Thursday, May 2, 2013

Part II of Ecuador Vacation

In my last blog we ended at halfway through this awesome vacation with Volcano #1: Quilotoa and to refresh the memory this is what it looked like.

Now to continue the adventure we went to Volcano #2: Cotopaxi

So Cotopaxi is the main volcano but we could see two other volcanos that were inactive:

Which had a cool lake in front of it. They have a nice little walkway to go out but it was under construction. The other volcano was father away so the picture isn't great but: 
 So that black blimp in the back is the volcano. I still can't believe that I had the opportunity to get to see so many volcanos. They are so very fascinating. Any who so we parked the car more or less here and then started the trek up...and when I say I mean up!

We are this step and not even 1/3 of the way up yet. Also, it was hard to walk because the ground was almost sand like but volcanic. Still a month later I still have volcanic dust in my shoes. Oh and did I mention that to always remember this volcano I stole some volcanic I know I wasn't suppose to but seriously when am I ever going to have a chance again.
So this is about 1/3 or a little more of the way up. Would like to point out that you can't see our car from this view but it is down there somewhere..haha.
So we made it finally breathing heavily to the rest stop (still not all the way up)
but we made a new friend

15,953 feet! Now you can understand why we were breathing so heavily and not all the way up! I mean I don't think I've ever been that high up before! Oh and an embarrassing point is we were with a group of Frenchmen who were in great shape and they were sittin up here watching us come up that last little bit where I literally took like a step or two and then needed a hot second to get started again! I mean how awful that they could see how much I was struggling and of course little Sonnet is way in front of me and she lives at sea level and I live in the highlands of Peru but of course I'm the one with the most problems breathing haha. From the rest stop we continued to the glacier.
A little snip it about Cotopaxi thanks to Wikipedia:

Cotopaxi is a stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 28 km (17 mi) south of QuitoEcuadorSouth America. It is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft)
Cotopaxi has an almost symmetrical cone that rises from a highland plain of about 3,800 metres (12,500 ft), with a width at its base of about 23 kilometres (14 mi). It has one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world, which starts at the height of 5,000 metres (16,400 ft). It is part of the chain of volcanoes around the Pacific plate known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

I love that I'm getting to it up all the places that are note worthy! One of the few equatorial glaciers in the WORLD!!!! Awesome!
 The beginning or end however you want to look at it of the glacier!
The view from inside the far back as you can get! 
Our group!  
 Time for the close up
So I'm sure you can tell by now that this was seriously one of my favorite moments of the whole trip! First because I made it! YES! Second because how weirdly awesome is it to be on a volcano that they say if you go on the other side you can still see steam coming out but have a glacier on this side! So that day was very trying but oh so very worth it and not in our original plans so even better! An addition to our trip!
From the highlands we headed to the JUNGLE...I know how on one trip am I hitting so many different climates and geography. Only God can explain how that is possible BUT man oh man am I thankful!
So we got to the Jungle town of Tena. We spent the night in a nice hostel and got to meet a couple of recent Medical School Grads. Kinda weird but they gave great encouragement to me for following my dreams if that is were they are leading and because of them I am now thinking about going to Tulane in New Orleans. I don't remember their names but one was Bo but they should really do some promo because they essentially recruited me haha. The next day we started our Jungle 3 day 2 night tour:
Step one: Go on a jungle walk with added bonus of caving
Sonnet and I got beutified with some plants...however I didn't turn out that beautiful so you can see Sonnet and just use your imagination of me with the same ruby red plant lips and green nose ring! I mean you will probably come up with a better image than reality thank you I love feeling pretty hahahaha.

 So this interesting picture to your right. You may ask what is this unique structure and how was it built?
Well it is the poop build up of a worm! haha. Yes indeedy this cool looking structure is pure poop. 
 So I'm not sure but I think this is a type of Bird of Paradise flower...
if it isn't oh well still an interesting looking plant. My friend Sonnet took millions of pictures of all the bugs we saw as well so if you are interested go to my facebook and look for an album she made with me in it. I am only going to post the ones that I thought were the coolest.
 So I think this picture is one of my favorites because doesn't it look like a cool pattern for a skirt or some type of fabric?
So I mentioned caving: unfortunately most of the pictures were to dark to really tell anything so once again use your imagination: We had to use our feet on one wall and our hands on the other to balance and scale the cave. Poor Sonnet being so short at points almost didn't fit and would have been stuck in the middle of the jungle! Fortunately we made it and got to hang out with some bats and now can say that I've done some form of cave climbing! 
We stayed the night at some resort like place provided by the company. Day 2 we floated the Napo River and went to a community that in the past 10 years has received electricity and land mobility. The entire 150 people of the community are related. Note: don't tell secrets about anyone because the whole town is gonna know what you said hee hee!
We made lunch in a traditional manner:
Getting ready for the river

