Thursday, June 30, 2011

Peru Please!

Ecuador, thanks for being so amazing... I feel like it has been my home since I lived in Montanita for 5-weeks, made some amazing friends in the Galapagos after 2 weeks, and hung out with Dana & the fam for 2 weeks in Quito!!! It has been a wild ride, but I haven´t been able to stop thinking about Peru, so I told the fam this morning that I would be bouncing out a few days early to head down to Mancora.

In a few hours, I´ll be hopping on a bus and heading to the beach! I just can´t get enough of sun and fun on this trip.. especially since I´m about to freeze my booty off in the Andes Mountains!!!

Next time you hear from me, hopefully I´ll have eaten some Guinea Pig! Hopefully I will have thrown out these Rainbow flip flops too... they´re experiencing a bit of jungle rot.. and now smell HORRIBLY!!! I only have Mancora.. and possibly the desert left to wear them.. so they will not scare new friends away from me any more!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dirty Daniel & Crazy Sophie

I met up with Dirty D and Soph from my CELTA course in Montanita, in Quito! We went to Daniel’s house and had a lovely lunch and chatted for a couple of hours. Many laughs were shared, and it was so great to be around EVEN MORE people that I know.

Since I’m traveling alone, it’s been quite rare that I see people that I ‘know’ a lot. So far, I’ve met up with Jos & Ness from Colombia in Montanita, Luna from Montanita in the Galapagos, Hernan from the Galapagos in Quito, and Dana from KOREA in Quito… I love this life, the surprises never stop coming!!!!

Hello Amazon, Where is Tarzan?

While Dana and her Daddy were on their trek in Sangay, I decided to take a little trip to the Amazon. I stayed at Cuyabeno River Lodge located in the Cuyabeno National Park. To get there, I had to take a 9 hour bus ride, which turned out to be 12, to Cuyabeno from Quito. The bus ride was the most painful thing on the planet. I had to pee SO terribly bad when I got to the bus.. the traffic was so bad and the terminal was so far outside of the city that I made it to the bus with 10 minutes to spare, I wasn’t about to ask the driver if I had time to find the bathroom located in the huge terminal.. I figured I’d wait and use the one on the bus. WELL, the bus starts up and is about to back out when I asked the driver’s assistant for the key to the bus bathroom, “No key”. NO KEY?! You have to be joking.. welp, no he wasn’t. We had such an old and crappy bus that the seats hardly went back.. we stopped a million times to pick people up on the side of the road, and I had to wait 4 hours to use the bathroom… I was seriously tempted to try to pee in a bottle once everyone had gone to sleep.. I was going through all of the steps I would have to do so and thinking of any possible issues I may have while attempting such a thing. Luckily, no one was sitting beside of me so I could lounge in a comfy position that didn’t put pressure on my bladder and pray!

The tour agency that booked my 3-night/4-day package for the Amazon adventure told me that there were 3 other fun guys booked for the lodge.. I thought, hey that sounds like fun.. then when I got to the bus and found the guys, they said they were going on a canoe trip, “OH GREAT! I get to be in the middle of the jungle by myself! Fabulous. And I only bought one book. AAGH I can’t believe you guys are leaving me!!” A guy I met in the Galapagos had told me about his Amazon adventure in Peru where he was in a lodge by himself for 4-days and hadn’t brought a book or ipod or anything.. he said it was miserably boring at times! So the bus ride just sucked all around!

Once we arrived, our guide was immediately waiting for us to get off the bus.. they packed us into a motorized canoe and we headed about 15 minutes up the river to our lodge which was magnificent! I couldn’t believe that I was staying in the middle of the jungle in this thatched roof place of goodness! I was thrilled regardless of being alone, but then we met two older ladies that would be staying at the lodge for a couple of days, so I wasn’t too worried anymore.

The first day, we went out in the motorized canoe on a search for pink dolphins in the lagoon…. We didn’t see any, apparently because the water in the river was 7-meters higher than normal, so it would be really difficult to see a lot of the wildlife. I arrived at the very end of rainy season as well, so it started POURING down rain on the way back to the lodge, and continued to beat down for the rest of the night (SORRY about your canoe trip and camping in tents boys! Haha). The raindrops were insane, and the bubbles they made in the river entertained me for a while!

The second day we rowed a canoe up-river for a couple of hours and found a bunch of different monkeys, went piranha fishing (with a lack of luck, apparently AGAIN because of the river height, but I think it was because my guide sucked and he just gave up too easily), we also went into a bunch of smaller rivers which were filled with trees and vines and LOTS and lots of green things!

