Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Christmas Blog for 2015

A great year for us - we both enjoyed good health.

We started off the year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where we had spent 11 days with John's Mom, sister Doreen, and Susann's Dad.

New Year's Eve in Playa del Carmen

We flew home on the 1st, and on the 3rd I hiked/climbed up Mt. Arrowsmith with the Island Mountain Ramblers:

It wasn't much of a year for snow on Vancouver Island, for the second year in a row. (But this year is starting out much better.) Susann and I only managed to get out for one snowshoe, but it was more of a slush walk than a snowshoe:

We celebrated my birthday early (on the Family Day long weekend on Feb. 7) in Uclulet. Susann's Godmother Christa joined us there:
About to enjoy my birthday cake.

We always enjoy walking the beaches on the West Coast.

On the top of Mt. Benson on Feb. 21st. Most winters there'd be a meter or two of snow on the top.

For our Spring Break in March we didn't go very far, just to Vancouver for a couple of days:

And then to visit Susann's Dad in Agassiz:

We enjoy walking at Cheam Wetlands near Agassiz in the Fraser Valley.

We also enjoyed spending time at our cabin at Horne Lake:

Here with Susann's Dad

And here with Lali, my fellow survivor from the plane crash. 

In June, I was honoured to receive a Bronze Medal for Bravery in recognition of my efforts to save Lali in the August, 2013 plane crash.

In June, I finished off my teaching career by leading students on two 3-day backpacking trips to the West Coast of Vancouver Island:

The first one to Kesha Bay.

And the second one to Flores Island. It was about at this point in our return hike that I looked at my watch and noted that it was past dismissal time on the last Friday of June, so I said to the boy beside me, "I'm officially retired now, so you guys can all go piss off!"  

A great way to finish my on-and-off teaching career of 37 years!

I guess you can tell we've grown old; we bought a tent trailer, and took it "camping" in July. 

First we headed up to Prince George to visit Susann's sister and family on their farm:

Then we headed to Jasper for two days:

Before making the long drive to Saskatoon across the beautiful prairie with its wonderful sky!

We visited family and friends in Saskatoon, before heading to Kinistino for the Young Family reunion, and then on to Doreen's cabin at Emma Lake. We finally headed for home near the end of July. 

We enjoyed another week at the cabin, and then I headed up to Whitehorse for a two-week rafting trip with 13 others down the Tatsenshini/Alsek Rivers. We had three rafts and negotiated some raging whitewater, mostly on the first day, and thought the rest would be easy. But we had a wake-up call the second day when in a relatively tame section one of the rafts tipped. Not fun, in that cold water! Beautiful scenery all along the way, but especially in Alaska with all the glaciers. We camped at Alsek Lake for two nights, with glaciers calving their icebergs into the lake with resounding booms. Spectacular!

Alsek Lake

Nearing Alsek Lake

But lest you think it was all fun and games for me, I did do some work. In the spring I rebuilt our back fence and gate: 

And I also dug the trench for the light and electrical outlet at the back. 

In the fall, before I headed off to Ecuador, I rebuilt our deck roof at the cabin and also erected this shelter for our tent trailer, complete with concrete footings for the anchors (we do get some wind out here!):

And then, I cashed in my brownie points and headed off to Ecuador, stopping in at Ron's in Texas on the way:

Some of Ron and Beth's 7 dogs (almost all rescues!).

And two rescue donkeys. (Ron didn't earn the nick-name "Nature Boy" for nothing!)

I was in Ecuador for 4 1/2 weeks, two weeks in the city of Cuenca where I studied Spanish and volunteered at an after-school "home-work club." I then travelled for two weeks, on the Inca Trail, into the Amazon basin, to Quito, and to the village of Mindo in the cloud forest. 

I loved Ecuador, for its scenery:

Cajas National Park

Laguna Grande in Cuyabeno National Park

For the traditional people:
A vaquero on the Inca Trail to Ingapirca Ruins

A husband and wife milking a cow the old-fashioned way. 

The flora:

The park in the pueblo of Mindo.

