Migrations 07
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A Sound Life ¯

10th July 2007 - 31st December 2007
Ecuador - United States (CA, OH, NV) - Panama

Written 23rd -  31st December 2007
° 25.65' N   78° 51.33' W
Islas Perlas, Panama

It’s Christmas -- the holiday with the best music. I love Christmas music. What an excess of beautiful melodies.

Today is the 23rd of December. As I write, we swing softly at anchor in the Perlas Islands of Panama. The sun is out, it’s 86° F. Green trees line the white beaches and I’m listening to a beautiful version of O Holy Night on a Celtic Christmas radio program I downloaded to our iPod last year. It seems strange, but it’s perfect.

These days, the iPod is continually playing: A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Edge of Christmas (a compilation of Christmas-themed songs from great rock groups), and Putamayo’s Christmas Around the World.

Music and sound are a big part of our lives. We love our iPod and Alene is fabulously efficient at keeping it playing. (I’ll let it fall silent for hours). We both love music and, luckily, our tastes usually agree.

Sounds tell us a lot about what’s happening on the boat. When we sail, or when we are below, sound is much more important than sight. A small change in the tone of the water running against hull lets us know if the boat is speeding or slowing. The sails slapping or slatting tells us about their trim and changes in wind direction and speed. Mysterious clinks and rattles can drive us crazy when we're trying to sleep. The small ping of a screw falling onto the deck from the rigging starts a mad search for its home before whatever it was holding falls off! The scrape of anchor chain might warn us that we are dragging. Or the flap of the awning wakes us to a rising wind in the middle of the night.

I found that our time in Ecuador was marked by music and sound. Our first populated anchorage of San Mateo kept us awake until 3am as the town celebrated their Saint’s day with thumping pop music from enormous speakers. In Manta, a late night party boat cruised among the fishing fleet with some of the worst karaoke singers the world has ever heard – at full volume, of course. In Bahía de Caráquez, the Port Captain held a street party in front of his office; the giant speakers on the stage pointed directly at the anchorage. The music finally ended at 4am. Only to start up again at 7am with The Eagles’ Hotel California. Oh well.

We spent the early days of July working on the boat (of course) and getting to know the other cruisers and local Ecuadorians.

Uh-oh. More rot... An aft cabin repair.

Repair in process...

Just like new!

The coast of Ecuador is not that beautiful. But
the beach is still a nice place to walk with our good
friends from Mexico, Terry & Tammy on
Secret o' Life.

¯ A small circus came to town, a good diversion. The single tent held a couple hundred people. The show began with the theme from Star Wars (at high volume). The highlight was a llama walking around the ring on his knees to the theme from Hawaii Five-O. Kinda surreal.

We wanted to re-galvanize our anchor chain (a process which replaces the zinc coating that keeps it from rusting) so we needed to tie to a mooring since we had to send the anchor and chain to a galvanizing facility. Most cruisers rent a mooring from Puerto Amistad – a restaurant and cruiser facility right off of town. We decided to move upriver 2 miles to Saiananda. Besides being cheaper, it has a lot of character and that appealed to us.

It’s a little difficult to describe what Saiananda is: a unique B&B–estate–meditation retreat–rescued animal shelter–tropical fish and bird farm–nursery… hmmm, the list just goes on. Alfredo, the owner, has created a peaceful and beautiful environment. There are birds everywhere: blue macaws, grackles, mot-mots, parrots, all kinds of interesting pigeons, and, of course, peacocks. Alfredo breeds them. There are also horses, a cow, a burro. Ducks, geese, a swan. Four great dogs -- two of them usually wet and muddy from swimming in the river. And a couple of sloths that live in the house. It’s quite the menagerie.

Saiananda from our boat. It was so cool to turn a corner and come upon
a peacock showing full plumage – a daily event.

Alene gave free yoga lessons in the palapa by the boat dock.

Guaca the blue macaw and one of the sloths that lives in the house.
(Yes, we know, it should be "...one of the sloth that..." but that just sounds wrong).

