Believe it or not - we didn't get any photographs or video of any whales on the trip. They were either too far away or too fast. So this is a picture I took off Tofino, BC in 2002 (just to keep everybody happy!)

Our trip started very early Monday morning - we left Cuenca at 7:00am. But we stopped after about 5 minutes for everyone to get coffee. Here is the bus we were on and the driver - Luis.
The trip through the Caja mountains was again spectactular. I especially like the photo below with the row upon row of mountain ranges all with a slightly different shade of blue.
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We stopped at the "Haciendo El Castillo" which is on a natural chocolate plantation. It is an old place built by Germans and dating to about the 1920's. We were given a tour of the plantation and the chocolate processing facilities and then treated to a fabulous lunch.

They make an awsome juice from the soft flesh around the beans (second photo above). It is incredibly sweet and tasted a lot like honey-dew melon.

We stayed in Montañita at a place called Hostal Kundalini. It was right on the ocean and very pleasant although our room was really quite dark and dingy. 
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This is a panorama of the beach
Montañita itself is sure a touristy town. The main part of town is only about 3 blocks by 4 and is full of mostly restaurants and bars. Here are some photos.
The actual day of the trip out to see the whales and to visit the Isla de la Plata was cold, windy and overcast. The boat ride out was not too bad and we saw quite a few whales. They were mostly just cresting the surface to breathe but we saw many that were jumping and landing on their backs.
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The Isla de la Plata which is the show-piece of the Machalilla Parque Nacional was a big disappointment. The island is covered in mostly mangrove swamps and desert terrain. We had to walk a total of about 5 kilometres and climb up and down over 500 steps and all we saw were a few blue-footed boobies, a bunch of rats, and a couple of other sea birds. On the other hand, some of the views were spectactular. The photographs below show it all.

We ate lunch on the boat and then some of the party went snorkling. There were very large tortoises and clown fish which were fun to watch. The trip back was much rougher than the one out. It was only a 16 foot open boat and there were 19 of us including the crew. Here is a short video. You can see the lsla de la Plata in the background.
On the third day we visited some of the local sites around Montañita. The first was a local village where the people of the village have formed a partnership to produce local handicrafts and sell them nationally and internationally. We were able to see how they work and a lot of their excellent handicrafts. Here are some of the things we bought.
We then went to the distribution centre where hundreds of these local village partnerships send their stuff for distribution throughout Ecuador and internationally. And we bought more stuff.
Our last stop on the third day was to a beautiful church built on a cliff over-looking the ocean.
On the last day we stopped at the Guayaquil historic park on the way home.
And lastly, here are some miscellaneous photos of our guide - Juan and driver - Luis.
 
Hello All,

Well it has sure been a long time since my last blog. We have been living in Cuenca for a year now and so I have put together our expenses for that time.

We are living on just over $850 per month. Bear in mind that we own our home and so there is no rent to pay.

We hope you are amazed (and envious).

Click on the image to see it larger (and clearer).
 
Well we decided to take a bunch more photographs of our place, local to us, and in the city for you all to enjoy.

This first set of pictures shows our place and our gated community, Calle Amsterdam, and some of the houses that are quite close to us.
This is a panorama taken from the top of the hill where we catch the bus. Cheryn is pointing to our house. 
This panorama shows our side of the gated community. Our house is the one on the very left. The picture does not do justice to the houses as the little stub walls between the properties are all actually parallel and perpendicular to the road - but you get the idea. Make sure you click on the image to get the bigger picture.
Next are some of the local houses near our place, starting with the one across the street that we see from our windows.
And these are of the river. First a couple of panoramas to try and show the majesty of the river and park.
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Note Cheryn's ... and the puppies.
These are some of our favourite spots along the river.
Here is a video to show you some of the movement and sounds of the river.
This is Fritzy all tuckered out from the walk.
Before we leave to head downtown here are some of the condos / apartments in our area (if any of you are thinking of moving down here too!)
This is beautiful Avenida Solano which is across the river from downtown and over near the University.
The city of Cuenca sits quite a bit higher than the river and it is quite flat until you get to the very edge of the river. This panorama shows some of the buildings that 'hang' over the edge of the river.
There are many sets of staircases that allow you to get down to the river from the top of the hill. Here are some shots of those as well as some of the sites from the top of the hill.
Here are some shots of typical streets in the city.
Here is some more of the local artwork that we bought while we were out.
 
Our neighbours took us on a day trip this past weekend. First we stopped in El Tambo to catch the train to the Inca ruins at Coyoctor. Here is the train.
Next we boarded th train and headed down to the ruins.
This video shows how they turned the train around. Raul jumped in to give a hand.
The ruins were very interesting. There are no signs but we did have a guide. These particular ruins were only discovered in 2009. The ruins are from two eras in history. The Incas on the bottom and the Canaris on top. The Incas were much better craftspersons and tended to make better structures. They carved their stones to fit together much tighter than the Canaris who tended to use much rougher stones.
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This is the beautiful view from the top of the ruins.
And then we headed back into El Tambo and visited the museum.
Next we headed off to Ingapirca where we stopped to see the Inca/Canari sun temple ruins. These are supposed to be some of the best Inca ruins in all of Ecuador.
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View to the west from the top of the sun temple (with Luis Carlos)

Other Stuff...