Near Mindo, in the Andean cloud forest

For the fauna:

Butterflies at the Mariposario near Mindo. 

A A tarantula on my Amazonia Basin tour. 

For the cheap and tasty food:

This fruit ensalada was $2.20 in a vegetarian restaurant in Cuenca.

In Ecuador you can buy Almuerzos, lunch specials, for as little as $1.75::

Good thing the food tasted better than the restaurant looked:

I also loved the colourful cities of Cuenca and Quito (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites):

Cuenca from the Mirador of Turi.

The Old Cathedral in Cuenca.

The changing of the guard in Quito

Quito from the Mirador. 

While I was away, Susann kept busy, with her work as an Elementary School Principal:

Susann putting her artistic skills to use helping these two kindergarten students. 

And she kept up with her busy social life, going to Whistler for a weekend in November with Christa:

And keeping up with her wine-drinking club, oops, I mean book club. 

We hope you've had a good year and all the best in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mindo - A quaint, quiet, cute pueblo in the Ecuador cloud forest - Dec. 1-2, 2015

Although Quito is a beautiful city, it's not very safe for tourists - a guest from my hostel walked up the street to take a photo and had his camera stolen! Therefore, I opted to take the two-hour bus ride ($3.10!) to Mindo for my last two days in Ecuador (for this year, anyway). Mindo is located at 2100 m. above sea level, 700 m. lower than Quito, and thus has lush forests and correspondingly plentiful birds (over 400 species have been spotted here). As well as bird watching and hiking, there are adventure activities such as tubing, rappelling, and zip-lining. I wasn't up to anything too strenuous, so I opted for some softer activities.

I arrived in Mindo on Monday evening, and after checking into my hostel headed over to La Mecha Restaurante for a delicious lasagna and una cerveza grande; expensive by Ecuadorian standards ($13, including the beer).

My tasty, but "pricey," lasagna. 

The next morning I arose at dawn, and headed out to make photos. Children were heading off to school (which starts at 6:40 a.m. here) and the town was awakening, although not many restaurants were open yet. I headed to the picturesque town square.

The cute town square. 

These dogs liked the town square too!

Mindo's main drag. 
After a quick breakfast in the panaderia next door to the hostel (which wasn't open for desayuno yet), I headed off to the Mariposario, making pictures as I went. 

Beautiful flowers along the way! 

After an hour's walk, I reached the butterfly farm.

Innumerable  enchanting butterflies:

I liked the Morpho butterfly (big!) ...

But my favourite was the "Owl Butterfly," with big "owl-like" eye-spots, to deter predators.

Feeding an owl butterfly with some banana. 

They almost look like fish hanging in the tree!

Hummingbirds were feeding at the entrance to the farm, and I paused to capture some of them:

I walked back to town, and opted for an almuerzo (lunch special). I ate several of these in Cuenca for $1.75, but Mindo is more expensive. I paid $3 for this meal, which also came with soup, a small salad, and freshly squeezed juice. 

Can't complain for $3!

Later that afternoon, I took a taxi up to the Santuario de Cascadas y Tarabita. It was drizzling, but warm, when I started walking down the trail to the waterfalls at about 3:30. 

I considered venturing further, but as it was getting late, I headed back after forty minutes. 

I had the park to myself, and had intended to walk the 7 k. back downhill to town, but when I emerged from the forest I realised how hard it was raining, and called for a cab. On the way back to town, I asked the taxista what other walks there were, and he told me I could just walk out the road past the hostel, for basically as long as I wanted. 

It rained overnight, at times hard, but let up at daybreak, so I set out along the dirt road, once again marvelling at the lush flora. 

 After 1/2 an hour, I came to a bridge,

 and then a man and his wife milking a cow. 

 And the scenery opened up, with white egrets down by the river. 
 A "living" fence post.

 It must take a long time to dry clothes in this climate.

On my way back, the farmers had set out this milk jug, to be picked up by a merchant, 
I presume, probably because they don't have a vehicle to deliver the milk themselves.  

Digging power pole holes manually. 

The The quaint church back in Mindo, near the end of my Ecuadorian adventure.