Log in

Because Nudity is Only Skin-Deep [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
The ShanMonster

[ website | The ShanMonster Page ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Welcome to the Jungle - Quito to Pimpilala, Ecuador [Sep. 11th, 2015|07:17 pm]
The ShanMonster
Sunday morning, September 6, 2015

(Rough draft as I'm typing on a touch screen and editing is difficult without touch typing.)

Kyle and I awaken bright and early for a hearty breakfast of plantain, coffee cake, eggs, fruit, juice, and coffee after a good sleep. We meet up with the other ten people of our group and load up into a small private bus. Our guide, Carlos, warns us again about the difficulties of the five-hour bus trip to come. Personal space is not a valued trait. People may lean on us. Just push them off if they do. No guaranteed bathroom breaks. Thievery is common on buses. Never leave our stuff unattended. Don't stash anything overhead. Don't carry our money all in one spot. Beware of having things on floor as a common ploy is for thieves to cut hole in the bag and pull things out from other side of seat

We drive for about half an hour to an enormous bus terminal. It was once an airport and is by far the hugest bus station I've ever seen. Our bus fare is only about $5. Transportation is incredibly inexpensive here. We are lucky and all get to sit together in one section of the bus. I choose a seat where we are surrounded by group members. This way, I felel more secure in holding my satchel between my feet.

Our five-hour ride is much longer than 5 hours. We are possibly on the slowest bus in all of South America. Everyone passes us. Maybe moseying centenarians with walkers could pass us, too. The bus regularly farts and belches clouds of thick, black smoke. The five hours stretches to seven with one short bathroom break. I don't get off the bus as I am paranoid of being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning, and the air vents are a rule deception. Even worse, the heaters are on for all seven hours. Some windows are open. I do not have the benefit of an open window for most of the trip. I am concerned I'll collapse from heat exhaustion before I even make it to the jungle.

We journey from the huge, metropolitan sprawl of Quito which seems to extend to infinity in all directions. The local architecture is blocky and distinct, comprised primarily of right angles and chipped, once bright, and now faded colors. Houses cling to cliffside and are pink, orange, blue, green, etc. The demure shades of beige and white of suburban Canada are in the minority here.

After a few hours, we leave the precarious mountain- and ravine-side housing of Quito and make it to rural areas. Cattle, horses, chickens, and dogs of many breeds wander and graze. Switchback highways are standard throughout the mountains. So are drivers passing with no room to spare going around those turns. Several nerve wracking and horn blaring close calls happen, but we eventually reach our next destination of Teno unmaimed. One person, not valuing Kyle's personal space, sits on his shoulder and farts.

Tena, scorching and dusty, sits near the beginning of the Amazon jungle. Travel-stunned, sweaty, and blinking, we clamber out of the bus and stand blinking and gaping beneath the brutal equatorial sun. Carlos ushers us into a tiny scrap of shade and tells us we have ten minutes to go to the bathroom or get to a store before the next part of our trip. I queue up to go to a bathroom. An attendant charges us variable amounts of money to use the toilet. I scrabble through my wallet looking for the correct amount of change, finally locating fifteen cents. The pee is worth the money. Some people are charged more than I. Some less. Some are charged more than once. The bathroom attendant is ruthless, but the need to not piss ourselves wins out over stubborn haggling.

A pickup truck and van arrive. Our bags are tossed into the back of the truck and we squirm our way into the van. It's a tight squeeze. I only just fit with copious Shanspreading. I'm not sure how Kyle fits at all. I'm presuming his hips retract into his midsection. The van bounces and shudders down the winding dirt road into the jungle. The dense flora seems determined to swallow up the track which snakes its way through. We pass numerous small clearings which look like desperate holdouts against a juggernaut of jungle, but the opposite is true. The deforestation is happening at an appalling rate. Huge swathes of jungle are stripped from the earth leaving desiccated grass, lonely stumps, and millions of acres of lost habitat. Humans are winning out. The lushness we see is a holdout.

We arrive at our destination: the tiny village of Pimpilala. Our host family are Quichuan, one of the many indigenous people of Ecuador. Delphin and Estella are the patriarch and matriarch of the family, and their children, and a couple of young local women also live and work at the household. Two yellow dogs (Pollo and another who may not have a name) guard the property, and numerous chickens roam and roost all around. The property consists of a main building, several thatched sleeping quarters, a hammock area, and a couple of outbuildings with cold-water showers, toilets, and sinks. Kyle and I are given what I consider a spacious room. It holds a bed with mosquito netting, a battery-operated lamp, two benches, and three coat hooks. I'd been expecting something much more rudimentary. Considering the dining area has electricity, this is luxury! My quarters in rural Peru were far more spartan.

