Archive | February, 2012

Cherishing the time we have left in Quito!

27 Feb

Early, early Friday morning we arrived back in Quito and took a taxi back to Lou and Jhuly’s place, where they graciously hosted us once again. We again passed out after our long journey, ready to start another adventure in Quito. We originally planned on going somewhere for Carnival, which is a big holiday in not only Ecuador, but most catholic countries. We eventually decided against it, basically because we didn’t want to fight the traffic and all the people that would be anywhere we wanted to go; everybody and their mother goes somewhere for Carnival. So we decided to go against the grain and be some of the few people to stay in Quito. It ended up being a great decision.
Friday we had an amazing lunch at a local Greek restaurant. From there, we decided on the fly to go to a museum / exhibition called “la mitad del mundo,” or “the middle of the world.” It was a very interesting site about half an hour or so outside of Quito that was dedicated to both the indigenous people of Ecuador and the equator; the site just so happened to literally sit on the equator. Again I wish I had the ability to upload the pictures that I took, but that will just have to wait until I get back. The site had everything. To begin with we saw some of the local animals preserved in formaldehyde, including anacondas, giant tarantulas and scary little parasitic fish that swim in the Amazon and are attracted to urine (scary thought, don’t pee in the river!). Then we moved on to some demonstrations of the indigenous people, which was equally entertaining. They had structures that were actually built by locals, both new and old, as well as a brief description of how they lived. Then we moved on to the equator exhibit, which was really cool. There was a line drawn down the entire place, which of course represented the equator. Water truly flowed in different directions, depending on which side of the line you were on, and straight down directly on the equator. One also does not have the same balance directly on the equator, as a simple demonstration of pulling one’s arm down by the guide showed. I know, I’m writing like I’ve been speaking Spanish for the past few weeks, because, well, I have. Then came the balancing of an egg on a nail, which was surprising easy for some of us (I have the certificate to prove it :), but not for others (Lou just had to try again before we left, but he got it ;).

The next day, Saturday, we went to Otavalo which is not only the biggest open air market in Ecuador, but the biggest in South America! It was an experience, to say the least. From the time you get out of the car, to the time you get back in, you are bombarded by locals trying to sell you anything from fresh fruit, to clothing, to iPod covers. You could find pretty much anything you want, and at a pretty decent price; bargaining is the name of the game! I, as some of you may know, am not the biggest shopper in the world, but I still enjoyed the experience. Genny went a little crazy, buying all sorts of stuff. Her friends and family will be happy, as will her ears with the beautiful new earrings she got for them. We then went out that night for a night on the town, which was surprising relaxing for a Saturday night, because of Carnival. Usually it would be impossible to park, and you’d be constantly fighting people just to get a table, but there was hardly anybody out, so we enjoyed our nice little group’s company peacefully.

Our time in Ecuador is now running short, so we spent the rest of our time enjoying the company of (my) new friends (I say my because everyone else already knew each other). We had everyone who was in town over to Lou and Jhuly’s place where Lou made some amazing fish tacos, then we said our goodbyes. On Tuesday Genny and I hopped on two different planes headed in the same direction, towards Bogotá!!!

Playa Ecuatoriana, take II

27 Feb

Then Sunday night Genny and I were off again, hoping on a night bus to the southern coast. We leftQuitoat 8:30 pm and arrived in Puerto Lopez at 7 am, which was perfect. It was an interesting bus ride to say the least. We turned around after about 45 minutes because the locals were getting restless, literally. The buses here inEcuadorhave both a driver as well as an attendant/assistant who sits next to him. So as Genny and I were watching a movie noticed the other passengers knocking on the front door of the bus (think of the door that would lead to the cockpit in a plane). The assistant came out and after a short discussion a democratic decision was made by the entire bus to turn around. We didn’t realize it meant turning all the way around and going back toQuito, and starting over, but that’s what happened. An hour and a half after we started, we were back at square one. I asked a girl sitting next to me to clarify and she told us that the road we were going down was an extremely windy road and with all the rain that night, it was dangerous. So we went down a safer camino. It actually worked out perfect for us because instead of getting into Puerto Lopez at 5:30 am, we got there at 7 am when things were actually opened. So we went straight to a hotel Genny stayed at last year, checked in, and passed out for a few.

