Week 34 & 35 - Puerto Cayo Work Away
We had arranged a 'Work Away' a couple of months previously after we had so many costly issues with my bike which demolished our budget. This Work Away in Puerto Cayo was only one of two Work Aways advertised on the Workaway website in Ecuador which Kelvin and I were both willing to do (fussy buggers), mainly because a lot of the work was looking after rescue dogs and we both love dogs.
We left Jardin Suiza at about 3pm and made it to our workaday destination at Pasatiempo del sur at about 3.01pm! What a journey! We pulled up and were met by Ron, one of the owners. He was really cheerful and it was lovely to meet him. His wife Janet was out with two of the dogs, and the other Work-aways were walking two others on the beach. The one remaining dog, Scooby, was glued to Ron's side. Ron showed us around and took us to our accommodation...it was awesome. A really big, clean apartment with a nice big kitchen! It was one of the rental appartments but they gave it to us because the dogs were used to it, and when Ron and Janet went away, the dogs would be living with us in the appartment for a week. Needless to say, we were very happy with the arrangements.
A little while later, Janet returned with two of the dogs, Benny and Bobby...the boys of the house. Janet was really upbeat and enthusiastic, which we liked. She warned us that Bobby was a little anxious around new people so barked and growled a lot. She got him on his lead with his soft textile muzzle and took him for a brisk walk. She asked us to come out one by one and walk with them a little so he could smell us and not be afraid. It worked well, Bobby was great. Four out of five of Ron and Janet's dogs were rescue dogs, all with different stories. It was sad, but happy because they now all had a great home. We then met Carly and Mickey who had been walked by Chauncey (USA) and Gabrielle (UK). They seemed nice people and the dogs were also very lovely. Mickey was very skittish however Carly, the only non-rescue dog, was very trusting straight away. Our work away was not starting until the following day so we just chilled out, got to know the dogs a bit and chatted. The grounds were lovely with a swimming pool and huge lawn, plus four other appartments and Ron and Janet's place above us. The walk to the beach was about one minute and you could see the sun setting over the horizon...if the sun was out. Everyone we had met on the coast so far had explained that normally the weather was perfect on the coast, however for the first year in several years it had been grey almost every day which was odd for the time of year. Apparently the 'El Nino' phenomenon was playing havoc with the weather patterns so the sun had gone into hiding.
We woke up at 7am the next day, which was going to be our average wake-up time for the next two weeks or so. I actually managed ok. Janet came down with the dogs at about 7.30 and she showed us the morning feeding routine, including for the resident rescue cat Zoe, who had come in for some cuddles the night before. Amazingly the dogs were quite obedient and behaved very well. Carly wasn't the best eater and needed some persuasion, but she got there in the end. She had suffered several health issues leaving her with quite a poor appetite and slightly laboured breathing, poor thing.
After breakfast and about 15 minutes to let their breakfast settle it was play time! Our instructions...play with the dogs, Oh what a hard life!! It was good, although at times they needed quite a lot of prompting...lazy buggers! Scooby didn't join in, staying up stairs glued to Ron's side most of the time. Then we were shown how to clean the pool, which was quite straight forward. The great thing we discovered today...the bi-weekly fruit and vegetable truck that sold cheap, fresh produce as well as proper peanut butter, sold by the pound. It did not disappoint!
We walked the dogs in the afternoon, two at a time, with Benny and Bobby always walking together, and further, then Carly and Mickey as the other pair, not walking quite so far and only once a day due to their various issues with shoulders and hips. We walked them with Janet for the first two days, both on the beach and slightly inland dependent upon the tide. In the main they were all quite well behaved although they all had their moments. Over the first couple of days, we also helped with computer stuff, downloading documents, setting up printers, sorting out their Google page (Janet had managed to give themselves a 1 star rating...oops!). Luckily we managed to sort everything and then one of the other jobs was raking the grass, which was in a bit of a bad state in places. The first few days were getting to know all of the dogs, plus a couple of local stray dogs we fed in the evenings called Jacky (completely mental dog) and Poncho (a very anxious but lovely dog who had been very poorly treated historically). We also got to know Ron and Janet as well as Chauncey and Gabrielle. We were also introduced to Franklin, the week-day gardener. He only spoke spanish but we managed to communicate ok and he seemed a really lovely guy.
Samuel from Jardin Suiza was also ordering us bread daily, so we popped in and saw him, Luiza and Egor on a daily basis, which was nice. One of the days I popped over to Samuel's I met a guy called Thomas from Germany who was travelling on a KTM. We chatted for a bit about our travels, swapping some useful information as he was going North and we were heading South.
