Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Well, the guide books suggested this town was quaint and colonial. so far i would describe it as confused and busy and ugly. not to be mean. there are spanish colonial style houses here and there, but between them are ugly cement structures or metal garage doors. but maybe i have just not been to the nice parts of town. lets start from the beginning.

Baños is the shit. its very touristy, but i was meeting great people at the hostel and the town was celebrating--and had been for 3 weeks--the virgin. so all day long bands could be heard marching the streets and fireworks going off. the fireworks were, however, much more about sound than looks. they were more like giant bottle rockets which made an expolsive sound louder than a gun shot. this, of course, set off car alarms, so after the KA-BOOM of the fireworks we all laughed as a car alarm went off for minute or so. the first day i was in baños i met my roomates at the hostel, a 31 year old german and a 40 (or so) year old isreali. we went to the thermal hot springs and ran into some aussies, english, and americans from our hostel (the most popular in town). we left at 8 or so and signed up to go canyoning the next day. canyoning is pretty much repelling from watefalls. so the next day at 9 we donned our wetsuits and hoped in the back of the pickup headed to the falls with our 2 guides. they showed us how to do it (lean back, lean back!! they were always yelling) and we started with a 6 meter waterfall. we reach the bottom to find we were behind a 15 person group, and would be waiting a while--at every fall. next was a 20 meter fall, then a 35 meter fall (extremely frightening because it was the only one where we didnt have a safety line, so my life was literally in my own hands), and then an easy 20 meter fall. all very fun, but our hands were hurting after the tallest one, and the german was actually bleeding a little, from rope burn. (granted, we was 6´4¨ and prolly 260+.) it was a great time tho, and i would recomend it to anyone that has the chance, although it wasnt hot that day, and the water was cold, so maybe try to find a dry one.

that night (saturday) we went out as a group of 8 from our hostel, i had great indian food, and we hit the bar. i´ll ommit the details, but got up at 11 the next morning (no hangover, thank god) but not knowing where my t-shirt was. (i found it in the corner of the room, away from all my other stuff...) had a massive breakfast with some of the people we went out with, and a girl (about my age, unlike most of the travellers i have encountered thus far) approached us asking if anyone wanted to do a swing jump. being the low level adrenline junkie i am, i said i was up for it. we met at 12:30 at the company that offered it, and headed to the bridge. she said it as a 50 meter jump, and she was excited because yesterday she did an 18 meter jump and wanted more this time. the bridge we were going to jump of was 100 meters of a raging river, and the wind was blowing hard enough to knock your hat off. we were both kinda scared shitless as we looked over the edge, and her friends came and were laughing, asking if were were actually going to do it. it was really a 60 meter jump with a 20 meter free fall. she went first, and was hysterical as she climbed the railing and stood on the platform. apparently insane tourists dont do this often, because we had attracted quite the crowd. all went well and it was my turn next. i have done this kind of thing at wildwaves before, but nothing was quite like looking over 300 feet off a bridge getting ready to throw myself into the abyss. on the count of 5 i dove off. it was definelty crazy, but totally fun and i would do it again.

i left baños later that day, taking a night bus (bad idea, as it arrived at 4 am) to cuenca. found a hotel at 6, slept, walked around, got caught in the rain, went home, read...not a very exciting day. i found a different hostel today, which is really just a families house, but they gave me a room in the back for 5 bucks a night. im off to see a movie i think, since its raining and thundering again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ok, here we go...

So its been a while and a fair amount has been accomplished in the time since the last post, so this is going to be in to parts.

Part One, sometimes getting there is half the fun, or all of it: My last two days and nights in canoa were interesting. I somehow managed to play 3 games of ¨mission¨ Risk (yes, we played two games in one day) with a dutch fellow, an irishman and an englishman who worked at the hostel where we were all staying. i also played my first truley sucessful game of poker (and by that i mean that i didn´t loose, which was imparrative since i was betting money (just a one dollar buy-in to keep things friendly) that i didnt have. After my various expenditures, which included internet cafes, a call to peru, food and drink, and a couple spanish lessons which were of no help, i had $43.25. i owed the hostel 43, and had to borrow a buck for bus and ferry fare from the very kind alaskan owner.

