Ecuador 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010, Green Valley Lake, CA, about 1000 PDT (GMT-7)

The second trip for this summer is less than a week away. We're going back to Ecuador to gather support material for Sandy's Master's Thesis in Archaeology.

There is no field school in Ecuador this year. The UCLA and Foothill College field schools are being held in Belize instead.

Sandy's thesis is that Inka or even pre-Inka trade routes may be determined through the sourcing of obsidian. She has gathered some obsidian samples for X-ray florescence analysis (to determine chemical composition) but she needs more samples that are stored in the PAP (Pambamarca Archaeological Project) archives in Ecuador.

To that end, we will be traveling to Ecuador on July 22nd and returning on August 8. We don't have hard set plans on where we will be staying though. We could spend some time at the Hacienda Guachala or perhaps stay with other project members that will be there at the time in some rented house in Cangahua. We will probably not rent a car, but instead rent a taxi for the days that we need transportation. Taxis there are inexpensive and regular rental cars are expensive.

Thursday, July 22, 2010, Quito, Ecuador, about 1630 EST (GMT-5)

100722_ecuador_hostel_alcala_sandy_8858.jpgAfter a true red-eye, we've made it to Quito. Our LACSA flight left Terminal 2 at LAX at about 0230. I got a little sleep before we left the house and a little more on the airplane on the first leg to San Jose, Costa Rica. We had an hour layover and then a 2 hour flight to Quito. Then a $7 cab ride to the Hostel Alcala in the Mariscal district, not far from the places we stayed last year. We grabbed an early dinner at Rodriguez, an inexpensive and very good taco place a few blocks away. Then I settled down to write in this page and Sandy crashed. She had the help of a beer.

The plan tomorrow is to get topographical maps at the Institute Geografico Militar (IGM) and perhaps stop by a bookstore. We also have to get Sandy's cell phone working and will probably have to buy some minutes for it.

Friday, July 23, 2010, Quito, Ecuador, about 2000 EST (GMT-5)

After sleeping for 16 hours we started a busy day. We got breakfast in the hostel and arranged to stay another day. We met Eric (a grad student we met last year) at 1000 and caught a cab ($2) to go to the IGM and then hit up a bookstore after another short cab ride. Then we walked a few blocks along Avenue 12 de Octobre to the SuperMaxi, a pretty normal supermarket, and bought water, juice, bread and four bottles of the Ole brand of jalepeno sauce that I liked so much. It isn't available in the US.

We put the SIM card that we bought last year into Sandy's cell phone and it seems to work, at least it recognizes a network, but it needs minutes.

We left Eric at the Jardin del Sol and walked back to our hostel to drop off our loot. Then we walked around the block to catch some lunch. We also found a place that sold us $6 worth of minutes for Sandy's cellphone, that should be about 50 minutes. It appears that monthly cell phone plans are not too common here, most everybody uses prepaid plans that cost about the same as the one that I have in the US.

This hostel is only a couple of blocks from the ones we stayed at last year, but it is MUCH quieter. There is a water pressurization pump that runs intermittently right outside our room, but it didn't seem to be a bother. The room is small, but adequate. We have internet, TV, a hot shower and a queen bed.

After getting back to the room, we both crashed again. Since we had a late lunch, we just had some bread and juice for dinner. The tentative plan for tomorrow is to get up early, catch a cab to the train station and ride the train to Cotopaxi National Park, about a 3 hour ride one way. Cotopaxi is one of the larger volcanos in Ecuador.

Saturday, July 24, 2010, Quito, Ecuador, about 1530 EST (GMT-5)

100724_ecuador_hostel_arupo_sandy_in_room_11_8866.jpgWe couldn't stay at Hostel Alcala for another night as the place was fully reserved so we moved about a block away to the Hostel El Aurpo. This place is a only a little more expensive by $6 but it nicer inside. However Alcala was nice enough.

We cancelled the train trip when we found out that we would have to move as we would need to be here to do it. The Cotopaxi train will have to wait for another day, but probably not this trip.

100724_ecuador_quito_hostel_arupo_0539.jpgThis is the view looking out our bedroom door. The hostel is very nice inside. At the end of the hall is a lounge and TV room.

100724_ecuador_quito_0546.jpgAfter we checked in, we went to plan B for the rest of the day. We took a walk to Saturday flea market near the Banco Central. This is a shot looking west to the mountain range between Quito and the costal plains. Although it doesn't show in this photo, the cable car that we rode last year goes right up that mountainside.

The flea market was no great shakes, it was much smaller than one at Otavalo. Then we went for another tour of the Banco Central museum. I understand a lot more about the artifacts that are on display than I did last year. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum.

100724_ecuador_quito_0555.jpgOn the way back, we passed through Plaza Foch which is the central party spot for the Mariscal district. This place tends to get quite loud at night. Fortunately, the Hostel Alcala was just far enough from the action that we could hear a mix of several sources of loud music, but the combination was not loud enough to keep us awake. We'll see tonight what the noise level at the Hostel El Arupo is.

Sunday, July 25, 2010, Quito, Ecuador, about 1730 EST (GMT-5)

100725_ecuador_quito_train_station_station_sign_8870.jpgMy how plans can change in a day. We had given up on the train ride for Saturday, but decided to try again on Sunday since we had nothing else planned. We got up at 0600, caught a cab at about 0645 and arrived at the station just before 0700 to get our tickets. The station wasn't even open yet.

The train goes to Cotopaxi, but doesn't come back the same day in time to see anything at the park. Those that go up usually take a bus back. Instead, we went part way to a station south of Quito called Machachi with a scheduled bus ride back at 1430. That trip was $10/head.

100725_ecuador_quito_train_station_diesel_8872.jpgWhen we got there, the crew was hooking this Alstrom B-B-B diesel loco to a short train. I'll have more to say about this locomotive later.

