About Me

I am in South America from October 3rd until December 17th! I am spending the month of October volunteering in a child care center in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Then I have a month and a half to explore Ecuador and Peru!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanks and Giving.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! It is usually spent surrounded by friends and family eating, talking and just realaxing together.

This Thanksgiving was a little different.

I spent 6 hours of it on a bus. Then I arrived with CA 1, CA 2, CA 3 and Frenchie in Puno, found a hostel and went out in search of a Thanksvinging dinner. We found a cute little restraunt with some live music and a lively atmosphere. We poured our wine and cheersed to Thanks & Giving.

When our food came we all held hands, said a prayer and went around the circle and said what we were thankful for. Mine--for our family away from home.

It was a delightful meal. I still was not feeling 100% so I had a grilled cheese sandwich that costed 3 soles (about $1). I could not even finish all of it! haha...what a Thanksgiving! No one ate traditional Thanksgiving food but in a way it did feel like Thanksgiving. Sharing food, joking and laughing.

We have been hanging out in Puno and at our hostel alot. It is a very relaxed town beside Lake Titicaca. Yesterday we went to a market and I started taking with a woman in one of the booths. She was 45 years old and was knitting a pancho that would take her 3 whole days to make. I talked to her about the business, her family, my family, the US, and lots of other things. She was such a sweet woman! I bought a pair of gloves for myself (the took her 2 days to make), gloves for Olivia, a hat and one of her amazing panchos. The pancho costed me 30 soles. 30 soles! That is the equivilant of about $12. She worked 3 entire days to make it and sold it for $12! The total cost of my items came to a whopping 50 soles or just under $20. The woman was so thankful to me for buying all of those items from her! She was hugging me and kissing me and telling me now she can pay for the lights and the gas and food for her family.

3 days spent knitting a pancho seems like a long time to me. But her booth was filled with textiles that she had made. 3 days on one item was probably not very much for her. It is probably harder for her to find a buyer than it is for her to spend 3 days on a pancho.

Thanks and giving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Colca Canyon and Recovery

The Colca Canyon
This canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!

Hello! I am continually surprised by how seredipitous life is! I took that bus to Chivay and just as it was pulling up in the station in Chivay I saw the group I had been travelling with getting on the bus to go to Cabanaconde (they had missed a bus or two). Cam leaned his head out the window and said, ¨Come be part of the family again!¨ That got me. I threw my bags under the bus and climbed on for the 2 hour, $1 ride to Cabanaconde.

The next morning my crew set off at 9:00 to hike the Colca Canyon. By lunch time we were at the very bottom of the canyon and hiked another half an hour up it to a little house\restraunt by the name of Gloria where we had a delicious lunch. Sopa de verduras con arroz, aguacate, papas y alpaca. Pero soy vegetariana y yo comi huevos.

Then we hiked more hours and saw more of the canyon and the people who live there. About 7 hours after we began we were at the oasis. O-a-sis.

Swimming pools, water and shade. Oasis: a little resort built in the very bottom of the canyon.

We swam, ate spaghetti and camped there that night. But one member of our group, Michael, had to get to Bolivia on a tight schedule so he hiked up the canyon that night (in the dark, alone, with a headlamp, water and a chocolate I gave him). I heard from some other backpackers that they saw him arrive in town that night and he was really tired but he had made it.

Some of my friends who stayed at the oasis had tents and offered to let me sleep in them but it was so nice outside and there were so many stars that I just slept right there in the grass. I woke up around sunrise and saw a group of people eating breakfast and preparing for their hike up the canyon. I waved, then flopped back down and continued sleeping.

After spending the morning and afternoon relaxing in the oasis we used the evening to do the 3 hour ascent back up the canyon. It was a good hike, I really enjoyed it. It was strenous though. I was definitely sore the next day.

When we got in to town there were people sitting on one street eating and drinking. They were all dressed in their traditional attire. I stopped and talked to some of the men and women and they said they were celebrating that a house had been built. I asked them if I could take a few pictures and they said yes and were happy to pose and see the pictures after I took them. One lady even told me to wear her hat for the picture. Another invited me to stay the night in her home but I was too tired to accept and spend the evening partying with the community.

