Sunday, December 25, 2011
A great time was had by all who attended the Triad Christmas Party (GC38XB0) geocaching event at the Farmer's Market near Greensboro, NC this past Friday night. Thanks to markcase for organizing the party. We had some great country cooking at the Moose Cafe in a room set apart for our group. We were probably 50 people or so. My granddaughter, who declined attending, calls us geo-weirdos but I don't mind. I was accompanied by my grandson, MasterYoda1, who was thrilled to meet some of the people who have been finding his geocaches. I met some new geocachers from the general area. I sat across from some folks from Martinsville, Va. and beside a fellow who started caching two months ago and who is from Ashboro. We all brought a geocache to exchange. We formed a large circle and markcase read a silly story about Christmas. Everytime he said the word "right" you passed your geocache to the right; everytime he said "left" in the story you passed your cache to the left. At the end of the story most of the caches had made it around the circle. When the story ended you had your cache. My grandson took a unique cache. His was a bubblegum dispenser full of swag. Mine was a micro. I saw some unique and interesting cache containers. On top of everything this event was my 1500th geocache find. After the party we went out to find two caches that were specially placed for the event. MasterYoda1 was the FTF on one! We came home content and ready to attend future events if given the opportunity. Merry Christmas to all!!!!!!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
We had the pleasure of meeting up with some good friends recently and got to tour the sites around Cusco. We rented a van and bought passes to see Sacsayhuaman, Quenqo and several other Inca ruins within a short distance of the city. The day was beautiful and everyone was well. We climbed through the Sacsayhuaman fortress ruins. What amazing stone work done so long ago! For me another highlight of the visit was the earthcache at the location. After touring all the fortress off we went to complete the requirements for Striated Extrusion of Sacsayhuaman (GC2Q45T). The cache page included a photo but none of the rock formations I could see seemed to match up with it. While my friend continued looking around on top of the hill I climbed down and told my wife I was going to look around the back side of the hill. Before I got around the hill I could hear children laughing and screaming with delight. There it was; the scene from the picture. The rock formation leaving two perfect stone slides about 30 feet long. There were about 15 Quechua children having the time of their lives sliding down the stone slides. The five kids in our group joined right in. This made their day. If you get to Cusco be sure and visit this archaeological site and check out the slides. They are great!
Sunday, December 11, 2011
In almost fourteen years in Ecuador I had successfully avoided the bull ring. I just wasn't interested in seeing man take on bull. During a recent visit by my daughter's father-in-law he talked me into taking him to see what he and I thought would be a bull fight. Quito has its bull ring in north Quito where during Quito Days (the first week of December) there are full fledged bull fights with famous matafores. This was not what we went to see. We saw a sign advertising a bull fight in San Jose de Moran, one of the outlying communities on the northeast side of Quito, so we decided to go. It was advertised for 2 p.m. We caught a bus up to the small plaza in front of the San Jose de Moran Church. From there we asked directions to the bull fight. Some children knew the way and for a quarter we had a guide. Think small town rodeo now. We paid our $3 entrance fee and came into an area that was partitioned off from a soccer field. The owners had put up tarps to block off viewing by those who didn't pay to come in. There was a coral around which people could gather and then there was a raised platform. We paid $1 to rent a plastic chair each and climbed the ladder to the covered platform. We set up and waited. While waiting for the bull fighting to begin, along came a young man. He sat down on the edge of the platform and promptly dropped something. He climbed into the ring and on his way out my son-in-law offered him a hand up. Unfortunately the young man was already running on alcohol or some other drug. He wanted to know if we were going to "torrear" (fight the bulls). We quickly told him no. He pulled out his cape to show us his plans to fight. Soon the loud music ceded way to an announcer who told us of the imminent release of the first bull. Suddenly a about 10 spectators entered the ring, most congregating around a small safe zone in the center of the coral. This area was about 4 feet by 4 feet wide and was nothing more than a small cage made from logs stood upright in the earth. As the first bull was released these young men did all they could to taunt the bull into coming their way. They were mostly operating on liquid bravery or a sense of machismo designed to impress their girls. It was interesting to watch one strut onto the