The Ecuadorian railway system is a 42" narrow gauge railroad that used to go from near Guayaquil on the southern coast to a port on the northern coast via Quito and a steep trip up through the Andes. The road was very difficult to build, some say it was the most difficult railroad in the world. Sometime in the 1960's, several parts were washed out in a severe storm such that the system failed. It wasn't making much money anyway and it could not afford to rebuild itself so it was partly abandoned. There are three operating sections, all operate as tourist roads now. However, there is a plan to rebuild the whole system including the chunk that we used as a road last year to get to the Loma Sandoval site.

100725_ecuador_quito_train_station_2-8-0_8873.jpgThere is a 2-8-0 outside frame narrow gauge steam locomotive on a track at the station, but it is currently non-operational. It needs some kind of work and is expected to run again in a couple of years.... in Ecuador time. This could mean anytime between two years and never.

100725_ecuador_quito_train_station_railbus_0565.jpgWe thought that we were going to take this fairly modern railbus. It left promptly at 0800 without us on it. Our tickets were for the diesel locomotive train, the loco and three cars.

Our trip had one scheduled stop at Tambillo Station about an hour out. The ride was slow and bumpy, much of it through the southern and poorer parts of Quito, some of it street running. A guy on a motor cycle played tag with the train, getting ahead of us to guard grade crossing before we got there.

The scenery was not outstanding, mostly roughly built concrete block buildings. There were some good views further south, but they were from the other side of the train so I don't have any reasonable pictures.

On some curves where I could see the loco, there appeared to be a clear fluid, probably water, pouring out from the loco. I thought that that was odd. We also stopped once in route while the crew climbed all over the loco for a few minutes, then we proceeded to the station.

100725_ecuador_tambillo_train_station_route_map_8880.jpgThis is a sign at Tambillo station showing the southern part of the route from Quito back to Guayaquil (Duran). The line is broken in a couple of places.

The crew got out a hose, backed the train down the track for a hundred yards or so and poured water into some port on the top of the loco. It was clear to me that there was some sort of a leak. However, they might have thought that they had patched it.

We left Tambillo station and went south for only a mile or so when the train stopped again. There was more commotion and then the train returned running backwards to Tambillo Station. This time, we were told that there would be a delay while a bus came to the station to take us to the end of the trip at Machachi. We were given the option of a voucher for another day, but we elected to finish the trip.

100725_ecuador_machachi_train_station_dancers_8888.jpgAt the Machachi Station, we were met by some dancers of various ages. They performed some traditional dances and then we were given a sandwich for lunch.

100725_ecuador_machachi_farm_tour_0618.jpgAfter lunch we had the option of going on a complementary farm tour for a couple of hours before our bus ride back to Quito. We had nothing better to do so we took the tour. The "complementary" part meant that we had to buy a ticket for $2/head. There wasn't much to see there besides some well maintained grounds, a herb garden, and some farm animals. This "farm" was clearly there to harvest money from tourists.

This burro is kind of odd. It is half llama, hence the long shaggy coat.

100725_ecuador_machachi_train_station_turntable_8890.jpgWe walked back the short distance to the station and I noticed that on the other side was a small, manually operated turntable on a stub siding. This guy is too light weight for the diesel, besides it is double ended and doesn't need a turntable. It is too short for the steamer and tender so it must be there to turn the railbuses.

We got on another bus at 1400 and rode about an hour back to Quito along the Pan American Highway, a good four lane road. From there we got on the MetroQ trolly bus. The trolly busses run the full length of Quito for a fare of $0.35. Since we didn't get on at the end of the line, our fare was $0.25, quite a bit cheaper than the cab which cost $6. However it doesn't go directly to the Mariscal district. There is a Mariscal stop where we got off. I recognized the streets there and we walked about a mile back to our hostel in a light rain.

Monday, July 26, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1900 EST (GMT-5)

Today was a long day. We slept to about 0830 and got breakfast in the hostel. It was pretty standard, eggs, toast, fruit and juice. Then we caught a cab to the airport to get our rental car. The one that Sandy first signed up for was pretty small and it was not suitable for dirt roads so we got a slightly larger 4WD car. I think that the brand is Vitara, a GM product. It is a basic car without A/C (not needed here), nor power anything including the motor. It is a 5 speed with a 2 speed transfer case and manual hubs.

We drove back to the hostel and parked it for about an hour in their gated driveway while we attempted to pack it. Eric lugged his gear from the Jardin del Sol a couple of blocks away and we BARELY got it all in. It was a very tight fit.

Then we drove up to the IGM so Eric could get has aerial photos. They had said that the photos would not be available until 1500 and they meant it. We sat in the parking lot of the IGM for 3 hours and THEN they released the photos.

It was 1530 by the time that we left the IGM. We used Sandy's iPad 3G to navigate out of Quito. We don't have 3G data here but we had cached the maps needed while were in the hostel using their WiFi. The iPad does a credible job of keeping the recently viewed maps in memory somewhere so that we could recall them even when not in contact with the internet.

After we left Quito, we found that some parts of the Pan American Highway maps in Google (or wherever the iPad Maps apps gets them) were pretty inaccurate. GPS had us driving cross country in spots but at least it was within a few hundred yards to the mapped road. Using GPS for a long time really whacks the battery in the iPad, it will run for 10 hours doing normal stuff but under 3 with the GPS running continuously. However, I brought an inverter so that we could run it's charger from the cigarette lighter socket. That worked fine, it ended up with more charge than it started with.

100726_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_sandy_8893.jpgWe did get to the Hacienda Guachala at about 1700 but there was nobody around. It took some wandering around the grounds that could get us keys. These photos are pretty dark because my camcorder doesn't have a flash, I'll get some better ones in the coming days. We are in a much larger room this year. Eric is in the room we had last year.

Sandy is standing near the "closet" and the desk that I am using now to write this page. We are using the lower shelf as a pantry for what little food we brought with us. We had a sumptuous dinner of peanut butter sandwiches, snack crackers and water.

100726_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_8892.jpgThe room has a queen and a double bed. We brought one sleeping bag this year instead of two. It is unfolded on the queen bed for warmth.

100726_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_8891.jpgThe room has a fireplace and there is wood and kindling provided. The Hacienda is generally a colder and more windy place that Quito. The hostels in Quito didn't even have heat because it just isn't needed.

