Ecuador,  South America,  voluntary work

Workaway in Ecuador

Our very first Workaway voluntary work experience we spend at Casa Anna in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. We needed to stay in one place for a few weeks time after 1.5 year of traveling so we stayed here for seven weeks.

Our hosts Steve and Anna are from Canada. They have a nice house on the beach and some guesthouses for paying guests and volunteers. Anna arranges most things around the property and has a lot of great stories. Steve likes to cook, especially meat and sweet cakes. We’ve had the pleasure of enjoying his talent a few times!

Our bedroom is in front of the main house and is half of a small bungalow build for two voluntary couples. A room of four by eight meters with a bed, a table, a drawer closet and a shared outside bathroom with cold water. Yaiks, yes… not too bad when it’s hot and sunny, but terrible when it rains. Fortunately on colder days we can use the warm shower inside the main house, yay!

The weather

The weather this time of year isn’t always that great. Mostly there’s is an overcast and it can be quite windy or even a nasty rain that continues all day.

The rain is almost horizontal and covers everything in the outdoor kitchen with a salty slimy gew from the sea. This damages everything. The refrigerator has been there for three years but looks ancient as a result of corrosion by this salty rain.

Luckily we have some nice sunny days too, a clear blue sky with a soft breeze. Work in the full sun wasn’t much fun tho. The UV is very high so the use of sunscreen was absolutely necessary. Anna said that on some days in January and February the weather is so hot you can’t be outside during the day and volunteers start at five in the morning. Ugh. Guess we are very lucky!

Our outdoor kitchen is in the back of the main house and is quite big. It has everything we need, even a fantastic view on the beach and occasionally on some whales splashing around in the distance.

So here we cook and enjoy our meals. Except when it’s very windy, then nothing works. The water doesn’t cook and the pan doesn’t heat up. It is windy quite often so cooking is a drag most of the time. We cook for two or three days so we don’t have a cooking problem every day.

The beach

On the beach there is a small wooden bench where we enjoy our cup of coffee in the morning or a beer after work. A great spot to overthink our sins and sorrows.

A fantastic grey-ish beach with strong waves very suitable for a long stroll or finding treasures. The beach has many stones in different colors, a real joy for any nature freak.

Amigos

The dogs Woodie, Blackie and Booboo love to keep us company wherever we go. They’re very cute and love to cuddle. Also they’re incredibly interested in everything we do, that makes our jobs very rewarding 😉

The three cats hang around the kitchen all day miauwing and hoping for leftovers. They all look alike, but one has short hair, the other has slightly longer hair and the third is like a fluffy ball.

Our neighbors in one of the guesthouses are Doug and Gina, a couple from Florida enjoying their retirement. They are building their own house in Puerto Cayo and live here until it’s finished. They love to chat.

Groceries

Twice a week Fernando comes by with either his son or his daughter. He has a truck full of fruits and vegetables which he sells door to door. He has a store in Jipijapa and these are the leftovers. First he sells to the Ecuadorian people in the area and last to the gringos. The fresh goodies therefore aren’t always that fresh but it still looks very yummy and full of vitamins. Fernando usually also has a peanut-paste which is excellent for sate sauce and sometimes he sells eggs and white cheese too. In the beginning we paid about $12 for fruit and veggies for three to four days. Fernando is somewhat sensitive to female charms so the price for our basket of goodies dropped a dollar each week leaving us to pay only half in the end for the same stuff 😉 I guess that’s the way it works.

In Puerto Cayo there are no supermarkets, only a few mini markets for bare necessities and a bakery. Once every two weeks Anna drives to Jipijapa for groceries and we join her. We drive through the mountain range to the other side where the sun always seems to shine. Jipijapa is a big town with a hospital, a large bus station, banks and a big supermarket.

We shop at Mi Comisariato, a sort of DIY and grocery store in one. They have everything. Here we mostly buy the things Fernando doesn’t have like milk, bread and granola.

Water

On the property and in the whole Puerto Cayo area fresh water is a big problem. Usually there is water flowing from the pipes only three times a week. This water fills their tank and ensures that there is water flowing on the property the whole week.

Unfortunately there isn’t always water coming from the pipes on the days it should so sometimes Anna needs to order a tank truck that refills the tank. The scarcity of water makes it almost impossible to keep a nice green garden too that is why Anna and Steve collect the dirty water from the sink and washing-machine in a tank to use for watering the plants. This grey water smells really really REALLY bad.

The garden needs to be watered once a week. A nasty job but somebody’s got to do it. One day I had a fight with the hose, the hose won and I smelled like sewer the rest of the day.

The jobs

Besides some cleaning, gardening and light maintenance we’ve mainly worked on a bamboo yoga hut these seven weeks . A nice large gazebo for Anna’s daily yoga class that protects them from the rain and the sun.

The bamboo is an easy material to work with and looks very tropical.

With help of Paulo the gardener who comes once a week we’ve build the gazebo from nothing. There were only four corner poles when we arrived.

After a lot of measuring, sawing, drilling and thinking we’ve finally finished the structure. Now we need to prepare the roof. Anna has some used roof plates that are rusty and wobbly but can still be used as a temporary solution. They need to be cleaned and painted before they can be fixed on the roof. So we complete our job with a lot of cleaning and painting to get the roof finished in time before we leave.

Eventhough we got help from a new voluntary couple we didn’t manage to finish the whole project. On our last day the roof pieces are all painted but the roof itself is only halfway finished.

During our stay Anna and Steve went back to Canada for ten days. In this time we took care of the property together with a voluntary couple from France. The days where pretty much the same but we had some other responsibilities like protecting the property and checking the water level in the tank too.

Earthquakes

We’ve experienced a few earthquakes. Light earthquakes are very common here in South America but one time there was a stronger one of 6.5. While lying in bed the bed was shaking back and forth for about ten seconds, things hanging on the ceiling were moving and the curtains moved. That is so weird to encounter…

After this we’ve had some other light earthquakes, one was just a few kilometers away.

Adios amigos

We’ve had a fantastic time at Casa Anna, a very interesting experience! We say goodbye to the cats and the dogs and to our new friends. We’ll miss you all…

Adios amigos!

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