Amazon Jungle

Dining room at the lodge

While we were out with one of our guides in the Quito area, she told Dan (I didn’t listen to much of the conversation-my bad) about place that was cheap to stay at and very nice. We decided to go there from Quito. What we didn’t know when we decided to do that is that it would be such an adventure.

Suchipakari Lodge is 11 km (about 6-7 miles) from the small town of Misahuallí which is 23 km (14 miles) from Tena bus station.

We got to the Quito bus station (after more than an hour taxi ride from our apartment) and were impressed with the station. Unlike most bus stations which are old and dark, this one could have been an airport. It is bright and new and clean. We only had a 30 minute wait for a bus to Tena which was supposed to be a 5 ½ hour ride (but ofcourse was over 6 hours). We had a taxi waiting for us at the Tena bus station.

We knew we needed more cash and the driver stopped at a bank where we could use an ATM. It wouldn’t let us get any more cash since we had used it that morning. The single ATM machine is down at Misahuallí and we would have to get more cash another day ($20 taxi ride each way sadly).

By the time we left Tena to go to the lodge it was getting dark. We stopped briefly in Misahuallí so the driver could pick up some beer. We saw 3 Capuchin monkeys on the roof of the market stall where his wife works. We didn’t take pictures because of the lighting and we were tired…too bad because we heard other monkeys but never saw them.

The driver told us it would be another 40 minutes to the lodge, some of the road good, some not. He wasn’t exaggerating. There was a wonderful relatively new road for about ½ the way. Then there was a one lane gravel road for the last 11 km.

Road taken during the day and darkened but it gives you a little idea of what it is like.

Picture this, we are in a strange place, going down a dirt/rocky road at 20-30 mph, in the dark. Branches and leaves are hitting either side of the taxi pickup windows. It feels like the middle of nowhere. (This road is only about 6 or 7 years old. Before then, it took a 1 1/2 hour canoe ride to get to the lodge!)

But we see people walking. One or two people or small groups of up to maybe 6 at a time. It is Saturday night and these young people are going to party. There are a number of places down this road where parties are about to happen. In what appears to me to be the middle of nowhere. And I know it is a jungle, literally, out there!

We saw an occasional building with lights but never heard the partying. When we finally “arrived” at our destination, a dead end with an unlit building. There we were met by an older teen with a wheelbarrow. We put our rolling bags in the wheelbarrow and walked “5 minutes” up a dirt path with a flashlight and a flashlight app on a quickly dying cell phone app. Then over 2 small bridges.

Red is cacao fruit ready to be harvested to make chocolate.

We could hear water (a river) along side as we walked. We saw cacao trees with the fruit (future chocolate) on the trees as we walked. We finally saw some lights and then went up about 25 or 30 steps. Here was the lodge.

We had arrive during dinner so we ate (first time I at fish that was the whole fish on my plate-tilapia) and then got our rooms.

The next morning we awoke and went to a tourist attraction put on by the local Shiripuno women. That’s another post.

The Equator

Intinan Museum, may not be accurate

OK this is a tough blog to write because it turns out my MOST FUN adventure of all of our travels was…(spoiler alert) a fraud. So I am not exactly sure how to write this. Let me start at the beginning.

As you might expect, the equator is a big tourist attraction in this country. The French did the original calculation in the late 1730’s and miscalculated by about 541 feet, pretty darn close in my book.

Anyway, there is a monument in one place that proclaims the equator but it is inaccurate. Close by is a place called the Intiñan Museum (in the town of Mitad del Mundo-middle of the earth). Some sites on the Internet claim this is not actually on the equator either.

For $4 each, we went on a guided tour where the guide talked about the creatures in the Amazon, shrunken heads, burial sites, and we had our pictures taken on/straddling the line.

Then came the fun with “experiments”. We did 4 experiments to prove the “power of the equator” on nature.

  • The egg experiment: balance the egg on a nail. Dan went first and did it with some problems but was successful. I went right after him and didn’t have any problem at all! (Turns out that the heavy egg yolk allows this to be done anyplace in the world. Since I simply took the egg off and replaced it, I hadn’t moved the yolk.)
  • Water flowing clockwise on the north side, counter clockwise south of the line. And straight down when you are right on the equator. The distance between the north and south experiments was less than 30’. (This is impacted by how you remove the plug in the basin.)
  • Walking a straight line with your eyes closed while you walked the equator line. (Not sure of the scientific basis to debunk this)
  • Less strength when you stood on the line than when you were to either side of it. (Not sure of the scientific basis to debunk this)

It was great fun to try these experiments although I did wonder aloud to Dan about how far off the equator line did it matter. The painted line was about 3 or 4 inches wide so where does the change really start?