After saying goodbye to the guys i had met, i headed to the bus stop. i caught the last bus out of canoa (at 7pm) and got to san vincint a half hour later. i found the place where i was to catch the passenger ferry (and i use the term loosely) to the town from which buses depart to quito. the ferry docked and we all got aboar. at this point it was pitch black and i was suprised there was still service between the two towns. the ¨ferrry¨ turned out to be a 35 (or so) foot long boat wooden boat that rocked back and forth (especially to the left, dont ask me why) despite fairly calm seas. as we boarded i noticed that the engine was quite similar to that of an old truck, and was sitting in the middle of the boat with little walls around it. the capitain (or whoever was driving) only steered, and he honked the horn once when he wanted the deckhand to put the boat in gear (or into netural on the other side) an honked twice when he wanted to speed up or slow down. i had to laugh. no only that but the hot radiator water (after cooling the engine) spilled out into a bucket in the boat, and every 5 min or so the deckhand would refill the reservoir with a yogurt cup from the bucket. but we made it and i got the bus to quito.

From quito to tena, a jumping off point for amazon tours (which i had no plan on doing because of cost and the need to find a group of 4 or more) is a ¨must see¨ in many guide books. the dirty, shitty little town is anything but something that i ¨must see.¨ its only redeeming value is that the amazon is easily accessible from it, and it has a park with monkeys that will steal your camera if your not watching out, which i find slightly hilarious. i found a dank hostel for $4 a night and i had plans to leave the next day, but the guy that worked at the hostel (for $3 a day, plus room and board) was a guide and trying hard to learn english, so he talked to me a lot. i mentioned i would have liked to go on a tour. he disapeared and 5 min later said a big group had just gone up and i could join them on the 3 day tour for $100. thats a good deal, considering im spending close to $30 a day anyway. ok, we leave tomorrow at 6 am and we´re going on a jungle tour, hike to waterfalls, and take canoes to see monkeys and butterflies.

Part two, the tour: we arrived at 8 am at the lodge, after travelling by car, bus, and canoe, and breakfast was pancakes with chocolate, bananas, fruit, coffee, and bread. but there were only 4 people there when i got there, all elderly french people. i was hoping for some families on the tour, with kids, maybe some that spoke english...no luck. i left on my personal jungle hike with my guide jacob, and he showed me what plants are pain killers, what do do if your lost, we ate ant eggs out of leaves, and some other stuff. jacob is a indigenous indian, his parents live a 2 day motorized canoe ride from the nearest town, and his father was a healer. he did brief little ceremony that is supposed to harness good energy and release bad energy. all very cool. a few hours later we return to find 15 sweaty old french people who just got back from their activity for the day. a few hours later, those who wanted to took canoes (with guides) to a small community to see how they make a special alcohlic drink, called teechwa. it was on this brief excursion i met a guy named Pims from holland. thank god. we talked the rest of the day and he told me how being with these french people the last 2 days had been like living in a cartoon, they were so ridiculous. but they were all leaving in the morning and new tourists were coming.

next day me and the two new tourists, from italy and a local, went on a 6 hour round trip hike to some water falls were we encountered an asian tour and we all went swimming. the walk back was long, but in exchange for english lessons for jacob he helped me with spanish. the third day was a canoe trip to a animal preserve, were we saw monkeys, mini jaguars and mini leapords, all kinds of birds, and some snakes. then to a museum about the indigenous tribes. then lunch, then to a ceramics place and a woodworking place, all indigenous indian run. it was good. we got back to tena and i hoped on the 6 o´clock bus to baños, a touisty town that brags hot springs and an active volcano that you can go see at night. thats tonights activity.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Coco Loco