field like he was something and then scurry to the safety of the safe zone the moment the bull took a step in his direction. Suddenly our bull fighting friend appear in the ring, cape in hand chasing behind the bull. Of all the amateurs on the field of battle this young man was clearly the bravest or the most foolhardy. We weren't sure which. Time after time as the macho men dived over the wooden fence or ran for the safe zone, bullfighter used his cape to trick the bull to the left or right of his body. Only on a few occasions did he feel the need to climb the wall. There was another group of men there. I guess they were a subset of the macho men. They were the vaqueros, or cowboy types. It was odd to see the spurs, the pointed boots, jeans and cowboy shirts and hats on Ecuadorians. They too scurried for safety every time the bull came their way. Bullfighter persisted in tracking down and engaging the bull, occasionally losing his footing due to drink or drug. We were concerned for him. It would only be a matter of time until the bull would win. Bullfighter made it through the first hour and it wasn't until the third bull came out that his time was up. The bull pinned him against the fence, fortunately not goring him but apparently breaking his wrist. As he retired from the ring the fire department medics came to check on him. He was through for the day. We were glad he was not seriously injured. After an hour and a half of drunks taunting and running from the bulls we wondered if the main event was about to begin. Certainly a small community bull fight isn't just a bunch of drunks running around with the bulls? Suddenly in came the clowns. These guys were used to fighting the bulls and were pretty good. One made a big deal of grabbing the microphone and asking where we three gringos were from. They were proud that we were there at their small time bull fight and made us feel welcome. Maybe a little too welcome as after the first period of clown antics with the bulls one climbed into the stands to try to offer us a drink from the same big beer bottle that they had forced into the bull's mouth. We declined because we don't drink and if we did we wouldn't drink after bulls. Some of the crowd did. This was followed by one of the young macho cowboys riding a bull. He did a pretty good job, staying on the bull until it surprised everyone by crashing between the upright logs of the safe zone leaving the cowboy hanging in the air. Whether we arrived at a midway intermission in the program or the end we weren't sure. I suspect it was intermission. We realized that there wasn't much more that could happen that was new unless they were going to have drunk women fight the bull next. I wasn't sure I wanted to see that. I remember a sign at the ticket booth that said that children under 12 were not allowed in the bull ring. By now there were boys even younger than 12 in the ring. The police and medics didn't seem too concerned. Time to go. I thought of placing a cache in the area but it was just not practical. Chalk it up to another interesting cultural experience. Rural town Ecuadorian bullfighting isn't what you think of. Yet, a positive point is that they didn't hurt the bulls. If anything it was the drunks who get hurt. Not the best day of entertainment. I won't go back.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
While caching in the Triad area of North Carolina I've come across some unique and interesting caches. Here are just a few:
1) It was one of those days where I had to get just one. I'd started the day saying that I'd spend it with family and help my wife pack for our return to Ecuador. Then as the day dragged on and it became evident that she didn't need me as much as I thought she did, the nagging feeling that there were geocaches out their waiting for me got the better of me. I only had an hour before time to go to my son-in-law's parents house for supper so I had to be quick. I parked the car on the exit ramp where the truckers have parked and worn down a pretty definite parking area. I crossed the ramp and into the woods. Just as described, Nuke It (GCW6A0) sat as big as day for all to see. All that ventured into this part of the woods would see it but not the casual passer-by. I opened it up, signed the log, picked up a TB and was on my way to supper.
2) Later I was out for a few more caches. One caught my attention. It was Slice! (GC21T5F) just off of an old golf course. I parked at the recreation center and started to track into the woods. I was not prepared with long pants for the briers I encountered so I headed out to the main road to try it from there. I found it not much better. Nonetheless I beat my way through a patch of briers with my walking stick. Once in the pine thicket the undergrowth was much less of a problem and moving was easy. I found the red bucket and the spilled golf balls described in the cache notes. Within a few minutes I had the cache in hand. To get out I decided that the direct way through the woods and briers to the recreation center couldn't be much worse than the round about way I had come in. I was right and was on the road to another cache in no time.