Much of the information about the Candiru fish which supposedly swims up the urethra into the bladder is disputed on the Internet however the shrunken head part seemed largely accurate although I don’t really trust that the displayed head is real and 170 years old.

A few days later when we went to the Quitsato equator line we got an entirely different story.

First, I saw a very official looking metal cylinder in the ground in Quitsato placed by the Ecuadorian Military Geographic Institute. (There are 2 but I only noticed one of the two cylinders surrounded by concrete on a platform on top of the Equatorial line, with a 1mm error margin determined by using GPS and GNSS equipment. I never saw anything like that at Intiñan Museum.) There is a huge area that is made into a sundial with a tall hollow cylinder in the center. The guide was much more serious and explained much more clearly about the summer and winter solstices, rotation of the earth, etc. He used an inflatable globe with the continental names written sideways rather than how we are used to being “north-centric”.

He also debunked the experiments from the previous outing. I was crushed but it did make sense. We bought the information packet which includes the globe, CD, poster and will be happy to share them or you can go to their website to look up the info.

As an aside, this place had the nicest restrooms I have ever seen. Clean and white and sinks at 3 different levels for small children, people of my stature, and taller people.

Mindo Hike

Lindie and Dan with a single leaf overhead. The black string around Lindie’s neck is from her hat.

Dan loves to hike; I like to hike a lot. There is a difference between “love” and “like a lot” but still it is one of my preferred types of exercise. Our guide took us to the small town of Mindo, not far from Quito.

We paid $5 each for Dan and myself (guides are usually free) and rode a cable car from the parking area across a deep ravine and set out to see the Cascada de Reina, a waterfall. Of course it took much longer than the one hour each way and at one point I had given up only to find out I was less than 10 minutes from it! The trail wasn’t really steep or hard but we had gone about 2 hours at that point.

Concrete stairs by waterfall. Just out of view of this picture, the water covers the stairs.

The waterfall is impressive due to the amount of water flowing through it. There are concrete stairs along side the waterfall so you can walk up but there was so much strong gushing water coming down the fall that I chose not to go up the stairs although Dan did.

Chocho beans with salt, courtesy of CuencaHighLife

On the way back, we stopped under a shelter and ate a late lunch of veggie ceviche: chochos (a nutritious and tasty white bean with a slight crunch), onion, tomato, and plantain chips and lime or lemon juice. It had been marinating for about 3 hours by then and was delicious however as we sat still the mosquitoes had found me so I headed back down the path, forgetting that I had Dan’s rain jacket in the pack on my back.

Of course it started raining and after debating, I decided to backtrack and get the jacket to him. I went most of the way back to the shelter before I met up with Dan and the guide. By then he decided he didn’t need his jacket so I got a lot of extra steps in.

All in all it was a pleasant day although it was clear that we needed to do more hiking. We tend to walk a lot in towns but not actually hike.

Old Town Quito

View of Quito from Basilica del Voto Nacional

The current city of Quito was developed over the ruins of indigenous people. This was known previously and when they started excavation for the subway, they had to temporarily halt construction while they retrieved relics.

According to WIKI, The historic center of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. Quito and Kraków, Poland, were the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO, in 1978. On March 28, 1541, Quito was declared a city and on February 23, 1556, was given the title Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de San Francisco de Quito (“Very Noble and Loyal City of San Francisco of Quito”).

In 1884, Basílica del Voto Nacional church construction was begun and Pope John Paul II celebrated the first mass there in 1985. While largely completed, if you look, it is subtle but there are missing statues and probably other things that have never been finished. Starting in 1895, there was a  tax paid by Quito citizens for its construction. It was 3 cent or per cent (not sure) tax on salt to help defray the cost of this structure. (The currency at that time was a “sucre”and $1 was 25,000 sucre at today’s rates. That tax is no longer in effect but imagine having to pay tax on a church building if you aren’t of that religion (although at the time the country was largely Catholic). If you are interested, there is more info on the Quito churches and pictures here.

For a couple of dollars we could tour the church and go up across the inside part of the roof and then outside. Dan who loves heights was in his element and he went up the open stairs to the top viewing area while I stayed on the lower level; I was outside and quite high up and not comfortable but I was there.

The view from either place was beautiful. You could get a feel for how large Quito is. People have started cutting down trees and building up the mountain. Across one area, you can see a hill called the Panecillo. That area has always been a poor area because when the Spaniards came they made the poor servants/slaves live up the hill and they settled the flat areas which were easier to navigate. I’m sure someday these shacks will become valuable and developed by the wealthy.