This is a woman in Cabanaconde and me wearing a traditional hat.

I ate then went to bed where ended up staying for 2 more nights. The day after the hike I hardly left my room...my stomach was not happy.

Yesterday I decided to go to Chivay. So I packed up and just before I left I saw a French chica, Caty, who I had met a few nights earlier and 3 California boys. We only had a minute to talk before my bus left but they were all interested in having a Thanksgiving dinner possibly in Arequipa or Puno. They briefly said they were staying in La Casa de la Tourista in Arequipa and would be going back there that night.

When my bus got to Chivay it was raining and the sky was cloudy. The main reason I wanted to go to Chivay was to visit the astronomical observatory, but there was no hope of seeing stars that night so I hopped back on the bus returning to Arequipa.

And Arequipa is where I have spent the day. I found the Tourist Hostel last night and left a note on the front desk for California and French. When I woke up this morning I was surprised to find a note in my door from them saying they would come get me when they woke up.

I woke up at 6 feeling good so I got breakfast, showered and did yoga. Then I met up with California and California (AKA Max and Marshall). The other California and French had gone back to Cabanaconde because French forgot her passport there. So Max and Marshall and I went to the market to see if we could find Thanksgiving type food. We found ceviche, empenadas and juice. We all walked away from the market stuffed. When we got back to the hostel I did not feel so good. I spent the remainder of today, up until now, in bed.

Meanwhile, California and French arrived and they and Cali 1 and Cali 2 went out in search of Thanksgiving food.

Turns out there are no cranberries in this town. And turkey was not found either. How can we have Thanksgiving without Cranberries and Turkey? We will. It will be more symbolic...you know, in The Spirit of Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy--I mean enjoy--the pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, cranberry sauce and turkey. But also embrace the holiday, the spirit of it. The thankfulness for the family, friends and food that are in your life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lima-Huacachina-Arequipa...where to next?

Currently I am content in the beautiful city of Arequipa.

I woke up this morning and said goodbye to some new friends as they left for Cabaconde, did yoga and went to a cute little fruiteria where I stocked up on avocado, oranges and bananas.

Background: I left Lima on Tuesday morning. I had a great time in Lima with Claudia, her family and her friends. On Saturday night we went to an electronic music festival called Creamfields where we danced from about 11 until 7 THE NEXT MORNING! Claudia and I went home, had bajona and went to bed at about 8. Yes, the sun was up and the birds were chirping and I was just getting to sleep. I woke up at 5 that evening! Agh! I felt so nocturnal. But it was totally worth it. Thankfully I was able to sleep at about 1 that night and woke up at a normal time the next morning. And thus I was again diurnal :).

This photo is of Claudia´s friend Selina and me before we went to Creamfields.

On Monday Selina and I went to the center of Lima (Claudia had to do homework) and went to a few museums and churches. The most interesting museum we went to were the catacombs under the church of San Francisco. It is estimated that 25,000 people were buried here! There were bones and skulls everywhere! (except for the walkway of course).

That night Claudia´s family celebrated her little sister Alessia´s 13th birthday. We all got together and ate mini sandwiches, truffles and cake. Then the parents sat around the table and talked while Claudia´s brother and sister, two cousins and I played tag and sardines! We all ran around the house and yard like we were 5 years old again. It was so fun! I felt like I was playing with my cousins at a family reunion :).

Tuesday morning I got on a bus and headed to a little oasis in the desert called Huacachina. Ok ok. It was not that simple. I got a a bus and headed to Huacachina? ha! That was Lima, folks. And there are like 5 different bus terminals. I decided to take a taxi to my bus station of choice, Flores. But just before we arrived I realized I had left my flute at Claudia´s house!!!

I bought a hand crafted cedar flute in July and have been attached to it ever since. I actually had my dad help me make a case out of a PVC pipe and my mom sewed a cusioned wrap for it on the inside. And I had my taxi driver take me back to Claudia´s, then back to the bus station because there was no way I was leaving my flute.

So then I got on the bus to Huacachina.

This is Laguna Huacachina! It is great for swimming in and relaxing near.

