01/23/2016, Cuenca, Ecuador
Lost City of the Inca Vilcabamba
After being here in Cuenca, Ecuador for three weeks we felt the need to get out of town and see a little of the country. We had heard of a town only and hour or so away called Loja, so decided we would jump on the bus ($7) and check it out. We were not sure how far it was and reports were sketchy as to how long. As it turns out about 90miles and four hours up and down and around and around, through winding valleys and over passes (we are in the middle of the Andes). It was definitely a good thing we had bought Leiann some anti nausea meds, I was temped to take one myself and could not read for the onset of nausea. We stayed the night in Loja and just happened to be there for the start of Carnival. There was a small parade and boys chasing girls in the streets to throw water balloons, eggs and flour at them. Apparently is is OK to be really bad during Carnival and then you pay for it during Lent. We walked the streets and found the squares and churches, but compared with the history, churches and colonial past of Cuenca, Loja was a distant running up at best. We met a new friend Jessica on the bus to Loja and then we caught up with each other again in one of the squares. Jessica was a world traveler and wrote about spiritual healing/living and all the places she had been. She was definitely a different being than you would normally meet and we enjoyed her spirit and we spent the evening together and vowed to meet up again somewhere down the trail. We jumped on another bus going to another place we had heard about, Vilcabamba. It was supposed to be a little town way up in the mountains where people live to 120 years old and was the last refuge of the Inca trying to evade the Spanish. Our bus as usual was a deal at $1.30 each! Along the way the bus broke down so we were hanging out with about 30 other passengers none of which spoke a lick of English and our Spanish is progressing painfully slow. The place the bus broke down could not have been better we had a view of farms on the hillside going straight up to the peaks of the Andes. The little houses built on the hillside were far apart and had no roads going up to them. Anything needed was packed by human or horse up the hills. The pastures were vibrant green and the home of happy and well exercised cattle. I spoke to an Ecuadorian standing next to that it looked like a very hard way to live with much work, he looked at me and said "total tranquillo". I had to admit it did look like a very simple life, probably no WiFi. We got into Vilcabamba just before dark and found to our delight a Chinese place with fantastic and cheap food ($5 for chicken and vegetables). We finally found our hostel/old run down hotel after an hour of walking and asking. It turns out there were two with nearly the same name, the first of which was way up a hill. Our room was OK but had a slight sent of sewer wafting up from the shower drain, we kept the bathroom door shut all night. The next morning I could hardly walk as the bed was to soft for my old back. The place was probably the swingingest joint in town thirty years ago but now had become run down. With a little work and million dollars it could be one again, as the courtyards were filled with plants and trees that had taken years to grow. The next morning we headed out hostel hunting and found a nice little place, with a hot water shower (run down place cold shower) but later it had a rooster farm across the fence. We found earplugs at the pharmacy, it's all good. So we ended up spending two days in this very little town, only one Catholic church. The town square was very nicely treed with benches to sit on and watch the world go by. Around the square were many little stores, restaurants, coffee houses and places selling healing potions of one kind or another (Vilcabamba has become a healing mecca for hippy healers, taking advantage of the reputation of the residents tendency to have long lives). Leiann tried an elixir that was called "get over it", lemon juice, thieves, a red sauce that was supposed to kill and heal anything you might have, peppermint and well were not sure what else, but she felt zippy afterward. While we were there the first day of Carnival had started and a little tiny carnival was just setting up, we rode the snail train all over town with the driver zigzagging on both sides of the road with the music blaring loudly and boys threatening to throw water balloons at us. The next morning we met Ruththira, who had started her own coffee house "The Midas Touch" a few years ago. The building was an old adobe building (as were many in town), it looked ancient. She had done a wonderful job of creating a warm, artistic atmosphere. We chatted for an hour while we enjoyed our espressos. She told us how she came to be here, falling in love with an Chilean poet living in town and now expecting. We were sad to leave but knew we would be back and may stay for awhile next time. Back at our little casa we enjoyed live jazz last night hoping to meet back up with our new friend Jessica, but her mother had an old injury flare up and they could not make it. Having our morning coffee we are now planning our next adventure taking a friend out to the Galapagos Islands.
A little history of the "Lost City of Vilcambamba.
"The Inca brought together all those of the royal blood he could find, men and women alike, and retired to the wild forest of the Antis to a place called Villcapampa where he lived in exile and solitude as one can imagine a dispossessed and disinherited prince would live, until one day he was slain by a Spaniard whom he had sheltered and protected from enemies who had sought his death."[
The location of Vilcabamba was forgotten.
