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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Status of Terry Bingham, S/V Secret o' Life

8/27/08 UPDATE: See http://terrybingham.blogspot.com/ for updates on Terry's status.

Tammy has given us permission to post about Terry's condition on our blog in case she hasn't already reached everyone who knows him.

Terry and Tammy departed Bahia in July to do some extensive inland travel, and arrived in La Paz, Bolivia on Sunday, August 17. On Monday morning he developed sudden and intense abdominal pain, and he was admitted to Clinica del Sur that day where he was diagnosed with Acute Pancreatitis. During exploratory surgery Tuesday night his pancreas was discovered to be hemorrhaging. On top of all this he has a serious blood infection which is being treated with antibiotics. After surgery Terry was on oxygen, fully sedated, and on a respirator in the ICU.

Three of Terry's children have flown in to be with him, and Tammy reports that the U. S. Embassy staff have been extremely supportive as well. They have coordinated blood drives (Terry is A positive which is uncommon in Bolivia) so that Terry can get blood plasma and platelet transfusions, and they are helping Tammy with translation issues.

The doctors hoped to remove the ventilator as early as Friday, but were unable to do so as Terry still was not strong enough. Finally Monday night Terry was awake and alert for the longest time since surgery. Today Tammy reports that Terry continues to be alert and is anxious to have the ventilator removed (he's communicating by nodding or shaking his head). But he tires quickly after only a short time of breathing on his own and can't be taken off of it just yet. The fact that they are at 11,000 feet of altitude doesn't help his situation.

The Embassy representative assisted Tammy in getting more access to Terry for her and family members than they had before. Tammy writes, "If Terry had his way we would be with him all the time. That's also what we would like but as long as he is in ICU that is not an option. This afternoon when I said I had to leave he adamantly shook his head no ... it just breaks my heart to have to leave him like that."

Terry is still fighting the pancreatitis and Sepsis/blood infections but improved labs indicate that these are abating. Tammy asks that you continue to send positive thoughts and prayers for Terry's recovery.

Linda and John

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Social Swing in Bahia

Bahia de Caraquez is in full holiday mode in this month. The beaches are packed with people any day of the week, not just on weekends; we've seen jet skis, kayaks, ski boats, a wind surfer, a Sunfish sailboat, and even a pontoon party boat skimming through the anchorage. It seems everyone in Ecuador is taking their summer vacation this month. Even tienda Yanina is better stocked than usual to accommodate all the condominium vacationers. This month also saw the kickoff for the Saturday Summer Nights in Bahia. Parts of Bolivar (the main commercial street) are closed off and everyone comes out to eat street food and home baked goods sold on the sidewalks; people watch and mingle in the crowds; and listen to live local music and entertainment. It doesn't really get going until 8 PM which is a little close to cruiser midnight for us, but it's a fun way to run into people we know from the local community.

In spite of a summer head cold spreading through the cruiser community, we are also having a whirlwind month. Marcie and David of Nine of Cups (http://www.nineofcups.com/) kicked things off at PA with two presentations on cruising South America. They recently completed a circumnavigation of the continent and helped get Jeff and Debbie of Sailor's Run off to a good start on their passage with a talk on Peru. For the really adventurous they also gave another slide show on cruising Chile. It all sounds absolutely wonderful - except for the getting there. Sailor's Run got nervous about the visa issues in Ecuador, and Jeff had a huge itch to go sailing so he conned Debbie into sailing down to the Peruano YC in La Punta, Peru (near Calloa/Lima). Because Jeff is one determined sailor their route ended up taking them over 500 miles offshore, they covered 1,825 nautical miles, and they only burned five gallons of diesel fuel. They finally arrived early on the morning of their 16th day at sea. The inshore route would have been less mileage, but with more obstacles like ships, fishing boats, and oil rigs, and Jeff didn't want to fight the 2 knot current going against them (they were never able to find the elusive inshore counter current). We hope they have a wonderful time visiting Peru from their new base, but it isn't likely that Nakia will be making a trip like that any time soon!

