Guayllabamba Fruit on tree, compliments of OLX Ecuador

Guayllabamba is a large, ugly, sweet fruit that is ugly on the outside and delicious on the inside. We stopped in a small town on the way back from Quisato and bought one from a vendor. The guide knew which one to pick and we didn’t buy from the first vendor because they weren’t ripe. Each fruit cost $2 which seemed high but they are not common and he said that was a fair price.

You can tear the fruit open and inside is a lot of white “meat” with large seeds in each section. You don’t eat the seeds but the meat is very tasty.

Women’s Group in Ibarra

Our hostess in Ibarra was Clarita. She is French by birth and a retired nurse.  She speaks Spanish quite well and of course French. Her English is about the equivalent of our Spanish…more than minimal but not great.

She and a friend of hers (Justine) who is also French decided to start a women’s group in Clarita’s neighborhood. The first meeting had 11 women (including Clarita and Justine I think) and the second had 5 plus Clarita, Justine, and myself. Although it was disappointing to have such a drop in attendance, at least 2 people were ill and one out of town.

Those who attended were probably 40’s-70’s but I’m guessing. The meeting started with some very gentle movement exercises like rotating our arms or legs while standing. We spent about 5 minutes doing this.

This night’s topic which was diabetes. Diabetes is the number one killer in Ecuador and looking at people as we walk around town, it isn’t surprising that 1 in 4 have it. (In the States it is just under 10% by one CDC statistic I saw.)

The typical diet is heavy on starch and fruit. At breakfast, our Ecuadorian neighbor made for us ($2.50 each) included Perico (scrambled eggs with finely chopped green onion and tomato), rice, French fries, or hominy, a plate of chopped apples, papaya, and bananas, a large glass of fresh juice, and hot chocolate. Every day we had to tell her to give us less food because the servings were too large.

Lunches typically are a bowl of soup, a meat (usually stewed), rice, French fries, fried plantains, and a small salad with a large glass of juice.  I don’t know how different dinners are but servings are always large.

We watched a video on diabetes in Ecuador (in Spanish of course). During the discussion afterwards, the two older ladies didn’t say much but the other two had a lot of input. I could understand some of the discussion and much of the video. We also tasted a pudding type dessert made of pureed avocados, bananas, and I don’t recall what else. It was sweet and pleasant tasting. At the end of the meeting we had hot tea made of cinnamon which was very tasty. The entire meeting was 2 hours.

The fact that anyone shows up is a wonder. One of the women gets up at 3:30 every morning to make food for her family before she goes to work for 10-12 hours! The other two younger ones work as well. Not sure about the 2 older ladies but I am sure that they have to take care of their homes and cook.

I really admire what Clarita and Justine are doing. A real grassroots effort to make significant changes for the local Ecuadorians. It is a small group but if even 3 or 4 women start making changes and teach their children/grandchildren to make changes, it will have a huge impact.

The group is not solely devoted to nutrition. They are planning to plant flowers and I saw two small avocado trees that they have already planted. Clarita’s husband, Alfonso, is a forensic pathologist and is going to talk about violence in the home in an upcoming meeting. I wish the group all the best!

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

Bocas del Toro

View from dock across the street from our hotels. Peaceful and serene.

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago (group of islands) at the northeastern part of Panama, very close to the Costa Rican border. This is an extremely popular tourist destination even though you are seriously warned not to drink the water (which also means not to eat anything that is washed such as raw vegetables and to avoid ice). Unlike other tourist areas like Granada Nicaragua where the nicer restaurants or ones that cater to tourists which use filtered water for drinking and ice, we didn’t see/hear of any in Bocas that did that.

Archipelago of Bocas del Toro

We were extremely careful not to drink unfiltered water and not to use ice or eat raw veggies. I would have thought I got the amoeba infection there anyway except that the incubation period is much longer. (I did try literally a single drop of homemade hot sauce in a restaurant a few hours before I got sick but that wasn’t the cause if it truly was an amoeba infection).

While I didn’t get to enjoy anything other than walking around, Dan went on an all day catamaran ride where he snorkeled and saw starfish (and got sunburned). We had planned to go on a bio-luminescence tour one night but couldn’t because of the diarrhea. By the time I was well enough to consider being on a boat without a restroom for 2 hours, the moon was out again so you wouldn’t be able to see the glow.

Other common activities in the area are bicycling (we did do that-me once and Dan several times), fishing, shopping the locally made tourist items, and the like.

Biking was easy on this part of the island which is fairly flat.
Water taxi

To get to Bocas, you go to Almirante, a small town on the mainland. As you arrive into town, there is often a person on a bike who offers to show you where to park and get the taxi (for whatever you tip the person). You park your car in a gated lot for $3 per day (not 24 hours so if you arrive on Monday and leave on Wednesday, you pay $9). From there it is a short walk to the water taxi that takes you to the island for $7 per trip per person or $10 round trip (if you do a better job of keeping up with your receipt than we did, LOL). That ride is about 30 minutes and the water taxis run every 30 minutes from 6 AM to 6 PM. The ride was fairly calm both ways since you are in a bay area.

Food is pretty good and not outrageously expensive. We had excellent seafood, usually Corvina which is a very mild sea bass.

The weather was mild with afternoon rains most days.

The drive to Almirante was verdant with rural, poor, windy, hilly roads, and was very pleasant. There are places where the road slumps several inches with no warnings. A lovely drive but quite long given the distance is only 180 KM (111 miles). It is supposed to take just over 3 hours but was really closer to 5, including a 30 minute stop for a bite to eat. Not sure why but many of the indigenous Guaymi peoples’ houses in this area are on stilts, in the mountainous area of the drive. (We did see clothes drying under some of the houses but don’t know if that is the reason for the stilts.)

House on stilts on road to Bocas

Restaurants in our Travels

Most of the time in Costa Rica we were staying somewhere where we didn’t eat out much. In Monteverde we stayed with a local family who cooked for us. Here at the Finca Soley there is a kitchen and we make our lunch and dinner (breakfast is provided).

In Nicaragua we ate out all of our lunches and dinners. Our “go to” place was “The Garden Cafe”. Good local food, excellent sea bass (corvina). There was also a Chinese restaurant where you chose your ingredients and sauces and they stir fried it for you. I believe it was called “Wok and Roll”. The “Pita Pita” restaurant was great as well. El Zaquan was excellent but a bit more expensive than some of the others. I think all of the restaurants had courtyards, often with a fountain.

We were careful about the tap water in Nicaragua. We either used our own purified water or made sure the restaurant we ate at used purified water to cook, serve, and for ice. Initially we steered away from raw veggies/fruits in fear of their being washed in bad water but we found that wasn’t a problem at the restaurants we went to. I was glad to have a fresh salad again.

Here are a few pictures from various restaurants to give you a feel for them.

Dan trying tequila shot and a lime, courtyard, courtyard, interior of restaurant, night shot of pedestrian area with restaurants, another night shot, El Zaguan, Dan using a flashlight in a restaurant because it was dark (flashlight supplied by restaurant), another night shot of pedestrian area.