On Saturday morning, we enjoyed our Grand Hotel breakfast (included in the price of the room) comprised of eggs, rich Loja coffee, breads, papaya juice, a corn tamale, and slices of pineapple and watermelon.
The drive to Zamora was primarily downhill and an hour in length. We were able to quickly find the church of 'Our Lady of Carmen'. Not difficult as it was THE church in the central square of town. Father Telmo (I referred to him as Father Elmo...tee hee hee) was informed we had arrived and he came out and gave us a boisterous welcome and hugs all around. Then we unloaded the car of the school goods, placing them in his office. He asked us to come back at 9am the next morning, Sunday, when we could meet the kids receiving the supplies.
We had reservations to stay at an 'eco-lodge' called 'Copalinga' just outside Zamora. I had some basic directions but relied on my instinct to find the place....that, and a rusted, barely legible sign that pointed to 'Podocarpus Park' near which is the lodge. After 15 minutes on a single lane dirt road and traversing a huge dirt slide, we arrived at Copalinga.
The owner, Catherine (from Belgium) gave us an overview of the place and covered some rules...one of which is to not wear shoes inside the cabins and to close the curtains when we're away so the birds don't slam into the glass. The enclave is situated at the edge of the jungle and, therefore, it's very tropical and a favored destination for birders. Hummingbird feeders were everywhere as were the birds themselves. Color-coded trails led explorers to various parts of the property.
Our cabins had beautiful polished hardwood floors, big windows, a small terrace (with hammock to use), and nicely tiled bathrooms with hardy water pressure and HOT water. In an environment like this, cabins would typically smell musty, but not these. They were immaculate. Unfortunately, there was no AC (nor ceiling fans) and no television. But, after all, we were staying at an ECO lodge in the jungle for cripes sake! Yet, the cabins cost us more (about $55) than the luxury we had at the Grand Hotel in Loja. Copalinga gets electricity from their own hydro-powerplant.
After a short nap, we drove a couple kilometers to the entrance of Podocarpus Park, a natural preserve. Created in 1982, it covers over 1,400 square kilometers, much of which is inaccessible to the public. We parked in a small lot and set out on a trail which, we were told, would lead to a waterfall about 1 km back from the entrance. In several spots, hordes of butterflies swarmed around our feet. Franny was enamored with them as well as ant armies marching up and down the trunks of trees.
We hiked up, down, over, across, down, and up, and down, and up and came to a river crossing and a sign introducing us to the ENTRANCE to the park. The entrance wasn't where we thought it was, at the parking lot!! That meant we still had a kilometer to go to reach the waterfall!!! Nuh-uh. I stayed put while FR/RF continued on. I waded into the water and found a nice spot to sit on a log in the middle of the river and dip my legs into a 2ft tall 'waterfall' until they returned. After all, I've seen a zillion waterfalls in EC, one more wasn't going to rock my world.
After our hike back to the car, we were hungry so we drove back into Zamora (not Zaruma). The road led along a ridge above the river 'Bombuscaro' where we saw many people having fun in the water. We found a chicken joint in Zamora that had a big fan keeping people cool as it was rather warm and humid. For ten bucks, we had a half of roasted chicken, 2 bowls (not cups) of soup, two plates of fries, rice, un poco ensalada, 3 Cokes, and a large glass of tree tomato juice (tastes a bit like cantaloupe).
In the evening, we had dinner in the open-air (but covered) dining facility of the lodge. It was a nice dinner (more chicken) but a bit over-priced at $14.
On Sunday morning we enjoyed a wide array of breakfast items and more delicious strong coffee before checking out and heading to the church for our 9am meeting. Out 'meeting' ended up being attending the standing room only service in the church. We didn't know what to expect...whether we would be called up in front of everyone, or simply mentioned in the program, or ??? It was all in Spanish and I understood about 17 words out of the whole sermon. Then came communion. Oh GAWD....we're going to be here forever, I thought. Luckily, they had 3 people 'serving' and not everyone partook. WHEW!!!
After the service, we were asked to gather on the front steps of the church, where the school supplies would be handed out to a specific group of kids who eagerly and willingly stood in line for their 'gifts'. Father Elmo....errrr....TELMO introduced Franny/Robert, Robert/Franny to the gathered crowd who responded with big applause of gratitude. Organizers doled out ONE notebook, ONE pencil, ONE eraser, ONE ruler....you get the idea....along with ONE lollipop to each of the kids. They all had excitement written on their faces, as you'll see in the photos below. There was no pushing or whining 'I want that color!' 'I want cherry, not chocolate!'. NADA. I took a lot of photos of some real cute and thankful faces.
When all that was done, we hopped in the car to head home. Not so fast. Robert forgot to turn in his Copalinga lodge key!!!!! So, we drove back to Copalinga, turned in the key, drove back to Zamora (not Zaruma) and out onto the highway leading back to Loja and ultimately Cuenca.
I dreaded the 5-hour drive back as there's not a whole lot to see or do along the way. 2 gas stations, and that's about it. However, we stopped in on our now favorite restaurant in Saraguro to enjoy another artistically and gastronomically pleasing lunch.
My two passengers (you know their names by now) had been attending Spanish classes for some time. Franny whipped out her flash cards and decided to practice her Spanish with Robert, and vice versa. I could've killed them. For however many miles and however long it went on, I drove while listening to them practice the seemingly endless conjugations of just ONE Spanish word. There's versions for I , we, she, he, they. Then there's past tense, future tense, past particulate ad nauseum, irregular interjections, imaconstipateds, and predicate conjunctions....to name a few.
Then onto the next word and all its coagulations.
In the end, I survived. They almost didn't.
The few weeks prior to our trip, the weather had been downright crappy in Cuenca...rain every day. It was nice to get out of town and into better weather. Upon returning to Cuenca, we no sooner arrived at FR/RF's house and opened the doors to the car to unload when a HUGE downpour unleashed on us.
645 kilometers (approx 390 miles) and 2 1/2 days.
Home Sweet Home!!!
Enjoy the photos. I wish I could include ALL the photos I took and chose to save. But, that would be well over a hundred. So, I chose the best of the best just for you!
|Robert on a rickety pedestrian bridge over the river Bombuscaro in Zamora.|
|Broken or rotted board? Hey....just replace it with limbs!!!|
|I was hoping to run into Tarzan, even Jane or Boy would do. But, didn't happen.|
|My cabin wasn't on its side. I don't know why this photo rotated when it loaded.|
|Bathroom in my cabin at the Copalinga. Nice THICK towels! Candles in case the electricity went out.|
|Catherine (owner of Copalinga), Robert, Franny...commencing dinner.|
|Out Lady of Carmen church in Zamora.|
|Full house at the Sunday service.|
|Father Telmo introducing Robert and Franny to the kids gathered in front of the church.|
|Father Telmo briefing Franny and Robert.|
|What a photo-op shot!|
|Cool waterfall along the road headed back from Zamora to Loja. See the folks on the bottom right, crossing a plank to reach the falls.|
Back on the home front.........
|I just had surgery and I have these big club feet, no gonads, my hair is a mess...|
and you're gonna take a picture of me?????
And now, a word from our Sponsor (me)
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