Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good Night Quito

Well, tonight is our last night in Quito. Tomorrow we head homne via Lima Peru and San Salvador, El Salvador, hopig to arrive around 10;30PM

We had a great trip, meeting lots of people from London, Oxford, US, Canada and New Zealand (now ih London heading to Abu Dabi). We hope to meet up with some of them again in the future, but only time will tell.

Last night we had a farewell dinner with Donald from Chillawack, Elizabeth and Nikki from London areas ) and Oxford) and Anna and Grant form New Zealand.

Today we visited the old city of Quito with Anna and Grant. They then flew to Lima to continue on with their travels until mid April.

Tonight, Michael and I ate at an all you can eat and drink Tapas restaurant - the food was great!!!

Tomorrow will be an early morning and a very long day - but we are both reayd to return home.

See you all soon!!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Magic of Galapagos

Well, here we are again back in Quito after an amazing trip through the Galapagos Islands.

We took our flight to Baltra on Jan. 27, then a quick ferry ride followed by an hour bus ride and we were at the dock to embark on our boat - GAP Adventures III.

There were 16 of us on the boat with a crew of 8 including our guide for the 8 days, Pablo.

Our first day we spend some time in the highlights of Santa Cruz where we saw giant land tortoises in their natural habitat. These creatures are huge, weighing some 600lbs. We were lucky enough to observe 2 of these giants mating (tortoise porn) as it is currently their mating season.

I´m not going to go day by day on our trip as that would take forever. So, I´ll touch on the highlights.

Everyday we were up for breakfast at 7AM and ashore by 8AM. Each day except 1 included 2 land excursions and 2 snorkeling trips.

The land excursions were on several islands, some inhabited by a few people, others only by reptiles and sea lions. The landscape varied greatly from island to island. Some were colourful with red, green and orange ground cover, along with gigantic cacti sprouting about. Others were mountainous with half erupted volcano craters remaining. Some had white sand beaches, others red, black and even green!

From land iguanas to marine iguanas (little dinosaurs), to beautiful frigate birds with their fully engulfed red pouches below their chins trying to find their perfect mates. Blue footed boobies with their blue feet diving into the sea - amazing creatures.

Many sea lions, most babies still nursing on their mothers while the big bulls patrol the waters in front. Tiny Galapagos penguins in their little tuxedos, sit and watched us drift by while we all snapped pictures. Then, for a treat, in the water they jumped and swam by us looking for food.

Snorkeling brought a whole other world. White tipped Galapagos sharks, manta rays, and colour fish all swam around us as we floated atop the ocean observing the wonders below. To see a giant sea turtle eating off the rocks and then swim by you without a glance is an amazing sight. And the sea lions, swimming by, looking at your masks and chasing sharks as they go - amazing!!!

To go on would take forever so we´ll stop here. We´ll try to post some new pictures and then share the rest of our experiences when we get home.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Day of Hiking

Well, today started out a little later so we were able to sleep in a bit. Our taxi driver from yesterday, Luis, was our guide today for approx. 5 hours of sightseeing.

We started off heading out of own to Cuicocha Lake. This lake formed in the crater of a volcano that last erupted some 3000 yrs ago. Now you can hike around the top of the crated and observe some breathtaking views.

At it´s highest point, you are some 4000 meters above sea level. Michael and Luis hiked to the top, while I hiked to about 3500 m (not only do I need to continue paying for my gym membership, but I need to start using it!!!). Regardless of how high you hiked, the views were amazing. From there you could see 2 other Volcanoes (or the bases anyway due to cloud cover), and several towns in the distance. Much flora and fauna - however no animals as they reside on the far side. We did see however the Andean Condor soaring through the sky - how magnificant it was - and HUGE!

After about 3 hours, we headed back down and then went to Cotachachi - a local town known for it´s leather goods. As you strolled down the streets, all you could smell was leather - so we shopped. Michael bought a new wallet and belt and I bought a beautiful leather jacket (for $65).

After this, we headed to the Condor Park, a site where many birds of prey are on display in large outdoor cages. They were amazing, especially the Andean Condor - to see these birds up close was amazing. Their talens were huge - certainly not something I would want coming after me!!!

After 5 hours of hiking and sightseeing, it was time to return to our place for a siesta - well needed, let me tell you.

So, now here we are in an Internet cafe updating our blog, while 2 local children run around us laughing and chasing each other.

Tonight we may have dinner at Ali Shungu - a place we were looking at staying, but no decisions have been made.

Tomorrow is back to the bus terminal and a 2 hr ride back to Quito. We hope to have some time for sightseeing before meeting with our group and heading to the Galapagos on Tuesday morning.

We will try to make one more update tomorrow, but if not, we´ll update on 04FEB2009 after our return to the main land.

Adios for now

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Market Day in Otavalo

Before we start, there is a new picture at the bottom of the page

Well, this morning we awoke at 6AM to head out to the famed animal market. After walking sveeral blocks, over an old bridge and into a fair grounds, we finally arrived - to the squeals of piglets, guinea pigs and cows.

We wandered through, carefully so as not to get in the middle of a pig fight and also so we wouldn´t slip in the "mud" - if thats what it was.

There were pens of chicks, hens, guinea pigs and unfortunately puppies and kittens - not for consumption though. One thing we did notice is the animals are well taken care of - almost on every corner there is a veterinary clinic or pet shop.

After strolling through the sounds and smells for about 45 minutes, it was time to head to the main market. When they say big, they mean BIG!!!