The first outsiders in modern times to rediscover the remote forest site that has since come to be identified with Old Vilcabamba (Vilcabamba la Vieja) were three Cuzqueños: Manuel Ugarte, Manuel López Torres, and Juan Cancio Saavedra, in 1892. In 1911, Hiram Bingham with his book Lost City of the Incas brought to public attention the site of the ruins of the city at the remote forest site then called Espíritu Pampa, 130 kilometres (81 mi) west of Cuzco. Bingham, however, did not realize its significance and believed that Machu Picchu was the fabled "Vilcabamba", lost city and last refuge of the Incas.
In the 1960s, the explorations and discoveries of Antonio Santander Casselli and Gene Savoy finally associated the Espíritu Pampa site with the legendary Vilcabamba. Their 1970 book Antisuyo brought the site to even wider attention. Researcher and author John Hemming provided additional substantive confirmation as to Espíritu Pampa's significance in his 1970 The Conquest of the Incas.
In 1976, Professor Edmundo Guillén and Polish explorers Tony Halik and Elżbieta Dzikowska continued to explore the long-known ruins. However, before the expedition, Guillen visited a museum in Seville where he discovered letters from Spaniards, in which they described the progress of the invasion and what they found in Vilcabamba. Comparison between the letters' contents and the ruins provided additional proof of the location of Vilcabamba.
In 1981, the party of American explorer Gregory Deyermenjian reached and photographed parts of the site, soon thereafter generating a popular article concerning the site and its history.
Later extensive archeological work by Vincent Lee, and especially his exhaustive study, his 2000 book Forgotten Vilcabamba, gave further and even more precise confirmation that has made Espíritu Pampa the definitively accepted site of the historical Vilcabamba.
On 16 June 2006, a museum in Cuzco[which?] unveiled a plaque that commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of the 1976 Vilcabamba findings.
Stay tuned for more adventures.
It's been a couple weeks since we updated the blog. Our last couple of weeks in Medellin were filled with fun with our roomies. We had a great Christmas dinner with our friends from around the world, Gina from the Leavenworth, WA. (yep believe it or not) Eilidh and Sandy from Scotland, Magnus from Denmark and Travis from Texas as well as our new friend from Seattle, Casey. Some of us went paragliding again on Christmas Day and the day after we took a trip up to Guatape (a beautiful little town up in mountains, where we zip lined and walked up 740 steps to the top of a huge rock. We were again sorry to have to say goodbye but that's the way it goes when traveling. Hopefully we will see each other again down the trail and we can stay in touch on the computer. We flew out of Colombia on New Years Eve. At the airport we got there nice and early so as to avert any problems. We went to check in with our airline and they said we could not board unless we had a return ticket out of Ecuador! We had heard of some people having this problem but it seems to be an issue with some airlines and not with others. The agent told us we could buy a bus ticket from Ecuador to just over the border of Peru. After two hours of trying it seems you cannot buy a bus ticket online that crosses the border, it has to be bought in Ecuador. Our old roommate said that he avoided the problem by using a website that prints out a fake ticket. I looked for half an hour and finally found the site, not knowing if this would work or not. We looked up a real flight for three months in the future and filled in all the blanks on the website form, hit print and voila we had a ticket. Now we were not sure if they would take it. Leiann showed the ticket on her I-pad to the agent who didn't look twice and we were on the plane, yay! We cleared customs in Ecuador without issue and a taxi took us to our room, no issues except that across form our hotel the music (at 11:45) was blasting but hey it is Latin America and it's New Years Eve (Happy New Year!). During our stay at our Hotel (which is a little more like a hostel with private rooms, we met Jake. We talked to Jake at breakfast and found out that he was a former minister and was bringing his family to live in Ecuador. He had come down to check things out first and find a place for them to stay if all looked well for them. We had already rented a place with an extra bedroom so we invited Jake to stay with us as we believed that that's what God would have us do. It has worked out great so far and we enjoy our discussion about spiritual living, exploring new places and what God has in store for us.
We have now been in Cuenca for four days and so far we love it. We have rented a nice apartment with two bedrooms, two bath, 1800sq ft, place with a security gate for $380 a month including utilities (we pay for the internet, $35 a month). We have been running around getting our bearings, finding out where the grocery stores are, bus lines, taxi's, strolling the town, and finding a place to watch the Seahawks! There are 16 cathedrals in town not counting the small churches. The old town is very cool with lots of history) (oldest church was started in 1557). There are several town squares and parks. There are four rivers running along and through the town. Cuenca sits slightly over 8,000 feet so even though it sits at the equator it is cool (45 low max at night to 80 high max during the day)We will most likely stay in Ecuador for six months with a break to go down to Peru for a month, so seven months total and we have to leave the country or get our citizenship. We are only allowed to stay in Ecuador six months max in any 365 days. Stay tuned for more adventure as we head out to the Galapagos islands, explore Inca villages, visit the Amazon and take a trip to Machu Picchu.