The builder finally came to fix our shower which has been leaking for almost a month. Luckily, if you can call it luck, it was leaking through the outside wall of the house and not into the ceiling of the lower floor. They ripped a big hole in the external wall to try and see where the leak was coming from. It turns out it was a faulty fitting in the hot water side of the taps. They had to replace three tiles as well as fix the big hole in the outside wall. We'll see if the problems are now fixed.

It was sure interesting watching them work. They tackle every problem with a hammer. For example they don't have a drill to drill holes where the plumbing fittings come through the tiles but instead they use a grinder on the back to grind a hollow to the point where they can chip out the hole for the fitting, which they create using pliers or hammer or whatever they have with them. The other more scary thing was the grinder itself. There was no plug on the end so the one guy held the wires in the extension cord while the other used the grinder. Here are a few photographs. Don't cringe too much!
 
...was a huge success, and a lot of fun. We left on Monday at about noon, with Eddie driving, Bruce in the front, and Cheryn and the two dogs in the back. We headed north out of Cuenca and into the countryside. The photographs are in a slideshow format (which we haven't used before) so you can either hover your mouse over the main photo and click "Play" to see them in a slideshow or you can click on the individual thumbnails below the main photograph. Enjoy!
We came across a pack of llamas that we had to crawl behind until they crossed the highway. They probably thought they had as much right to be there as we did!
Next we headed through El Cajas National Recreation area. This is a really impressive place. We have no idea how high the pass was but the mountains on either side were Loma Cristales (4445m / 14583ft) and Co. Patul (4633m / 15200ft). Well above the tree line as you can see in the photographs. And puts the Canadian Rockies to shame!
Eddie is an excellent driver and the roads are world-class as you can see in this video.
Once we reached the top of the pass we were way above the clouds.
Heading down the other side the vegetation and weather really started to change. We spent a lot of the time in fog and it was very warm and muggy!
Eventually we reached sea-level and continued towards Guayaquil. We saw lots of coffee and banana plantations and passed through several small towns. But then everything started looking like southern B.C. heading into Vancouver. Does anyone recognize it?
We finally reach Guayaquil and it iook us more than an hour to find the hotel. Guayaquil is about 3 and 1/2 million people and so definitely rivals Vancouver or Toronto in size. We saw a few interesting things on the way in. The hotel was not what was advertised on the Internet but it was for only one night, was only $30 and the dogs were free. Please read the captions on these photographs.
Guayaquil has some long tunnels. This video was supposed to show you one of them but it didn't work out too well. We hope you enjoy the video anyway.
We had pizza and pollo-wings for dinner and went to bed early. The actual trip to the port authority on Tuesday was uneventful and only took about 20 minutes. And so we headed home. The drive back into the mountains was very nice. We stopped on the way up to enjoy the view which was fantastic. I told Eddie to 'take a leap of faith' and step forward but he was unwilling. (Be sure to click on the photograph to see its full effect.)
We also took this small video in an attempt to show you how the winds push the clouds up into the mountains.
The mountains themselves of course were awesome again!
And then the final stretch and we were home again.
 
Yeh! After four and a half months we finally have our visas. Because of the delay with them (they were actually ready on August 31) and the ?&?%&-up with the customs document the storage of our goods in Guayaquil is going to cost us almost four times what it cost to ship the stuff from Canada! But it will be like Xmas when the stuff does arrive.

Our weather has been getting a little warmer now that the worst of winter is over. Haha! We have been busy buying plants and putting in seeds. the garden is coming along slowly but then we are retired eh! 

We bought more furniture. See the pictures below. 
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Side-table in living room for displaying Cheryn's PartyLite
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Recliners and table in the reading room (bedroom 4)
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Matching side-table in bedroom
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Beautiful wood on the table top
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Table and chair in Izzy's bedroom
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Pictures to eventually be hung in the stairway (when we can borrow a ladder from someone)
We had our first thunderstorm since arriving here. And boy was it a beauty! The rain was torrential and we just happened to be out grocery shopping when it started coming down in buckets. We had also just bought an Xmas tree and so trying to get it inside as well as the groceries from the taxi we were both completely soaked!

We've taken a few videos since we have been here (and before) and have now worked out how to get them on the blog so we hope you enjoy these. Let us know how they turn out.

This first one is of the Cuenca Police Band. We were attending a gala (?) at one of the bigger local Panama hat factories (remember that Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador) when we first got here and the band was playing. We hope you enjoy the music.
This next video is taken from one of the many pedestrian bridges that cross one of the four rivers than run through the city of Cuenca. All of the rivers are of about this size and the water in all of them is very fast flowing and so very pleasant to be around. Enjoy!
These last two videos are of our puppies - Fritz and Heidi. The first was taken just before we left Canada and shows them playing with Fritzy's rope. The second was taken in our new place in Cuenca.
 
Well, believe it or not, we have been here four months now - and still lovin' it! Our passports are still in Quito going into week four waiting for our visas to be inserted. It was supposed to be just a few days but nothing really surprises us anymore.

