Joyful Finds

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When we were in Otavalo, a short drive south of the Colombian border, I spotted a wool shop that I wanted to check out and then promptly forgot the following day.  Fate must have been thinking that I was in need of a new jacket because Casa Helbling, the hostel we stayed at in Quito, was directly across from the exact same store, Hilana.  Not only do they sell beautiful wool, they make a well-designed selection of wool jackets, slippers, scarves, mittens and much more.  I believe the designer is French but all the materials are sourced from Ecuador.

It was actually Tom who spotted this jacket and suggested I try it on.  The sleeves were a tiny bit short but with a bit of chatting the lady at the shop managed to get the sleeves lengthened in 24 hours.  And I came away with a custom tailored, 100% wool jacket and a couple of skeins of lovely Ecuadorian yarn for $60 USD.

Jacket from Hilana

Kero Coco Water

Maybe it’s because we are both feeling the nasty pain of too much wine last night but right now I am really missing my coconut water – the world’s best natural hangover cure.  Brazilians drink agua de coco like it is going out of style and you will find fresh coconuts stacked high on nearly every street corner ready to be struck open by three deft machete chops. Apparently you need one coconut for a regular-sized hangover (two if you got blitzed) to start your recovery.

Cool and refreshing, with a hint of sweetness, coconut water rehydrates your body – at least that is what the Brazilians claim.  Naturally fat-free and low in calories coconut water contains 5 essential electrolytes.  It is a great alternative to drinking fluorescent-flavoured sports drinks that claim to make you fly.  If you cannot find the real thing or don’t want to drive with a coconut in your hand, Kero Coco is the next best choice in Brazil (in the US you can track down some here).

al-and-tom

Clos … I like to give it a slightly Germanic drawl so it sounds like house. We first heard about Concha Y Toro wines from Luisa, a retired dancer from New York, who put us up in Mexico City – ‘you can get a decent bottle of red for six bucks’.

Living by the beach and watching our budget at Bob’s place in Costa Rica we found the Concha Y Toro line again, this time as Clos de Pirque and in a one-litre tetra pack … travel friendly! Clos also made a solid showing in Mancora, Peru when we hung out with Al for a few days waiting for the swell.

Al did get in touch with us after we left Mancora…  “By the way I met a German guy who told me Clos in German is slang for toilet (bog, shitter, dunnie) you get the picture. Still enjoying the odd glass though.” And while it’s not winning any wine awards it has to be said that Clos is a real backpacker favorite, this resealable, nonbreakable and fairly drinkable gem will only set you back about 3 dollars.

His name is Carlos Daviz but everyone calls him Lito, he’s a mechanic in Panama City and he knows six English words; Working, Today, Tomorrow, Bucks, Drinking, and Racing. He also knows and loves his VW’s.

We had a broken front shock and we were driving a punishing goat track in the forgotten back blocks of Panama’s Pacific coast – cringing and swearing as a multitude of unavoidable potholes battered our suspension. Sweating over some of the steeper inclines that demanded a preemptive reckless speed, there was no way back, we had to keep going.

That ‘road’ finally exited us onto a well paved, rolling country lane and we glided into Santa Catalina an hour and a half later, which softened the nightmare detour and gave us some hope of reaching Panama City where we could replace the part.

By chance, in Panama City, we ran into Slim Ferguson – an automatic transmission guy, who said he could replace our shock but that he knew a guy who would really enjoy working on our little VW … his name was Lito.

A slight man with a ready smile, Lito walked out of his shop, lifted the hood and whistled through his teeth. Shaking his head with an adoptive pride he looked at the dusty tangle of aging parts and smiled broadly… ‘What a warrior’ he said ‘what a warrior!’ which set Slim into fits of laughter.

lito_signature

Lito worked on our Volkswagen Golf for two days, only accepting payment for parts, ‘thirty-five bucks’. When he was finished he signed the engine and put a Panama flag next to his signature, then he took us on a guided tour of Panama City with his wife.

Cheers Lito, you’re a legend!

lito_salute

Ocean Potion

The past few months we have been outside surfing and soaking up the sunshine.  Worried about wrinkles I was pleased to find Ocean Potion.  This powerful face sunblock (clear zinc oxide) protects against both UVA and UVB rays, is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and doesn’t sting your eyes when you are out in the water!

We bought two containers in Costa Rica, priced at about $5 a pop.  Since both of us have been getting maximum sun exposure an entire jar has already disappeared, however at home I think this little puppy would last quite a while. Ocean Potion is readily available in the US – I can’t seem to find a Canadian retailer but it is sold online here.

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