Thursday, May 16, 2013
I hesitated to write this blog because it can be yet another way to be on the computer INSTEAD of "on the mat" or with the free weights or on my bicycle. But It will be short-and-sweet.
I'm pushin' 150 lbs. and that's scary...and moves me toward that "out-of-control" feeling that I dread so. I'm afraid I've been sliding down a slippery slope ever since returning from Ecuador, and not just in terms of food and exercise, but generally feeling lethargic and vacillating and unproductive. I have had this tendency for many years, and have always had to fight it...and the fight goes on!
I am using various strategies~~
~ specific achievable steps in terms of movement, which I will track
~ tracking ALL food
~ limiting computer time (working on a strategy here, it's harder than it sounds -- for me)
~ reading _Enough! A Buddhist Approach to Finding Release from Addictive Patterns_ by Chonyi Taylor, which I think hones in on the root cause of much of my dysfunctional behavior
~ practice daily gratitude, posting in the two communities if possible
I know it's up to me...to change my mind/behavior to change my life.
And I also know that self-blame and self-judgment are counter-productive.
Today is DAY ONE, the first day of the rest of my life.
Monday, April 22, 2013
As I get increasingly enmeshed with *this* altered state since returning from Ecuador March 19, the vividness of the experiences blur slightly and the matters that I just *had* to attend to have diminished in importance just a bit. But I continue to persist in pursuing the dreams that spawned during this odyssey (odyssey: a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships; any long eventful journey).
In this last Ecuador blog I would like to share a few photos from my day-trips to Podocarpus National Park and Vilcabamba, as well as musing a bit, as I move forward into spring and summer in the good ol' U.S. of A.!
Podocarpus National Park occupies 360,000 acres in the low "V" of southern Ecuador, near its border with Peru (I reside one hour from the northern border with Colombia) and is the only protected area in southern Ecuador. The park is important for conservation, according to The Nature Conservancy, because of its high concentration of endemic species. The elevation generally varies from 6560 ft. to 9840 ft. Podocarpus takes its name from having the country's largest contingent of the Podocarpus or romerillo tree, the only conifer native to Ecuador.
Gonzalo, the noble taxista. I paid him $10 round trip upon arriving to the park (for the one+ hour round trip on a partially horrible unpaved road with potholes). We agreed that he would return for me in four hours, at 4:30pm, before the park locked the gates at 5:00pm. I implicitly trusted this man I got to know during the drive there, and knew he would be there as he promised...and he was! Good thing too, because the park is very remote and I would have been royally stranded otherwise. I ran into people only twice on the trail!
In a mindless moment as I left the hotel, I forgot to change my shoes and put on the much more appropriate hiking boots! This was after just a couple minutes of walking...already lots of mud splattered on my feet and sandals, which you really can't see, aka "Before." Too bad I didn't take an "After" photo!
The trail is generally well maintained.
Some parts of the trail are quite steep, and squishy with mud 1-2" deep, which made it quite *sucky* lol! After my initial horror, it got to be fun, though my sandals were trashed and it took me days to wash off the mud, which actually stained my feet and calves (seriously!).
Because of some recent severe storms there was also the occasional tree over the trail, although the worst problems had been cleared.
Lots of bamboo stands along the way.
And lots of moss too.
Air plants (genus tilandsia, the bromiliad family) galore!
One of the trails I loved in a full-on rainforest. The 20 min. is a joke...with the condition of the trail, it took three times that, but it was SO worth it. It reminds me so much of portions of the Kalalau trail In Kauai.
This beautiful, delicate little butterfly felt like my guide, as it hovered about and ahead of me, disappearing and suddenly reappearing, for probably 1/3 of the hike. It was quite magical!
Om my! I have way too many panoramic shots to post. I took one series of 12 moving the camera from left to right across the vista at one point high on the trail, so I'll post those 12, the first being far left and the last being far right:
Dusk as I near the trail head, and with this I leave Podocarpus. The next day was a day trip to Vilcabamba, a 45 min. ride in a taxi co-op from Loja.
