2010 Field Work in the northern Ecuadorian Andes
Monday, August 9, 2010 - We are home with all our luggage. The flight yesterday went from Quito, Ecuador to Guayaqui, Ecuador to San Jose, Costa Rica to Guatemala City, Guatemala to LAX -- four countries in one day. We were bumped up to executive class for the first two flight segments.
I am heavily jet lagged and facing an adjustment to US life. Why is our house so big? Why do we have so many possesions? George and I spent most of the summer in one room and were happy. I think the key to happiness rests a lot with being with George.
Sunday, August 8, 2010 - We were up at 4:30 am and out of the hostal in 21 minutes. The taxi driver treated red lights as advisory on the dark, deserted streets of downtown Quito. At the airport, we learned the plane was overbooked. We (each) accepted a $250 travel voucher on TACA airlines, plus a hotel room at the Dann Carleton with meals, in exchange for a boarding pass on this afternoon's flight. So, we will be arriving at LAX about twenty minutes later than planned, without the five hour layover in Lima, Peru.
Saturday, August 7, 2010 - We said goodbye to the countryside, drove to Quito, and returned the rental car. We are spending the night at the Hostal El Arupo. As with the last three times we left Quito, our final meal was at Rodriguez's (burritos and Pilsener).
Friday, August 6, 2010 - George and I got up early to purchase gifts at the indigenous market at Otavalo, an hour away by car. We arrived back at the hacienda about noon in time to see the Head of Archaeology for the Ecuadorian Government inspecting how the project's artifacts were stored. We finally met up with Oscar, who promised to be our local guide to the obsidian flows next summer.
Thursday, August 5, 2010 - The scan-a-thon continues when we aren't occupied by other tasks. Today George and I hiked up to the so-called "Inka watchtower" (see August 3) from the bottom, by circling Molino Loma and then climbing up the hill. It really does look like the switchbacks lead to a trail that heads straight across the mountainsides, at a constant elevation about halfway between the valley floor and the summit. Any work other than taking photos and GPS points must wait for another season.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - EUREKA! I have the obsidian samples and the permit from the INPC! I spent the morning scanning the excavation records that will provide the context for the obsidian samples. The afternoon was spent in Quito at the INPC. In the early evening, we went to Cayambe to make copies of the INPC permit and stock up on diet coke and chocolate.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - George and I drove into Quito to visit the INPC (the Government agency in charge of issuing permits to take archaeological artifacts out of the country). Sam met us there and introduced us to the right people. The interview went suprizingly well. I promised to write up the results in Spanish, give it to the INPC, and return the artifacts next summer. The government promised we could pick up the permit tomorrow afternoon.
After finishing at the INPC, Sam invited us for lunch at Ana's house in Quito. Their hospitality was as warm as their cook was gifted. On our way back to the hacienda, all traffic was stopped at a police checkpoint. George showed his International drivers license, his California drivers license, and the rental car paperwork. We were asked if we had passports and how long we would remain in the country before being allowed to proceed.
Sam, Eric, George, and I explored some of the cobblestone and dirt back roads in the area. There are a number of small communities and small farms in this remote area. We were able to approach the mountain overlooking Molino Loma (see July 28) and the "Inka watchtower" (see July 31) from behind. We were on a windy mountaintop, looking down on the prehistoric switchbacks that led up the mountain from the watchtower. From above, we could see where the path extended (The path was lost when traversing it at ground level).
Monday, August 2, 2010 - The motocrossers have gone home. The haciend'a only guests are George, Eric, and myself. It's very quiet and raining lightly. I prepared paperwork that I will submit to the government tomorrow. Then George and I visited the towns of El Quinche and Guayallabamba.
Sunday, August 1, 2010 - The hacienda was completely full last night. The parking lot is full and the overflow is filling the pastures. The Hacienda is hosting a motocross race, with more participants and support staff than fans. For three hours, the buzz of motorcycle engines filled the air. Afterwards there was a huge barbeque and celebration in the Hacienda's main plaza.
Saturday, July 31, 2010 - George, Eric, and Dennis hiked to the "Inka Watchtower" this morning. I spent the day documenting and packaging the obsidian samples I'd like to take out of the country, assuming the Ecuadorian Government issues the permit next week.
About 9 pm, we decided to investigate the music playing in the nearby village of Buena Esperanza. We found a group of about ten men dancing in a circle in the middle of the road, completely blocking traffic. They played flutes, a drum, and sang as one waved a white flag with writing on it. They invited us to join them. One man, who was dressed as a traditional Andean female, told me he was taking us to the "dance". We proceeded very slowly in accordance with a traditional Andean custom. I was dancing with the group, George was carefully watching a few feet from me, and everyone else was singing or playing instruments. More and more men and women joined the group as it left the paved road and headed down a dirt road lined with additional revelers. We ended up in a large clearing with a live band, lights, street vendors, and at least 500 dancers of all ages.
George and I were conspicuous -- two gringos who towered in height over everyone else there. The local people offered us home-made chicha (a hot alcoholic drink made from corn) in two forms -- mildly alcoholic and potent. The custom is that a person who refuses to drink the chicha is refusing hospitality and insulting the host. They seemed to accept our explanation that "George has a bad heart and does not drink". Many men stepped forward to shake his hand, while others kept offering me chicha. Meanwhile, the band played. People danced. And hundreds more, from young children to old ladies, sat on the hillside and watched the festivities.
This is the festival of San Pedro, which rotates among the different communities from June through August of each year. Buena Esperanza hosts the festivities on July 31st of each year. Cayambe, Cangahua, and neighboring towns host the festival on other dates. The result is a three month long indigenous celebration that is masked as a Catholic holiday.
