Monday, June 29, 2009

Today, after my spanish lesson, I went to an art museum in the home of the most famous Ecuadorian artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin. The museum consisted of his collection of indigenous art as well as the most famous pieces he painted himself. I'm not huge on art museums but it was incredible. His style is similar to Picaso. We had a tour guide who spoke only spanish and I understood about half of what she said... not too bad for a week's worth of lessons. His home was atop a hill that overlooked the city. It had several buildings, all that have been converted to display his art.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yesterday I had 4 hours of spanish lessons again in the morning. For the last hour we went to el mercado so my profesora could get the ingredients to make soup for the staff lunch. I have been to a regular "supermarket" in the newer part of Quito but this was a much more traditional market. There were numerous stalls where locals sell fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, cheeses, herbs, etc. There were no processed foods at all. For the most part people shop everyday or every other day. It was a really interesting experience. I spent some time in the afternoon talking to the lady that works in the travel agency here in the hostal. She helped me figure out a route for the rest of the trip and is helping organize our trip to the jungle. Last night I went out to a pub with a whole bunch of people from Secret Garden. I completely embarrased myself in pool and darts. NBD.

Today my profesora, her little brother (12), and I headed to Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World). There are actually 2 seperate sites at the equator. The large monument was built in respect to the French geographers that mapped out the "equator" in the 1700s. It has since been discovered with modern GPS that they were 240 meters off chart. (Not too bad for the technology they had!) There has been a smaller museum and monument erected at the true equator. This museum is a depiction of a traditional highland village (some original structures and some reconstructions) that would have been inhabited by the Quichua people. The tour guide was extremely informative about the practices of the indigenous cultures. There were several small huts where families would have lived, a central "kitchen" building, a building dedicated to weaving, and a tomb. The guide explained what all of the structures were made of and what some of the traditions were. Some of the things she told us: The Quichua people lived with guinea pigs in their huts because they believed they would warn of people with bad "energy"... and they ate them. They practiced the "head shrinking" to preserve the "knowledge" of truly respected people in the tribe. There was a central tomb where everyone except the cheif was burried. The people were burried in ceramic pots in the fetal position. When the cheif died, his first wife was burried alive with him!
Mitad del Mundo

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Today I went to La Basilica with some friends after my spanish lesson. It was absolutely gorgeous, both the building itself and the views of the city. Today was the most clear day since I've been here. For some odd reason they allow people to climb the towers. It requires you to negotiate some pretty rickety ladders and passageways. I'm sure it is not safe and would definitely not be allowed anywhere in the US, but it was an awesome experience. The very top had only metal bars running parallel with wire in between. The wire was not strong enough to hold you so you had to stand only on the bars and hold on to the roof. (I put some pictures in the Quito album.) When I got back this afternoon I laid down for a little nap. I woke up to Thriller blasting from the terrace. I was a little pissed until I heard that MJ had died! So we jammed out to Michael all evening. :) Tonight Adrianna is picking me up to go drive around the Plaza. It is not safe to walk around at night but she really wants me to see it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Well, first of all, Ecuador is absolutely amazing. In the past couple of days I have met so many people from all over the world. There are a lot of Australians and British people here, not too many Americans. But everyone is extremely friendly and eager to share their experiences traveling in South America. It seems there is a subculture of backpackers in those places. Tons of people travel for months and months, even years. It is not as unheard of as it is in the US. When I was planning the trip it was a little difficult for me to find people who had traveled for long periods of time and had good advice for me. You can only get so much from reading a book or website. Word of mouth is so much more beneficial! There is obviously a weath of that information here. "You have to do this," "stay away from here," "don't miss this." In talking to all of these people the plans have changed a little bit. The most common piece of advice I am getting is don't rush! There are so so many places to see here in Ecuador. I feel as though we would be cheating ourselves out of a lot if we hurried through the trip trying to fit too much in a small period of time. We would really miss out on the smaller, less trodden places where much of the culture really is. I don't want to spend the entire trip in large cities with Burger Kings and Starbucks. Though the cities can be interesting, there is so much more in the small towns and villages. So... I think we are going to scratch going to Peru. There is so much to see in Peru, a week and a half would be unjustifiable. Guess we'll just have to come back :) I have had so many suggestions about places here in Ecuador. I feel like we would have to stay months to see it all. There is so much diversity in such a small place. So as of now there is no itinerary. I have a list of places that have been highly recommended and we will somehow connect the dots! As for the hostel itself, it is great. Beds comfortable, a beautiful terrace with hammocks and a fireplace that overlooks the city, helpful staff, INCREDIBLE gourmet (not kidding!) food for around $3.50 a meal (with lots of vegetarian options!). I could go on and on. My spanish lessons started today. My teacher is excellent, making me talk a lot! Hopefully I'll be speaking spanish in no time. haha yah right. I haven't been able to take many pictures yet because I am afraid to take my camera out in the city. I have heard too many horror stories. The trend seems to be thieves just taking your things if you carry too much. They don't want to hurt you, they just want your stuff. Even in the daylight. So as of now I'll bring out my point and shoot that can be tucked in my pocket, maybe the D40 when we get to the smaller places. Oh and mom, the mace made it and I am carrying it around everywhere. :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