The last week or so has been nice. the first 3 days i had a dorm room to myself in a hostel that is literally on the beach. well, its actually across the street (dirt road) from the beach, but the ground around it is all sand. yesterday (i think, im kinda loosing a sense of time, which is nice) a canadian travelling with an irishman and two dutch guys showed up. they´re all nice, and the brit that works at the hostel is cool. and there is a aussie woman staying there too. we got a little game of soccer going on the beach today too.

not much else is going on, life right now is very tranquilo. ive been surfing a couple times, once on a long board and once on a really small board, which is harder, and i thought i would totally fail, but for some reason i was able to get up on it, maybe my history of snowboarding. im headed back out in a few minutes, while the sun is shining, which doesnt happen too often here. ive been making all my food lately, which is kinda fun, and gives me something to do when theres not much else going on.

headed back to quito tomorrow, and then into the amazon, so that should produce some fairly good posts, sorry this one is kinda boring.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The night bus from Esmereldes

I managed to kill the rest of my time in esmereldes in a chinese restuarant, where i was finished eating and had paid after a half hour of walking in, but that didnt stop me from sitting there for 2 hours and watching bad chinese cartoons dubbed in spanish from far enough away that i couldnt here what they were saying. once the waiters started giving me really wiered looks--i had been recieving questioning looks for about an hour--i grabbed my stuff and headed to the bus station. and none to soon, as everything was beginning to close (strange, since it was only 8 or so) and i took that to mean that this is a dangerous city after dark. the bust station was just a few blocks away and i got there and sat in the uncomfortable plastic chairs for the next 2 hours reading. of course at this point i was hungry again, but had $3.50 to get me from esmereldes to canoa, a small beach town more than 10 hours--and a few buses--away. so i bought some baked good from a guy in the terminal and ate my cliff bar from back home, i now have only one left.

the bus wasnt particularly bad, but i had somebody sitting next to me, which made it harder to sleep. and of coures, 5 minutes outside of the city the police stopped up, made everybody get off and searched everything. nobody was carrying contraband, and no guns were pointed at anybody. we left and about 10 minutes later the lights in the bus were turned off so we can sleep. of course that was accompanied by ear-drum-shattering bad spanish music blasting from the speakers. i guess this was the only way the bus drivers would be able to stay awake for such a long drive (since they couldnt bring the copius amounts of cocaine i would have expected would be needed to make such a drive, because of police checkpoint). finally the turned the music down and i fell asleep. everytime i woke up however, the bus was getting hotter and hotter, and more and more humid, until i was sticky with sweat (along with the guy next to me, and everybody else). then after 5 hours of hot and humid somebody must have opened the window because i was quickly chilly and needed my jacket to keep warm.

now we were in Manta, a town similar to south beach (yes, another one) with its row of tall hotels lining the beach. i didnt even go check it out because a very helpful--and extremly excited--guy told me to get on this other bus to canoa. i took me to another town similar to manta bust smaller, were i walked along the river and hopped on a boat going to the other side. then it was another bus, and a short ride in the back of a pickup to my hostel. but its lovely here, with a private room and TV downstairs and a Wii. All right on the coast. although much of yesterday was spent inside due to the light rain and wind. unless its gets really nice by tomorrow, im outta here and headed back to quito to try a different route to peru (i was going to go down the coast, but that hasnt been what i hoped it would be: sunny skies and warm water).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bad Weather

So, Atacames...lets just say that every citizen of quito that can afford it goes every weekend. what that meant for me was way to many people that were old and kinda fat and ugly, that didnt speak english. i arrived at 6:30 am at the bus station and somebody ran over to me and from what i was able to understand of his yelling and pointing is that he was going to give me a ride to the strip (picture an ecuadorian version of south beach) where the hotels and hostels and restuarants are. not in a taxi though, in a motorcycle turned into a rickshaw (which, for those who dont know, is like a 3 wheeled motorcycle with places to sit in front of the driver). He wanted $15 but i only had 5, so of course thats what he took. (i found out later that it should have been $3.)

