Monday, March 24, 2014

Camilo's party

We are actually back in Blacksburg from our sabbatical in Ecuador but I still have some pics and stories to share so will be playing catch-up the next few posts. It was pretty chaotic at the end so I am behind.

The kid's school was on the 'coastal' schedule so they ended the year in early March. This worked out perfect for us, despite being completely unplanned. It allowed the kids to finish the year with their friends and then gave us a few weeks to travel and pack up to leave.

For Camilo's last day of class the students put on a little show and then had a party. This was lots of fun and while Camilo didn't participate in most of the show (he didn't understand the directions), he did do a dance with his best friend Valentina.

This was as dressed up as we could get for the show and party. Not great but not bad.

Someone was bored waiting the show to start.

Camilo and his teacher. He called her 'profe' and liked her a lot. Notice how well dressed the other students were.

His best friend Valentina. He already misses her. One of his last things he did in Mindo was to go to the butterfly garden with her. Amalia also went with her friends. The garden lets Mindo residents go for free, very cool!

We funded these paintings on the wall of Camilo's class. The painter is the mother of one of the students and the hand prints are from all of the students. Something for them to remember us by.

One of his last days Camilo came home with pink paint in his hair… now we know how it got there.

The cake was the highlight of the party!

And here is the whole class… note that Camilo is on the far left and Valentina has her back to the camera.

On the walk home we found the local burro. This guy has no owners and just kind of wanders about town… the kids feed him guayabas!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

camera found on Chimborazo leads to an amazing story

During our trip to Chimorazo, I took a solo hike one afternoon to see how the altitude would treat me if I tried to exercise. I only made went about a mile from the lodge but climbed about 200m. As the lodge is at 4000m, there isn't much air to breath. The flat parts were fine but whenever the trail turned up, I suffered.

On the way back I found a camera half buried in some sand. It had been there a while and was also filled with sand and, not surprisingly, the battery was dead. Still, I was able to take the card out and look at the pics on it. There were a few hundred and it looked like a couple of americans or euro men who were traveling with others and doing some mountain climbing and other tourist things. I asked the guys at the lodge if they recognized the climbers and they said no but that I should contact the main office. So when we returned to Mindo, that is what I did. And that is where the story got interesting…

The pics were taken back in January 2013, a year ago. The woman at the main office is the wife of Marco Cruz, the famous mountain climber and she immediately recognized the guys in the pics and related the following story to me. Below I will paste a copy of the story she sent me. I have used Google translate and have deleted some names for personal reasons. Still, the story is amazing.

I tell you that we have led an incredible surprise to see the photos.
These two German friends Ralf and Ralf were part of a group of 7 mountaineers who came to make a program to climb Chimborazo and spent 13 days with us at the lodge in training , climbing , walking and getting ready to climb to the summit of Chimborazo , a very good Pograma we operate with the German Alpine Club. All very nice in panel two friends .

Ralf - the man in the picture is smiling and wearing a green - pants was the strongest and most well prepared group . On February 4, they all reached the summit of Chimborazo successfully following the southern route that has the name of my husband (Route Marco Cruz) On the descent to be rappelling down a rock wall Ralf suffered an unexpected heart attack and died instantly in front his friend and some of the guides that were in place then.

It was terrible for us , the first time in 40 years of work that a client dies during a program with us. We had to build an operation with more than 10 mountain guides to retrieve the body because the accident occurred at 5,900 mts . in a very difficult part of the route ( impossible to reach by helicopter ) and then the saddest , notify the Embassy , the Alpine Club and family .... then getting the autopsy, police statements , the morgue , hundreds of papers and statements , in a few days so terrible . We were able to send the body to Germany after 3 weeks of the accident !

You can imagine the impact that we get to see the photos ... everything you came to mind . So I could not resist sharing this story with you because also find the camera to a year after the accident met.

I already contacted Ralf (the friend) and is very happy to get back photos , says he lost the camera on a walk and looked around the side and did not appear. Surely he will be very happy to see some pictures of those happy days were the last he shared with his friend.

So I have been in contact with the victims friend and have arranged to send him the card when we return to the US. I hope if helps the victims friend and family to see Ralf smiling and enjoying the last days of his life. Needless to say, I am happy that I am able to help them in any way I can.

Monday, March 3, 2014

trip to Chimborazo!