I moved the little table that was intended to support a suitcase from where my suitcase is now to the other side of the fireplace near an electrical outlet. That will be our charging station for random stuff. I'll charge my computer from an outlet near the desk.

The Hacienda has internet, at least they did last year, but we didn't ask the woman that checked us in to create an account for us. We'll do that tomorrow. I'll have to walk across the plaza to the library to reach the wireless internet. Our internet connectivity will be intermittent at best, we'll get on maybe once or twice a day so updates to this page and responses to email will have about a day or two of latency.

Besides ourselves and Eric, nobody from the project has arrived. Amber won't make it at all. Sam is in country but probably won't be here for a few days. I don't know who else might show up.

Our tasks for tomorrow are to find and start digging through the project artifact archives. They got moved from the place that they were stored after the project closed last year. Then we and Eric need to go into Cayambe to stock up on supplies. We need to sign up for some internet time.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 2000 EST (GMT-5)

100727_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_school_8898.jpgWhile we were waiting for the key to the store room that held the project archives, Cristobal took us on a short tour of the changes that had been made since last year. What used to be our lab has been turned into a row of schoolrooms. The horse paddock has been allowed to fill with grass and the rabbit hutches and chicken coops are no longer occupied. The large room that we had used for a lecture hall was filled with furniture destined for the school.

100729_ecuador_mitad_del_mundo_vitara_8917.jpgWe left the Hacienda in our rental car at about 1030 headed for Cayambe to buy supplies at the Gran Aki market. That was the easy part. We also needed some other stuff that wasn't all found.

We needed the key to the store room duplicated, Sandy wanted to find a geologic hammer or something similar and I wanted to find a steering wheel lock for the rental car. The key duplicator was a 6 foot wide stall in the market next to the Gran Aki market but we walked all around the area trying to find it. We also visited almost every hardware store in Cayambe looking for the right kind of hammer. We settled for a 2 lb hammer and a cold chisel. We believe that we hit every car parts store in Cayambe and didn't find the lock. However, at an auto alarm place, the guy said that he would get one by Friday. Since the car will be at the Hacienda for much of that time, we aren't too concerned as this place is pretty secure. They haven't had a crime problem here that we know about.

100727_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_sandy_and_eric_and_stores_8897.jpg After we got back at about 1400, we had a lunch of sandwiches and then got to work. Eric and I started going through each of the storage crates, some were very heavy, looking for obsidian for Sandy and Eric's surface collection samples from years past. We found some of it anyway. We set up in the church to allow Sandy to examine and catalog the samples. She quit when it got dark as there is good sunlight in the church but no artificial light.

We hauled three crates down initially for Sandy, Eric took one. We have about half a dozen more segregated in the store room. As we go through one the ones that we have moved already, we'll move more of them down.

That was enough work for the day, my back told me that I shouldn't be lifting more crates for the day. I went back to the room to update this page and rest.

After a short rest, I tested two HP scanner/printers that we found in the lab. An old PSC 1209 had no print cartridges. A newer F380 did. However, neither of them worked with my old PowerBook, the HP drivers were not there. Sandy's newer MacBook uses Snow Leopard and it has a MUCH better set of HP drivers baked in. Both of them worked with Sandy's computer so that she can scan to her heart's content.

At 1830, the three of us went over to the dining room for dinner. We ordered off the menu and had a good mustard and lemon chicken for about $7 each. By 2000, we were back in the room with a nice fire going. I didn't have enough of the right kindling last night and the fire fizzled so this afternoon, I scouted the grounds for more sticks and twigs, the necessary factor in getting enough initial heat to light the firewood provided.

We tried to get an internet password from the office, but the tickets that have the passwords on them were not there. We'll have to wait for tomorrow to upload our pages. Sandy's blog can be found at

Later in the trip, we plan to visit some of the obsidian flows and take some fresh samples from the flows to calibrate the measurement for those sites anyway. This probably won't happen until next week. In the meantime, we'll be going through the samples stored here at the Hacienda to determine which will be taken to the US for X-ray florescence and laser ablation analysis.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1300 EST (GMT-5)

100728_ecuador_molina_loma_my_old_unit_8899.jpgSince Sandy needed some information from Sam before she could efficiently continue sorting her samples and he was supposed to arrive around noon, we elected to spend some time on Molina Loma, a site on a hill above the Hacienda, where we were doing excavation last year. This is what unit 27 looks like now after a year of exposure to the weather. I thought it was going to be protected and filled, but it appears that that did not happen.

The weather on Molina Loma was perfect. It was sunny, cool and breezy. The breeze turned to wind at times, but in any event it kept the bugs away. We got rained on intermittently out of a clear blue sky. The nearest clouds were more than a mile away so that the rain drops were probably being blown in by the wind. There wasn't enough to get us wet though.

100728_ecuador_molina_loma_sample_3_8903.jpgOur plan was to do a surface survey of obsidian samples on the back side of the hill. These would have been washed down from the hilltop where the Inka site was. The particular area that we picked was not forested and mostly exposed bedrock and generally free of leaf litter so that a surface survey would be easier. We found about a dozen pieces total, mostly like this one just sitting fully exposed on a sand filled depression where it washed to and stayed. These pieces are extremely easy to see because the contrast so completely with the surrounding soil.

The last two pieces that we saw were a complete surprise. They were smack dab in the middle of the trail leading up to the site. Over the course of two seasons, many hundreds of eyeballs scanned this trail yet they had not been picked up. One was a scraper that might have washed onto the trail. The other was a larger chunk that was fully embedded in the middle of the trail. Perhaps some soil covering this piece had washed away during the last year.

Sandy is going to do lab work this afternoon, I am going to snooze.

Thursday, July 29, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1600 EST (GMT-5)

I didn't end up snoozing yesterday afternoon. Instead I schlepped stuff to and from our room, the church and the store room.

100728_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_church_0686.jpgSince we didn't have a lab, we set up in the church, built in 1938. The church isn't secure, there are three doors without locks, but at least it has good light and the roof is mostly intact. There is some sunlight shining through in places, but I don't know how badly it leaks. Next time we get some rain here, I'll go in there and take a look.