After we claim our rooms and stash our bags, we are led back down the road while supper is prepared. The chitter, buzz, and siren wail of insects and birds is loud in my ears. We follow a circuitous tendril of a path through thick jungle. One of the host's sons is our guide. He is having a blast and fashions hats from enormous leaves for several people in our group. He plucks small ferns from the underbrush and slaps them against dark clothing leaving perfect ghost images of the ferns behind on our clothing. And then we crest a hill and are met with the wondrous view of a river, mountainside, and jungle at the pale yellow cusp of sunset. Another short walk and we see yet another glorious river view, and a fragile cliff face. Rocks and clay are held in place by vines and sheer will. Darkness approaches rapidly, and we hurry back to the homestead before the mosquitos swarm us. The bugs which I'd already thought were loud turn it up to eleven.

We dine on a savoury vegetable soup garnished with popcorn. The Quichua don't really eat bread, so plain popcorn serves in its stead. I'd never had popcorn on soup this way before. It is delicious, and I intend on doing this from now on. A garnish of peppery onions and tomatoes is also used on the soup. The main course is tilapia roasted over coals I nside a rumipanga leaf (rumipanga translates to "leaf from the fire" and is used for roasting chicken, fish, etcetera. It has a unique and delicious flavor. I'm sad I won't be able to taste this outside of the Amazon.) We sip on lemongrass or cinnamon leaf tea. Afterwards, some drink Ecuadorean Pilsner.

Afterwards, most of the others in the group continue to hang out in the hammocks chatting and drinking beer, but as for me, I am done, and I shroud myself with mosquito netting and sleep deeply.
link2 comments|post comment

Ecuadorean adventures [Sep. 6th, 2015|09:21 am]
The ShanMonster
(Written yesterday)
The altitude is making me feel weak and exhausted. Kyle is doing better than I because he can take altitude sickness meds. I cannot as I am allergic to them.

Great frustration this morning at the hotel. We wanted information on interesting things to see within walking distance. The concierge knew nothing. We asked about walking tours, bus tours, or museums, but she had no information. We asked if there was a map we could have. Nope. No maps. I tried looking online, but it was tricky to navigate with just my phone. Eventually, I found a big park within walking distance and we went there. We rode on a paddle boat (I am an abysmal paddle boater), and walked around.

The people of Quito appear to be athletic by default. Lots of runners, martial artists, yogis, people doing calisthenics, football players, etc. plenty of body weight trainers, too, with adult monkey bars and a couple of people setting up a lyra (aerial hoop) in a tree.

We wandered more and found a mall. The most common shop sold athletic/adventure gear.
We wandered more and found a museum just a block away from the hotel. Wonderful handicrafts there. I'll be posting pictures.

Back at the hotel now. I probably won't be going out again today as the altitude has murdered my stamina and left my feet feeling positively battered. We leave for the Amazon in the morning.


Last night we met with our group guide. His name is Carlos and he did not inspire confidence. In fact, just the opposite. Where I had been looking forward to the trip to the Amazon, I am now wondering if we made a mistake. All the optional trips, like going to the hot springs, cloud forest, etcetera, weren't even mentioned, and he made it sound like they're downright unlikely. This journeys were a huge part of what sold me on the trip in the first place. He speaks derogatorily of neighboring nations, and doesn't hugely seem to give much of a fuck as to our questions and concerns. Will I get to see the animal sanctuary or the science centre at the centre of the world? Your guess is as good as mine.

It's Sunday morning now. In a couple of hours, we will be riding a bus of questionable security to Tema in the jungle. It is likely to last ~5 hours and may not have bathroom/lunch breaks. I sure hope I won't need to pee. I'm bringing food with me. Oh yes, pickpockets are common on the bus. Fantastic. I sure hope I can sit with Kyle so we can watch out for one another.
link1 comment|post comment

Coming of (m)Age [May. 11th, 2015|01:36 pm]
The ShanMonster
[Tags|, ]

(Continued from The ShanMonster Writing Machine Returns)

Read more...Collapse )
linkpost comment

The ShanMonster Writing Machine Returns [May. 5th, 2015|11:46 pm]
The ShanMonster
[Tags|, ]

I took suggestions under consideration. This is a work in progress. Enjoy...