3) Kicked the Bucket (GC1R9Q1) was another fun cache. I parked the car at my wife's maternal grandparents' old place. They have since passed on. I walked down the road and then began some serious bushwhacking through the high weeds and briers. My wife waited for me back at the old home place, reminiscing about days gone by. When I got to the GZ I found the old car in the photo above. The clue required that I look a certain distance at the 1:30 position from the driver's seat (had their been a driver's seat). The clue was good and I had the cache in a short time. The trip out of the wilderness was just as rugged as it was getting in.
4) The last one isn't a cache but one of the interesting sights seen while caching recently in Greensboro, NC. I'd just come out of the woods near Price Park. I was actually in a residential section when I saw these two fawns walking through a yard. They casually crossed the street and stood in someone's front yard as I snapped this picture. They seem to be very used to humans. We never see deer in Ecuador so I'm always intrigued when I get the chance to see them!
Sunday, November 27, 2011
It was a real blessing is to be able to spend time with other ex-pat friends recently. We gathered in a house not to far from the new cache I placed in Pucallpa, Peru. Pucallpa is a jungle city of about 400,000 population situated on the Ucayali River. The logging industry is probably the biggest business in this region. For much of the year this region swelters in heat and humidity but is blessed with all the beauty of the rain forest. Pucallpa is a Quechua name meaning literally "Red Earth". A sign as you come out of the airport into town welcomes you to the "Tierra Roja". More and more streets are paved now but most are still red dirt (or mud if it is raining). The major form of transportation is by moto-taxi. The streets are full of moto-taxis buzzing (a rather loud buzzing when there are hundreds of them) up and down with their passengers. They out number cars 15:1 in this town and are the major mode of in-town transportation. I'd like to see the day when tourist geocachers in Pucallpa are running from geocache to geocache in moto-taxis. I'm convinced that those tourist who happen to be geocachers planning a trip to the Peruvian jungle and trying to decide between one location and another will likely opt for the location with the most geocaches. I placed the new cache near the airport and along a well transited road. It's called The Banana Man (GC2JR26) and the picture tells the story. I've spent two mornings walking the streets around this house looking for a decent place to put a cache out but found very few. Most locations are too full of muggles to place a cache and expect it to survive the week. The Banana Man has a good chance of survival if the geocacher is careful. The cache is not right in the middle of all that traffic but is in a more cacher-friendly location within sight of the Banana Man. If you come to Peru let me encourage you to visit the Ucayali River area, nearby Yarinacocha (a beautiful lake) and check out a few caches in the area. Congratulations to Dav&Lin for the FTF!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Sumajhuarmi and I got up at 5 a.m. in order to hit the road by 6 a.m. We were headed out for one of those fun days of geocaching and sightseeing in Ecuador. We traveled south along the Panamerican Highway from Quito. We traveled through towns like Latacunga, Salcedo, and Ambato to get to our destination: Riobamba. We were hosted by Jimnet2005 and Maria Belen in their hometown. Soon after arriving at their home we headed out in their little red sports car to the Colta Lake area. Colta is not only where the first catholic church began in Ecuador. It is also famous for being the place where the first Ecuadorian highland Spaniard settlement was established in 1533. It is also where the first Evangelical missionaries began their work among the Chimborazo Quichua in the early 1900's. We pulled into the small parking lot in front of the oldest Catholic church in Ecuador. After a quick tour of the building we headed outside to look for Balbanera: The First Catholic Church (GC2J8Y7). This was the first nano that I've found in Ecuador. No spoilers here. You'll have to find this one on your own! After signing the log we traveled a few kilometers further south and visited the new Colta Park right on the lake. I highly recommend it. We took a half hour boat tour on the lake. You can rent paddle boats, rafts or you can go out on the fiberglass covered tour boat with a guide who'll explain the legends of the lake. Colta Lake has lots of reeds (totora). There are also several floating islands made up of totora on the lake. Some of these even occasionally have cattle grazing on them. We were told that the islands float around so for a week or so at a time the cattle graze as they float around the lake. Cow tourism I guess. Today we saw no cattle but as the boat tried to pass between two of the floating islands we got stuck. To get from the south end of the lake to the north you had to pass through a small breech between two floating islands. The guide and driver gunned the boat to get us through going north. Coming back south he didn't make it and we got stuck. It took all four men on the boat to pole and push us out of this trap. The floating island was firm enough that the guide and his helper could lay a long pole down on the grass and stand on it to push the boat. That along with poling got us through. If you come to Ecuador I suggest you visit this church and nearby Colta Lake!
