Last Vilcabamba adventures

Another week done. Our physical requirements for work this week were increased. We grounded coffee almost everyday. Also I spent some time digging up unwanted grasses while Aaron was filling holes. This required the movement of dirt around in a wheelbarrow while making sure to keep the ground level in the area we were mining soil. We also spent a couple hours clearing down and fallen brush. Let me just say that it is an extremely rewarding experience to chop down a banana tree with a machete. Their trunks are surprisingly fleshy. Orlando uses all the mulch and sticks and trees to build up the bank along the river. He builds retaining walls and then the decaying material becomes excellent soil to plant new trees. I have really enjoyed the work at Rumi Wilco, but our time has finally come to an end. We are leaving tomorrow to head north and then to the coast. We are going to spend the next month to volunteer with Planet Drum in Bahia de Caraquez. Before we go there, though, we are going to spend a week wondering up and stopping at a few places. Our first stop is Cuenca. I have not fully made up my mind about the prospect of it, but we inevitably are following some of the gringo-trail. Though is really is quite unavoidable. I am excited for a change of scenery! Especially with the assurance that we have a place to settle down at on the coast for a little while where we can buy food stuffs in bulk. My only hope is that our next kitchen has an oven. Getting to finally cook for myself and not relying on the plethora of choice and stock in a cafeteria, I have begun to experiment with cooking. We did not have an oven at Rumi Wilco, but I think I have made good progress with skillet biscuits. I still need some work on the donuts. Pancakes and french toast are too easy, but they are quite tasty as well. My next cooking venture is to work with beans and rice (the raw form, none of that precooked, canned or instant ones). Though sauteed vegetables with guacamole has been a more than appetizing staple.
Since Friday was our last day of work and this our last weekend in Vilcabamba, Aaron and I have been quite busy. Yesterday, we trekked up a mountain to see a waterfall. It was about a 2.5 mile walk to the Podocarpus National Park then a 2-2.5 mile trek up to the falls. The path is heavily traversed via horse tours so in addition to huffing and puffing up the path we were dodging piles of horse droppings. Once you get to the end of the path there is a short segment that is straight down to the water. This leg of the journey was not so bad going down but was noticeably steep going back up. At the bottom is this awesome 40 foot falls. You can see where it continues further up between two peaks. We were able to walk out into the little pool below, a small basin below the falls created from the continuous beating of water. We tried to stand directly under the water, but it was so strong it was too difficult as well as freezing. Though after the arduous hike, I welcomed the cold water to wash off all the salt from sweating. Brilliantly, we brought lunch with us, which was also very welcomed. We ate at the foot of the falls, relaxed a bit, then headed back to Vilcabamba. Surprisingly, on foot, we were still able to pass a group on horse. We went back to Rumi Wilco to fill up water and regroup before trying to hike up to see the famed Agua de Hierro, this fine red sediment from up in the mountains. People use it for healing purposes such as a mud mask or drink. Well after hiking around for some time, we discovered that we were lost and not finding it. Sadly we eventually turned around with no success. Though we did get some great views. Also, despite our otherwise early evenings, we finally decided to go out last night and experience the night life of Vilcabamba. We went to the only club and enjoyed a couple beers and dancing. As the night wore on, it was extremely crowded and very hot but a fun time none-the-less. We met some other English-speaking travelers and chatted some. I do not know how I failed to mention this, but as prices go, we can spend about $12 a week on food for the both of us. This is of course making food and not going out but overall inexpensive. Other things are more comparable to U.S. prices just slightly less. Ecuador´s currency is equivalent to U.S. currency, by the way. Anyways, liter bottles of beer are only $1. Yes $1. And at the bar/club, they are only $1.25. And if you keep your bottles, you can return them to the store and get between 10-20 cents a bottle. The beer is not great, but with a deal like that it definitely tastes sweeter. Well that is all for now.

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