― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
“I tramp a perpetual journey.”
― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Friends, family, and readers, hola de nuevo! Time has flown since our return from the U.S. in August, but in the good kind of way where a steady, fulfilling routine gives way to a stream of days and months. Though rains made Cuenca grey through most of September and October, a streak of sun has now found us, intense and beautiful at 8,000+ ft. to warm the days before the chilly nights. News abounds on the work front, adventure front, future front, and just the everyday life front. Yup, it’s just life now in Cuenca.
Over three days moving through the quiet mountains I took lots of photos, and had plenty of time to let my mind wander along with my body. Below are a few snippets of thought inspired by the place...
Day 1: Route-finding
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.
Some say everyone's an artist. Lynsey, without doubt, is one, but I wouldn't readily offer up the word to describe myself. Unfortunately, I (like so many others) too often give-in to a tunnel view way of thinking that what we're capable of isn't "good enough" to be considered art. Just dabbling maybe. Point and shoot. A thought here and there. What results, however, is a unique release of creative expression - some part of you finding its way out into the world. And that is a damn good feeling.
Recently, a group of friends and colleagues from CEDEI organized "Art Night;" an evening of expression for the diverse and talented folks that found themselves teaching English together. The night proved to be a showcase of the creativity we brought along with us along with what we've found here in Cuenca.
Lynsey, naturally, planned to showcase some of her latest graphic design work. Her exhibition muses on the tourism of our American countrymen that we witness daily here in Cuenca. I slowly decided to put together a collection of photos from excursions into the wild places near Cuenca, mainly Cajas National Park (my truest muse). After hours of Lynsey flexing her art school muscles, we had two series of beautifully mounted illustrations and photos ready for display. Here's our work:
Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!
Patient readers, hola otra vez! The blog has been sleeping quietly for 5 weeks while a steady stream of Parkers and a Schwab came to see our life here in Cuenca. In chronological order, Lynsey and I first hosted Jerry (my dad) and Jody (my aunt), a brother and sister combo on their first international foray together. Next to arrive was my best friend and brother, Brad, and his lovely wife, Danielle. A short week after their departure came Las Madres - the Parker and Schwab matriarchs traveling with two firsts: the new continent of South America and as new travel partners.
There are far too many stories to relay, so instead I'll speak of some highlights and let the photos tell the rest. However, I must say that, overall, having family visit was past meeting present; who we were meeting who we are. Our family brought “home” to Cuenca (including lots of goodies: clothes, spices, chocolate, shoes, a computer... the list goes on), and knowing that they all left with a fuller understanding of our life here and why we're staying for another year. Here are a few lines I wrote on this theme:
Thank you for letting us go
so that we can welcome you anew.
Life might be a line forward,
or just continually leaving
before coming back-
only to leave again.
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”
National parks were set aside by countries all over the world to, amongst many other reasons, give people a chance to escape into the natural world to see how they measure up against forces beyond their control. In this sense, Cajas National Park is a glacially-carved wonderland of uninhabited landscape waiting to be explored. This last weekend I ventured into the park with Zeke, a fellow ex-pat who has put in a considerable number of hours and days making his way through the contours of these mountains. New to backpacking, Zeke has learned backpacking as "trial by fire" in the misty, grassy, and often uniform peaks and valleys of the park - losing and finding his way out of a few incredible solo adventures. For his last jaunt, he imagined a grand north to south route through the park, and together we found a brief description in my hiking and climbing guide to Ecuador that gave us the gusto we needed to plan the trek. By Friday at 2:45pm, we were departing the small pueblito of Miguir along the main highway to Guayaquil in hopes of reaching Soldados on the southern road three days later. The thing was that this trail is not on the park map, so our plan was to route-find our way north to south across the park.
Our most recent jaunt in El Cajas National Park was inspired by the extra two days we had off for Cuenca Independence Day. Despite there being plenty to do in the city, we both knew that we wouldn't have another chance to get in an overnight backpack in the park before December - so we jumped on it!
Again, I marveled at the fact that the park sits only $2 and 45 minutes from our house. It's our western backyard. For the overnight we decided on a popular hike that begins at a spot along the road called “Tres Cruces.” Those who have seen a park map (or just know the place) may understand our trek as “the 4 to the 7;” taking trail 4 south from Tres Cruces until you hit Trail 7 and then heading west on the old Inca trail to its end spot on the road.
"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."
Another adventure in El Cajas! After our first "crooked and winding" trek in the park, we opted this time to join a mountaineering group (called Club Sangay) and their sturdy guides to bring us into the less-explored southern region of the park. Join us for a visual journey through the national park in Cuenca's backyard - happy trails!
"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."
This mega entry will do its best to catch everyone up on our first week in Cuenca! It's been seven full days of exploration and learning without work, and to sum it up: we're very happy we chose this place. Here are some observations on the four C's that have been the highlights of our week - read a little or read a lot, como quieres!
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