Never Never Land

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
1
7
9
Trip End Aug 14, 2009


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Where I stayed
Neverland Farm

Flag of Ecuador  , Loja,
Wednesday, July 15, 2009



About two weeks ago I
headed out of Vilcabamba to the rural town of Tumianuma, from where I was to walk about an
hour to Neverland Farm, which would be my home for the next two weeks.
Trying to get there by bus was somewhat difficult.  I had planned on taking
the 12:30pm bus which would get me to Tumianuma at around 1:30 or 2pm, leaving
me plenty of time to walk to the farm before it got dark.  I was concerned
that I would get lost on my journey and wanted to make sure I wasn't walking in
the dark.

The following are the directions I was using to get to the farm. 

From Vilcabamba take the
Sur Oriente, green bus, towards Quinara. Ask the ayudante to tell you when you
get to Tumianuma. Try to stay awake so you do not pass Tumianuma. Get off in
Tumianuma at the church.

ONLY TAKE THE GREEN SUR
ORIENTE BUS TO QUINARA. There is another bus, but it does not pass thru
Tumianuma.

DO NOT TAKE ANY BUS IN THE
NIGHT. You WILL get lost. Its hard to see in the dark. The last safe bus leaves
at 3 from Loja, 4:30 from Vilcabamba.

In Tumianuma stop and see
Gloria (a short woman with warm brown eyes) at the only store with a phone and
blue plastic chairs outside. Stop there because she and her family are not only
nice, but have watched enough volunteers come and go to pick one out of a
crowd! She can point you in the right direction and fill your bag up with food
if your feeling in a giving mood. Speaking with her will put you on the right
trail…which goes around the back of Gloria's house, crosses a small creek, and
heads 1 minute down a small path. If at this point after 2 minutes of walking
you haven’t reached a dirt road, turn around and ask again!

Head down this dirt road
for 10 minutes. It wraps around to the right and then to the left before it
heads to the BIG ORANGE BRIDGE. Cross this bridge and head up the path. Follow
the path to the left when you get to the top of the first little hill, and stay
on this path for at least 20 minutes. You will pass a few houses, a few dry creeks
and remember, always STAY TO THE RIGHT and DON’T PASS THROUGH ANY METAL GATES!
There is only one direct split in the trail, and it comes after coming down a
hill. Just stay straight and you’re golden. After about 25 minutes from the
bridge, with a good sized pack, you should come to a down hill, follow the path
around the base of the mountain and to the right. You will get to the wooden
gate after the split in the trail to follow the base of the mountain…great…go
on through and please close behind you so animals can’t get out, this is the
entrance to Neverland!

Walk another short 3
minutes and you will see a gate with 4 pieces of wood placed laterally; head on
through this gate… Head up the path and past the first house you see (this is
where we dry café) and head through the gate straight ahead. Follow this path
for a quick 2 minute walk and look for the path to drop left down to the creek
(marked by a red arrow on a rock)…head left, down to the creek, over the wooden
bridge and up the path to the main facilities. Welcome.

If you have at any time in
your walk to the farm ended up at the big river, crossed barbed wire, bush
wacked through brush, or found yourself marching up a mountain, just go back to
where you started and ask again…plenty of daylight for all.

Travellers warning. On the
path to the farm, after the bridge, lives a sweet little old man and his wife.
This sweet almost 90 year old man will hug you in welcome. Or even kiss you. Or
grab your ass, tits, whatever he can get his eight hands on. He is harmless,
and nearly blind. He once, to his great surprise, grabbed the crotch of a long
haired young MAN. Shake hands with him. However. If you have trouble on the way
to NeverLand this same sweet little old lecherous man will put you in his
house, feed you and get you safely to our place 15 minutes away in the morning
with no funny business. Several women have become lost, called for help and he
came and got them and took care of them. I don’t know why he does that feely
thing. Maybe it would be better if someone actually smacked him, but most of us
are afraid he will fall down or something. The police know, and most of them
are pretty amused every time I report him. Shake hands.

 Although detailed I
hope my concern is slightly self evident.

