Well this has been alot of fun…My last 10 days were, as usual, fun filled…my last 2 days in Quito brought me the “Gripa” and also a lovely stomach ailment…but did that slow me down…not a chance…actually, it was all by my choice…I went to my last day of class on Friday, dressed for a typical Quito day, light long sleeved shirt and a light sweater for the morning chill…arrived at school and was informed by my teacher that we were off with some other students on another altitude adventure!…Not wanting to be a spoiler, I smiled and said “Listo!”(ready)…Well off we went to the newest(opened in July) attraction in Quito…you take cable cars(very small ones) up the mountain that holds all the telephone and Cable towers…it sits at about 12000’…once there, they have a huge modern type mall, food court, restaurants(including one of my favorite types: Fondue…although my stomach wasn’t interested in food)…a discotheque…a rather decent sized amusement park and horseback riding as well as hiking…well everyone wanted to hike up towards one of the 5 active volcanoes that surround Quito…my smile pasted firmly on my face, I journeyed on…but after the wind began to whip up at about 12500′, my smile turned to a very determined look..Once we go to 14,000’+ , I finally decided I couldn’t go any further and my body had been kind enough to go that far, I wasn’t going to drive it to complete destruction…to my delight, Steve(my Swiss friend) was also in no mood to push on…so we returned to the civilized altitude of 12000′ and sipped tea until the others returned…I spent most of that afternoon and evening in bed recovering from my adventure in lunacy!
Saturday, 4 of us left for our final stop in the program…Pappallacta…a wonderful Thermal spa in the tip of the Oriente and Cloud forest…it’s nestled in between several beautiful mountains as well as at the bottom of another active volcano(did I mention that Ecuador has 56 active Volcanoes…and it is the size of Nevada!!!)…I, by accident…or subconscious choice, left my bathing suit in Quito…I decided, one, that I was too sick to go in the pools…and two, I was not interested in being in a bathing suit after all my eating…you’d be surprised what eating those Ants did to my thighs! (:
I returned to Quito on Sunday to a very Jubilant city…they won their version of the Super Bowl of Soccer(or more correctly Football..or even more correctly: Futbol)…Dancing and fiestaing in the streets…I spent the evening at Maria’s(my first teacher here) home. I met her youngest daughter, who just returned from Orlando!
My time at the Black Sheep Inn has been fabulous. It is a completely Permaculture Inn. They are nestled in the mountains and you have incredible views of all the canyon even from the Compost bathrooms…that also have gardens in each bathroom. Rainwater is captured from the roof for the use of washing face and hands…Each night all the guests eat together in family style…which is wonderful because you get to meet and talk to so many people from different countries…the hiking is incredible if not very difficult…I am still struggling with the flu and stomach problems but that hasn’t stopped me from tackling the mountains…anyway the internet here is very sporadic so this is all I can say about the Inn…if anyone wants more info, please write me because this place is truly incredible and worth a visit….
Before I do my final goodbye, I want to leave you with a few impressions of Ecuador that seem to stick out….First of all Ecuador is a fabulous country that I highly recommend all of you, if given the chance, to visit…it is so small but very diverse…it has the mountains, amazonas, coastal regions, plains…and great cities with a very rich culture….but for those of you who are more used to the high end travel here are a few fun observations for those faint of heart to keep in mind….
1) No toilet paper goes into the toilets…the sewer system is not set up for it….you are provided with a trash bin (sometimes covered and sometimes not) for the disposal of said paper…It took a little to adjust but really I only forgot twice…and now I fear I will continue this practice absentmindedly back in the states…if I visit any of your homes and ask to use the bathroom, just remind me!!! (:
2) The lighting levels here promote blindness…most bulbs seem to be under 30 watts…and believe me trying to study with a single overhead 30 watt bulb is going to make my Optometrist a very rich person when I return…
3) It is sometimes quite startling to see armed guards while window shopping…but hey, it has kept my spending to a minimum!!!…I wish that were true!!! It’s amazing how much you can spend…
4) The money is all US now that the country has gone to the dollar…but they have created some unique coins like a 50 cent piece and they use our 5, 10 and 25 cents as well as their own…I love their dollar coin…It’s our “Sacajawea”(I can’t spell her name…but you know the coin with the Native American woman who helped Lewis and Clark)…they use that coin alot…I really don’t know why we never used it ourselves…but I can attest that our Treasury has put them to could use by exporting them here..Oh, also keep in mind that it is a bad idea to bring in any currency higher than a 10.00 bill…they seem not to have change: ANYWHERE…including large banks in Quito..and ATM’s tend to give 20.00’s…All the travel books recommend bringing Travelers Checks: DON’T…they are even harder to change than 20.00 bills..too much forgery..i was turned down AFTER I signed!
5) Lines are a mystery here…the people have not mastered the concept of waiting…If you are not standing like a hawk, ready to pounce, you will be waiting awhile…this especially includes busy restaurants…there it is commonplace to mark a table that you think is getting up soon…but if you picked the wrong table someone behind you will grab one sooner…it reminds me of my old News days in DC and fighting for position at a White House press conference!!! Those old skills served me well here…
6) Most roads are unfinished once you leave the 3 main cities…if you have a good chiropractor, you are set!
7) But my favorite is the lack of…or sometimes too much…HOT WATER…Hot water is quite elusive in this beautiful country…not to say completely unavailable…but sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not…but most of the time it’s trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to regulate it …so you either don’t become an ice cycle or need to go to the hospital with 1st degree burns!!! I call it the “shower dance”
But having said all that, Ecuador is one of the most interesting countries I have been to…and these few inconveniences actually add to the charm of a country very alive and vibrant. The people are proud of their country and it’s very rich culture. Ecuadorians seem to laugh easliy, which at times is surprising to me because of the staggering poverty in many of the regions.
Here are some things I haven’t mentioned:
Ecuador has over 150 varieties of roses that they export to the US, Europe and many other places…
Ecuador has 3200 different varieties of Orchids
Ecuadorians take great pride in their ecological and environmental advances…For their size, they are one of the world leaders in Environmental issues…