Ecuador

Bonjour and Bon Jovi (Drive Day 156: December 2nd, 2003)

Posted on Updated on

through fields  copy.jpg

Landscape by Gary Geboy, see more in this photo book

If it is possible for two sides of a land border to be more different than Equador and Northern Peru I’ve never seen it. Leaving Vilcabamba we pass a scene that Gary captures in what is one of my favorite images of the roadtrip – a lone figure in teal walking through a timeless, massive landscape of breathtaking beauty.

The border crossing is so remote that the guards spend their days trying to decipher Bon Jovi CD liner notes. It is surprisingly easy to translate “on a steel horse I ride,”  when you are crossing into Peru in a silver Avion truck camper.

The other side? Bleak and desolate would be too glamourous to call these vistas. I’m actually happy to camp inside the gates of a dumpy hotel in the town of Sullana – the wind whips through the treeless landscape like punishment.

1202b.jpg

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

Let’s sugar coat this (Drive Day 155: December 1st, 2003)

Posted on

equador 2 copy

Portrait by Gary Geboy, see more here

You probably twirled a little honey into your tea this morning, or bought Starbucks preloaded with sugar, not thinking about it more than the vague guilt of calories. But this guy – Eliades Garcia — he thinks about it all the time. It’s how he earns his living in Vilcabamba, Ecaudor, working for an absentee American owner of this mini sugar-factory. Only here they call it panela and it’s basically molten sugar cane, simmered and stirred for days until it cooks down into a syrup. That’s when Eliades’ wood paddle comes in – lifting and aerating the panela so that light passes through it and looks for all the world like liquid gold. When it gets to just the right consistency he pours it into round molds where it semi-hardens into a paste. Want some? Just head to a street market in South America and look for rough brown discs about the size of wax-coated cheese wheels.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.

 

The fountain of youth (Drive Day 154: November 30th, 2003)

Posted on Updated on

1130a.jpg
photo by Gary Geboy

There’s even an Ecuadoran brand of bottled water celebrating Vilcabamba – reportedly the highest concentration of people older than one hundred in the world.

 

1130b.jpgThe thing is none of the oldsters we meet seem to know their own age, exactly, and they certainly don’t attribute their longevity to bottled water. We hear everything from loving the same woman does the trick, to rolling and smoking your own cigars each day.

The younger set seem to be smoking their own hand-rolled varieties. The town square is lined with genial drifters who juggle, strum guitars and sell Gary a ballpoint pen tattoo of a mermaid, in my honor.

1130c.jpg

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Vilcabamba (Drive Day 153: November 29th, 2003)

Posted on Updated on

There seem to be two kinds of visitors to this lush mountain town known for the longevity of its residents: rasta backpackers in hostels or Europeans here for horseback tours to spa villas. We fit into neither camp, but one of the hostels allows us to camp in its yard and partake of its vegan-friendly fare. Even the stray dogs are friendly: one we nickname Spark joins us on a hike next to the river bed, bounding in front like a deer and politely departing our company after we share our picnic lunch.

1129.jpg

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Fragrances and other lovely things (Drive Day 152: November 28th, 2003)

Posted on Updated on

1128a.jpeg

It’s hard to compete with the natural beauty of Cuenca – even the air is scented with flowering trees that line the Tomebamba river and stacks of roses, lilies and birds-of-paradise in market stands – but humans have made a gallant attempt.

1128b.jpg

The art museums are the most spectacular we’ve seen since Nicaragua. And there’s even a photo lab where we develop the pictures of the Chugchilan potato girls and mail them addressed only to their father’s name and town.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

 

Stovepipes and other toppers (Drive Day 151: November 27th, 2003)

Posted on Updated on

1127b.jpg

Of course, the moment we order up some Panama hats for ourselves and family (they roll up and store without wrinkles) we discover that wearing them in Cuenca will mark us as tourists. The locals prefer these much more distinctive toppers; literally the style of each differentiates villages and families. Some feel like they’re made of plaster while others are soft and pliable. And the name of the most famous, and friendly, local hat maker? Angel, of course.

hat maker, equador copy

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Cuenca the colonial jewel (Drive Day 150: November 26th, 2003)

Posted on Updated on

1126.jpg

The first thing the Spaniards did when they “founded” this city was start building its cathedral and even the admin buildings date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. No wonder it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’re here for the hats, however.

1126b.jpg

Panama Canal workers may have coined the phrase “Panama Hat” but the distinctive toppers are actually made here. In fabulous workshops with materials from the lowlands, ready to customize at, well, the drop of a hat.

1126c.jpg

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.