The visa issue continues to perplex everyone. The latest scuttlebutt is that anyone arriving in Ecuador prior to June 20 (when the no renewal rule went into effect) can leave the country to get another 90 day stamp, and that anyone arriving after that date is limited to 90 days after which they have to be out of the country for six months before they can get another 90 day stamp. But who knows how this will actually be implemented. For a real horror story of boundless bureaucracy in Ecuador take a look at the story of S/V Dosia (http://ssca.org/DiscBoard/viewtopic.php?t=6713). Back on the local front, we learned yesterday that no one (including the local population) is allowed to purchase more than two gallons of fuel at a time in a jerry can from the local gas station. Apparently multiple trips are okay. This is an additional restriction on the previously implemented rule (since we arrived here) that only one jerry can per person is allowed. Of course we can still buy fuel in quantity from PA and have it delivered to the boat, but when all you want to do is fill up your five gallon outboard tank...

I tagged along with three other women recently for a shopping day. We split the cost of a private taxi ($60) to make multiple stops in a few of the surrounding towns, each of which is known for a specific craft. Our first stop was a Tagua (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagua_nut) workshop and gift store in Sosote, just outside of Portoviejo. Run by the Covena family, the workshop gave us a much better understanding of the nut's origins and the processes involved in turning it into jewelry and figurines. Our next stop was La Pila where we saw some clay reproductions of local antiquities. We had to search inside the open air shops for these because they were overshadowed by large gilt tchotchkes and other gewgaws displayed out in front. We made one more souvenir stop at the workshop of Jose Chavez Franco (386 Rocafuerte) in Montecristi, a town known for its Panama hats (http://www.ecuador.us/montecristi.htm). Here we also got to see a hat in the process of being made. Prices started as low as $15 and probably went up beyond $100, although we didn't ask about the super fino hats. By now it was 2 PM and time for lunch which we enjoyed at Cevicheria donde Cecilia out on the beach in Manta. We finished up our day with a quick stop at the SuperMaxi grocery store for a few things that are hard to find or more expensive to buy in Bahia. I enjoyed the shopping expedition very much since the store keepers were kept busy by the other women in my group, and I was left alone to browse and window shop to my heart's content. I wasn't any pressure to buy anything, which is my favorite kind of shopping!

Linda and John

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back in Bahia

Just to let everyone know that we are back in Bahia after a quick trip down to Peru to spend a few nights and then return to Ecuador to get another 90 day stamp in our passports. Since we were really only there to get the Ecuadorian visa "renewal" we decided to stay put in Tumbes. Our room was mosquito free and had about 10 cable channels in English so we watched a lot of CSI episodes and a few movies. The plaza in Tumbes was very pleasant and they had two pedestrian streets where we could do a little walking. The raised Malecon seemed to be an outdoor urinal so we only walked a small portion of it on our way to the bus station to buy tickets for our Friday morning departure to Guayaquil.

After watching about an hour of the Olympics opening ceremonies (spectacular!) in the bus terminal we caught the first CIFA bus out of Tumbes at 8 AM (actual departure time was 8:30, which is normal). We forgot to ask if it was "directo," and it seemed not to be since it was picking up school kids and almost anyone else alongside the road. There were absolutely no issues with crossing back into Ecuador. Coincidentally Friday was the day we would have gone to Manta anyway to renewal our original visas had the government not decided to revoke the renewal process. We also were never asked by either Peru or Ecuador for our international vaccination booklets or specifically for proof of the yellow fever vaccine.

We arrived in Guayaquil at 3 PM and bought tickets on Reina del Camino for the 4:40 departure to Bahia. Seeing that once again Reina was the only bus line searching passengers boarding the bus (we were also video taped similar to our Oaxaca trip), I made a last minute decision to check my backpack rather than go through the hassle of unlocking it for security. Wouldn't you know, after concluding that we were never going to see a bus with windows that didn't open (i.e., with Mexican style, freezing cold air conditioning) I left my wool shawl in my backpack, and this ended up being the first time that I could have used it. This was the nicest bus we've ridden here so far. We couldn't open the windows, there were two TV monitors, and they ran a continuous loop of Jet Li movies (all dubbed in Spanish of course). The seats reclined so far back that you couldn't get out of your seat if the person in front of you was fully reclined. This also meant that my knees were poking into a young man's back and I could have just leaned my neck over to kiss the top of his head. I think my knees finally got the message across and he soon moved to another seat row.