On the bus I met a German named Michael. We arrived in Huacachina and found a hostel together. Then we met 2 Canadians and one other American who had just met a Dutch girl. And we were all staying in the same hostel. :) That night Michael and I hiked up some dunes and watched the stars. I saw one shooting star. Later on our new ´family´ of six went to a bar where I danced one salsa song with a guy from North Carolina who knew his way around the dance floor. Then we snuck into another hostel and swam in their pool before running back to our hostel and going to sleep.


The next morning we went swimming! Then 3 of us(Michael, Anne the Dutch girl, and I) went into town to buy bus tickets for our group of 6. But the man we needed to buy tickets from was not there and Michael and I were scheduled for a dune buggy tour at 4:30. So we left Anne to buy the tickets and we went on the tour that was only supposed to last an hour and a half.

It was soooo much fun! He is a picture of me in the dune buggy...

We stopped at a few dunes where we strapped on boards and went sandboarding down the dunes! Sandboarding is similar to snowboarding. But it was almost more fun just to lay down on it and fly down the dunes.

In all this fun we semi-forgot about Anne having bought our ticket to go to Arequipa at 7. Long story short we got back to the hostel at about 10 ´till seven, packed 6 people into a taxi with all of our bags and sped to the bus station where we discovered our bus had been delayed an hour. What could we do with an hour???
We busted our a few bags of pasta we had cooked earlier in the day at the hostel. Bags of pasta. A ziploc bag and a regular black plastic bag filled with pasta and butter goodness.

One hitch: no forks.

We just used our mouths. Haha! He all sat around in the station eating pasta straight from the bag! Here´s a picture:

Then I cut open a few mangos and before we knew it the bus had arrived. Oh yes, and it was a 12 hour ride to Arequipa. All through the night. And we had 2 bags of spaghetti and were all covered from head to toe in sand. I slept uncomfortably but surprisingly well. We arrived in Arequipa at about 8 the next morning where we showered and hung out at the hostel for a while.

Then Anne and I got hungry so we deserted the boys for food. We found a cute little pizzeria then went to a chocolate store that turned out not to be really amazing.

The rest of yesterday was spent on the terrace of our hostel with my new little ´family,´ my journal, watercolor paints, my flute and the sunshine. Last night we went out to a little bar called Deja Vu where a live band covered everyting from Bob Marley to Play That Funky Music White Boy. I retired early and went to sleep while the rest of my group stayed out until 2 ish...or 3?

This morning the rest of my family got up and set off for a hike into the Colca Canyon. I chose to hang out in Arequipa this morning. I like finding friends and travelling with a group, but I really do like having some alone time. I did yoga and went to a fruiteria where I bought the best avocado I have ever eaten for about 75 centavos.

This afternoon I will set off for Chivay, a cute little town near the Colca Canyon where there is supposed to be an astronomical observatory. Then I will hit up Cabaconde before stopping by Puno on my way to Cusco. That is the plan anyways...

Friday, November 13, 2009

One more thing...

I forgot to write about the music they played at the club last night. Most of it was pop\hip hop and were in English. They also played some salsa. But what really got me was when they played "I feel like a woman" by Shania Twain! I would be shocked to hear this song anywhere in a club in the US. But here in Lima? A country song?

And you know what the funny part is? Most of the people knew the song and sang along. Selina, Claudia´s friend from Germany, and me and a couple of guys cut loose and sang "I feel like a woman," with all our heart. haha.

My First Taste of Peru...mmmmm!

Hello! I am currently on day 42 of my 76 day journey. So that means I have...34 days left in South America! Just over a month.

On Wednesday morning I woke up at 4:30 so I could be at the airport by 5:20 for my 7:20 AM flight from Quito to Lima. I considered taking a bus, but after seeing how things get stolen on busses I am glad I flew.

My last view of Ecuador, however, was not happy. When I got in my pre-arranged taxi at 5:00 AM I forgot to settle on a price to go to the airport. I know better than to do that! Long story short he charged me $10 for the ride that should have been $6 maximum. "It´s 5 in the morning!" he said. Maybe I was just crabby because it was 5 AM and I should have been sleeping, but the $10 was a rip off and I walked into the airport about as angry as Erin gets.