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Hot muggy days may stop some cachers but not me. I have to take advantage of being in a cache-rich environment while I can. My wife had assigned me the task of running several errands so I programmed in a few caches along a route to and from. I started out in an urban setting but ended up in a rural area. I prefer the latter. In the urban areas I typically get to the GZ and find it too muggle-heavy to search for during business hours. I write these off for after hours. There was one urban cache at the end of a parking lot that proved do-able. It was from a "Gone with the Wind" series. I can't figure out the connection between the cache container and the title. The location was beside a fire station thought. It was called Great Balls of Fire! It's Rhett! (GC1YK33). It was a nano cleverly disguised as the picture indicates. From there I hit a few that I had DNF'd last year. They stayed DNFs as I've apparently not gotten any wiser. As I moved into the rural setting I found another cache in a series around the theme of telecommunications. Can Ewe Here Me Now #2 (GC242XE) demonstrated one use for old cell phones. I visited another in that same series before moving on to my favorite, a container hidden on hillside full of large rocks. Hard Rock Candy (GC23EX2) was a little more of a challenge and very much appreciated. Getting to it required a little climbing and some bushwhacking through the briers. Now to the last errand and home. It's KFC tonight and I have to bring it home.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
During a recent trip to Cusco, Peru a friend and I caught a taxi and traveled along the main route leading to the Sacred Valley. Our quest was to find Kusilluchayuc (GC2XQF2). Our taxi driver stopped several times to ask directions so as to get us as close as he could. This ancient Inca ruin is located off the routes that cars can travel and does not seem to be a main tourist attraction. The driver stopped and asked a farmer if his passengers could cut across his field. With friendly approval from the farmer we were off on a 500 meter hike down the hill to a clump of carved stone outcroppings. My friend tracked us to the cache with my GPSr. After signing the log and replacing the cache we decided to search for the famous stone with the carvings of a monkey and snakes. The name of the cache and also the name of the ruins means "place of monkeys" in Quechua. At this elevation there are no monkeys but the Inca people certainly knew of the monkeys that inhabit the nearby jungle. The stone was described as being two meters in height and shaped like a large toad. Fortunately for us the cache was an easier find. After a short search we found some young lovers hiding out among the ruins. They were kind enough to show us the stone. Maybe they thought we'd go away quicker if we found what we were looking for. It was hard to make out the images. Can you see the image of the monkey in the close-up photo? It looks like they are pretty weather-worn. On one side of the ruins runs the Inca Trail. We walked uphill to get a glimpse of the Moon Temple. It was already getting late so we took photos from a distance and headed back down the mountain. We had several stops to make along the way. One was Quenqo Grande and Quenqo Chico. GTAbusquedor has placed a micro at Quenqo Chico. If you come to Cusco be sure and visit the labyrinth Inca ruins here. We then cut across a stand of eucalyptus trees to the Cristo Blanco statue overlooking Cusco. There we began our descent into Cusco. As we were coming down the steep mountain prepared trail the lights of Cusco began to come on. What a beautiful view! Cusco has so much to see. Fortunately the number of geocaches is growing too!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
There is currently only one nano geocache located in the historic or colonial part of Quito. It is at the bascilica, the first photo in the group. If you are coming to this part of town be sure and visit the Bascilica del Voto Nacional and take the tour. You get to climb the 300 plus steps to the center and rear spire and get a great view of the city from above. This cathedral has a religious and political motivation. The chapels off to the sides of the main sanctuary are dedicated and named after the provinces. There is a burial section you can visit for the presidents of the country. Only four are buried there at present. While there be sure and look for UIO Basilica (GC1CVMW). You don't have to pay to find it as it is located outside the building. I'm not sure that you can look for it after regular business hours as the gate may close. Recently I had the opportunity to visit a number of the churches in the old city. Part of my goal was to get to know the culture a little better. Part of my goal was to hide a micro cache. I had a great time visiting the churches but I came away convinced that until I get a nano sized cache to hide, this will be near impossible in this part of town. Sorry for that! We highly recommend that you visit the following churches, all within walking distance of one another. Visit the Santo Domingo Church (started by the Dominicans). Also check