Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More from Jeff

If you go to the site, you can see all of the videos.

Jeff and Tyler

Baños, Biking, Buses, Concert and Cusco

Baños is one of my favorite cities in the world. It is a small town that would be perfect either as a weekend getaway or a month long escape from reality. Situated on the side of a 19,000 foot active volcano and at the top of a 60 km valley that leads down to the jungle, it is perfectly situated to give adventure seekers the maximum amount of options. Rafting class V rapids, mountain biking up and down mountain paths, canyon jumping, rock climbing and jungle tours are all available and plausible within 30 minutes of the city, and the plethora of tour operators means that it never hard to find a tour or bargain the price down. Of course, icing on the cake is that after a hard day of climbing or jolting your muscles from a rocky course ride, you can go soak in the geothermal springs that are found all over the city and up the mountain. And with an admission cost of $2 for four hours, it’s hard to resist going every day…or twice a day.

Our first day, Tyler and I rented mountain bikes ($4 for the entire day) and rode down from the city toward the jungle. Most of the ride was downhill, including one section where we did not pedal for at least 10 minutes as we zipped through small villages and along gorges with a river far below. We stopped at one of the gorges to see a waterfall accessible only be cable car or a rickety bridge. The bridge was free (terror was the only charge) and we were more than careful crossing it when we saw the broken planks and signs warning against running and jumping.

After a quick snack of tuna fish and Ritz crackers, (I love America) we were back in the saddle and on our way. We made it 45km before it started getting too dark, and we decided that we would hitchhike back to Baños. We waited 20 minutes before a suitable car, a pickup with an open flatbed, passed, and we hopped on. We wore our helmets (like THAT would have helped) as we tore through the countryside through dripping tunnels and over precarious bridges until we arrived at Baños wind ravaged and hungry. Hot springs have never felt so good.

Day two was a hike, and we started up on the south west side of the city going up stairs reminiscent of the Great Wall. We gained 200m of altitude in 10 minutes, and were only one fourth of the way to the top. The last 600m took the better part of three hours as they wound up the mountain through villages, cow pastures and orchards. The view from the top was spectacular; we overlooked a huge valley that led up to the snow capped volcano Tungurahua.

Day three was rock climbing, immense basalt cliffs provided a decent amount of handholds for a few 5’9s and 5´10 climb. The 5´10 was a bit too difficult and when the guide climbed it without ropes in about 15 seconds, we felt all the better about ourselves. Our forearms completely dominated, we returned to our hotel, ate some food and headed to soak in 107 degree water. Next to the hot pool at the springs was a 60 degree pool that we had not dared to enter the first few days, but at the urging of a few natives that praised its health benefits, we started to experiment with the hot-cold treatment to find it extremely soothing. There is nothing quite like being submerged in water so cold that you can´t feel your toes and then jumping into water 50 degrees warmer.

Our last day in Baños we rented bikes and decided that we were going to bike the trail that we had hiked down a few days before. We asked the people that lent us the bikes how to get to the trails, and they explained that the trails that we wanted to go down were only for walking and that the bikes that they rented were not for trail riding. They had decent shocks and were in good condition, and we figured that as long as we took it easy, we would be fine. We found the route to get up the mountain by road and started climbing, 7km and 2 hours later we reached the top, tired and thirsty but ready for the descent. It took us 34 minutes to go down over the steepest terrain I have ever ridden, but except for the path´s lining of barbed wire backed by sheer cliff and the occasional cow or sheep, there was minimal risk involved. That night we said goodbye to our beloved hot springs and took a night bus to Guayaquil, vive reggaeton.

This kid came up to us while we were biding our time in a park in the center of Baños. He was super curious as to what we were up to, and went through all of the things that we let him handle. He didn´t speak coherent Spanish, we think that he might have spoken a bit of Quechua but it may have been 2 year old babble. Anyway, In the midst of our conversation, he was like, ¨Peepee!!!¨ and he started unzipping his pants to pee on the bench. We asked him where his mom was, and after a good deal of arm guestures convinced him to go to his mother so she could take him to a restroom. To our amusement, she unzipped his pants and pulled them down for him, and let him pee in the center of the square. Well, we tried.

