Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My first time in Ecuador was my South American trip in 1975 from Leadville, Colorado!

  It was 1975 and I found myself living in Leadville, Colorado and working at Climax Mine! We just spent 6 weeks in Vancouver, Canada with girls we met in Puerto Vallarta a few months earlier and we were on our way to Colorado to ski for the winter. On our drive through Vail we ended up in Leadville, a small mining town of 5000 people at 10,500 feet and 20 below zero all winter. We stopped at a bar called the RAM (Raggedy Ass Miner), here we met several long haired people, common in the 70's! We discovered they all worked at the Climax Mine. Jobs were hard to find in 1975 so we ended up working at the Climax Mine! Climax was located at a 11,500 foot summit and required a 300 foot elevator ride down into the mine where we boarded a train for a mile ride to our working areas. The mine was heated to 0 degrees and the tunnels were lined with large icicles!
 I wondered everyday how of all places being from sunny warm California that I ended up drilling holes in solid rock and packing them with dynamite! But we did have ski passes for the season at Copper Mountain and drove down to ski after graveyard shifts.

 And my goal was to go to South America to See Machu Picchu!

Climax Mine 1975 - the Mountain is all gone now.

Downtown Leadville - buildings 1898

Leadville has always been a mining town and at one time had 500,000 inhabitants including the unsinkable Molly Brown who got rich with her Gold Mine.
It was going to be the State Capitol of Colorado until a fire burnt down most of the town.
I drove through Leadville in 2009, first time since 1975! The old town is the same except now with 2000 inhabitants it is a College Town and still cold!

Randy, me and David in our 125 year old house which is still standing.

Friends and roommates

July was the time for hiking up Mt Elbert - 14,421 feet.

Cold up there, even in July!

Me, Jim, Lisa, Susan and John.

Silver Dollar Saloon

Carl and me at the old bar

Good friends Sue and Jim Clark, Calamity Jane and her John at the 14,000 foot summit cabin.

Sue and I connected on face book after 33 years! She is living in Iowa and I was in Branson, MO so I drove up to see her and later she flew out to CA for a visit.

We had a great time! Guess I will see her again soon in Ecuador.

On to South America:

 After almost three years of living in Leadville and working in the very cold Climax Mine I was sitting at the Tabor Grand Hotel with my friends, Carlos and Hulio who are brothers from Puerto Rico. I was telling them how my plans after living in Leadville were to go to Machu Picchu in Peru, and they both said they also wanted to go! So the next week we packed up their Volkswagen Van and headed for Florida.
From Miami we boarded a flight to Cartahagna, Columbia where we stayed for a few days.

Market Place

Hotel Cartahagna on the ocean

Carlos with new Canadian friend

After a few days in Cartahagna enjoying the warm weather and beach we flew to Bogota for a few more days. The 70's in South America were not the best time for tourists, especially if you were American. There were armed military solders on every street corner in Bogota, one day we saw a guy who just robbed a store get shot right on the sidewalk! And then we saw some demonstrator's burning a dummy with a sign saying  Imperialist pig on it. Carlos hustled me around the corner and said with my blond hair I would be the dummy if we did not get out of that place! That night during dinner Carlos decided he did not feel safe and decided to go back to Florida.
 So Hulio and I headed out for the 1200 mile trip to Lima, Peru the next day by bus via Cali, Columbia.

After a 12 hour ride over muddy, bumpy dirt roads in four wheel drive vans to Cali we decided to take a flight on an old plane to the border of Ecuador.

We landed on a dirt air-strip on the border of Ecuador and boarded a bus for Quito.

More unpaved roads, we drove through muddy windy mountain roads.
And at every border crossing we were lead by armed Military guards to a shed for a strip search! It was a great thing that Hulio spoke Spanish or I would have thought we were being led out back to be shot! Ecuador was under Military rule in 1975.


From Quito we took another bus to Guayaquil and then on to Lima, Peru.

In Lima we boarded another bus for the long drive to Cuzco, a 28 hour, 800 mile bus ride up a windy muddy dirt road to Cuzco. Hulio bought some sleeping aids from the Pharmacy and we slept for a long time on the drive up the mountain. When we woke up the bus was crowded with more people. It seems another bus slid off the road and we picked up their passengers.

