A New Kind of Blog

There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The weather and climate in Cuenca

Living in the mountains of the southern Sierra is living in a land of one season. As Cuenca is just below the Equator and at approximately 8000 feet, it is cooler than at the coast or the Amazon. Days and nights are about equal in length all year long. Daylight begins within a few minutes of 5:30 and ends at about 5:30 pm. Dawn usually starts the day with clouds covering the sky, many low enough to hide the mountains from view. The clouds slowly receded and expose sun washed mountains in all their glory. It is cooler in the morning than at mid-day which is almost always sunny and warm. Toward mid afternoon, dark clouds usually appear and a half hour of rain falls. Then it clears again, often with a beautiful sunset. Nights normally have clear skies and become cool enough to put a light comforter on your bed. The next day is almost always very close to being the same. We think the climate here is like that of San Diego yet without the Santa Anna winds. We are having a drought right now but it usually rains every day for a while especially during the rainy season. Most of the time the temperature is in the 60’s or 70’s during the day and in the 50’s at night. It is often cloudy but never cold. In the evenings we wear a light jacket or a sweater. Daytime attire is a t-shirt and jeans all year round. The clouds are almost always brilliant, white, fluffy cumulus clouds. A warning though, the sun is extremely bright, in fact, so bright that people walk with umbrellas for protection or drape a cloth over their head during the days with cloudless skies. We visited an English speaking dermatologist who advised us, without fail, to use a strong, locally made, sun screen called Umbrella. Cuenca, because of the altitude, bright sunny days and proximity to the equator, has a high incidence of skin cancer. Even the dark skinned Ecuadorians walk with a real umbrella or a shawl over their heads to protect them from the sun.

Since there are no seasons, just the same weather year round, the only thing that differentiates the weather is the rainy season. During those few months when the rains come, huge quantities of water fall on the mountains, water that is engine for our electric grid, the hydroelectric plant in nearby Paute, Ecuador. Huge turbines are rotated by falling water creating much of the electricity for the whole country. Fifteen years ago there was a huge drought and, just our luck, this year looks like a repeat. All summer long, there has been very little rain high in the Sierras. El Presidente has called a national emergency and imposed mandatory electric blackouts to conserve electricity.

 Every day during November and early December, the newspapers announce when the blackouts will occur. Power can go off for up 7 hours. Our apartment building has a huge diesel generator which our security people turn on in anticipation of the blackouts, so we have not been too inconvenienced. But some of the other buildings and most of the private homes and businesses are not so fortunate. Last night, a building a few blocks away looked quite eerie with most of the windows illuminated by candle light. The indigenous Indians have a belief that, if they light huge fires, the smoke will cause the clouds to dump water as rain. So, our crystal clear sky in late November looked like LA with haze caused by dense smoke. Unfortunately, what the Indians did was burn large tracts of wooded mountainous land upwind and the smoke blew down on the city. I don’t know why they kept doing it as it did little good.
Normally it rains almost every day for a while, then clears up and the sun comes out but we have had almost no rain for the last three months. The normal rainy season begins sometime around December but with global warming and who knows what other factors there are at play, this appears to be a difficult time for those of us used to unlimited water and power. Interestingly, there are no restrictions on watering flowers, or shower use, or washing cars. It’s just one more thing to get used to.
As I post this we have had rain off and on for the last few days, one day it was absolutely torrential, so we all have our fingers crossed that the drought is over. As a side, I am looking out of the window of our apartment as I type. It is dusk. A few moments ago, the sun was streaming across the city. Now it has set and, even though it is still full daylight, the biggest full moon I have ever seen crept up over the mountain ridge. It is so huge that even our maid came to the window to look and said, “Magnifico.” My new camera is at the repair shop so all I have is the memory and the wish that next month it will repeat and I can capture it as a photo to show you. Never have I seen such a full moon in the States to compare with this.

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