2011 Field Work in the northern Ecuadorian Andes
Thursday, August 4, 2011 - "Manana" (and my VERY HEAVY duffle) arrived about 10 pm tonight.
Tuesday. August 2, 2011 - TACA airlines says my duffle should arrive "manana". It's not a big deal since it's primarily dirty clothes and stuff I don't need right away. The Quito airport is the second highest international airport in the world. The air is thin and the runway is short. Therefore, the planes are limited in weight. The airlines give precedence to luggage for people who are starting their trip, which is reasonable. I'm sure my duffle will arrive in a few days.
For the third year in a row, I am experiencing gastro-intestinal difficulties while adjusting to a western diet. The polish dog at Costco made me sick. Just about all food makes me feel sick. During my stay in Ecuador, I ate primarily bread, rice, potatos, and fruits (many of which have no names in English and aren't available in US grocery stores), with very little meat or dairy products. I had no trouble going from a western diet to eating Ecuadorian food. Yet I have difficulties when returning home. What does this say about my food choices in the US?
Monday, August 1, 2011 - Patti and I walked to the Magic Bean for breakfast. Once we were fortified with pancakes and coffee, we walked to the Supermaxi grocery store (which was closed) and the Abya Yala bookstore (which was open). I did some serious damage at the anthropology book store, buying books on the history of Quito, the Kwichwa language, and Ecuadorian culture (all in Spanish). These books are not available in the United States.
Shortly after 11:00 am, I took a taxi to the airport for my 2:10 pm flight. It took an hour and a half of waiting in line to check my luggage and get a boarding pass. I had some trouble complying with the limit of two suitcases at a maximum of 50 pounds each. I knew everything would fit into a single bag volume-wise, but not weight-wise. So I wrapped my rocks in my sleeping bag, and put it in a sack with the books. These, I had wrapped in plastic at the airport to discourage pfiltering. Unfortunately, my big duffle (which now was half empty), was still over 50 pounds due to my heavy archaeology/geology/survival equipment. The TACA attendant said she would not charge me the $70. overweight fee IF I could place the smaller bag inside the larger bag. I did, but even that was 2 pounds overweight. So I took out some stuff from my checked bag and placed it in my carry on luggage. Finally, I was able to check in one, VERY LARGE, HEAVY duffle that contained the second, smaller bag.
Right before my flight was ready to board, I heard my name over the loud speaker. The person at the desk asked me to come with her and bring my passport. She said that security wanted to inspect my bag. She led me out of the terminal and on to the tarmac, where I met a security agent who had my bag. I noticed that one of my TSA locks was had the hasp locked but it wasn't inserted into the body of the lock. I opened up each of the compartments in the duffle. The security officer seemed to be interested in my archaeological/geological/hiking/survival equipment. Once he saw what it was, and I answered questions on what I had been doing in Ecuador, he said everything was fine.
The plane trips were uneventful: (1) Quito, Ecuador to Guayaquil, Ecuador (2) to San Jose, Costa Rica (3) to Los Angeles, United States of Northamerica (as the Ecuadorian Government calls the USA). I arrived home safely, but my luggage didn't. George was waiting outside the customs are to greet me. I was so happy to see him.
Sunday, July 31, 2011 - Returning to Quito is like returning to civilization. The temperature feels warm, even when it's raining. There is no howling wind that fills the air with grit. It is possible to enjoy long, hot showers. And one can wear clean clothes every day.
Patti and I spent the day sightseeing. We explored the indigenous market in El Ejido park. We visited the archaeological museum (formerly known as the Banco Central). George and I visited the museum in 2009 and 2010 -- both times the gold room was closed. This time, it was open. Wow! I was amazed at the metallurgy practiced by La Tolita culture (300 BC to 700 AD). There wasn't much Inka gold because most of the Inka gold was collected for Attahualpa's ransom, melted down by the Spanish, and shipped off to Spain.
Patti and I peeked into the windows of the souvenir shops on Rio Amazonias (Most stores were closed because it was Sunday). These shops have the most wonderful reproductions of Inka and pre-Inka ceramics. On the walk back to our lodgings, we were caught in a hail storm. It continued to rain for the remainder of the afternoon.
That evening, we faced the same problem as the previous night. There were no restaurants that served dinner near the Sierra Madre. We decided to take a $2. taxi ride to the center of the Mariscal district, where there were many open restaurants. I enjoyed an excellent hamburger with sliced potatos at the Magic Bean. It was tasty and nicely spiced. This wa so much nicer than suffering through a second night of "granola bars and water for dinner".
Saturday, July 30, 2011 - I, along with much of the field school staff, spent the day moving the lab equipment and artifacts out of the church and into storage at the bodega.