VIDEO: Saiananda Tour (4:37 - 11.9 MB)
Notes: The "hissy thing" is actually a casumbo named Carlito.
Guaca the blue macaw does talk... just not on camera.
The goose is upset because her eggs never hatch as she is in love with the swan.
The swan and the burro have a perpetual argument going. We don't know what
it's about but they go at it at least once a day.

Alfredo also runs a wonderful school just up the road. It’s free to any children in the area (something very important in Ecuador). One day I spoke to the fifth grade class about writing and, with the help of a translator, read a few of my books.

What is this guy talking about...?

We unfolded our bikes and rode to town every few days. Sometimes we took the bus which cost all of 18¢. Ecuador uses the US dollar. The paper bills are greenbacks but Ecuador mints their own coins, though US coins are in circulation as well. Every U.S. Sacajawea dollar coin (remember those?) seems to have ended up down here.

The local bus allowed all sorts of passengers.
No, Alene does not have a chicken in her backpack.

Be careful where you walk in town!

One of Alfredo’s side businesses is making natural jams. When the operation was running, with Alfredo and five local ladies around huge bubbling pots, the entire area smelled like berries, or mango, or some fruit that we had never seen before (have you ever heard of maméy cartagena?).

Alfredo hard at work on the jam.

¯ Listening each night to the bird sounds on the shore… the strange “disgruntled cat” calls of the peacocks often punctuated by a duck quack or goose honk. It wasn’t nearly as cacophonic as it might sound – we grew to love it.

Cruisers sail to Ecuador for several reasons. Mostly to escape the wet season in Central America and the hurricane season farther north. It’s cheap (lunch costs $1.25), the weather is benign (even though you are on the equator, the temperature stays in the 80s), and it doesn’t rain much. It is also a safe place to leave your  boat while you travel.

You’ve always known about Ecuador, right? It’s a country in South America, near the equator (thus the name – ecuador means equator in Spanish), and… what else? Both Alene and I realized that we knew very little about this country. However, the more we learned the more excited we became about our travels.

Ecuador is about the size of Colorado or the United Kingdom with a population of around 15 million. It’s the most biologically diverse country in all of the Americas. Far more species of plants and animals than the US. Even more than Brazil. It has several climatic zones and dozens of micro-climates: Coast, coastal plains, grassy highland, high Andes, glacial mountain, rain forest, cloud forest, jungle… There are active volcanoes and glaciers within a few miles of the Equator. It’s quite amazing.

Ecuador also has a complex system of private bus companies that go from everywhere to everywhere else. There is always a bus leaving in five minutes – or so the hawkers for the bus companies will shout at you. They work hard to fill the buses and will stop almost anywhere to pick up a customer. The buses are generally comfortable. The chickens ride on the roof or in the storage below – not inside. Vendors hop on and off selling ice cream, chicken and rice, sodas, cookies. There’s a television on the bus and usually a violent American film dubbed in Spanish is playing. If there isn’t a movie, there’s music. Everything from the Beatles to Maná to Ecuadorian pop and traditional. All at high volume. Ear plugs are very useful.

Sheep must ride on top -- not inside.
Photo: Patrice Capron

A delay on the bus route. We'll have to wait
until the landslide is cleared.

Neither Alene nor the driver seem worried.

But we'll let the other bus go first to make
sure the road holds...

Sometimes the bus leaves you just
a little ways out of town.

People always ask us if we have to worry about pirates. The only pirates we’ve seen are in the marketplace. In the U.S. I often read about media companies whining over lost profits due to CD & DVD piracy. Not that my heart breaks for them, but it is amazing to see how much music and film is pirated in Latin America. I don’t believe a single real CD or DVD is sold here. Vendors get on buses with stacks of pirated movies and pass them around. At every market there are stalls stacked with pirated music – right next to the stall selling pigs’ heads.

