Stumbled into Same

fishing boatsLanded after dark in the small beach pueblo, Same (pronounced Sa me), located on the northern coast of Ecuador and our stay turned into an eight-day escape from the modern world.
same beach
Internet was sparse and slow, the locals an eclectic colorful tribe, the fish fresh, the Pilsner grande cold, wave cruising pelicans, and no gringos in sight except for Tex Mike who had a young Venezuelan wife, a place on the beach for eighteen years and more than a few stories of working the oil rigs.
peligans

We stumbled onto Same after dark when the bus dropped us off on the side of the road a mile past the dirt road leading to the town. We wondered back, schlepping our roller bags and backpacks, looking for the hostel, La Casa de Amigos, listed in Lonely Planet, which no longer existed. Several young local boys came to our rescue and took us to one of their father’s who is a caretaker for a house on the beach. We rented a room in the house, only we were the only occupants, thus had the entire house to ourselves. The house had an intriguing story – owned by a wealthy British woman who lived life big, played hard, and died of a heart attack at 54.
Casa de Diana

You never now what you are going to stumble onto next when you head down the road with no grand scheme.
palapa

big tree
Landed at Runa Huasi Lodge in Selva Viva in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We had the good fortune to meet a young teacher from Germany and a mother and son from Sweden on the bus to Tena – a jumping off point to the Amazonia.

Amazonia travel companions

Amazonia travel companions

We decided to join them at this small lodge – a 45min bus from Tena and water taxi to the lodge.

water taxi

water taxi


The native environment embraced us as we entered our thatched roof hut with no electricity – we did have running water.
thatch hut

thatch hut

Dinner was served by candlelight and consisted of Ecuadorian fare – Sopa verde, a main dish of rice, plantains, meat, and local vegetables, fruita fresca for desert.

dinner by candle light

dinner by candle light

The jungle hike and tour confirmed that life is large in the Amazonia. The fauna, flora, and forest grow gigantic with continual rain and humidity.

sombresa

sombresa

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Coconut carts are common sights on the streets of Cuenca, Ecuador. After an afternoon of walking I decided to quench my thirst and try a glass of the clear liquid (not to be confused with coconut milk made from coconut meat). Poured right out of a slightly immature coconut, sliced open with a handy machete the nectar had a subtly sweet taste with a slight hint of salt. And for .50 cents it adequately satiated my thirst and boosted my blood sugar for the short walk back to my guesthouse.

DSC00110

Each nut contains about 200-1000ml of water and along with sugars, electrolytes and minerals to replenish dehydration in the body. Coconut water has been used with patients suffering with diarrhea in many tropic regions to reduce the need for IV therapy. Coconut water contains naturally occurring bioactive enzymes that aid in digestion and metabolism and is a source of B-complex vitamins. The water contains a good amount of potassium and some sodium and has been used by athletes post workout.

So is coconut water the trending elixir and touted as another of Mother Earth’s “natural waters” for a more healthful life worth the price or the hype?

In a recent article published in Time magazine 4 out of 5 nutritional experts said a resounding NO. Ranging in price between $1.99-2.99 for approximately a 10 oz. container, Nancy Clark, registered dietician and sport nutrition counselor and guru says, “I’d rather spend my money on natural food, and not an over-hyped fluid.” Yes it is a good source of potassium, but so are bananas, raisins, and potatoes. “

Coconut water has been famous for nutritional posturing,” states Todd Cooperman, MD and president of the independent tester of health products Consumer Lab.com. He found that most of the products tested failed to meet their mineral claims – specifically of the heralded electrolytes, magnesium and sodium. However, Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietician and manager of the nutrition services a Cleveland Clinics Wellness Institute defenses the liquid stating “it’s a much better choice than a sports dink loaded with excess sugar if you are looking for a break from regular water and you can use some potassium.

My recommendation: at .50 – $1.00 a glass on the street corner of Ecuador, poured straight from the coconut, it was a unique and refreshing beverage. At $2.59/container from your local natural foods outlet – I might just grab a banana, a handful or raisins, and my trusty water bottle after my workout.
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Natatorium at the University of Cuenca, Ecuador

Natatorium at the University of Cuenca, Ecuador

I hit the pool for the first time after arriving in Cuenca, Ecuador, 3 days ago. At 8200ft. I felt like I was swimming though molasses. And here is why:

• Your resting heart rate at altitude can be 10% higher and maximum heart rate can be 10% lower in the first week in altitude. Not going to tolerate much high intensity starting out!

• Iron uptake can increase almost 100% in the first few days at altitude. Normal iron stores during this time are not sufficient to meet the demand for hemoglobin synthesis. A multiple vitamin as well as iron supplementation is important (200-300mg/day beginning 2-3 weeks prior to heading to the mountains) or as I like to say “Where’s the beef?”

• Fatigue also sets in quicker at altitude and requires longer rest intervals when training and between workouts. Rest periods should be extended 15-30% at altitude for adequate recovery. and oh yea take more daily naps!

• Dehydration can also be a problem at altitude. Plasma volume has been shown to decrease as much as 25% in the first 8-10 days at altitude. So drink lots of fluids and keep the diuretics (caffeine) to a minimum. Salt will help to retain fluids. So bring on the beer and salted plantain chips!

