Saturday, November 22, 2008

An amazing development!

Ian and I arrived safely at Yanayacu biological reserve yesterday, but my was it primitive! That I expected, well maybe not quite such basic facilities, but there weren't any people staying here except for us and a rather keep to himself Polish man.

The bus ride was 3 and a half hours and vendors hoped onto the bus every 15 minutes to sell us something. Pleasant and entertaining. 

Ian and I visited the San Isidro Lodge 3 km away this morning and really liked it and were contemplating jumping ship and staying there. Turns out the owner, Carmen, needed someone who spoke English and Spanish to take her place while she left town for awhile and asked if I'd do it in exchange for room and board. YES!! I am so excited to be moving there, they are coming to pick me and Ian up in a few minutes, but there is no internet connection there.  It's a lovely lodge, one of the finest in Ecuador with excellent cuisine. Yes, cuisine, not the banana we had for breakfast here at Yanayacu. 

We are both very excited, we met many birders over lunch today and I had a crash course for 2 hours on how the place is run and now I'll go to it. Can you believe it?? Amazing to me, that's for sure. I'll get to play hostess and help people have fun. Carmen said we could stay as long as we wanted and gave us a lovely 2 bedroom 1 bath bungalow to stay in.

Ian already took a group on a birding expedition this afternoon, he's in his element and loving it!!

No photos as they are too slow to download, but I'll be back...

I'll miss getting the comments and the connection to all of you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Old Town Quito, Ecuador

The things we saw today! (as in on Mulberry street),  everywhere Ian and I went had another surprise for us.
Tomorrow we leave for Yanayacu Biological Reserve in the Andes rain forest, so this is the end of any city photos for while.

The Lavanderia. The day started with dropping off our laundry at the local hole in the wall.
 5 pounds of laundry washed, dried and folded for $1.80. No need to own your own washing machine here.

Walking through the Parque El Ejido we came upon a comedian doing a show to a large group of  laughing fans.

Street vendors and fresh fruit are everywhere.

There was a huge peaceful protest by  university students that stopped traffic and took over the street for a mile.

Culturo authentico.

Iglesia de la Basillica do Voto National.

Not sure why someone parked their car halfway into the store???

Wonderful babies everywhere being held instead of in a stroller or baby carrier.

The main attraction is this plaza, a must see in the tour books.

A communal lunch in a very popular vegetarian restaurant. If there is a free chair, the next in line gets it, so we ate with other people. Two women we met said they commute an hour a half each day to work! Lunch cost $2 for the complete meal of the day: soup, main dish and dessert and was delicious.

La Ronda, a famous street featured in "The Week".

La Ronda above and below, very picturesque.

More street vendors, this time with fresh coconuts, yummmm.

The Military College.

Not sure what kind of internet will await us at our next stop, and we are going to be there for a month. I know it's not going to be anything like the hotel we've been in the last 6 days! Here's what the directions to the reserve had to say: The bus is only $3 for a 4 hour trip... ask the driver to make sure you get off where you are supposed to... walk for an hour ... look for Jose... the dog is friendly... 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A hike to the Forest

Ian was feeling better this morning, so we climbed the steep streets to the forest we can see from our hotel.  The day was warm and sunny, Ian even got a bit of a sunburn. I'm having such a great time finding interesting things to photograph, a city teaming with life.

Not sure if executives would be eating here, but a good price for lunch: $1.60.

Basic Spanish here: bread, milk and eggs. My Spanish has improved markedly every day, I can get my point across in most situations.

The entrance to the eucalyptus forest, or Parque Metropolitan, and the sign to announce it.

My favorite subject :-)

My first Bromeliad in Ecuador, I'm sure to see many more.

After an hour and a half hike to the top of this hill/mountain we came upon many school children laughing and playing. We think it may have been multiple field trips judging from the buses.

After a roller coaster of a taxi ride (I had my eyes closed for some of it) we visit the gardens at Hotel Quito were we may stay at a later date. See Ian's blog for his take on the taxi ride!

Hotel Quito dinning room on the 7th Floor for a fancy lunch.

View from dinning room.

More Quito views.

The mall where the MegaMaxi supermarket is located. The Spanish translation for food court.

A pretty girl doing a food demo at the mall.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Food, lodging and other details

Ian's not feeling too well today, very weak and a sore throat, chills so I went out for supplies in the morning. So far today I've been posting to the blog and Ian's been sleeping a lot and watching Myth Busters on Discovery in English about sea sickness. Appropriate.

The entrance to this gigantic supermarket/department store. The guard told me no photos in the store, too bad as it was all fascinating!

Entrance to the shopping center that has the entrance to the MegaMaxi. I had no idea there was a market  here on the second floor, just thought I'd take a look inside the building.

Don't really know what this is, but a helpful fellow shopper said I could eat it like a kiwi. On the receipt it rang up as pitahaya granel. Looking it up on the internet I think it may be Dragon Fruit. Anyone know for sure?

The cheese empanadas that Ian loves, warm from the oven, 5 for $2.63. 
3 Kiwis for .77 cents.  Papaya .63 cents.  The peach nectar, Durazno here in Ecuador, Melacoton in Spain, in the carton is $1.52. The Miami Herald International Edition is at our door in the mornings, nice touch. The grocery bag on the right is to show that they are advertising biodegradable bags and asking people to clean up... it's your planet.

The lobby of the Sheraton, our timeshare, very luxurious and spacious. This

will be the best lodging of our whole trip and we are thoroughly enjoying it!

The Sheraton, white building with small black windows, from our bus stop.

How we managed to pull off a 2 month trip to Ecuador:
First off you need a loving, supportive husband who thinks it's a good thing for his son and wife to broaden their horizons by experiencing life in another country. And who supports his son's birding passion.
Then you plan ahead. Years ago we moved all of our spending to one milage accumulating
credit card,  which I hope is still solvent. 
To get the most milage points charge everything you can on it, but this only works if you pay off
your balance every month and don't spend more than you have. Hmm,
maybe our government could take a lesson here.
So we were able to fly to Quito on our miles/points we have
accumulated for many years on our credit card. For our first week in Quito we used a
timeshare we traded into from one we own in Orlando. So that's 2 big
expenses minimized right off the bat.

On Friday Ian and I travel by bus, $4 one way for each of us, to
Yanayacu and volunteer there for about a month. The charge for our
stay there is $15 a day for each of us and includes 3 meals a day.  Not sure I can feed and shelter the 2 of us in MA for that little.
Here in Quito we've found the food to be extremely cheap and most of
it is grown locally.  So far with one meal out and buying produce and fresh bread at the market we are getting by on less than $20/day.  This is a no car rental trip, which has been great so far! I've enjoyed not having to navigate a unfamiliar city and I see so much more by walking and taking the bus. We're getting lots of exercise and saving money.
So you don't have to have gobs of money to travel in Ecuador!
Another side benefit, for me, is that I am a tall person here. Everyone my age or older is quite a bit shorter than I am and it's very refreshing.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Exploring the city of Quito, day 2.

A father and daughter enjoying the day together.

We joined the infamous South American Explorers Club today, see Ian's blog for a more in depth explanation on today's outings.  Let's just say tonight's blogging didn't go very smoothly for me...

Women are seen everywhere carrying heavy loads on their heads, then selling their goods.

So you know I really am here :-)

The gun toting police Ian referred to.

The wonderful Jugo bars.

Bull art installations all over the city!

A church and another art Bull.

Great vegetarian restaurant where we had so much good food for $6.55!

Ian's veggie burger.

School kids in uniform, all over the city at about 2pm.

The volcano, same one as yesterday from another location.