The first stop on our travels was the small coastal town of Crucita. With ocean bluffs and consistent winds, it’s one of the best paragliding sites in the world. Of course, we both had to take tandem flights. Paragliding is a very calm sort of flying. It’s like floating in a chair. The only sound is the wind on the canopy above and the swoosh of the air moving through the feathers of the birds as they pass by.

Alene (that's her up there) sends thanks to my mom for her birthday gift
of cash which she partially used to pay for our flights.

If you’re thinking about coming to South America, you must visit Ecuador. It really is remarkable. The people are wonderfully friendly and proud. The indigenous peoples have a strong culture and areas of semi-self-government which keeps their culture intact. In the markets, the bargaining is good-natured. We never felt pressured and if we didn’t agree on a price, the vendor always said gracias or a la orden (at your service) and wished us well. There are many more Europeans traveling in Ecuador than Americans. It was nice that people always asked us where we were from – not just assuming that we were esatadounidense (United States-ian).

Ecuadorians are very friendly though the children,
and the cats, are often shy.

Our camera got grumbly very early in our trip and decided to see the world as over-exposed and very striped. We don’t have many of our own photos but thanks to friends we made in our travels – Patrice & Anne of France, Evan and Katie of the UK, and cruising friends Terry and Tammy – who sent us copies of theirs, this update is not completely photo free. Attribution is under the photo when it’s not ours.

Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador – 2 million people. In the late 1990’s they began the largest public works project in South America: cleaning up the riverfront and creating the Malecón 2000. It’s a several mile long boardwalk-tourist attraction, quite beautiful in some parts and too touristy in others. There’s an excellent art museum and nice gardens.

Alene makes friends everywhere we go.
In the center of Guayaquil is a beautiful park
filled with iguanas.

Malecón 2000.

On Cerro Santa Ana above the Malecón, there are some interesting historical displays.
The translations, however, are clearly meant to confuse.

¯ A free rock concert at Plaza Colón at the end of the Malecón. We were told there were some big names in Ecuadorian rock but we didn’t know any of them. Some of the music was all right. It was an environmental awareness concert not very well attended.
¯ The night following the rock concert we went for a salsa concert at the same place -- it was packed.
¯ Ecuadorians love parades. We watched a long military parade with one of the bands playing Johnny Comes Marching Home.

The third largest city in Ecuador, Cuenca is at 2,581 meters (8,468 feet). It has beautiful colonial architecture and is much-loved by all Ecuadorians (“Oh si, Cuenca es muy bonita!”). A great place for walking and museums. To get there we took a bus from Guayaquil on the coast right up the side of the Andes and through Caja National Park – barren and beautiful.

Cuenca was a bit shocking for us. Suddenly we were cold! Though on the equator, Ecuador is not hot. The coast is cooled by the cold Humboldt Current coming from the south and in the Andes it doesn’t matter if you are near the equator, it’s chilly when you’re at altitude.

Overlooking Cuenca.

Fine architecture.
Photo: Patrice Capron

Clever restaurant name.

Panama hats actually come from Ecuador, not Panama.
Cuenca is famous for the highest quality hats.
Photo: Patrice Capron

The traditional felt hat is worn by men and
women all through the Andes.
Photo: Patrice Capron

No, not selling puppets. Lunch!
Photo: Patrice Capron

¯ While looking at pre-Incan artifacts in a small private museum, we listened to Muzak versions of Stairway to Heaven and Hotel California. And, as usual, El Condor Pasa.
¯ In a small leather shop the proprietor was playing an accordion. He invited us in to listen to a local folk tune. He was good, too.
¯ At the Museum Banco Central (an excellent art and archaeology museum) we were invited to special evening event to celebrate the opening of a new museum wing. We listened to Isaac Ormaza-Vera – one of the top youth violinists in Ecuador –play Beethoven, Grieg and Bela-Bartok. He was quite good. After the concert, in the new wing, we were served wine and fancy hors d’ouevres with the Banco and museum officials.
At the post-concert soiree we had a fun discussion with some university students who taught us that in Ecuador (and most of the world we later found out) musicians do not use C, D, E, F, G, etc. for the scale. They use Do Re Mi. That was why the program that evening listed Beethoven’s Sonata No. 1 in Re Mayor (D Major).

