Men Grabbed My Bike and Ants Ate My Tent

30 11 2009

Yesterday I got to speak with my father on Skype. Before we hung up I said, “Wish me luck. This next portion of my trip might be a bit dangerous.”

The cops and a few other locals told me not to ride through the indigenous Shuar communities because there is too much suspicion that gringos are responsible for the recent decapitations of locals. Peace Corps Volunteers said I’d probably be fine, just be careful.

So my goal was to ride as far and as fast as possible, carry a lot of water and food, and don’t stop in any towns for any reason. I needed to make it to a certain bridge where I was told it would be easy to find a safe place to camp.

I wasn’t there yet. The sun was setting. I needed to figure out where I was going to sleep. I knew the bridge was close, but how close?

I decided it would be okay to stop once to ask how far away bridge was. Just once. I would look for friendly people. Over there to the right, two men and two women. It looked like they were waiting for a bus. I greeted them, still rolling. “Hola!” “Hola,” they responded. Okay. I stopped. The men stood up to shake my hand. Friendly folks. Where am I from? What is my name? Where am I going? I answer the questions, then get a question of my own in: “How far to the bridge?” Ten minutes on a bus. Great, it must be more downhill than uphill, because the bridge goes over a river. I could see a valley in the distance. I bet that’s it. I can probably make it in 30-45 minutes. But I have to hurry.

I said thanks, I had to hurry before the sun set. Their hands were on my handlebars. They said to wait. And they flashed fake smiles at each other. Then the real questions began. Why am I in their town? How did I get into Ecuador? Do I have a passport? They requested my passport.

By now I realized they were drunk. Under the bench, 4 large, empty beer bottles. I kicked myself. Why hadn’t I spotted the bottles before?! I never would have stopped here had I seen the bottles.

Then the men and women started talking to each other in Shuar. Here’s what I heard, “Blah blah blah cortacabeza blah blah blah.” Cortacabeza means head-cutter-offer in Spanish.

I said, “I heard you say cortacabeza. I understand your concern. It’s horrible what is happening around here. The police in Macas were suspicious of me too. They searched my bags and wrote a police report. But no, don’t worry, I’m just doing an environmental project and I write journalistic stories on a website. I’m raising money to help protect a forest where indigenous Paraguayans live.” It didn’t work.

They started opening the bags on my bike. I tried to pull away, but their grip on my bike tightened. They said, “You’re not going anywhere until we say so. We’re the authorities here.” I started getting scared. Really, really scared.

I took the psychological route. “I came this way because I was told the people on the coast are dangerous, to avoid them and travel through the oriente because the people here in the oriente are friendlier.”

“We’re friendly. We’re just talking to you.” They were standing inches from my face, demanding that I provide proof I didn’t kill their neighbors. You don’t have to be a philosopher to understand the difficulty of proving you didn’t do something. Now they were unclipping my pannier saddlebags, unzipping my handlebar bag, looking all around my bike for evidence I was responsible for the deaths in the area. I was physically removing their hands from my bike each time. And I was trembling. There was no sign they were going to let me go and they were getting more aggressive.

“Yeah, you were friendly before but not anymore. You’re disrespecting me. I have travelled through many countries and you are the only two people who have ever grabbed my bicycle and prevented me from leaving.”

“Just show us your passport.” My passport was in a secret place with my cash and debit card.

Suddenly I spotted two young boys, maybe 10 years old, walking down the street. “Help me! Please help me! These men won’t let me go!” I screamed as desperately as possible so the drunk men would realize the weight of the situation. The two boys approached us as I thought Stupid, stupid. What are two little boys going to do against two drunk men?

The men continued to ask to see my passport, saying only a headshrinker would travel without identification. I thought about my sales training when I worked at L.A. Fitness in Arizona. There, I would say, “If I could get my manager to give you a discount would you become a member today?” (Wow, I hated that job.)

Now there were six people around and the drunk men were the minority. I thought it was as safe a time as ever to show my passport. I said, “If I show you my passport, you’ll let me go?” They said yes, kind of.  I explained some rules, talking down to them, treating them like children. “I’ll show you my passport. You can memorize or write down any information you want, but don’t touch anything because I really feel like I am in a dangerous situation, you have both been drinking, and you might be trying to rob me.”