We spent one night in Puerto Lopez then moved on to another beach town called Montañita, which for the most part was the reason we went to that part of the country. Montañita was recommended by almost everyone we talked to as a must see. It was an interesting little beach town unlike almost any other I’ve ever been to. There were of course Ecuadorians there, both working and vacationing, but it seemed the town was mainly filled with Argentineans and Chileans. They ran the place, for whatever reason this town became their hotspot. We spent two nights there, and loved every second of it. Montañita is an interesting place to describe. It has one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, with clean white sand, and plenty of big waves to attract surfers. So like any beach town, it’s got a nice, relaxed atmosphere. It also has become the local hippy hotspot. So yes there did seem to be families vacationing there, but the majority of people there seemed to be South America’s version of what you would find in theHaight-Ashburydistrict of S.F. Like everywhere else I’ve been so far, it did have a little bit of a creepy feeling after dark, and there seemed to be some parts to stay away from, so that’s exactly what we did.

On Thursday we had a 3 p.m. bus back to Quito. We changed buses in Guayaquil, which is population wise Ecuador’s largest city. We never left the bus station, but that alone was an experience; it was built on the second and third floors of a huge mall. We had dinner there then took another night bus home to meet back up with our Quito friends and celebrate Carnival!!!

More shrimp than the rest of my life put together!!

18 Feb

Alright so I am now at an internet café in a beach town on the Southern coast of Ecuador called Montañita. My bus leaves in less than an hour so I´ll try to get through as much as possible while I still can. When I last wrote an entry I was on my way out of Quito and headed towards the beach. Since then I have visited both the Northern and Southern Ecuadorian coasts. I experienced both the wonders of piling five people in a car for five hours and taking a 10 hour night bus. I spent an amazing four days in the beach town de Tonsupa, and I spent another few days on the Southern coast in the hippy beach town of Mantañita. Both were experiences and well worth the journey.

The first trip was a to Tonsupa, one of the closest beaches to Quito, which also just happened to have a resort managed by one of Lou and Jhuly´s friends. Tonsupa is a small beach town not too far away from the Colombia – Ecuador border. It was a beautiful drive, one like I’ve never experienced before. We drove through a cloud forest, which seemed straight out of a movie. Everything was incredibly green and the the flora was crazy mostly unknown to me. The region gets a tremendous amount of water and sunshine, so jungle like plants flourish. When we arrived in Tonsupa, we realized that we had the entire resort to ourselves, literally. I believe it was a Tuesday a week and a half before Carnival, so everyone was taking it easy waiting for the big event. Marco (Lou and Jhuly’s amigo) was the first person to greet us and showed us to our sweet room. It had two floors and three separate bedrooms, perfect for the five of us. So after jumping in the pool to cool off, we headed straight to the beach, which was only about a two minute walk.

The food in Tonsupa was amazing. I probably ate more shrimps in those four days then the rest of my life combined. I’ve always been more of a meat and potatoes guy than seafood, but seafood was basically the only option. I wish I had the capabilities of uploading the pictures I took of the restaurants right now, pero no puede ser. So a quick description: They were all open air restaurants with a tiny shack as the kitchen. Then there were plastic table and chairs set up under a tent protecting you from the elements. The waiters were usually kids (presumably los niños of the proprietors) anywhere from 6 to teenagers. Nothing like having your fried shrimp brought out by a 6 year old with a beautiful view of the beach all at the same time!!

Tonsupa was a great time. We came back on Friday because our amigo Derek had to fly back to his job in Colorado on Saturday. We were sad to see him go, but the good times must keep on rolling. On Sunday Lou, Jhuly, Genny and I went to the ‘Liga de Quito’ soccer match. What a great experience. Again, as soon as I can I’ll post some pics. It was a great game. The home team we were all cheering on won 5-0! What a great game for us to go see, everybody was of course happy with the result and you could feel the good vibe in the stadium. Speaking of the stadium, it was beautiful; ‘almost’ on par with professional sports stadiums we would find back home in the states.

Then Sunday night Genny and I were off again…..more on that to come!!

La boda de Lou y Jhuliana

7 Feb

Hey everyone. Today is Monday the 6th which means I’ve been in Ecuador for four days now. WEverything has been amazing so far, including the food, the people I’ve met, and most of all, Lou and Jhuliana’s wedding! Not that I’ve been to that many weddings, but it was definitely one of the if not the best wedding I’ve ever attended. Everything from the ceremony to the reception to the food. The wedding took place in a town called El Valle de los Chillos which is about an hour Southeast of Quito. It’s a smaller town and at first sight from the outside we didn’t know exactly what to think. Then as soon as you walk into the “jardin de la boda” where it all took place, we were mesmerized. It was a beautiful garden with exotic plants and birds roaming around. One thing I could definitely appreciate was the set-up of where the reception was to be held. Everything was beautifully and perfectly put together. Since we arrived with the groom, we were about an hour early and spent that hour just walking around enjoying the scenery.