We hopped a bus north to Alausi to ride the train down the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose). This is a famous segment of track that descends a cliff so steep the train uses several switchbacks, backing down some of them. It was quite an engineering feat when it was designed, although impractical as it couldn’t handle freight. Now it’s kept open for tourists. Until 2 weeks before we arrived you could ride on the roof of the train but some tourists had been hurt recently and it was no longer allowed. It would have been far more exciting on top. We rode in an autocarril which is basically a bus set on a train chassis. The first one we boarded still had a steering wheel. It’s kind of lame.

Looking down the nose from the train.

Waiting for the train to Riobamba,
Alene enjoys her favorite Ecuadorian
drink; a
mora batido (blackberry milkshake).

Better than the Nariz was the train ride north to Riobamba. This was a real train and we spent at least half of the 3.5 hour trip on the platform between the cars. It was freezing but we couldn’t tear ourselves away. The air was so fresh, the Andes rose in the distance and, as Alene put it, it was like being in a National Geographic magazine. Local people in the fields with their colorful ponchos and felt hats. Llamas, cows, horses. Children waving. Dogs chasing the train. It was totally awesome.

Alene hates traveling.

It's amazing how photogenic llamas are.
Photo: Patrice Capron

VIDEO: Train Rides (1:00 - 2.6 MB)

One of the downsides of budget travel in Latin America is that it's very hard to find a quiet room. Thin walls, few floor coverings, and noisy streets all make earplugs essential. We had a terrible room our first night in Riobamba so moved the next day to a nice new little hotel – clean and neat. The only problem? It was 3 stories high, tiled floors, and the owners did not sit at the front desk on the first floor. You pushed a button if you needed anything (like to be let in or out – they kept the door locked). What did the button do? It rang a bell on every floor. Not a ding-dong bell – a bell like they use in schools to tell you when class starts: BRRRRRAAAAANNNNNGGGG! So conducive to sleeping.

Riobamba sits at the foot of Chimborazo, the tallest mountain in Ecuador. Unfortunately it was cloudy the entire time we were there and we couldn't see it.

¯ A small parade for all the kids’ futbol teams. Bringing up the rear was an Ecuadorian military band playing…. the United States Marine Corps anthem (From the shores of Montezuma…).

The Andes run north and south through Ecuador. They're divided into two cordilleras (ranges) with a long valley in between. There are volcanoes (some active) and glaciers on both ranges and peaks up to 6,310 meters (over 20,000 feet). On the west side of the western cordillera, the Andes drop down through rain and cloud forest to meet the coastal plains. On the east side of the eastern cordillera is the Amazon jungle.

Baños sits under Tungurahua, an active volcano. It’s a popular tourist town with public baths (baños) heated by geothermal springs. It’s perched on the edge of a gorge carved by the Pastaza River which rushes from the Andes (Baños is at 1,800 meters – 5,886 feet) down to Amazonia in the east.

We found our perfect hotel room in Baños. Here’s the view.

Photo: Secret o' Life Photography, Ltd.

A tall waterfall drops right into the town. We could lie in bed and watch it. And fall asleep listening to it every night. We loved this room.

There are thermal baths at the base of the waterfall.
Photo: Patrice Capron

The hiking around Baños is excellent. As is the biking. There’s a road called the Ruta de Las Cascadas (Route of the Waterfalls) which follows the river to the east. We rented mountain bikes for five bucks each and set off. Every few miles there is an amazing waterfall. This country is made of water. Water comes trickling down from this mountainside, gushing over that cliff, sprinkling from the overhang above. Some of the waterfalls are big. Some are huge. The Pailón del Diablo (Devil’s Cualdron) focuses the entire flow of a large river into a spectacular semicircular gorge – the force of the falls causing the water below to violently roil and sending its roar echoing around the walls through the heavy mist.