I stood in line, checked in my bags, paid the $40.80 it costs to leave Ecuador (which also did not settle well with Erin at 6:00 in the morning) then went through security.

haha. I decided to bring my flute on my backpacking adventure with me. Before I came to South America my dad helped me to make a PVC pipe case for it and my mom sewed a cloth case to cushion it. I kept my flute with me as a carry-on item and expected to get the 50 questions about it, honestly, it´s a PVC pipe on an international flight. I had to laugh when I walked through security without a second glance at it.

I stopped at a food court and grabbed a yogurt on my way to my terminal. I was still angry about the cab driver, but the yogurt tasted gooood. And then I opened my journal to a page where I had written, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." I took a few breaths and let it go and instead focused on the next portion of my journey: Peru.

My flight went about as great as any flight could go. I had a window seat and noone sitting beside me. I slept through the breakfast that was delivered to everyone else on the aircraft.

When I arrived at the airport Claudia and her brother, Fernando, were there to pick me up! After working with Claudia at Beaver Creek, it felt so weird to see her down here in South America! We dropped my things off at her house and went out to a cute restraunt for lunch. I had a chicken salad (yes, I felt like chicken after the long morning) pineapple juice, and some delicious chocolates for desert! Then we drove to LarcoMar (a local mall\social area right beside the ocean) for gelatto for desert. mmmmmmm. Lima has great food.

Next we drove to a spot that overlooks Lima. It was great to see Lima stretched out in front of me! Then we drove down to the coast and I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean in South America for the first time. Well, I tried to only get my feet wet. But I understimated a couple of waves and ended up walking back to the car with my pants drippig wet. oops.

That night Claudia drove me up the side of a mountain to a "Mirador" or looking point from which we could see most of the lights of Lima below us. How beautiful! I got to see Lima during the day and night in my first 24 hours here. I love seeing a city with a local. They know all the greatest places and best things to do. Most people that I talked to about Lima said it really is not that great and they didnt like it much. But I think they just didnt have the right people to show them around...

Anyways, that night we watched the movie "My Sister´s Keeper." It is a beautiful movie that made me cry like I have not cried in a while. But great movie.

Then next day Claudia had class so I went with her to her university. It was fun to meet her classmates and I even got to sit in on her production\cinema class where we watched Fresas y Chocolate (Strawberries and Chocolate). I did not understand much from her teacher´s lecture before the movie but it was nonetheless a great experience and the movie had English subtitles. This is actually my favorite way to watch movies now, in Spanish or English with subtitles in the other language. It is fun and I always learn new things.

Claudia had class until 9 yesterday so I went with one of her frieds who is a cab driver to the Museo Oro del Peru. It is a large museum housing a Weapons of the World Museum and Gold Museum showing the rich cultural history of Peru. I started my tour in the Weapons of the World Museum and saw a gun from Robert E. Lee, a Civil War canon, Samuri body armor and hundreds of different swords and guns. Then I headed downstairs and was captivated by the gold, jewelery, weapons, pottery and even some skulls of the ancient Peruvians. After touring downstairs I walked back upstairs and was in awe over how far our world and people have advanced. To go from slingshots and darts to guns and metal body armor is astounding.

Last night we went out! Thursday is the new Friday :)

We went to the Gothica in LarcoMar where Claudia´s friend had gotten us on the VIP list :) Thank you Maria! The Gothica is a very nice club in Lima with a DJ, dance floor and 4-ish bars. Claudia, her German friend Selena and I got Dressed Up (straightened hair, makeup, dress, leggings, HEELS, the whole sha´bang). We got to the club at about 11 and did not get back to Claudia´s house until 6 the next morning!!!

You are probably wondering what happened between 11 and 6? You would have had to have been there to completely understand. But somewhere between the dancing, mixing Spanish and English in conversation, meeting tons of new people, a few free drinks, some guys who thought they could dance Salsa (but noone who could really dance like my salsa teacher), and the sunrise I took off my shoes and had a great time.

