Monday, November 22, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 10

Leaving Muerte Pungo

It’s crazy how our group has grown throughout our time together. There are actions that have just become innate, such as setting up our expedition tents and taking full responsibility of our chores; ranging from digging poop holes to keeping our eyes peeled in search of scarce firewood.

            This is officially the final countdown, with no more than 3 weeks left.  We have to really step back and lovingly appreciate each other and cherish the ups and downs of each day.

Now for our mountain adventures:

            Before reaching the base of Antisana volcano, we trekked 10 hours a day for three days from Palugo. The first night, we slept in the Paramo.  The following night, we slept next to Laguna Muertepungo (Place of Death Lake).  Then, after a 13 hour day, ascending and descending the many hills of the Andes cordillera, and meeting a white-tailed doe, we reached the foot of the beautiful Antisana.

Our base camp at the foot of Antisana
            The next day Davicho, a friend of Michael and Marcela, welcomed us. He is an experienced rock climber and is on his way to becoming a licensed mountaineering guide. He brings much energy, laughter, and wisdom to the group. He saved Marcela from being the singleton of the pack in terms of nationalities - we now have two spirited Columbians. Davicho brought with him gear, clothing, and a resupply of food. Our food and kitchen managers, Shiram and Julia, organized all the food for the next few days, while our gear manager, Connor, suited us all with helmets, harnesses, carabiners, ice axes, and crampons. The next day, we would head up, another vertical hour and a half, to glacier school.

            We said our goodbyes to the Andean starlight hummingbirds, llamas, wild horses, and Andean
A snowy day in the Paramo
wolves, and headed out. We knew our base camp would become their new abode. On the glacier, Michael and Davicho taught us so much. First, we started getting comfortable walking on the snow with our crampons. We then learned how to wield our ice axes and use them as sensors, testing the strength of the layered snow, and how to properly self-arrest (digging the blade into the ice in case you or your rope team fell into a crevasse). We then learned more about the layers of snow and how to read and test for avalanches. Next, we put our recently attained knowledge to the test. We roped up in fours and trekked, crossed crevasses, and practiced self-arresting. We could not spend too much time on the glacier because there was more than 7 feet of snow.

Trek from Palugo to Antisana
            Right now, we are preparing for our 3-day group solo. We will trek around lakes and through hills and finally reach Cotopaxi, our last hurrah.

We cannot wait to fill you in on the remaining week of the expedition filled with snowball fights, wildlife, and sharing time with each other.

If you have to take a long journey, you just carry very little. If you want to climb to a great height you must travel light.

Hasta Luego! The NHESP 2010 Semester!