Towards the end of our first week there, some new work-away's arrived called Charlotte and Ed, Chauncey and Gabrielle were due to leave the following day. As there were now six of us 'work-awayers' on site, Ron and Janet Kindly hosted a pizza night for us and even supplied wine and beer, which was so nice of them. We all rocked up at Janet and Ron's appartment at about 7pm. Janet had made some fresh pizza dough, so Gabrielle and I set about rolling it out and making lots of pizzas with various fresh toppings. They also had a proper pizza oven, so the pizza's came out really well. Tasty! The wine went down very well and everyone chatted for ages. We had some 'brownies' for pudding, which were very nice. Also, I forgot to mention that Janet also gave me two bottles of really tasty white wine, as I had not had any for a long time, which was so lovely of her and I was well chuffed. Needless to say, I savoured them over the time we were there.
The next day we said goodbye to Chauncey and Gabrielle. Charlotte and Ed started their work away so we showed them the ropes. Kelvin and the other two were asked to go and clear some land, while I stayed and looked after the dogs. I was very happy to be dog-sitting, especially when Kelvin came back and said a lot of the clearing had been quite challenging especially on a slope and he fell onto a cactus! Ouch! I spent a little while tweezing out some of the black cactus bits, which wasn't overly joyful for Kelvin, but I loved it!!
We were also invited to dinner with Samuel, Luiza and Egor on the saturday night, and we were due to have Sunday and Monday off, so it was good timnig. Samuel wanted to introduce us to Bolon, and Ecuadorean dish which his Ecuadorean neighbour made particularly well. All-in-all we were treated to Bolon, baked chicken, salad, fresh fruit salad, cake, coffee and red wine. It was a feast and it tasted so delicious! We also gave one of our caps to Samuel for his cap collection, which is now pinned up with the rest and our names tagged on it. It was a really lovely evening.
On our first day off after eight days of working, we chilled out for most of the day and enjoyed a bit of a lie-in. We went into town, did some work and played with the dogs. Even though it was our day off it was hard to resist interacting with the dogs because we fell in love with them, especially Bobby who we soooo wanted to take with us...not overly practical on already heavily overloaded bikes though! Shame. The next day we headed to Aguas Blanca, a community about 30km away. It only cost about $4 to get in and we could ride our bikes all the way there. We parked up in the main square outside of the museum and were greeted by a guide. He showed us around their museum, which was really interesting, especially the pickled creatured like snakes and spiders, plus the huge burial pots that people were buried in. We were then taken to an archaeological site, their farming area and shown lots of edible and interesting plants. After a bit of a walk we ended up at the mineral pool, which was very chilled and beautiful. There were a few locals about but no other tourists. We got an ice-cream and sat by the pool. After a little while, Kelvin get in. To his suprise it was very cold. We had both been under the illusion that the water would be a warm, thermal pool. Wrong! I got in and thought it wasn't too bad. We were also given a pot of mud which i used as a face mask and to scrub my hands. It was actually quite nice and my face was as smooth as a baby's bottom after. After quite a while just chilling out, we headed up to the mirador and then back to the bikes. It had been a lovely day. On our return to Puerto Cayo we played with the dogs again, had a drink outside, made some dinner and had an early night.
Our second week of our Work-Away started and today was the day that Ron and Janet were off on their Panama trip. Kelvin drove them to JipiJapa bus station in their car, while I cracked on with walking the dogs with Charlotte, cleaning the pool and some gardening. The dogs also moved in with us that day, which we were actually really happy about. There was always plenty to do and we made a long list of all of the jobs, plus the weather seemed to get a little better which was nice. We even had a few sunny days! We had been invited to a local trivia night at Booby's Bar by one of the other Ex-Pats, so on thursday night Kelvin, myself, Charlotte, Luiza and Egor made our way to the bar. Ed, not being a fan of trivia, decided to stay behind. Someone had to stay in anyway in case there was a problem, so it worked out quite well. When we arrived there was about ten others there, mostly local ex-pats and other workawayers, plus everyone spoke reasonable english so communication was easy. Me, Luiza and Charlotte all had some of the sangria which wasn't too bad. We were then split into teams by picking numbers out of a hat. Myself, Luiza and Charlotte all managed to pick the same number, then even when we had to give the numbers back and re-draw because they needed to make three teams instead of two, we still all drew the same number. It was very wierd and not a fix believe it or not. The other member of our team was a woman from Sweden so it was an all-girl team. Fortunately the questions were not rock-hard, and even I managed to answer some of them! Over the whole evening there were two quizzes, and we won both. Check us out! Sadly, there was no prize but it had been good fun and good banter, plus some very nice chips, so we were happy enough. We then got a lift home with one of the locals, which saved us a fair walk. When we got back to the appartment the dogs went nuts. It was like we had been gone for days! After some fuss and cuddles they all settled back down on their mats and fell asleep. To my amazement, they all slept until about 6am each morning most days, and even then they were quieter than we expected. It was quite funny though, each morning when I got up I went out to open the door for the dogs they went crazy, jumping up, nibbling my feet and legs before bounding outside to have a poop and pee on the lawn, ready for one of us to scoop up. I have to say it's one of the jobs I couldn't handle very well...the smell was revoulting and made me gag, but luckily Janet had asked Charlotte and Ed to take on the poop scooping, and Kelvin kindly did it on their days off, so I was saved. Chauncey had said it was good preparation for having a baby...I informed him I didn't need preparation as having a mini-me was not on my 'to-do' list. If I can avoid poo, I will...and sick for that matter.