On the third day, we hiked up into the highlands.. another fail, no animals really. Then, we went on a night hike which was ANOTHER fail, no tarantulas, no snakes, no scary things, we saw some piranhas in the waters, and the back of an armadillo running away from us.

The fourth day was spent around the lowlands for about 3 and a half hours. It was one of the funnest parts of the trip. Our guide had to chop down almost everything in our paths with a machete, so we could get through. We went through black water (which contains electric eels and anacondas) that was up to our belly buttons… it was definitely a bit unnerving, but he hadn’t told us what was in the water until we got out of it (we were in it for at least an hour total) but I KNEW that’s where the Anacondas had to be, so I was looking for them the whole time we were sludging through it all.

All in all, the trip was great. I mainly enjoyed just being amongst all of the trees, birds and monkeys. The coolest animals we saw were definitely the 8-different types of monkeys and the Macaws. We saw the worlds smallest monkeys, black monkeys, red howlers, squirrel monkeys.. and where there was one monkey there were normally about 10 others swinging away through the vines and on the limbs… I was in heaven watching them gallivanting around!

The bus ride back went five thousand times smoother because we used a different bus company, it was non-stop and we didn’t pick-up random people along the scary roads at night.


$10.00 – teeth cleaning
$1.75 – almuerzo (fresh pineapple juice, soup, beef, rice, beans, pineapple)
$3.00 – haircut (no joke)


Yup, the math is done right! Insane huh?!

I knew I didn’t want to pay the insane US prices to have my teeth cleaned in the states, and I didn’t want to try to have them cleaned in Korea again (I had a SCALING done instead, which is what old people normally have done, and it was soooo painful)… so I walked into a random dentist office downtown and had it done in the snap of a finger… it was definitely a bit different than usual, but it got the job done!

The almuerzo was super cheap, yet still good (so long as you aren’t too picky of a person!).

The haircut was quite fabulous and the lady even ‘styled’ it afterwards… I was definitely seriously nervous the entire time it was being done.. and just praying (since I told her in my horrid Spanish that I wanted just the dead ends trimmed off and maybe a bit more style.. as in layers).. I got all of the above, PLUS she didn’t butcher my bangs (which was by far the part I least wanted to watch!

Quito Goodness

I now love Quito.. at first, I would definitely say I was unsure about how long I could spend in this city!

Dana left with her Dad to go on a trek for 5-days, so I was left to figure out what to do with myself.

On the first day, I wandered around the quaint streets of Quito for a good 5-hours.. and even then, I wasn’t really finished. I visited about 4 different Cathedrals, all of which were very different, the Compania being absolutely covered with gold on the inside, the others being your typical city historical cathedral, and he Basilica. The Basilica was awesome, everyone had told me about the ‘scary’ steps up to the clock towers.. but for some reason I imagined just a bunch of tiring stairs that lead up to them… wrong-o! After walking up about 8-flights of stairs, I thought I was finished… not impressed with the view or the ‘scary’ walk up because the stairs were all indoors. Then, when I was about to leave, I saw some people climbing the wall in the very far distance… well they weren’t really climbing the wall, they were going up a ladder.. I just couldn’t tell because I was an entire sanctuary away from them. It was wicked, they have a wood ‘bridge’ that allows you to walk on top of the roof-ish of the sanctuary (so you can see how the rounded ceilings are made). At the end of this walkway, there is a ladder that heads up to the top of the church, that part wasn’t too scary.. it was the next two ladders that were a bit sketchier because it was windy outside and it felt like you could easily just be blown off the ladder. But the view was gorgeous and I could see the El Banesillo angel statue that I had just visited… happy days!

Before I visited any of the cathedrals, I wandered around the small historic super cute streets around Centro Historico… I would have been satisfied just doing that the entire 5 hours! But, in the car when we had arrived in the Center, I noticed a huge angel statue on the top of a hill that was really close to the downtown district, I immediately knew I’d be headed there for some awesome views… I just didn’t really know how to get up there. There were tons of houses located on the hill, and many different stairs leading their way randomly up the hill. So after wandering the streets, I worked my way towards the hill, when at the bottom of it, I couldn’t quite tell exactly where the angel was, so I just started walking up some stairs.. about a quarter of the way up I realized that it probably wasn’t the best of ideas. I was honestly just waiting to get robbed, because I was the only person, let alone white girl, walking up through this neighborhood. BUT luckily, my angel was looking out for me and nothing happened. When I got to the top, I was expecting NO ONE to be there, since I hadn’t hardly seen a single person, but there were heaps of people (mainly in tourist groups).. I found out later that all of the travel books recommend that you take a taxi up because it isn’t safe… welp I didn’t read that part! It was a seriously lucky day, and I was able to see all of the volcanoes and massive snow topped mountains surrounding Quito. It was SO breath taking, and really made Quito seem more special to me than ‘just another city’!!

