Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Day in Cuenca

Go ahead and make up your own captions.

What can I say other than........

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beware Of ..........


Took little trip to Banos (not the village a couple miles out of Cuenca ........ went to the other Banos) last week .  Basically went up the Pan Am Hwy to Riobambe.  The map shows a secondary road from Riobabmba to Banos.  This looks much shorter than continuing north on the Pan Am to Ambato and then turning south at Ambato to go to Banos ...... second leg also a secondary road.  Looks like the direct route from Riobamba to Banos is about half of the Riobamba - Ambato  - Banos option.  Looks like, if you can find it that is.  Found no road sign leading us to this shortcut.  Drove aimlessly through Riobamba asking directions and was told just about every different way to find the road ..... all fails.  Finally saw an I-Tour office and they said the shortcut: 1) sucked .... terrible road, and 2) it was closed anyway.  So we went the long way ..... which would have been fast way if we hadn't searched for the short way ..... which sucked and was closed to boot.

Finally made it to Banos and found our place.  Wish Trip Advisor had mentioned that it was ........... never mind,  Left the place a couple days early and decided to go east to Puyo.  Not sure why. Puyo is on the edge of the Amazon and is really cool if you: 1)  go to the most expensive resort there, and  2) never  leave the resort.  Kind of a Disney version of the Amazon.  I left the resort and did considerable walking around.  Had a lot of trouble finding the charm.  Great place to go live if you are a fugitive and want a place where no one would think to look.  However, weird ...... almost no biting insects.  I figure the snakes must eat them.

So, now a choice on how to get back.  There is a road (fairly straight ) that parallels the Pan Am Hwy back down south.  But it is on the wrong side of the mountains from Cuenca.  I hear the road is nice, but it is kind of iffy on how to make the transition over the mountains to get to Cuenca once we get down south.  Apparently there are two roads crossing the mountains.  Looking at 5 different maps ...... no two maps show both roads.  A couple maps show one road, a couple maps show he other, a couple  shows neither.  By different maps, I am referring to print maps, (Bing), Google maps and the Garmin GPS.  Whatever maps we are looking at, suggest the transition east/west road is okay.  I talk to a friend that tried it a few weeks ago, and he says everything was good until he got to the landslide that forced him to turn around and go the loooong way back to the Pan Am Hwy what with all the backtracking.  But, you know, the landslide is probably clear now.

So off we go south on this road.  Starts out great .....beautiful paved, new black top, straight road (for Ecuador), little traffic.  Life is sweet.

So we get to the decision about which if the ease/west roads to take over the mountains. One looks about twice as long and it only shows up on oue of our mapes as a dotted line. We know that neither are going to be great roads.  The locals tell us to take the short road which is about 50 km further down the nice paved road (but now really winding) to the turnoff for it.  So we do.  We ask a local and he says it was gravel, but not bad.  LIAR!

We get to it and realize ....... it has never been paved and is under construction to boot.  There is a huge sign hanging over it that says "Via Cerrada Para Construction"  (Road Closed for Construction).  But it is a Saturday.  We start up the road.  About 4 miles in (and before it got really bad, we see a truck coming the other way.  He tells us the road is open all the way, but is rough gravel.  We have 4 wheel drive, so we plow ahead.

He should have said that rough gravel is the best part of it.  Many times on that road, I would have given $100 for a rough gravel stretch.  Imagine any and all the things you do not want to find on a mountain road.  It was all there.  At one point where it was real narrow, slippery wet clay and a 500 -600 sheer drop, the Brennie simply but a jacket over her head.   45+ miles and 3 hours later, we emerge from this great shortcut.  We were the only car we saw on it.  There were pickups and road building equipment.  We had to stop a few times for landslide clearing and other equipment doing stuff.  Only bottomed out the car a few times ..... thats a horrible noise.

But we made it home and no one can call us gutless weenies!  Dumb asses, yes.  Gutless weenies, no.

Oh yeah, cell reception on our lovely shortcut.  None.

Scenery do die for .... and might have.

Did I mention the spot where they were building the new bridge?  Got to drive through the river.  Shallow thank god!

You want pics?

But Wide.

Mud but wide.

Can you see the snipers in the trees?

More wide and muddy.
I guess the only time we took pics was when we were stopped.
The good news ...... after a drive like this, you can get your car leaned 'completo' for $9 or less.  Inside, out, windows (in and out again), undercarriage and engine compartment.

Life is sweet,

PS:  The road was much worse than these sad-*ss pics suggest.