We found out this week that the laws around the cedula (Ecuador ID card) changed on July 25th and so we now need to have notarized / legalized birth certificates to get our cedula. The visa we get allows us to stay in the country indefinitely and then the cedula is our proof that we have the visa. We are hoping that we don't have to come back to Canada to get our birth certificates done but it won't surprise us if we do.

Our bed finally arrived and we love it! It has four drawers on each side as well as two in each bedside table (see the photographs). We had to leave the windows open all the time with a fan pushing out the air for the first two weeks to get the paint smell out. we also got blinds for the other bedrooms and den (see photographs). We got blinds for the kitchen window and back door but I was unable to take any decent photographs (too much back-light etc.)

Remember to click on the pictures to see a bigger image.
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The full bed
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... showing drawers
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... and the puppies again
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The headboard
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ooohhh... showing Cheryn's drawers
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New blinds... in natural light...
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My side...
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With the puppies...
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... and with flash
 
Well it is time to write again. A few new things have happened in the past few weeks. We went swimming with the neighbour and her kids. we both got quite badly burnt an so didn't sleep too well for a few days. Our neighbour's little girl celebrated her 6th birthday this week. I have been working on a doll house for her over the past 10 days or so. I modelled it on the plans of their house which is attached to our and built by the same builder. They were all amazed to see it when I took the blanket covering it off. The neighbour's mother, who is visiting from Costa Rica wanted to ake it home with her so she could show everyone what her son's house looks like. Here are some photographs. 
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This is the front of the house...
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The sides are open...
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This is the kitchen, complete with sinks...
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...and this is the back
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... so she can play in all the rooms.
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... and this is the view in the front windows.
Our visas are ready. We took our passports in to the lawyers office on thursday and they are being couriered to Quito today. We should have them back in about a week to 10 days hopefully. I have finished putting the faux rock on the block wall and it has turned out really nice. For those of you who forgot what the plain block wall looked like I have included a photograph again.
I finally got the frame put together for the pictures we bought in Quito last month. I hung it up with stick on holders but they failed and so I had to repair it and put it up with a proper hanger. Again the original of the pictures is shown for comparsion purposes. We met our Canadian friend, Mitri downtown yesterday for lunch and a stroll around. We always enjoy spending time with him. Lastly, I just snapped this photograph of Fritzy in his favourite spot on the couch (we think he thinks he is a cat).
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The originals...
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...and then framed
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Fritzy's favourite spot on the couch.
 
Hello All,
 
Well it's been a busy few weeks. We finally got our home phone number. If you
want to (or need to) call us, our number is (from Canada) 011-593-7-417-5692. 
  
We had to go to Quito this week as they needed to take our photos for our
visas. We had already supplied them with photos for the application but I guess
they also need some (different ones?) for the visa itself. We found out that we
need to 'get married' again as the form we used the first time has now been
changed. We see the lawyer this Monday. While we were in Quito we had some time
to kill before leaving so we took the cable car up to Pichincha Volcano. See the
photos attached. Doesn't Cheryn look awsome (I still have my paunch, but I'm
working on it). At 13,500 feet we were well above the tree line and so not much
grows. Note that even at this altitude there is never any snow. 
 
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At the Summit
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Pichincha Volcano Peak
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Quito from the top
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Quito from the top
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Pichincha Volcano Peak
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Quito from the top
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Quito from the top
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About the only thing that grows at 13,500 feet!
Coming down was interesting, the wind was blowing and the cable car was moving around a fair bit. Cheryn was screaming like a girl .  While we were in Quito we also
picked up some local artistery (from Otovalo actually but local enough). See the
photographs. In the airport coming back Cheryn walked between the metal
detectors instead of through one - set them both off screaming. Then when we
landed in Cuenca we thought we were done for. It was the worst landing I have
ever experienced and even I was quite scared it was the end.  But it wasn't.
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Otovalo Artistry
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Otovalo Artistry
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Otovalo Artistry
We finally got the painting that we bought from the gallery here in Cuenca and hung it on the wall. The front block wall is ready to have the faux rock  installed. My gardens are just starting to come along. We bought some more furniture and Cheryn also got her dishes. See all the photographs.
 

One last thing - see the last photograph - next time you fly Air Canada
domestically just remember the amount of leg room we have here - and I am
actually slouching in the seat a little bit.

That seems to be it.
Love Cheryn and Bruce
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Look at the Leg Room!
 
Hello All,
 
Well this week was really slow. We had to stay home all week because our
furniture was supposed to come sometime during the week, and the phone company
was supposed to be coming as well. I had a rotten head cold for the first three
days and so it was a relief to not have to go out. Our furniture was delivered
today (see the photographs). Our mirrors were delivered and installed this week
as well (see the photographs). The place is really starting to look like a home
now.
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Long Shot from the Back Door
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Long Shot from the Front Door
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Social Bathroom Mirror
My block wall is coming along nicely. I have done brick in the past but 
never block. I'm having fun and am pleased with the outcome so far (see 
photograph). It was rather disturbing though to be digging the foundations and 
finding all the power, phone, and water conduits within 3 inches of the surface.