12/14/2015, Medellin, colombia
More of our Colombia adventure
It is now Dec 14th we have been in Colombia for a month and a half, time flies. We have had roommates come and go at our "Flat" including our paranoid schizophrenic. We have volunteered at the Angels of Medellin foundation and with the help of many of our friends, family and followers were able to raise $500 to make this Christmas a happy one for these poor children. Volunteering is always a highlight of our travels and we encourage all to give it shot as you will feel better about you! I (Dave) was able go para-gliding again, which is always amazing. However this was a first for landing at the same place we took off. Our take off was at 8,000 feet we then spiraled up to 10,000, so I would have lots of altitude before taking control. I was able to "drive" for twenty minutes which was also a first and was really KOOL. I talked my friend Dennis into trying para-gliding which he agreed to after telling me he was afraid of heights! He valiantly jumped off the cliff and said he had a good time until they had to spiral up which gave him motion sickness. I told him at least now he had bragging rights. We had a great time with our friends from Panama, Dennis and Rona. Strange as it seems we have now seen four people we've meet on our previous travels (Quatemala, Honduras and Panama), here in Medellin, unplanned. We have become adapt at using Medellins subway and cable gondola system, which is a very progressive plan that allows the poor in the north to make it to work in prosperous south. We attended the parade for the Dia de la Vialetas (Day of the little candles), which celebrates the Immaculate Conception. The parade was very strange, it seemed more along the lines of Mari Gras and had many images of death, monsters and no Christmas stuff. We asked about this, we were told that the theme is Myths and Legends, that explained a lot. Also we checked out the famous Christmas lights of Medellin, 31 million lights and none with a traditional Christmas theme? There was a Santa though. The light s were pretty amazing and we enjoyed the festive crowd. At one point there was a parading circus troupe moving through the crowd doing acts, interesting stuff. We went to the famous Botoro exhibits of fat statues and painting? The museum was great with lots of art portraying the period of violelencia (period of violence) and many other great Colombian art and history. yesterday we spent the day checking out the castle of Medellin. Built in 1930 by a rich Colombian who died nine months after it was completed. It was a Spanish design of European influence, pretty KOOL. We have tasted many foods of Colombia to include there main staple the "Arape" (a thick tortilla fried til crisp topped with cheese, beans, shrimp, beef or chicken, similar to the thick tortilla in Guatemala but crisper and with the toppings. Before we leave in two weeks I hope to para-glide one more time and we plan a trip up to a Colombian "must see" town of Guatape. We will fly out of Colombia to Cuenca Ecuador on the 31st. Stay tuned for more Chrysalis Adventures and be sure to check out all the pictures in the gallery.
It is now December 3rd, 2015 we have been in Medellin, Colombia for a month. As we have said before about our volunteer work it is usually an accident. I call them God coincidences. We are supposed to be in Panama about now but because of hurricane Patricia hitting in Puerta Vallarta we decided to come to Colombia first and hit the San Blas Islands in Panama on our way back. We looked online for a volunteer opportunity and voila we found the foundation "Angels of Medellin". So we are working with them through December trying bring a "Christmas" to the Mountain children in Medellin. Here is a link to our gofundme site if you want to join us in bringing some joy to these cute kids.