This is a picture that I snapped of Tyler after he crashed at 2030 one night. It seems like every night after dinner we go back to our room and one of says, “I am just going to rest for a few moments…” and before we know it we are both out cold with our clothes, books, cameras and toiletries all around us. Usually we wake up in an hour or so with enough time to go and enjoy some night-life, but a few times we have just slept through the whole night and awoken the next morning after upwards of 12 hours of sleep thinking, “Was I really that tired?” I believe that this is what people call, LIVING THE DREAM!

Hilarious picture of me being followed by the police

Overview of Guayaquil from Las Peñas

Written by Tyler Depke

So in the cloud forest, the only access to the outside world was radio, and good thing, otherwise we wouldn’t have known about the most romantic concert in the world that was about to happen a week later in a city relatively close.

Makano and Nigga are two reggaton artists that are less hardcore reggaton and they do more slow lovey songs that is comparable to old backstreet boys or NSYNC stuff, but obviously in Spanish. Nonetheless, being the cool gringos we are, we entered a collesium filled with about 10,000 people, a majority of which were teenage girls. Although it was dominated by girls, teenage guys were not shy to make an appearance or stand of screaming the lyrics during the songs. The guys sitting next to me didnt even look like he was with anyone, but still obviously lovin it. There wasnt a gringo in sight. The only thing that wasnt worth the $16 was the 1hr 45min pre concert of stand up comedy and bad intro rappers that we couldnt understand. Other than that, it was everything I expected. For any reggaton fans, Makano doesnt sounds as good in concert as his CD, and Nigga is MUCH better live than he is on his album.
In Cuzco

The other night Tyler and I were walking from our hostel and I was talking about people that bleach their hair and how I thought that sometimes it looked cool. He asked me why I thought of that, and I explained that, ¨The other day while I was waiting for you to go get something from the room, I was people watching and I saw an Australian with blond hair, and I thought that he was hot out of his fricken mind.¨ And as I completed that sentence, the girl walking in front of turned around laughing, ¨I am Australian, and I couldn´t help but overhear your conversation, and I think that it is hilarious.¨ After laughing at how ridiculous it was that she overheard my comment, we walked with her through town and she showed us her favorite restaurants and explained that she had been working in the city for over a month. Probably the most ridiculous way to meet someone EVER!

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Can't Win By Promising Nothing

I have always wanted to run for public office by declaring as my official campaign promise that, if elected, I would do absolutely nothing, return my pay check to the government, and rail against other elected officials for spending money on campaign promises that the government does not already have in the bank. Now I read that the conservative party in England has a guy who is gaining favor among the electorate waging exactly that type of campaign. I hope he gets elected. My republican friends, those of short memory, lament the spending of Democrats. They seem to forget that Bush put the costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars on a credit card so that future generations would have to pay for it. Bush and the Republican Congress rammed through part D of Medicare, the prescription drug plan with the doughnut hole, which added an extra 850 billion dollars to the credit card debt to be borne by our children and grandchildren, not to mention their children. Bush and the Republican Congress converted the budget surplus inherited from the clinton administration to a trillion dollar deficit in eight short years. Wow. And these are conservatives? Even responsible liberals like, ahem, myself, realize and recognize that one must pay for what one gets. Just as in Great Britain, it is time in America for politicians of all stripes to stand up and declare that we can no longer do what we have been doing, i.e., spending beyond, well beyond, our means. At the present time, I can't win an election by promising nothing because the electorate has been conditioned by slick politicians to expect something for nothing. So I'll stick to golf.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Primitive are We?

