GUAYAQUIL…ALANDALUZ…ISLA DE LA PLATA

Let me apologize upfront…I am in the grips of the “Gripa”…which is the cold/flu…it just hit me about an hour ago…but I am only near an internet for today and tomorrow(not sure about next week…I will try) and I fear the gripa will have a stronger grip on me by tomorrow!!!
After our wonderful time in Cuenca(pronounced quenca)…we headed to the largest city in Ecuador called Guayaquil for a quick night…Guayaquil(pronounced Ga why a keel) is considered to be the financial capital, while Cuenca is the cultural capital and Quito is the political capital…Our drive took us through a small part of the Andes but let me add a very beautiful part…it is reminiscent of New Mexico and parts of Scotland…but the one big difference was at one point, we came over a pass and below us lay the most beautiful cloud blanket(see photos)…it was gorgeous
Once we arrived in Guayaquil, we got a very brief tour of the city…first stop was Iguana Park…which as it’s name states is full of Iguanas…a good thing because that was the one thing I would miss about NOT going to the Galapagos!!! (: Iguanas were everywhere…but my favorite place was their perch in all the trees…at first I didn’t see them but then as I was about to go under a tree, a large amount of Iguana sewage dropped out of the tree in front…which immediately prompted me to step back and of course look up… lo and behold there were no less than 20 Iguanas sunbathing in the tree! Yes I have pics but I am not sure you can see them in the trees…when you see the tree pics, look closely…Our tour was brief and after I decided to head out solo to explore this  very large and quite overwhelming city…I walked to the water first…did I mention it is a main Port city where all the products etc arrive by ship…but it very ugly and lacks the personalities of Quito and Cuenca…but having said that, I did enjoy my walk along their boardwalk which eventually became a beautiful Ecological garden that spanned at least 2 miles…it ended at the foot of the hill of the Santa Ana Hill…what is the Santa Ana Hill, you ask…well let me tell you…it is a hike straight up the stairs through some very colorful homes and restaurants, stores etc…This area used to be quite dilapidated but after some economic redevelopment, it is a wonderful area that I enjoyed quite a bit…although the hike up the stairs did wear me out a bit, especially after walking approx. 4 miles to get there…At one point, I wondered off the designated path for a moment when I heard a band playing the Rolling Stones in english…it was a group of 4 guys in a small room, like a garage band…they were great…But I soon discovered that just a few feet off the stairs, the neighborhood changed incredibly…The poverty was staggering. It was really the first really poor neighborhood I had seen…Don’t get me wrong, much of Ecuador is poor but this was amazingly sad…but before I could go too far, the Policia informed me of my error and helped correct it rapidamente! With a smile and a “lo siento!”(I am sorry), they let me get on my merry way…I enjoyed a lovely chat(in my very broken spanish) with an older lady putting out her wash…and I chatted with a few more Policia just for fun and practica…and then I returned to meet the others for dinner…Other than Santa Ana Hill and the Ecological Gardens and maybe the Iguana park, I would not put Guayaquil on a high list of places to visit here…there are so many wonderful places instead.
The next day, we once again, experienced the transportation problems that affect most countries that are not as well traveled by touristas…Our ride did not pick us up on time because it had broken down…and since we had at least 4 hours of traveling in the coastal region, I preferred they fix it before we left the city. When he finally showed up 4 hours late, we were a bit annoyed but as with my experience in Film, you adapt to the changing situations(some were not so adaptable)…well once we were on our way, I was wishing we were back in Guayaquil…the driver was a true maniac…and we were packed into a small SUV like sardines with all of our luggage and no seat belts except for the driver…I knew we were in trouble, when he took off at around 110 miles an hours and I reached for my seat belt only to discover nothing was there…and it didn’t help my confidence level when I watched the driver use his(he was the only one with one)…seat belts are not too common here…and believe me they could use them! Keep in mind the roads in Ecuador, especially in the Coastal Region are unfinished at best…and let me not forget all the road hazards like chickens, dogs, pigs, bulls and horses(without riders)…which the driver seemed to aim for but change his mind when he heard a collective “yelp” from his passengers…I won’t continue to bore you with my transpo horror story but I will say that I was thankful I had completed my living will along with my Will!
We arrived at Alandaluz Ecological Hosteria about 3 hours late(he made up an hour…but I lost about a year of my life in that hour)…what a beautiful and truly incredible place…It is a selection of huts(even a treehouse…unfortunately already occupied), similar to those in the Amazon, except the walls were cement..not thatch…but the roofs were the same…all open…so the mosquito net was once again my best friend…this time no bats or monkeys…but some big ugly spiders(remember the story I told you in an earlier email about Juana seeing the spider carry away her makeup top!!!)…and I kept recalling Juana’s story…my roommate situation changed here…I now was rooming with Clyde from Texas!…Now don’t get the wrong idea we had 2 huts that shared a bathroom….it was great having him because when I saw a big ugly thing in my hut, I knew he could get it out…The food was all organic and they grew everything in their own garden…same with the fish and chicken…as usual, the Sopas(soups) were fabulous…I have not lost 1 single pound and if I’m not mistaken a few have joined my thighs…that’s OK, Boot camp will fix that when I return to the States.
