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Day 3: One with Nature in the community

June 20, 2012

Written by the Tr1plet$

We spent the day in awe of the sense of community and Heifer’s work here in the Andes. The local people we spent the day with shared their lives with us, including their deep connection to their land and their way of life. We no longer felt like tourists, but instead, part of their community. Minga is the Spanish word used to describe how the community always works together. Heifer helped this community restore their natural resources and increase their ability to return to their ancestral way of farming. This community values local, organic, sustainable food production so they can continue to live on their land.

Our day proceeded as follows…

Ate breakfast in the clouds at Wirachocha (13,775 feet)
Maria Fernando, a Heifer representative, held our attention as we climbed the mountain on the bus. She told us all about the struggles and realities of geo-engineering taking over the country. Can you believe that Ecuador is the 4th largest producer of broccoli, but the people don’t even consume the vegetable? Here’s what really goes down. Ecuador is a large producer of broccoli and flowers. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough fertile land to produce these products. That’s where big businesses come in to help. Or do they? Nanotechnology allows for silver to bomb the clouds above the broccoli and flower fields, so the clouds don’t release hail. Then, the crops can continue to grow. A few kilometers down the road, Mother Nature shows Ecuador who’s boss and pours down hail from all the clouds that were affected by the blasts. This hail lands on unsuspecting farmers, kills the plants, and harms the land. Yeah, we know. We enjoyed a homemade breakfast thanks to Marta and Patricio “Pato,” and continued to digest and discuss solutions to this unjust situation.

Travelled to Quilotoa Volcano and craft market
Renee prepared us for the Quilotoa by telling us that it is a caldera, or cauldron, that was formed about 800 years ago when the highest peak of a volcano imploded because of the weight of the magma flowing out. It has since filled with beautiful azure water. The views were incredible, and the makeshift market set up outside the viewing area gave everyone a chance to mingle with the locals, take pictures, and purchase gloves, hats, and souvenirs. Later, we happened upon a group of children that were involved in a project supported by Heifer. What a small world.

Endured bumpy roads and possible cerebral edema (kidding!) and viewed the paramo in Communa Maca Grande
You know when you have to close your eyes and recline your seat while driving around the curves of the Blue Ridge Parkway? Imagine a six-year-old driving the car, and hitting every stump, bump, and pot hole. Despite our experienced driver, Roberto, we all felt a little queasy driving up the “under construction” road to get to the paramo. Once we arrived at 12,281 ft, almost everyone was looking for some cocoa tea. Our group size tripled, thanks to the community and all the children, and we packed ourselves into the back of 3 pickup trucks to get to the paramo. Once we arrived, we exited the bus right before it nearly overturned, and took some incredible photos of the landscape, people, and the magic that came next!

Gifts from the Community

Gifts from the Community

Experienced Paramo Magic
After a short hike, with plenty of marsh like areas and “squish shish” sounds, Wendy taught us the true definition of a paramo. A paramo is a high elevation wetland with unique plants that are typically grasses and rosettes, and the soils are very acidic. There’s plenty of peat moss, too. We viewed the headwaters of the Amazon, and splashed around the creek with the locals. We used our senses to listen, see, smell, and feel the moisture in the plant life, scat, and quaking bog. To our surprise, the community had woven hand made bags, or bolsas, with our names and Ecuador 2012 tailored in beautifully for us to take with us.

Rachel holding young alpaca

Rachel holding young alpaca

After receiving our gifts, we were unable to continue our journey, due to the storm approaching. Maria filled the time by reading our auras. She doused anyone with a lack of energy with mountain essence water to fulfill their void.

We scurried over to view the alpaca farms, too! There wasn’t any fencing, and the caballeros rounded them up, carried them over, and let each one of us hold one.

They’re lighter than you would think. What’s more surprising, is the connection between the alpacas and the caballeros. Maria told us that each alpaca had been baptized through a ritual naming ceremony, and the children act as godparents to one alpaca. This is a great activity to teach them responsibility. According to Terry, the alpacas don’t impact the paramo as much as cows because their feet are padded, they graze carefully by not pulling out the plants, and they leave their manure in one location which makes it easy for the owners to clean and harvest for the crops.

Mount Rushmore of alpacas

Mount Rushmore of alpacas

The Ecuadorian community honored MaryAnn and Kim by giving them the opportunity to choose and name two alpacas. Can you guess the names they gave them?

Enjoyed a celebratory lunch at the community’s school
We were honored guests at a local celebratory feast. Our thoughtfully prepared communal meal included local varieties of boiled potatoes, tubers, barley soup, potato soup, sheep cheese, tomato onion salad, corn on the cob, and … cuy (guinea pig). Amy taught us that guinea pig has been prepared for special guests at celebrations since pre-Columbian times. The flavors were simple, hearty, and delicious. The head of the community closed the meal with gratitude for our presence and we were extremely honored to share this time with them.

And treated ourselves to a good night’s rest!
We dined on an incredible trout dinner with views of a smoking volcano.

All in all, we had a wonderful and eventful day. We learned about the community of Maca Grande and we are inspired to enhance relationships and work on issues in our own communities.

Closing Haiku by Sharon
Sea of greens and browns
Alpacas grazing in the field
Gift of love and hope

One Comment leave one →
  1. linda v. permalink
    June 21, 2012 8:09 pm

    the alpacas are completely wonderful! great descriptions and photos for all the days, i feel like i’m there in ecuador. thanks!

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