i walked around looking for a hostel cause i was a little tired from the bus ride. oh speaking of which, at 3 am i awoke and a few seconds later the bus driver slammed on the breaks. the response was gasps from those around me, and i immediatly grabbed the armrests, crossed my fingers and told myself i would make it atacames. we got through whatever encouraged such a maneuver and were on the way again, and i did make it. anway, i found a hostel with a private room (shared bath) for 6 bucks, so i got it and hit the hay (almost literally, the mattress wasnt the most supportive). a few hours later i got up and took a cold shower and went to check out the beach, which was the reason i came here. it was cloudy but the sun came through sometimes and it was hot enough. i got lunch and noticed a group of 8 blonde haired people with backpacks walking down the street with volleyball. when i finished my food i headed in the same direction as them and saw that some where swimming and some were sipping fresh smoothies at a bar. i sat in the back and got a beer and watched for a few minutes (i had plenty of time, as this place was obviously their permanant hang out spot for the day. once everybody but 2 blonde girls were on the beach i went up and struck up a conversation. one was american, the other german. the rest of their friends filtered back from the beach, and they were all german but one who was dutch.

we went swimming and played vollyball and drank smoothies until about 6, when i went back to change clothes and shower and they did the same. i didnt know where they were staying but said i would find them around 9 or 10. i went back out then and had dinner (both lunch and dinner were under $5 each, for a good meal, but i cant keep up that spending forever). i then wandered the street for almost an hour until i found them. they bought rum and coke, and we went to the beach and drank (you guessed it) rum and cokes until around 2, when we hit the bars. a few cheap cocktails later, those of us left (half of them went home) were dancing and singing to the bad reggaeton that was blasted from every bar on the beach (about 15 total). then back to the beach, and home when the music shut off at 4. i saw the guys the next morning (during which i was not hungover because i wasnt really drunk, just buzzing, mom and dad) and we went our seperate ways after exchanging email addresses. btw, they were all volunteers in quito, so maybe i have a free place to stay in a reletivly expensive city.

i was off to mompiche next, ecuadors best kept surfing secret, in search of sunshine. all i found was wind, light rain, and clouds, so i left the next morning and i am now in an internet cafe in a bad city waiting 6 hours for my bus to the south coast, where i will hopefully find the sun i am ever-searching for.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The center of the world

So i had this great plan to wait to right before i left quito to post and put up all my photos. but this computer is extremely slow (although its free, so i cant really complain) and the photos take forever to upload, so im going to wait until i get to a faster connection. but ill still post.

Im headed off to Atacames, on the northwest coast tonight. the last few days have been alright, albeit a bit slow because there isnt that much to do in quito. but today a couple aussies and i went to ¨la mitad del mundo,¨ or the equator, in english. it was a 40 cent 1 hour bus ride out there, and we paid 2 dollars to get in and took our cheesy tourist photos standing on the line and in front of the sign and monument and everything (which i find a bit ridiculous because modern GPS actually showed that they are off with everything by about 300 feet, even though the Incas were able to build a monument on the correct line thousands of years ago...). They also had really ridiculous other attractions, like a planitarium, an insectarium, and a small muesum of france and spain. Not really that exciting, but something i felt semi-obligated to do, since its not every day that i can hope back and forth between the northern and southern hemispheres--on one foot, if i wanted...

