30 July 2008

Excavating the Hacienda Pitaná

It's been a while since I've found internet, sorry about that. I've gotten a couple calls asking if I'm alive, and I am, so hello!

The watchtower excavations ended, we filled in our units, and I pleaded with the project director to send our team somewhere else, somewhere where we may be able to pull artifacts from the ground. He obliged, and we went to the grounds of the former Hacienda Pitaná, a half-hour walk up the road from the still-running Hacienda Guachalá. This site was surveyed and first excavated last year, with each unit turning up pounds and pounds of ancient cultural material. This year was no different. On one day last week, we excavated 400 pottery sherds, some of which were larger than my hand [and I have amazingly gigantic hands, in case you hadn't noticed]. We found tons of obsidian, stone tools, some really pretty minerals that probably just happened to be there, and what turnde out to be parts of several skeletons... but likely llama or alpaca skeletons, rather than human. We figured that one out when we pulled out a 3-inch-long tooth, and figured humans probably hadn't evolved that much in the past 600 or so years.

The students were excited to finally be finding stuff, especially when the bones started stacking up. Yesterday we finally got down to bedrock at the end of the day, with a couple piles of interesting things stacked up on top of it; large pieces of pottery, hunks of obsidian, the usual. Unfortunately, when we came in this morning to draw it all and take the photos, anarchist vandals had come in during the night and smashed much of it, carving the anarchist symbol into the bedrock at the bottom of our unit. Unfortunately, that symbol is now a part of all of the official photos of the end of our unit. But it did make the map of the unit easier to draw...

This weekend was a free weekend, and it was wonderful. Friday night was spent in Quito. We went to see the Dark Knight, which was of course spectacular, and celebrated one of the students' birthday. The next morning we set out bright and early to catch a bus west to Mindo, in the cloud forest. It's beautiful there; we could wear shorts and sandals! After checking in to our hostels (I ended up in the same room as I stayed in last year, and the owners remembered me because they lived in Chicago for fifteen years) and grabbing a quick lunch, several of us headed up a mountain to the ziplines. For $10, we flew down 10 cables hung a hundred metres over the forest canopy, held on by only a caribiner. I don't know how to spell that word. Anyway, that took a couple hours, and at the end it started to rain. This wasn't rain like we have in the paramo where we're staying, where you have to put on a couple extra layers and find a way to shield yourself from the howling wind; instead, it was a wonderful trpoical rain pouring down on us in the back of our pickup truck taxi as we sang the theme songs from Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones flying up one-and-a-half lane dirt jungle roads trying to avoid the oncoming traffic. We finally made it up to the trail leading to one of the dozens of waterfalls in these mountains and tried not to slide down the entire mud trail. After 20 minutes of grasping onto trees and passers-by for support, we crossed a small log bridge, followed the rover and came upon a large log house on stilts. The folks who lived there came down and showed us two paths: one to see the waterfall, and another to a cliff off of which to jump.

I'm afraid of heights, and we'll leave that at that. Luckily for me, next to the 30-something-foot drop was a pleasant looking water slide, which I opted for. As I settled my bottom into the water streaming down it, the guide told me to be very careful and slow myself down until the green line painted on the side ended. If I didn't, he said, I'd probably careen off the side and smash into the rocks below, promptly ending the mobile part of my life [at the very least]. So I took it slow until the green warning line ended, let myself go, the slide twisted around and all of a sudden... I was in midair! This was not exactly what I signed up for. As I free-fell toward the dark water, hoping I was aimed correctly into the 10-foot-wide canyon, I realized it would be a good idea to hold my breath. I held it just in time, hit the water, felt my feet on the rocks below and pushed myself back to the surface. The water was so cold I could hardly catch my breath, but I found enough to get myself to the shallow water downstream and watched my comrades tremoring with fear at the top of the cliff, seemingly unaware of the less terrifying slide option right behind them. Ah well, their loss.

The next day we went to a butterfly farm, saw those, and returned to Cangahua. I got sick Sunday night, throwing up more violently than I ever remember, but am perfectly healthy now and have been avoiding lab work for long enough. I should get back, I suppose, but I hope all is well where you are. I'll be back in a bit less than 3 weeks now, so hold tight! I'll write again when I get the chance.


Maria said...

Hello. :)

Were you food poisoned? Why were you sick?

I think the water slide sounds pretty scary, but you're right--it is the less scary option of the two.

I am surprised you are scared of heights.

And, oh, I will be at BIC no more beginning mid-August! You are the first, besides Erin, to be informed....

(I got a day job! A good one!)

Leta said...

Glad to hear that you're not violently upheaving anymore.

That waterslide sounds bitching.

What exactly is a butterfly farm? I have ridiculous picture in my mind, involving overalls and a man with weathered skin and a slow voice, discoursing about butterflies while leaning on a pitchfork or against a tractor.