 My plan was derailed
when the bus did not show at 12:30pm (typical).  Sadly, the next bus was
at 4:30pm, leaving me 4 hrs to chill on the side of the road, the bus stop.
 Thankfully, I had made a book purchase in Cuenca and I LOVE my 900 page book.  The
ridiculousness continued when I tried to get off the bus.  Tumianuma is
just a town that the bus drives through and it won’t stop unless you request
it.  I thought I knew how to ask, "Can you please tell me when we get to
Tumianuma," but it became evident that I didn’t.  Now my plan was to just
ask the person sitting next to me.  Great plan unless you are a little
late in asking and the bus is starting to leave the place you want to get off.
 I jumped up quickly so that I didn’t miss the town.  When suddenly
the bus lurched forward and I went flying forward stomping on some poor man’s
foot in the process.  To myself I thought, “Great, not only am I the
extremely tall Gringa, but now I am the ridiculously uncoordinated Gringa who
doesn’t know what she’s doing.”Once I finally understood that the bus was going
to stop again before it left Tumianuma and most of the bus got a good laugh, I
sat back down and got off the bus a bit more smoothly on the second try.

 Luckily, Gloria was
right behind me getting off the bus as well.  I stalked up on some food
for the farm and headed off as quickly as possible so that I had a full 45
minutes before it got dark.  During my walk I just kept telling myself to
continue walking and not go through any metal gates until you fun smack into
the gate that is correct. It helped to see some of the landmarks mentioned in
the directions.  It worked too.  Amazingly I got there without any
real problems and I managed to not get molested by the 90 year old man, lucky
me! 

I knew I had officially
made it when I saw the funky wood bridge.  I was greeted by the barking of
boomer, Tuti and Nova.  At first intimidating, I then realized it is just
excitement and proceeded to get jumped on with love excitement by the dogs.
 A minute more of walking and I was greeted by the other fellow WOOFERs
currently staying at the farm; Samuel, Ben, Dan, Greg, Andres and Yvonne.
 Funnily enough I met Tina last because she had been in the shower (the
hot shower).  After getting a bit of an introduction to the far and
learning important logistical info like where the two composting toilets are
located and which is better to use.  It was time for dinner deliciously
prepared by Samuel and others. 

I spent my first night in
Tina’s house.  A very cool tree house.  She has a two story house
with just openings for doors and windows (there really is no need for actually
doors or windows).  Her bedroom and living room are upstairs, she plans to
make a big kitchen downstairs and she had got some electricity powered by a
solar panel on top of her house.  Her be is right by an open window that
looks out onto the mountains in the distance where the moon rises right in between
the V of the mountains.  Pretty cool!  By the end of the night and
learning about the farm I already know I would be the person who fed the
horses! And because of my knowledge of horses I kinda became the go to person
when a horse need to be saddled to ride or to pack and I got to ride quite
frequently. 

Breakfast on day 1
introduced me to Colada, an oatmeal drink that is way better than oatmeal
itself.  It consists of water, oatmeal, fruit and panela (a raw form of
organic sugar).  You boil the contents for a while then strain the mixture
and drink the liquid.  It was great.  We also had pancakes which were
good too.  For morning work I chose to help with lunch and we made pesto
from the fresh basil in the jardín (garden) and cracked opend fresh macadamia
nuts to use in the pesto.  I learned an interesting thing aobut the basil
plant.  If you pick off the flowers of the basil before it goes to see it
bushes out on the sides in a similar way that a tree will if you cut off the
top.  Cooking without the conveniences of machine operated cooking untensils
sure does take lots of creativity and thinking outside the box, but ti si
really fun to make everything from scratch.  In the afternoon after
harevesting some fruit, I saddled up the horsed and Ben and I rode ot
Tumianuma.  On the way back we caught this really great rainbow.  It
was pretty mellow on my first full day, but I know hard work was definitely
ahead.  

Neverland is a pretty
amazing place.  I can´t exactly remember how large the farm is, but it is
pretty big and very beautiful.  Besides being very rustic, no phone,
internet or electricity, the mountains that surround it and the river that
flows directly through the farm really give it a magical feel.  The only
draw back I found were the bugs that liked me as there breakfast and dinner!  I
had some pretty extreme reactions with lots of swelling that was ugly and
distracting.  For a little while I got a system down and the bites were
healing, then I ran out of 100% Deet repellent and got eaten alive again.
 Oh well, just part of the experience. 