House formerly owned by one family. Sisters side is on the left of the picture, brothers on the right.

One unique building in the Old Town was originally owned by a single family. At one time, this two story, block long building was willed to a sister and brother. The sister remodeled her section and made it quite attractive while the brother kept his part very austere. You can see the differences today. In both areas, note how thick the walls are, about 3’, to keep the temperature comfortable in the building.

Later the church bought the building and now leases out various areas to vendors, restaurants, etc. Dan enjoyed having his picture taken with a mime totally covered in gold.

When the indigenous people built the town originally, they didn’t not use square or rectangle blocks. These skilled workers cut blocks to fit like a puzzle. Later the Spanish recut some of the blocks to exert their power and remove that reminder of the locals.

Not to be outdone however, there are subtle reminders of when the slaves were doing construction; they put their own subtle mark. There is one building with a row of cherubs on the top. If you look closely, you will see that all of the cherubs are draped except the end one who has quite an erection. But it isn’t something that is easy to notice, even when you are looking.

In the St. Francis church, instead of a statute of a slave holding up the pulpit on his back, you see that it is 3 Spaniards. No idea what happened to the artisans if/when their creativity was discovered but I doubt that they were praised by the Spaniards.


Street of the Seven Crosses

As would be expected, the churches are very ornate. There is one street informally called the street of 7 crosses; you can see a cross outside each church. We didn’t go into all of them but we did go into a couple. One, Compañía de Jesús (160 years in construction,beginning in 1605), is purported to have 7 tons of gold leaf on the walls. At $1300 per ounce, that is $291,000,000 in just gold! We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside (they think that the flash from cameras is oxidizing the gold) and we didn’t but this website states that I could have taken pictures since I was planning to write about it in our blog. They got permission and their pictures will give you a good idea of how it looks.

While the photo was snapped quickly and isn’t very good, I loved the name of one store. Maní is Spanish for peanut and one store was named “El Super Maní”, a play on “superman”. Cute

In a gift shop, Dan got a kick out of seeing a chess set. One set of players was Spanish conquistadors while the other side was indigenous people. (We don’t have room for such things so we just took photos instead of buying it.)

Buses in the Andes

Road from Bogata to Villa de Leyva

The Andes Mountains are spectacular. Higher than much of the Rockies and deeper valleys. But they are so much greener; green top to bottom with a wide variety of plants and trees.

Bus rides are beautiful but scary. The bus drivers are very aggressive, passing where mere mortals wouldn’t even think about passing. No passing signs and double yellow stripes are apparently not something that they pay attention to.

So far the roads that we have been on have been fairly good. Our friends the Thompsons took one trip from Jardin to Riosucio (Dirty River and apparently  the town is as exciting as it sounds; they only stayed a couple of hours even though they had paid for one night in a “hotel”). Riosucio is 50 KM away (about 31 miles) and the trip is 3 hours long. They had quite the adventure because part way through the trip they came on an area that had had a landslide. It was being cleared but they had to get off the bus, take their luggage across the landslide and board a different bus to go the rest of the way!

Machine working on landslide

I know this sounds really scary but we have to trust that we will be safe in our travels. There isn’t an alternative unless we just left the area and even then, how would we get out of the area? There are few airports around here.

And speaking of bus rides, when we bought our tickets from Jardin to Riosucio (we got a bus to Manizales from there) and I asked if the road was open, the clerk said, “Maybe it is open, maybe it is closed. Maybe it will be a bus, maybe it will be a Chiva.” A Chiva is basically a flat bed truck that has had (usually) wooden bench seats (luckily ours were padded since we took the chiva the entire way) and a tarp or roof added to the seating area. It was better than I expected since it has to go so slow on the pot holed road at an average of about 10 mph.

So just keep us in your prayers as we travel from place to place.

Doradal and Hacienda Napoles

We decided to go to Doradal because it was the closest town to Villa de Leyva in the direction of Medellin that had some interesting things to do. When I chose the town, I didn’t think about the altitude…an oversight on my part. The town is very busy, not too big, but very noisy, and very hot.

The thing about towns in the mountains is that the altitude can vary greatly within just a few miles.  Lower altitudes definitely mean hotter weather. And it seems that deep valleys may a bit warmer than more shallow ones that may have better windflow. That’s Dan’s theory anyway.

We went to the Hacienda Napoles which is now a nice theme park/zoo but was previously owned by Pablo Escobar. After his death, the government took over the property which lay vacant for a number of years. Now the government rents the land to the theme park who has done a nice job of exhibiting animals that Escobar had brought in (often illegally). For example, hippopotamus is not native to South America but he brought 4 into the country. There are now about 40 in the park and 20 or so still in the wild.