There was a horse race at Guachala today. The parking lot was full of horse trailers and pickup trucks. The llamas were moved to another pasture, while jumps and other obstacles for the horse race were constructed. I joined the horse enthusiasts for an excellent BBQ lunch. The pig sty was completely cleaned out and replaced by stands selling horse feed and supplies. I wasn't able to watch the race.
The students took a chartered bus to Quito this morning. Most of the staff followed on a second bus in the late afternoon. By the time we arrived, it wss dark and rainy. Patti and I took a cab to our first choice of lodging. It was full, but they referred us to the Sierra Madre, a few blocks away. There are no restaurants that served dinner on the block. We ended up having a dinner of granola bars and water in our hotel room.
Friday, July 29, 2011 - Today is George and my 33rd anniversary. We will celebrate in a couple of days when I get back home. I've tried calling him several times with my new phone but I get a recording saying that this feature is not allowed with my prepaid plan.
It's rainy and cold today. It's a fitting day to take inventory, finish the excavation reports, and pack up the lab. My task was to label all the photographs taken at each stage of each excavation. The PhD students were perfect -- some having pulled all-nighters to label their photos nicely. Others just gave me a dump from their camera, leaving me to decide whether the picture was important. Yet others gave me a full dump of their cameras on a daily basis, meaning I had lots of duplicates. It's not a problem since I had planned for a last-day crunch.
Tonight is a dance with the town of Buena Esperanza. We were told to show up for a parade at 5 pm. At 6 pm, the parade finally started. There were floats built on tractors and pickup trucks. A bloody Jesus was carried in a litter. There were live bands competing with pickup trucks piled high with amplifiers. The local people dressed up in all their finery. They made it clear that the gringos were to be part of the parade. We danced along with the indigenous folks at the Festival of San Pedro.
Tonight there will be a "last supper" for the entire project in Cangahua. Patti and I decided to skip it and eat at the Hacienda. Tomorrow afternoon, we will take the bus to Quito. The 2011 field season is coming to a close.
Thursday, July 28, 2011 - More lab work. How does one clean artifacts?
- Find a relatively flat section of grass outside the church where there are no recent (i.e., stinky) horse droppings.
- Kick aside the old horse droppings so you have a place to work.
- Gather a bag of artifacts, a drying screen, a bucket of water, and a toothbrush.
- Start washing the artifacts gently with the toothbrush, laying them on the screen to dry. Always group the artifacts beside the label indicating where they were found.
After breakfast, I sat in the sunshine outside the church and began washing some obsidian. Two indigenous men brought toothbrushes and pails of water, introduced themselves, sat down beside me, and helped me wash the obsidian. They asked lots of questions about where I found it. I showed them my topo map from the Ecuadorian Government. In sum, they know the area between Cangahua and Oyacachi well and pointed out additional sources of obsidian. They asked for copies of the map. Manuel, the Hacienda handiman, stopped by and also requested a map. So, I'll visit the Instituto Geografica Militar in Quito on Monday before my flight and stock up on maps.
The laundry situation is again critical. I have my bright green striped pajama pants and a pair of mud and blood stained cotton cargo pants (I fell while I was hiking thru the swamp). Patti suggested it would be "less tacky" if I wore the tan cotton pants, even through they are filthy. The rest of my clothes are at the lavadora in Cayambe.
Ecuador is a respite from the crazy-busy life that I experienced during my working years. Washing ceramic sherds is a delightful task because you get to sit in the sun, talk with people, and think. Change from a dollar is useful -- it's your bus fare. I look forward to hot soup with popcorn floating in it each evening. And getting your laundry back from the lavadora is cause for celebration!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - I visited the Callejones obsidian source today. It was a beautiful day. The snow-capped stratocone, Mt Cayambe, was visible, towering above us.
I hired a camionetta with driver in Cangahua. A mountain-goat-like hiker from the project joined me. The three of us traveled across the paramo, the largely uninhabited part of the Andes that is ecologically a cool, humid, swamp that is usually windy and rainy (There is a reason why this area is uninhabited). The guard at the Cayambe-Coca ecological reserve said that travel on the Oyacachi-Pappallacta road was prohibited without a permit. So we traveled an hour back to Cayambe and located the Ministerio de Ambiente. It took another hour to get the permit. The second time we showed up at the guard station, we were allowed admittance.
We traveled several kilometers down the road, stopping to admire the scenery and hike in the paramo (a high altitude, humid, cold, swamp). We observed oil on top of the swamp water. We discovered that the oil pipeline from the Amazon is buried beside this dirt road through an ecological reserve. The pipeline is leaking. I discussed this with our project directors.
