I am a proud

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bizcochos, Christmas Candy Bags.....and a new cache

One of my favorite treats is bizcochos, a brick oven-baked crispy bread strip typical of a certain area of northern Ecuador. Almost every time we travel north from Quito to visit places like Cayambe or Otavalo we stop at our favorite cafe which specializes in fresh bizcochos. They are great with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold rainy day. They are even better with a serving of dulce de leche (also known as manjar in some places). Bizcochos are a traditional snack. Three towns most notable for their bizcochos are Cayambe, Tabacundo and the small town of El Cajas. El Cajas sits on the provincial border between Pichincha and Imbabura Provinces. This little town is built on the sale of bizcochos and the work of a few gas stations. That's about it. Nonetheless, stopping off at one of the cafes where they also make bizcochos is great fun. Our favorite cafe is "La Casa del Senor de los Bizcochos" in El Cajas. The front of this cafe is spotted like a Dalmatian or a Holstein cow. Not far from this location I just hid a cache by the name Spotted (GC2KHWV). Care must be taken for muggles. This is one of those where you might need to sit down and rest on the grass next to the hiding place and talk on your cell phone while feeling around for the cache. The day we had this cache we took a mixed group of Ecuadorian and North American church members to work in the Quichua community of Espejo. it was just a few days before Christmas and we were doing a children's program. we had a clown, some musicians and singers, a preacher and a translator and several folks just to visit with the people. We had a great time. If you get to Ecuador be sure to visit the area around Lago San Pablo. Espejo sits beside the lake and the lake is gorgeous! Check out the several caches in the area too. Hopefully one of them will be mine.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cool Water Fountain Park in Lima, Peru

Cool as in neat and cool as in the weather was cold, at least for Lima. After about ten days of travel through the high country in the department of Ancash and then some training events in Lima, my wife and I went out to visit El Circuito Magico del Agua, a water fountain park. We went after dark and had a great time. For only 4 soles (about $1.30) each we walked the grounds, seeing eight large water fountains. At night they are well lit with different colors. One in particular was a lot of fun. It was a sort of tunnel made of water. The tunnel was about 50 meters long. You walked underneath the shooting water lit up with red lights. Another was a sort of labyrinth of water. The children really liked this one. A few adults were also pretty engaged. The water would turn off in certain parts of the labyrinth allowing time for the brave ones to jump across the temporarily dormant water jets that fired bursts of water 20 feet into the air. There were a number of wet ones out there; the ones that weren't quick enough. On a cold night that meant some were headed home pretty quickly after coming out of the labyrinth. The grounds included statues, flower gardens, gazebos and more. The park is open between 4 and 11 p.m. and has a special twenty minute water and light show every hour at the main fountain. If you get a chance to visit Lima this is worth the time. A quick taxi ride of 12 to 15 soles (about $4.50) from Miraflores will get you there. It's along Avenida Arequipa. Sorry that there seem to be no geocaches in the immediate area.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cerro Nielol - Temuco, Chile

The most southern part of the southern hemisphere is headed into spring while those to our north are moving into fall. For those of us who live on the equator the changes are much less perceptible. On a recent trip to Temuco, Chile I had the opportunity to look for the one and only geocache in that area. I also had the opportunity to introduce six friends and their children (we were 13 all together) to the sport of geocaching. I was with them for three days so early on we set Monday, our last day together, as the day to go for the cache. The kids were excited about the "treasure hunt" we would be going on. I didn't want to build it up too much not knowing what the geocache would look like. It could have been loaded with swag and of great interest to the kids or it could have been emptied of swag and a bummer for the kids. One of the parents told me this morning that their six year old son got up and wanted to know whether I would forget about the promise to take them treasure hunting. I hadn't. We meet at the Cerro Nielol hill overlooking the city of Temuco a little after 10 a.m. There is a city park there but you do have to pay a little to enter. It doesn't matter whether you are a resident in Chile or not, you pay. For non-residents the cost was about $2.00 and even less for residents. We paid our entrance fee and drove to the top of the mountain. Two of my friends had their GPSr and had the coordinates plugged in. The kids were also plugged into it. With the clue in hand we took off up the trail, climbing slightly to the birdwatcher's overlook. Following the needle of both GPS devices we went up the hill until their needles swung around and suddenly told them that the GC was about 50 feet behind them. We looked at the clue again and realized that it described the cache as being just meters from the overlook. Back we went and found the tree we thought was the place. Along with one of the older children I climbed up to the other side of the tree and started kicking around. Sure enough. We found it. One of the boys wanted to look for another. That simply wasn't possible as the nearest traditional cache to this one is probably 60 miles away at the foot of the Andes. I would love to go there today but there was no way. I had a great time today finding Cerro Nielol (GC2016P). Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Riobamba Overlook