Once again passing the entrance to Podocarpus, I continue to Vilcabamba. The valley (bamba, aka pampa) is overlooked by a mountain called Mandango, the Sleeping Inca, whose presence is said to protect the area from earthquakes and other natural disasters. The etymology of "Vilcabamba" apparently derives from "huilco pamba" (in Quichua, the Incan language, still heavily used by the Otavalan Indians where I live in northern Ecuador). Huilco denotes the sacred trees that inhabit the region and pamba is a word meaning “a plain.”
An interesting and unique village, with a controversial reputation for extreme longevity, Vilcabamba has often been cited as an area with the oldest inhabitants in the world. The claim has been called into question in recent years, though.
In any case, it is a beautiful with an abundance of agriculture, and this particular equatorial sub-area is said to have fruit, roots and herbs that offer some of the strongest anti-oxidant protection in the world.
The community has an overabundance of ex-pats from many countries, as well as an alive-and-well alternative community. For that reason, I easily found a vegan restaurant, owned by an American woman. I shared a table with Mia, a healer from Thailand. We enjoyed an exquisite lunch and delightful conversation. After lunch she took me to a bakery owned by a French couple, where I bought a delicious chocolate croissant. We had an espresso at another cafe on the plaza and then parted ways.
Concluding my day in Vilcambamba and my tenure in Ecuador are miscellaneous photos of my afternoon in the village, posted in order taken:
As I attend to the realities that confront me, my spirit whispers dreams to my heart that I am beginning to quietly explore -- as always, being called to...
I do not take for granted the freedom which offers me the joy unique to travel -- I never tire of strange places and new faces. Dear friend Don Doorn made reference to a musical hero of ours in his early blog comment, so for me it feels very fitting to close this Ecuador chapter with Richie Havens' legendary clarion call:
Richie Havens opening Woodstock in 1969
RIP, January 21, 1941-April 22, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Every door is another passage, another boundary we have to go beyond.
We sometimes step, sometimes stumble, and other times we are pulled into the territory of the Crone when the need for a deeper, larger understanding of our most meaningful path can no longer be denied -- when the gifts hidden in our challenges must be brought forth.
-- Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The little fairy bedroom in my home-away-from-home:
View from the doorway of the tiny little bedroom Adelaida and Amrita prepared, welcoming me with flowers and signs and pictures, and other gifts. I spent a lot of time sitting at the little desk gazing out the window into the lovely wooded wildness.
View of my bedroom from the desk. Thanks to the generosity of neighbors Casandra and Julian, I had a very comfortable bed, which was also the spot of my morning sitting practice
Contemplating which photos and mental impressions to share in this final blog focused upon my sojourn in Ecuador, I am reminded of the many important images and people who were not captured digitally...and of course, many, many more were NOT than WERE. One might even say that in most cases the most meaningful occasions were not, because one's attention is so intimately focused upon the moment, without nary a thought of taking a picture until afterward, or something is seen in passing when the camera is not at-hand. As I sit here in reverie, I'm playing the McCoy Tyner Trio project, "Infinity," which takes me back to San Francisco and North Beach and Keystone Korner, where I heard so many jazz greats many, many moons ago...deep impressions, no photos.
And so I begin this last offering where I left off...in Cuenca.
I made a day trip from Cuenca to the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador, Ingapirca ("Inca wall" in Quecha, the language of the indigenous population, still alive-and-well and now even instructed in some schools), a town in Cañar Province, named after the Inca palace and temple site.
The most significant building is the temple of the sun, an elliptically shaped building constructed around a large rock. The building is constructed in the Incan way without mortar in most of the complex.
The stones were carefully chiseled and fashioned to fit together perfectly. The temple of the sun was positioned so that on the solstices, at exactly the right time of day, sunlight would fall through the center of the doorway of the small chamber at the top of the temple.