We stopped at a bridge and paid $15 each to buckle on a harness, stand on the railing, and jump off. It’s called bridge swinging. Instead of jumping straight down and having a bungee stop you, the line is attached to the other side of the bridge. You jump out and away from the rail and then swing down and under. Exciting. (Alene again thanks my mother for the birthday money.)

We continued our bike ride. Having been told it was almost all downhill, we were a bit surprised to find the second half had plenty of uphill segments. But we persisted. Slowly the air became less crisp and more humid. The vegetation changed. The river, no longer rushing through the mountains, slowed and spread. Tree frogs croaked. A warm tropical afternoon rain began to fall and a huge rainbow appeared ahead of us. We’d bicycled from the Andes to the Amazon! As it got dark we flagged down a bus that stopped for us in the middle of the road. The conductor got out, put our bikes on the roof, and for 75¢ we rode back to Baños. One of our best days ever.

This road leads to the Amazon.
Photo: Secret o' Life Photography, Ltd.

One of the many waterfalls along the
Ruta de Las Cascadas.
Photo: Secret o' Life Photography, Ltd.

This was a fun ride. And slightly scary.
Photo: Patrice Capron

¯ Falling asleep every night to the sound of the waterfall outside our window.
¯ The thunder of the Pailón del Diablo falls.
¯ Listening to the change in the sounds of the forest – from the mountains to the jungle.

We took several buses from Baños, around the base of Chimborazo (the highest point on earth – see Geography Lesson #2 below), and over a spectacular road to Guaranda. We got off at Cuatro Esquinas (Four Corners), strangely named as it was just a Y in the road and therefore had only 3 corners. We were on our way to the small town of Salinas. As we waited for some mode of transportation in the middle of nowhere with our new travel friends, Caroline and Walter from Vermont, it began to hail. We felt like real adventurers. (If you read this Caroline and Walter, please send us photos! Including the ones of us jumping off the bridge).

Salinas is a model cooperative -- quite well-known in Ecuador. It was once a poor mountain town, then the residents pooled their resources and started several small industries. Though it’s not much to look at (typical run-down concrete structures), within the buildings are surprises. They make chocolate, cheese, soccer balls, medicinal essences, wool yarn, dyes & unguents. They export torrone (a nougat candy) with macadamia nuts to Italy and dried mushrooms to France. The yarn-making machines were at least 60 years old – made in Tennessee; fascinating huge Rube Goldberg contraptions with belts and wheels and spindly arms pulling and pushing and twisting the wool.

Photo: Secret o' Life Photography, Ltd.

The chocolate was fantastic - the kind you love to let melt slowly on your tongue for minutes. It took great self-will to make the torrone last more than a few days. And the cheese was our breakfast for a week (a kilo of gruyere for $5). It’s cold up in the mountains and we just left the cheese outside at night.

Outside our tiny hostal.
Photo: Secret o' Life Photography, Ltd.

¯ Waking up to cow bells and mooing as a local farmer walked his herd along the road outside our window. We looked out and, besides the cows, found llamas carrying milk jugs on their backs – taking the morning’s cow milk to the cheese factory.

Several bus rides brought us to Latacunga and from there we visited the Quilatoa crater and the market at Zimbahua.

It was a good hike down to the water.
A tougher hike back up.
Photo: Secret o' Life Photography, Ltd.

This area is mostly populated by the Quichuan peoples – some who still live in grass huts on the cold barren slopes of the mountains.

Photos: Patrice Capron

There is a strong barter economy and great markets to visit. The Quichua are very handsome and strong. Climbing up and down mountains at altitude is obviously good for the health. Grandmothers with loads of goods on their back would pass us on uphill paths.




All of the above wonderful photos by Patrice Capron.

The women seem to do nearly all of the work. It is very common to see a whole family – mother, daughter and grandmother with huge loads tied to their back, the father walking alongside carrying nothing but a machete.

Photos: Patrice Capron

Photo: Anne Capron
And here's the photographer himself having dinner with us.
What is he eating?
Cuy, an Ecuadorian specialty.
What's cuy? Scroll up to the picture of the woman in the
grey smock (just to the left of the photo of the big pile of
green bananas). She holding cuy...
guinea pig.