100729_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_church_wiring_8912.jpgI also investigated the remnants of wiring in the church. When they ripped out the dry rotted ceiling last year, the also ripped out the power wires to the hanging lamps that ran down the center of the church. The wiring was simply bundled up in the choir bay. There is a light switch and an ungrounded outlet at the rear of the church. The wiring for ALL of this stuff is not even close to US building codes, but it seems to be normal for Ecuador.

100729_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_church_wiring_8915.jpgThere is a heavy gauge pair in the choir bay that snakes its way outside via some chipped out adobe next to a window frame in the south bell tower, out across the peak of the room just east of the bell towers, down the other side and across a wall that connects the church to the row of rooms that used to be the stable. There it dives into a circuit breaker box. There are three circuit breakers, all appear to be ON.

100729_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_church_wiring_8913.jpgThere could be power in the church, but there is some damage to the wiring in the choir bay that needs to be repaired. It appears that there may still be connectivity even with the damaged insulation. Since all the breakers seem to be on the exposed wiring may be hot. I dragged a table lamp from our room over to the church and plugged it in and the circuit is indeed hot. The light switch is in the on position so that the cut wiring bundle in the choir bay is probably hot at the cut end too. I don't feel like messing with this and getting fried in Ecuador. Some Ecuadorian electrician can patch this back to their standards if we really need power in there.

The day before yesterday, we got an internet code but it didn't work, we could not log in. The office manager managed to connect using my computer and her office code so that we know that our code is bad. Later, we got another one and that worked, hence the web page upload yesterday. Gmail IMAP is not working for incoming and outgoing and is not working for outgoing so I may have to send mail via the webmail interface for or gmail unless one of them starts to work via the regular Macintosh Mail tool.

100729_ecuador_mitad_del_mundo_marker_0688.jpgWhile Sandy was in the church sorting through obsidian samples, I took the car up to Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) where there is a monument and marker for the equator. This marker was placed by the the IGM in 2005 using geodesic GPS. It's latitude is 0.000. The longitude is 78° 10 min 30 sec west. Sandy's GPS enabled camera nailed the longitude, but it was off by 0.00003 deg in latitude. I also got readings on the iPad, it read 0.00003654° latitude and 78.17506481° longitude. The elevation was 2728 meters which was probably about 75 meters high. I was also recording my position continually using Sandy's Holux GPS tracker module, but it doesn't report it's logged data on the device. Sandy needs to download the data file to see what it recorded. I also walked the equator line at the monument, we'll see how well it's latitude points track.

At lunch, we met with Sam, Anna, Gaby, Cristobal and Dennis. Gaby and Cristobal marked Sandy's topo map with the obsidian source that they ran across while camping. There are no roads to get there and even if we hiked in there, it would be after the time that we need to tell the Ecuadorian government what we want to bring out. We had a long discussion with Dennis about how obsidian might have been traded during the period when the Inka was consolidating their conquest of northern Ecuador. We met with Sam to go through the status of the store room. There is a box somewhere of reports that he had printed last year, but I could not find them. I expect that they are not here. Sandy spent much of the afternoon sorting through obsidian samples collected in the past to determine which ones would be the most likely to be of help in her study. We basically have to declare what we want to bring out by Monday to even hope to get approval by the government.

We've settled down to a meal plan. We get breakfast in our room consisting of fruit, bread and juice that we bought in Cayambe. Lunch is sandwiches from the same source. We get dinner in the dining room by ordering off the menu. The food prepared here has been uniformly good and of sufficient quantity. Dinners are costing us $7 to $10 a head with beverage.

Friday, July 30, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1730 EST (GMT-5)

The logistics for getting approval from the Ecuadorian government for removal of the samples from Ecuador are going to be tight. Sandy has to get all her samples ready by Sunday afternoon. We won't be able to do any more collections from sites or obsidian sources. She'll have to make do with what she can get from the PAP archives.

On Monday, we will go back to Quito and meet Sam there somewhere. From there, we'll go to the INPC, the government entity that deals with antiquities, and hopefully get permission to remove the samples that we culled from the PAP archives. This can take some time and we can only hope that the government agency will provide approval in time. If approval does not come through, the samples will stay here and Sandy will have to make do with other legally exported samples that have already been delivered to Cal State Fullerton on her behalf.

This morning was filled with errands in Cayambe. The steering wheel lock was actually delivered to the auto alarm shop and we paid $18 for it. We dropped our laundry at a lavadoria (a laundry shop). Then we stocked up on supplies at the Gran Aki and returned to the Hacienda.

Just after lunch it started to rain so I went over to the church to see how badly the roof leaks It didn't rain hard enough to tell if the light shining through the roof will result in serious leaks.

In any event, we moved out of the church for the weekend. It will be crazy as there is supposed to be a motocross event here this weekend and the church is not secure. There will be lots of curious people wandering around and we don't want the project stuff messed with. Eric didn't get his room reserved so he has to move to Cayambe for the weekend, he may stay there or move back next week. We stashed all the stuff that is still in work in our room so Sandy can continue to work over the weekend. Eric has one box of stuff, but he will stash it here before he leaves tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 31, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 2230 EST (GMT-5)

100731_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_plaza_8918.jpgI got up a little earlier than normal, 0800, today to go on a hike with Eric and Dennis. I didn't know when they were planing to leave, but I could have slept in for another hour. However, it was bright, sunny and warm outside. This is the view of the Hacienda plaza from just outside our room. Straight back in the middle of the photo is the library and internet room. To the right is a row of tables that is used by the Hacienda restaurant for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is served indoors when it is usually too cool outside.

100731_ecuador_watchtower_hike_8919.jpgThe hike was supposed to go to two places but Dennis and I were both tired so we passed on the 2nd destination. One of them was the site of a possible Inka "watchtower" way up on the hillside on the largest hill behind the Hacienda. When I took this photo, we hadn't located the structure yet, it was another 50 meters or so up the very steep hill. However, from here, there is a good view. The bare region on the hill below is where Sandy and I surveyed a few days ago. That hill is Molinoloma, the Inka site we helped excavate is just inside the tree line on the top of the hill. The Hacienda is just on the other side of the hill. The settlement to the left is the town of Buena Esperanza.