Jorge guided us four "girls" through the ruins. Fluent in Spanish and English, he seems to be a student of these ruins and is particularly knowledgable about them. Here we are at the Temple of the Sun.
It was C-O-L-D and windy there (10,600' elevation), significantly colder than in Cuenca (about 1,600' higher). Luckily the *young thangs* were accustomed to it, being from Wisconsin. They're attending an immersion program in Spanish in Quito, and traveled to Cuenca and environs for the weekend.
I'm standing near where Jorge was standing in the last photo
"I hear you knocking, but you can't come in."
The Incas were not the first inhabitants of Ingapirca. It had long been settled by the Cañari indigenous people, who called it Hatun Cañar, and it dates back to 1000-1500AD. After the King of the Incas died in Peru, the oldest son took over the kingdom. They lived together peaceably (will wonders never cease LOL), each acting out their individual indigenous cultures.
They worshiped the Sun and Moon and tried to be as close to their gods as possible. They felt that this place of substantial elevation was where the gods had led them, regardless of the climate.
Arriving by taxi to the outskirts of Cuenca.
Because the three young women had "scored" a ride back to Cuenca in a taxi for less than the other fares(!), I also "scored" since the driver was willing and able to carry me as well, which meant getting back in half the time that the three modes of public transport going there had necessitated, in just over one hour, vs. around 2.5 hours!
The final leg of this journey took me to the province of Loja, which shares a border with Peru.
The ostensible five+ hours bus ride from Cuenca to Loja was significantly lengthened by some unsought-after drama, when the bus driver clipped off the corner of the roof of an old building, trying to negotiate a corner driving through the narrow streets of Saraguro. The problem is that he (apparently) attempted a "hit-and-run," but the police came from a different direction and blocked the road, then escorted the bus back to the village to "deal" with the incident.
I was especially drawn to the provincial capitol city of Loja. With a population of about 200,000, it is situated about 6800 ft above sea level and has a delightfully mild Andean climate, ranging between 60 and 86 degrees F. Art and music are alive-and-well there; I found people there in general to be open and spirited -- perhaps being home to two major universities has something to do with it, and it was amazing how easy it was to find healthy, organic, vegetarian food.
I'll begin with a crazy potpouri of photos of the city, some with captions, others self-explanatory.
Loja City Gates
An exceptional exhibit of women's art sponsored by the province
Sunset over Loja
Church of San Francisco, built in 1548
There are always stands just outside the church doors, with sellers of religious paraphernalia; could this be a philosophical discussion regarding free will (LOL)?
This initially struck me as funny, this health clinic housed in the church complex (as though Jesus would perhaps have more power to heal here). Commenting to a passing pedestrian, I learned that it is a free clinic, administered by the Franciscan monks....
(The clinic is across the street from Cafe Quilanga...hmmmm...why, oh why, am I so taken by a church named "San Francisco" -- hmmmm...? And could this fortunate thing have anything to do with the serendipity of meeting dear Wilma?)
I love this window of San Francisco above the elementary school on one side of the church
The church plaza features a monument to Alonso de Mercadillo, founder of the city.
Now on to a sweet serendipity within the Lojano odyssey. Wandering the streets of the city I came upon this small, humble cafe, and was struck by a sign regarding organic coffee from Quilanga (a district of Loja, known for coffee production):
Upon further exploration I noticed that they specialized in freshly extracted vegetable or fruit juices, so, in addition to buying coffee beans for me and Adelaida, I decided to order a beet, carrot, parsley juice! And that's how I met Wilma...
...and her delightful young neighbor, Hugo, a "modisto" (designs and makes clothing, also repair and alteration), who helps Wilma in the kitchen, when he is not down the street in the shop helping his wife
Here they are, with Hugo demonstrating the "poncho" used by the coffee pickers in Quilanga to deposit the beans as they harvest them; the machine she uses to grind the beans once she has peeled and roasted them is at Wilma's left
I deeply enjoyed meeting Wilma . We had some delightful conversations, during which I found that she attended university and hopes to return to finish a degree in natural medicine. I have a feeling that it is not the last time I will see her!
