Saturday, August 25, 2012

Three bags, two boys, one daddy....oh, and a goat.

After only three days back in Vilcabamba we are proud goat-owners....but that story is for another blog. This one is a brief recount of our recalibration and arrival; a recap of the journey from France to Ecuador.

As Kasem would say, and said at every leg of the journey since mid-July ".....the three travellers continue their journey". We had rather short and rushed weekend in St. Pryve with visits from Cecile's cousins and plenty of last minute things, packing, etc that followed a relaxed week on the coast of Portugal just north of of Lisbon. Ericeira, on the beach and riding bikes, eating sea-food (I had mussels 3 times in 4 days) and generally just hanging about.
Ericeira, Portugal...this beach is right in town!
Monday morning, August 20th dawned and we bid au revoir to Mami and Papi Fradot, headed to Orly airport in a taxi shuttle, the boys and I to board a flight to Madrid and on to Guayaquil, Cecile continuing to CDG and to Beirut later in the day. An emotionally charged moment that had been coming for a while, the excitement of travel and anticipation of Ecuador seemed to eclipse the idea of leaving Maman behind but this is the third summer with a similar configuration so perhaps we are used to it...probably not. Time will tell with the always does.

Iberia didn't have seat-back screens on the 2hr flight to Madrid, so the boys reverted to their portable screens; iPad, Gameboy or DS.....they have choices such is the modern age of transcontinental travel with kids these days....admittedly I too succumbed to sudoko on my iPhone, like father like sons. To our credit we all had a read of books as fact I finished mine which is an odd way to start a trip. We had two hrs in Madrid Airport enjoying the thrall of summer travellers tanned and tarted up for their trips to or from Mallorca, Les Canaries and other fun in the sun destinations...until we changed terminals and hit a more southern latino flavour, destinations for Bogota, Caracas, Buenos Aires and Guayaquil of course.  It makes the boys so happy to play their (age appropriate which among its meanings also means 'no blood') games that its hard not to cave in when Zaki sends Kasem and his doe-eyed diplomacy, which is too hard to resist, to negotiate for screen time.   On the 11hr flight to Guayquil both pissed about on the seat-back screens before caving in to exhaustion in hour 5 then to sleep for 4hrs so it wasn't too bad.....resistance is futile, I just let them go at, series, movies....after 2 movies (and 2 bottles of wine) I also slept.

Zaki woke in a grump upon arriving at the terminal....he refused to wake up before that, to eat or pee or anything. Kasem was a star, full of humour and infectious excitement for the couple of hours before landing....poof...11hour flight over. We got through Immigration (using our European flavour of passports) with 90day entry visas and sailed through Customs where curiosity normally gains us special attention...three bags, two boys, one daddy....on this trip we have 2 lap-tops, 2 iPads, an i Phone and then games has changed since the days when the old SLR camera was the only bit of tech in your back-pack (age-alert).

Changing tack completely we got picked up by a hotel and spent the night in past adventures to Ecuador, including in 2010 when the boys were 3 and 5 years old, after 21hrs of travel we arrived at 6am, caught a flight at 9am to Cuenca and then a 4hr taxi to Vilcabamba arriving in time for a late lunch. This year, arriving at 9pm we were picked up at 9am by a Vilcabamba taxi-truck (which turned out to be a Hyundai truck engine on a van body) and its most excellent driver Jaime, and 8.5 hrs later arrived in Vilcabamba. The drive was spectacular. A new highway traverses the lower Andes to the east and gains heights of 4100m, then remaining between 2500 and 3500m up and over passes to Cuenca. We had a very pleasant cruise stopping in Cuenca to buy a used mountain bike for me and a chicken lunch and then the amazing drive through Ona and Saraguro to provincia Loja arriving at 5:30pm having left at 9am. The 8.5hrs drive was fine for the boys, I mean, did I mention they are stellar travellers? They had the whole back of the van to cruise around, the ubiquitous gadgets, easy naps and amazing views. In 2001 I had gone from Guayaquil to Vilcabamba on the old southern route through Machala by night bus that took 16hrs to Loja and 1 to Vilca.

Casa Roja, Vilcabamba.....all the info you need for a precision bombing...or just to come and visit.

Greeting us were our old friend Vicente, and friends (and tenants) Rebecca and James and Chaupi-Tu-ta their 1yr old black labrador now united, the boys finding a new best friend. First time I have had such a greeting in many trips up to the house. I remember once arriving to find the house locked and the tenant at the time, not home. This wasn't before mobile phones but mine wasn't picking up a signal despite the visible presence of 5 towers (now there are 7). I fell asleep in the hammock on the front terrace until she turned up.

Not this time, Rebecca and James had just carried their last box into the casita they had been building for the 3 months previous. They will live there while we live in the casa roja. A stalwart and gallant effort resulting in a quite lovely little two room cottage-like place but with a rather nice bathroom. The terrace is pretty cool sitting about 2.5m off the ground and with a yoga extension. It has been an intense slog for James and Rebecca, getting the casita finished, the past month quite a trial as I was off-line for most of that time and time compressing the number of things that needed to get done. And so, minus one terrace door, they had moved in just as we appeared at the garden path. It was very nice to arrive in time to see the casita in the setting sunlight, glowing the new 'caterpillar' yellow that fits the monastic motif....good choice James! The two house complement each other nicely and they are well-congratulated for a hard job well done.

So we are now installed. Did a big shopping today in Loja and also bought some carpet to lay upstairs in the loft/schoolroom/yoga therapy practice and studio, plywood to make small furniture including desks for the boys, goat food, housewares for the casita and groceries. Two workers have been fixing up a few things.... including re-planting/replacing the boys club/playhouse, re-building a chicken/goat pen and fixing up the fenced area. The boys bikes are running, mine is cranking....lucky to find a light-frame, good gear bike my size. The kids love the biking, we get around town so much faster and with so much less effort.....has to be said I will be glad when the helmets arrive.  We have visited the site of the coming Waterwoman festival next weekend which will be a rather excellent time....I'll be volunteering and the kids in the Children's area going wild (no doubt). Tomorrow its yoga and generally just hanging about visiting with people, Sunday innit?

Slowly weaning them off the gadgets they love so much.

Kasem and the biggest cactus of the year award winner

Casa Roja and Casita Amarillo

Casita Amraillo
Casa Roja...the big house

Small boy, big gate

Muchacho alert
........and a goat.
Skype is keeping everyone connected. The time difference makes things a bit tricky. Thus far I have stayed home all evenings.....will need to get out one of these nights but have been very tired at the end of long days, waking early and trying not to sleep too early. The boys are adjusting nicely, enjoying having a dog, freedom to roam. And did I mention the goat?


  1. so fun to read!! It makes me want to have their childhood! what a truly awesome experience they are having. keep the stories coming. It helps my wanderlust to see other people's adventures! well done you guys.

  2. it is a marvellous adventure, miss you all!