Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Travel update from vilcabamba Ecuador

Saturday 17 September 2005
Saludos from Vilcabamba Ecuador.
I am in a small village in Ecuador called Vilcabamba. It is named for the Sacre Vilca or Huilco trees that grow here. In Aentina these trees are called Cebil. Archeologists have found evidence of the seeds of this tree being smoked or sniffed at least 5000 years ago. This would make them the longest know subtance in use to induce visions or hallucinations in the world. The seeds of this tree contain a substance called Dimethyl-tryp-talamine (DMT). Shamans or indian priests/holymen, have roasted the seeds and smoked them in pipes or ground them into a powder and sniffed them to induce the user to recognize and/or enter into the spirit world and specifically to introduce him to his spirit allies or guides to learn things about himself or his spirit.
This beautiful and peaceful valley also is very well know for San Pedro or San Pedrillo cacti which grow here in enormous quantities. These cacti also contain a chemical with hallucinogenic or spiritual powers, called Lysergic-acid- dyalithamide (LSD). These cacti have also ben used by Shamans/priests/holymen for centuries but historical data suggests their use has been employed for less than perhaps 1000 years.
Both these plants grow in profuse quantities here and are to be found at every turn while one walks the mountain trails. There are many folks here who claim to be shamans who offer guided tours of the spirit world, with the assistance of these plants.
One must allow 2 days for the excperience and be prepared mentally and physically for a wild ride(trip?)into the unknown corners of the mind!!! This is NOT RECREATIONAL Drug use. I will let you all know if I decide to follow this path.
I am staying in a little "eco-lodge" called Rumi Wilco. About 2 km outside of the village. It is owned by two wonderful folks called Orlando and Alicia who also have 3 lovely children. They are from Argentina but have been here about 15 years. Orlando is a zoologist who recieved his degree from University of Florida Gainsville and worked for 15 years in the Galapagos islands doing scientific research and as a guide. Alicia is a Biologist who met Orlando in the Galapagos where she too was a research scientist. They are friends of Angelas and are leaving today for one month to visit relatives in Argentina, and Angela has been retained to run the eco-lodge in their absence.
Orlando was involved in the Gurdjieff work for 10 years He is a very spiriual guy and has an extraordinary library of spirtual and philosophical books ranging from Albert Einstein to Zecharia Sechin to Ouspensky to Kafka and back again!!! He is also a coffee lover and they grow thier own organic coffee beans and sun dry them and proces them themselves here. I will be here for at least 2 weeks and maybe for a month. I just never know.
Even in a beautiful country, This place is extraodinarily beautiful and I am just enchanted with it already after only 2 days here. At night there is hardly any ground light and the view of the milky way is extaordinary. Such beauty. Such tranquility. They are on the side of a mountain and in a valley where there is a wonderful little creek running. Many of the trees and plants have little signs on them telling what they are and their genus and species. There are Banana trees, avocado trees, orange trees, maracuya trees, passion fruit trees, and all kinds of culinary and medicinal herbs, as well as thousands of psychedelic Huilco trees and San Pedro cacti. They have measured the largest San Pedro Cactus on record on their property.
We have been in a little cabin on 10 foot stilts next to the creek these last 2 nights and will be there tonight and tomorrow we take up residence in their home till they return, or till I split and leave Angela to await thier return. Their management agreement us with Angela and I am only along for the ride (trip?).
Before coming here we spent 5 days in Banos, Ecuador and rode rental bicycles to see many waterfalls and walked along the valley beneath the volcano and took hot mineral baths (for which the town is famous). It is a great little town just touristy enough to have everything a traveler could need/want and small enough to be a real Ecuadorian town so you dont feel like you are in a tourist trap!! We stayed in a nice hostal called Carolina very good value and nice even by American standards.
Ecuador has great Bakeries everywhere and they make great breads and pastries. The best I have had in South America so far. Many healthy "pan integral" options as well as many white flour varieties. But our favorite so far (without a doubt) is the "pan de yuca". Simply delicious. They come in little yorkshire pudding like rolls and have yuca in them. Awesome!
The Bake shops are as good as those of Europe. I dont know why, but some countries can really make fine breads and others cant. Ecuador is one that can!! Also, just like Peru there are these chicken rotissery restaurants everywhere called Pollerias that are the most popular "fast food". Excellent roast chickens and they usually inclued a quarter chicken,soup,rice,salad, and papas fritas,(french fries) for about $2.00.
The ceviche sucks! Mexico and Peru seem to be the only countries where great Ceviche is to be found. They also specialized in a fish dish called Cebollada. This is cooked fish, usually dorado or king mackeral, flaked and placed on a big pile of cooked and chopped up yuca and topped with marinated purple onions and finished off with a tomatoey aji sauce. Aji is what they call Chiles in Ecuador or Peru. I love cebollada!
So life is good for this world traveler. On October first, I will celebrate my 2nd year anniversary of being "unemployed and homeless". I am in my 24th month of traveling and see no end in sight.
I just finished "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. It is the 38th book I have read since coming to South America on Feb 18th. My only goal in life at this moment is to have read 40 by October the first. My only complaint is how much I miss my friends and family, especially my sobrinos and my sobrina.
Thats all I have to say for now.
Robert
"He who binds himself to a joy
does the winged life destroy
he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternitys sunrise"- William Blake