“We’re not going to rob you–” I showed them my passport. They tried to take it out of my hands at least three times. I jerked away each time saying, “I won’t let you see it if you try to take it from me. I don’t want any problems. Just look, please. Relax. Relax. I’m not a dangerous person. Look, I read my full name and passport number out loud.” They each had a hand on my shoulder and a hand on my bike.

After I showed them my passport and read every detail aloud they still weren’t satisfied, of course. They didn’t let go of my bike. Why would they? Of course the cortacabeza would have a passport. A passport is not a difficult thing to get. They started saying ridiculous things like, “We can’t just let you go. How do we know you’re not the cortacabeza? You understand. A gringo is responsible for the deaths around here, and here comes a gringo travelling alone through our community. We can’t let you go until we’re sure.” I was in the Amazon in a town not on my map and it was getting dark. Not good.

We argued for another 5 minutes. I didn’t say much. In the end, it was the two women and the two boys, both in a submissively shy kind of way, who magically convinced the men to let go of my bike. We shook hands goodbye at least 10 times.

I didn’t make it to the bridge, so I found a small path into the jungle and set up camp next to a river. Not as well hidden as I would have liked, but okay. A few meters away was an army of leaf cutter ants. I watched them for a few minutes, impressed as always by nature.

The thought crossed my mind, No, there’s no way leaf cutters could cut through a tent. And even if they could, why would they?

Then I went to bed, but not for long…

I woke up when I realized I had been slapping at bugs in my sleep for a while. Must have been hours. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I couldn’t believe what I saw. No, those can’t be holes in my tent. No way. I grabbed the headlamp and turned it on.

Ants everywhere.

I posted a facebook and twitter udpate announcing that ants had eaten at least 50 holes in my tent. After the updates I tried counting the holes. In one area the size of my hand there were more than 80. Hundreds of holes. The strange thing is they carried pieces of the tent away. They cut them like leaves and the pieces were nowhere to be found! Any entomologists want to explain this to me? It had been raining a lot. Maybe the nylon was molding and appeared organic to the ants.

Again, I was lucky. As I gave up on killing ants and finished packing the tent full of dead and live ants the sun began to rise. It was not the middle of the night as I had suspected. I got on the bike. It was probably around 6am.

By the end of today I should be in Puyo and out of headshrinking territory. What a week! I decided I’d get a hostel.


Captured for Head Shrinking

28 11 2009

Headshrinking used to be a tradition among the Shuar indigenous communities in Ecuador’s Amazon, the area I’m cycling through. In the last two years, according to the police who accused me of headshrinking, at least 7 headless bodies have been found in Macas’ neighboring communities.

I took thanksgiving day off to bus down to Tesoro and celebrate with a group of Peace Corps Volunteers. I should mention I don’t have a backpack like most tourists. I do, however, have a large black trashbag. I loaded up my tent, sleeping bag, some clothes, and my emergency kit, hucked the trashbag over my shoulder and started walking down the street.

I stepped into a store. To say I got some suspicious looks is an understatement. Whether the gossip is true or not, the town was buzzing about another body that was found that morning without a head. To make matters worse, they say a gringo was responsible for all the beheadings in the past 2 years. But I didn’t realize how seriously everybody took headshrinking until all of this happened.

So, genius that I am I made a joke to lighten the mood in the grim store. “Anybody want to buy some heads?” I asked in a happy-go-lucky tone of voice. They didn’t laugh, because people around here REALLY believe a gringo could be walking around town with a bag of heads like some evil Santa Claus. No they didn’t laugh, but the mom and the older daughter looked at each other with half-smiles and were at that point between fear and the hilarious relief. So I did what any idiot would do, I opened the bag as they stared with worry to see what I might pull out of the bag. I took out a shoe and a shirt and said cheesily, “I have the head of a shoe, or the head of a shirt. Sorry, no human heads today.” The owner of the store, her children, and even the 3 year old grandson erupted with laughter. Another woman in the store, however, took slow motion steps backwards toward the exit as though I were robbing her. After both joking and having a serious conversation about the beheadings with the woman and her family, I bought a bag of potatoes and left the store. Keep in mind, a large potato is the approximate size and shape of a shrunken head.

In Bolivia 6 months ago I urinated behind a tree in the darkness at the edge of a closed plaza. Immediately afterwards I was approached by three casually-dressed men with IDs claiming to be police officers. They demanded to see my ID and said they were going to fine me for urinating in public. I had read in a travel book to beware of false police in the area, so I walked away quickly saying I didn’ t understand them. I am sure they were false cops.