One day I decided to be very adventurous and take the local bus alone to the closest large Pueblo called Puerto Lopez(a seaside small port for fishing boats)……I now can justify spending my money on hiring a private 4X4 for my 4 hour drive into the Andes this Monday…there is no way I could risk the lack of punctuality of the buses(especially since there is only one a day from Quito and I have to change in a small village where there is only 1 connection)…but it was fun for the experience and I had the time to play in the Pueblo…Puerto Lopez is an extremely poor town but bustling with alot of energy…lots of vendors and very basic type cafes…to my surprise, quite a few tourists stay there for the boat trips…they have these 3 wheel bicycle/car taxis…they are fun..if not a little peligrosa(dangerous)…The roads are not paved and it’s quite dusty but it felt like a fun adventure…it is a coastal town…and the one where we left for Isla de la Plata the next day.
There is a variety of animals who seem to control the streets a bit more than the people…I saw an entire herd(about 20) bulls just wandering alone…they seemed to be on a mission…I only hope it wasn’t their final mission. The pigs, chickens and dogs seemed to have a special relationship and seemed to enjoy playing with each other…children as young as 3 riding burrows alone also seemed to know what they were doing…it feels very different but also so interesting..While waiting…and waiting…and waiting for a bus to come(you just stand in the street anywhere and stick your hand out and the buses stop..that is if they aren’t full or are actually running)…I heard these kids laughing and cheering, I turned to see what the commotion was and …well let me just warn you if you are a true animal lover you may want to skip this next part…I’m not sure if mice count but just in case…when  I turned around, I saw 2 men pulling mice out of a clothes box and beating them with sticks and throwing their dying bodies into the street for the cars to run over…at that point I was so desperate to get back to the tranquility of Alandaluz, that I even considered the 2 offers from strange men to drive me there in their vans…but I persevered and finally got on a bus that was itself interesting …it actually had a TV that was playing a Damon Wyans movie in Spanish…well I returned to Alandaluz and spent the rest of the afternoon in the hammock…after classes of course!
On Tuesday, we went out on a scuba type boat out to Isla de la Plata(the poor man’s Galapagos)…the ride was rough in the 7-10′ waves of the Pacific…but I kept occupied looking for the infamous Humpback Whales that are migrating from the Antarctic…we had no luck on the way to the island…and most of us were happy to finally hit land, especially this British Couple…Once on the Island, we headed up the hill for a 3 hour guided tour(in Spanish, of course)…I was happy to discover that I really understood a lot of what he said( so something must be sinking into this old head of mine)..although he was kind enough to speak quite slowly…The island is mountainous and has the Blue Footed Boobys(birds) and the Masked Boobys(more birds) as well as many of the other birds found in the Galapagos…no turtles or Iguanas, though…it was a beautiful island and I certainly got a good workout…we had the opportunity to watch a male and female “Blue Footed Booby” do their mating dance while singing…now I was discreet and chose not to photograph this very personal moment(even though they seemed to have quite an audience of other Boobys), I decided not to spread Bird Porno on the Net!
After our hike, we went snorkeling and then left in search of our now elusive whales…no luck for quite awhile, which was quite disconcerting to those people whose stomachs were busy emptying in the ocean(not me)…finally we found ONE…and then later another…it was a bit disappointing…this woman from the Czech Republic and I started praying to the Whale Gods and suddenly(well not really suddenly…but soon enough) we were in a large POD…but unfortunately, I only got a few photos before my camera battery died…Clyde and Steve and my new Czech friend(who got some video) are sending me their pics later…but I will post the few I have…and I was really disappointed that I didn’t have a camera when they started getting playful with the boat…I, along with a few others,  were treated to a a faceful of whale spit!! …then all of the sudden out of the water came this monstrous thing…this whale came completely out of the water…when he hit the water, the whole boat got splashed…this Pod was so playful and seemed interested in giving us a good show…which they did…
We left Alandaluz on Wednesday and drove up the coast through the National Forrest…incredibly beautiful trees and the terrain was constantly changing…we stopped at a few Pueblos and went to a Museum on the way to the Airport…At the Airport, once again, we were delayed…for 3 hours…this time because the airline for no apparent reason STOPPED all of their flights from everywhere…this seems to be par for the course…you should not be in a rush when traveling here…patience is a necessity…but it is all worth the wait…the interesting thing about flying is that once you get on the plane, you take off in usually 10 minutes…and you get off in 5 minutes(no lingering on the plane like in the States…)…all our National flights have been 35 minutes and they serve us a snack and drink and at the end, all the women get a rose!!!!
Well I’m back in Quito for a couple of days finishing up my studying and I go to a spa for the weekend…and then on Monday, I leave for the Andes for my last week here…for some reading, relaxing and hiking…I can’t wait…
I decided to try to send you a quick note in Spanish to sum up my studies…I will try to send one more email from The Black Sheep Inn in the Andes(another Ecolodge)…so here goes:

Mi estudio español en Ecuador está terminado. Regresaré a Estados Unidos en una semana. Espero que hayan disfrutado mis cartas de viaje y mis fotos de cada lugar.
Como puedes ver, mi español ha mejorado un poco … pero por favor, no intentes hablarme en español a mucho porque todavía hablo solo un poco. 4 semanas de estudio de español no es suficiente tiempo para la fluidez completa.

Hasta Luego
Sus Viajero Intrincado
Emilie…..see below for translation:
“My spanish study in Ecuador is finished. I am returning to the United States in one week. I hope you enjoyed my travel letters and my photos of each location.
As you can see, my spanish has improved somewhat…but please, don’t try to speak to me in spanish to much because I still speak only a little. 4 weeks of studying spanish is not enough time for complete fluency.
Thank you for all of your encouraging letters during my trip.
Until later

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