Monday, September 05, 2005

Cities coasts and rainforests in Ecuador

Well Hi there everybody,
I just left Quito Ecuador and now I am in a very small town in the cloud forest called Mindo. We were in a beautiful little beach town called Canoa on the Pacific coast at about 1 degree lattitude and stayed (not exactly in the town but 3 km out in a beauty of a hotel called the Sundown Inn) Perfect little spot 17 km of undeveloped beautiful wide beach of grey sand. very clean (everything being relative) and the water a perfectly delicious temperature for swimming!!! Problem was there were few Sunny moments mostly grey and overcast a result of the Humboldt current 200 km off shore very cold water but it doesnt affect the coastal water temp but a cold air mass meats a hot air mass and we have grey skys and cloudy weather. So we grew tired of grey and took a 5 hour bus trip to Quito which took 11 hours.
Quito is a lovely city probably the nickest or second nicest South American Capital city I have been to yet. It is close in my heart to Buenos Aires but of course BA is much bigger and more cosmopolitan. Staying in Old city section of Quito with much less tourists. Stayed at the Grand hotel next to Santo Domingo Plaza. Andy at Hobotraveler.com recommended it as one of his favorite hotels and it was good and very economical Double room with private bath $12 or shared bath for $8 . Tough price to beat! Quito is only 22 km from the equator.
We went to a little park called Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) There is a big monument and you can stand with one foot in the north hemisphere (tropic of Cancer) and one foot in the South (tropic of Capricorn). It is at high altitude about 2800 meters above sea level and surprisingly cool weather. Ecuador is like the only place in the world where you can acually be on the equator and not in the ocean or the middle of a rain forest. As a result of this there has been a lot of scientific research done here about the electromagnetic forces around the equator and other cool phenomenon. This is also the reason the country is named this. There have ben ancient temples built right on the equator a thousand years ago. How did these people know they were right on the equator? hmmm...
So we spent 6 days and 7 nights here in Quito and really liked the city took a day trip to Otavalo about 100 km norht of the city and there they are famous for the largest outdoor market in South America. ¬°Shop till ya drop! eh? Really beautiful stuff and cheap too. Lots of Indians in beautiful costumes. Lots of Crazy good street foods vegetarian stuff like Bolon which is a big mashed ball of green banana and with cheese or corn kernels inside and fryed ( not deep fried but like sauteed on a griddle). like a scone or pancake. Superb. They also make Maduro which is a whole ripe green banana bar-b-qued and slit open and stuffed with Queso fresco a mild local fresh cheese. Also they sell you a baggie of cooked Yucca and maize and choclo and roasted corn (three types of corn) with some oniony salsa and you walk around and eat it out of your baggie. Seriously delicious. The "third world" has such great street food everywhere you go whether it is asia or south America I guess Africa is like this too... Morrocco was great but Ahhh I digress.
Tomorrow I go into the rain forest to go bird watching on a tour and also to see waterfalls. There are like 1600 species of birds here, 10% of the worlds bird species and only .02% of the worlds land mass. Cool fact huh?
so here we are in Mindo I am still traveling with Angela. This is a small pueblo surrounded by huge green mountains of virgen Jungle/rainforest the locals call Bosque. As you bus through Ecuador you see lots of jungle. Some second growth stuff that has come back after the people burned the forest and some not come back yet at all It takes centuries for the rainforest to recover from burn clearing. Here There is mostly never-been-burned forest so dense it is almost impossible to walk through without a machete. Lots of mariposas (butterflies) of every color and size and description. We walked a couple of km out of town on a dirt road today and swam in a beautiful mountain stream. Very isolated good country for skinny dipping!! Water a little cold but not bad for a running mountain stream. lots of animal tracks and... Well you should get the picture now huh? Its a beautiful virgen rainforest like the world was a thousand years ago in a little town with one paved road. The bus lets you off 8 km from town and then you either walk or take a collectivo ( an old dodge sedan) It costs $4 per carload and we crammed 5 people with backpacks and luggage and one guy had two 5 gallon buckets of home made cheeses he was gonna sell here in town.
Well thats all Ive got to say for now.
"Not all who wander are Lost"
Nothing but Love to you all,
Robert