Now, here in Macas, Ecuador, I found myself in a similar situation. Five minutes after leaving the store I was surrounded by three casually-dressed men who flashed unintelligible ID cards at me. “Show us what’s in your bag,” they demanded. I felt like I was about to get robbed. I tried walking away. One of the men put his hand firmly on my shoulder. “Open your bag, now.” “I’m sorry, I just have to be careful. I’ve been robbed a few times on this trip.” I suggested we go to the police station together. They told me to get in an unmarked white pickup truck and they’d be happy to drive me there. I said if they are really police they should understand why a foreigner would not get into a typical pickup truck with three men dressed as civilians. (Sounds like a good kidnapping technique to me.) They got offended that I would suggest they were anything but officers, then they radioed for additional officers. A radio? Wow, great kidnapping prop…or maybe they are legit cops?

I thought a bit more: It was the middle of the day, there were a lot of people around. The woman in the store probably called the police. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll show you what’s in the bag, but please–” Suddenly truck with “POLICE” painted on the side screeched to a stop beside me. Three uniformed men got out of the truck. I laughed with relief. “Okay, you’re real cops, I’ll open my bag no problem.” But the new cops ordered me into their truck. “What? Why? This is ridiculous. I’m sorry, I made a bad joke about having heads in my bag. I didn’t know it was a big problem here. There’s no way you think I’m walking around the city with a bag of human heads! Check my bag, you don’t have to take me anywhere. Are you kidding me? This is ridiculous!” But they had already ushered me into the backseat of the truck. Things only got worse.

I explained the joke to them as we drove to the police station. Jokes should never have to be explained, especially from the back of a police truck.

When we arrived at the police station it was clear they had a new idea on their minds: drugs. Otherwise, why wouldn’t I show them the contents of my bag? My emergency kit certainly looked suspicious. They checked inside the matchbox, they put a drop of my SweetWater water treatment on their fingertip to make sure it smelled like chlorine, and when one of them found a small round mirror that resembles compact powder makeup he asked, “You wear makeup?” I explained it’s my mirror for signaling long distances in an emergency, but I’m sure he thought it was for making cocaine lines. It was when they found a bag of yerba mate that I really thought I was doomed. He picked up the yerba mate, bombilla, and guampa and looked at me. “You drink yerba mate?” he asked. Phew! I can’t believe he knew what it was! He sifted through the tea, smelled it, and set it aside to begin examining a plastic bag filled with what looked like shrunken heads. He held it up in front of me as though he had found what I was hiding all along. He opened the bag carefully so as not to get any leaking brainjuice on his hands. “See?” I said. Potatoes. Can I go now? He took a potato out of the bag and smelled it. Then he scratched it with his fingernail. For those of you are in the shrunken head trafficking business, don’t hide your shrunken heads inside potatoes if you’re trafficking through Ecuador.

They asked what I was doing in Ecuador. Bicycling from Paraguay to the United States. Wrong answer. That’s impossible. Certainly I was lying. When they found my camera they started looking through the photos expecting to find photos of me smoking crack and/or dancing around a fire at a head shrinking festival. But they only found photos of a bicycle trip. “Where is this?” They asked of a beach photo. “Peru,” I said. They mumbled, “Wow, maybe…”

When it was finally time to go, the cop took a slip of paper out of my passport and said he needed to keep in on file because it was blank. I said, “I was told I could fill it out later and that I need to keep it with my passport for when I exit Ecuador. Just let me fill it out right now.” Another hour of arguing ensued. I called the offices at the Embassy and Peace Corps, accusing him of stealing from me. He called Ecuador’s migrations office. I said, “You took property from me. It looks like you’re asking for a bribe. I’m not going to bribe you.”

He said, “How dare you accuse me of looking for a bribe. My boss says we have to keep this on file.”

“For what?”

“So that nobody can use it. It’s like a blank check.”

“I need to use it. It won’t be blank if I fill it out. And it’s not at all like a check because a check is worth money.”

Finally a representative from the migrations office arrived and within 10 minutes said, “Look, just give him his slip of paper back. We don’t need it.” Thank you, sir! And I was out of there like a newborn.