 With this plant we made our cool head gear!
 Cocoa plants: you can eat that white stuff and it is pretty tasty!

You know me if you need something smashed! I'm your girl! 
What I'm smashing is a type of yuca (in the potato family)
We used it for two things here as a paste and also to make a type of disgusting drink that if you leave long enough ferments into a jungle alcohol.

Cutter Ants! Now they are super bugs!
 I like this picture a lot because it reminds me of another picture that was taken shortly before leaving for the Peace Corps:
Yeah OSU Graduation! A shout out to one Miss Emily Hays, that artesian fair ring was the best purchase! That ring is seriously gonna go down in history! hee hee
 The dog wanted a necklace so of course we obliged. PS he had creepy light light blue eyes!
 How they fire inside the house! Can you say lots of some inhalation!
 Oh yes I am a human jungle gym...not just here in the Jungle but also for all little children in my community haha. Made me feel like I was at home!
Because we also had to wait for the food to cook...I was a whirl-a-round for them. After my head was so very very rattled because they all received two turns.
Finally we played a version of ring around the rosy but the it person was a tickler! Cute!
 The finished product! No I didn't eat the fish...they brought me some chicken special! It is that white/ green thing in the upper right corner! The fruit was dessert.

 Getting ready to get back on the river but with some added face paint.
Are you seeing double? haha
That's right I'm cool! haha

 No Sonnet I take it back I don't need any coffee...don't worry don't freak out! haha

 So day 3 we hiked up the river past 3 other little waterfalls until we got to this beauty. Sonnet seriously knows someone every where and this two fellows she had meet once on the beach in Peru and low and behold we see them at an Ecuadorian waterfall. It was a lot of fun to splash through the river and see all these river spiders that were the size of my hand....shiver and yuck!

When we were walkin a rain storm also came through so not only were we hiking to a waterfall but in a wonderful Jungle storm. With how fast that storm hit and left so did we and continued to our last stop...monkey town!
 This little guy first stole Sonnet's water bottle and they are smart cookies and know how to open them. However Sonnet used her guns and tightened it so must that the monkey started beating it on top of a car. When I gave him mine it was much easier to get off.
 That's right I now have a new friend...Juan and we shared a lovely meal together.
The monkeys also loved Sonnet. I was very jealous because they kept sittin on her and hanging out but me they avoided like a plague! Only Juan was into me! Thanks buddy! hahaha.

So I'm sure by now you know that this was a vacation that I could never forget! So thankful to have a great travel buddy and can't wait til my next adventure!


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Easter Vacation: Chicalyo, Tumbes, Machala, Cuenca, Latacunga, Quilotoa, Cotopaxi, Tena and Back

To start the Easter weekend took a day to reboot and relax in Chiclayo. Chiclayo is a coastal town of Peru that is an overnight bus away from where I live. In the big city there is a Starbucks, super market, and fast food. So naturally you can understand why I decided a stopover was necessary. Also, while pigging out I also went shopping. I love plaid and so does the current fashion of Peru. In one of the bigger stores that I would equate to a Dillards I found a cute little button down plaid capped sleeved shirt that was on sale from S/. 99.99 to S/. 59.99 and I thought I had found the jack pot (still not affordable but better) so I bought it. Obviously I didn't really pay attention to how much she said because after vacation found the receipt and I paid full price!!!!!! ARGH ARGH ARGH. Anyways because I didn't figure that out until after having a new shirt put a little more spring in my step. Left Chiclayo in another overnight bus to go to Tumbes. My friend and travel buddy Sonnet lives 10 minutes form the city of Tumbes. Man oh man am I glad I don't live there because I would seriously be sweatin buckets every single day. She joked that the weather wasn't so bad and I had a permanent sweat mustache. I mean yuck!
So we spent the day at the beach! Now I'm not normally a beach person but there is a place called Green Eggs and Ham at the Mancora Beach that is FANTASTIC I mean waffles....bacon...hash browns. Seriously thought I'd died and gone to food heaven. (A good start and one that continued throughout the trip). Not only did we have good food but good company as well because we meet up with Alison and Christy, two of my other favorite volunteers! So we spent the day together eating and playing in the sand. I even went so far as to go in the water....I know I know crazy! We collected some very pretty shells and rocks to remember how lovely the beach was.
As you can see we are already off to a great start and not even half-way through vacation. The next morning Sonnet and I woke up and made breakfast: Scrambled eggs, BACON, potato chucks with veggies, COFFEE, bread, fruit and juice. Can anyone say a good ol breakfast?
That day we didn't do much but relax but Sonnet also made a really excellent stir fry thing with peanut butter and it was delicious. We meet up with Alison and Christy again to eat and explore Tumbes City.
The next morning we got up early to leave Peru for Ecuador! 