(Still untitled)

My Daddy was a magus. That's what Momma told me, at least. I never got to meet him, so I have to take her word on the whole thing. She met him at a psychic festival, years ago, had a fling, and then whoopsy. There I was, nine months later. She said it was all foretold, and she knew he'd knock her up as soon as she laid eyes upon him. She has the sight and all. It"s what let her know I"d be a late bloomer.Collapse )
linkpost comment

He Questioned My Dedication to Sparkle Motion [Apr. 28th, 2015|04:07 pm]
The ShanMonster
[Tags|, ]

I worked at a crappity retail location selling knock-off Tommy Hilfiger sweaters, tiny Hong Kong women's fashions, and cheap bongs years ago. The store was in a mall, and I frequently worked the opening shift. My boss frequently set up little tests of my loyalty and competence. He hired what he called "mysterious shoppers" to check out my customer service skills. He was a strange and suspicious man.

One day, I showed up, opened the folding security doors, and was met by a scene of chaos. Pretty much the entirety of the floor was covered by heaps of plastic coat hangers--I'm talking at least a couple of hundred coat hangers. They were in tangled heaps, and there was no way the shop could be open to the public in this condition.

I hastened to tidy up the mess wondering why my boss thought it necessary to test me so. I'd pick up one hanger, and a bunch would come attached like Bizzaroland Barrel of Monkeys. I eventually got them all picked up and stashed in two giant garbage bags. The store didn't have any storage space, so I eventually stashed them in the change room. I figured that if someone wanted to try something on, I could just haul the bags out of the way.

A few hours later, my boss strolled in. He looked around the store, nodding contentedly, then said, "Good" before leaving again.
link7 comments|post comment

ShanMonster Writing Machine [Apr. 28th, 2015|03:32 pm]
The ShanMonster

I would like to get back to regular writing again, and you folks have always been great with prompts. I'd prefer no fanfic prompts. So, what do you have for me? Go!
link8 comments|post comment

Margd's Beginning [Mar. 24th, 2015|11:52 am]
The ShanMonster
[Tags|, , ]

(I recently rediscovered a bunch of stuff I'd written about six years ago. Here's the origin story for one of my Vampire Dark Ages characters. If you like this, check out Children of Elisabet for more.)

I was born on April 1, 1162 in the Transylvanian town of Kronstadt, deep in the Carpathian Mountains. The third of six children, I was put to work as a goose herd as soon as I could walk and wield a stick. Both of my parents were employed as servants at the Keep of the Teutonic Knights. At the age of seventeen, I married a wheelwright by the name of Nicolae. He was older than me by a decade or more, and he said he loved me. Although I didn't love him in return, he treated me well enough.

When the plague came to Kronstadt, Nicolae died first.Collapse )
link2 comments|post comment

Recipes I Want to Try [Mar. 24th, 2015|11:42 am]
The ShanMonster
[Tags|, , ]

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm clearing my tabs. There are so many open.

Here are a bunch of recipes I want to try out. Maybe you'd like to try them, too.

Apple Banana Quinoa Breakfast Cups

Dark Chocolate and Parsnip Cakes

Greek Avgolemono Chicken Soup
linkpost comment

Yukon Links [Mar. 24th, 2015|11:05 am]
The ShanMonster

The Yukon paddling race is looking less and less likely due to my inability to find someone close by to compete with. So I am looking into doing hiking and exploration adventures up there, instead. Here are some of the links I've found:

Whitehorse-area hikes: Mount White looks especially interesting because of mountain goats and their babies.

Carcross-area guided day trips

Carcross-area self-guided excursions

Dog-sledding kennel tour

Trip Advisor Whitehorse activities

Whitehorse travel guide

Beez Kneez Bakpakers hostel

Yukon hiking trail guide
link2 comments|post comment

Limited Space Gardening Links [Mar. 24th, 2015|10:54 am]
The ShanMonster

I do a lot of gardening, but finding ways to successfully grow a lot of things in a small amount of area is challenging for me. It's even more challenging when I can't dig in the dirt, and when squirrels are at war with me.

Here are a few ideas I'd like to try.

Wading pool gardening: Making raised beds out of kiddy wading pools.

Growing corn in shopping bags.

Squash Arch: I've had no luck with squash the last couple of years because of mildew. Perhaps this will help.

Tomato cage/drip irrigation

Do you have any suggestions?
link1 comment|post comment

[ viewing | most recent entries ]
[ go | earlier ]