I do not understand how these Limeans (people from Lima) kept their shoes on all night. My heels that I borrowed from Claudia were not even that high and I took them off half way through the night. Meanwhile, chicas with 6 inch heels danced the night (and morning) away. But they said their feet hurt so bad they were numb. I watched a few of them walk to their cabs with the sun rising behind them and they looked like they were in pain. I don´t understand why they do it. Leave it to a girl from Colrado\Nebraska to be puzzled about heels...

Anyways, I woke up a couple of hours ago. Yes, it is 4 in the afternoon. And Claudia and I ate fried Yucca with amazing cheese sauce and salad for lunch.

Oh yes, one more thing. In Spanish there is a word for the meal you eat around sunrise after a long night of partying. It is called "bajona." "Bajonear" is the verb form. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Last day in Ecuador

John, Truman, Kay, Mikayla, Jackie and I all piled into a pickup truck and headed up a dirt road toward the town of Quilitoa. I busted out a package of Oreos to share with everyone. It was delicious! Nothing like Oreos to enjoy a long truck ride through the mountains in Ecuador.

Quilitoa is a beautiful, tiny, and semi indiginous town up in the mountains. It is positioned right on the edge of Laguna Quilitoa. Laguna Quilitoa is a lake that formed in the very center of a once active volcano. It is breathtakingly beautiful!!! It looks like one mountain in the shape of a circle with a lake in its center. When we arrived in Quilitoa we left our things in a hostel run by a local family and went to explore the laguna. We watched the sun set over the mountains on one side of us and enjoyed the view of the lake on the other side. It was a perfect way to spend the evening before heading back to the hostel for dinner.

The hostel was adorable! For $10 per night (per person) we got our room plus dinner and breakfast. And since it was so cold up there they lit a fire in our fireplace that kept us warm all through the night. We all sat down together for a candel-lit dinner. Since there has not been much rain to power the electricity lately most places turn off the power at night. So for dinner we had...i dont remember. But I had told them I was a vegetarian earlier and they said they would give me an egg instead. But they brought me a plate with chicken on it and I reminded them I was a vegetarian and they took the plate back to the kitchen. They brought it back a minute later minus the chicken. Haha!

That night we all went outside an laid down and looked at the hundreds of stars in the sky.

So to pick up where I left off....
The next morning Most of us woke up to watch the sun rise over the mountains on the opposite side of the Laguna. A word about me and how I travel: I like to travel leisurely but I do not like to waste my time doing senseless things like unpacking and repacking my bags or sleeping when I could be watching the sun rise. When I decide I am ready to go somewhere and do something I am ready to go and usually put my patience to the test waiting for members of my group to get ready. Usually I am ok with this, but that morning I was not waiting for anyone to get dressed because the sun was close to rising. So I told them where I would be and headed out with my blanket, a mango, a pocket knife, my journal and colored pencils. They ended up not finding me, but I absolutely enjoyed the sunrise. I ate my mango with my pocket knife (which is one of the best things I bought before I came, mangos and pocketknifes make a perfect snack). Then I drew a picture of the sunrise, snapped some photos and did some yoga. what a beautiful way to begin the day...

So to pick up where I left off....
After a breakfast of bread, yogurt, tea, cereal and eggs our group split up to do different things. 3 motivated individuals set off for a 5 hour hike around the ridgeline of the Volcan. One girl stayed near the hostel to read. And Kay and I hiked down to the Laguna where we rented a canoe for $2.50 from a beautiful indiginous 16 year old and her younger brother. We put on life jackets, were given paddles and without so much as a "stay safe" were pushed off shore and onto the lake. Beautiful!!! Just to think that we were floating on water right where a volcano had once exploded...

I brought out my journal and some watercolors and colored pencils and Kay and I occupied a few hours with drawing, painting, writing, and of course paddling. When we were all done we hiked about 2 hours back up the side of the volcano for the hostel. Upon arriving in town we were thirsty so we stopped by the store and I bought the first thing I saw which I thought was peach juice in a box. Turns out it was wine. Made for a fun afternoon hanging out outside the hostel in the grass waiting for the other members of our group to return.