Hernan (the local from the Galapagos Islands that I hung out with practically the whole time I was there) flew to Quito for a couple of days to hang out with me and to run some work errands. We had a fun time roaming around the city, I think I’ve been to about every neighborhood now, and we also went up the cable cars of the Teleferiqo. He warned me that it was going to be cold when we got to the top and to bring my jacket.. I kind of laughed, but brought it anyways. THANK GOODNESS, we went up to 4,100 Meters within about 15 minutes.. and it was CHILLY! There are trails at the top that you can wander around and get different views of the city way down below and of Volcano Pichincha. We goofed off for a bit, and realized it was definitely time to go when it started to hail and the wind started acting a fool.. it was a bit sketchy on the way down, but we’re still alive!

It was sad to say good-bye to him and pretty much know that I wouldn’t ever see him again.. although I do think I’ll see him again because I plan on coming back to Ecuador and to the Islands…good-byes suck… one of the unlucky things about traveling! It’s making me a stronger person though!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Papa Oso's Panga

I have a new best friend, as always I suppose, his name is Miguel.. he also goes by Amigo, Papito, Mi Amor, Mi Vida, Papa Oso, Papito Oso and Heeeey! He is the cutest fluffiest Ecuadorian on the planet, I just always want to give him a hug. He is one of the crew members on the boat, and he always drives one of the Pangas.. or Dinghies (I thought it sounded funny to call the blog ‘Papa Oso’s Dingy’). Anyways, I always look forward to getting into his Dinghy when we go on an excursion because he’s always smiling and happy.

We snorkeled at Devil’s Crown today, which was W-I-C-K-E-D-L-Y unbelievable!! I saw a school of 9 Eagle Rays swimming way below me and a ton of cool fish, it was like a little Disneyland down there for fish!! Insanely magically intense, loved!

Later, we went through another lava tunnel and picked up letters from Post Office Bay on Floreana Island. Post office Bay has a really cool story, which I’m sure can be Googled. Basically, in the 1700’s pirates started leaving messages on Post Office Bay… they placed a barrel there and the letters were put inside. Then, when ships sailed past the bay, they would stop and pick up the letters that were addressed for their country, and then could leave letters that needed to be sent to a different country. They carry on the tradition now by having the tourists that stop by the island on their cruise to leave a post card in the barrel. I didn’t pick up any to deliver from the USA, but I found one from Korea that I’ll take with me and mail once I get to Korea! Good times : )

This is our last day on the boat, and we’ll be dropped off back at my home of Puerto Ayora tonight after dinner!

What Else Can We Do to the Sea Lions?!

Day 3:
Sea Lions, Albatrosses, & Boobies; OH MY!

Espanola Island was next up for our adventures on the cruise. When we arrived at the deserted beach.. it wasn’t really deserted! The rocks that we thought were scattered about the beach were actually sea lions!! They became the star of the show for at least 20 minutes, while everyone oooh-ed and awww-ed over them and took a million pictures. We started to take some funny pictures with them, like trying to lie down next to a group of them passed out.. it always ended in a scream or two as the lions barked at us to get away from their kids. It was a ton of fun, and one of the funnest things we’ve done!

We ventured about the island and found some Nazca ‘Masked’ Boobies (no blue feet) and some Blue-Footed Boobies. The Boobies did a mating dance, it looked like a sort of sun dance done in circles, and then he would give the girl Booby some sticks. Then, we saw at least 20 Albatrosses. They’re so cute looking, I just wanted to take one home and put it on my farm, they reminded me of a HUGE hen, but cuter! The most amazing thing was standing in the ‘airport’ and watching them fly. They’re so huge, that they need to run and open their wings in order to start flying.. much like an airplane.

Later, we saw some Galapagos Hawks, which looked wicked awesome flying about!

