I have a new camera.  It is a Canon SX 160.  It has 16 megapixels and 16X zoom.  It is a point and shoot but you can go manual and get creative also.  It cost $125.   I remember back in '89 when digital cameras were just coming out.  They were 1 megapixel cameras and if you had more than a megapixel you paid about a thousand dollars.  The photography snobs said no way Jose.  Film was still king.  If you made your picture bigger than a snapshot it was 'pixelated'.    I had a Sony point and shoot and it just got tired.  I gave my good Sony camera to Rachel.  It cost me a couple hundred a few years back.  It still takes nice photos and the color is great but the zoom is really lame.  Rachel also has one of those big-ass cameras that you have to tote around in a wheel barrow and you have to go to photography school to know how to turn it on.  She doesn't use it any more.   So today's pictures are from a $125 point and shoot.

We've been getting a lot of regular rain this spring and everything is lush.  Every morning Dodger and I go for our walkabout but this evening I went solo.  I tried to convince him that he would have fun too, but he seemed more bent on relaxing on the terrace so I said 'fine!'  His loss.

Our daily route is two miles.  Most often when I take pictures on this walk it is about 7 AM.  This evening's walk started about 4:30 PM and ended about and hour later.  During that walk I let my 16X zoom do a little work for me.  I was excited to try out my new toy.

Rex is our neighbor's dog.  He is owned by an indigenous family.  He could eat Dodger with a single bite.   I'm pretty sure I could put a saddle on him and ride like the wind.   Thankfully he doesn't even bark at us any more and most often sneaks under the fence and joins us on our walk.  He was a 150 meters away when I took this shot.  When he saw that I didn't have Dodger with me he lost interest and didn't even bother to come out and say hi.

This is the lane that goes by Rex's house.  The lane seems to disappear as you go downhill.  In the distance you can see a brown thing that looks like a horse.  It is.

What I love about this stretch is the farmer's fields that have new crops growing each season.  It looks like this spring they are going
to double crop pole beans.  Last year they had a season of wheat and a season of pole beans.  They harvested the wheat with a 1970's style New Holland combine.  When they dumped the wheat off the combine it went on to a huge tarp where the three generation family stood by to hand clean the wheat and scoop it into bags.  It was Ecuadoriana at it's best.  Then came the pole beans.  Cultivating between the pole beans as they approach the size you see on the left is done with a single horse and a single gang cultivator.  It is amazingly clean when they are done.  Eat your heart out Monsanto.  The family that owns the land is mestizo and seems to have some wealth based on their new Hyundai hybrid.  They are not afraid to work however.

I know you are wondering about that horse at the end of the lane.

I don't know her name but she always talks to me.  She seems to spend a lot of lonely hours tied up by the bean field and when I come by to talk to her she seems to really appreciate the company.  I'm an Iowa farm boy.  I love horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, dogs, and most any critter on four legs.  Every day I have my passions met on my walkabout.

I'm headed south now on the next leg of my walk.  When I'm on this road in the morning, Mt. Cotacachi is out in her grandeur.  This morning she was covered in snow.  Now she's hiding.  I wonder if she will come out by the time I get to the edge of town.

I got a little sidetracked.  Another farmer neighbor, Edwin, is out with his four year old paint.  He is lunging this pretty little 14 hand beauty and is making sure he keeps his right lead for the direction of the circle.  It will make it so much easier when he is riding him.

Edwin's daughter (hija) and his niece (sobrina) are playing together nearby.  I hope when they are older they can appreciate the good ol' days when dad (papa) or uncle (tio) Edwin) would be working his horses.

This is the kind of farm life I remember.  I thought it was gone forever in the states....Not so much in Ecuador.  In fact if you get a ways off the Pan American highway, you can step back in time to where my own dad would be able to walk down memory lane.  They still plow with oxen.