The good thing is that I know the pool workouts are going to get easier the longer I am here swimming at 8200ft. And when I return to Tucson I’ll be feeling like at dolphin slicing through the water!

hats
Weaving shawl straw to make hats (also know as the Panama hat) and multiple crafts such as baskets, bags, decorations, and purses is a tradition in the Cuenca and Azuay regions of Ecuador. The fiber comes the palm of the carludovica palmate.

palm
The manufacturing process of shrawl straw hats and crafts begins with the fibers taken from the palms and treated to become soft and clear. It is then sold to the artesians to be worked into various products.
making hats

Indigenous Cuencan woman weaving hat

Indigenous Cuencan woman weaving hat


The finest fibers will be used in the best hats. The weaving is performed by hand in a circular manner. A mold is used to form the different part of the hat, the inner lining, cup and skirt.
Mold used to form hats

Mold used to form hats


The Panama hat is know world wide for its high quality and has become synonymous with elegance and distinction. The hats are popular with both men and women, indigenous populations as well as gringos.
Hats por las mujeres

Hats por la mujeres


Hats por los hombres

Hats por el hombres


Mi favorito - la amarilla sombrero

Mi favorito – la amarilla sombrero

above mercado
Vibrant mercados are found throughout Cuenca – mercados de flores, jewelry, fruitas y verduras, organic produce, carne, pollo y pescado, herbs y espacias.
meat
I love going to el Mercado con mi Professora de Española, Maria Elena. She is health conscious and knows exactly where and how to buy the best produce, meets and herbs.
2 ladies

Today we toured the area with fresh herbs and spices and picked up Manzanita (chamomile for tea), lleve Louisa (lemon grass for tea) and some other greens that make tea for the health of the stomach.

Maria Elena and her students, Gwen and Haley buying manzanita for chamomile tea

Maria Elena and her students, Gwen and Haley buying manzanita for chamomile tea


She also pointed out the organic pollo (chicken) and how they cook and eat the entire chicken with all of the entrails and eggs. Nothing goes to waste.
Buy the entire chicken - legs and all

Buy the entire chicken – legs and all


YUP,  put it all in the pot and cook

YUP, put it all in the pot and cook


We bought fresh verduras (vegetables) to make sopa de samba (squash soup) por cina (for dinner).
mercado
Today's purchases

Today’s purchases

We enjoyed the delicious sopa de somba. Buen provechio!
sopa

cajas2
We woke to a partly cloudy sky and knew we might have a window of weather to head up to 13,000 ft and Cajas National Park, 40 minutes outside of Cuenca, Ecuador. Our prior two trips through Cajas had been overcast, raining, windy and damn cold! Our packs loaded with our warmest clothes and rain gear, we boarded the local bus for the winding road arriba. We headed out for a three and one half hour hike on ruta 2, el ruta rojo. No map, said the park official, just follow the red markers.
forest
Fortunately the trail was mostly abajo (down) con arriba pequeno (small ups). We were fairly well acclimated to the elevation as we had been living at 8200 ft for six weeks, but still had to take the up hills slowly.

cajas 3
The trail wandered through forests, wetlands, and wide open spaces. It traversed streams and meandered around small glacial lakes. And we sighted our first llama.
cajas

llama

Fortunately we did not need our rain gear, but did wear our down jackets!
photcasa veija

We were rewarded by a small 60 year old restaurant at trails end that served up wonderful trucha fresco (fresh trout) from the mountain rivers. As we were the only guests, our host and cook joined us for some local conversation.
casa veija2
truccha

Buen provecho!

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My home-away-from-home VW Eurovan is milk toast white – blanco – bland. The color has served me well over the years, complimenting my silvery tuff of hair. But the pasty, blanched, neutral color needs a touch up to match the shifting persona of the owner.
images

Anyone know a good graffiti artist? Time to add some pizazz, luminosity and a WOW factor to my faithful VW steed. Changing color hues will cast life with a different complexion. It’s amazing what a tincture of luminosity does to modify the flavor of your days.
grafiitti artist

I want my life to be a rich, vibrant kaleidoscope of color. What color do you want you life to be?

walk way
Nirvana – paz, relajarse y belleza – peace, relaxation and beauty – describes the ambiance of Hosteria Izhcayluma, near the small village of Vilcabamba in southern Ecuador. Our cabina overlooks the verdant green hills and the hammock on the balcone beckons. The vegetation is lush and tropical, teaming with avairian species.

Our Cabina

Our Cabina


Balcone

Balcone


Travelers from around the world stop by for a few days on their sojourns through Latin America, swapping stories and suggesting little known out-of-the-way destinations to explore.
la piscina

la piscina

Sunsets are enjoyed from the hill top vista with a glass of house red and violin music misting the cool crisp evening air.

Violinist from Quito

Violinist from Quito

Life slows, the past fades and new awareness evolves here in nirvana.

Vilcabamba in the distance at sunset

Vilcabamba in the distance at sunset

door 1
As I wonder the narrow streets of Cuenca, Ecuador doorways line the cobbled sidewalks, some closed and others flung open welcoming local buyers. You never know what lies behind the closed doorways. Some conceal small resturantes, smart boutiques, household sundries, a panederia, a barber shop, shoes, jewelry, glasses, flores, the various vendors and array of goods continue. Other puertas open to courtyards, small driveways that lead to interior parking, and various types of casitas and mas grande casas.
door 2
garden behind door

The door to our guest house yields tiled floors and polished dark woodwork throughout with comfortable couches in the vestibule. Traverse an interior parking lot and you enter the communal kitchen and laundry, which serves the 20plus residents of the case de huespedes which we have rented por la mes.

La puerta a la casa

La puerta a la casa


Interior de la casa

Interior de la casa

A tall arched doorway leads to a large bedroom outfitted with a king bed, built in armoire, mini frig and private bath. Quite a surprise and a delightful find behind those closed doors.