Another bus ride; this one to Quito past more great peaks most of which, unfortunately, were hidden in the persistent clouds. Quito is the capital of the country. Lying along the valley between the two cordilleras at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet), it’s an interesting mix of colonial and modern architecture. The old town is a World Heritage Site. Unfortunately the city has quite a crime problem and it’s not safe to walk much at night. Too bad as it is really is beautiful in parts.

Great museums here. Especially the archaeology and anthropology displays in the Museo Banco Central. The Incas only ruled in Ecuador for 60 or so years before the Spanish came. They accomplished a great deal in that time but there were dozens of pre-Incan cultures thriving in the area for centuries before.

¯ Cat Stevens’ Father and Son played on the bus ride from Latcunga to Quito. It’s a song that has brought tears to my eyes since I first heard it in high school.
¯ The double-long express buses in the city play little tunes as they arrive at their stops. Outside our hotel window we heard electronic versions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Mexican Hat Dance every time the bus passed by.

In the early 1700's the French Academy of Sciences wanted a definitive answer as to whether the earth was flattened at the poles and wider at the equator, or vice-versa. They sent an expedition to Ecuador that spent 6 years making measurements. They identified the location of the Equator and determined that the earth does bulge around the middle. Another result was the creation of the metric system as a meter was defined as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole.

Because of the bulge around the equator the spot on earth that is farthest from the center of the planet (and therefore closest to the stars) is not the top of the highest mountain: Everest which is 8,850 m (29,035 ft) above sea level. It's the top of the volcano Chimborazo in Ecuador. It is 6,310 meters (20,702 feet) above sea level but closer to the stars than Everest because it is only 100 miles away from the equator.

Outside of Quito there is a monument to the Equator: La Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World). Unfortunately, it was built where the French said the equator was. They did a good job with the instruments they had at the time, but they got it wrong. The equator -- easily found with a GPS -- is actually a few hundred meters away from the monument, outside the tourist attraction. Those who work at Mitad del Mundo don’t like to talk about that.

We did find the office of a fantastic organization just on the road near the real equator. Quitsato researches the ancient culture that created Monte Catequilla – a thousand year-old site that sits exactly on the true equator. A stone semi-circle rests with one arm on the equator and the other angled at 23.5° -- the exact inclination of the earth with relation to its orbital plane. Amazing! A thousand years ago the peoples of this area did a better job of finding the equator than the French Expedition in the 18th Century. Check out www.quitsato.org

This is Cotopaxi, the second highest peak in Ecuador.
Because of clouds, we had very few good views of
the highest mountains and volcanoes.
Photo: Patrice Capron

Otavalo is known throughout the world for its textiles. It’s also the home of the largest crafts markets in Ecuador. Even I, who hate shopping, had a really good time.

A nice surprise was the Shenandoah Pie Shop. Pie is not typical Ecuadorian food but the señora who runs this place makes some of the best pie we’ve ever had.

Shopping in Otavalo. (Excuse the picture quality... grumpy camera).

Near Otavalo, we hiked high above Laguna Mojando with Evan and Katie.
Photo: Katie Stewart

Summiting the extinct volcano Fuya-Fuya
at 4,263 meters (13,855 feet).
Photo: Katie Stewart

The heroes revel in their triumph.
Photo: Katie Stewart

¯ The trash truck in Otavalo plays a tune like an ice cream truck in the US. I don’t remember the name of the tune but you would recognize it and expect to see kids surrounding a truck buying ice cream instead of men collecting trash.
¯ Hiking on the ridge around Laguna de Cuicocha with the wind whistling up and over our heads before plummeting down to make wild patterns on the laguna below.
Not just in Otavalo but, unfortunately, everywhere: televisions. Even when we are the only ones in a restaurant the TV is often blasting. And why does a restaurant with only 4 tables need a TV as big as an entire wall?