Jimnet2005, a relatively new Ecuadorian geocacher, has jumped into geocaching with both feet! He has traveled up and down the length of Ecuador seeding the country with caches in some of the most beautiful places here. I'm sure thankful for a serious cacher in Ecuador. I've really enjoyed looking for his caches. We had the opportunity to stop off in his hometown recently. While there we climbed a mountain overlooking the city to find one of his own caches. We followed the cache instructions which led us to the Ricpamba municipal gardens. From there we followed a series of way points designed to keep us on track up to the cache and to help us chart our way around private property. I must admit that at one point I got a little confused and we just headed straight up the hill through the eucalyptus trees. I wasn't sure whether we were trespassing or not. The trail looked fairly well used. After some strenuous climbing we reached a road that appeared to be the main approach. From there we were on track again. We climbed up into a beautiful stand of pine trees. Near the top we arrived at the GZ. What a view of the city of Riobamba! This afternoon El Altar volcano was out and clear. See the photo! The cache was unique to Ecuador. Check out Riobamba Overlook (GC29WGX) if you like. I don't think I've seen on here quite like it. After signing the log we headed back down through the pines. Geocaching is the perfect sport or hobby or whatever you want to call it for seeing this beautiful country. Thanks again to Jimnet2005!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quito Half Marathon Cache

On 21 November 2010 Quito hosted the sixth annual Half Marathon. The 21 kilometer race began at the Plaza de Toros (Bull Ring) on the north side of Quito and followed a route past the airport, through Cotocollao, past the El Condado Mall, and out the highway that takes you to the Equator Monument at Mitad del Mundo. The race began a little after 6 a.m. under overcast skies but with no rain. My wife, sumajhuarmi, ran the race today. I'm proud of her! This was the longest race she's done and she did well. I drove out along the route, stopping a couple of times to park and cheer her own as she came by. Over 3000 people ran today. When I arrived at Mitad del Mundo I walked about 500 feet from the finish line in order to hide Quito 21 kilometer HALF MARATHON (GC2JK08). There was lots of trash along the road and at this point, lots of muggle race-watchers. I finally found a place in front of the Dios es Fiel church. I sat down and watched the runners go by and waited for sumajhuarmi to show. I waited about half an hour. During that time I was able to hide the cache gently and unobserved, even with all the people around me. Finally I saw her coming up the hill. You see most of the race was on a downhill grade but the last two kilometers was up hill. She was beat. I must have looked funny running along beside her in jeans and carrying my thermos but I didn't it with her to the finish line. She crossed the line with a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and five seconds. Not bad for her category. Again, I'm proud of her and this cache is to commemorate her race!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Caching with jimnet2005

One of the biggest pleasures of geocaching is found in the friends you make along the way. Over the past several months I started seeing a new geocacher appear in the logs here in Ecuador. Soon this new geocacher was also hiding some pretty good caches too. On a recent trip into the southern part of the country I was able to pick up a few of jimnet2005's caches. As a result we struck up an Internet conversation through Today we met for the first time at Parque Metropolitano and were able to visit some caches together. What a pleasure to get to know Jaime and Maria Belen, from Riobamba, Ecuador! They only have a few geocaches under their belts due to the low geocache density here but they have in just eight months quickly risen to become the geocachers with the second highest number of geocache hides in Ecuador! Thanks for the caches jimnet2005!!!! This is what I've been praying for! Jaime, Maria Belen and I met at the outdoor food court in the park. From there we started a swing through the southern end of the park. They had attempted the northern end of the park but found that a number of the caches there were either missing or simply too hard to find. They found eight caches today and we became good friends in the process. One of our near term goals is to host a geocaching event soon in hopes of getting some of the small caching community together. I'm also eager to visit the high jungle near Puyo and find some more of their caches. They have some caches along some trails to some spectacular waterfalls. I know my wife will like these. Thanks for a great day jimnet2005!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cajas National Park - Ecuador

It gets cold at 13,000 feet above sea level when the clouds cover the sun and it rains! Thanks to geocacher museion there is an earthcache in the park. It was starting to rain in Cuenca when Al and I left for the 30 minute drive up the mountain. Cuenca is at 8,500 feet above sea level and GZ is at 13,000 feet above sea level. Cajas National Park is along the highway that runs from Cuenca to the coastal city of Guayaquil. It is at the highest point where you cross the continental divide. Through traffic is given about 20 minutes to travel through without having to pay the park entrance fee. If you hold an Ecuadorian residency and can prove it with an ID card, the cost to stay in the park is $1.50 at this writing. If you are a foreign visitor it is $10.00. We paid $3.00 and went to the welcome center. We quickly completed the assignments in order to get credit for Cajas National Park (GC1EZDD) and then headed for the warmth of the small restaurant with a great view of the lake. While there the sun broke through turning the paramo into a beautiful place. There are lots of trails that you can hike, almost all ranging between 11,000 and 14,000 feet above sea level. The most interesting one to me is the old Inca Trail running from Cuenca to the coast. It takes two days to cover the distance of the trail within the park, only about 19 kilometers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Earthquake Cache!