That night we all piled in a pickup truck and rode about half an hour to Chugchilan. We spent the evening hanging out in the town square, eating a delicious pasta alfredo meal at the hostel and looking at the stars. There were THOUSANDS of stars. More stars than I had ever seen before in my life! This town is in the middle of nowhere and the electricity had been turned off at 6. The only light came from a few candles and a lightning storm in the distance. We saw 10 shooting stars in about half an hour.

The next morning we all woke up at 3 AM (the only time a bus came) and got on a bus to Latacunga for the Independence Holiday with a parade in honor of Mama Negra. We arrived in Latacunga at 7 30 AM, slept in our hostel for a couple hours, then headed out into the town to experience the parade. Usually people go to watch a parade. But this parade is an experience. Bands march past and men will pull you up into the parade to dance with them for a minute. People walk past with huge pots full of somekindof fruity alcohol stuff and ladels to feed it to whoever will open their mouth along the parade. Men come past with shot glasses and alcohol to give the the girls. Men dressed as women filter through the parade with WHIPS. I think they were to keep the crowd back? But some of them were drunk and I was sure to keep my distance from them...Others came by in packs of three or four people dressed in whit. They picked out a tourist girl or any local chica they could. They danced in a circle around her chanting all the named of mountains and volcanoes they could and then sprayed alcohol on her by spitting it out of their mouth. And the occasional group had the girl take a swig of the alcohol also. And then they asked for a ´donation.´ In case you are wondering, yes, I was baptized by one of these groups with my group of friends.

There were soooooo many people at the parade. When we were walking through a crowd suddenly the crowd felt even more crowded. A few women and a boy squeezed their way through my group of friends and friends of friends that consisted of about 10 people. I had had my watch on the straps of my bag. I felt someone messing with it and looked back and made eye contact with the 40-something man who had tried to steal my watch. I didnt have words to say to him. But I believe my eyes and even his eyes said it all. Suddenly my friend was yelling, "she stole my phone!!!" And then a woman pushed through us yelling "Excuse me!" frantically. That my friends was a pack of robbers. Luckily, yet sadly, the only thing stolen was a phone.

After the parade and crowds we rested in a little bar\restraunt. It was cute, uncrowded, and played salsa, merengue and regatone music until and live band came. By about dark we all retired to our hostel and hung out while the city erupted into chaos. I believe we had the best view of the city. Our hostel was on the third floor and had a window the length of our room that overlooked the town square where all the festivities were. One of the most interesting\scarey things we saw from the window was about 20 guys all walking towards One guy. That guy was backing away quickly. One of the men tried to kick him but fell backwards (haha) and the one guy ran. We did not see any more of that story...they were out of our view.

The next day we collected dust. I mean to say, we were lazy. The three girls we had met en route to Quilitoa headed back to Quito. John, Truman and I hung around the hostel most of the day. We went to an interned cafe (where I wrote the previous post) and then cought a bus to Machachi.

Machachi is a town just south of Quito. Not many tourists go there. The locals could not take their eyes off of us three backpackers. We ran into 2 backpackers (a father and son) from France who showed us to the hotel they were staying at. It costed $5 per night. ¨That is fine with us¨ we thought. haha.

When we arrived to the hostel the 10 year old boy led us (four men and me) to a large room and asked us if we were here just for now (for a few hours) or for the night. !!!!. Four men and me? Sorry kid, I dont think so. Number 1: to of these men already have a room here. And Number 2: We would like one room with three beds for the night. Thank you. I am not sure what kind of place that was...but when John sat on his bed half of the mattress fell through.

That night we ate a few more mangos with pocket knifes. Then while cutting a pineapple John cut his hand. Truman and I set off into the night and came back 10 minutes later with bandaids. The boys also surprised me with a package of Oreos which we ate to celebrate me being half way through my trip! I have completed 38 of my 76 days here! Oreos are great.