Most days were would work
in the garden and around the surrounding farm area.  But on day we climbed
up a nearby mountain to start a fence to keep the cowa in a particular
area.  The farm is at 5500
feet which is pretty high, so all physical activity is
just a little bit more difficult.  But add in the steepness of the
mountain and the dirt that makes for uneven and loose footing and you have a
pretty tough climb.  Good practice I just kept telling myself, good
practice.  We made it to the top and walked just a bit further down the
other side to where we were going to cut the fence posts.  Building fences
here consists of finding good trees that you can cut down and then cutting them
into smaller pieces to use as posts.  The have a particular type of tree
here that will grow again once you cut a segment and stick it in the ground, a
living post.  Pretty neat thought that you automatically are replenishing
your source of fence posts.  This particular day we had to walk down apart
of the mountain to get to where the trees were growing and then hike back up to
where the fence was going.  Luckily that day we were splitting up the
work.  Greg and Norman were digging the huecos (holes) for the posts and
the rest of us were going up and down the mountain for the twenty or so posts.
 Digging the hole is hard work by itself.  It consists of dropping or
stabbing a Baretta (a heavy metal bar that has a wide flat end like a Phillips
screw driver and a more narrow end, both are sharpened to help penetrate the
earth) into the ground and then digging out the dirt until you have a whole
about 1.5 fit deep and 6-10
inches wide.  The process is only complicated by
the many rocks that get in your way.  It was a tough, but fun job. 
We had a newcomer that day, Emily.  It was a pretty big day for her first
day.   

I think that is was all
made worth it by the spectacular views that you get from the mountainside.
 I hope my pictures give you some idea.  Every once in a while I
would just turn around, not only to rest, but to take in the beauty that
surrounded us.  The girls got to leave early that day to meet Tina who was
coming back with food for the week.  I got off the hook that day, but it
wasn’t the last I was going to see of hard work on the mountain. 

During my second week there
was rubber hosing and tanks that needed to be installed for the cows to have
water.  There were about 15 bundles of hosing (about 25-30 lbs each) and three big
tanks that ended to be carried up the mountain.  It was tough the first
time, but add 25 lbs
and wind that has only one mission; to blow you off the mountain and it makes
for a pretty interesting climb to say the least.  Thankfully we have two
horses, a burro and 8 ppl to accomplish the job. Surprisingly, it wasn’t really
that much harder than the first time J. 

The other work on the farm
ranged from cooking, to harvesting food to weeding.  One day we harvested
the potatoes that had been planted three months prior.  AT the same time
we weeded the plants and then days later added compost to make sure the land
was fertile for planting.  After the ground was all ready it happened to
be he right time for planting root vegetables.  Part of the way Neverland
Farm plants is by the lunar calendar.  I sadly didn’t have enough time to
learn more about it, but there are certain times that it is good to plant
different fruits and vegetables.  We harvested potatoes, white carrots,
sweet potatoes, and carrots.  We planted potatoes and onions.  I also
had the opportunity to pick coffee, then have it dry out in the sun and finally
shell and sort it so that it is ready to be roasted.  The coffee plants
have so many berried on them, but it is surprising how fast the coffee goes
once it is roasted.

The days at
the farm consist mostly of eating 3 large meals a day, working in between and
then having a couple of hours to get relatively clean and use the rest of the
daylight for reading or writing.  I say
relatively clean because even though we had the wonderful hot shower or the
refreshing river to use, it just seems that you get dirty instantaneously
after.  It was still really nice to get
most of the dirt off before putting on long lseeves and pants so I was not
eaten by the biting bugs.  The hot shower
was great, but I also enjoyed the refreshing river as my way to bath.  There is a perfect “swimming hole” that is
deep enough so that the water goes up to the top of my legs.  The swimming hole is close to the hanging
bridge which just tops off the whole thing for me!

My first
Saturday at the farm there was a dance in Tumianuma.  It was also Ben and Dan’s last night so we
wanted to make it a big party.  And that
we did!  It was a blast and lots of adult
beverages were involved.  I love the fact
that here what is important at a party is to dance.  Good or bad doesn’t matter, who you dance with
doesn’t matter either, the important thing is to dance.  I dance with lots of different people.  What was really great for me thought was the
dance where I finally was able to feel what it was like to be led.  It was so much fun!  I didn’t think at all, I just felt what was
suppose to happen next.  It was
great.  By 3 or 4am it was time to go
home.  Which meant walking back to the
farm.  I started out on a horse, but then
had to walk the majority of the way back because I couldn’t get back on after
leading the horse across the bridge.  Needless
to say it was a pretty entertaining walk and I was definitely ready for bed
when we got back at around 5am.

Sunday was
definitely a day or recovery.  It also
emphasized a bit of the homesickness I was feeling.  I am enjoying myself, but when I feel a little
under the weather it is nice to have the luxuries of home and the things and
people that are familiar.  I struggled
with the homesickness and wanting to hang with friends from home for a couple
of days.  But it passed as I continued to
work hard, have a good time with the people on the farm and share with them the
amazing experience that is Neverland.

The best
part abou tth ewhole experience at the farm is forming relationships with the
Ecuadorians who work there, Andres, Sylvia, Norman and Carlos.  Although the friendships start slowly with the
added complication of the language barrier, by the time my short time there was
over, the work days would go by quickly with lots of laughs and even some
sarcasm that I was surprised to be able to catch.