We arrived back in Bahia shortly after 10 PM and had arranged to have our dinghy (without the outboard on it) left at the dinghy dock. We are anchored so close to PA at the moment that it was a short row to Nakia where Ziggy was waiting for us. Once again it is so good to be home. The more we travel the more I appreciate Bahia. It is the perfect size for us. It has a small town feel, but it has everything we need. The almuerzos at Hugos are better than any we've had traveling, Chifa Lau has the best Chinese food, Donatello has great pizza, and Muelle Uno is perfect for a steak dinner splurge now and then. The mercado has good fruits and veggies and Yanina is a good small tienda with everything else. The bathrooms and showers at PA are first rate, and our bed on Nakia is our favorite place to lay our heads. John is done visiting big cities so we have no further travel plans at the moment and will be content just to stay close to home and work on boat projects for the time being.

Linda and John

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Tumbes, Peru

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We had another long day today beginning with our bus ride at 7:30. When we tried to buy tickets on CIFA the guy told us no for Tumbes, didn´t we want Mancora or Piura farther south. We were totally perplexed by this, took a moment together to try to figure it out, then went back and asked again for Tumbes. He gave in and sold us our tickets, but I took this as a bad sign for our chosen destination.

We arrived at the border at Noon where it took an hour to get through Ecuadorian Immigration for our exit stamps and almost another hour for everyone to clear Immigration for entry into Peru. We think the bus driver and conductor went for lunch while we were all exiting Ecuador, but the conductor stayed with us in Peruvian Immigration.

We arrived in Tumbes at 2:30 and caught a moto-taxi for a stop at an ATM to get some soles before checking into the Hotel Lourdes. Peru is expensive! We´re paying 60 soles (the rate is about 2.80 soles to the dollar) for our room, which is larger and has hot water, but is otherwise no nicer than our room in Guayaquil. And tonight for dinner at Los Gustinos on the plaza we paid 35 soles for a rice with seafood mix which we shared. To top things off, we couldn´t finish it and were sitting there while John finished his beer when a street vendor came up and asked if he could take it for us, and then quickly sat down at the table behind us and polished it off!

This is another noisy, big city with not much to offer so we´re thinking about moving on down to Mancora, a beach resort area, tomorrow. We figure if everything is going to be expensive, we might as well be somewhere more relaxing.

Linda and John


Monday, August 4, 2008

We caught the 7:15 AM directo bus from Bahia to Guayaquil yesterday, arriving about five hours later. It was a comfortable bus with AC and a movie (Shoot Em Up) dubbed in Spanish but the conductor played it with English subtitles (just for us?), and it was especially nice not stopping for anyone waiting alongside the road. The bus terminal here is enormous but a few bus lines still have offices in another older area a few blocks away. We checked the schedules for Peru in both places before taking a taxi to the Hotel El Dorado. Our cab driver wasn´t familiar with that one and stopped first at the Best Western El Doral. Muy rico - too rich for our budget! The Dorado is basic without hot water, but it has cable TV and a noisy fan, and is very clean. The best part is that after mentioning Jeff and Debbie´s names (and the owner´s name too - thanks Debbie!) we got a matrimonial (one double bed) for $13/night. It's very close to the Malecon and a major shopping area which we also liked.

We dropped our bags in the room and went straight to the Malecon. Terry on Secret o´Life didn´t overstate how well worth a visit this is. Although it doesn´t look out onto anything special (a muddy river with lots of hyacinth floating in and out with the tide) the promenade itself is beautiful with many things to offer in the way of amusement. Sunday afternoon was the perfect time for people watching, with local families out to enjoy their urban park. At the eastern end of the Malecon is Las Penas where we climbed 444 steps to the top of a hill for 360 degree views of the city. Las Penas is an old neighborhood which has been turned into a tourist attraction along the lines of Lombard Street in San Francisco (only more commercial). We inadvertantly chose the quieter back way going up, and were surprised at the flow of people we met on the main set of stairs on our way down. We stopped at one of the bars mid-way so John could have a beer and we could watch a steady flow of people huffing and puffing their way up the steps. We walked all the way back to our hotel, found a Chifa (called "Asia") for an uninspiring Mixto (half chow mein, half fried rice), and called it a night.

