Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reforestation with Igor the Ukrainian, Digging Giant Holes, and Fishing

It's been a very eventful series of days. Sorry no blog posts, but the internet here seems to have conked out so I am basically limited to posting in internet cafes in nearby towns.
I was invited to do reforestation the other day, for two days, which I have yet to do, so I agreed to go work with some of the other volunteers. We went at seven in the morning in a car with a really awesome fellow named Igor, from the Ukraine, to his finca in order to plant trees in an area which had been deforested for pasture. Igor bought 32 acres here for the purpose of making a park, he's a Ukrainian who owns a house painting company in upstate New York who plans to retire here next year. His finca is called Finca Figaro, named after his dog who was killed by a coyote in New York.
We got there in the morning, its past Gualeacruz, near where I met the Shaman, and basically went right to work. We had a small mountainside of about two acres to reforest. We took hundreds of trees in small black plastic bags up to the hill, and then proceeded to dig holes every two meters or so all over the mountain. The first day I was the only one who dug holes, which annoyed me as Edgar, the guy who is in charge of the tourist group basically sat around and watched as I and the girls worked. That's not how a leader should act. Nevertheless, I dug about 120 holes the first day, as the girls followed behind and planted trees. It's lower then Las Tolas, and alot hotter and sunnier, but the whole time we had this amazing view of the mountains, so every time you rest you can turn around and see forever into beautiful cloud forest. Igor jokes that this is his TV, he has 8 channels, which range from complete cloud cover to endless vistas with no clouds.
We had Borscht, Russian beet soup, and pork and carrots for lunch. Pretty delish, a nice change of pace from soup, however we had chicken soup on day two (followed by fried yuca, which ws good). Day two was similar, except for Edgar actually did some work. I dug the first fifty holes, and then went to get some water, and when I got back Edgar was digging, so I started planting trees. We worked all day, it tore my hands up so the next day I just rested and helped in the artisans shop across the street with Marianna and Rene, making jewelery.
The next day was another La Minga, which I guess just means tourist group volunteer work. This was in the same location as where I carried all the bamboo and started digging the latrine. Today we were to finish the big hole. It had collapsed some and was a little under a meter deep, by two wide by one long when we got there. We basically just dug all day. It was serious labor. The hole was three meters deep when we left. So deep, it was a full three feet above my head, we needed ropes to get in and out, and the dirt had to be dragged out bucket by bucketful with a rope. We took turns digging in the hole and filling buckets and then climbing out with the help of the robe and some hands and then dragging bucket after bucket of dirt out. This was an insane back and tricep excersize. I was completely exhausted, covered in dirt, but pretty happy. I woke up the next day far sorer then from a solid three hour workout at the gym, just torn up all up and down my back and in my shoulders.
But today we were going on an adventure with Igor. He picked us up at 9:30, and I slept till 8:40 which is a huge luxury, and then drove us to his Finca. Our first adventure was walking down a steep mountain through a neighbors farm to an amazing little waterfall and swimming in it. The water was cold but refreshing, and we jumped off rocks into the waterfall and then ate passionfruits while we dried. This was great.
Then we had to climb back up the mountain. I was ready for a swim afterwards. We went back to Finca Figaro and had some soup. Igor is great for conversation, and is always imparting little words of wisdom with a thick Ukrainian accent. He was in the Soviet army for two years, and has been all over the world, and knows a ton of places in Ecuador. He told us about a great little town at the beach which we are going to visit in a few days. After some leftover soup we were off to go "fishing", a thirty minute drive away.
We arrived at the fishing place, which is really a small man made lake which I believe to be trout farm where you stick a bamboo pole into the water and wait for a troup to bite. As easy as this was, it was a ton of fun, and we caught four trout for the four of us (Nina the Austrian, Me the American, Emma the Australian, and Igor the Ukranian) and then took them to the restaurant directly next to the lake where they cooked them for us, A la plancha, which is roasted on a wooden board, and ate them. The trout were large and of the spotted variety with pink flesh, and they were absolutely amazing. I ate mine, and then some of Emma's and Nina's. On the drive back we stopped in Nanegalito for some Ice cream and Guava paste, a delicious purple substance, as well as a couple jars of Manjar, which is basically Dulce de Leche.
We got back to Igor's Finca and decided to have tea and a little bit of rum and relax before going home. We ended up sitting around the table, drinking Jasmine Tea, a half bottle of Granadian rum, as well as eating mozerella and Dulce de Leche and fresh pineapple for around five hours, just having brilliant conversation. It was amazing. Igor's house is beautiful and compared to Las Tolas is like a five star hotel. He has forks and knives for example, and a coffee machine and an oven. Holy cow! We talked about everything under the sun, and just relaxed. It was great. Around ten o'clock (two hours after normal village bedtime) we finally set off to go home, and arrived back in LT around 10:45. We said our tearful farewells to Igor, who really is a great guy (Oh! And while we were relaxing he recieved a call from Ukraine saying his new baby Grand-daughter was born! Congratulations Igor!) and now I am about to go to sleep, so I can be up early tomorrow to go to Mindo, a tourist hotspot that supposedly never has any tourists, but should be exciting. More later.
Me Jumping into a Waterfall

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