Ecuador 15: Week 4, Baños



Baños is located on the slope of the now very active volcano Turungahua, which

means in Quichua “throat of fire”.  The town is a tourist attraction with several

thermal baths,  waterfalls, dense subtropical vegetation and many hiking trails.

For several days ,we stayed there and did a lot of fun things.





                                      Baños photographed from the Cafe de Ciel


On the first day, we hiked an old smuggler path, the Sendera de los Contrabandistas.

The smugglers once carried sugar cane Schnaps from the town Puja up to Baños

and further on. The dense vegetation along the valley of the Rio Pastazas gave them

many opportunities to hide.






  Rio Pastazas: Road on the left side of the valley, smuggler path on the right side







My son and I carried our good cameras and could not stop making photos from

all the orchids and other wonders of nature.














Several Tarabitas, a rope bridge with hanging baskets, carried passengers and

material across the valley. They were fun to ride (see green hanging basket in the

middle of the valley).








At one time, the path was leading us directly through the court of a farmhouse.

Neither the farmer couple nor their dogs minded. On the contrary, they welcomed









Also, on this path, signs for hikers were mounted  on trees and poles.

Sometimes, we had to read the signs twice.













The further we hiked downstream, the more dense and lush became the vegetation.

Baños is called “Gateway to the Amazon”.  Many organized jungle trips are offered in

this town.


The jungle is a paradise for vines and ferns.








Some ferns are like trees.  The leafs grow like a palm tree out of a trunk.







The fern leaf, still in its undeveloped stage, has the most beautiful form.







Probably, the bishop’s staff, still used in the Catholic Church, has it’s origin

from this wonder of nature.



     - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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Ecuador 14: Week 4, Volcano Pululahua and Baños



17 km north of Quito is the Pululahua Volcano. Pululahua means in Quichua

“Smoke of Water .” It is a collapsed volcano which erupted 2 500 years ago.

Because of it’s great biodiversity,  it was dedicated  as Geobotanical Reserve.

We spent one night and one full day in this area.






                                 Pan de Acucar, a lava mound inside the crater





The garden of the Pululahua hostal  was a favorite place for Hummingbirds.

They were flying with incredible speed from flower to flower.






                                                          Pululahua Hostal








We started our hike at the bottom of the crater.  The area looked lonely and

abandoned.  Many of the forty families who lived here left the area.  The land

they own was too small to live from. The only school was closed.  We sneaked into

the school area and looked through the window – schoolbooks, drawings, teaching

material and even the school bell was left.  It seemed that they all escaped a great







                                                           Abandoned school house







           Even the cow seemed to look lonely and sad


Like everywhere on our hikes, there were no signs for orientation. Also, there was

nobody to ask. We got lost and climbed up on one of the lava mounds.  The detour

was worth while.  The most gorgeous flowers and orchids were blooming there.


The Pululahua crater contains more than 2000 different kind of flora and 60

different kinds of orchids.  It was paradise.











The path to the rim of the volcano was leading through the most dense vegetation.

Plants are fighting for light and space. The amount of shades of green was almost












After endless seeming spirals, on a steep and wet path, we reached the top. Thick fog

covered the whole area.  Instead of a view, we were compensated with the most

brilliant blooming flowers.














                 - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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Ecuador 13: Week 3, Posada de Tigua to Isinlivi



When we left Chugchilán, we were not only a group of six, but eight.  Two dogs were

accompanying us.  We tried everything to chase them back.  It did not work.


The path soon lead us to gorgeous land formations and a beautiful view down the








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The area was more populated and we met people and animals along the path.
















In the village Itualo, we found a perfect resting place at the stairs of the cross.






It was muddy on the way down to the river











By crossing the river, the dogs where still with us.  However, the white dog was

scared to jump over a hole in the bridge and returned back.  He looked for a good

crossing spot in the river, but could not find one. The dogs were separated.












Colleen walked back and carried the dog over the bridge. We were a group of eight


At 4 pm we arrived in Isinlivi. (village nestled in the hill)  A man informed us, that

the dogs are well known visitors. They love to walk with the hikers coming from








In driving back to Quito, for a brief moment the snow covered slopes of the Cotopaxi

revealed itself.