Yesterday was nice, checked out more churches in the ¨old town¨ (some of which i would have had to pay to see, but using large crowds that can often be avoided, although maybe thats stealing money from god...). had lunch again for $1.50 and then that night went out with an aussie girl, a limey guy, and a...*insert nickname or semi deroggatory term for an irishman here*. we got appetizers (at 11 pm) and then went bar hopping until we found a nice little dance club playing music from the 70´s and 80´s. everybody there (mostly locals) seemed to be loving it, but they were all pretty messy*, especially the girls. after only 5 hours of sleep i was awoken by 2 more aussies that had just arrived at the hostel (at 7:30 am) and were apparently staying in the same dorm room as me and another american, who was also awake.

all packed up and excited to hit the sun and surf, i just hope that former shows itself on the northern coast. its been mostly overcast here, so i would love to just sit in the sun for a few days, keeping my fingers crossed. more in the next few days, although if internet is expensive, maybe not.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Blue House

Recap: Yesterday morning i got to LaGuardia Airport with little difficulty, and spending just $2 on the subway. I was there early enough that they actually put me on an earlier flight so that my luggage could be sent all the way to Quito so that i wouldnt have to go to the baggage claim in Miami. So i arrived in Miami 3 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave, which ended up being good, becasue there were some difficulties getting my boarding pass. The Columbian man behind the dest of Avianca Airlines didnt speak excellent english and kept asking me for a blue envelope from american airlines with my luggage information. i told him i didnt get anything like that. as i was about to leave and go talk to american i pulled out my boarding pass from the flight down to Miami and that seemed to satisfy him. He then looked at my eticket and asked me where my return ticket was. i dont have one, because i dont know when im returning. that wasnt ok. so he sent me to go wait in a half hour line to BUY a return ticket from ecuador, just so i could enter the country. i told the woman i wasnt about to buy a ticket unless i could change the date and the location, so she printed me up information that looked like i bought a ticket, but i didnt pay for it. that also satisfied the man who spoke broken engish (despìte being an employee in an american airport). finally i got my tickets, although he said they overbooked the flight from Bogota, Columbia to Ecuador, so i should go talk to somebody at the gate. she tried to help me but couldnt, so i got ont he plane to columbia not knowing if i would be able to leave columbia, even though no matter what, my luggage was going to ecuador. so i got through immagracion in Bogota and ended up getting a seat, much to my relief.

The Blue House is my hostel. Dont ask me why its not called La Casa Azul, but the ecuadorian owners decieded to go with an english title...its beyond me. but there is free internet and good beds and free breakfast and its right near bars and restuarants, so tonight should be fun. Today i walked down to the historical distirct, or the old town, and saw some pretty amazing churches and monasteries, but of course forgot my camera so ill be going back again tomorrow. i stopped in a little hole-in-the-wall restuarant and asked for a lunch menu. 5 minutes later a woman came out with silverware and a bowl of soup. then came fresh orange juice and a plate with salad, meet, potatoes and rice. it was all delicious but i was a little worried it was going to be expensive. when i asked how much, she said $1.50. my jaw dropped. other than that, i havent found much to do here, and i think ill be heading to the coast in a few days.

Its only one o´clock but after walking around since 9am im really tired. i think its because Quito is at 10,000 feet above sea level. periodically i had to stop and sit for a few minutes. also, it was raining lightly when i left the Blue House so i was wearing my jacket. 10 minutes later it was sunny and 25 degrees celcius, which is hella hot when your wearing jeans and a coat. that made it more tiring walking around today too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Agua Con Gas

Finally arrived in Quito tonight. it was a long day of travelling, going from NYC to Miami to Columbia and finally arriving in Ecuador. the owner of the hostel i booked was waiting for me at the airport with a sign that said my name, which made me feel pretty important. The internet is really slow here and its 12:30 so im not going to write much. also the ¨shift¨button does things on this keyboard that arnt displayed on the keyboard, and i had to think back to when i was in Argentina to realize that the only way to get an ¨at symbol¨ is to press ¨alt·6·4.¨

so there will be more tomorrow i guess, once i have a little more energy. but for those of you who read this please dont expect much care with my puntuation and spelling and capititalization.

Hasta manana...