I woke this morning to the early morning misty light. A quick calculation suggested I had another half an hour before the phone alarm would ring and I settled back into the warmth of my luxuriously warm arctic sleeping bag and fluttered my eyelids closed – only to be shattered into full wakefulness as I heard women’s voices out the back of the café where I am sleeping. Judith and Marina were collecting firewood for the barbecue. I leapt out of bed, wide awake. Surely it can’t be nearly 7.00 am? But no, I was right first time. I’d timed my alarm to go off fifteen minutes before the women of the village normally turn up to start preparing food for the Sunday café opening. Except it was now only 6.04 am. Within minutes Judith, consolingly for me, still wearing her nightwear, was knocking on the door to fill huge cooking pots with water to put on to boil.
And so the day started. As the morning wore on I found out why the day had started earlier than usual: Judith was without the usual amount of help first thing and was having to do most of the preparation herself. If I’d spoken any Spanish I guess they might have told me when they appeared last night to peel the potatoes, instead of doing them this morning.
While Judith and Monica disappeared I managed to grab some breakfast and ablutions, tidied away our possessions so they would
not be in the way when the café opened (everything’s kept in bags or boxes so it’s a pretty easy job) and settled in for a day of crochet and moving around with the laptop. Until Johny turned up, beckoning me to follow him and signalling to bring the cameras. Now, for Paul, that has usually meant being called to herd cattle, pigs, haul 48 kg sacks of charcoal down a mountain, or for mechanic duties fixing Johny’s car or truck or go-kart. It was with no small degree of apprehension that I climbed in the car and we set off over the mountains. With no back seats his three young daughters, one aged nearly 4 and the 9 year old twins, stood in the back of the pick up, along with the various other travellers we met along the road and for whom Johny slowed to allow them to leap on board.
A few miles later all became clear as Johny pointed out a group of cars gathered together in the valley below. This was the Sigchos “make ‘em and break ‘em” 4×4 event. I learned later that this was the second day, which explained the various Toyotas, Mitsubishis and Jeeps with assorted logos, lots of mud and some serious looking wheels, that had passed me as I walked back from Sigchos with some shopping yesterday.
Initially, all the cars set off in a line around the route, over bumps and humps, up some steep slopes and through two water crossings, one of which was serious enough to have a tow truck on hand for casualties. Then, taking it in turns, the cars set off at breakneck speed, a few took the water crossing too fast and made a mess of it, having to be towed out, losing precious time as they raced against the clock. The meatiest looking car had to be towed on both its circuits of the course. I’d been invited to (a) have some fun and (b) film/photograph the event for the village!! Lots of people to say hello to, its surprising how many people already know who we are and who I recognised.
Then it was all over, the off road bikes started to have some fun racing around the track, avoiding the deeper water crossing, and Johny indicated it was time to go. He wasn’t interested in the prize giving – guess the winner wasn’t one of the teams he was supporting.
Back at the café it was time for lunch. Paul, who at this time is in Quito to collect our Transfer Box parts, was mortified (not) to miss the weekly meal options: chicken soup South American style (a thin broth with some shredded veg and chunks of a hacked up chickens boiled to create the broth); roast guinea pig and potatoes; pork cutlet with rice. I think I have earned some cache by voluntarily ordering the guinea pig! They think it funny that I keep taking photos and videos of them preparing the guinea pigs for cooking. Today the guinea pigs were barbecued rather
than roasted in the oven. The cutlets appeared too neatly sliced and pre frozen, rather than being from the pig the women were butchering on a wooden bench outside Judith’s shop on Friday.
By this time the café was crowded and I sat at a table where there was one free chair among a large group, and it turned out they were a couple of teams and their families who had arrived from the 4×4 racing earlier and they recognised me as the strange woman wandering around with my video camera.
Having eaten, I tried to make myself useful clearing tables as the kitchen was already full of people washing up and there was little point in me trying to take orders (in Spanish).
With the serving day over I once again returned the café scene into ‘home’, cleaned the kitchen some more, balanced on a chair to spray the flies that congregate there whenever the doors are open, and swept up the couple of hundred bodies that soon fell to the floor.
And so endeth our third week in Yalo.
Thursday evening we were beckoned to come with our cameras to Sigchos. There we discovered some kind of local show including adults enacting a drama that would have done EastEnders proud, children who were enacting another drama centred on what appeared to be a doctors surgery, a singer and, the reason we were there, several of the girls form Yalo who had formed a dance troupe for the evening. The steep and winding road to and from Sigchos was treacherous in the thick evening fog and Judith decided for some reason that Paul should drive us in Johny’s car.
We learned at the beginning of the week that our parts had been sent via DHL and had been tracking the parcel via the website. We knew by Thursday afternoon it had been processed at the Guayaquil Gateway and was heading towards Quito, so Paul caught the bus to Quito Friday lunchtime, but nothing moved over the weekend. Yesterday (Saturday) Paul went out and about in Quito trying to get some of jobs done that we can’t do here in Yalo (there’s no post office or supermarket here or in the district town of Sigchos).
Meanwhile, yesterday I caught the bus to Sigchos and did some shopping. Although there’s no supermarket in Sigchos the shops are amazing. They are on average the size of a ‘corner shop’ and sell pretty much everything. I’ve found one butchers so far, and three shops that sell predominantly vegetables, but otherwise toilet rolls jostle alongside baby clothes, tubs of dishwashing soaps, knitting yarn, shampoo and deodorants, pots and pans, etc, etc, etc. Even the internet shop sells toothbrushes and toothpaste alongside assorted stationery items.
The weather has got a bit colder since we arrived and we saw our first real rain on Friday. All very British - except it does follow a bit more of a pattern: misty early morning, sunny rest of the morning, clouds come over in the afternoon, drizzle or rain later on. The hat thing has taken off a bit and I’ve been given four balls of wool and requested to make hats. Crocheting seems to have become a way of life for me here!!