There were three small landslides between Rio Cinto and Mindo, but this morning the roads were clear. I knew (yesterday) that something was pretty bad for this helicopter to fly along Rio Cinto.

  • Updated with photos
  • OK. I cheated.. I said I would post this and then start wading through the email inbox and the comments, as I knew that my loved ones would be worried.
  • I peeked at the comment bar, which brought tears to my eyes. Thank you all –  Just saw Pedro my electrician friend who is getting his ID badge and paperwork to head to Pedernales on a work mission. He says there is no way to reach Jama…. I will follow up with a report and photos from the people in Mindo assembling care packages for Manabi….

Here’s my post, which I began writing yesterday at 7:00 a.m. — Sunday morning, April 17, 2016


Twelve hours ago, the earth seized control of this house and almost rattled the windows out of their casings. My first thought was, ” Something’s trying to break through the window” until I remembered that I was sitting near the second-floor windows that overlooked the foot of a towering hill.

The windows continued to reverberate, and I thought, “Volcano. A volcano’s about to blow…”

Cotopaxi Volcano started spewing in late September...

Cotopaxi Volcano started spewing in late September…

The rattling continued, and my desktop computer keyboard danced off its perch and leaped to the floor.

I pondered the rain-saturated soil betwen the house and Mindo, and from Mindo west to the coast, and east to Quito.

“Power. We’ll surely lose power,” and I began unhooking the computer speakers from the mini laptop. (I had been transferring photos from little burro computer to the desktop computer.)


P1600281 mask light night

…Not even the after glow of a light….

What is it about the moment of a power blackout? Aside from the chattering windows and trembling floors, there’s no warning – no flickering. One second the power is working, and the next second, it’s gone. The glow from the mini laptop provided comforting assistance as my next thought reassured me that the flashlight was in its place – on the sideboard near the front door. The laptop would suffice until I retreated downstairs. I noted the time, 7 p.m.

Like a tin lid on a kettle of boiling water, the rattling continued. This wasn’t the typical house-and-landscape-moving earthquake. It was more like someone sifting sand through a screen. I assumed that Mother Earth was diffusing her anger via a violent earth-shaking mood. In the Deep South/USA, we were coached to move to an interior bathroom during tornado warnings, and I rationalized, “What works for tornadoes surely works for earthquakes? ”

I sidled toward the upstairs bathroom, stared up at the framework of the door, then decided that the house would be fine – I would be fine.

The shaking rivaled Shakira’s reverberating hip vibrations as I retrieved the laptop, the camera and the bird-identification reference books. The rattling stopped, and I slowly descended the steps.

Twelve hours before, I’d written about the expectations of the day. Now, twelve hours after, I’ve inspected both houses, greeted the hummingbirds, scanned for new landslides up and down the visual path of the Rio Cinto’s valley, and returned to the house to get fish food for the pond inspection walk.

“Coffee first today!” I defended with a sense of entitlement I had not truly earned.

0 2B070763 MYSTERY BIRD CROPPED  maybe Scarlet-backed Woodpecker Veniliornis calonotus.

Scarlet-backed Woodpecker?

While preparing the coffee, I noted a flash of red and photographed an unusual petite bird foraging for insects. Probing and pecking, it gave me ample time for photos, but alas, this camera does well in strong light but gets poor ratings in low light. (Scarlet-backed Woodpecker.)

Sitting on the deck and comparing photos to the book, I was interrupted again by another flash or color near the pond. I froze. Moving only my eyes, I admired a toucan perched in “The Swallow Tree.”    The camera captured the moment, but still not in “National Geographic” quality.


After Lovely Toucan soared over the roof to its next perch, a hermit hummingbird hovered several feet in front of me and stared into my scarf-shrouded face. “Remember us? Sugar? Yes, we’re addicted to our morning sugar fix.”

I smiled, “Hey there. Yes, I’ll fix it now.”