Hello: We are Dave and Leiann Scee. We are raising funds to provide a "Christmas for the Poor Children of Medellin, Colombia" We have worked with poor Mayans in the mountains of Guatemala and the handicapped and crippled children of the mountains in Panama. Now we are here trying to be of a little help to another needy group of poor children of the mountains. Poor people in mountainous countries tend to live up in the mountains as it is often the only place they can afford to live. Often squatting on land in shacks with no utilities. Typically the higher you go the poorer it gets, with shacks you and I could never imagine living in. These are the homes to the poor children of Medellin, Colombia. Many of these families have been displaced because of the civil war that has been going on in Colombia for many years and is just now getting resolved with Colombia now becoming a much safer country. These children did not choose this life and without help they will continue the cycle of poverty. Through the foundation "Angels of Medellin" these children are learning to read, speak English, and use computers, which will allow them to find jobs and stop the cycle of poverty. At this time of the year the foundation has a fund raiser to provide a "Christmas" for the children as well as providing the families with food and help with medical care. On our first day at the foundation the children poured in as soon as the doors were open. They were a little standoffish at first, but before long we both had 5 to 8 year olds sitting in our laps wanting us to read to them or read to us. I worked on teaching a few to say Merry Christmas in English as they know the holiday as Feliz Navidad. At end of the day Marcos the founder and director of the program told them in Spanish to clean up. We could not believe our eyes, immediately all of the children began putting the chairs and tables away and swept the whole place, then lined up all in 5 minutes! We were then given the privilege of giving a cookie to each child, one at a time, to which they said please and thank you in English! As we were leaving we had children hanging on us wanting to know if we would be back manana (tomorrow). Won't you help us to make this a very Merry Christmas for these deserving children. 100% of proceeds will go to providing gifts, food and help with medical care for these children. Feel the joy of the real spirit of Christmas by making a small donation today. Thank you and God Bless... Dave and Leiann Scee
To find out more about the work of "Angels of Medellin" to: http: http://angelesdemedellin.com/
Bogota to Medellin, Colombia
We have now been in Colombia a little over two weeks. We spent a couple days in Bogota and enjoyed seeing the capital and all the hoopla with Day of the Dead. Most misunderstand holiday. It is a day to remember those family members and friends that have passed on not a Latin version of Halloween. In lots of Latin American cities Halloween is now celebrated but it is on the 31st and is not associated with the Day of the Dead at all. But the children like the candy and to dress up, so we saw lots of spider-men and such on the 31st. We flew out of Bogota with fine weather however after the quick flight to Medellin (30 minutes) we found the airport was in a torrential downpour and had to abort landing twice. When we were about to touch ground we could see nothing out the windows, then without any notice we were at full throttle and everyone was looking at each other like WTF! We were told that the runway was like a lake at the moment so we were going to "go around" for awhile and see if it improved. As we gained altitude and got a few miles form the airport the visibility was clear and we could see a big black cloud over the airport. After 30 minutes we tried again and same thing full throttle at the last second, was a little less scary this time around. So we were told we would be going back to Bogota. We spent an hour in Bogota sitting in the plane then flew back and landed without any drama this time. We got a "good" taxi this time who took us to our hotel after what seemed like a road race through the mountain curves, 30 miles away. Our room turned out to be fine and at $16.00 a great deal. Our neighborhood was a little dicey but not bad in the daylight. At night different story, loud bars, a casino, and lots of hookers. We didn't go out after dark much and when we decided to make a break for a restaurant we had spied during the day we walked fast and looked straight ahead. We started looking for long term living quarters as we decided to spend two months in Colombia instead of one. Our old friend form Panajachel, Guatemala was by coincidence in Medellin and went with us to look for an apartment. We could not find one but there was an extra room where she was staying so we inquired about staying there and rented a room for two months. There were seven people living in one apartment but with five bedrooms, a large kitchen, separate huge dinning room and a living room if felt much like a hostel. We have been quite happy here playing games with our "roomies" and cooking up big communal dinners. The one exception to the bliss was our resident schizophrenic roomy. She would stay in her room constantly and turn down invitations for dinner. As time went on she seemed to become increasingly disturbed, with loud praying, chanting and general outbursts in her room (next to us). In the last couple days she had become confrontational and had verbally attacked most of us in the house and at one point put a curse on us all and called us lunatics. So we told the owner something had to be done or we would have to find other accommodations. We had taken to locking our bedroom door at night in fear she meet come in with a knife yelling God told her to kill us. We were careful to avoid her and looked out the door first before going out of our room at night to use the restroom. Finally after hearing complaints from all of us the owner told her to leave. That morning we woke to screaming, crying, and pleas to God as to why he had not kept her safe. We were all relieved to see her go, although we felt sorry for her wondering where she would end up. The next two days we partied it up with our friend from Guatemala Lissa and her fellow Dave. Our other roomies, Thomas and Jim, joined in and we played our game "Catch Phrase" late into the night. She just left today and we hope to see her again some day, but one never knows. We just got a new roommate who is Ecuadorian and is very nice. We will be picking his brain for intel on Ecuador as we will fly there in January unless we change our minds again. We have found a children's charity to volunteer at "Angels de Medellin" and we plan to start in another week of so. So stay tuned for more adventures on the Chrysalis Adventure.
