Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ecuador to Laguna Beach!

We have had a fabulous week exploring the Ecuador I knew nothing about, and we have so many other places to go when we return. It is a beautiful country, and we have only touched the surface. Hosteling our stays has given us a chance to also meet other fascinating young travelers, most of whom are out in the world looking for ways to make it better and that is so encouraging.
We spent two days in Otavalo, exploring the surrounding villages and shopping at the wonderful market, and then after busing our way back to Quito, we took the bus south to the province of Cotopaxi. We stayed one night at a beautiful Hostel of Papagayo just out of the village of El Chaupa and then worked our way up to the unbelieveable Secret Garden of Cotopaxi where we spent the last three days. We ran out of time for the rest of the touring that I had planned; it is crazy to try to do so much in such a short amount of time.

We have been pampered with delicious homegrown food, an incredible staff, vast vistas beyound belief, and such tranquility and peace from the high elevation, brilliant blues skies, and warm sunshine nurturing our beings. We catch the plane from Quito at 2 PM and arrive tonight [Nov. 17] around 10:05.  I sent just a few pictures to make my contact a little more interesting, but will write about our inland adventures after we arrive home. David's pictures have not been entered yet. Can't believe I will see you tomorrow. YIKES!  WHOOPEE!!!!!!  :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Hi there!  We are in Quito tonight and off to Otavalo tomorrow with a great tour of all the villages, hopefully, on Thursday. We have booked the Secret Garden in Cotopaxi for Saturday and Sunday nights and look forward to hiking and riding horses up there. The highlands are beautiful and the air is fresh and thin after experiencing sea level for a year. It feels great.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tentative Plans for Take-Off

We are almost ready to leave Sidewinder for the interior of Ecuador. Plans are hard to make, given our lack of resources and time, but the following itinerary is what I have written down so far and hope we will be able to experience. We take a bus from La Libertad on Tuesday morning and depart from Guayaquil airport on Tuesday at noon to arrive in Quito at 12:55 PM. There the Secret Garden Hostel will pick us up, and we will immediately find ourselves in Old Town, Quito. We have reservations for two nights, but there is a chance we will go to Otavalo on Wednesday morning so that we can be there for #2 market day. Lonely Planet describes this area so well and we look forward to exploring the weaving and leathering villages surrounding Otavalo. "Behind the broad and bountiful selection of the woolens stalls at the Otavalo market is a living-breathing industry with a culture unto itself. Small indigenous villages outside of Otavalo are home to weaving families Weavers gather in a small dirt-floor room to do their swift, silent work.....There's beauty in the artistry handed down from the generations."

Rodrigo Mora is a well known guide in the area, and he does tours which are supposed to be wonderful.  We may stay in Otavalo or one of the surrounding villages for a day or two and visit Laguna de San Pablo, a very beautiful lake with spectacular views. We will arrange from the Secret Garden to also visit Parque Nacional Cotopaxi and, perhaps, even stay there to do some hiking and exploring. There are also hot springs near Quito which are supposed to be great. Another area in the highlands lead us to Ambato, where Alex's girlfriend, Daniela lives and works, both at the university and her family's bookstore. We hope to make it there on our way to Banos. It has also been suggested to us to do the Quilotoa Loop, visiting the Sunday market in Pujili, the Thursday market in Saquisali, and take in the incredible scenary going from village to village by bus. We don't have that many Thursdays and Sundays, but hopefully we can coordinate our plans to find some of the markets. We must also see the crater lake of Quilotoa, hiking in the area or renting horses. There are some special hostels in Chugchilan that cruisers have highly recommended to us. YOW!  I have so much more to do with the planning, and David is busy getting the stuff done which we both need to do. Bye for now;  I must get to work. I hope to know more before we really leave.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

David Up Close w/ the Locals

Last night was pizza night. A small place on your way to Salinas offers two for one pizzas, and if you don't want to bring any home, 8 people can eat for around $30. It's pretty good pizza also but there is only one drawback, and that is they don't serve beer?? But there is a small market across the street that sells large bottles of "Pilsner" for $.90 and the pizza place doesn't care if you bring it in. So while Suzi and the rest of them ordered the pizza, I headed for the market and returned with enough beer for the crew.