100731_ecuador_watchtower_hike_8920.jpgThis photo is taken from the "watchtower" which is not much more than a couple of walls made of piled up stone and mud. Eric is in the foreground, Dennis is down the hill a little. However, there seemed to be a pathway that ran right through this structure, whatever it really was.

100731_ecuador_watchtower_hike_8921.jpgWe followed the pathways up the hill for some distance. They had been clearly used recently, probably by grazing animals, as they were mostly clear of vegetation and the rocks were rounded and eroded. At first, I thought that these features might be slip fractures but slip fractures do not zig-zag. The paths had many zig-zags continuing up the hill further than we went. These could have been part of an Inka "road."

As we walked back to the Hacienda from Molinoloma, the soccer field and adjacent pasture had been marked off with red tape. A motocross course was being set up. The course went through some tight turns on the flat grassy area and then headed up the hill for a run around Molinoloma. Apparently, the race will be tomorrow, 50 laps, and will run for about 3 hours.

100731_ecuador_cayambe_train_line_at_cangahua_road_8923.jpgAfter returning to the Hacienda over Molinoloma, I ferried Eric into Cayambe so that he could check into his hostel. We also picked up our laundry. On the way back, I took a picture of the railroad station at the junction of the Cangahua road and the Pan American highway. Last year, we used to roadbed at the right as the way to Loma Sandoval. If the Ecuadorian railroad wants to rebuild this line, they have some work to do.

We got back to the Hacienda again, made some lunch and then it started to rain. As usual, the rain didn't last very long and the ground dries out in just a few minutes. The weather in the Andean highlands is mostly cool and dry. The temperatures hardly change over the year. There is only a dry season (now) and a wet season. There are few bugs, but there are some flies that bite. I've had just two bites since I've been here and they itched for only a little while. This is in striking contrast to the weather in Belize.

100731_ecuador_buena_esperanza_festival_0707.jpgAfter we returned to the room from dinner, we could hear a party going on in the little town of Buena Esperanza near the Hacienda. We walked up there and found a small group of young men dancing in the road and generally blocking what little traffic there was. These guys were pretty drunk already. Buena Esperanza was in the midst of their festival. The group invited us to dance with then as we slowly made our way up the street and onto a side street where the big party was. We were offered whisky, Sandy accepted but I could not as I am not allowed alcohol.

100731_ecuador_buena_esperanza_festival_0708.jpgThe lighting is not so good, but there was a big party going on with very loud music and lots of dancing at a spot a few hundred yard off the highway. There had to be 500 people there, most of them fully or partially drunk. Sandy was offered chicha (a slightly alcoholic hot drink made from corn) by many folks. I had to explain that I could not drink due to a medical problem and they understood. It is normally considered an insult to refuse chicha. We hung around until Sandy got a little tipsy and then we wandered home.

Sunday, August 1, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 2100 EST (GMT-5)

When I woke up this morning, my right heel was really sore. There was a bump below my ankle and it felt like I had strained or sprained something. I also had a splinter from handling the firewood last night. The splinter was fairly easy to deal with, but my ankle was not. I was hobbling around all day. The more I moved, the less pain I felt, but as soon as I rested it, it started to hurt again. We'll see how long this takes to resolve.

100801_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_motocross_quadratrack_race_8929.jpg Today is race day. A motocross event has been scheduled at the Hacienda. Most of the teams came in this morning and set up the pit area in the pasture south of the Hacienda. The soccer field that we surveyed with ground penetrating radar last year is an obstacle course. The first race is quadratrack riders. The main event will run for 50 laps, about 3 hours.

From the soccer field, the course goes up the hill on the road that we used to walk to Molinoloma. Then it runs counterclockwise around the hill and comes down on a path just behind the Hacienda pool. It then turns across the pasture along the back and then onto the soccer field again.

100801_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_motocross_quadratrack_race_8948.jpg At the transition from the pasture to the soccer field, there is a small jump. Some of the riders were getting air at that spot, most did not.

100801_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_motocross_8958.jpgAt about 1130 the motorcycle riders took a couple of practice laps and lined up for the start. There has to be more than 50 of them.

100801_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_motocross_8960.jpgThe race was apparently started in classes, I took this picture at the start before the dust got so bad that photography was impractical. Eventually the field spread out enough so that the dust often had a chance to blow away before the next rider came through.

100801_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_motocross_8974.jpgThis is where the riders come down the hill to start the run on the flat section. Most of them were going pretty slowly here so I could get a clear shot, I expected less caution.

100801_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_motocross_9007.jpgAt the jump, most riders didn't get any air at all. A few did, but not as much as some of the quadratrack riders did.

The race is still going on. Apparently, every five laps or so, the teams switch riders to give the other team member a rest. They'll come down the hill and turn into the pit area and do a quick swap and gas up if necessary.

By 1400, the race was over and noise of the motorcycles stopped. The riders got a little cleaned up and came over to the plaza for a buffet lunch. It looked pretty good, but I had already had lunch. Then the winners were announced and the awards handed out. Pretty much everybody had already loaded their motorcycles onto their trucks and when the festivities were done, the teams filtered out. Peace and quiet returned to the plaza. The motocross course was a disaster. Where there used to be a soccer field, the grass was substantially gone and deep ruts marked the turns. The trail down the hill was simply deep dust. It'll take a while for the damage to be repaired.

This place closes up tight on Sundays but we took a chance and drove into Cayambe looking for a restaurant, no dice, they were closed. We drove back to the Hacienda and had dinner here. We were the only three folks at dinner. The Hacienda has emptied out again.

My ankle was not any better by bedtime, it might have been worse. At least it isn't black and blue so that whatever injury that I sustained isn't really bad. It will, however, constrain my movements. I was getting around all day, but not quickly.

