Wind Turbines

View from the area by the museum, the highest wind farm in the world, over 8900 feet

We visited the museum for wind turbines which is located up by the actual turbines. The taxi driver and the guide at the museum didn’t speak English so we got the gist of the explanations but not details. Still very interesting.

Wind turbines are usually good for about 20 years and then they have to be dismantled because the concrete foundation can become unstable. That was a surprise. The turbine itself could still be fine.

This demonstration project (11 Chinese made turbines) in Loja has been successful and they are planning to add additional turbines. Don’t remember the payoff period but I think it was something like 5-7 years. Pretty short time; very cost effective.

More information about the project can be found here.

Cotacachi Museum

While we were in Cotacachi we stopped into a museum. We were the only people there most of the time so it was very quiet.

The museum is dedicated to the history of the area, starting with the geographical development. Things of special interest to me were seeing the indigenous clothes close up with no chance of embarrassing the wearer, that Rumba music was developed in the area, and the best part is when the curator demonstrated various musical instruments.

Ibarra Musuem

I’m not positive but I think the museum was the Cultural Museum. It had a temporary exhibit of life-like statues displaying Afro-Ecuadorian women and children. The detail was incredible and you could almost go up to a statue and start talking to her!

The statues depict various aspects of current life for the women. Look closely and you will see things like eggs balanced on one lady’s head while she talks on her cell phone (it is common to see people talk at the phone instead of holding it up to their ear) or another lady with a child on her back.

Salinas

  1. Depending on who you talk with, the former president Rafael Correa was great or horrible. In any case, as I understand it, he improved some roads and promoted tourism in select depressed areas such as Salinas (the one near Ibarra, not the beach Salinas).

This town was established in the early 1600’s and was home primarily to Afro-Ecuadorians. Apparently it was very depressed but there was a train track that ran to it from Ibarra, less than 18 miles away. I’m not sure how good the track was and what the town was like then.

Now there are several new buildings including an area by the train track where a number of young women perform native dances balancing a wine bottle with a little fluid (probably water) on their head. There is a fresh area where native crafts are sold, an area where you can buy chocolate or pina colada (we bought both), an interesting area explaining the production of salt, and a dining room.

For less than $50 per person (even less for us seniors), we had the round trip from Ibarra, the performance, the tours, and lunch. The track goes through 7 tunnels that were all hand carved. The area becomes drier as you approach Salinas, an area famous for the production of salt.

On the way, we stopped at one tiny depot that sold hand made ice cream. I had something fruity, I think it was passion fruit, and the other scoop was avocado. The avocado taste was very mild, not my favorite but ok.

How the salt was made was very interesting. Starting with putting dirt in a raised area and adding water, letting evaporation occur, eventually getting salt with lots of minerals, especially iodine which was so prevalent that it was removed (look at your salt container, iodine is added to most salt today, albeit in smaller amounts). The finished product tastes like salt that is a milder amount of saltiness. Long ago, salt was used as a type of currency.

This train is quite different from the Durango Silverton train. Instead of just getting off in Silverton and wandering around shops and eating, I enjoyed that there were planned activities (dancing, tour, food). Also, train crossings were secured not just by railroad arms. There were a number of people on motorcycles that raced from crossing to crossing to make sure that no cars passed when the train was approaching. Given that this was only days after the train wreck with the Senators in the USA, it didn’t seem so much like overkill as it might have. nn

The day was quite enjoyable and worth every penny. I even joined in the dancing as you can see in gallery below.

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.

Hippo

Villa de Leyva

There are mountains and everything is very green on the way to Villa de Leyva

The bus ride from Bogotá to Villa De Leyva was beautiful! There are at least 2 bus stations in Bogotá and we got the bus at the north station. The 18 passenger van was full except for the two passenger seats next to the driver when we got on so we had a wonderful view of the mountains for the 2 ½ hour trip.

View of the plaza

Founded in 1572, Villa de Leyva is a town of about 9500 people. It has the second largest plaza in the Americas (the largest is in Mexico), 120 meters on each side, which was paved hundreds of years ago with “cobble stones”. You and I would just call them rocks so it is uneven walking in the plaza and some of the streets. They have done a wonderful job of building lots of brick sidewalks in many areas and some of the newer roads are brick as well. The area is known for its colonial buildings.