out the San Francisco Church and monastery (started by the Franciscans). We found the Primada Church to be a good tour. It is right on the main government plaza and houses the remains of two presidents. Probably the most famous being Mariscal Sucre, the liberator of Ecuador. Be sure to visit the Compania de Jesus Church (found by the Jesuits). Another worthwhile visit is the San Augustine Church (founded by the Augustinians). Finally, we visited and recommend the La Merced Church. Why so many different Catholic Churches in such a small area? The answer is that there are many Catholic orders and they seemed to all want to have their own church and convent and to have the most ornate presentation. By far the most gold covered and costly church was that of the Jesuits. If you are a runner you might like to run in the 10 Kilometer night race that goes by all the major historic Catholic church buildings in Quito.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
A while back we had the opportunity to travel into northeastern North Carolina and visit several churches, one which I pastored years ago. We had a great time staying with some friends and speaking in their church about our work in Ecuador. They had never heard of geocaching so I showed them. Not too far from their church is a virtual called The Senator's Grave (GCH16M). To all who read this I have to say that I can't tell the story without a little spoiler. Be warned if you are planning to look for this cache. This particular Senator (the town where I was a pastor is named in his honor) requested that everyone who came by would place a stone on his grave. Today there is a pile. Thomas Jefferson had some nice words for him that are on a nearby plaque.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
We landed in Cusco and were picked up by the Hotel Ruinas van. After a quick check-in to a nice room we were off to find Rumiwasi (GC2K6ZB) . It was an overcast day about 60 degrees F. The cache instructions gave us two options for getting out to San Sabastian, one was taxi and the other by bus. We walked down the hill and found the bus. If you go by bus be ready to stand up since the bus is often full. We got out at the large obelisk with a condor on the top. From there we tracked to the waypoint marking the beginning of a trail up the mountain. We have been living at sea level for a number of months so we could feel the lack of oxygen as we climbed. The climb took us through developing communities. On a Sunday afternoon we mostly saw dogs outside and very few muggles. The ruins of Rumiwasi are great. They are off the beaten path so there are no entrance fees and no tourist enterprise. When we got to GZ we admired the Inca construction by taking a bunch of photos. The cache was hidden just as advertised. We found it, signed the log and replaced the cache before heading down the mountain. What a view of the city of Cuzco and the airport where we landed earlier in the afternoon. Now that I'm back on line I want to do a little research to learn more about Rumiwasi. These were such fascinating ruins to be of little value to the tourism industry! I hope you'll check out Rumiwasi when you come to Cusco. It will be worth the climb!
Sunday, October 9, 2011
In February 2009 I had the opportunity to climb part of Illaniza Norte. That was an exciting trip. I really gained an appreciation for the difference it makes to acclimatize to the elevation. We spent the night at the hut in the saddle between the two mountain peaks. The next morning we continued up Illaniza Norte until we reach the point that it became rather technical, then we turned back. The views were spectacular. The day before as we started our climb up I hid a geocache, Illaniza, La Virgencita (GC1N83W). At that point I did not think that this would be a long time being found. There are a number of climbers that are geocachers so I figured within a couple of months this would be found. It took 23 months for autobus to make the FTF. Even then autobus waited about 9 months to post his find. I just received the notice the first week of October 2011! Prior to this one cacher lamented the muggle climbers he accompanied to the summit because they wouldn't allow him the time to hunt for the cache on the way down even though his GPSr put him within 20 feet of the cache. That has to be frustrating! I'm glad that the cache has been found and hope that many others who set out to climb these gorgeous mountain peaks will take the time to look for this small treasure. It's not the treasure as much as the mountain that makes this an experience worth having. Enjoy the mountain!
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Want some biking adventure in a beautiful area. Try the Route of the Hiawatha Bike Trail. It starts just off Interstate 90 just across the state line in Montana. It is all downhill from that end. What do you get? A beautiful ride through the pine covered mountains along an old railroad prepared for biking. Along the way you'll go through seven tunnels and seven high trestle bridges. I wish I'd known about geocaching when I did this ride. I suspect there might be some caches along the way. Panhandle Idaho is simply gorgeous!