Monday, July 25, 2011 - Based on yesterday's debacle with Orlon's camionetta, I decided I should have a working cell phone. Patti and I went into Cangahua, dropped off our laundry, and purchased identical unlocked Samsung telephones. With telephone number, Porta activation, and ten dollars of prepaid calls, each phone was $50. It's a GSM phone with 850 / 1900 bands, so it will work in North and South America. It won't work in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, where 900 and 1800 MHz bands are more common. It would have been nice to find a quad band phone, but they don't sell them in the small town of Cayambe.
Sunday, July 24, 2011 - We took the 8:30 am bus from Cangahua to Oyacachi this morning. We went over the continental divide, through the paramo, and into the cloud forest on the Amazon side of the Andes. This region is extremely remote. The first road was built into this region about twenty years ago. It's a one lane dirt road that crosses the Andes.
Most people go to Oyacachi to swim in the hot springs and eat trout. We went hiking, following the route described by Sam and David. I explored east of the town along the dirt road on the north side of the river. I found the ruins of the old town. A stream ran across the road, and there was evidence of previous mud slides across the road. I met an indigenous woman and walked with her for about half a mile to her farm. We had a lovely conversation. I continued walking until time forced me to turn back. Along the way, I saw many waterfalls and collected a few pieces of obsidian from beside the road.
On the way back, I met some of the project members who had traveled in Orlan's camionetta instead of the bus. Orlon's vehicle was having problems. The people had to get out in order for the pickup truck to have enough power to make it up the mountain pass (around 13,000 feet). They ran after the truck, and climbed in for the less steep sections.
I hiked back to Oyacachi. It was raining and cold. I sat down in the bus and waited for it to start its return trip. On the way back across the Andes, the bus passed the camionetta, stalled on a muddy, one lane dirt road with a dropoff on one side. Somehow, the bus squeeked by them. I opened the window to talk with my stranded friends. The situation did not seem serious because Vanessa was in phone contact with someone in Cangahua.
Once I made it back to Cangahua, I stopped by the Casa Comuna to find someone with a phone. Kaitlin called Vanessa to check on them. I was ready to hire a camionetta to rescue my friends, but it turned out that a taxi was already on its way. From my point of view, it was a wonderful day -- four hours exploring the Andes in (relative) comfort and four hours hiking in Oyacachi for $3.50 in bus fare.
Saturday, July 23, 2011 - The project went to Cochasqui Archaeological Park to see the round tolas and quadrilateral mounds, dating from 600 AD - 1250 AD. We toured an exhibit of a traditional round house built of mud and cangahua block. The floors are dirt. It is very dark inside. But this form of construction does keep the wind out. Life must have been difficult for the these people.
In the afternoon, Patti and I took the bus into Cayambe to purchase a pair of quad-band international UNLOCKED cell phones (one for each of us). My 5 year old cell phone survived a plunge into a semi-clean Ecuadorian toilet, but the charging circuitry didn't. My phone became useless once the the battery discharged. A cell phone store said they will have a basic Nokia phone that meets my requirements on Tuesday for $70.00.
Friday, July 22, 2011 - I climbed Quitaloma in the morning with the Pequenos Guias, the children's group from Cangahua.
In the afternoon, I visited more medical clinics in Cayambe to get an idea of local medical care. An obstetrition said that he has not seen birth defects in the past 10-15 years attributable to pregnant women working in the flower plantations. However, he could measure levels of pesticide in the blood. We tracked down information about a study that found delayed neural development in children who lived near the rose farms and in the children of women who worked there during pregancy. We discovered that the University of New Mexico Medical School is planning a new, longitudinal study to quantify the problem.
Thursday, July 21, 2011 - I believe in traditional medicine and Ecuadorian shamans!
The Applied Anthropology class (with me tagging along) took a field trip to the Jambi Huasi, an Otavalo clinic where both traditional and modern medicine are practiced. They speak Kwichua to make communication easier for the indigenous people. The "waiting room" is outside, in a garden with statues, plants, and pleasant aromas (which is so different that being cloistered in a room full of sick people like in the US). We spoke to the director, as well as a shaman who practices traditional medicine.
We decided to test whether traditional medicine works. One person, who has had diarrhea for 3 weeks, volunteered to be the patient. Nobody breathed a word of his symptoms. We paid the shaman $10.00 for a diagnostic cuy (guinea pig) examination. (The price is $5 if you supply your own cuy and $10 if they supply it).
The patient removed his shirt. The shaman shook the cuy all over the patient, from his head to his feet, rubbing the fuzzy live creature all over his body. The cuy absorbed the bad vibes from the patient, and eventually died from the examination. The shaman skinned the cuy and disembowled it. He examined its liver, heart, intestines, etc. The shaman diagnosed that the patient had an intestinal parasite (specifically an amoeba), and a minor back ache that would go away once the parasite was eradicated.