Head Shrinkers, Peace Corps, and Giving Thanks for the Amazon

25 11 2009

22 November 2009  Abandoned house to Mendez  50k   $pent: US$12.00

Mendez' welcome sign in Spanish and Shuar

Hills. Rain. Still in the cloudy, hilly Amazon. Everything is mildewing so I got a hostel in big Santiago de Mendez (population 7,000 perhaps?) and had my stank laundry washed. Since it was Sunday everything was closed. I made a new friend Fabián, who washed my laundry for free in his mother in law’s washing machine. We drank cola and talked about marriage and cycling while we waited for the washing cycle to end. Then I went to his friend’s internet cafe to post the last update you read (Haha, Tim good question… I was updating the website on this day, 22nd of November, but I hadn´t written this yet, so the journal entries ended with me camping behind an abandoned house on November 21st. No wireless behind the abandoned house. Sorry for the confusion, the journal updates are delayed sometimes.)


23 Nov 2009          Mendez to Tesoro          40 k           $pent: US$5.00

I continue to descend through the hills so it is getting hotter. From what I understand there aren’t distinct seasons near the Equator here in the jungle; it is always very hot. The daily rain is a welcome refresher. I keep passing towns that have caves and river rafting advertized on tourism signs, but the only tourist I’ve met was the Colombian hitch hiker 2 days ago.

The first highlight of today was the Shuar people and language. I met an older man who was excited to teach me Shuar. He was even more excited when I offered to buy him a juice and asked him to sit down with me so I could take some notes. In the middle of our lesson a friend of his came in. My new teacher said to him, “Look, this gringo comes in and learns more Shuar than the children of this town know (I had written down about 5 phrases so far). It’s a disgrace that this language is being lost among our people.” Photo of my teacher and me below.

I asked a Shuar man to take this photo. I don't think he had ever used a camera before. Plus I'm tall. Bad combination, hilarious results.

Later, as I continued riding northward another Specialized Armadillo tire started to separate at the seams and the tube was peeking through, so I stopped to change it (still no flats!). A group of school children were walking home from class and gathered around to watch me change the tire. I explained that I think Shuar is a beautiful language and I want to learn it, then I asked if any of the kids speak Shuar. Some of the kids signaled toward a young boy and said, “He does. Speak to the man in Shuar!” He took his little brother by the hand and walked away saying, “Let’s get out of here.” It was obvious he didn’t appreciate being known as the indigenous kid.

New tire installed, I bicycle past some wooden houses with straw roofs I thought it was an opportune time to practice the Shuar my friend had taught me. “pyngarek huma!” (are you tranquil?) I would yell with a smile as I waved and passed the homes. The first response was happy “eee!” and the man spouted off a list of Shuar greetings I couldn’t understand. “Puhuta!” (goodbye) was all I could say, and continued cycling. The second and third interactions worried me. They both got very angry that I was greeting them in Shuar. A “don’t treat us like we’re Indians” message was made very clear to me by the way they responded. So I stopped greeting people in Shuar.

My second highlight of the day involves stumbling upon a Peace Corps site. I went into a small store to buy food and, on a whim, asked if there were any Peace Corps Volunteers around. “Si,” the girl responded without hesitation, indicating that the volunteer lives across the street. She even walked me to his house to introduce me. His name was Mike in the United States, but here he is Miguel and he is a sustainable agriculture volunteer a.k.a. organic farming expert. He took me for walk through his town, through his neighbors’ fields and explained projects, one of which is the (re)introduction of more crops in addition to the common Papaya or Yucca (Mamon and Mandioca) monocrop farming that dominates this small town of about 100 families. The organic tomatoes, peanuts, and eggplant are looking great!

His site is especially interesting to me because I know it’s similar to what my site in Paraguay looked like 15 years ago. I have seen photos. And it is distressing to think this Amazon jungle site could so quickly turn into what that 93% of Paraguay’s Atlantic Forest has turned into: some sort of transgenic monocrop like Monsanto soy, while the absence of trees contributes to topsoil loss. The small rewards that are being reaped won’t last long unless responsible practices like what Miguel is teaching are adopted.

24 November 2009    Tesoro to Macas      35k           $pent: US$4

One of three dams I passed

Today I continued riding through the small jungle towns from Tesoro to Macas, John Perkins’ Peace Corps site (author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman). I have been cycling the rough roads (now largely paved) and passing the giant hydro-electric dams he describes as transnational “development” projects that make the rich richer and the poor poorer.I’ll be bussing back to Tesoro on Thanksgiving to celebrate with a group of about 20 Peace Corps volunteers!