The absolute highlight of our day, was finding a long beach that had hundreds of sea lions basking in the sun. We had 2-½ hours to snorkel in Gardener Bay and play with the sea lions! Snorkeling, I saw a sting ray, two spotted tiger eels, a rainbow fish, needle looking long skinny fish, and a ton of others.. MAGICAL!!!

I can’t even begin to explain all of the things we did with the sea lions, just look at the pictures!!

Oh yea, and Chris saw a sea turtle! (bully)

My First Non-X-Rated Boobies

Day 2:
Attention ladies and GENTLEMAN: it is possible to look at Boobies you can’t touch the Boobies, and you don’t have to be 18. Strange thing is though, these Boobies are blue.. not sure if you’re into that sort of thing, just thought I’d warn ya!

Today was filled with interesting things, Blue-Footed Boobies, sea lions, land iguanas, frigate birds and more huge Tortugas on North Seymour Island!

The Boobies were fabulous, they knew just how to pose.. it was insane, they were not afraid of us one bit! I had heard before coming to the islands, that you’ll basically be stepping over the animals in the trail way.. and it was more than true!! Think about what it’s like when you walk up to a bird back home.. it flies away! Here.. they pose and pose and pose, and whistle, and do mating dances. What fun!

Sea lions are the cutest thing on the planet earth. They’re so clumsy, and the babies look just like puppies! The first one we saw on Seymour was sad though, it’s mom had abandoned it and it was fending for itself.. the guide didn’t think it would last much more than a couple more weeks. He also said that the Galapagos scientists won’t help it, because it is not dying because of something ‘man’ did.. it was just so sad, I’m still praying for that baby sea lion!

Land iguanas are ginormous, and nothing really new to me. My favorite neighbors growing up always had some sort of lizard as a pet… and they had one iguana for YEARS! I remember hypnotizing it and always wanting to take it for a walk. These iguanas are a bit different, orange and green, HUGE, and not afraid of you at all!! They’re pretty wicked to see in the wild!

We also walked through some lava tunnels and saw some huge craters created by lava flow on Santa Cruz Island.

Cruisin' the Galapagos - Eden Yacht

Day 1:
I left Puerto Ayora to meet the cruise at Baltra Airport at 7AM.. waited around for a couple of hours, and finally we were off and ready to explore! First thought, holy crap my first cruise! Second thought, this boat is gorgeous! Third thought, lets get this party started!

We were shown our rooms, I’m sharing one with a girl from San Francisco.. great roomie! We had lunch, then set off for a beach on the opposite side of Santa Cruz. On the way, we passed a school of dolphins.. I THINK I’ve gone dolphin watching before.. but I’m pretty sure I was too young to really remember it, and I DEFINITELY didn’t see as many as we had just seen.. there were at least 30! We also saw a shark circling around, looking for food. I took a deep breath, and thought.. woah, I’ve been on this boat for 15 minute and have already seen two things I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing in my entire life.. this is going to be a good next 4 days!

On the beach, we saw a Heron trying to eat a baby sea turtle… well, it did eat the baby sea turtle :( . We thought it was just playing with a fish at first, and then realized that it was trying to crack the turtle’s shell by biting it. Finally, after a couple of minutes of me begging the guide to let me scare the Heron to drop the turtle (“it’s just nature Paula, blah blah”), it finally gave up and swallowed that sucker! The turtle was still putting up a little fight in its throat, but it eventually stopped and we all said our “aw’s” and searched for other amazements of nature.

We didn’t see much else, just marine iguanas, a pink flamingo, cool crabs, and some fish while snorkeling!

That night, we chilled out, had a yummy dinner and I immediately went to sleep because the boat was rocking FAR too much for me to stay awake comfortably!!

OH, and I can’t find my motion sickness medicine, fabs :). It isn’t too bad yet though!

Livin' La Vida Local

I’ve had an amazing experience on the Galapagos Islands so far.. well I’ve only been on 2 of the islands, Baltra & Santa Cruz.. lived on Santa Cruz for 6 days, seem to have a boyfriend and a handful of friends already, been a few feet away from the President, watched the President sing with a huge band & act a fool, and I’ve dropped it to the suelo in La Panga. I think I’m pretty much a local now, I’ve actually had 2 people ask me if I live here.. I’m not sure why, seems like a strange question to ask.. there are a lot of foreigners that live here, so I suppose that’s why.