Oh my! I think the Botanical Gardens, Podocarpus National Park, and Vilcabamba will have to be "housed" in their very own blog! I'll call it Endings...and beginnings, Part 2, (#8, Ecuador, 2013).
I'm OUT OF CONTROL!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
A hundred blossoming white lotus flowers
"A bouquet of blossoming salmon-hued gladioli"
for the lotus flowers.
I spent two weeks solo on the road traveling by bus -- getting to know portions of southern Ecuador and, of course, many amazing people and more aspects of myself and my Self as well -- first to Ambato for one night, then Riobamba for three nights, Cuenca for four nights and Loja for three nights (I really wanted to stay longer in Loja, but the time for my return to the USA was drawing close). Except for the trip from Ambato to Riobamba, the bus rides also each took a day.
These maps will give you some perspective of my journey -- which began near Ibarra (where I stay with Adelaida and Amrita) one hour from the border with Colombia, tripping first to Ambato, Riobamba, Cuenca, and then Loja, city and province, which shares a border with Peru:
I started in Imbabura province (#11);
+six hours by bus got me to Ambato, in Tungurahua province (23);
then to Riobamba in Chimborazo (5);
Cuenca in Azuay was next (1)
and finally to Loja, the capitol of Loja province (12).
Vilcabamba is also in Loja.
Quito is the capitol of Ecuador, in Pichincha province (19).
On the bus to Ambato...the young ayudante giving me the peace sign
The high school, Colegio Instituto Tecnológico Superior Bolivar, in Ambato celebrated its 150th anniversary of instruction in 2011!
Looking at the school from the main plaza
An old curmudgeon who bakes wonderful pastries and breads early in the morning and comes to the plaza to sell them
The main plaza:
Librería Futuro, a wonderful little bookstore across from the plaza, specializing in South American writers
A couple more shots of downtown Ambato:
Bus driver and ayudante, leaving Ambato and headed to Riobamba
#1 find lodging. Check. #2 find food. Check: El Rey del Burrito -- delicious Mexican food in the middle of Ecuador, thanks to Lonely Planet's online help!
This lovely Ecuadorian woman owns El Rey. A Mexican friend taught her to make Mexican food, INCLUDING tortillas, many years ago. BTW, the cuisine of Ecuador bears almost no resemblance to that of México.
Her cute husband. Aren't the murals marvelous in this wonderful space!
I'm in heaven! I ate here twice...very impressed with the freshness and quality of the food.
Making corn tortillas in the kitchen (they also make flour tortillas)
Watching a zumba class from my room (right, "watching")
Managed to capture an indigenous group from San Juan resting by the side of the road during a long walk
More photos from my walk:
An indigenous woman, the cow herder
Can you see snow-peaked Chimborazo (20,564 ft) in the background? The province is named for the exquisite mountain, which reaches the Earth's closest point to the sun, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from Earth's rotation!
More on the Andes from Wikipedia: The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world, a range of highlands along the western coast of South America. It is about 4,300 mi. long and of an average height of about 13,000 ft. The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.
Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated by intermediate depressions. The Andes is the location of several high plateaux – some of which host major cities such as Quito, Bogotá, Arequipa, Medellín, Sucre, and La Paz. The Altiplano plateau is the world's second-highest plateau following the Tibetan plateau.
The Andes range is the world's highest mountain range outside of Asia. The highest peak, Mount Aconcagua, in Argentina, rises to an elevation of about 22,841 ft.
You can see most of the "Cuenca" sign below the ayudante's hand. Isn't the broom truck uber cool!
More photos on the road to Cuenca. Lovin' the way the church tower captures the eye in the center of the unknown village in the distance.
