Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Last week I took several long walks along the quiet country roads around la Merced de Buenos Aires. One walk took me down the road towards Lita and the Esmereldas province. The elevation dropped quickly and within a two hour walk the climate changed from temperate to sub-tropical. It was on this walk that I spotted a small green snake eating a frog.

Mountain Sipo: non-venomous 

Two days later I took a road out of town heading in the opposite direction, further into the mountains. This road climbed quickly. Here, I found interesting rock formations and another snake.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This is a view of the epic cliff that separates the property from the rest of the world. Along the top of the cliff there is a trail that is the boundary of the property. 

Here you see Don Vargas as he leads the way cutting a trail through the invasive bamboo that has overgrown much of the property.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Grace and I are headed back to la Merced de Buenos Aires bright and early in the morning. At least that's the plan. She'll be kick'n it around the town looking for a cheap house or building lot for sale, while I head back to our remote property with Don Vargas and a machete to try to find the boundaries and look for a better trail in and out. With luck, we'll get some good photos and a look at the Roca Viva.

I might quit Quito and stay in la Merced de Buenos Aires. It would make getting work done on the property a hell of a lot easier without the 4 and a half hour commute.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Here's a little collection of construction techniques I'd like to try as we build the cabins on the property.

Cordwood - Combination of cob and cut ends of wood stacked to form walls.

Cob - Walls are built from a mud and straw mixture with a high clay content.

Bamboo and Mud - Walls are constructed of a loose grid of bamboo, and then filled with mud.

And, of course, simple wooden cabins, which are probably the fastest and easiest technique, but not the most environmentally friendly or aesthetically pleasing. The challenges with the first three techniques are protecting the buildings from moisture, and finding soil with a high enough clay content. To me, cordwood is the most attractive and probably the most moisture resistant of the mud based building styles. The bamboo and mud technique is probably the fastest.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Map to la Merced de Buenos Aires.  Note, the most direct road, the one from Guadual, doesn't show on this map. In this area mapquest does a better job than google of showing small towns and roads.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vulture chick?

Speaking of aji, does anyone know what these hot little peppers are? They have black seets, great taste, and a lot of kick. They were growing in the cloud forest near the property.

Ecuadorian food and food safety

Some words on Ecuadorian food and food safety. I'm the first to admit, I don't always practice the best food safety. I drink juice with ice in it, I eat street food, I taste unpasteurized curdled cow's milk. I also get sick, a lot. In my travels around the world, I've had parasites, and twice now I've had dysentery. I'm writing on this topic, because once again I'm chained to the toilet, and I suspect this is turning into my 3rd round with dysentery. Was it the campesino food? Was it brushing my teeth with mountain spring water? I'll never know.

Why, you might ask, do I take such chances? Why do I risk gastric distress over and over again? There are two reasons, really. One, is that I love food, I love trying new food, and I love eating like the locals. The other, is that sometimes communication fails, and I'm just too thirsty or hungry to be picky.

Moving on to a less disgusting note, I love Ecuadorian food. I love the motè, I love the churrasco, and most of all I love the aji. Aji litterally means hot pepper, but is also the name for a million varieties of hot pepper and fruit based sauces. The best aji is usually pink, thick with cilantro, onion, and mystery, and hot enough to make your lips numb. In some areas it's mostly tomato based. In other's I'm told the secret ingredient is the white pulp from fresh cacao. Occasionally, you'll get cheated and be offered Tabasco sauce in place of real aji, but any restaurant that's worth it's salt, from the fanciest place in Quito, to food vendors on the street or the bus, will have a good aji.

Camp Lost World Forums

I've created a forum for the project here. The forums will be used primarily for organizing volunteers and discussing the project's direction. If you want to volunteer please post in the volunteers thread.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Here's a few photos of the cute little town of la Merced de Buenos Aires.

Camp Lost World is the working title for our big project in the mountains of NW Ecuador. Earlier this month I purchased 225 acres of cloud forest, rivers, overgrown pasture, and spectacular cliffs. The land is very remote. The nearest town is La Merced de Buenos Aires Urcuqui Imbabura where you'll find great food, friendly people, beautiful landscapes, but a lack of many of the basic necessities, like a pharmacy. The town is the gateway to several tourist attractions, such as the Cascade of the Virgin and several beautiful mountain lakes. The climate is my idea of heaven, cool at night, sunny in the morning, with clouds rolling in at about 1 pm every day. It's one of those magical places where it's forever Spring. The town is 2 hours from Ibarra, and about 4 and a half hours from Quito. It is possible to get here by bus, and I'll be posting instructions and bus schedules soon. 

From La Merced de Buenos Aires, you drive about 15 minutes down a 4x4 road past the small hydroelectric project. Park where the road ends and follow the well marked trail. If you're in good shape and adjusted to the altitude, it will take you about one and a half hours to reach Camp Lost World. 

If everything goes as planned, we'll be constructing rustic cabins and planting gardens next month. The goal is to preserve 90% of the property in it's wild state, protecting the pygmy deer, spectacled bear, and many other threatened species that live on the property. Volunteers are welcome to stay for free, though once we have a little more infrastructure in place the number of volunteers we need will be limited, and cabins will be available to rent for a price that is yet to be determined.