One of the other jobs given to Charlotte was to look after a local street dog called Lily. She was unwell, very underweight and full of fleas. On Charlotte's days off I undertook the task of looking after Lily, feeding her some medicine in large 'treats', putting some anti-bacterial, very blue stuff on her wounds, feeding her some biscuits and water, and just checking up on her. She had improved so much over the two weeks we were there, it was a joy to see, and once the de-worming treatment had taken effect the fleas would be next. While I looked after the dogs, and did lots of gardening and made Scooby's special food, Kelvin's main mission for the week was to de-grass the garden path, which looked really neglected. It's one of those jobs which turns out to be a lot more time-consuming than it looks and he spent hours working on it. I have to say I think it was worth it as the difference it made was really amazing and it looked so much tidier...good when you have paying guests.
During the second week, we also found two tick's on Bobby at different times, and had the fun task of trying to remove them. Luckily I had a tick remover in my first aid kit so we put it to good use. The first one was quite straight forward; however I was not there for the second one. Apparently it was a big fucker and when Kelvin removed it, Bobby bled quite a lot, the bonus being that the tick came out in one piece so all was good. Poor Bobby. Another thing I missed was a huge Iguana on the fence in the garden, but I got to see photos after. It turned up on one of our days off, while Kelvin was working on his computer and I was off bodyboarding with Igor and Luiza. It was my first time in the South American Pacific ocean and it was like warm bath water! I could have stayed in there for hours but trying to catch the crappy waves was quite tiring. The waves weren't too bad from a distance, but once they were up close they were not very condusive to good body-boarding. I showed Luiza and Igor how to catch a wave, and they had a good go, ready for their surfing lesson the next day. I only hoped the waves would be better for them.
On our next day off we took the bikes out again, this time to Los Frailes, a renowned, preserved beach with lovely blue sea and white sand. When we got there we met a french guy on a local bike and had a good chat about bikes and travelling. He pointed us in the right direction for the best walk and views, and we met him once again after we had made it up to the Mirador where you could see all of the beautiful birds flying and the next section of beautiful coastline. We wandered down and around to the next bay where there were loads of rocks and crabs, plus a really dangerous current so swimming there was not an option. After that we headed around again to the next bay, which was sheltered, quiet and free from any other people. I decided this would be the perfect place to go for a swim. Again, it was wonderful, the perfect temperature, almost flat calm and beautiful. Kelvin decided to go and have a look at the local wildlife instead and found some really interesting star fish. He made an awesome timelapse video of the starfish moving and a limpet moving up the rock. I'd never actually seen a limpet move before so it was quite cool to watch. Before we left, a couple of guys from England arrived and we all had a quick chat, again about travelling. After that we headed back to the bikes. On our arrival back in Puerto Cayo, I went to open the garage door and realised I had lost the electronic key! Shit! Ron and Janet had made a point about not losing it, and I had lost it, only the day before our last working day and their return. We went all the way back to the parking at the beach and slowly rode along the dirt road leading up to the beach but no joy. I was completely gutted! We googled places to buy new electronic keys and contacted the manufacturers, however to my suprise, when Ron and Janet returned the following day they were completely un fussed about the whole thing. Talk about relief. However I did send them all of the information about where to get a new one and offered to pay for it but they weren't worried.
Aside from the workaway work, I had a couple of other projects going on in our time at Pasatiempo del Sur. Firstly, I was drafting an article for the International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation all about Motivational Interviewing and it's potential role in physiotherapy. The second thing was that I had been asked to write an article for Adventure Bike Rider magazine on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome after Michnus had told them about my 'Suzie Says...' blogs. I was well chuffed. This also involved making a YouTube video about the tests and exercises, which was a first for me, and it didn't turn out all that bad. At least I have something to put down on my CPD record while I've been away from work!
All-in-all, our workaway was a really good experience. We worked lots, really fell in love with the dogs and enjoyed meeting Ron and Janet as well as the other workawayers. The other huge advantage was that we saved lots of money from not having to pay for accommodation for two and a half weeks, having most of our food paid for and going to free or crazy cheap tourist places on our days off. It made a huge difference to our completely obliterated budget after having so many issues with my bike. We could breathe a little easier for a while. I would say it's quite a good way to save money, get to know an area and do something different on your travels if that's what you want. We would definitely consider another work away if we find the right one for us.
Now we had to get to the border before christmas eve when our visa's expired. Extending the Ecuador visa and TIP was too much of a logistical nightmare, so Peru would be our location for Christmas. The aim was to get to the border a good few days before our visa's expired and head to an Air B&B for christmas and new year, about 300 km inside the border with Michnus and Elsebie. So, off we go again!