On every corner, on every speck of concrete there was a stall, selling anything from spices, to scarves, to Alpaca blankets.

Beautiful colours and textures - just amazing. It was so big we actually felt a little overwhelmed at times as you didn´t know where you were and all there was was a sea of colours and people. But it was great - like nothing either of us had seen before. So of course, we had to shop!

We ended up buying an Alpaca blanket for home and a few other small things. If we could have reserved a shipping container we could have brought more!!!

After about 3 hours of wandering (by the way the sun came out and it got hot - Otavalo is almost on the equator so we had to be careful of the sun) - we went back to our room, unloaded out stash and hailed a taxi for Peguchi.

Peguchi is about 10 minutes outside of town and all inhabitants are indiginous. Also, it is know for its Master Weavers. Other than that, there is nothing else there - almost literally!!! Except of course for the famed Waterfall.

We trudged uphill for about 20 minutes and then came to the entrance to the small park area. A nominal donation and we were in. The waterfall was quite beautiful - with a very refreshing spray as it plumetted down.

After wandering for about 2 hours, our taxi driver returned (as promised) and brought us back. Now we are here updating our blog and getting hungry as there were no restaurants (that we could find) in Peguchi!

Ciao for now and we´ll update again tomorow after our hike around Cuicotcha Lake.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In Otavala

Well, we are now in Otavalo. Our flight was uneventful (the way we like it). A taxi ride to the main bus terminal in Quito and then fr $2.60 each, a 2.5 hr bus ride through the mountains t Otavalo.

The weather is great - hovers around 20C most of the time. When we landed in Quito this morning it was 12C. It has rained a bit during the night and a few sprinkles during the day but nothing much.

Our place in Otavalo is very quaint - nice open court yard with many plants and birds flying about. Out room is small, but nice and clean.
We ventured out to a great little restaurant called Mi Otavalito - local place where they serve very good Ecuadorian food.

We then wandered arund in preparation for our bust market day tomorrow. We found where the animal narket will be held so that will be our first stop tomorrow morning at arund 7AM. After that will be the handicraft, etc markets throughout the town. They say you cannot find a piece of sidewalk on Saturdays due to the market stalls - so it should be fun! Depending on how tired we are, we may head to Peguche Waterfall for a hike in the afternoon.

Sunday we plan on heading to Cuicocha lake to hike for the day- they say the views are out of this world with snow capped volcanoes, lakes formed when the ice within the volcano melted and much more.

Well, that´s it for now - we´ll likely be able to update a couple times mre before heading to the Galapagos so stay tuned.

We are also trying to upload some pictures (but we´re not sure if it will work or not!)

Ciao for now

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In Cuenca, city of churches

Well, we arrived in Cuenca on Wednesday morning, the hostel owner came out and pick us up and another guest to the hostel. Steve and I decided to explore the many churches of Cuenca, what a site of churches you can see, as they said walk a few blocks you will come to a church. Some are so magnificient and some are small and old. Then we decide to explore some of the Incan site found in Cuenca. The first one was "Todos Santos" means "all Saints" with the limited spanish I know. It was more of an aquafur. The next site is also an aquafur with a mix of of ceremony and small Incan village with a terrace agriculture site. This site was build on a slope of a hill and the centre bank of Ecuador is next to it.

Banos the sulfur hot spring for some relaxation. The hot spring pool is not the same as in Costa Rica. They are just like a swimming pool fill with hot spring water. We spend about 2 hours there and we have dinner there. Before our dinner even got started we have our first black out. Eating in the dark was fun. But the lights came on in about half an hour. Steve had surf and turf and I had chicken.

Well Steve got sick today (gave him some Ecuadorian honey herbal tea, I think that took care of it), so we did not do much. He thinks it was one piece of shrimp from the surf and turf! We just walk around Cuenca and took more pictures and re-visited their main church. This time we went in and as usual their stain glass art work is beautiful.

We are back at the hostel now Steve is resting and feeling a little better. Tomorrow we are leaving for Otavalo, at 8:15 flight and two hours bus ride.

Till the next update..

Oh yeah - Steven finally got to have his Cuy - for those who do not know, it is Guinea Pig (yes the kind you all had as a kid) - it was very good!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ecuador at Last

Well, we finally made it. After a very long day on Monday we landed in Lima Peru for the night. As out last connection to Ecuador was cancelled (we kno\ew this time though), TACA put us up at the Sheraton Lima - a beautiful hotel with amazing food. Although we were not there for long, the rest was well appreciated.

Today was another early day as we were picked up at the hotel at 7AM for a 10:50AM flight. After a 2 hr flight, we finally landed in Quito - and to a very pleasant surprise I must say.

Immediately after paying for our taxi to downtown, a very pleasant lady approached me and said "excvuse me senor, are you Steven Latanville?" - This I was not expecting. The lovely lady, her husband and daughter all came to the airport to meet Michael and me because they are the family of Marco - one of the staff who works with me and is from Ecuador originally! They gave us a beautiful leather jewel box and two wool wall handings as a gift. We are hoping to meet them again next week when we return from Otavalo and perhaps have dinner - what a great surprise this was!!!!

Anyway - we are now here in a small cafe doing our first post for our trip. The weather is cloudy, approx. 19C - but very comfortable - NO HUMIDITY!!!! So far no altitude sickness (fingers crossed!!!)

That's about all for now - not very exciting as we have been busy traveling for the last day - but our adventure starts tomorrow when we fly to Cuenca (early in the morning) for 2 days. So stay tuned for more!