100801_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_roaring_fire_9022.jpgOne thing we look forward too each night is a fire in our fireplace. It not only heats the room, but it provides some "atmosphere." Last year I sometimes had problems getting a fire going, or if it sustained itself, it didn't make a lot of heat. This year, I've figured it out. This fire was so hot that I had to sit back about 10 ft or get roasted. The secret is to collect sticks up to a half inch in diameter. These are all over the grounds and are usually pretty dry. They ignite easily and make enough heat to dry out the somewhat wet firewood such that it will start to burn before the kindling goes out. The second secret is to use a couple of larger boards along the sides to support a log cabin style stack above the kindling so that the fire can breath properly. This also leaves a volume at the bottom where the hot coals can gather to make a layer of glowing coals that will both emit heat into the room and heat the new wood enough so that it can dry out too.

Monday, August 2, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1600 EST (GMT-5)

My ankle wasn't any better this morning but I can get around, albeit slowly.

We got an email from Sam describing what we need to do to hopefully get the obsidian samples out of the country. Sandy had the data ready and she was able to modify the sample letter that Sam provided in an appropriate fashion, but the printer that we had, the only one with print cartridges in it, printed one page and then declared a failure with the black cartridge. It feels empty anyway.

Sam wanted to meet us at 0900 tomorrow, but due to Quito traffic restrictions, our car is not allowed into the city until 0930. We'll enter the city at 0930 and meet Sam before 1000 at the INCP with the samples and the necessary documents.

After Sandy prepared the documents that we would need we went into Cayambe to find an internet shop with print capability and print there. If that didn't work, plan B was to find a computer shop and buy an HP 21 print cartridge. However plan A worked. Sandy had stored MS Office compatible files onto a jump drive and we were able to print them from a computer at an internet shop. However, the computer declared that it was infected with some virus so that when we got back to the Hacienda, we simply wiped the jump drive to clean it out. Any viruses that we picked up there would not hurt us (Mac OS only) but we could transmit them to other computers.

After leaving the internet shop, we stopped by the Gran Aki for more supplies and then at a gas station as we had half a tank and didn't want to mess with gas in the morning. The car took 4.6 gallons (not metric for gas) at $2.19/gal for "super." The "extra" grade was $1.48/gal and diesel was $1.037/gal.

100802_ecuador_pambamarca_region_la_quinche_church_9027.jpgWe then went on a short joy ride south on the Pan American highway. We went as far as Guaylabamba which turned out to be a pretty large town, probably larger than Cayambe. Then we turned back north and took a side trip to El Quinche. This is a picture of the church in El Quinche, it is a pretty big one and it faces a large park as is typical for Latin American towns.

I couldn't walk around much but driving is ok, so we headed back north toward Cayambe and the Hacienda. I've gotten used to driving the little rental car and to the habits of Ecuadorian drivers so that they aren't freaking me out as much. The car itself is actually pretty good if not a little gutless. We drove for a week on 5 gallons of gas. The suspension is a little stiff, but that is probably good for bad roads.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 2100 EST (GMT-5)

My ankle was much better this morning. I still fell some pain, but not the stabbing kind that I had felt for the last two days. I can actually walk in a more or less normal fashion.

Since Sandy, Eric and I are the only guests at the Hacienda, it's pretty quiet here. The staff took the opportunity to oil the floor in the dining room. It smelled like diesel fuel in there so we had dinner in the library last night. Eric and I watched a Twins vs. Rays baseball game on DirectTV in the Library during and after dinner. Other than that, it was a pretty normal evening.

100803_ecuador_quito_inpc_9031.jpgThe task for today was to drive to Quito to visit the Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (INPC) to request permission to export Sandy's obsidian samples for analysis in the US. The INCP is in an old colonial style mansion right downtown. I waited in the lobby as the office that Sam and Sandy went to was really small and I wouldn't understand a word of the Spanish used anyway. This painting, called the "Historia de la Humiaidad" or history of humanity. It has a sort of a odd cultural leaning that would not be found in the US, especially down the right side with Lenin, Marx and the Soviet worker/army theme.

We were expecting some grief but we didn't get any. The export was approved and they'll have the samples prepared and sealed for shipment by tomorrow afternoon. Sandy will be hand carrying them.

Sam hitched a ride with us and we drove up to his family's house in Quito for an excellent lunch. Sam then packed some stuff and he came back to the Hacienda with us. He needs to do some negotiation with Diego concerning next year's field school.

Sandy started scanning various unit excavation reports in an attempt to preserve the hardcopy of this data while it still exists.

100803_ecuador_cangahua_elephant_hill_trip_0799.jpgBefore Sandy got very far with scanning, Sam wanted to get a better look at the possible Inka road that we hiked to a couple of days ago. This time, we drove up around the hill that the "road" is carved into. We drove south to Cangahua and then back north on a cobble road until we got to the top of that hill, then down a dirt road to a farm at the end.

100803_ecuador_cangahua_elephant_hill_trip_0817.jpgThen we walked from the farm down the hill and found ourselves overlooking some really seriously large rose farms in the flat land below. I could recognize some of the roads and features in view and I knew that we were right where we wanted to be.

100803_ecuador_cangahua_elephant_hill_trip_molinoloma_0819.jpgAs we got closer to the edge, Molinoloma came into view and, although not in this photo, we could see the "watchtower" and the road going through it from above. We could also see that the road went quite a distance along the hill and disappeared from view around the hill that we were standing on.

100803_ecuador_cangahua_elephant_hill_trip_cayambe_0822.jpgIt was cold and windy up on that hill, but not nearly as cold and windy as it was on Cayambe. Just as we were leaving, the clouds blew off the volcano so that we could see most of it. Anybody up there was MUCH colder than we were. That puppy is 18,000 ft high.

We returned to the Hacienda at about 1800 so that Sam could meet with Diego Bonifaz and then five of us (myself, Sandy, Sam, Eric and David) went out to dinner to a spot on the other side of the town of Cayambe. It was a small restaurant run by an English couple and it was very good. We then returned to the Hacienda to start a fire in the fireplace, update this diary and crash.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1730 EST (GMT-5)

100804_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_store_room_george_0834.jpgToday was a clean up day. Eric is flying home tomorrow so we needed to pack his stuff back in the store room and we also packed away stuff we had in the room that we had needed but were done with. We still have two crates of files that belong to Sam and a project scanner. The rest of it has been returned minus 57 obsidian pieces that Sandy will take home for analysis.