I honestly do feel like I live here, my friends here are great.. all very different.. for once, I’ve been meeting nothing but locals (still though, only guys).. and for some reason only one out of three speaks English well! I went an entire day the other day speaking only Spanish, it was EXHAUSTING! It’s obviously much better, but I’m still uncomfortable talking to new people unless they have a super chill personality.. then I don’t get so nervous.

Seeing the President have a fun time on stage was interesting to say the least. I couldn’t help but watch him and have a good time. Some people love him and thought it was great, some people hate him and think he’s an embarrassment to the country.. especially when doing something like that!

I went to dinner with Juan, a super funny 60-year old ex-chilean party animal friend/customer of Hernan’s on Friday night. It was… interesting! Especially since he can’t speak English!! We managed it though, and I never got bored once, even after an hour and a half. I ordered a quesadilla, and he ordered freaking lobster! I don’t know if it’s because of how I grew up, but I always try to order the cheapest most economical thing on the menu.. even if I’m with someone I know is rolling in the money.. I can’t help it!! That’s just who I am! When he saw my quesadilla come out.. I guess he hadn’t realized that that was what I had ordered, he made a face.. and said I had to eat some of his lobster. At one point he even told the waitress that my quesadilla was ugly!! It was pretty funny, we had 3 Caiprinas in an hour and a half, and whenever we would try to talk and couldn’t understand each other, we would just roll our eyes, pick up our drink, and cheers! It was good fun.. followed by PECAN PIE!

We were going to go out dancing after and some friends were going to meet up, but it was obviously too early, and he said he had to take me back to Hernan because we are ‘enamorado’… I got mad and said that he was supposed to salsa with me (I had heard he was awesome!), he said ‘No, I’m an old man and I’m going to go to sleep. You need to be with Hernan.’… WHATEVER JUANITO! Hasta manana.

When Hernan closed the restaurant, we went to get our dance on at Bongo. The music sucked and I was ready to bounce.. when Hernan said ‘LOOK! Juanito!!’… and oh my dear gracious, Juanito was getting his groove on with a girl about my age I think. He’s like practically the age of my grandfather, yet a perv on the dance floor!! It was quite hilarious, and I just praised Jesus that Hernan was with me.. because it was a crazy hilarious sight. Of course I danced with Juanito... how could I give up that comical moment in my life?!

Hernan and I left, and went to La Panga which is the non-touristy, latino filled club. Pretty sure I was the only gringa.. and loving every minute of it! Salsa, meringue.. loved the regaeton, reminded me of Montanita! The cops shut down the clubs one by one, we hopped along the street to try to find the last open one..

….but by-golly Galapagos, there were no more!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mi Vida - Purple Trees

Today I walked into a tienda and searched through an amazing collection of sunglasses that HAD to have been made in the 80s.. literally, they were all scratched up and worn, there is no way they are reproductions. I found a pair I liked, $3.. way too expensive, but you don’t find sunglasses like that too often (and you definitely don’t find any cheaper than $3 on the Galapagos!). They also had amazing hot pink hats that say ‘Galapagos’, the kind I’m sure you wore in family vacation photos way back when… pictures to come, I’m sure!

Anyways, in this store I met my new best friend. I paid him for the hat & glasses, and I only needed $2 back.. he asked if I needed change (as in change-change.. hard to come by around Ecuador!).. I just needed $2 back, so I thought it was a bit weird.. but said okay. He tells me he wants to practice his English, so he counded in FIVES all the way to $2.. there were a couple of dimes, mainly nickels, and 4 quarters. The last quarter was Connecticut (I believe).. one of the ‘new’ state quarters.. the one with the ginormous tree on it, my favorite! He continued to tell me that he immediately felt a good energy when I walked into the store, and how he could feel my love for life and nature, blah blah. Then he said, are you busy?! I have a gift for you… I was like oh crap, don’t tell me I got myself into another latino love situation. But it wasn’t like that, he told me to close my eyes and take deep breaths, think of some form of water ( I chose a lake, because it reminded me of home ), and to imagine rain falling forming the lake. I did all of the above, and he placed my arms across my chest, (still breathing and calming), and THEN he cracked my back ALL THE WAY DOWN, practically each vertebrae. Even the chiropractors that I visited for a year couldn’t do it that successfully, it was AMAZING! He told me I reminded him of a tree, which is ironic because my favorite part of nature is trees. We literally talked for hours after that.. about the world, energies, auras, it reminded me a lot of the Paulo Coehlo books that I’ve read. I haven’t had an intellectually stimulating conversation like that in a while, it was extremely refreshing!