Friday, October 31, 2008

First day in Cusco, Peru

Just got to Cusco, met Jaseon and Wayjam (explanation to follow) and experienced a halloween like no other. For those of you who have been to London and experienced the pigeons at Trafalgar was like that. Only the pigeons were little kids reaching into your pockets yelling ¨Halloween!!¨and taking candy. Pictures to follow. Like everything in South America, all sights are bittersweet. Amazingly cute kids dressed up, but some are just a little too eager for the candy, and that includes the 40 year old women that will join in the mob for a piece.

Just a quick post while the rest of the group is crashing early. Jaseon and Wayjam traveled 24 hours and are guarding against altitude sickness (we´re at 3,300 meters and they had a bad experience in lhasa a year ago) and Cecilia, well she can sleep any time.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Last day in Quito, Ecuador.

The plan was to head to the coast after the jungle but after eating some bad chicken we spent a few days going back and forth between the bathroom and the bed instead. Will hit up a beach in Uruguay instead. Decided to stay in Quito for the remainder of our stay in Ecuador and we have covered a couple of museums, amazing churches (including a wedding), the presidential palace, Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), enjoyed some amazing food and view over Quito´s old town at cafe Mosaico. If ever in Quito, don´t miss it. We have also learned past tense and a bunch of verbos irregulares so we no longer have to constantly speak in present tense. "Yesterday we eat at restaurant" just doesn´t sound good. Last night we also went to a really cool wine bar, Pobre Diablo, and listened to a Latin jazz band and had too many glasses of red wine for Spanish lessons at 8.30 this morning. Spending today packing our (growing) back packs and running errands before our 7 am flight to Cusco, Peru tomorrow where we are meeting up with Wei-Jean and Jason. Can´t wait. The Inka trail is next. Keep your fingers crossed that we make it. Should have spent more time at that gym back in Seattle, what´s it called again?

Inside La Compania de Jesus. Seven tons of gold was
used to gild the walls, ceilings and altar

Don´t visit the botanical garden in October,
the flowers are dead and they still charge you $3.50

Brad managing to balance an egg on a nail at the Museo
Solar Inti Nan (ekvatorn)

Quito with Cotopaxi in the background

Brad checking out Guyasamin´s amazing art
at astounding Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man)

Casa de president Carrea

Me where the last version of the new constitution
was drafted.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ecuadorian Jungle

We´ve heard alot about busses in Ecuador enough to make the decision to be wusses and not take them at night, or not go to the north by the Columbian boarder. If you are going to get hijacked, it seems a night bus in FARQ country is the best place for it. So, we decided against the more adventurous jungle trek which takes you deeper into the jungle to see more potentially deadly fauna (and quite possibly flora for all I know). To get there requires either a night bus into FARQ country, a plane ride (mucho dinero), or a night stay in some FARQ/Oil country outpost that the guide book didn´t speak to highly of. We opted for the trek which is described by the tour company as being for travelers "who seek a little more comfort in their rainforest experience". I like to think that by "a little more comfort" they mean "not getting all your crap taken from you at knife point by Columbian rebels in the middle of the night".

So that decided, we went to the main bus terminal to get our tickets for the trip. Our spanish is coming along nicely (Cecilia speaks in all transactions of any importance), and we purchased our tickets for the 7am bus, assuring ourselves a seat. Upon completion of the transaction the so far gentle Ecuadorian ticket lady glared at us, arched over the counter, wide eyed and told us sternly to watch our bags in the morning and not to get robbed. At least that was what we think she said. We´re not entirely sure if she meant just at the bus station or on the bus as well. If it was the later, it doesn´t serve as a very good marketing material for her bus company, but that´s probably why she waited until after the tickets were paid for.

Friday morning, a 6 hour bus ride from the Quito highlands, down to the jungle. I´m not sure how busses make more than about 3 of these round trips a piece because almost half the roads were unpaved and extremely bumpy. The scenery was remarkable, as around every turn there was another view of the expanse of jungle below us. We arrived in Tena, the closest town to the jungle lodge we booked and made the short trip to the lodge via taxi. All taxis are 4WD pickups due to the road conditions noted above. Conditions are so bad that one night we were there, protesters took to the roads and were throwing rocks and shaking passing cars in an effort to raise awareness to their conditions. Apparently money does flow into the region from the petro companies, but rather than use it to improve roads and schools, local officials are pocketing it. Hence the protests.

