May 16 - Cusin

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Awww...today we have to leave the jungle. And this is going to be one very long day of traveling by foot, boat, bus, and plane.

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go.

 

Bye treefrog serenade.

 

Bye walkway where you dare not place your hands on the rails because there could be tarantulas.

 

Bye canoe dock.

 

So long dining on the lake.

 

Bye piranhas and caimans.

 

So long, Lake Pilchicocha, whose name I never knew until I got home and Googled it.

 

You sure were pretty in an acidic black water kind of way.  Mosquitoes didn't like you though, so that was nice.

 

Bye droopy jungle trees. (Paddle faster, Nancy.)

 

Bye monkeys up there somewhere probably.

 

Bye pretty tropical birds up there somewhere, I think.

 

Bye swamp.

 

OK, c'mon, that's enough of this.

 

I'm hot and sticky.  Let's get out of here.  And get your finger out of the lens, Bill.

 

Seriously, Nancy, get on with it.

 

More boards to hike on.  In my Wellington boots.

 

More dirt to walk on in my Wellington boots.

 

At last, signs of the mighty muddy Napo.

 

At least there are pretty tropical plants to take my mind off the slog.

 

Very pretty.

 

So which pretty picture to use?  C'mon, you're tired and sweaty.  Just throw them all in and keep moving.

 

At last -- the Sacha Lodge dock on the Napo.

 

These boots were made for leaving, and that's just what I'll do.

 

River breeze!  Ahhh...

 

Everybody is loving this.

 

Just look at the pretentious oil barons in their hotrod air conditioned speedboat passing us by.

 

We like out open air river yacht.

 

And we have more fun.

 

After about two hours of zigzagging the Napo in search of deep water, we've arrived back in Coca.

 

The fancy bridge is still here.

 

And so is the riverfront.

 

And so is our dock. 

So...from here we walked up some steep concrete dock steps to the Sacha Lodge tourist holding area where we had a snack and filled out evaluation forms.  Then we took a bus to the airport and from there we flew to Quito, where we got on the bus that would transport us through the rest of the trip. 

 

And this is the route we would follow over the remainder of the trip.  Starting in Quito we first traveled north to Cusin and San Clemente, then back south all the way to Cuenca and then over to Guayaquil, from where everybody would fly home.  Well, nearly everybody.  But we're not going to do all this today.  Today we're headed for Cusin.

 

 And off we go into the Andes Mountains. 

 

Look at the sides of those hills -- all covered with concrete studded with little drainpipes all over.  One of the books I read in preparation for this trip talked about how prone to rockslides the Andes are.  One well-placed kick and you can cause a disaster.  All that concrete is intended to prevent slides.  Sure hope it works.

 

When I took this picture I thought it was a really pretty shot of the Andes.  Ha ha.  Just wait.

 

For lunch we stopped along the roadside at the Caf de la Vaca (Cafe of the Cow) near Cayambe.   It was a very nice place with ... um ... distinctive decor.  For more pictures of the restaurant and especially its terrific food, click here.  But I bet you won't find pictures of the potty on their website.

 

For that you have to stick with me.

 

Told you it was distinctive.

 

Larry thinks we're still in the Amazon but Nancy and CJ aren't convinced.

 

With our tummies full, we backtracked from the restaurant for about a half mile and pulled into parking lot of the Quitsato Sundial.

 

It's a pretty little park laid out like a sundial right on the equator -- which makes it special.

 

The Quitsato Sundial is a cultural-tourist place located at La Mitad Del Mundo, near to Cayambe, 47 km at North of Quito. It was built in 2006 and inaugurated in 2007 as an independent, non-profit project in a 24756 ft (2300 m) area. Its main goal is to share crucial aspects of the astronomical knowledge of the prehispanic cultures of the region. The expositions are carried out by community members as a self-sustaining project. According to Google Maps, the central pillar is 4 meters below the true equator.

Projection of the shadow of the gnomon at the equinox. Cayambe (volcano) can be seen behind, the only place where the Equator passes through a glacier. Also, it is the highest point on the Equator in the world.