              – Text and picture contributed by Garyo -












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Blueberry Blooming






                                     - Picture sent by Erin -




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Ecuador 12: Week 3, Posada de Tigua to Isinlivi




We did stay one more day in Mama Hilda and decided to visit the Cloud Forest.

The Cloud Forest is on the top of the mountain. In order to get to this place, we had

to rent horses. Two indigenous men were walking beside us to control the horses and

show the way.

My daughter and son on the horse




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The Cloud Forest got it’s name because much of the time low level clouds

are covering the area. It is also called fog forest. Fog condenses on the leaves and

the constant moisture drops on the ground. An abundance of mosses grow on the

evergreen trees and shrubs.




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After riding for almost two hours up the mountain, the fog got very thick.  We

entered a place where it was easy to imagine that elf, dwarfs and gnomes were living.

It was a fairytale land. For more than half an hour we walked through the dense

forest.  The path was too small and steep for the horses to go.







Every branch was covered by moss.  Bromeliads loved this place.









Some places were quite treacherous to walk.  Our guides were helping us.












In the afternoon, we came back to Mama Hilda.  There, beautiful blooming shrubs

welcomed us.














       - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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Ecuador 11: Week 3, Posada de Tigua to Isinlivi



Like every day in the morning, the weather was beautiful and allowed us to get a

stunning view down into the Quilotoa crater.  Sparkling green water is filling the 2

miles wide caldera, formed by a collapse of the volcano 800 years ago.  The natives

believe that the lake is bottomless. It does look like that. The green color of the water

is caused by minerals..







After a short dive into  the chilly water, we hiked  the nearly vertical slopes up

again. Because of the high altitude, the breath was short and the steps slow.







We rested beside two Lamas.  Motionless, they were just sitting and looking.   Every

place possible is used for agriculture.  Fields of crops, often vertically stretched up to

the top of the mountains, are covering the slopes. Farmers plant their crops by

digging for each plant one hole in the ground. Everything is done by hand.






                    Mist covering the top of the mountain





                      Farmers working in their fields


Walking through the narrow, deep gorges was most fascinating.  The vertical loess

slopes were covered by moss, bromeliads and other exotic plants.  Loess is a soil,

containing sand and quartz and hardens even more when it gets wet. This is the

reason why there are hardly any landslides in Ecuador.




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                   Deep, narrow canyon with vertical walls




In a village, children were welcoming us.  They have fun.







In the evening, we arrived in Chugchilán, a little village where we found the most

charming place to stay overnight.  Mama Hilda, a place to stay longer..








                        – Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -



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Buddha’s Birthday: Flower Festival




The northern Buddhist tradition celebrates the Buddha’s Birthday, also called

“Flower Festival” (hana-matsuri: 花祭り) on April 8, when flowers are in full bloom.


The Buddha entered into nirvana (no wind of karma blowing up and down) and

witnessed the Dharma (Law) of Dependent Origination and Dependent Cessation.


The Twelvefold Dependent Origination shows how perception/consciousness/mind,

suffering, and samsara originates on sense bases, craving, and nescience/appropriation.


The Dependent Origination is called the Dharma (Norm/Law) of all dharmas (form/

phenomena), applicable on all phenomena – five aggregates (psycho-physical phenomena).


Physical forms, feelings, ideas, formations (physical, verbal, and mental

actions), and consciousnesses originate/cease interdependently on each other.


Interdependence means impermanence, suffering (dissatisfaction), and selflessness

(no self-same, self-sovereign substance), emptiness of entities (suñña, zifar, zero).


Buddhist principles and practices are based on the Dharma of Dependent

Origination. All problems due to karmas can be solved by the Dharma.


Global problems originate from the Triple Poisons (craving, anger, delusion) and

can be ceased by the Triple Learnings (morality, concentration, prognosis).


Man-made global warming, mass extinction, etc. must be solved by our own

constant cultivation and verification of the ultimate nirvana and bodhi (awakening).


Global problems must be solved by everyone’s efforts in acquiring the holy harmony

of the global system and attaining the penetrating practice of the global ethic.





                      Exhibited at St. Louis Art Museum

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Ecuador 10: Week 3, Posada de Tigua to Isinlivi



The Hacienda Posada de Tigue is a farm and  a cosy, welcoming inn.  The iron stove

in the entrance hall was radiating heat all day, a real treat on a cold and rainy day.

The Hacienda was the starting point of our hike to Quilotoa, a village on a crater rim

at an altitude of 16, 000 feet.