HEAD SHRINKING: On the way out of Tesoro I crossed paths with another cyclist, 19 year old Jason who turned around and joined me all the way to Macas. What he told me scared me more than anything I’ve heard so far: In the last two months 8 headless bodies have been found in this area. Last week two women in his town disappeared and one was found without a head. The rumor is that foreigners are offering large amounts of money for shrunken heads, and that’s probably why some people here seem afraid of me. So according to the many rumors I’m hearing, Shuar indigenous people and/or doctors are kidnapping people, taking the heads, shrinking them (an until-recently abandoned Shuar tradition) and leaving the bodies. The victims are always females because they have long hair from which the heads can be hung. From what I have been told by about 10 people I have talked to, the women/girls are usually typical mestizo Ecuadorians but one was a Shuar indigenous woman. I couldn’t find anything in recent news. The Peace Corps Volunteers admit the stories are most likely true, although they think the numbers are more like 5 beheadings instead of 8. I’ll be visiting the police station later to set the facts straight. But my hair is getting long so first I’m going to a barber just in case.

25 November           Macas, Ecuador       Day off             $pent:  US$4

Updating website, Skyping my family, avoiding head shrinkers, making mashed potatoes.

Now I’m gonna go update that Ecuador photo album and make a video for ya. Check back soon, and thanks for your support and comments!

Amazon Ridin’

22 11 2009
(Thanks to everybody for showing your support by joining the facebook group, following Ride for the Trees on Twitter, or making a donation to support forest conservation via FirstGiving. All the links are just there to your right, my left.)

Nov. 19th 2009 — Cuenca to Gualaceo — 36 kilometers — $ spent US$6.00

Today was my first day back on the bike in 3 months, and my body was confused. In some ways it felt like I never even took a break, and in some ways it felt like I hadn’t been on a bike in years. Packing up and riding out of Cuenca came naturally, but my legs didn’t work. My body hated me. Self-accusations kept flowing through my mind: You fat kid, why didn’t you run more when you were in Cuenca? Why did you eat so many donuts? You see what you did to yourself?!

So I have to suffer through the next week or so. It’s okay, I had a great time in Cuenca. And the donuts were delicious.

Fortunately, today’s ride was as easy as it gets. Okay so I had some headwinds, but it was mostly downhill and the weather was perfect.

The quote of the day comes from some guy who drove past me as I was taking a picture of the river: “Oye loco, te envidio, te envidio… TE ENVIDIIIOOOOO!!!” which means “Hey dude, I envy you, I envy you… I ENVY YOOOUUUUU!!!” Me too, for the past three months. But now I’m back where I belong and life feels perfect, headwinds and all.


20 November 2009 — Gualaceo to El Pan — 50k —  $ spent: US$8.00

Thought I might arrive in the Amazon today but nope, the legs are rubber.

But, even though I’m not in the Amazon I’m happy to report I saw something you might expect only to see in the Amazon: a monkey living on a dog’s back. Yup.  According to the family, the monkey never ever leaves the dog’s back unless it is physically removed. The best part? Well, just as I started to take pictures the dog got stage fright and squatted right there in front of the camera. How embarrassing. If anybody else out there has a photo of a dog pooing while a monkey is living on its back, let me know. Until then I’ll just assume this is one of a kind:

A photo of a monkey living on a dog's back.

So, I’m not in the Amazon. I’m in the green, hilly area between the cold mountain towns and the steamy jungle towns.

Sometimes people laugh when I show up on a bicycle to buy gasoline, usually they are confused, but I’ve never been refused gasoline until today. “It’s a rule. We don’t give gasoline to people on bikes.”

“Who is the owner of this gas station?” I asked.

“I am,” said the frowny bitter man. “Now get out of the way. These are hardworking people’s cars that need gas. You’re just a tourist.”

Are you kidding me? I tried being nice at first. In the end I got my stove-gas.


21 November 2009 — El Pan to abandoned house — 75k — $pent US$6.00

I woke up to rain, walked through it to the house where the family was waving me in. They had coffee, rice, hot dogs, plantains and potateos ready for me. Delish!

“You get to Ama Luza and it’s all downhill through the Amazon from there to Santiago de Mendez.”

I was knackered. Writing this in the tent, I’m still knackered. Such difficult riding. I made it to Ama Luza and everybody still insisted it’s all downhill from there.