The gist of an article I was reading this morning is that of all the predators in this world, the greatest predator causing harm to humans is other humans. Forget lions and tigers and leopards. While each of these animals claim a relatively few victims each year, the numbers are trivial by comparison to the multitude of deaths caused by various groups of humans against others. The same goes for the dreaded shark as well as the alligators that haunt one of my favorite targets for golf shots in Florida, i.e. the closest pond. The news reports have been spectacular this week in reporting that a golfer lost his arm because he reached down to retrieve his golf ball at the edge of a pond and an unseen alligator grabbed him for a snack. In the United States we make it easy to remain the number one predator of our fellow human beings. We murder more than thirty thousand people each year with firearms. What is it about the human condition that causes us collectively to blithely ignore what goes on before our very eyes as though it doesn’t exist? What is it about so many in our society through the mechanism of the, for example, NRA who want more of the conditions that lead to this mass destruction, rather than less? We kill, kill, kill and then look for more. We kill in the name of sport, religion or patriotism. As the bumper sticker might say, “we kill for no apparent reason”.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Public Option

Some people say things a heck of a lot better than I can. Here are some of the dangers a "public option" solution can pose to the american public:

Saturday, September 19, 2009 (SF Chronicle) The Menace of the Public Option
M.C. Blakeman

Of all the current assaults on our noble
republic, perhaps none is more dangerous than the public option
- specifically, the public library option. For far too
long, this menace has undermined the very foundations of our
economy. While companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble
struggle valiantly each day to sell books, these communistic
cabals known as libraries undercut
the hard work of good
corporate citizens by letting people read their books for free.
How is the private sector supposed to compete with free?

And just what does this public option
give us? People can spend hours and hours in these dens of
socialism without having to buy so much as a cappuccino.
Furthermore, not only can anyone read books for free in the
library, they can take them home, too. They get a simple card
at can be used at any library in town. No checking on the
previous condition of books they've read. No literacy test.
Nothing. Yet, do these libertines of literature let
choose any book you want, anytime you want it? No. Have you ever
tried to get the latest best-seller at a public library? They
put you on a waiting list for that, my friend. And if you do ask
these government apparatchiks a question about a book, they
start talking your ear off, and pretty soon they're telling you
what to read.

Of course, if you break one of their
petty rules and return a book late you have to pay fines that
mount grotesquely each day. Even if you die, your overdue fees
keep piling up. Is that not a death tax? How long must the
elderly live in fear of burdening their children with these
unfair sanctions on their estates?
Don't be fooled for a
minute. Somebody has to pay for these "free" libraries, and I'll
tell you who it is, pal. Those good ol' suckers, the American
taxpayers, that's who.

Have you ever wondered who's really
behind this public library option? And don't you think it's
fishy that they mask their nefarious activities with
benign-sounding names, like Friends of the Library? What's their
real agenda - and why do they have so many "volunteer" meetings,

No, my fellow Americans. We cannot wait
until we're all goose-stepped into a massive book checkout line.
This assault on capitalism and our very way of life has got to
end. Be subversive ... burn your library card!

Go out and buy a book!

The Timing is Perfect; a Teachable Moment

The current brouhaha about the arrest of Roman Polanski in Switzerland some thirty years after fleeing from the United States provides the perfect timing for a teachable moment. What has changed in our society since Polanski's despicable forcible rape of a thirteen year old child is the onset of the internet which gives thousands of immature pre-teen or early adolescent women-children the opportunity to display their bodies, some unclothed, into the public arena via U-tube et al. A walk through any shopping mall in America is instructive as well, because these children-women are readily on display wearing seductive clothing that many, if not most, adults consider age inappropriate. In short, these young people are susceptible to be preyed upon by all sorts of sexual predators in analogous fashion to the techniques employed by Polanski; treating a young teen as the adult she is not by flattery, alcohol and drugs. We are told that the child Polanski raped looked "older". The teachable moment here is that there is a responsibility issue here. It is incumbent upon the adult population to protect these children-women, not rape them. It is incumbent upon the adult population to assist these women-children in understanding how their actions and appearance may attract unwelcome and negative attention. The teachable moment includes the holding of Polanski responsible for the rape of a child.