Having so
many different languages on the farm made it a great learning experience and made
for many funny moments.  We decided to
play Pictionary one night and it was hilarious.  Pictionary is just funny, but add in the miss
understanding and funny pictures of words like condominium, as well as, the
shouting of the words in one language without the drawer recognizing the word.  It was a very fun game.  Probably the most fun I have ever had playing
pictionary.  Other funny mix ups of works
included, jugo de Jessica literally translates to juice of Jessica, but was suppose
to be juego de Jessica ie game of Jessica.

The farm
was such a great experience, I am so glad that I go the chance to visit and be
apart of the whole experience there and the towns nearby.  Vilcabamba is such a cute town and in just a
short amount of time I felt right at home.  It helped that I met some very special people
who were instrumental in the warm welcome.  Besides Tina who is great, Jaime, Shannon and
Jacob all made Vilcabamba really as special as it was.  

Shannon I met early on, she is Tina’s God daughter, who is in Vilcabamba for
summer vacation.  She is a sweet girl who
I enjoyed hanging out with during my stays in the town.  I met Jaime on last Friday when I cam into
town with Tina to try and fix the Money Gram problem.  We all went out to a bar called Iguana.  It was an opportunity to see a local bar and
I certainly didn’t want to pass that up.  It turned out to definitely be worth it.  It was someones birthday so there was lots of
dancing.  I learned this interesting
style of dancing that everyone in the place would do together to very fast,
hard techno.  It was pretty amusing to me
at first to see the contrast to a US club, but then after giving it a
try it was fun.  I learned later that is
might be called Jump Style, currently big in Europe.
It was a great night with dancing, good conversation an some of the more insightful
questions I have ever been asked by a relative stranger at the time, thank you
Jaime.

The next
day I had volunteered to help with some a community service project.  I met Jacob a little later that morning at
the project after Jaime had gathered up the volunteers and driven them to the
site.  Out service that morning was to
sort trash.  It was exactly as glamorous
as you can imagine.  In all honesty the
most disgusting job I have ever done.  But
when I found out more about Jacob and Jaime’s project and what it hopes to do
for the community, it took the disgusting right out of it.

Currently,
the majority of the trash is being dumped and burned for various reasons, which
includes the small bits of metal that can be acquired.  In the meantime, the chemicals are poisoning the
people who are burning and the smoke it polluting the air.  The intent of this project is to determine
where most of the trash is coming from and then find solutions to reduce the
trash.  So far they have learned that 80%
of the plastic trash is coming from plastic bags.  The hope is to eliminate the plastic bags
being given to customers, like the way they do in San Fran.  Previously, they had a system where the organic
material was being composted and turned into fertilizer, but due to a shortage
of cash the system stopped.  If they
could get the system up again or even if they just eliminated the plastic bags
it would be great for the town and surrounding area.  I was so glad that I had been helpful (in a
small way) with the project.  It was nice
to be apart of and learn about a project I thin will make a difference.

By the time
it was the day for me to leave I felt like I was starting to become apart of
the community there.  It was definitely
very hard to leave and it was the first place in my international travels that
I would definitely like to return to.  

Now it is
time for me to continue my travels and think constructively about my new career
possibilities.  I was given some great
suggestions regarding figuring out my new job or school choice by Tom and Jacob
that I intend to think about.  But first
a long day of bus travel to Lima.  A couple days in Lima and then to Huacachina for some sand dune
boarding and maybe a bit of relaxing and thinking by the pool.  Then to Arequipa
to see the city and hike down into a nearby canyon that is one of the larges
tin the world.  From there to Cuzco for some more Spanish classes and then trek to Machu Picchu.  Last but certainly not least I will make my
way to Lake Titicacca
and then to La Paz.
 It is a packed last
couple of weeks and I am looking forward to every minute of it.

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Comments

rpwheeler
rpwheeler on

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
I just read your Neverland Ranch post! Sorry it took me a bit to respond. I am so glad you made it there safely (though clumsily you pretty gringa!) :-) Your experiences sound very hard working and joyful. I am glad that you guys had time for both work and play and that you learned a lot and in the end walked away with some ideas for your future. I know your b-day is coming up and I wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday! I know that you will be home soon correct? I truely hope that you enjoyed your trip and experiences as a whole. I am so very proud of you for all you are accomplishing. I can't wait to see you again! I love you so much. And I want you to kidnap Boomer and bring him back with you! So cute!!! :-)

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