It was getting late. By now I’m in thick jungle and the river below is huge. It’s amazing to think all the streams, waterfalls, and now this huge river down below all lead to the Amazon River.

After riding an hour and a half, locals still insisted Santiago de Mendez was an hour and a half away. Ugh. Okay.

A truck stopped in front of me and dropped off a hitch hiker. His name is Arturo, he’s Colombian, and he’s headed to a Shuar indigenous community tomorrow. For now, he’s ducking into the jungle to camp.

“What the heck are you doing all the way out here?!” I asked him. Seems a funny place to be dropped off, middle of the jungle and all. 

“Just hitch hiking my way to Sucua.”

“But that’s not a touristy place, it’s just a small dot on my route. How did you hear about it?”

His response was one word long.“Legend.”

So now I’m excited to see this place.

I’d tell a long boring story about how difficult today’s ride was, but I have too many stories like it and I’m sure they all sound the same. So I’ll just tell you I bonked so hard on a 2-kilometer uphill that I sat down in pouring rain at the edge of the gravel road to drink oil out of a tuna can. Then I ate the tuna. Then I walked up the hill.

Now I’m camping behind an abandoned house at the side of the road. I’m at the edge of a cliff above the river surrounded by thick jungle on all sides. And this isn’t even “really” the Amazon yet. Just wait for Santiago de Mendez, they tell me.     

Quote of the day: “Santiago de Mendez is an hour and a half away by car but you can probably make it in an hour since you’re on a motorcycle.”

“Haha, you think this is a motorcycle?”

“Oh, it’s not? What is that thing then?”

“A bicycle.”

RideForTheTrees Presentation and Awards Ceremony Video

18 11 2009

Here’s the new video of the 20 minute event edited down to a minute twenty for y’all. Enjoy!


The Results Are In!

17 11 2009

Environmental Art Contest in Cuenca, Ecuador:

I gave more than 400 students from 6th through 10th grades one week to develop an “artistic creation” on a sheet of standard size paper.

Many entries had inspirational environmental messages, many were masterfully drawn or painted, and a few had it all. Here are the winners! Plus some other eye-catching pieces…


Dark and Dry Cuenca, Ecuador

11 11 2009
Vilcabamba Fire

A fire burning in the mountains of Vilcabamba, Ecuador

It’s “rainy season” in Cuenca, Ecuador, and the electricity continues to get cut on purpose. I’ve been told most of the electricity in the area comes from hydro-electric plants. To note, these hydro-electric plants were built in an area specifically because it had a high amount of powerful water flow… “had” being the key word.

Now, the precipitation levels are so miniscule there is not enough power being generated for this city. So every day, you open the newspaper to see when your electricity will be cut off.

Front pages of newspapers post statistics of economic losses… and forest fires. Cuenca’s Tomebamba river, which I see almost everyday, consists of little more than a few centimeters of smelly, contaminated water trickling between exposed river rocks. It makes me wonder if there would be any water flow at all if the sewage didn’t flow down its banks.

To make matters worse, there is a traditional belief in Ecuador, held by a small percentage of people, that burning a lot of something (like trees) will create smoke so that it rains. Smoke looks like clouds, so they think forest fires create rainclouds. It’s not necessarily their fault; they want it to rain as much as anybody, it’s just that nobody has given them a reason to stop practicing the secret grandpa taught them.

Before I arrived in Cuenca 3 months ago I bicycled through the smoke of a pine forest fire at the edge of the road. I was alone with no immediate way of contacting anybody but my first though was, “geez, I need to call for help.” I thought about waving down a passing car. Instead, I asked someone in the next town. I was told the owner of that land probably set the fire on purpuse, not for a transgenic soy plot like in the San Rafael Reserve, but to create clouds.

Some old beliefs like this can be beautiful, like the artistry that comes in the form of stamps at the local Indigenous Cultures Museum. 1,000 years ago the Canaris believed birds brought rain (hey, they weren’t far off) and they believed certain designs stamped into the dirt attracted the birds. And so a huge number of these clay stamps have been excavated in this area. Beautiful. Now fast forward a thousand years. Not quite as beautiful.

I have an interview with the local news station in a few days. This clearly needs to be the topic of conversation. Maybe I could convince forest burners to carve clay stamps instead?

here’s a news article about Cuenca’s worst drought in 45 years.