Connor, Marcela, Carina, Tupac and Hannah

Pedro trekking in the Paramo
Packing up

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 9

Our rock climbing day near Palugo

There have been tranquil vibes all throughout this week. Every one of us is finding the right space within the group. What’s so amazing is that when there is disagreement, of some sort, harsh feelings don’t seem to linger; what a relief.
Spanish lesson with Marcela
We began the week with an opportunity to see a play that Marcela wrote, produced, and starred in. We took a bus into Quito along with friends from Palugo Farm. The play was called Sed and it starred Marcela, a friend, and the talented musician Nandino, Isolina and Samuel’s son from Shiwacocha. The play was in Spanish and was about the tangible qualities and the spiritual essence of water. It definitely made your mind work, and it was quite unique and inspiring.
Economy lesson with Gino at the Dammer house
            Throughout the week we’ve been working on the many projects that we have dedicated ourselves to. The two main projects of the week 
have been felting and ceramics. Marcea taught us about felting and gifted us with her knowledge and easy-going energy. Some of us are making hats, gloves, pouches, and slippers out of sheared wool from alpacas, llamas, and sheep. Next, we crafted red clay pieces with Adela. She taught us various techniques and how to really work with the clay. Sometime before we leave on our next expedition, we will experiment with firing our mugs, bowls, plates, and figurines in a hay pit. The day we worked with clay, we were lucky to have Shiram’s family come for dinner. They made a traditional meal in honor of the Day of the Dead.  The dinner included bread shaped like children, rice with mushrooms, and a very popular drink called Colada Morada, made out of sweet fruits and purple corn. Shiram’s mother gave a brief talk on the history and importance of the holiday.
            We spent a day dedicated to working on semester pages and finishing up various projects. Armin, our semester book manager, assigned everyone a page, ranging from: the process of making Oyacachi bowls and pilches, herbology, leatherworking, ecology, etc.  After the pages were thoroughly completed, some people dried herbs for cooking oils and medicinal uses, some made bamboo flutes, and some collected firewood. Marcela taught a Spanish class.
            Then the day arrived when we would start our solos. We woke to an early start and began chores. Then we had breakfast and talked about the philosophy of what a solo is. The process was to find a secluded spot on the upper fields of the farm to go to with a liter of water, clothes, and a sleeping pad, and to just think and enjoy being. The solo was for three days and two nights. You had to remain in the circle you had made and feed yourself through your thoughts. It was an interesting and difficult time with some moments of enlightenment; the days were long and warm, and the nights were longer and cold. After coming back from solo, we all seemed to be in a peaceful space. We shared some of our stories; some people said they sighted foxes, humming birds, and lizards, for example.  Then, we headed out to the hot springs in Papallacta to finish the cleansing process. There we swam in the hot pools, had lunch, and simply relaxed and looked at the towering mountains surrounding the springs.
Tatoo, waiting for work
            The next day, Carina and Nicole took us to Tatoo Adventure Sports where we met Mauri and his  spouse Gaby, friends of the three Dammer brothers. Tatoo is a local outdoor company based in Ecuador.  It’s been around for about fifteen years and was started by Mauri and his wife. Tatoo began when Mauri starting to do screen printing in his room. Within a year, word got around, and now Tatoo is a successful local and sustainable outdoor company that makes mountaineering gear and wear. Its branches are solely in South America. We met Tatoo’s workers, who helped us make quick-dry trekking pants for Cotopaxi. The day was amazing, and showed us all how something is built from the ground up. “You can’t grow (a business) from a desk -- you have to be in the frontline.” –Mauri.  
After we said goodbye to Mauri, Gaby, and the workers, Carina and Nicole treated us to ice cream in the idyllic city of Cumbaya. The ice cream parlor had more flavors then you can imagine. Something interesting happened while we were devouring our ice cream. Often in the U.S., you see homeless or begging grownups, but when we were eating two little girls, no older then ten years old, walked around to each one of us and begged us to buy candy. They pleaded and pleaded and pretended to sob. This really took us aback.  From then on, everything was dead silent and a sadder, but necessarily more sober, tone permeated the group. That night, as if we didn’t have enough sweets, Marcela baked us a chocolate cake to simply celebrate being alive.
Spider on the wall
            The next day we had breakfast without Carina, Marcela, and Michael. The cooks made a delicious breakfast of tiestos (flat bread) with jam and moracho, a corn-like oatmeal dish. After breakfast, we met up with the teachers and Thomas, and headed down to the bodega to prepare for a day of climbing. There we gathered ropes, harnesses, helmets, and shoes, and took off to a local rock face about ten minutes away from the farm. There, we set up four routes on the basalt and climbed all day. We learned techniques from the experienced brothers, and all belayed each other up and down the face. The grade of the routes ranged from 5.6 to 5.10 A. After climbing and fueling up on snacks, we decided to walk over to the Jose’s Nursery.  Jose is a good friend of the farm. There we learned about various trees and their uses. We each bought two trees to plant in our solo spots. We also caught trout with a rod and doe, and learned how to properly gut a fish.
Where is the next foothold?
            It sounds like a lot of activities for a week, but I assure you we did them all. These remaining days we will do our best to keep in good health and prepare for our two-week expedition. Let’s see what the rest of our time has in store. Hasta Luego!

Happy Birthday Sis- Connor

Spanish with Julia
Tragar-to devour
Holer-to smell
Ensenar-to teach
Shiram, cleaning up after milking

Quechau with Tupack


Monday, November 1, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 8

Preparing our Cataraft for the Jatun Yaku

A Poem by Julia

Every night my feet are reminded,
Reminded of the earth and how
Close we have been to it.
The sky over this river is a grey
Pad of simplicity: moon full and
Its rays coat the perfectly rounded
Stones like fresh dew.
The water’s rapids sound
Distant but we play, we enjoy,
And we learn here.

We’ve arrived back at Palugo Farm from our month long expedition experiencing the flows of Ecuador’s culture and diverse topography. Through our various trips into remote communities and lively cities, we got to see and feel the true Ecuador. Our trips were richer and more genuine than any voyage a tourist could take. So for this, our group would like to say a resounding thank you to the Dammers, to Kroka, and to the nourishing parents, siblings, friends, family, and schools that made this possible.