It consists of a circular platform of 177.64 ft (54 m) in diameter which forms a mosaic of light and dark pebbles drawing an eight-pointed star that indicates the solstices and equinoxes, plus intermediate lines pointing to the cardinal directions. In the center of this platform there is a 10 m (32.80 ft) and 1.30 m (4.27 ft) diameter cylindrical orange tube which serves as a gnomon, pointing to the corresponding hours and months of the year in the platform according to the shadow cast by the Sun. The ten meter high gnomon represents the metric system, based in the meter which in its beginning was intended to be the result of one ten-millionth of Earth's quadrant. The aim of the color difference between the stones, apart from showing equinox and solstice lines, is to explain the meaning of albedo and its use in astronomical study. The Equator line is drawn by using smaller, darker pebbles between two metal plates.

The angles that form the geometric design of the eight-pointed star are given by the tilt of the Earth with respect to the ecliptic of the Earth, thus the platform itself also presents a reading of the celestial mechanics. Detailed positions of the solstices and equinoxes, as well as their respective axes, are presented.

The Ecuadorian Military Geographic Institute has placed two cylinders surrounded by concrete on a platform on top of the Equatorial line, with a 1mm error margin determined by using GPS and GNSS equipment.

 

So that's the equator I've always heard so much about?  Right there in front of my toes?

 

Oooh, it tickles.

 

It's the big 10 Road Scholars lined up on the equator with their feet in different hemispheres!

 

How about a closer look?  Front to back we've got Nancy, Connie, Pauline, CJ, Marilyn, Lowell, Bill, Larry, David and Ken.  What a good looking group!

 

Bill is loving this.

 

We're getting the full scientific explanation of how the Incas found the equator hundreds of years ago and how the finest modern instruments have confirmed that this line in the rocks is the true line in the rocks.  No mention of the fact that Google Maps says they're four meters off.

 

This is the place!  I believe it!

 

But no, I'm not buying into your cockeyed notion that the maps we're all familiar with have it wrong and we really should think of the world as shown behind you.  Everybody knows North America belongs on top. 

 

But that's not the best part of this place. Would you believe Ecuador is giving me two, count 'em,  TWO crazy bathrooms in one day?  Welcome to the Fake Equator Museum.

 

It's a real bathroom.

 

But the decorations are somewhat unusual.

 

While you're doing what you came to do, you can also get educated!

 

For instance, no ... toilets don't flush "backwards" in the Southern Hemisphere.

 

And water certainly isn't confused about which way to go when you flush on the equator.

 

And you can balance eggs on their ends anywhere in the world, any time of year.  You can even balance them on their ends at the equator if that's how you'd like to spend your time here.  But you're not doing something special.  At least not according to the writing on the walls in this public toilet.  C'mon, everybody, stop reading the walls in the toilet and let's hit the road.

 

And now we've arrived at our home for the next two nights, a remarkable old Hacienda called
El Monasterio de Cusin, or Hacienda Cusin.

 

It's really quite lovely.

 

Eduardo has our keys.

 

The great room.

 

My bedroom.

 

I'm feeling like a conquistador tonight.

 

Nice place.

 

Our speaker was a native Indian who talked about the history of the indigenous people of Otavalo, a nearby town we'll visit tomorrow.

 

No pictures of tonight's dinner, but after all this time I can't let this nice beverage go unremarked-upon.  This is a glass of soursop.  Sounds delicious, right?  Soursop?  Well it is pretty good stuff -- kinda tart, citrusy, creamy, unobjectionable...  And they call it "soursop."  Surely they could come up with a better name.  (Actually I preferred the fresh blackberry drink whenever it was available.

 

When I turned back the covers tonight, I just had to grab my camera.  In all my years staying in hotels all over the USA and the world, I have never found a hot water bottle waiting for me.  A first! And it sure was cozy in a cold room in an old hacienda.  Just look at all those covers.  They felt good too.  Last night sweating under a ceiling fan with a serenade of tree frogs, tonight a cold room and a hot water bottle.  What a trip this has become!

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