Highlights included "canyoning" which amounts to climbing up narrow cravases in the rocks. I´ve never seen Cecilia so petrified, the view from the lodge while sitting in hammocks having beers, eating fat white grubs, and the last day of climbing waterfalls. Here´s a collection of photos. Oh and we made it back without being robbed ;)

(Roads on the way to Tena...this is a bus coming the other way)

(Enjoying the hammocks, the view and a beer)

(Reading...I´m plowing through books like its my the expense of my ukulele practice)

(It´s humid in the jungle)

(Queen of the Jungle)

(Never seen my wife as scared or dirty, but she made it up the wall)

("Sexy lips" of the jungle)

(Collection of insects/spiders we encountered at the lodge)

(Mother tarantula living by the staff quarters...protecting a nest of 20 eggs. Glad we were here now and not a couple months later)

(I think once they get to a certain size you can´t call them grasshoppers anymore)

(In the house of an indigenous tribe with our guide Alex in the cammo shorts)

(How to Eat Grubs pt 1: Collect them from the forrest and put them in a giant palm leaf)

(How to Eat Grubs pt 2: Cook in fire for 10 - 15 min)

(How to Eat Grubs pt 3: Remove from fire)

(How to Eat Grubs pt 4: Try not to vomit on your hosts. Most difficult step by far)

(True story: That kid gave C a beetle which she found to be alive and promptly dropped it. He picked it up, said, "Comida" (food), and just as promptly, peeled off the legs and ate it. That´s the beetle in his hands there.)

(Short hike from the lodge)

(Fruit used as a natural paint/dye)

(Said fruit in action on our faces)

( Da da da DAAAAAAAAA da da daaaaaaaaa. Da da da DAAAAAA da da DA DAA DAAA!! (Indiana Jones theme))

(Cecilia in a waterfall)

(Brad in a waterfall)

(Water hurts dropped from that height)

(Both of us in a waterfall)

Monday, October 13, 2008

BEST POST YET!! The Market and Futbol!!

So my trip has been made. We saw Ecuador play Chile in a World Cup qualifying match. But first Cecilia says I have to blog about the market we went to on Saturday.
Otavalo is a little town 2 hrs north of Quito, reached by bus. Rather than go all the way to the south end of town to the bus terminal, Pancho said we could flag the bus down on the highway. Perfect. We do that all the time in Seattle. Just wait on the 520/I-5 onramp and flag the first bus to Bellevue that comes along. So we were all prepared for that. Pancho drove us to the highway and helped us flag the bus. He waited by the curb as we pulled off and we waved out the window like we were on our way to the first day of school.
(On the bus to Otavalo)
Then there was the question of where to get off. The bus we chose just dropped us off in much the same manor in which it picked us up: on the highway, barely stopping. We managed to catch another bus into town and made our way to South America´s largest craft market.

(Fish fry Ecuadorian Style)

(Spices in bags)

(Cecilia trolling for treasures we desperately need and definately have room for in our bags)

We left telling our host that we were most interested in seeing the market and would probably not buy much at all....

(Cecilia holding up all the stuff we weren´t going to buy)

That´s just what didn´t fit in our backpack. Now comes the task of figuring out how to get alpaca blankets out of South America with our limited baggage space. Cecilia is convinced it can be done.

The Otavaleños are an interesting group. For the most part, folks seemed to be doing well in terms of health, etc. Of course there were a few beggars wandering around, but thats not out of the ordinary, as a blind man was navigating the small aisles in the fútbol match the next day. Aparently, the have maintained thier indiginous culture while establishing an economy based on these crafts that has allowed them to gain political power and elect the mayor and other provincial posts. So that´s good.

On to the important stuff. The next day, we went to the Stadio Olympico to watch Ecuador take on Chile. In World Cup Qualifying, Ecuador was 7th, with Chile in 5th, 4 teams from the region qualify. Sharing a group with the likes of Brazil and Argentina makes the remaining 2 spots very competitive. As there are no assigned seats beyond sections, we were told we should arrive early to stake out seats. Apparently early in this case means 3 hours before the match. So there we were, sitting on our concrete seats 3 hours before kickoff, ominous clouds looming on the horizon. It didn´t take long for those clouds to arrive and bring the rain that came down on and off the the entire 5 hours we were there. It didn´t seem to dampen anyone´s spirits though. With 2 hours to go, the "general" section unfurled a giant flag that covered the entire section.