Checking out the maps with Thomas
Going downriver

From our luxurious stay in Tena, where we saw monkeys and parrots, ate from lime trees, played street soccer, caught snakes and lizards, played billiards, and ate juicy fruits, we said goodbye to our more than comfortable stay and drove to the river. Catarafting down the Jatun Yaku was the second chapter of our expedition. We got to our campsite and met up with Thomas and the Dammer brothers’ friend, Anjo, a fellow guide and experienced kayaker. We prepared the cataraft, which Thomas had engineered, and practiced paddling and swimming white water rapids. We woke up the next day and rafted down through class three and four rapids to our next camp on a beach. Michael and Anjo scouted out the nearby areas and found a local charka (a nomadic Ecuadorian farm) where they uprooted yucca (a common Ecuadorian crop, kind of like potatoes) and chopped a head of green plaintain with machetes. We ate more than we should have (boiled yucca, fried yucca chips, plaintain chips, and guava, a sweet fruit) and called it a night.  The next day would be a layover to catch up on rest and explore. The next day, Anjo gave kayaking lessons. Hannah, Dylan, and Armin successfully did a combat roll, a maneuver used in kayaking when one capsizes. Next, the whole group ferried across the strong currents to a vine hanging from the trees.   There we all climbed and saw how far we could swing, then released and fell into the soothing river. Then we ventured into a canyon and trekked around. Nicole taught a class on biodiversity and we learned about walking trees and sleeping plants. This eco-region is home to a diverse web of species from Conga ants that can put you in bed for a day, to the most colorful butterflies. We finished off the day with hacky-sack, fishing, and preparing for the next day on the river.
Our home for the night
With an early start, we paddled the lower section of the river. Carina, Pedro, Armin, Dylan, and I kayaked the flat-water section and a few lower class rapids with Anjo and Thomas. We stopped in several places to climb rocks, vines, and trees, and to cliff-jump into the water. The following day, we made it to Puerto Misahualli where we said our goodbyes to Thomas, Anjo, and Nicole, and welcomed Marcea into our crew. There we took hired pickup trucks to Capirona where we hiked with fifty-pound bags and the disassembled cataraft. We hiked for about 3 ½ hours to a remote community called 
Shiwacocha; there Isolina and Samuel greeted us. We rested the remainder of the afternoon and had scrumptious fish soup for dinner. The next day, we worked in the charkas, did various other chores, and began our next project of making bowls and cups out of pilches, a native fruit. We harvested the pilches and began to carve and engrave. Then we went into the bush to cut palms to fix Samuel’s roof. We got our faces painted with Huito’s friends and family with paint used for festivities and war. Later on, we ferried the river and went to Isolina and Samuel’s 
main charka to harvest papaya, plaintain, bamboo shoots, cocoa (chocolate), and bananas. For dinner we had fish and chichi, a drink only made by women.  They chew the yucca plant, spit out into a fermented paste, add boiled water, and serve. The next day, Hannah and Dylan woke up with Isolina and Samuel at four in the morning and began the day by drinking wayusa and cinnamon tea for a couple hours in complete silence. When the rest of us woke up, we had breakfast and went on a hike to learn about medicinal trees, harvest oily nuts, and explore waterfalls with bats. The next morning, we woke at four and said our goodbyes to Isolina, Samuel, and the rest of the friends and family. After catarafting for six hours, we canoed to Puerto Misahualli. From Puerto Misahualli, we took an hour long ride to Tena, and then a 6 hour bus ride into Pifo, where we met up with Francisco, who drove us home. These next two weeks will be filled with crafts, cooking, and preparing for our next expedition to Antisana for glacier school and mountaineering to prepare for Cotopaxi. It is key to take advantage of every second because unfortunately we only have about five weeks more in Ecuador.

Jungle life
Words with Tupac in Quechua

Amaru- snake
Atuk- wolf
Ruku- finger
Inti- sun
Nuka shuti mican-my name is…

Dylan’s Ají Recipe

Trekking to Schiwakotcha
-       7 Ají (seeds and all)
-       ½ Orange for juice
-       1 Lime for juice
-       1 Carrot
-       1 Onion
-       2 Cloves of garlic
-       Pinch of achiote
-       1 Tbsp salt
-       1 Tbsp paprika
-       ¼ cup Ají powder
-       2 Tbsp vegetable oil
-       Pinch of ginger powder
-       1 tomato
-       1 cup of water

1.     Chop up all the vegetables and put into a bowl
2.     Add all the dry spices and mix thoroughly with all of the vegetables
3.     Add orange and lime juice and mix again
4.     Mix in oil and water and mix thoroughly
5.     Let sit for around 30 minutes in a cold region
6.     Mush the entire mixture to get the vegetable juices to go into the water and oil
7.     Let sit for another 5 minutes
8.     Enjoy!
Options to change:
1.     more Ají=spicier
2.     instead of mushing the mixture you could put into a blender

            Happy Halloween!