Vilcabamba, Ecuador
June 29 - Sept. 6, 2017
                                                                       All Things Must Come To An End?

Vilcabamba, Southern Andes Mountains of Ecuador…… we have packed our bags and said our good-byes. We have been here 3 months and we still have not gotten accustomed to the surrounding beauty. Everyday has been somewhat different: pink cloud sunsets, rainbows in the high mountains of Podocarpus National Park above us, spectacular pristine clear blue skies, rainy days spent around a wood stove, clouds so thick we could not see the mountain next to us and the spectacular views looking down the mountain to the small town of Vilcabamba. In the three months we have lived in Vilcabamba we have seen only one plane fly above us. There is zero air pollution here and as I mentioned the skies are so blue. You really have to be here to understand the majestic beauty. We have been very blessed with this experience.
We have been traveling/living in South America for almost seven months and it’s definitely time to go ‘home’. We define ‘home’ as the U.S. and do not attempt to get too specific since our nomad lifestyle continues no matter where we hang our hats.
What have we been doing to keep busy here in Vilcabamba the past three months? First of all there are the chores to be done for the 17 chickens, the dog and the cat. JoDon spent a lot of time socializing the new kitten with the very established dog. In the end they were behaving like siblings fake chasing and generally annoying one another. We take T-Man (dog) for an hour walk every day. Where we live on the mountain you can walk but you cannot stroll. The mountains are very steep so a short walk at 6,000’ altitude is exerting. About once/week we took T-Man on a 4 hour hike in the surrounding mountains. T-Man always loved the walks, you could almost see him smiling as he explored and chased butterflies. There was also the pool to maintain, lush gardens to be watered and trimmed and occasionally we volunteered to pick coffee. To keep myself busy and to prepare for 2018 I took three hours of on-line French lessons for 50 consecutive days. My Spanish is helpful in writing but it is detrimental to French pronunciation. Somedays we did nothing which is not all bad.
Thinking of all the wonderful sights and people we have met since February here in South America, the main question we ask ourselves is, “why are there not more tourists in South America and especially, where are the Americans?” Europeans are the main tourist group throughout South America and yes, there are Americans, but not so many. Eco tourism is a burgeoning industry with photographers seeking   photos of jaguar, exotic Amazon birds, etc. We hope that continues as to protect the beautiful natural environment.
Coffee beans drying on a screen.
In anticipation of our U.S. return and people asking “what was your favorite place/event?” Hummmh…. This is a partial list of our highlights:
(to see these photos visit our previous post: Argentina with Family)

Hiking with daughter, Amanda, in the Torres de Paine National Park (southern tip of Chile).

The Magellan Straits to view penguins in their natural habitat.

Seeing the powerful forces of water in Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil)

Joining up with son, Nathan, and wife, Vanessa, in Buenos Aires

Attending a Soccer World Cup Elimination game in BA, Argentina vs. Chile. Watching 10 year old boys swinging their shirts above their heads while singing along with 50,000 other Argentinian fans war songs full of obscenities about the Chilean players. Witnessing Lionel Messi score the winning goal for Argentina.

Chilling out along the Pacific Ocean, Valparaiso, Chile

Steak in Argentina and seafood in Chile

Spending the day with new friends making humitas in Jima, Ecuador.

Ecuadorian food markets (fresh fruit and veggies + roasted pigs)

Living a top a mountain for 3 months in Vilcabamba, Ecuador: having niece, Kimberly, join us; hiking with T-Man (dog); Momon’s (cat) loud purr while lying in a lap.

Ok, now the lowlights which were few:

Learning the hard way about the incredible skill of Santiago pick pockets

The identification of counterfeit Chilean currency taught by a crooked taxi driver

Being bombed by a pigeon in Santiago

Overnight buses; until we were introduced to Executive Class
Coffee Beans
An Owl Butterfly that flew into the house during dinner. Caught and released.
Wood burning fieplace.
Woodpecker with nest near house.
Catepillar with nose/eyes like a snake.
Coffee Blooms
The photo at the top of the page is with our two workers, Carmen and her father, Don Ramon. If you notice Don Ramon has short pants which is traditional male Saraguro (native Indian) attire. JD joined the fun with buying a Saraguro work hat. With Carmen and Don Ramon: they never came to work late or missed a day, we never told them what to do and they worked very hard all day. Don Ramon spends his day with a 'lampara' a small flat shovel to dig out weeds in the rocky and steep mountains so the coffee plants can grow (it’s extremely hard work). He's 69 years old and tougher than nails.
Brian at the grill for his birthday.
The kitten playing with his favorite "toy" an avacado seed. It reminds us of  Wilson from Castaway.
Saraguros are known to be hard working entrepreneurs. The Sunday market vendors are mostly Saraguros selling fruits and vegetables. Apart from working here, Don Ramon owns a small grocery store, a small finca (farm) and has 7 bulls that he raises to sell. Carmen's husband works at a local dairy and they raise hogs to sell. Great people.
T-Man (dog) is always in a picture and we have enjoyed taking him on long hikes. On one hike he was sniffing and nosing around in some brush and ended up with a beard, his face was covered with porcupine quills. We immediately pulled them out and T-Man was unaffected (the quills can kill a dog if left).
As part of our “raising” Mo’Mon responsibilities we decided to expose him to rat killing when we found a family of small rats living in a chicken coup bucket. He caught the first one but only wanted to play with it, T-Man got impatient and killed it in one bite. The kitten tossed around the dead ones for days. During dinner on the evening of the owners return the kitten/cat turned up on the porch with a fresh kill to show off.  Success.
The little kitten upon arrival.
The fat cat at departure.
A day of doing nothing.
Brian, T-Man and the truck on our last weekly Sunday market excursion into town. He was a very loyal dog and would let a child do anything to him. But if another dog got within sight he turned into a beast, teeth bared & snarling full on. Collar was necessary. Brian loved it. We liked to say, “He is a good dog.... until he isn’t.”
T-Man saying goodbye while we packed our bags just before leaving.
Finally, pictured are the owners of the house we stayed while in Ecuador: Fintan, Biba and daughter Camila. They left their Ecuador home for three months to attend a wedding in Europe and visit family. We wish them the best and will miss their pets!

We are now back in Texas, housesitting in Sharyland, and preparing for the next phase. We have been trained by the American Red Cross and are now qualified to deploy to assist Hurricane Harvey (or Irma) victims. In January we move to France for a two month housesitting gig. We will probably stay in Europe until next September, but who knows?
Best regards to everyone!

Brian and JoDon