There will be some big wigs coming by to see the collection Friday so that Diego has promised to fix the roof.

100804_ecuador_hacienda_guachala_0838.jpgAfter we left the store room, or bodega, Sandy proceeded to snap pictures of the Hacienda. This is a photo of the bell tower of the "old" chapel which is actually used for services once in a while. The chapel is part of the original 1540's era construction. The larger church was built in 1938, but it was converted to a museum and then it was pretty much gutted. We used it for a few days as lab space.

100804_ecuador_quito_inpc_0848.jpgAfter lunch, we took Eric back to the Jardin del Sol where he will stay the night in Quito before he leaves early tomorrow morning. I also dropped Sandy off at the INCP so that she could pick up the files. Even before I had dropped Eric off less than a mile away, Sandy called and said that she had the stuff so I drove back by the ICNP to pick her up. The INPC is housed in a colonial style mansion smack in the middle of Quito.

Then we made our way out of town. Gas was even cheaper in Quito, $1.98/gal.

100804_ecuador_returning_from_quito_0870.jpgThis is a typical view of the Pan American highway on the eastern side of the Guaylabamba basin, a 1000+ meter deep ravine that separates the eastern and western ranges of the Andes in this area. The farmers scratch out a living on any spot of dirt that they can. The highway itself is good and there are police everywhere. We saw several drivers pulled over on the way back. Seeing as how many crazy drivers are here, the police have easy pickings. The speed limits are 80 kph in some areas, but I was cruising at 65 or so in most places and just letting folks blow by me. These folks will pass anywhere, double yellow not withstanding, even on blind curves. I just slid over to the right to give them some room. Sometimes they will pass against opposing passing traffic meaning that there can be four vehicles abreast on this road.

100804_ecuador_returning_from_quito_inka_road_0875.jpgWe stopped near the turnoff to the Hacienda so that Sandy could get some pictures of an obvious trail. It is the faint horizontal line across the face of the hill. I noticed this feature last year and pointed it out, but everybody thought it was just some contemporary trail cut into the hillside. I don't see why anybody but the Inka would do this. They liked to be high where they could see what was going on and skirting the hillsides is a way to move troops without having to pass through populated areas and perhaps having to skirmish along the way. The spot we climbed is around a fold in the hill to the right. I am betting that the Pambamarca field school will investigate this feature more fully next year.

We made our way back to Cayambe to get some Coke Zero, more chocolate, get the store room key duplicated again (2 more copies) and get some hardcopy photocopies of the letter that the ICNP gave Sandy. Then it was back to the Hacienda so that Sandy could get on the Internet and register for fall classes. That's enough for one day.

We don't have a plan for tomorrow. There will be nobody else here that we know but Sam should be back on Friday so that we can give him his files.

Thursday, August 5, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1630 EST (GMT-5)

I am beginning to like the weather in the Ecuadorian highlands. It is variable, but usually cool and dry. It doesn't get too hot, never humid. There are few bugs. It is often windy and it rains, but not for very long. This is the dry season, it certainly rains more during the wet season.

I am also liking the car we rented. It has enough power to get around and that model, basically a Geo Tracker, has a good reputation here for getting places that other 4WD cars can't. The body work isn't real heavy so that it will probably dent easily and there isn't much room inside, but for two, it's fine. It has lots of headroom which is important to me and the seats are comfortable.

My ankle appears to have healed as of this morning. I don't feel anything from there now. However, some of the bug bites around my ankles that I got in Belize STILL itch big time. Those were some nasty critters.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_fence_corner_on_molinoloma_perimeter_road_9050.jpg Sandy wanted to see the claimed Inka watch tower site and my ankle appeared good to go so we hiked up there this morning.

The way up there is pretty straightforward. We climbed the Molinoloma dirt road and onto the the perimeter road counterclockwise past the storehouse site trail to the backside of the hill. This fence would normally block access to the trail.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_path_over_fence_9051.jpgHowever about 35 meters further along the road is this gap in the wall where the fence is low enough to step over.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_path_by_the_fence_9035.jpgThen the path extends next to a deep drainage ditch along another more substantial fence.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_fence_corner_9037.jpgAt the corner of that fence are some cisterns and a trail going along the back side.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_along_the_fence_9038.jpgThe trail along the backside of the fence extends for a distance but we only had to go past the remnants of a ravine and the vegetation growing in it.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_freeway_uphill_9040.jpgOnce past the lower stretches of the ravine, the vegetation clears and the path is straight uphill over cangahua block bedrock.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_trail_by_ravine_9042.jpgThese looks a little like set stones, but I think that they are a layer of compacted ash that mudcracked and then the cracks filled with wind blown dirt. They do make a very good cobbled road though. If the Inka wanted a path here, they would run it here as there is literally no work to do.

Two or three rows of stones near the edge of the ravine are smoother than the ones just to the left. I suspect that the wear is evidence of abrasion by people or animals.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_rougher_trail_9044.jpgA little higher up the hill, the trail gets rougher. There is still evidence of wear but it might also be due to the flow of water down the little gullies that also might be a trail.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_whole_path_up_visible_9047.jpgThis "trail" leads directly through the "watch tower" which is clearly a fabricated structure. Rocks and mud have been packed into some wall features that have no obvious natural explanation for existence.

The whole path uphill to the site including the last part of the road around Molinoloma can be seen in this photo.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_paths_uphill_from_watchtower_9048.jpg The "path" extends through the watch tower site and up the hill and across the smaller ravine. It follows a zig zag path up the hill for four or five switchbacks before we stopped following it a few days ago. Sandy and I didn't climb any higher than the watch tower. It took us about 45 minutes to drag our 60 year old bodies up this high and we decided not to tempt fate by going any higher. Besides it was threatening to rain more (it had been raining much of the morning) so we elected to go downhill to get some lunch.