The student was given an herb to chew. A single dose cured his diarrhea.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - I was tired of digging square holes, so I tagged along with the Applied Anthropology class. We took a tour of a rose plantation in the morning. It was fascinating how they catagorized, prepared, and packaged the roses for shipment to exporters. In the afternoon, we broke into groups. Some went to small communities to interview people after they returned from work in the rose plantations. I joined the group that was investigating what types of illnesses, diseases, and/or birth defects might be attributable to the rose plantations. We went to the hospital in Cayambe, where we interviewed several doctors. One was a resident from the University of Wisconsin, who was volunteering for a month in Ecuador to learn more about indigenous diseases. He worked in the emergency room. He said most of their patients were pregnant women and children. Most admissions, other than pregancy, were from gastrointestinal ailments that were partially attributed to poor nutrition. They had a defribullator in the emergency room to treat cardiac arrythmia. He said that major trauma cases, or cases reqiring an MRI or Cat Scan were transfered to the hospital in Quito.
I met Cristobo, the son-in-law of the hacienda's owner, at the Gran Aki Grocery store. He noticed that I was buying diet coke, chocolate, and cat food. He wryly asked, "Does the hacienda have a new cat?" Nope. I am feeding the two cats that live in the hacienda's pool area and greenhouse garden. The kids named the cats Simba and Delphina.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - It's back to work today after a marvelous three day weekend. At Sam's request, I composed a letter in Spanish and emailed my pXRF results to the INPC (the cultural ministry of the Ecuadorian Government). In the morning, I sifted dirt and supervised the stone mason who was excavating the rock porch leading up the foundation of the old church, which is the oldest part of the hacienda. It is hoped that we will find some evidence that the Spanish built on top of an older Inka site. The afternoon was spent in the lab.
I received a text on my phone entitled "Emergencia". Normally, I ignore text messages, but I read this one. It explained that President Correa had declared a 72 hour moratorium on all liquor sales in Ecuador. 19 people have died and over a hundred have been hospitalized from contaminated alcohol. I really liked how they got this information out to all telephones.
Monday, July 18, 2011 - It is with a heavy heart that Patti and I leave Mindo. Our time here was wonderful. We contemplated not going back to the cold, windy Andes and the gritty dirt of excavation... We like being clean and warm! Our sense of duty won out, and we boarded the buses back to Quito, Cayambe, and ultimately, the Hacienda.
Sunday, July 17, 2011 - Patti and I walked along the dirt road into town. They actually use pot sherds to construct their roads! We walked along the river and discovered a clay source. Once in town, we had a pizza lunch at El Tigrillo and did some souveneer shopping. I got a pair of bright green pajama pants and an Amazon T shift because I really needed an extra pair of clothes.
After lunch, we walked back to the El Carmelo. The sprinkles turned to a tropical downpour when we were about 400 meters from our cabana. We got soaked. Once we were back, I changed into my new outfit and let my wet clothes dry while I took an afternoon nap.
Saturday, July 16, 2011 - Patti and I joined about ten students to travel to Mindo. It was a short bus ride to the Pan American highway (25 cents), a two hour bus ride to Quito ($1.25), and a two hour bus ride to Mindo ($2.50). Each step along the way was easy to navigate because there were bus line employees that greeted each incoming bus and escorted us to our connecting bus. The bus system in Ecuador is great.
Mindo is a resort town located in the western cordillera of the Andes at about 3,000 feet. It's pleasantly warm there -- in the low seventies both night and day. It's in the cloud forest. This region is jungle. It gets tons of rain each year. It does not get as hot as the tropics because the clouds cool off the region. Most people came to Mindo for the white water rafting, zip lining, butterflies, birds, and pools. My big sport was contemplating the world from a hammock.
The younglings stayed at a $5 / night hostal in town. Patti and I shared a secluded cabana at an eco-lodge a half mile outside of town called El Carmelo de Mindo. It had several pools and a huge jacuzzi. There was a two story bird observatory, so you were eye level with the birds in the trees. There were orchids and all sorts of colorful, exotic flowers growing on the grounds. We could hear the sound of the rushing river nearby, as well as bird songs. All cabanas had a covered patio with a private hammock, so one could enjoy being outside even when it was raining. There were no bugs. Mindo is a marvelous place!
Friday, July 15, 2011 - It's my birthday! And my present is... (drum roll)... clean laundry!. Yes, my laundry finally arrived from Cayambe. I have been searching through black plastic bags of clean laundry tossed in the bed of a project pickup at night by flashlight. And today, I found my clothes! Yipee! I will be going off the grid for three days (Saturday thru Monday). It's the project travel weekend. Amber, Patti, and I (plus a few others) will take the bus to Mindo. Patti and I plan to stay in an eco-lodge outside of town instead of at a $5 / night hostal. It's time to treat ourselves to warmth and a bit of luxury.
