Grace has sent us a little report on how her February tour group to Ecuador went....Quite an adventure!!!
The Playa de Oro community received a government grant to put a wall up along the front of the village to help prevent flooding. The village is full of cages to put rocks in. Many of the older men are wiring the cages together (they come flat and then they make a cage out of them). The rest of the village are hard at work moving rocks by boat from up river to put in the cages. They have some bigger boats with flat bottoms that hold quite a few rocks. They have brought a big backhoe, with a huge bucket in through the jungle to prepare the edges of the wall. It was working there while we were there doing mass excavations along the front where the old washrooms are.
The Village was clean and everyone very friendly. We had Wana and Mercedes working in the kitchen and Julio, Jose, (the drum maker),for our guides, and Browlio as another helper. The food was great as usual, had camerones one night, the best ocean fish I have ever tasted another night. They are keeping the lodge in good repair, and asked if they can cut a tree to get planks to replace a few floor boards. I had a meeting with the village council, about various business issues with their tourism. They have elected a committee to go to Quito and talk with a couple of tour agencies that have expressed an interest. Julio, Carlito, Ramon and the mayor. There is no doctor at the village any more. The doctor that was there was a student doctor and he has now graduated and they did not receive a replacement. Several of the villagers were ill enough they needed prompt medical care, so I gave them some funds to go into a larger town to see a doctor.
After we left PDO, we got stuck in Apuela in the Intag Valley due to mudslides on the roads. There had been so much rain that there were roadsides everywhere around the country. All of the roads out of Apuela were blocked for a few days but they have big equipment working to get the roads cleared. The rain was the worst that anyone has seen. The river was crazy, looked just like chocolate milk. We went to the Face of Intag by horseback, and hiked some also. We put our pochos on and walked in the rain it was amazing, raining so hard but still warm. We bought troutand yucca in Apuela and had a great supper back at the hostal. We had planned visiting several villages in the Intag Valley, but had to stay put in Apuela because of the mudslides, but we found other things to do there like touring the coffee factory and visiting coffee farms. They also have an internet cafe in Apuela so we had contact with the outside world. We made it out right on schedule to complete the rest of the tour.
We loaded up Ramiro's jeep, and we were the first ones out of the Intag Valley !! The road was terrible. 3 big loaders have been working for 3 days clearing the road. There was a big truck stuck right on the road but we managed to get around him. There were probably 20 mud slides between Apuela and Otavalo, it was quite the ride in Ramiros old jeep, it is very narrow in places and super muddy in others. They only cleared it wide enough for the jeep to get through, trucks couldn't make it through. These landslides were small compared to what California gets, but they don't have the heavy equipment to remove them and most of the work is done by hand.
When we got back to Otavalo, I got word that the road from Quito to the beaches and from Otavalo north to PDO is closed with many huge landslides so we just got out of the jungle in time. We didn't find out until later that Playa de Oro suffered a very damaging flood in their village, destroying several homes and damaging others. We went to the Condor Park in Otavalo, they have many birds of prey and a great flying show. We also made it to Cotachati to purchase some great handmade leather coats for under $100.
Next we went to Mindo and went tubing, the river was high and fast, Oh my God, we had to hang on so tight, water right over our heads at times. It was great fun and everyone wanted to go again today,but our arms and legs were too sore. We went Canopying (zip lining) this morning, that was great here, 10 lines, some of them 500 meters in length. They started us out slow and by the end we were all going upside down. It was $15. (an extra) and took us at least 2 hours, then we went to the waterfalls, but went across in the cable car and walked to the waterfalls that way. No quite as far as when you walk there, and it was different. We had lunch at the butterfly breeding farm and restaurant, there must have been 1000 humming birds feeding from the feeders around the restaurant, and so many different kinds.
On the way back to Quito, we stopped off at the Quito Zoo. The Zoo is amazing, small zoo, but beautiful done, great natural pens for the animals, ocelots and jaguar, but no other small cats, but the huge tortises were there. Guillermo was most excited that we see the kangaroos. We tried to tell him we wanted to see the cats, but these were the only kangaroos in Ecuador and a gift to the zoo from Australia. On the way to Mindo there was detour around a spot where the road was totally missing. About a 50´ piece of the road completely gone, with about a 200´drop down the hole, no one was on it at the time. They realized that the water was washing the supports and stopped the traffic just in time before it caved in, that happened the previous week.
This trip has gone by very fast, it has been a real adventure, and everyone had a great time and I think they all want to come back again.