Mindo has become the birding capital of Ecuador. It's a tiny one street town in the cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes. Its tourist industry is just starting and accommodations are pretty basic. It’s in a beautiful valley with several small rivers. During one morning walk with our guide, Marcelo, we saw all of these:

Blackcheek Woodpecker
Booted Racket-Tailed Hummingbird
Crested Guan
Crimson Rump Toucan
Golden Headed Quetzal
Guayaquil Woodpecker
Lemon Rump Tanager
Masked Trogon
Red Billed Parrot
Roadside Hawk
Rufous Mot Mot

It was really fun. Then we went ziplining upside-down over a 200 foot deep valley. That was more fun. (And, again, Alene thanks my mom for her birthday present).

¯ Birdsong! Birdsong! Birdsong!

U S of A
From Mindo we returned to Migration in Bahía de Caráquez and prepared for our trip to the U.S. It was great to see friends and family back in California. And nice that the timing allowed me to be with my family for the High Holidays.

¯ Cantor Finley chanting Aveenu Malkenu at Rosh Hashanah services.
¯ Attending a “Conductor’s Circle” recital and lecture by Jeffrey Swann with my Mom who was invited because she’s a big supporter of the Long Beach Symphony.

Alene went to Ohio and I followed several weeks later to meet her family. First her brother and sister-in-law and niece in Cleveland, then we drove south with her parents who were gracious hosts, showing me the Amish Country of Ohio as well as their hometown of Glendale, and nearby Cincinnati.

For my birthday Alene took me on a three-day trip to Kentucky to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. Very, very fun. Dark, too.

¯ A great concert by the Cincinnati Symphony.
¯ Our Mammoth Cave National Parks guide – a great, great grandson of a slave who gave tours in the 1800’s – singing Amazing Grace in the wonderful acoustics of the cave.

At home I went to work for a couple of weeks – consulting for the entertainment law firm I once worked for. I have a really good time working there and it’s great to see everyone at the firm.

Having recently watched An Inconvenient Truth, I was disgusted by the continuing culture of waste in the United States. We just refuse to change. The only big improvement evident in Los Angeles was that there were more Prius hybrids on the road than Hummers (whose owners should be pulled from the driver’s seat and publicly flogged). Our culture is steeped in waste. Most distressing is the fact that so many people I met who are aware of the environmental problems we face, and completely against the Bush administration which has done so much to ignore the problem – and make it worse – don’t even do the minimum of what they can do. It’s not hard to turn lights off in a room that isn’t being used. Or shut the refrigerator door immediately after taking something out. Or run the faucet at half- instead of full-stream. We really don’t need to drink water from plastic bottles every day. Why not use reusable drinking bottles? On the boat, it’s easy for us to be energy efficient and not create a lot of trash; we have to. We must make all of our own power and sometimes we have to carry our trash with us for a month before we can dispose of it. But unless everyone sacrifices something, nothing will ever change. And seriously, turning off the lights or computer or TV is no great sacrifice.

While in California, besides ranting, I had lots of fun. I danced with Wild Wood Morris at a Pirate Faire in Ojai.

Me and my friend Liam, er... I mean, Captain Hook.
Photo: Maureen Durkin

Alene returned from Ohio in time for the Games Party for Children's Books Writers and Illustrators. which my friend April and I host every year.

My good friends -- and second family -- the Jensen clan, threw me a birthday party. Since I had recently been ranting at Steve in the same tone as you’ll find in the previous section, they went all out with their decorations.

Clockwise from top left:
Look carefully at the picture of Avalon.
Some of the magazines scattered around, plus a refrigerator decorated with such thoughtfulness.
Presents! Gift cards from Wal-Mart and Starbucks!
Steve and I pose under the altar.

¯ The Jensen clan singing the Swedish Birthday song for me. And kinda on key, too.
¯ Singing songs around April's fire pit at the Games Party
¯ At the Pirate Faire, playing concertina with Wild Wood's great fiddler, Dave.