The next morning we met up with the Frenchmen and loaded ourselves into another pickup and rode to the start of our hike of Volcan Corazon (Heart Volcano). This volcano is about 15,800 feet tall. We hiked for 5 hours and made it to the ridgeline which I am guessing was 14,000 or 14,500 feet. It was absolutely beautiful! Over the other side of the ridgeline were clouds and more amazing mountains. We all wanted to hang out longer on the top, but the clouds were rolling in and it was getting late in the day (2:00) so we hiked the 2 and a half hours down. That was a strenuous hike. But it was beautiful and well worth it. I dont know if you have ever been at a high altitude before but when you are you become somewhat silly. You gotta experience it to know what I am talking about...

When we got down our trio sat on the side of the road with our bags and waited for a pickup truck we were sure would come by. I cut open a mango with my handy-dandy pocket knife. What a perfect way to relax. And sure enough a truck drove by just as we finished eating it. So we hopped in for our ride to the Panamerican Highway (which stretches from Alaska to the tip of S. AM) where we would catch our bus to Quito. Along the way a few families of locals packed into the back of the truck also. I could not help but laugh. My hands were still dripping with mango juice, I was as dirty as I have ever been from the hike (and maybe a few days without a proper shower because of lack of electrity\water or hot water), and, once again, we were all packed into the back of a truck for a 25 cent ride. Oh how I love Ecuador.

Just before getting on the bus we stumbled upon a little cafe where I ate the best meal I have ever had for $1.75. It was rice, two fried eggs, french fries and salad all covered in spicy ahi sauce. The perfect meal after a 7 hour hike.

We rode a bus back to Quito, got on a few more busses. And at La Marin at about 7:00 Truman, John and I said goodbye. Truman and John have been great travelling companions. I dont know what I would have done, or would not have done without them. Thanks guys! We made a great travel group: John the logical and enthusiastic one, Truman the more quiet but profound and motivating one and me...the girl on the group with the lonely plantet book and always having food. Oh yea, and on the hike yesterday I brought a Maple Nut Cliff Bar I had brought with me from the US. If you have not had one of these go out and buy one and please eat it for me. I brought two cliff bars with me on this trip and wish I would have brought a crate of them. They.are.HEAVEN.

After telling my boys goodbye I hopped on the Ecovia bus to Rio Coca, got on the Calon Camel from there and then got off at Rio Amazonas and walked the few blocks from there to Patrick´s (my volunteer program coordinator) hostel. I am in love with Quito. And I am really starting to figure out my way around. When I arrived at Hostel Jhomana the electricity was out but I was still able to take the most amazing and surprisingly warm shower. Then I stayed up for an hour talking with the man at the front desk: A 22 year old named Pablo who is studying to be a tourist guide and wants to practice English and agreed to help me with some Spanish. After an hour I was content to crawl into my bed at about 10 and sleep. I slept for 10 hours straight.

I woke up at 8, did some yoga to stretch out my muscles from yesterday, had breakfast and now here I am at the South American Explorers Clubhouse.

The South American Explorers Club is a club you can join for $60. There are clubhouses in Quito, Lima, Cusco and Buenos Aires. You can leave luggage at the clubhouses, receive mail there, rent rooms, use internet, exchange books and movies, check out books, access travel information and reviews of all kids of places and companies plus you receive 5-10% discounts at most hostels and restraunts. I saw it as being worth it for me because I have a bag I want to leave here in Quito and would have spent more than $60 to leave it somewhere safe.

Today is my last day in Quito.

Tomorrow morning at 7:20 AM I fly to Lima, Peru where my friend Claudia will be picking me up. I met Claudia while we were both working at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Edwards this winter. She is from Peru and I am so excited to go visit her!

PS If you do want to send me any mail I will be in the Cusco area from about Nov. 20 to Dec. 11. My address (the Cusco Clubhouse) is:

Erin Dobesh
Choquechaca 188, No. 4
Cusco, Peru

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fiesta de Mama Negra

Right now I am sitting in an internet cafe in Latacunga, Ecuador with my two travel companions, John and Truman. A little background on how I came to be here...