We went on a wonderful horse back ride one day with 5 other tourists. You may remember we did a few lessons in Costa Rica. We wanted to see how we would do and besides it was less than $60 for the two of us for a 4 hour tour.

We did great! We even trotted a lot of the time. (Did you know that different horses have different gaits so some are more comfortable than others to ride? These were very comfortable!) The horses were whistle trained and the leader would whistle to tell them to go faster or to stop or move to the side. It was amazing to experience.

On the ride we went to an area called the Observatorio Astronómico Muisca or also called Observatorio Sol. The Muisca were the indigenous people of the area and they created a way to keep the calendar using stones, akin to Stonehenge but much smaller stones.

We also went to a fossil museum that while quite small, it has the most complete Kronosaurus, a Cretaceous-period relative of the crocodile ever found (this mountainous area was once under the ocean). There were many other fossils as well.

The last stop was at a small, turquoise colored lake called Pozos Azules (Blue Wells). The color of the water comes from the minerals in the surrounding rocks.

Stone laying on ground at Observatory

Around Bogotá

Monserrate Monastery (image from Wikipedia)

As far as sight seeing, we went to Monserrate Monastery and church which is high up on the mountain. You take a tram type vehicle called a funicular which goes up at about a 45 degree angle. The views are beautiful. The altitude is about 10,341 feet.

View from the funicular.

We also went to the Botanical Gardens which is in the Simón Bolívar Metropolitan Park. This park is bigger than Central Park in New York City!

We went to the Botero Museum one day. Fernando Botero is a well known artist from Colombia. His works typically are of oversized people and animals . At the museum we saw his paintings and some statues as well as work by other artists including Balthus, Georges Braque, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Sonia Delaunay, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse. I believe that Botero donated all of the artwork in the museum.

Typical looking Botero characters.

We walked a lot, even from the apartment to a mall, about 1 ½ hours one way (took a cab back…LOL). Surprisingly the place we went to the most was that mall, almost every other day to pick up some things or just eat. We both got good vests to wear since our cold weather clothing is pretty limited.

We had Thanksgiving Dinner in the mall. Instead of a regular food court, they have Restaurante de Andres which had various stations for meats, poultry, drinks, desserts, etc. The food was made to order and was reasonably priced and very good. Our Thanksgiving Dinner was chicken, potatoes, salad, and a baked plantain with cheese for dessert.

We enjoyed our time in the city even if we aren’t big city people. Here are a few pictures we took while we were there.

Buses are ridden a lot; bus stops are often in the middle of the highway with bridges to cross over either way

Smoking

On the boat I had an extensive talk with one of the passengers about her smoking. Susie is a medical doctor in England in her mid twenties. She is a delightful, intelligent, and insightful woman. She has a fear of dementia and feels that dying from the effects of smoking is a better way to go then to live longer with dementia.

Hmm, I’d never thought about it from that perspective. I tried to understand what she gets out of smoking and I know that you current and former smokers can understand the way the nicotine relaxes you and relieves stress far better than I will ever be able to.

After that discussion I felt very self-conscious when anything related to being the oldest person on the boat (other than Dan and I, the oldest person, including the captain was 31) came up (slow/more cautious than others moving about, trouble getting in or out of the dingy, climbing into the boat, etc.). I know she wasn’t referring directly to getting older but her concern about losing the ability mentally but it did make me more aware of the impact of aging on my body. And I am sure that the reason that I usually only pick up the last word in a sentence of fast Spanish is because my mind is a bit slower to process what I hear.

I don’t like that I can see myself slowing down but I do accept it. I do what I can to minimize that by staying active. I’m glad we are traveling now because I can see that it would be harder in a few years. Even now, if I stand too long or walk too far without breaks that my right leg complains quite loudly. I have decided to use a wheelchair when available when we are in places with a lot of standing like a museum. I did that at the Botera Museum in Bogotá. Didn’t like being in the chair and it was hard on my hands so Dan pushed me but it did allow me to view the exhibits without bothering my leg.

Like they say, aging beats the alternative (dying) so I’m glad to have that option.