Thursday, July 14, 2011 - The Foothill students are divided into two groups. Half of them are doing cultural anthropology (e.g., the effect that the rose plantations have had on community health, children's school attendance) and archaeology (e.g. excavating the Cayambe temple at Loma Sandoval). The archaeology group is rushing to close their units and finish up their paperwork in the next 2 days, when the two groups exchange places.
I was assigned to the lab this morning. After a conference with Sam and Chad about my masters thesis, they wanted me to revise my abstract today and discuss it with them tomorrow. So, I'm lying in bed, trying to stay warm, drinking Coke Zero, and writing... It's cold today.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - The weather this morning was beautiful. The hours spent digging in the Hacienda flower garden just flew by. The entire project gathered in the square at Cangahua for the group photo. I used the opportunity to stop by Casa Comuna and gather some bread and apples for lunch.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - It's sprinking intermittantly today. I am on the team that is investigating the Ground Penetrating Radar results in the Hacienda flower garden. We haven't found the steps yet. We have found two obsidian bifaces, bone, pottery, and early glass. Digging and sifting through mud leaves me grimy, but the temperature is comfortable and we are uncovering "small finds". I am salivating at the thought of a hot shower at the end of the day.
Monday, July 11, 2011 - George left for home today. He should be home by midnight. I already miss him... Patti is my new room mate.
The project has been using Ground Penetrating Radar to determine if there are Inka walls or structures underneath the hacienda. It is theorized, that since there is a colca (a row of Inka store houses) is on the hill above the hacienda, there had to be an Inka settlement, possibly right where the hacienda stands now.
Ground Penetrating Radar suggested a large anomoly running diagonally throught the hacienda courtyard. Diego gave permission for us to dig under the cobblestones if we put the stones back afterwards. So we got out the pickaxes, pulled up the stones, and started excavating the soil underneath. We found lots of pottery sherds and broken roof tiles, a small amount of obsidian, some ancient glass, and a concrete pipe.
The Ground Penetrating Radar also suggested that a set of steps lay underneath the flower garden. The steps were headed downward approaching the oldest building of the hacienda. We started excavating there, but did not get deep enough to see what was causing the anomoly. As a result of this activity, I was so tired that I fell asleep after work and slept until dinner time. I did remember to calculate the number of people who whould be present at dinner and deliver this count to the cooks.
Sunday, July 10, 2011 - This was a day of rest. George, Patti, and I took the bus into Cayambe to do some grocery shopping. The busses headed toward Cangahua were all full due to the festival. The bus drivers were only letting indigenous people on the busses. Passengers were standing in the aisles, packed in as tight as sardines. Some were hanging out the open door of the bus. After a few busses left the terminal in this fashion, a group of stranded gringos hailed a camionetta. We piled in the cab and filled the pickup bed. It was the equivalent of 10 people in a Chevy Luv pickup truck.
Saturday, July 9, 2011 - The entire project went to the indigenous market of Otavalo today. George, Patti, and I found our way out of the touristy area to a hidden square (behind the stalls) where the locals bartered. It kind of reminded me of the meat market in Greece... Since this was my fourth trip to Otavalo in the past three years, I showed remarkable restraint in terms of purchases. My loot included a Tigua-style painting, woven fabric to make curtains in the family room, and some headbands.
Once the bus returned, the rest of the group went to Cangahua to watch the bull fights. Even if the bull was guarenteed to win, I wasn't interested. George and I took a long afternoon nap...
Friday, July 8, 2011 - The day started out fantastic. I slept well; I can breathe; I am not coughing or sneezing; And I have tons of energy. The local doctor diagnosed a sinus infection, and his remedies are working. Breakfast again was great. Although the cat wasn't in the pool area, I enjoyed swinging in the hammocks with Lake, the president of the "Hammock Monsters Club".
We made two trips into Cayambe on the bus in search of the dentist recommended by Don Diego Bonifaz. The first time, we were told that his office hours started at 2:30 pm. When we returned at 2:45 pm, we found about six patients waiting. A lady came by and posted a sign: Office closed today.
The town of Cayambe is closing up early. This is a big festival weekend. It has something to do with the month long celebration of the Summer Solstice. The project is leaving for Otavalo and its huge indigenous market at 7 am tomorrow so we can be back by early afternoon for the Cayambe celebrations.
I've figured out why I am feeling so great. One of the medicines prescribed by the doctor contains psuedoephedrine. It is banned in many countries because it can easily be distilled to make meth. I've stopped taking it. I don't need to be so happy. I can take my time to get well.