This lovely young woman, Sirena, with whom I shared a seat and spoke to at length, allowed me to take a photo of her before we parted company
Spotted an indigenous woman out the window, passing through another village
Marta, owner of La Casa Cuencana, welcomes me to my favorite hostel of the trip, where I paid $12/night for a lovely room with a private bath and use of the kitchen. Spirit, another lodger there, bought the beautiful gladiolas for the dining room table.
Here's a shot of Spirit in front of the hostel. He bought more flowers to take with him to www.GaiaSagrada.com , when he left to facilitate a program on Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now there. That's Marta again, smiling by the door.
Taken at a Dutch bakery in Cuenca...we enjoyed getting errands run and cruising the city together one morning.
A few shots of Cuenca, a lovely colonial city:
This is Maha Mama, your friendly blogger-on-the-move, groggy with blogging, with a special PSA: I have decided to create one additional blog, instead of this one becoming the longest blog in the history of blogging...LOL!
The final FINAL Ecuador blog #7 will include looks at the Ingapirca ruins, Loja, Podocarpus National Park, Vilcabamba, and my final musings about this pilgrimage. Stay tuned!
Saturday, March 02, 2013
What they say is true...aging is like a snowball gathering speed as it rolls down the hill...incredible how the years are whirling by these days!!! It is said that youth is wasted on the young...and in my case, that was definitely true. How about you?
I'm a little late with this birthday entry...it was February 23, 1942 that I entered the planet for this round. Carlos and Yolanda invited us to their lovely cottage and finca (farm) above Ibarra. Adelaida, Amrita and I celebrated my personal new year there.
Carlos on the land, tending to his humungous garden.
Yolanda pausing in the kitchen during lunch preparation
Their phenomenal property is in a part of the Salinas area called Milagro de la Concepcion -- beautiful tropical and lush landscape. What follows are photos of the property, just the tip of the iceberg of the garden's riches, and the incredible surrounding valley it is tucked into:
Adelaida with coffee in-hand, the tomato-colored water catchment tower in view
We harvested MANY papayas...here are more, still to ripen
A type of winter squash, with its lovely flower
Blackberries! We harvested many and ate for breakfast with yogurt
Mangoes ripening on a young tree, its first harvest in-process
Amrita has an aguacate (avocado) in one hand and guayabas (guavas) in the other; we also picked various varieties of lettuce for lunch salad
Adelaida clowning with a chirimoya, still ripening on the tree; we were gifted with a huge bag full of the spectacularly delicious fruit, dear to the Inca royalty of ancient South America
Me of little hair playing with Amrita's abundant and beautiful mane!
A local resident, hauling water from a spring where we frolicked and bathed in the small pool and waterfall (I have some X-rated photos of us sans-ropa!)
Another local with his burro, headed up the mountain to harvest frijoles (beans)
Looking into the valley with the tiny village center in-view
A close-up of the village center, with the old church
Adelaida taking a photo of the birthday lunch
Adelaida's birthday "card", wedged within the outer husk of a banana plant and filled with flowers and her love note to me.
One view of the exquisite antique shawl Adelaida gifted me, the embroidery of course done by hand.
Another view...all the fringe is knotted and sewn by hand. The fabric is a wonderful quality of cotton/wool.
The day after my birthday we had lunch with dear friends Sandra, Micaela and Roger. Here are a few photos of that wonderful gathering:
Roger, Sandra, Micaela at their home
Sandra, the master chef, prepared a veritable feast for "my" day!
Reading all the wonderful FB and other birthday wishes on Micaela's laptop
Blowing out the candle after the riquisimo lunch prepared with love by Sandra
Rosco-the-dog enjoying the beautiful skirt and blouse Sandra, Roger, and Micaela gave me (taken the following day "at home")
Close-up detail of blouse
Dear friends Micaela, Sandra, Adelaida, and Amrita on after-lunch walk
Me'n my hermana latina, Adelaida (my earrings are a birthday present made for me by my friend Helena, with seeds from the Amazon
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