When the Spaniard's discovered Cuzco they built Church's on top of Inca buildings, but you can still see Inca built stone walls all through the city.

After a few days of discovering Cuzco we boarded a train for the short trip to the Inca city of Machu Picchu. Which was never discovered by the Spanish and what happened to the cities inhabitants is still a mystery. The city was not discovered until 1911 by an American Historian and was one third restored by 1976. In 2007 it was declared one of the 7th wonders of the world.

File:80 - Machu Picchu - Juin 2009 - edit.2.jpg

Upon our arrival to the city we were approached by a tour guide who showed us around the city and explained how it was built by the Incas in 1400. Of course Hulio had to translate everything he said but his version of how the city was built was out of this world!
It seems the Incas just vanished and left behind their slaves. All the perfectly cut stones in the city  came from another mountain top and were cut with laser guns and transported via flying machines?

Sun dial used to tell the time of day - carved from solid rock with laser guns of course!

On top of this mountain peak accessible by perfectly cut stone stairs was the temple of the moon! At one time the temple had a solid stone roof with a circle in the middle and during full moon's  the Incas could communicate with their planet!!

It was a long and adventurous trip but we achieved our goal and reached Machu Picchu!

And as for the long trip back to Bogota, Columbia: it was a long bumpy bus ride and we flew from there back to Miami!

Who knows what life has in store for us? Here I am 37 years later living in Ecuador!

Tomorrow I fly to Quito to finish up my paper work for Residency. I will blog about this trip next time. Meanwhile enjoy the film clip below and have a great day!


  1. Hi Garry,

    I enjoy reading your blog. I would love to meet up with you some day when I am in Cuenca.


  2. Hello Gary,

    I discovered your site via Gringos Abroad, and may I say that I enjoyed your recent post. A nice mix of history and narrative. Really liked the pix. BTW, I just tried donating to your site via Paypal. Would you let me know if it "worked?" (I hope it was sent in $$$ and not Euros.)

    Tay in Texas

    1. Tay,

      Thank you so much! This is all new to me, I will check out Pay Pal and see if I received your donation!

      Gracias, Have a great day!

    2. Tay,
      You are my 1st donation! Gracias again, I will use it towards photo trips in the future!

  3. Por nada, Gary. Me allegro de saber que la "donacion" se podria usar por mas "photo trips." And yes, I'll definitely drop a line should I be heading down Cuenca way!

    Thanks and hasta la proxima,


  4. What a great blog. The pictures are wonderful and the writing is superb! I applaud your work on this!

    1. Glenn I just ran across this now Ha! Thanks so much for your compliment! If you ever come to Cuenca let me know we can meet for coffee!

  5. Gary, this is one of your best blog posts... just love it. Keep up the great work... George

    1. George,
      Thanks, I was concerned about doing this blog because a friend here told me no one would care about a trip here in 1975 that my blog is about Ecuador today. Anyway I got more hits and comments on this one. I have many old photos from a trip to Europe in 1967 I was thinking about doing a blog on!

  6. Garry, Did you only work at Climax? I had a Pard named Garry at the Black Cloud in 1975 or in 1976.. It was the Summer when Jerry Jeff Walker did a fund razor for The Opra House

    1. Yes John I only worked at Climax, I had a good friend Phil who also worked at Black Cloud. I also started a taxi service called Leadville taxi! It was getting popular for taking retired miners to the Dr. and hauling drunks home from the bar, but someone stold one of the taxi's and we found in a couple of months later in Aspen after the snow melted.

  7. Hi Gary , Im an expat myself, visual artist living with my brand new wife in Charlotte nc USA for the last 14 years. I understand how exciting and threatening could be start a new life abroad .We are planing to move to Cuenca in one year from now, I have some questions about the artists and comercial art galleries in Cuenca, do you know some thing about the possibilities for an artist and designer ? my wife is an economist , a very good one , she is not my worry about finding a job ! is me..! We are searching online for art galleries and seems that are not too many of them in Cuenca , please Gary ,if you know or hear something could be great if you share that with us !
    Thank you Gary.,

  8. Roberto, There are some Art Galleries around town and many local artists. Every couple of months they have an Art showing under the broken bridge, I have even seen art lessons offered. You might sign up for the Gringo Post which is a daily e-mail news letter with information for Cuenca. Let me know if you come for a visit and
    e we can meet for coffee.