I liked the whimsical statues scattered within the park which is about 7.7 square miles in size. There are some examples in the gallery below. I also liked the way that safety improvements often looked “natural”. For example, the bridges look like they have ropes holding poles together but they are actually pipes and poles made to look more rustic. Or edging that looks like bamboo stalks but are really just pipes.

We didn’t go to the water park section because we were just too hot. I know that doesn’t make sense but in the morning when we bought tickets we were thinking about costs and later we were so hot we weren’t really thinking well.

The people in Doradal were very nice but there was loud music playing until after midnight every night and the room, while air conditioned, just wasn’t that comfortable so we only stayed 2 nights and then headed to Guatapé before going to Medellin to meet up with our friends from Boquete, Lesia and Jim Thompson. If we got near that area again, we’d like to go to Rio Claro (Clear River)…if we ever go to this area again that is.


Stuck in the Elevator

View of our 17th floor apartment

Have you ever imagined being stuck in an elevator? Not much fun but at least we weren’t alone. On the way  down from the 17th floor, Dan, Alvarito, and I suddenly felt a very, very strong jolt and a loud noise!

OH NO! We were stuck between floors, about 5 stories high.

You have to imagine this elevator. It is very tiny even though it says it holds a maximum of 9 people, that would be packing them almost like sardines. It is a little over 4′ wide and less than 4′ deep.

My first thought is that we have enough air. I don’t like small spAaces so I was nervous. Alvarito was able to open the doors but we were between floors, 3-4′ above the floor of the 5th level. Being able to look out helped me relax. I wanted to climb out but they both felt it was too dangerous if we slipped we’d fall down the shaft.

Alvarito pressed the alarm and called the office. In less than 30 minutes we were out. They had to manually lower the car in the shaft. My neck hurt for the rest of the day but was fine in the morning. I thought about getting it checked but because they didn’t check me when we got out of the elevator, they wouldn’t have taken responsibility. Besides, they would have restricted who I could see and I felt that at most I would need a chiropractic adjustment.

By the time we returned later that day, the elevator was working fine but we never took that one again. The building has 2 elevators, one for even numbered floors and one for odd numbered floors. From then on, we went to the 16th floor and walked up a flight of stairs or if we were in the apartment, we walked down one flight and got the elevator.

Panama City

Dan and Lindie in front of the Panama City sign.

We apologize for not posting for over a month. Between leaving Boquete, no internet on the sailboat, being exhausted, computer issues, poor internet, and procrastinating, we have be neglectful. I like posting thoughts and things we have done/seen and it ways heavily on me when I have lots of posts I want to do but don’t for whatever reason.

After a very relaxing, enjoyable stay for several months in Boquete we had to move on, if for no other reason than our apartment was rented. We had been there about 3 1/2 months and made a number of really good friends, mostly expats, so it was hard to leave.

Bus from Boquete to David had curtains with valances…pretty fancy even for a nice bus.

We caught the bus to David (remember? accent on the second syllable). It was a modern bus but for some reason had valances on the windows.

From David to Panama City was a long ride, finally arriving at our hotel after about 9 or 10 hours.

The bus was a modern bus like you would see in the USA. There was someone akin to a train conductor on the bus who took our tickets and made a number of announcements, all in Spanish…very fast Spanish so I didn’t catch most of it. There was one stop which was great because even though the bus had a restroom we were told by that conductor type person to only urinate in it. Don’t know what happened if you really needed to take a poop; I had heard that the restroom wasn’t something I would want to use anyway so fortunately we didn’t need to.

Aerial view of Biomuseo, image from

The next morning, we went on our own to the Bio Museum which was extremely well done. Each person receives a playback machine to listen to descriptions of displays in your language of choice as you go though the exhibits. As you would expect, the emphasis was on the environment and changes to it over the eons. In one exhibit, they had pictures of a number of people…doesn’t this person look like Dan? It isn’t but he is similar looking!



Sassy Hunt

Most of you won’t know me but a very few of you may recognize me. My name is Sassy Hunt and Lindie’s granddaughter, Beth, gave me to her in 2016 when she visited Colorado.

I’m excited because I have been going on the travels with Dan and Lindie. For the longest time, I lived on Lindie’s rolling bag but when they were in Bocas del Toro, they finally let me go to some of the places in town with them too.

When I do something exciting, I will add a new post. In the meantime, here are my pictures of my adventures in Bocas.

Sassy in her "Chicks Rock" outfit

Signs in Panama

More signs that caught our eyes…

Steep incline although not really as steep as this shows usually