("Ecuador...My Country")

There was no shortage of sights and sounds while we waited for kickoff...

(Airport is RIGHT in the center of town)

(In a show of hospitality, the home team allowed the opposing team´s tunnel to deflate...while they were in it)

(The cops were running low on TP, so the fans kindly gave them some of thier extra)

($2 beers beat the crap out of $8 beers at Qwest of Safeco fields)

Finally came the national anthems....

The game itself was great. I´m sure there were more than a few puzzled Ecuadorians wondering who the hell this gringo was shouting at the top of his lungs in English at the ref´s, the opposing team, and directing the Ecuadorian team to push the ball to the wings and stop working everything through the middle of the pitch. There was no shortage of action in a game that saw 3, count them 3 red cards. 2 for Chile and 1 for Ecuador. Even playing almost the entire game with a man advantage, the Ecuadorians only manged a 1-0 victory (primarily b/c they refused to take my advice and spread the field). In the end, they got the 3 points they needed to take them to 5th in the tables. Big game coming up on Wed against Venezuala in Caracas. Hopefully C and I will find a raucus bar somewhere to take that one in.

If you made it to the end of this marathon post, thank you for indulging. Upcoming highlightsthis week will be doing nothing, saving the money we spent in Otavalo, and preparing for our trip to the Jungle this weekend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We have developed a routine which includes desayuno at 8 am, Spanish lessons with private teacher Jaime between 8.30 11.30 am at our house, almuerzo with Pancho around 1 pm, siesta, homework, trip to town for beer/coffee etc and checking out a museum or new neighborhood and then I beat Brad playing cards while having some vino tinto.

Apparently Spanish is easier than Swedish. Brad managed to talk through a whole transaction at the store after two classes. Took him a year to do that in Sweden. We are way passed una cerveza but just got to adjectivo posesivo y pronombres objetivos and I am a bit confused for the moment though. Staying with a family is the really the best lesson. We have to speak Spanish during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Watch TV and (attempt) to read the newspaper, play with Pancho´s sister´s grand kids who are happy to correct our Spanish while practicing their English with us. Also love the fact that we have traditional Ecuadorian food everyday which is delicious! Ceviche made with trout (forell en Suecia), different soups everyday and amazing juices including my new favourite Tomate de Arbol (Tree tomato).

There are huge class divisions in Quito and it's bizarre to one minute pass men dressed in expensive suits and the next watching a seven-year old carrying a baby while trying to sell you some candy or shine your shoes. We are getting a good insight to a middle class Ecuadorian home. Big house in the new part of the city with armed guards at the corners, car, live-in maid and kids taking all their classes in English.

They are talking about the debate and election on the news but in Spanish, ahhh wish we could watch it tonight. So curios. Wei and Jason, do you realize we will be starting the Inca Trail the day of the election? Brad put his ballot in the mail yesterday...

Monday, October 6, 2008

A few days in Quito

So we´ve had a chance to dip our toes in Quito a bit over the last few days. Managed to get a little insiders tour from a gal from NY who was finishing up her orientation in Quito before she headed out to the coast to teach English. She had been staying with our host family for a month. She provided us with lots of good info and some scary stories. Needless to say, we won´t be taking any night buses in Ecuador. Something about the words,"high-jacking", "robbery" and "stabbing" that don´t sit well with us.

Saturday, we ventured into the old town and checked out all the old churches. Around every corner is another church from the 1600´s (and a nice lady telling you to wear your backpack on your front). Some pictures here. The most impressive sight was from the belltower of the Basillica del Voto Nacional. After climbing the belltower, you can cross the main church area (I know there´s a word for this mom, sorry) on a rickety wooden footbridge (See pic of Cecilia) and climb the tower. I was the only one to make this climb while C talked with some gals from the UK. Views of the city were amazing. In the background is Quito´s answer to the virgin on the hill in Rio, the Virgin de la Panecillo.