After I leave Edwin and the girls I start back down the lane towards Cotacachi.  On my left and on my right are beautiful farmland parcels.  They will not be farmland for many more  years I'm afraid.  Rachel and I are not the only ones that see the beauty of living in this enchanting place.  There will be more houses built.  I'm usually for progress, but somehow this seems a little painful.  The dirt road will soon have pavers.  I don't think we'll see any McDonalds any time soon.

Mother Cotacachi is starting to brush away the sleep in her eyes.  Maybe I will see her again this evening after all.

Now I get to try out that 16X zoom again.  I look towards town (Cotacachi) and I see the Matriz church and Jesus up on the clock tower.  If I was Jesus that's just where I'd want to be too.  You can see all the beautiful farmland from up on that tower I'm sure.  You can also look down on the parque from there and see all the families holding each other's hands and loving on each other.  I know I'm a bit of a sap but you just have to be there.

Behind this wall sits a house that Rachel and I thought seriously of buying before we ended up building in Yanapamba.  The price was right!   You can't see much of it from here but it is a very pretty house.  It was the first of many houses to be built on this piece of land.  They're still waiting on number two to be built 4 years later.  Some of these farmers wanted to get rich quick so they put up some walls around their properties and tried to sell building lots.  They didn't know anything about permitting, water lines, sewer lines, buried electric cables, homeowner's associations, and such new fangled stuff.  The result is one and done.  I'm glad we didn't invest there.  Yanapamba was sold out before the second house was built.  They just did it right.  

One of the 'expected' pleasures of walking on our road is meeting new people every day.  This is just a young family from town that wanted to stroll about with the cows and horses too.  When we first got to Cotacachi I would only say buenos tardes to families like this.  Now I have a conversation with them.

A little while later I met a professional looking man and he was busy on his cell phone talking to someone in English.  Amazed to hear English on this little back road I of course engaged him.  It turns out that his name was familiar to me.  We chatted a good while and I learned much about the little farms I walked by every day.  I asked him where he was from.  He was raised in southern California and was born in El Salvador.  Now he's Ecuadorian.   Cotacachi is a small town.  You might just as well be friendly.

I knew mama Cotacachi would peak out again before the sun set.

I stepped off the beaten path, walked into a little pasture and found this very cool little pond.

Maybe tomorrow I'll return with a fishing line.

If the fish aren't any healthier than the llamas I'm leaving my rod and reel at home.

I'm on the home stretch now but I have to say hi to the local Holsteins.  The dairy cattle in Ecuador look quite a bit like dairy cattle in the US.  They are smaller, a few mixed breeds, but generally well taken care of.  For all you beef lovers, you just don't see herds of Angus here.  Recently I was back in Iowa and seeing all those black beauties made me lust for a charcoaled ribeye.  I think what we get to eat here is used up dairy cows.  That's what crock pots are for.

At the t-intersection before I turn to go to our home in Yanapamba I come upon Hosteria Villa Paradiso.  I always hope they have their gate open because seeing their gardens is flat out beautiful.  We are lucky to have such neighbors.

I'm back to Rex's family's house again.  My zoom lens shows me that this indigenous family knows how to make some pretty curtains.

The bottle brush trees gracefully line the lane going up to their house.  I don't think Rex knows how good he has it.

  This is my friend Pato.  He is our caretaker at Yanapamba.  I play frisbie with his entire family nearly every evening.  I guess we are going to get a professional crew to take care of things now.  I am sad about that.  Pato has taught me a lot of Spanish.  He has showed me how warm and kind Ecuadorians are.  He will not be meeting me at the gate on my return much longer.  I will miss him and especially his son Christopher tremendously.

In my hour walkabout I talked with dogs, cows, horses, and people of all walks of life.  I marveled at the pole beans and the hands that made it so.    I saw Mt. Cotacachi hiding and coming out again with a smile.  I saw Jesus on the Matriz clock tower looking out over the fields of Cotacachi.  I got my exercise.  I got my heart warmed.  I got all of that and it cost me nothing.  The best things in life are free.  God bless.