Thursday, July 7, 2011 - Today was my first encouter with medical care outside the US. I have had a cold for about ten days. The symptoms that worried me were the green mucus from sneezes for the past week and the green yuck I was coughing up since my hike to Mullumica. Sam drove George and I to Cayambe and dropped us off near the Centro Medico "San Francisco". As soon as we walked into the empty waiting room, one of the three nurses asked who was the patient. They immediately took my temperature and blood pressure before showing me to an examining room. The doctor asked all kinds of questions in Spanish. He repeatedly asked how old I was, possibly to get a non yes-or-no answer to verify that I understood what he was saying. He said I did not have bronchitus or incipient pnemonia. He prescribed two days of rest in a warm environment and three medicines. The cost was $4.00. The pharmacy filled the presciptions with mostly out-of-date medicine for about $6.00.
I didn't even attempt to work today. It is very windy and cold. Doctor's orders say I am to stay warm. I did go into the indoor pool area to play with the orange/white/gray kitten. Chad and Sam's daughters followed me. The 3 preschool-to-elementary-school-age girls explained that they would never fall in pool, but there always had to be an adult present for them to be in this room. The girls climbed on the three hammocks and began swinging wildly. They invented the "Hammock Monsters Club", with a president, two co-directors, and a single member (me). The girls were delightful and played so well together.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - I spent the day in the church with Vanessa and Kaitlin, arranging the boxes of artifacts and setting up the various work stations. The students come by twice a day. In the morning, they pick up their dig kits, get their instructions, and head out to their assigned excavation sites. At the end of the work day, they drop off their dig kits and any artifacts they collected. Our job is to clean the artifacts, analyze them, and document the findings. Since this is the first day of excavations, there isn't much to do other than put the finishing touches on the lab set-up.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - I slept so soundly after yesterday's ordeal. I got at 6:30 am and had breakfast with the group. Afterwards, I rested on my bed for a moment. The next thing I knew it was 11:45 am. George had returned from Cayambe after dropping off our wet clothes to be laundered. He bought a big flashlight for the night watchman (who starts his rounds tonight since there is no way to lock the church). George also brought some electrical supplies, printer cartridges, and two bars of Ecuadorian chocolate for me. I love that man!
I spent my few productive hours working with Eric to organize the project's many boxes of paper -- excavation reports, government permists, receipts, reference books, etc. George tested each printer/scanner and determined which could scan and which could print. He found that two of the outlet strips were defective. Eric accompanied George back to Cayambe to exchange the items that didn't work and pick up our laundry. They also purchased some tarps, since we never know when the light rain will become heavy enough to soak the boxes of artifacts stored in the church.
The students marched up Quitoloma today. It's a rite of passage. After this climb, everything else they will encounter during the field school will be easy. Most of the staff found other things to do.
Oscar and Eric had dinner with us at the Hacienda. Eric gently chided Oscar for saying Mullumica was a 40 minute walk. Oscar insisted his estimate was correct in the summer after the swamp had dried into hard ground. Oscar admitted he wasn't fool enough to attempt such a trip in winter. The paramo were bogs and were known to be impassible.
This conversation was a mixture of English and Spanish. Each of us spoke in the language we were least familiar with. One might ask a question in Spanish and get an answer in English. This is an excellent way to learn a language. Eric says that this method is better than all the Spanish classes he took.
Vanessa finally arrived from Quito, along with some students who were arriving late because their flights were cancelled. The portable XRF suffered a broken X-ray tube in transit. It has beem shipped back to the manufacturer for repair and won't be available in Ecuador this summer. My schedule has been reduced from crazy-busy to almost vacation status.
Monday, July 4, 2011 - Today was the hike up to the Mullumica obsidian source (Click HERE for photos). Stefano, a student at Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Ecuador (PUCE) doing research on obsidian, was our guide. Eric, George, myself, and a geologist named Jen accompanied. We hired a camioneta (4x4 pickup with two rows of seating inside, plus a pickup bed) with driver for $50.00. We drove from Cangahua to E-35, turned south near Guayallabamba, and headed south to Pifo. There, we stopped at a house where Stefano obtained permission from the owner to cross his land.
We meandered through Pifo before heading east on E-28. Our turnoff was onto a dirt road, marked Comuna Sigsipampa. The dirt road was steep and difficult. I am sure that Eric and Jen, riding in the bed of the pickup, were not confortable. The road was cobbled within the community, but degenerated into a single lane dirt road for the rest of the trip. The countryside was lush green, covered with trees and groundcover. We passed a few buidings, a small ranch, and cows over the next hour, but it was primarily wilderness. There were turnoffs, but our guide Stefano knew which unmarked path to take.