Then the ceremony started, and it was a beautiful thing. It was done in about 90% Spanish but the preacher did speak English and for the benefit of the seven English speakers there, he repeated the most important parts in English. The seven English speakers besides the groom were his parents and their spouses, and the three of us from Yosemite. At the end of the ceremony bubbles were passed out to the crowd and blown as the bride and groom walked down the isle together for the first time as husband and wife. It was a beautiful thing.

After the ceremony a few pictures were taken, then it was on to the food, and it was oh so good! There was an crab appetizer that I can’t even begin to explain, but it was basically a creamy crab dish put back into the shell, with a heart of palm on the side. If my memory serves me correctly that was followed by a lemon sorbet to cleanse the pallet. After the sorbet the main entry was served. The “plato fuerte” consisted of a slab of beef with a wonderful red wine and pesto sauce, as well as a turkey dish smothered in a fantastic cheese sauce with a potato in the middle and some asparagus and carrots on the side. After that I was quite stuffed but able to eat a little bit of the dessert that was served. The dessert was a skewer of fresh fruit atop of a raspberry puree along with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Also a passion fruit mouse with a kiwi coulis was served on the same plate, whatever that is. It resembled flan in texture and was amazing.

After we all stuffed ourselves, the dancing started. The bar opened, and the dance floor was non-stop for around 4-5 hours. After the bride and groom had their first dance, a typical Ecuadorian wedding game was played, where a few of the single guys and single girls got matched up and the single guy had to put a garder on the single girls leg.  Since I was one of the foreigners there I was of course nominated to play the game, without having any idea as to what I was getting myself into. It was good fun though, then after the game the dancing was non-stop until we were cut off and asked to leave around 8pm. It was an amazing day.

The following day my two American amigos y yo met up with the bride and groom for brunch at an awesome seafood restaurant. I’ll devote a post later on to food, so you’ll hear more about that food extravaganza later. We then took it easy until the superbowl, which we watched at a place called Sports Planet. That was a lot of fun because we had a good mixture of Americans who were into the game and Ecuadorians who had no idea what was going on. Today we spent the day exploring old town here in Quito, which I would recommend to anybody who visits Quito. Tonight we’re taking it easy, tomorrow we’re going to a beach town four hours away for a few days. So I’ll post again when we get back next weekend. Just know that I’m loving life to it’s fullest extent. You’ll here more from me soon, hasta pronto!!!

 

ps…if you want to see the whole photo album, go to my picasa website at https://picasaweb.google.com/kyle.mcpheron

I’m leaving on a jet plane

2 Feb

So here we go, starting another exciting chapter in my life. I’ve been thinking about and preparing for this trip for a long time and here I am sitting on a plane on my way to Quito, Ecuador. I’ve never been to South America before, I’ve actually never been south of Mexico. And I wouldn’t exactly consider my experience in Mexico very traditional. I went with my mom, aunt and cousin when I was about 16 and spent more time at Carlos and Charlie’s then doing anything with the locals. This trip has the potential to be very differnt. I’m going into it without a single hotel reservation and besides the first few nights when I will be graciously hosted by the soon to be newlyweds Lou and Jhuliana, I really have no idea where exactly I’ll be staying, but that’s part of what will make this so interesting and exciting 🙂 !!!

The first thing on the agenda is of course Lou and Jhuly’s wedding. I arrive late Thursday night and the ‘boda’ is on Saturday. So Friday I’ll help with whatever I can for that and just relax for a day. I hear it takes a day or two to adjust to the altitude, Quito is at 9,000 feet! Then I plan to stay in Quito for at least a few days and head to the coast sometime next week. From there maybe a trip to the Galapagos, or maybe just more exploring Ecuador, we’ll just be playing that by ear. I do have some travel buddies from Yosemite that I’m meeting down there, so whatever I do I won’t be alone. Then I’m flying to colombia on Feb. 21 and playing in a frisbee tournament the first weekend of March! If you know anything about me, you know how excited I am about that :). I will try and keep this updated as much as possible but I didn’t bring a computer with me so well see how that goes. Anyway buenas noches tomorrow I wake up in a new country!!