We began our trip with the intention of doing the Quilitoa Loop. It is a route described in my Lonely Planet book that has lots of options for hiking and seeing small towns along the way. On Thursday morning at 6 am we set off for a little town with a big market by the name of Saqisili. The market was huge! There were all different areas for prepared foods, fruits and veggies, clothes and jewelery and meat. One of my best purchases of the day was two avocados for 50 cents and a mango for 25 cents. Fruit here is sooo cheap but absolutely delicious! I also bargained with some of the venders and came away with some great purchases. For $10 I got 2 hats, a pair of gloves and a pair of socks all made from Alpaca (similar to llama). I also bought a few cool bracelets.

After the market we took a bus to Latacunga then hiked 6 miles to the next town on our journey, Pujili. Sewaty, tired and somewhat hungry we then decided to take a bus for the next 25 miles to the next little town on the loop. However, we missed getting off at that town, and the next, and ended up getting off the bus at the stop to go to our second to last destination on the loop, Quilitoa. We got off the bus and met three girls from Boston: Mikayla, Kay and Jackie. They were haggling with a pickup driver about the cost to drive them to Quilitoa. We quickly became friends when we discovered we were all going to the same little mountain town. We ended up taking the pickup ride together.

In the US it is illegal to ride in the back of pickups. Here, it is a common form of transportation. If you have a truck you can be a taxi for an unlimited number of people. We became friends with the girls on the ride to Quilitoa and ended up getting a room at a hostel together. That night we walked the two minutes from our hostel to Laguna Quilitoa.

Laguna Quilitoa
This is a lake formed in the crater of a once active volcano....

and I need to go because we are heading to a town called Machachi. I will pick up where I left off at a later date...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dia De Los Difuntos in Otavalo

Hola hola! I just want to send out a thank you to whoever is reading my blog. If you read the Bittersweet Goodbyes you are great because that was a novel!

Anyways, this weekend I spent in the culture capital of Ecuador, a little indiginous village named Otavalo. The majority of people living in Otavalo are Quecha and speak their own language as well as Spanish. The women wear a beautiful outfit consisting of a blouse, long fabric skirt wrapped around themselves with a colorful belt. They also usually are wearing golden necklaces. It is beautiful and quite festive and I think they enjoy wearing it.

On Saturday I went with Nelly to Otavalo. Nelly is from Otavalo but is living in the same house as I am in Quito while she goes to school. Nelly has a beautiful family that reminds me of my own and had me thinking about my family all weekend. Her family has 6 kids, just like mine. Nelly has an older sister (who was in Columbia), 2 younger sisters Tania (16) and Yoleni (5) and two brothers Cirjio (14) and Oscar (12).

When we arrived at Nellys house her mom was making dough for us to make Pan de Wawas. We spent the evening forming the little baby figures and also trying to make horses. Then we went to sleep.

A few words about the house: There were 2 rooms. And 7 people. The living room also doubled as her parents bedroom.

There were no doors to the bedrooms. Actually, the only door in the house was the wooden one to the ouside. And the lock? An extra long nail that you could slide into a hole in the wall to keep the door from being opened.

All of the floors and walls were cement. No carpets. A few rooms were painted.

There was no hot water and definitely no indoor plumbing. haha! There was an outhouse outside that consisted of a concrete toilet over a large hole...

The family was so comfortable there! They are not used to hot water. They are used to cold quick showers. They dont miss the conveniences I am used to.

On Sunday we woke up and went to the Church for All Saints Day. I cant say I understood much of the mass...

That afternoon I went back to the church and helped Nelly to teach Catechism casses to 8 year olds. We learned about the sign of the cross and sang some songs. Then we went outside and played Pato, Pato, Ganzo! AKA Duck, Duck, Goose. PS North Americans do not know how to play this game. Whe a person is tagged as the Goose they run in the opposite direction as the person who tagged them. They race back to the empty spot.

That night we spent a couple hours in the church for a review of the scripture of that week. I did not understand the lecture...

Today we celebrated the Dia de los Difuntos! We went to church this morning. Everyone brought baskets of food and placed them in the front of the church. After mass, the priest blessed the food and everyone took their baskets to the cemetery.

The cemetery was packed! People were everywhere sitting, talking, eating. It was beautiful. Partly sad, but also very happy and festive.

This is a picture of Nellys family at the cemetery today. They are around and on top of her grandfathers grave.