After an hour on this dirt road, we finally arrived at a small, indigenous house built of cangahua (volcanic ash cut into blocks). This was the end of the road. We spoke with the owner of the house and agreed to pay $2 per person for crossing their land on our return. Orlan, the camioneta driver, stayed with the truck while we grabbed our backpacks and started hiking uphill.
Uphill through the short grass wasn't bad at all. My legs were up to the hike, but I was soon out of breath. That's to be expected, since we were approaching 11,000 feet altitude. We followed the banks of a stream to the summit, where we found our way blocked by a 10 foot wide, swiftly flowing creek. Stefano said this was the best place to cross. And cross we did. We tried to step from rock to rock, but they were slippery. Everyone except George fell in, getting wet up to their knees.
We continued to walk through low grasslands. Several times we had to open barbed wire and stick fences and close them after we walked through. The final barbed wire fence marked a ravine and the end of anthropogenically altered land. We held the barbed wire low so people could get over it and jump across the ravine. At that point, the landscape changed radically. We were in a region of Ecuador that was uninhabited -- the paramo.
The paramo is defined as a high altitude grassland. In the middle of winter, it is a swamp. The thick clumps of grass range from waist high (at the start) to over my head (closer to the Mullumica obsidian source). You can never see beneath the grass to know where to place your next step. One time, you might have to lift your foot knee-high to get over some grass roots. Alternately, your next step might be in 6 inches of mud. When you hear a sucking sound, you know its going to be difficult to extract your foot to take the next step.
At the same time, it rained. It was windy. You knew which direction you were headed down the valley because cliffs are high. However, visibility of your fellow travelers was impaired because of the chest high or taller grasses. If anyone fell, there was no chance of finding them visually.
We found the obsidian. George, Jen, and I stayed at the first outcrop due to exhausion while Eric and Stefano went further up the valley. We all returned back through the paramo grasses in the rain. Everyone fell in the creek on the return trip. Now I was in wet cotton up to my thighs and my boots sloshed with each step. We made it back to the camionetta about 4 pm, paid the indigenous farmers for crossing their land, and headed back down the dirt road. There physically wasn't enough room for everyone to squeeze in the cab, so Jen and Eric took turns riding in the back (in wet clothes, in cold air) while the rest of us were like sardines in the cab.
Near the farm on the dirt road, we found the road blocked by two trucks. A man came out to talk to Orlan and Stefano. Their points were 1) We were crossing their land; 2) The camionetta company from Cangahua was not supposed to be operating here. Comuna Sigsipampa had their own camionetta company, which should be used in this area; 3) We might be poachers that were fishing in their streams and selling the trout at market. They wanted compensation for the use of their resources. In sum, they wanted $20 to let us pass. I was so glad we had two Ecuadorians with us. Orlan and Stefano talked with the locals for a long time, emphasizing the permission thay had from the land owner in Pifo (these people worked for the land owner). Finally, they let us through without payment.
Next, the camionetta started making funny sounds, similar to the wheel bearing that failed in the rental car. We were very worried about breaking down on this long, remote, dirt road. Orlan switched back into two wheel drive and got going again. Based on the loud clunk we heard, George thinks his four wheel drive is toast.
It took us two hours to make it back to the Hacienda. By that time, the cold tap water felt hot to me. I finally warmed up enough to start shivering. We changed into dry clothes. The Hacienda staff was so nice -- they brought us hot soup and hot lemonade to warm us up inside while we waited for our dinners to be prepared.
Oh yes, Orlan was unhappy that our hike took several hours longer than planned (After all, Oscar said it was an easy 40 minute hike but it took almost two hours each way in the swampy conditions). Eric finally agreed to up his fee from fifty to seventy dollars for the day.
Sunday, July 3, 2011 - About ten students arrived on the project bus that left Quito around 10 am. The rest of the students are exected to arrive this evening. Most of them will be staying at the Casa Comuna and other houses in the small town of Cangahua. Chad and Oscar have arrived, but not Vanessa. There is some talk about the portable XRF malfunctioning. I assume we will learn more later.
George and I had to give up our "Llama TV", since the room is not in the block of rooms that the project has rented. Since the project starts today, we moved to room 6. It is two doors down from the room we stayed in during summer 2009.
Saturday, July 2, 2011 - Don Diego gave us the key to the bodega where the project's archeological artifacts and equipmemt are stored. George and I checked out the electricity in our future lab (a deconsecrated church). We noted there was water on the floor from the morning's rain. When I looked up, there was daylight showing through the rafters. I think we need to find a better place for the portable XRF (X-ray Florescence device).
Amber has already moved desk supplies and excavation records in the church. Today, Amber, Eric, Anita, Kaitlin, George, and I spent part of the day moving boxes of obsidian and ceramics from the bodega to the church. They plan to use some of the guest rooms in the Hacienda as labs too. We will know more tomorrow when the project directors arrive with about 35 students and 15 staff. This crowd will be joined by an unknown number of Ecuadorian students.