We had already located the place to go for our yellow fever vaccines so we took care of that chore first thing this morning. We had talked about catching a $30/pp luxury bus to Tumbes at 11:30 this morning but decided it was cheaper to stay another night here and take the $6 bus at 7:30 tomorrow morning. So we spent the rest of the day doing more walking and resting on benches in between all the walking. There´s a great park, Parque Bolivar, with dozens of iguanas of all sizes which are fed and kept there. They´re free to roam the grass and cobblestone paths in the park and are even overhead in the trees. We really enjoyed hanging out there and watching them, and a bright green baby one even ran into my foot as he ran for cover up on a curb.

It was another long day of lots of walking and we were very tired by the time we headed back to our room for showers and a pizza.

Linda and John

Friday, August 01, 2008

Musical Boats

31 July 2008

We received news during our "vacation" that another cruising couple has been banned from PA for posting libelous comments about TM on their blog, and that Ecuador is suddenly no longer issuing 90 day visa extensions. We had only been back for a few days when another cruiser (now a CLOD - Cruiser Living On Dirt) was also banned from PA. John has spent hours talking to the individual parties involved, trying to mediate for them, but it appears to be a lost cause. The cruisers refuse to budge and are more interested in their personal grievances than in what is good for the community as a whole. While John and I feel that TM has mishandled several difficult situations, we're tired of the continual political infighting and are ready to fight for peace so we can enjoy the rest of our time here. We appreciate the comraderie of the cruising community and hate to see it divided like this.

Friends of ours made it back from Columbia with another 90 day stamp in their passports, circumventing the renewal process which has been discontinued. They really enjoyed their short visit there but we don't want to have to connect north via Quito having just come from there. So we're leaving for Peru on Sunday to try to get another 90 day stamp ourselves. We're only going as far as Tumbes, unless it really sucks. I'm hoping to do a couple of day tours of the natural preserve areas north of there to get something out of the trip. Otherwise Tumbes sounds like a pretty awful border town. Oh well, if we don't like it, we can continue on to somewhere else. We plan to be back by Friday or Saturday at the latest.

It's been crazy here the past few days because ten boats had to be moved around to make room for a bridge construction barge with a big crane on it. We went off our mooring so Drifter could be moved there. Alaya and Djadara were moved to the close quarters bow and stern moorings behind Archie's Way. Hello World moved to Alaya's mooring. Claire de Lune reanchored just outside of Che Bella. Fortuitous and Leonidis were moved off their moorings and anchored right in front of PA. We're north of them behind Nine of Cups, who also had to reposition a little. Vilisar was moved from way south of the bridge to out in the eastern flats outside of the rest of the fleet. We actually anchored three times before John found a spot he could be happy with. Now we have our Fortress and Delta anchor in tandem on 25 ft of chain followed by 75' of chain and a kellet to help weigh everything down.

Today John helped TM move Sarana to a mooring. John suggested that they could leave a buoy on Sarana's anchor so they wouldn't have to pull it up. That move should only be for a few days, but the rest of us might have to stay put for a couple of weeks. And I just noticed Mahayana has been moved out to the eastern flats as well. Most of the boats are unoccupied at the moment so needless to say it was a bit of a nightmare for TM. He was given short notice (like two hours), but he and his crew came through and did a good job of getting everyone resettled. I haven't mentioned it before but the idea of requiring boats to anchor bow and stern was given up soon after a few of them dragged. It's a tight fit at the moment, but no worse than Tenacatita in high season.

We are much happier here since John's gotten involved in the peace process. Since we've started working with PA and the cruising community towards an accord, life is much more enjoyable for us.

Linda and John