estoy en ecuador!

I made it to Ecuador without major complications. The Miami airport was a bit of a shock to me because no one spoke english. I wasn´t expecting that until I got to Quito... but alright. The Quito airport was nothing short of chaos. If I wouldn´t have had Adriana pick me up I might have had a small meltdown. Apparently 10 family members need to come to the airport to pick up one person. There was seriously a mob of people right outside customs that were being forced back by police officers. When I forced myself through the crowd I stood there thinking I would never find her. All these people were yelling at me in spanish trying to get me a taxi and sell me god knows what. I panicked for a second before Adriana came up asking me if I was Manda. Still not sure how she picked me out of that crowd. This morning she is taking me to the hostal where my spanish lessons are. I´m really excited to see the city since it was dark last night when I got here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


These are a few of the places we plan on visiting during our trip.

Mitad del Mundo:
A monument at the site that Charles-Marie de La Condamine determined to be the equator in 1736. He was actually about 240 meters off according to modern GPS but no one is counting right? (Pictured left)

The TeleferiQo:

A sky tram that takes passengers up the side of Volcan Pichincha. It is an active volcano that last erupted in 1999 and covered Quito in several inches of ash. (right Eduardo?)

This is a small town named for the thermal springs fed by Volcan Tungurahua. It is three and a half hours from Quito. There are apparently a lot of outdoor things to do there.

Yarina Ecolodge:

A jungle lodge located on the Napo River, the longest tributary of the Amazon. We will get there by motorized canoe from Coca. We plan on staying at Yarina for 3 nights. We will have the opportunity to go Piranha fishing, climb a jungle canopy tower, go on guided hikes, and see a native Amazonian village.

Machu Picchu:
This is that archeological site in Peru that everyone recognizes but no one seems knows the name of. There are whispers that they are going to quit letting people walk around in it because of the damage it is doing to the ruins. That is one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Peru. We are going to ride a glass topped train from Cuzco to get there.

Nazca Lines:
Another ancient archeological wonder.

Of course we will also see the usual "city" sights in Quito, Lima, Arequipa, and Cuzco.

subject to change

These are the tentative plans for me & Kyle's trip. The plans may change depending on flight & bus schedules, weather, etc. We will definitely keep you updated as often as possible, We should have Wifi at most hostels and internet cafes are apparently easy to come by.
  • June 21st- July 4th: Manda's Spanish class.
  • July 5th: Kyle arrives in Quito!
  • July 6th: Quito, Ecuador
  • July 7th-July 10th: Yarina Ecolodge (Near Coca, Ecuador)
  • July 11-July 12th: Quito, Ecuador
  • July 13th: Flight to Lima, Peru
  • July 14th: Lima, Peru
  • July 15th: Flight to Cuzco, Peru
  • July 16th: Cuzco, Peru
  • July 17th: Machu Picchu
  • July 18th: Bus from Cuzco to Arequipa, Peru
  • July 19th: Arequipa, Peru
  • July 20th: Bus from Arequipa to Nazca, Peru
  • July 21st: Nazca, Peru
  • July 22nd: Bus from Nazca to Lima, Peru
  • July 23rd: Lima, Peru
  • July 24th: Flight to Quito, Ecuador
  • July 25th-July 28th: Quito, Ecuador
  • July 29th: Flight to Houston, Texas USA!