PPS:  Did I mention that before we left Puyo and took the alternate road south (good road) and the hell road across the mountains that I asked in Puyo about whether to go that way or backtrack down the Pan Am Hwy.  I asked at 2 I-Tour offices in Puyo and and two cops.  They all said to take the Pan Am Hwy and not the way we did.  But the then the whole 'gutless weenie' thing came in to play and we had a lovely adventure.  Can't wait to do it after the new road is in!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Selling the Apartment

Sometimes this retired life gets really complicated.

For instance, I was going to post a new blog entry and I wanted to include some pics.  

So I thought ........well, I went to the dermatologist the other day and had a bunch of (benign pre cancer something keta-somethings) stuff burned off.  Actually frozen off, but it sure as hell felt like burning.  Resulting in blisters and pretty scabs ...... kind of like burning but without the lovely smell. 

Anyway, I thought that I could post some pics of my pretty forehead.  Brennie says that is disgusting.  So, she told me to put up some info on our apartment that we have decided to sell.  And she says that I can put up pics of the apartment too.

So ..... back to the apartment:
We recently put in a new kitchen and bath and tore a wall out of the downtown apartment.  It’s great.  Now I really love the energy of living in El Centro and I love the apartment.  Brennie prefers the house and especially having a little yard for Bugger and Wanker.  I agree that the house is lovely and the yard is nice.  So, I can either enjoy downtown and the newly remodeled apartment as a single man, or live with Brennie and the beasties.

When we started the remodel, we were planning on keeping the apartment for a long time.  David Morril at Cuenca Real Estate says that real estate is appreciating at about 10% a year. So it makes good sense to keep the apartment and rent it out.  BUT, I have been a landlord before and I DO NOT ENJOY IT.

Location:  1 1/2 blocks from Parque Calderon, Carolina Store, Kookaburras Restaurant, and the Tomebamba River.   Midway between Parque Calderon and the Tomebamba River. Corner of Luis Cordero and Honorato Vasquez. Basically right in the center of everything.

Unique apartment:  There may be other apartments in El Centro that offer what this one does.  But if there are, I don’t know of them.
1) 6th story apartment in a 2 or 3 story neighborhood.
2) Huge balcony. Combined with #1 ..... makes for a great view.  The pic at the top of the blog is of Brennie standing on the balcony.
3) Elevator to the door.  No steps.
4) Within a couple blocks of ..... you name it.  Just about everything.

Price:  We would like one million dollars, but will settle for 1/8th of that.  (That works out to $125,000.)  Slightly more if purchased through a realtor..

Rooms:  2 big bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, large vestibule/foyer/entryway, kitchen, dining room and living room.

Size::  Very spacious.  I think the title says that it is about 1600 sq feet.  I have never measured to figure it out and I don’t know if this includes the balcony (45‘ x 6’) or the laundry/maid’s room (with shower and stool) which is on the covered roof.    But the rooms are big.  For instance (this is from memory) ...... The foyer is something like 8’ x 13’, dining room is 13’ x21’ (holy sh*t!), the bedrooms are approx 15’ x 15’)

View:  The building was built in the early 70’s.  It is a six story building in El Centro.  Most of the buildings in El Centro are OLD and only 2 or 3 stories, So the view is fabulous.  The apartment is on the top floor, the entire front half of the building.  The balcony runs across the entire front of the building (45’).  I love it.  I guess that you could call it a penthouse.

Elevator:  Yep.  Right to the front door.

New Kitchen and Bath:  Never been used.  We re-did the other bath several months ago.  I had always wanted a urinal and finally got one.  Now, it will be someone else’s. Granite countertops in the kitchen.  Marble top in the bath we did a few months ago.

This is actually the Dining Room.
Don't be fooled by the couch, etc.
Floors and Windows:  The floors are all wood (actual wood) except in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Those are porcelain.  Windows in the living, dining and front bedroom are custom wood 2” blinds.  The other bedroom has a (custom) other kind of thing which I can’t explain.  The wood floors have been refinished.

Utilities, Taxes and Condo Fees:  The water, gas and electric total about $35/month.  Taxes are $28/year.  Condo Fees .. $72/month.

That green thing at the top
is the awning on the balcony.

Professional Building:  Almost the entire building are offices.  Mostly lawyers.  They made us feel very welcome and we miss them.  There are 2 other apartments in the building.  Our apartment is top floor front.  The other two apartments are on the top two floors in the back of the building.

Life is sweet,