Last week we went on a trip up into the Andes. Our goal was to see some mountains and we succeeded! We decided on Chimborazo as it is the highest mountain in Ecuador and the point the furthest from the center of the earth (near the equator and the earth bulges at the middle). Here are some pics and descriptions of our adventure.

Driving in Ecuador has it's challenges and benefits. Few roads are marked and it is easy to get lost. But, there are lots to cool small towns and treats along the way. When describing our plans to my english student Geovanny, he suggested we stop in Salcedo for ice-cream. Apparently it is famous in Ecuador and the place must have the most ice-cream shops per capita of any place in the world! We stopped at one of the first. Notice the list of flavors! The kids declared this their favorite town in Ecuador.

They also had a farmer's market and Lisa took a break from riding in the back of the truck to check it out. These fruit are like lychees but fresh (as opposed to the canned lychees we get in the US) and were quite delicious.

Lots of fruit.

Here is another mystery fruit. Apparently these ripen after mango season so mark a seasonal shift in fruit diet for Ecuadorians.

Here is a highlight of the trip! We were near Banos when Lisa noticed this weird grey cloud on the horizon. It is Volcan Tunguahua erupting! It has been very active recently and we got to see this puff of ash come out of it. Amazing!

The ash cloud rose in the sky and was prominent for miles around. The actual volcano is hidden in the clouds.

And here is our first view of Chimborazo! It is over 6000m high!

And here is where we stayed. It is a lodge owned and operated by Marco Cruz, one of Ecuador's great mountain climbers. We were lucky enough to get to meet him. His lodge is fantastic!

Here is the main lodge which is also the restaurant. It is situated in this little valley looking up at the mountain. The lodge is at 4000m, so breathing and such ain't easy!

Amalia immediately made friends with Whimper (named after the climber) and the two were insuperable for the rest of our stay.

There is a herd of llama and alpaca on the land and Whimper thinks they are fun to chase.

Camilo immediately started gathering grass to build things.

Here is the cabin we stayed in. There are two double rooms downstairs and two upstairs. We stayed downstairs. Gets cold at night but we had space heaters in the room.

This was the other dog belonging to the lodge… can't remember her name but needless to say she was good friends with Amalia too.

Camilo liked Whimper too.


There is a little cross joined by tibetan prayer flags high in the hill next to the lodge. Amalia and I decided to hike up to it on a whim. Marco saw us and was impressed. We guessed Amalia might be the youngest kid ever to make the climb!

There is a large population of vicunas living on the mountain. Amazing animals living at high elevation with very little apparent food to eat… but they do fine.

We drove up into the reserve to see how high we could go. And too a family photo.

4800m! That is nearly 16,000ft!

Not much up here by this beautiful flowering plant is everywhere. It is a favorite of the Chimborazo Hillstar. A beautiful hummingbird (no pics, sorry) that lives in this amazing environment.

Lucky for us we have our Toyota LandCruiser to get us around… or as Camilo refers to it, our 'Monster Truck'!

More vicunas, including a baby.

The road cuts show the amazing geology of the mountain. I am guessing what we are seeing here is the evidence from millennia of eruptions of the Chimborazo and all the surrounding volcanoes.

One day we went to Aluasi to ride the train to the Nariz del Diablo. This was a special trip for Camilo as he is in love with Mighty Machines, and trains are certainly mighty! Here are the tracks through town.

Camilo is so excited he can't stand still, not even for a pic.

All aboard!

Camilo wanted a window seat. But we had to warn him not to hang out the window.

We could peak out to see what was ahead.

The train for this trip is made to feel like an old classic train but it is modern and nice. The trip takes a few hours in total and the kids loved it.

Lots of cliffs. You can see here how the tracks double back on themselves to make the steep grade. Apparently 2500 workers died making these tracks!

Here is a view up the Nariz del Diablo from the bottom.

Camilo watching the world go by.

Amalia liked it too but wouldn't admit it.

And then back to the lodge.
Here is a commemorative to Marco Cruz whose lodge we stayed out.

Llamas and alpacas.

View inside the restaurant. Great place to visit!

Amalia and her dog friends!

The last morning we were there it cleared up and Lisa took dozens (maybe hundreds!) of pics of the mountain.

View up the valley from the lodge.

From the other side of the mountain and we drove around to make our way back.

Amalia and the mountain.

Camilo and the mountain.

Kids and the mountain!

Big mountain!

And of course we had to stop in Salcedo on the way back for more ice-cream! They even have a sculpture of a Salcedo ice-cream on the way into town. This is the world's center of ice-cream!