Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day 202 Microclimates and Microcosms

Still bouncing between 2,000 and 3,000 meters (6,500 and 10,000 feet) of elevation on my daily strolls, I've crossed through a remarkable variety of weather and climate, even within a single day.  Snow-capped active volcanos within a degree of the equator... who knew?  Wool overcoats for the city-dwellers and wool leggings part of the various native costumes in the tropics... again, who'd have believed it?  Fragrant eucalyptus trees grown for firewood.  Love it.  Even a long valley of rolling slopes covered with cactuses and other desert vegetation, in the tropics?!  Variety and surpises.  Who could ever get bored walking through such a place?  (Maybe someone with small lung capacity would struggle a bit.)

Crossing the equator occurred without fanfare for me after Palm Sunday in the title-worthy UNESCO city of Quito.  I spent the night in the five-hundred-year-old convent of the Poor Clares, a cloistered order of nuns who were a real hoot and happy to host a pilgrim-ette.  After being fussed over during dinner and then breakfast (eat! eat!), I was sent off in the morning with several kilos of fruit and small loaves of bread with cheese and hard boiled eggs.  On the quiet secondary highway leaving the city, I sat for a sheltered picnic in a light rain where I judged the equator to be, though lacking an informative sign, and celebrated the 35° of latitude behind me, only 20° to go.  The overcast prevented any magical shadowplay.  Now, already 400 kilometers north of the equator, I absolutely appreciate that the sun is on my back far more often than on my over-pinkened face.  I'm confident that the frontal sunburn I've cultivated over more than 6 months walking northward in the southern hemisphere will finally fade to the normal shade of pink.  (I've overheard more than a few little children audibly whisper to their mothers 'but why do we call them white people?')

Walking northward through the border, I crossed into Colombia without much ado on the day before Easter.  The border is open for citizens of both countries so only the handful of travelers enter the immigration building for the passport control.  Onward to the first city, Ipiales, I found that not many of the shops were open except the innumerable restaurants, where guinea pigs roasted on sticks over hot coals marked the festive atmosphere.  Pass.  Finding no tourist information office nor any shop open for a map, I continued on mapless to the Santuario de las Lajas as planned, more gorgeous in person than even on the Wiki page.  The Franciscan nuns accepted me openly, put me to work helping with last-minute arrangements of the altar decorations, and then fed me abundantly.  Dyed Easter eggs, tender beef, crispy French fries... maybe it was just the holiday, but there appears to be more of a culinary interest in Colombia than parts south, the yen for guinea pig notwithstanding.

Finally, decent coffee, a beverage here treated with respect and reserve rather than a side thought involving instant dehydrated crystals.  After stopping for hospitality at the Franciscan seminary in Pasto, I can say that as much as I love the Colombian coffee, I find the Capuchinos much sweeter =D  (They took photos and promised to send them to the webpage.)

Continuing on the ancient path, now Panamerican highway, I'm wandering through great green mountains draped with patchwork parcels of coffee trees and banana trees, corn stalks and everpresent potato mounds to the soundtrack of waterfalls hidden beneath the oversized undergrowth and chatty birds hidden in the treetops.  Lovely pilgriming.


Sheila Phelan Wright said...

Been staalking your page hoping for a post. Glad all is well. You sound happy and radiant. I'm in awe of all of it - especially you!

ksam said...

Agree with Sheila...glad to see all is well! And nice to see a description of me in your traveling...small lungs indeed!! I'm wheezing just reading!

Amy R said...

Happy Easter! Glad to get an update, and hope it won't be long before the next one.