One thing that is great about this room is the llama TV. We have a "wide screen" view and two channels (picture windows). The stars are 11 llamas, 5 horses, and 3 geese. Its really enjoyable to sit in this nice, sunny room and watch the stars munching on grass and interacting with each others. They each have their own personality. At night, when Llama TV is no longer on the air, we amuse ourselves by watching the fire in the fireplace.
Friday, July 1, 2011 - We drove to the Casa Comuna in Cangahua because a recording said that Amber's phone was out of service. She wasn't there. On the way back, the rental car froze a bearing and the left rear wheel wouldn't move. We called the rental company from my Ecuadorian cell phone. While we were waiting for the tow truck, a taxi stopped in front of the disabled car. Amber popped out! This is the way we made contact with the Pambamarca Archaeology Project (PAP).
The tow truck arrived after several hours and hooked up the car. The owner of the rental agency, who was following behind the tow truck in a car, gave us a ride to the Hacienda. It's time to think up a Plan C, since we have no wheels. In a way, we are freer now since we don't have to worry about the car being stolen (car security was the reason why we stayed at the "motel" on Wednesday night). The public bus runs frequently. There is no schedule, since busses leave when they are filled with passengers. The cost is about 1 dollar per hour of travel. Most people in this region do not have cars and rely on the bus. So shall we.
The Indigenous Andeans really know how to party. They are celebrating the summer solstice. On Thursday night, the community of Buena Esperanza hosted the celebration. This evening, it is the small town of Cangahua. Tomorrow, there will be festivities starting at 10 am in the main square in Cayambe. No doubt, the music and dancing will last long into the night. So far, I haven't participated because 1) It's been cold at night; 2) It's been rainy; 3) I caught a cold on the plane and would prefer to sleep than party. Perhaps tomorrow I'll get some good pictures to post on the internet.
Thursday, June 30, 2011 - George and I headed north toward the equator, navigating from town to town on secondary roads. It was far more enjoyable than the Pan American highway because there was less traffic. We stopped at the El Tablon obsidian source and collected some samples from a road cut. None of the samples are glossy with a coinochoidal fracture. Some are fine grained, some are coarser grained. Examination with a hand lens shows tiny quartz inclusions and surface rust (Fe) in some aras. It sure doesn't look like obsidian.
We also recoinnoitered the turnoff that I think leads to the Mullumica obsidian source. This road will require a 4x4 vehicle.
We spent the night at the Hacienda Guachala (2 km south of the equator). The first view I had through our room's windows was of grazing llamas. Naturally, I had to run outside and say hi. They ignored me and continued to munch on grass. Tomorrow I will find some salt to feed them.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - We rented a 2 wheel drive car until the Pambamarca field school begins (4 days). We had planned to visit the Mullumica obsidian source, but our local guide was busy. So we switched to Plan B. We are going to explore the Ecuadorian Andes by car.
The Pan American Highway south of Quito is 2 lanes in most places. It is clogged with slow traveling trucks and lots of busses. When you reach a city, the highway becomes indistinguishable from the regular city streets. Detours, one way streets, and a lack of signs make it easy to loose the highway. There are many places where the road is being widened to 4 lanes. I was pleasantly surprized by how much economic development is going on. Click HERE for photos.
We got as far south as Riobamba in the central Ecuadorian Andes. Riobamba is a mecca for mountain climbers. If the weather were clear, one could see as many as 5 huge stratocone volcanos from this town. It was cloudy, so we had to take the guide book's word for it.
We stopped for the night at a motel (Up to now we have only stayed at hostals and haciendas). It was "interesting". Words can't explain it. Click HERE for photos.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 - Today is our day to rest in Quito and get acclimated to 9,500 feet altitude. George and I slept for 16 hours straight to make up missing sleep the previous night. We purchased a Porta SIM card for my telephone ($7 for a new phone number and 30 minutes of calls). We also walked to the SuperMaxi (a large grocery store) to purchase water and lunch foods. A long nap rounded out the day's activities.
Monday, June 27, 2011 - George and I flew to Quito, Ecuador with short layovers in San Jose, Costa Rica, and San Salvador, El Salvador. The trip was uneventful. It was a red-eye, so we got very little sleep.
We are staying at the La Alcala Hostal in the Mariscal District. We have a "matrimonial room" (a double bed) with internet, breakfast, and cable TV. It is centrally positioned in "gringolandia", several blocks from Foch Square's nightlife, many resturants, and blaring music. It is quiet enough for us to get a good night sleep, yet easy walking distance to restaurants.