100805_ecuador_hike_to_watchtower_sandys_map_9049.jpgWhile we were up there, Sandy, being the good archaeological student, sketched a map in her notebook of the general path up there.

100805_ecuador_el_cafe_de_la_vaca_food_9054.jpgWhen we got back to the Hacienda, we elected to drive to El Cafe de la Vaca. We had tried to get dinner there twice before but it was closed both times. It turns out that they don't serve dinner, just breakfast and lunch. They have only been open for a week, but the place was about half full. Sandy ordered a steak, I got BBQ ribs. Both were excellent. The meal was not cheap, it cost about $40 with tax and tip but it was really good.

When we got back to the Hacienda, we both crashed for a bit. We'll have dinner here in the Hacienda. Sam and Ana are here through tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, August 6, 2010, Hacienda Guachala, Ecuador, about 1230 EST (GMT-5)

100806_ecuador_otavalo_sandy_9058.jpgThis morning we took a quick trip to Otavalo to do some more shopping for tourist type stuff. We hopped in the car a little after 0800 and were at the market in an hour or so. It would have been quicker if I had not turned off the Pan American a few blocks too soon. We got lost in old town Otavalo and sort of wandered around until we stumbled on a street we recognized. We then found a parking lot (parqueadero) which cost $1 for all day. At least the car wasn't on the street. Car theft is a problem here. We walked a block to the market and snagged goodies for about an hour. I got a couple of Andean type wool hats for $5 each and Sandy did some of her Christmas shopping but I'll bet that some of that stuff doesn't actually get given away. We then walked back to the car and drove back to the Hacienda. Sandy examined her loot on the way back and pronounced herself satisfied.

Sam and the government representative were up at the store room when we arrived to examine the stored artifacts and he appeared happy as well. The new ceiling in the store room looked pretty good. Sam still has a lot to do before he leaves for Quito this afternoon. Oscar is here to help too. Oscar is an Ecuadorian who will be the PAP representative to the government while the directors are not here.

Sandy is already planning to be back here next year and Sam mentioned that he wants us to be staff for the field school next year. We'll see how this works out.

We are kicking back for the afternoon. Tomorrow morning, we'll pack for the transfer to Quito. We're going to unload at the El Arupo and then return the rental car. We'll have good internet access tomorrow afternoon and evening, after that we go into dark territory for both internet and cell phone during the flight home on Sunday.

Saturday, August 7, 2010, Hostel El Aurpo, Quito, Ecuador, about 1600 EST (GMT-5)

We left the Hacienda at about 1100 this morning, drove to Quito, filled the car with gas and parked at the Hostel El Arupo where we unloaded. We got our room and then returned the rental car to the airport with no difficulty. It is scary that I am beginning to be able to navigate in Quito although Sandy did have the Maps app on her iPad running.

We took a cab back to the hostel and then went on a walk to a couple of stores on Amazonia street maybe a half a mile from the hostel. Sandy did some serious damage at one of them. As we returned it started to rain but we got here without getting seriously wet. We're going to rest for the afternoon, get some dinner at Rodriguez and crash early. We'll have to catch at cab at 0500 to make our flight.

Sunday, August 8, 2010, In flight, about 1930 PST (GMT-7)

100808_ecuador__quito__hotel_dann_carlton_sandy_sandy_9060.jpgIt is 0730 and we were supposed to be on an airplane, but instead, we are in the Dann Carlton hotel in Quito. Our flight was to go 1000 km south to Lima, then we would layover 5 hours and then fly 1000 km north passing Quito and stopping in San Salvador for another 1 hour layover and then to LAX arriving 5 minutes before midnight. This flight was long, but much less expensive than other flights.

However, the flight was overbooked and TACA offered a later flight at 1400 that arrived in LAX 10 minutes after the original flight. They also put us up in an upscale hotel for the morning, gave us a voucher for breakfast and lunch and vouchers for taxi here and back. They also offered us $250 flight vouchers each. We bit. We still have three flights, Quito to San Jose, then to Guatemala City and then to LAX but we don't get off the airplane in Guatemala City.

We've just had the largest breakfast that I've eaten in a long time and are resting in our room. We have a phone and high speed internet which I haven't experienced since we got here.

We'll be leaving at noon local time to return to the airport. We've been checked in and have paid our departure fees so that all we need to do is drop our bags and go through security.

We left the hotel right at noon and returned to the airport and checked our bags, went through immigration and security and found the gate. When I checked with the gate attendant to make sure that the gate was right (the sign said Medelin Columbia), they wanted our boarding passes. They stapled a new boarding pass on the old one. We had been upgraded to business class.

After we got on the flight, they said something about Guayaquil. It turns out that this flight as a stop too in Guayaquil, about 35 minutes away. We departed Guayaquil headed for San Jose, Costa Rica. Since the 2nd major leg also has a stop at Guatemala City, this is a four stop trip.

The business class seats have 110 VAC electrical outlets, but neither of them work. The sockets are worn out and way too loose. We're in the first row so our leg room isn't quite as good as the seats behind us, but it is a damn sight better than coach. The seats are wider too.

The food is MUCH better and presented better as well. It's been a LONG time since I flew in business or first class.

As we neared San Jose, they called our connecting flight to be at gate 7. We pulled into gate 7 so I was pretty sure that we weren't going to miss our flight. Since the flight terminated at San Jose, everyone had to get off. When we got back on, we were in coach. It was a lot more cramped.

When the flight got to Guatemala City, everybody had to get off again. Transit passengers (us) had to go through a TSA mandated screen at the gate. Then we waited for a bit and boarded yet again. I set my watch and iOS devices to Los Angeles time. If I believe the flight time given by the flight crew, we should touch down at LAX at about 2345, just the same time as our original flight plan before we allowed ourselves to be bumped.

Monday, August 9, 2010, Torrance CA, about 0130 PDT (GMT-7)

We're home with all our luggage. The flight came in at the same time as our originally scheduled flight. Neither Zack or Charlie were able to meet us so we took a cab home. Now it's time to go to bed.

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© 2010 George Schreyer
Created July 17, 2010
Last Updated August 9, 2010