So very very exciting to cross that border and get my stamp. YEAH YEAH I HAVE NOW BEEN TO TWO COUNTRIES!!!!!! Although please note how my bag is essentially the size of Sonnet hahahaha. During the trip it was always so funny to people our size difference.
Getting on the bus to Machala was fun but not terribly exciting except for the border crossing. We got to Machala and had lunch in a spiffy place and walked around until our next bus to Cuenca. However because I had given up sweets for Lent (not Catholic but like the practice) so I had to pull out something that had been teasing me in my room for over a week:

                                     I mean can you beat Cadbury Chocolate? I don't think so!

It was very weird to be using the American dollar during our time in Ecuador because when I first got to country everything was well it is X amount in soles but what is that in dollars. This time around it was it is X amount of dollars how many soles is that. After converting it was also like dang!!!!!! that is expensive. I mean they want a whole dollar for a candy bar but in Peru I can get it for a sol which is like 30 cents!! haha oh how the mentality has changed (I can only imagine how I'm gonna feel being back in the States where everything is more than a dollar).
To continue we arrived in Cuenca. Wow! That city is beautiful. I felt like I had stepped back into time with cobbled streets and quaint little stores but with technology and excellent food. Cuenca because it is one of the bigger cities of Ecuador and a favored retirement spot has a wide variety of food and drink. The first night I had coffee and a caesar salad that actually tasted fresh! The next day we went to a couple of museums and churches:
 The New Cathedral.                                                              The front door....

                                           The top of the church! Beautiful right.

Also we went to breakfast:
                                                (look it is my new shirt..................heehee)
The bread in this place was so flakey and wonderful. I ate not one piece but 3. Can you say oink oink
After breakfast we hit up some other museums the best one was about the history of medicine
 you know some old school dentistry 
 An iron lung
 some good old typhoid fever

Breast feed is the best way to that is still a sign you will see here in Peru.
Next we hit up the weavers:

                                                         (Don't I look very Ecuadorian!)
Cuenca was so very beautiful and we spent a lot of time just wandering from place to place. We found a good place for eating and drinking to pass the time until our night bus:
It was wonderful that we both wanted to read and relax during our trip. Because we were on the same level we could sit in the candle light and read as if we were in a Jane Austen book! I mean can you think of anything better! Also, we had Mexican food for dinner and it was the closest thing I've had to the real thing here. We also bought some really good ground coffee. Another wonderful thing about livin down here in the South is all the coffee farms so you know it is rich, fresh, and locally grown! 
So we left beautiful Cuenca behind and took another overnight bus to Latacunga. Latacunga has a really good super market with lots of American food so we found a slice of heaven hahaha. The city itself we didn't really explore because we had to go out of the city to get to the VOLCANOS!!!!!!
Volcano number 1: Quilotoa

I mean how amazing does that look. We actually are going down into a volcano. Yes it hasn't been active in a long while but still it once spewed lava. There is an option to walk the ridge but we didn't have enough time but we did go all the way to the water.

And back up to the top again. It was also freezing there because the wind was so strong. I bought a lovely scarf and some painted bowls from the ladies of the community:

Scary masks...I know! but isn't she so cute right below.

So that was volcano number one and unfortunately I'm out of time so to be continued volcano number 2 and the rest of a kick butt vacation!!!!