Sunday, we spent with our host family and studied up on our Español. Pancho (see pic of me and him below) took us on a Sunday drive around the city. With all the hills, there is no shortage of buena vistas over the city.

Coming highlights will (hopefully) include World Cup Qualifying match between Chile and Ecuador this Sunday, and a trip to the Amazon rainforest next weekend, followed by a trip to the coast the weekend after.

Adios! B

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Quito - we made it

Scroll down for English;)

Efter 15 timmars resande och snabbplugg av halsningfraser pa spanska anlande vi i Quito sent igarkvall. Pancho var som utlovat varldens trevligaste man och han hamtade oss pa flygplatsen vilket vi var valdigt glada over. Spanskakunskaperna ar smatt bristfalliga men det ar otroligt vad en termin pa medborgarskolan kan gora! Tyska och franska fraser dyker upp titt som tatt men basic spanish hanger fortfarande med. Efter att hjartklappningen, flamtandet och huvudvarken (pa grund av den hoga hojden som Quito ligger pa) lagt sig var v i redo for frukost med Pancho lagat av hushallerskan Soilita. Smatt forvanade nar det bjods pa Nescafe med varm mjolk (inget vatten) i kaffelandet nummer ett!

Vi hade varldens tur och traffade Cara fran New York som bott i vardfamiljen i en manad. Detta var hennes sista dag och hon agnade den till att visa oss runt i stan, hur man tar vagnen och massa saker man inte ska gora etc. Allt vi last och blivit varnade for verkar vara sant sa vi haller hart i vaskorna och lar inte ta nagra nattbussar i det har landet. Deras blev hi jacked forra veckan pa en langresa till kusten. Ej kul. Men alla e supervanliga och det kanns bra att bo i en familj. Speciellt nar dom har tva hundar, varav en ar den storsta Schafer jag sett; Dragu. Han ska tydligen ha raddat manga studenter fran bade det ena och det andra.

Imorgon ar det forsta spanskalektionen. Ska traffa Jaime pa Coffee Tree (ni som varit i Quito vet antagligen exakt var det ar). Pancho har erbjudit sig att komma med for att hjalpa till med upplagget av hur manga dagar i veckan etc vi vill ta lektioner da Jaime inte kan nagon engelska eller svenska heller for den delen.

Varmt och skont har. Ikvall blir det middag hemma med Pancho som tydligen har en systerdotter i Stockholm och varit i Goteborg for att kopa en Volvo till sin bror som bor i Italien. Varlden e liten. Vi planerar en 5 dagars djungeltripp om nagon vecka och aven en tur till kusten. Det blir nog till Esmeralda (med en dagbuss). Camilla eller Karin, vad hette den guiden ni akte med igen? Inte for att det ar brist pa organisatorer har men....

K, Brad is completely beat after 15 hours of traveling, head ache due to the high altitude, breakfast at 7.30 and a full day of walking. Oh and did I mention the large beer at lunch? So he is too tired to take care of the English version.

We made it and were extremely happy to see a smiling Pancho meeting us at the gate. Truly one of the nicest people I´ve met. We have our own room and bathroom. After all the horror stories we seriously thought we would get robbed as soon as we got off the plane so it feels nice to be in a house, guarded by the biggest German shepherd we have seen in addition to the locked gates and broken glass bottles spread out along the high walls in case somebody tries to climb in. Oh, and we are next to a day care!

We got really lucky and met Cara, a girl from New York, who has stayed with the host family for a month and she spent her last day showing us around town and told us all the do´s and don´ts. Everyone is really friendly here and we are excited about exploring the city. First spanish lesson is tomorrow at 10 am. My one semester of Spanish has actually paid off but we have a lot to learn before we head to the Saturday market to bargain for prices.

Planning a 5 day trip to the djungle probably next week and then another to the coast. We will be taking a day bus after learning that everything the guidebook said about the night buses is true. Cara's group of World Teach friends{s bus got hijacked on a trip last week...

Seattlites- thought we were in coffee coutry of the world so imagine our surprise when we were served Nescafe with warm milk (no water) for breakfast:)

So I guess we will miss the debate tonight, maybe we will hit up a bar and watch a soccer game instead.

Hasta Luego!