After doing our best to down the pizza and finishing the beer, I returned to the store to cash in the bottles. Outside the store was a group of 20 or so guys sitting and standing around, and as I was leaving the store I was beckoned over to join them. My gringo paranoid radar went up, and I hesitated but only for a moment, as they seemed to really want me to join the group. Some of them were drinking beers, some had cokes and some were just sitting there empty handed but with smiles on their faces. The guy who was the first one to hail me was an older chap with a funny looking Quiksilver hat on and as I walked up, he put his arm around me and started speaking rapid fire Spanish into my ear. Well my Spanish has improved a bit over the last year, but not well enough to understand any of what he was saying, so I quickly made it known that my Spanish was no muy bueno, but that didn't have any effect on this guy as he continued at 100 miles an hour. Now this was also obvious to the rest of the group and some of them came to my rescue telling the old guy to mellow out, which he did. But this break in the action only gave him time to introduce me to his son, who was about 12 or 14 and who had a smile that would light up a room. I shook the young man's hand and asked him his name but his father cut in explaining that he couldn't talk !! This didn't douse the flame in the young man's face but as I looked at him he gave the international gesture of "whatever." I then asked him (through spanglish and hand signs) if he knew sign language. The twinkle in his eyes and the glow from his smile disappeared !! He looked at the ground and shook his head no, a sure sign to me that funds weren't available in his family for such a thing. My heart broke!! This kid had everything going for him, good looks, a loving community to grow up in and a father who obviously loved him in spite of handicap. But he couldn't do one of life's most basic needs, communicate!! It was time for me to get back to the group of cruisers, so I said my good-byes to the gang which included shaking hands and exchanging smiles with almost everyone. As I walked away I couldn't help but think that some of our tax dollars that are distributed around the world sure could be used here to help a young man tackle life on a more even playing field. Just as I was turning the corner I looked back at the group and as soon as my eyes met theirs, I saw arms raised and hands waving, and I saw the young man with the beaming smile giving me the peace sign. Well I haven't flashed the peace sign to anyone for about 35 years, but I did to him. And it made me feel good also. I'm not sure why, maybe because if I hadn't gotten over the initial paranoid reaction of joining that group I would never have felt the love that was there and how they extended it to me. I'm also glad I may have demonstrated to them that some of us Gringos are no different than them, just a lot luckier in some ways!!

After I send this to Kris, I´m Googling Sign language Schools in Ecuador. Wonder if our budget could handle it???

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More 'Life on the Hard'

Today David went to the machine shop and they were able to get the prop body off of the shaft and to straighten the shaft. Yay, success!! I reorganized my little cupboard of clothes and found some cool ropas I did not remember bringing, so how fun is that!?! The hotel activity is winding down after three days of kids competing for trophies and titles in sailing, tennis, volleyball, and ping pong. Alex has been busy doing it all, and he and Daniela go back to the highlands tonight on the all night bus to Ambato, where she lives and teaches at the university. She also owns a bookstore with her family, so after she teaches classes, she works the bookstore. We hope to reconnect with Alex when he returns on Friday and hopefully we will stop in Ambato and visit Daniela on our way to Banos. There are some great places we will be exploring after we fly to Quito next Tuesday from Guayaquil. We will have a week to adventure out in several directions before we fly home; I will let you know our plans when we get closer to the time. I did make reservations at the Secret Garden Hostel for our first night in Quito and we are leaving our bags there so that we can do some traveling without dragging stuff with us.  I'm excited. We still have much to do to ready ourselves and Sidewinder for our vacation. -Suzi

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Ecuador

Halloween has always been very special to David and me. Our second date, long ago, was going to a great party in Majeska Canyon at Paul and Ellen's house and much to my surprise, David came to my cabana on the cliff of 9th Street, dressed as superman. I will never forget the bright red tights and the buffed out  S-symboled chest and cape of my interesting new friend. We had a fantastic time and were fortunate to somehow safely drive ourselves home.

Here in Ecuador, Halloween is alive and well also. Early in the day, just like during the previous days, the harsh whine of the grinders taking away the fiberglass damaged by the saltwater was continuous, and Felipe and Dania, our tenacious workers remained late, as they do everyday, to wash the fiberglass dust away. David, who just recently got a haircut and I am sure plans on joining the Ecuadorian military soon, has worked with astounding patience on removing the prop for days, with Galo Ortiz, the director of the marina, looking on with interest, but unfortunately was not successful in achieving his goal. Next stop for the shaft and prop body is a machine shop on Tuesday, after the holidays are over.

In the late morning, the mall was ready for Halloween, an American tradition adopted by the coastal towns of La Libertad and Salinas, probably because they are very trendy and touristy during the high season, and beach oriented, while the people from the highlands, many bus hours away, are preparing for El Dia de Los Muertos, which has inspired a four-day holiday in Ecuador. We wish we could witness the traditional ceremonies, but there is much work to do here on Sidewinder before we head up to the mountains around Quito. Every store in the mall had Halloween decorations and the staff even wore witches' hats. We escaped from the mall rather quickly after shopping a little, came back to Sidewinder and worked on projects the rest of the day, and finally readied ourselves for a possible late night with our new local friend, Alex and his girlfriend, Daniella. What a wonderful evening we had with them!  Beautiful, energetic Daniella teaches English at the university in Otavalo, about a two hour bus ride from Quito ( which is 10 hours from here) and both she and Alex are talented musicians who play and sing with soaring souls.
After our traditional Ecuadorian barbeque dinner, we strolled the crowded malecon of Salinas, with many costumed Halloween partiers, ate ice cream, listened and swayed to Andean music, and embraced the special time with our new friends. When we returned to Alex's home, they serenaded us with their own traditional musica romantica, and we finally left, riding our bikes near midnight through the streets of La Libertad, not too far from the marina, giggling because we were sure this is not recommended in the guidebooks, and were swiftly locked inside the gate by the security guards, safe, sound, and very blessed. Halloween in Ecuador, 2009, will always be another special adventure to always remember.