We spent the last few weeks of our 2-month trip going through the list of everything we needed to take back to the boat. Good ‘ol Plover, our Porta-Bote, had developed a crack and a leak. We contacted the manufacturer and ended up buying a new dinghy at a discounted price. Surely, we thought, it makes sense to do this now while we are still in the Americas. It will be much harder and more expensive later when we are across the Pacific. That’s logical, isn’t it?

With the help of a friend of my mom’s we found a shipping company that would send our new dinghy to Ecuador for a very reasonable price. We returned to Migration expecting to receive the boat within a week and then we would head to Peru for some more travel.

Five weeks later we were still onboard Migration. The dinghy was in the LAN Cargo terminal in Miami and we were no closer to getting it into Ecuador. It is a long and boring story. The end result, after scores of phone calls, emails, and visits to government offices, being that it would cost us over $1,000 in customs taxes and fees to receive our dinghy for which we paid $900. That was crazy. We’d missed our time for traveling in Peru so we did what all good cruisers do: we changed our plans. It’s easy to get things shipped to Panama everyone told us. So what if it’s 600 miles in the wrong direction? Well, we didn’t get to see the Perlas Islands on the way south. So, what the hell, let’s go.

¯ It seems that every freight forwarding company in Ecuador has the same music on their phone system when you’re on hold: a little tinny electronic version of Joplin’s The Entertainer.
¯ Attending a Mass at the Sathya Sai school down the road from Saiananda where everyone sang Simon and Garfunkels’ The Sounds of Silence in Spanish with clearly different (religious) lyrics. There was also an interesting Spanish version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

We had an awesome 4-day passage from Ecuador to Panama. The wind and waves were aft of the beam, we sailed nearly all the way, and the dreaded north winds which can make the last 150 miles quite miserable, never developed.

We had a lot of hitchhikers on our passage.

We spent Christmas anchored at Isla Espirtu Santo with friends on s/v Qayak and s/v Cop Out. A really nice couple of days. The waffle breakfasts, movie nights, potluck dinners and time with friends helped us ignore the frequent rain storms.

Espiritu Santo anchorage.

Cute girl on Christmas morning.

Big tides! On the 28th, we helped careen Cop Out
(the catamaran) to fix the rudder.

¯ Singing Oseh Shalom in Dad’s memory, it being one year since he passed away on the 25th.
¯ You’re a Foul One, Mr. Grinch. Watching The Grinch who Stole Christmas on our big screen on Christmas Eve. 18 of us aboard the catamaran Cop out.
¯ Caroling, of course!

The sounds of our world will change drastically as the high traffic of Panama City replaces the peacefulness of this anchorage. We are heading there now where, we hope, to import our Porta-Bote with the minimum of fees and fuss. We’ll continue preparing Migration for the long passages in our future: 1,000 miles to the Galapagos, then 2,000 miles to Easter Island. After that, our ears will have to become accustomed to the sounds of new languages as we leave Spanish in our wake; from Easter Island we head to French Polynesia.

We hope that you have been surrounded these holidays by the sounds that feed your soul. Music, song, laughter. Mostly, friends and family telling stories and sharing what is important in, and to, their hearts.

I hope the sounds of light switches clicking off and refrigerator doors closing melds with the beautiful sound that is the absence of television chatter. I hope we all hear one sound of change: a light switch clicking on inside us all, allowing us to see that caring for our planet and each other, an end to war, and respect and understanding are required from each of us and our governments.

We hope the New Year enfolds you in its arms, inspires you with its possibilities, surrounds you with good fortune.

¯ And may the sounds that speak peace be always at your ear and upon your lips. ¯

They are on ours as we wish you a very Happy and Peace-filled 2008.

Be good.


Please note: My mother has notified Alene that she is no longer allowed to use birthday money for dangerous activities.

Where we've been since July 2007

635  nautical miles traveled this period.
8,974 nautical miles since leaving Long Beach in June 2005.

Inland travel in Ecuador -- approximately 1,000 miles by bus and train.



This site was last updated 11/22/17