Friday, July 30, 2010 - Today was primarily lab work. George, Eric, and I made a short trip into Cayambe to buy groceries, drop off our laundry, and purchase a steering wheel lock for the rental car.
Thursday, July 29, 2010 - I spent all day in the church going through the PAP fieldwork reports and boxes of artifacts. I am looking for obsidian samples collected from Inka sites collected in previous years.
George went up to the equator (2 km from the Hacienda) to the monument at Mitad del Mundo. He compared the readings of our GPS devices against the official marker at the equator. Then he evaluated what it would take in terms of electriity, water, roofing, and security to fix up the church as a lab for next summer's field school.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - George and I hiked around Molino Loma, which is an Inka qolca (a series of store houses). We saw obsidian flakes, obsidian tools, and Caranqui pottery on the slope beneath the pirka stone structures. Mount Cayambe, a stratocone volcano that towers over this region, was hidden by the clouds.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010 - Cristobo showed us where the PAP archaeological data was stored -- in the Governor's wine cellar. He said we could set up a lab in the church. So we did.
George, Eric, and I went to Cayambe (population 36K, the largest city in this area) to buy groceries and other supplies. We went to at least a dozen auto parts stores looking for a steering wheel lock or Club to keep the rental car from being stolen when we leave it at the roadside and go hiking in the highlands. We didn't find one. One place said they would have "bastones de volante" by Friday.
It's amazing how quickly one learns Spanish when one needs to communicate. I am learning words that are not in my dictionary and certainly aren't taught in most Spanish classes. Many people speak English in Quito. That is not the case in the countryside.
Monday, July 26, 2010 - George and I went back to the airport to rent a 4 wheel drive Vitara for our trip into the countryside. We returned to Hostal El Arupo to gather our bags, picked up Eric, and headed to the Instituto Geografica Militar to pick up the aerial photographs that Eric had ordered on Friday. The photos were promised for 3 pm. The officials said they could not deliver them until that time. So we waited for 3 hours until the appointed time. During our wait, we encountered a fellow archaeologist, David, who runs a field school at another hacienda about an hours drive south of Quito. We met both last summer in Ecuador and in St Louis this April at the SAA convention. He filled us in on some of the archaeological endeavors since last summer and said he give further details when he arrives at the Hacienda Guachala next week.
By 3:30 pm, we had the aerial photos in hand and headed off through Quito's rush hour traffic toward the Hacienda Guachala. We arrived about 5 pm to find nobody there. The office was locked. There were no cars in front. The door to the library was open and the computers were powered on, but the human element was missing. We finally found someone in the kitchen and another person cleaning rooms at the far end of the hacienda. The lady had to walk to the Governor's house to get the office keys and check us in. We had a dinnner of peanut butter sandwiches followed by an early bedtime in this TV-less environment.
Sunday, July 25, 2010 - Today's the first day I felt like "me". My body must have generated enough new red blood cells to allow me to get enough oxygen at this altitude (9,350 ft).
George and I woke up at 6 am for what we thought was the tourist train to Cotopaxi National Park. It turned out to be a train to Tambillo. The train went further, but developed a water leak and had to back up to the Tambillo station. They said they would either give us a voucher for another weekend or take us the rest of the way by bus. Because our time in Quito is limited, we chose the bus.
While we were waiting for the rescue bus, we got to know the other passengers. The younger ones sat cross-legged on the concrete and played clapping games. Most of the others sat beside their backpacks and talked. An enterprising few walked to town and brought back beer (which they did not share) and several different kinds of cookies (which they freely shared). When the bus finally arrived, we just moved the party onto the bus. Due to the cloudy weather, we did not see the Cotopaxi Volcano, but nobody complained.
The bus dropped us off at the Machachi Station for two hours. The cafeteria at the train station served each passenger a ham and cheese hogie at no charge. Local women and girls in traditional costume danced to San Juanito type music. Then we went on an optional walking tour of an organic farm which had llama crossbreeds (the guide called them donkeys but they don't look like any donkeys I've seen), guinea pigs, peacocks, as well as the normal farm animals. Afterwards, the bus dropped us at the Quito train station.
It was 3:30 pm on a Sunday. All stores were shut tight and there were few people on the streets. There were no cabs at all. George and I walked a block to the "Trole" station, rode the trolley across Quito, got off at the El Mariscal stop, and walked the rest of the way back to the hostal. It was a great day of sightseeing, in spite (or because) of the train breakdown.
Saturday, July 24, 2010 - I'm still feeling the effects of the altitude, so we took it easy today. First, we moved one block to the Hostal El Arupo because the La Acala was full. Then we took a walk to the Saturday market in the Parque Ejido. Although some tour books describe it as grand, the Quito market I saw was one tenth the size and had significantly less local color than the Otavalo market. Finally we went to the anthropology museum at the Banco Central to see their ceramics collection.
Friday, July 23, 2010 - I slept for 16 hours straight. We are staying at La Acala, a bed and breakfast in the Mariscal District (AKA Gringolandia). It is several blocks from the music that permiates the streets day and night. I really like this place. La Acala is quiet, has local charm, and the staff is very helpful.
We met Eric at ten and shared a ride to the Instituto Geografica Militar. After purchasing maps, we took another cab to the Abya Yala Bookstore. Eric and I purchased Ecudorian archaeology books in Spanish. Then we walked to the SuperMaxi to stock up on bottled water and groceries. Lastly, we added minutes to our Ecuadorian SIM card (It is the same number as last year). Now it is time for an afternoon nap to allow my body to get accoustomed to the alititude.
Thursday, July 22, 2010 - George and I flew to Quito, Ecuador with a short layover in San Jose, Costa Rica. The trip was uneventful. It was a red-eye, so we got zero sleep.