After the storm / Hello Colombia
As I write up this blog entry we have just arrived in Bogata, Colombia. I left off the last blog entry waiting for hurricane Patricia to hit us. The storm hit the west coast at 7pm and we were 100 miles away. The storm was moving very slowly at 15 miles an hour or so and at 10 pm we were expecting to be hit any moment. But the wind never came. It was barely raining, very strange. As we had internet on and off I was able to track the storm though the national hurricane center. Finally at 2am it looked that we had missed the bullet. Unbelievably the worst hurricane in history had somehow missed us. It turns out that Puerto Vallarta sits right on the flank of the Sierra Madre mountains. One ridge runs from Vallarta out to the west and the other running north to south. The hurricane happened to hit just south at the intersection of these mountains which ripped the storm apart very rapidly. Also the storm hit just north of Manzanillo and just south of Vallarta in a path that has a very small population. Six people died but it should have been much worse. Had it been slightly north or south the outcome would have been very different. We figure they were a lot of people praying including us. The next day venders returned to the beach as if nothing had happened however many tourists had flown out so it was hard on the town financially. Down in Barra de Navidad it was another story as they had a lot of storm and flood damage. We spent the remaining days in Bucerias taking walks on the beach and generally relaxing. One of the stand outs in our time in Bucerias was making friends with a family that ran a little grass roof open beach restaurant (a palapa). This was a low budget operation and we were able to hang out with them on a few afternoons, we were usually the only customers. So we felt that we were able to provide some income for this family by eating here rather than the many big fancy restaurants. They would bring out there grandsons and would and sit with us and chit chat about life. This is our favorite way to meet the real Mexican people and they really appreciate our efforts to just be human beings enjoying each others company, no one better than the other. Finally we had to say our goodbyes and of course we got pictures of the family with the grand-kids and we had made another friend. We left our little casa (home) the next day and went and spent the next two days in old Vallarta in the little hotel we stayed at when we first came in. We enjoyed more walking of the cobbled streets of old Vallarta and drinks at the beach with another new friend we made there Janette. I was able to take the bus over to Mismaloya beach where the movie "Night of the Iguana" was filmed. An idyllic beach, it is hard to imagine what the place looked like in 1964 when no hotels were here. The film site is closed on the main road, but there is an old walk way along the shore over to the site. At the beach is the concrete quay (dock) that was used to bring boats in for the shoot as there were no roads here at the time. On the quay there remains a pole made of concrete fifty foot tall with a six foot long iguana cast on it along with a snake (see pics). From the quay are terraces leading up the hill. Stairs lead up the hillside but there is a razor wire fence with signs to stay out. The fence and signs looked really old so I thought maybe they don't care anymore, so of course over I went. There must have been six terraces as I went up the cliff and at the top, the ruins of an old restaurant. The view from up there was amazing and I imagined Liz taking it all in while watching the shoot progress. The entire place has being taken over by the jungle with many buildings in various states of ruin, sad. At one point it must have been a tourist attraction but had now gone into a state of decay. Maybe now that they have rebuilt Taylor's old house they will rebuild the film site. I continued up the hill to the main road rather than back track. When I got to the gate there was a guard and a pit bull and neither looked happy to see me. The guard was young but came up to me with a machete! My Spanish is still poor (getting better) and he was not happy and was speaking very fast. It became apparent that he felt I should have been able to read the signs down below and that I could have been attacked by the other pit bull running loose!(I don't believe there was another pit bull out there but who knows). I stayed calm and just kept saying I'm sorry yo vamanos(I go). Finally he got tired of yelling and let me go as we walked by the pit bull trying his best to break the chain holding him back and eat me. The next day we flew out of Vallarta onto our next adventure in Colombia. It's now the 3rd of November, two months since we left the states crossing into Mexico on foot. We landed in Bogota, Colombia and proceeded to find an ATM to get local currency. The ATM was at the exit of the airport and were surrounded by men saying, taxi, taxi, taxi. I told them to back off while tried get money which was a little confusing as the exchange rate was 2,900 to the dollar. Finally I told one of the taxi guys ok and proceeded to follow him out of the airport. However he did not stop at the line of (many) taxis but proceeded to lead us to the parking lot! We got to his car and it was not a taxi! I told him no we were not going with him. He yelled he had identification, then when I still refused he threw his hands up and yelled something. We walked back to where all the other taxis were. He followed us and tried to get us to get into another taxi (this time a yellow one). We ignored him and went over to the line of taxis and got in one. It was 2am, we were tired, it was Colombia and we were on hyper alert! This taxi took us to our hotel but drove through an area that did not look good. Graffiti all over everywhere and unsavory looking characters. We were a little concerned. When we pulled up to the hotel we were relieved to find it still open (thank God). We were now in Colombia, murder capital of the world twenty years ago, now they say it is much safer. One just needs to stay out of the bad areas, sounds like L A. Stay tuned for more adventures as we head over to the infamous City of Medellin (ya as in Medellin Cartel).