              Hacienda Posada de Tigua with chicken and geese in the foreground






                                Laundry for drying, despite the constant rain


When the sun appears, the laundry  dries very quickly.





Indigenous employee milking a cow






Our hike was leading us through thinly populated area.  We crossed shaky wooden

bridges  and deep gorges.  The indigenous people we met were warm and

welcoming.   Often,  they showed us the way.  It was easy to get lost.






                                                   Walking out of a narrow gorge







Tigua is famous for the Tigua paintings.  These paintings, done by indigenous

people living around the Quilotoa crater, were originally used do decorate drum

skins. In 1970, Julio Toaquiza had the idea to paint the legends  of their ancestors

on canvas.  Ever since, the paintings became collector’s items.


Passing a house of the Toaquiza family, we were invited to look at some paintings.

Also, Mr. Toaquiza played the drum and flute for us and told us sacred stories of

the Incas.




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                                Mr. Toaquiza telling us the story of the drum


The beat he played was to  commemorate the courageous general of the last Inca

ruler, Atahualpa.


After many hours of hiking, we reached the heights of the Quilotoa Rim.  It was cold,

rainy and misty.  We lost our way. The Quichua shepherd steeping out of the mist

could not help us.  He only spoke his native language and not Spanish.





When we reached the Alpaca hotel in Quilotoa, our cloth was totally wet. The huge

room of the hotel had only one tiny stove. We all cuddled around to warm up.



       - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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Beyond Brains



Recently we posted the video “Zen and the Brain” here. We have been discussing

Dependent Origination in our Friday classes, and I spoke about the vast width and

depth of Dependent Origination awakened to by the Buddha in time and space.

The Buddha said that what he described to people is only a small part of it, like a few

leaves in the palm compared to the leaves of an entire jungle.


In connection with the above Jimu showed me the book Buddha’s Brain – the  

Practical Neuroscience of Happines, Love & Wisdom. The authors of this book

admit that no one knows the full nature of the brain of a Buddha or of any other

person, and that something transcendental is involved with the mind, consciousness,

and the path of awakening.


The triune brain theory of reptilian, paleomammalian, and neomammalian brains

is interesting, but it overstretches. The triune function of head-heart-hara (guts)

is essential for our psycho-somatic selves. The mind-brain parallelism is intriguing

but oversimplified. Mind-world (and mind-body-world) unity is the essential

understanding of Buddhism.


Our genes carry on billions of years’ evolution throughout the universe, constantly,

depending on their situations and developing through their surroundings. Our

bodies and brains cultivate and create new abilities and actualities like babies,

adults, bodhisattvas, and buddhas. Buddhas and bodhisattvas regard themselves

and others as babies limitlessly growing in the limitless worlds.







                             Lily, one month old




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Ecuador 9: Week 3, Cuenca and Surroundings





  20 miles west from Cuenca lies the Cajas National Park.  Cajas in Quichua means

“gateway to the snowy mountains”. The area is between 10,000 and 17,000  feet high

and is covered by tundra. 270 crystal clear lakes are nestled in the high valleys.  Here

grows the Polylepis tree, a gnarled evergreen tree which grows at the highest altitude

of any tree of the world. For several hours we hiked in this area. It was cold.








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                             A Polylepis tree, growing less than half an inch per year



Another site close to Cuenca is Ingapirca, the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador.

In the 15th century, only a short time before the arrival of the Spanish, the Incas

enlarged their empire and conquered the indigenous Cañaris. Ingapirca was already

a sacred place for the Cañaris, who worshipped the moon. The Incas built the temple

of the sun and included the worship of the moon.   Most of the temple and castle

complex is built in the typical Inca way – the building stones were chiseled with

perfect precision and no mortar was used.   The Cañaris survived the Incas and still

live in this area. They manage the site.







Before entering the temple of the sun (in the back), the high priests had to walk

through the cleansing water of the sun and moon (two half circles to the left)







                                                                 Sun and moon circle  






                                        Temple of the sun



Here, every morning and evening, on a special seat east and west, the sun was

welcomed.  The Incas also used Huandoc, or the Angel’s Trumpet, as  a powerful

hallucinogen in order to communicate with the Gods.






                                                      Angel’s Trumpet  




                       - Text and pictures contributed by Garyo -




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