I like a little history with my geocaches. This one provides it. We recently took a trip from Quito, Ecuador south to Cuenca. The drive along the Panamerican Highway has really improved over the last 13 years. I remember when it was some of the roughest roads in the country. Today it is well paved for the most part. Along the way we planned to visit the Terremoto 1797 Reloaded (GC26M6K) cache. As we began our bypass of the city of Riobamba we turned on the GPSr. Upon arrival at the city of Cajabamba we left the main highway. The needle clearly indicated that the cache was on top of Cerro Cushca, a hill overlooking that city. We weaved our way through the city and followed what proved to be the most logical path for our 4WD. This took us through another small town and eventually to the top of the mountain. Thanks to a dirt road cut out by the local telecommunications company we were able to reach the top. The hill is the site of some pretty significant antennas. From the top we had a wonderful view of the whole valley all the way out to Colta Lake. From where we parked it was only 140 feet to the cache. We walked down hill and found the cache easily. Once we finished signing the log and getting a few photos, we returned to the top of the mountain to have a picnic lunch and enjoy the view. The cache page tells the story of how in 1797 an earthquake destroyed the original city of Riobamba, located below where today stands the city of Cajabamba. You can still see some of the landslide that destroyed the old city. Afterwards the survivors moved this city, one of Ecuador's first colonial cities, to its present location further northeast. We thought the stop signs in both Spanish and Quichua were interesting. Lake Colta is also an interesting place in the history of evangelical missions in Ecuador. Over one hundred years ago two brave single female missionaries, Julia Anderson and Ella Ozman, left the safety of the coastal city of Guayaquil to become the first evangelical missionaries among the Quichua of Chimborazo. Ella died of pneumonia within days of their arrival and Julia continued on for nearly five decades. She lived and worked in the area around Lake Colta. Today there is a large evangelical movement among the Quichua of this area. Check out the following article from Christianity Today in order to learn more. Visit this cache to get the full outdoor adventure!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Haunted Trail - Southwest Park, Guilford Co. NC

We enjoyed our trip home to Guilford County, North Carolina. I've also had the opportunity to get out with my grandson, Brandon, and do some geocaching. Today we picked the Southwest Park. It is a new complex in southwestern Guilford County. The trails were just recently cut through the woods. Last Halloween one of the local cachers put together the Haunted Trail series. Brandon and I started out early. We started with Fun House (GC1ZAT5) and worked our way around the park finding all nine caches in the series. The trip took about two hours and was a lot of fun. Fortunately today was a cool day. Brandon liked the cache containers, all designed for Halloween. I enjoyed seeing the joy in his face as he found and examined the contents of the caches.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Trip to the Zoo

Ecuador has a zoo! And it is a pretty good zoo. Our daughter Rubi is home from college visiting us for the summer. What a blast it has been having her here. She has helped out as a translator for our volunteer teams, visited her friends from the Quichua community she left behind when she went off to school and has caught up with some of her friends from high school who have returned from the four corners of the earth to their beloved Ecuador. She's returning to her sophmore year in college this week and wanted to take us to the zoo. We have lived here for 13 years and never been so off we went. We had a great time, particularly on the "dry forest" hike that they have. It introduces you to animal and plant life common in the dry mountain areas we have in parts of Ecuador. All along the way I wanted to hide a geocache. I found several great locations but didn't want to put a cache inside the zoo area. It took a lot longer to find a place outside the zoo but I finally found the right place. We came out of the zoo and then later took a different road back in. Most of the roads were heavily populated with homes that were wall to wall. Finally we came to a soccer field and a set of cement steps going up the hill, supposedly to another community. There was no one around. Climbing the hill I found the a small trail heading off to the west. Within a few meters of the steps I found the perfect place to hide Near the Zoo (GC2DHCM). For all you first to find guys and gals, this one is waiting on you. It isn't uncommon for a cache placed outside of the capital city to go months without a find. Maybe a tourist going to the zoo will pick up on it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Equator Cache near Quito, Ecuador

We were fortunate to host some friends from Shawnee, OK for a week. We traveled out to the "Mitad del Mundo" (Middle of the Earth) site. The place is full of shops and, according to the French, was designated as the true equator. Of course they did this long before GPS technology. They weren't off by more than a couple of hundred feet so who can complain about the work they did during the 1800's. Everyone lined up on the yellow painted line designating the equator for their pictures. Most enjoyable was our visit to the Intinan site, purporting to be the true equator line as verified by GPSr. The location is full of cultural and historical information about Ecuador, it's Amazonian tribes like the Shuar and the Waorani, exhibits with guinea pig (cuy) that you can see, snakes, etc. They take you out to their equator line and perform some exercises to demonstrate that they are the true equator. They drain water from a sink and show how it goes straight down the drain with no swirl right on the equator but goes one way when you are just a few feet to the south of the line and the exact opposite when you are few feet to the north. The cost for the guided tour was only $3.00 for adults and it was interesting. We had a great time. There is a virtual at the site that requires you to locate the true equator and take a picture of your GPSr zeroed out. The problem is that even with a 29 foot accuracy I show the equator as being outside the site in the parking lot next to the road. I got credit for The Fake Equator (GC934A) by sending in the photo of my GPSr but the difference between what my GPSr says and what the folks in the Intinan say is significant. I checked out some of the pictures taken and posted by others logging the find and it also shows that they marked the parking lot location as the true equator. I don't know for sure who is right. Either way I highly recommend the visit to the equator.