The sun burned off the mist, and the pond mirrors a lovely day. The power remains off; there are no sounds of traffic on the road.  My mind wonders, “What was that last night? What direction was that? Was it a nearby landslide? Are the roads clear? Blocked? Is this a small power outage? Large? Is Mindo blocked? Does Mindo have power? How many slides between here and Mindo? Betwen Mindo and Quito? Was it a volcano blowing? An earthquake? If so, where? The last big one to shake Casa Loca had its epicenter in Colombia. I remembered stories of the last El Nino and the epic earthquake that hit Bahia de Caraquez. The country has suffered with El Nino rains. Could this earthquake have hit the coast? Surely it made headlines.

My coffee’s cold; the fish are waiting; toucans are croaking. No news will fall from the sky, and the morning becons. The mystery bird chirps from across the pond. Like a pied piper, it teases me into countless games of Hide & Seek. It’s led me to new trophies, so I’ll close, retrieve the fish food, work tools for the day and allow all of the unanswered questions to take a back seat to the tasks of the day.


The Mystery Bird was a Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant…


Next journal update – 24 hours later…
As I worked on a stubborn area of weeds and grass yesterday afternoon, the thump-thump-thump sound of a distant helicopter nudged me from my work. I peered upriver while trying to coordinate the sound with my vision. A speck slowly came into closer view as the small blue helicopter followed the Rio Cinto’s topography. Retrieving the camera, I photographed it as it passed low and close, and then I watched as it sailed out of view. Hitting the review button, I sort of gasped when I read the words, “Policia.”


Pichincha. I’ve been told not to worry about this river or area unless Volcano Pichincha blows. Could Pichincha have blown? No, surely I would be able to see a column of ash. Cotopaxi? If they were patrolling this river, surely Mindo was affected as well. No, the road to town would not be open today… I resumed work until rain forced me to a grateful end to my day of work.

After cleaning up and enjoying a fresh batch of guayusa-ginger tea, the light bulb flashed in my mind. The truck. The truck has a radio. AM and FM. Retrieving the keys, I stepped into the misting outdoors, unlocked the truck and began scanning the channels. Reception is poor in this isolated mountain-surrounded valley, though many static-filled and a few strong stations came through. Almost all were broadcasting emergency information, and I was grateful that my Spanish skills had improved. There were lists of towns, provinces, streets, as well as bus terminals and airports mentioned. Every so often certain words came through more often. Esmeraldes. Pedernales. Manabi. Jama. (gulp – Jama). Canoa. San Vicente. Santo Domingo. Chone. Manta. Tsunami. Tsunami – Panama – Costa Rica. Hmmm, they must have put out a tsunami warning for high-risk coastlines.

Several times I heard the word, Terremoto -(Big earthquake) and I always heard, “punto ocho – point eight,” but never the first part. I think they said that the coastal highway between Pedernales and San Vicente was basically destroyed, and I pondered the history of sand mining and the beach sand that was used in construction of that section of highway. They mentioned bridges destroyed. One broadcaster mentioned a ‘loma’ (hill) that had collapsed along the highway. Over an hour later after switching channels, I deducted that the epicenter was near Pedernales, which is about 30 miles north of Jama.

P1690131 punta prieta red light

Knowing I could easily become obsessed with the thirst for more information, I turned off the radio, locked the truck as the last light of the day escorted me back to the house… I lit three candles and began preparing an early dinner, when – with even less lack of warning than 24 hours before – the power returned!

It is now 9 AM Monday morning, and I have finished transcribing my notes. White fluffy clouds stud a pristine-blue sky, and the sun promises a morning of pretty weather. I will drive toward town and ask a neighbor if the road is clear, then will either drive to town or until an obstacle blocks the way. If the latter, I’ll park in a safe place the walk to town to find out more as well as to let everyone know that Z’s fine – though she is profoundly concerned for her loved ones in Manabi.


A not-so-bad landslide.

Thanks for sticking with this epistle. Without proofing, I’ll publish this and will update as soon as more information is gathered.  If you’re wondering what the Jama locals are like, start here:  The Lovely Women of Jama     and here:  More Lovely Women of Jama.

I speak for all of my friends in Manabi, thank you so much for your concern. Presently, you know more about what happened than I…