Friday, August 29, 2008

Laguna or Lago

Finally getting around to providing an update of last weekend. I've even uploaded some pics and created one of those slideshow thingees that A is so fond of.
I know it's late in the game, but the trip was fun. We ran around in the Otovalo area. Took a detour on the way to our destination - Lago Cuicocha (pronounced Quicocha - like Quito) to see Laguna Mohanda.
I don't really know the difference between a lago and a laguna. One would expect a laguna to be a lagoon, and maybe it is on the coast. Up here in the mountains, though, it seems to be a little crater lake. Maybe just a little lake, period. Who knows? Personally, I think that one of the minor benefits to living in a foreign country is being clueless about things. I don't know what words mean, I don't know where things are, I don't know people, the political landscape, the sports teams or what the hell is going on in general in life, but that's okay. I'm a gringo.
The ride through Mohanda was an intersting side trip (note - yellow roads on the map are really bad). It was a chance to get some use out of the 4 wheel drive of the car - the first real consistent use of the 4x4 option since purchasing the vehicle (except for that brief river crossing with Nasser back in June). Small children could have hidden in the potholes that weren't so much interspersed across the road so much as made up the majority of the road. Earlier rains had created gullies and veritable ravines across the road, which all makes for a fun ride, until you get that little nagging voice in your head noting that a slide or wrong bounce will send the car off on a long trip down, the wife and you along with it. I think it ended up taking us about 2 and a half hours to go 20 kilometers, or something to that effect. We passed three mountain bikers on the way up (walking their bikes up the hill) and passed another group of mountain bikers resting at the actual lake -- and that was it. Talk about a lonely environment.
After checking in to our hotel, we made our way to another crater lake (this one a lago, for some reason) and proceeded to hike the 15km trail circumnavigating the crater. Even in miles, that's a long way. I don't think the pictures do it justice.
The night was spent resting my weary bones in front of a raging fire in a nearby posada. Nice place, and we had it all to ourselves. It's one of those places that causes day dreams of owning an hacienda (which would make one an hacendero) somewhere off the beaten track, spending the day watching clouds roll in, then roll on out again. I wonder if they get a decent internet connection out there?
Sunday was spent checking out a local waterfall (fun - nothing to write home about) and driving home through rain and observing, and getting stuck in traffic due to, a large number of traffic accidents. No pictures here of those - they were almost all rather gruesome looking.
This weekend, the plan is to go visit a friend of a friend's coffee farm. Then maybe head out to some other nearby haunts. Other than that, not much is going on - it's not a holiday for the locals.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Little Vans

These tiny little vans are all over the city. I love'em! I don't know why, but I want one.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


These uniquely styled Ecuadorian trash cans can be found all along the Panamericana, especially in Salcedo.


Chimborazo, one of the most popular volcanoes for climbs in Ecuador, is almost always shrouded in clouds...we were lucky to find it on a completely clear day. The top of Chimborazo is the closest point to the sun on the earth.

Salinas Cemetery

Shots from an overgrown cemetery we visited in Salinas

Friday, August 15, 2008

Milking Bessie

Since, on occasion, Jay likes to sneak an embarrassing shot of me onto the blog (e.g. Amanda riding a llama), I thought I'd share with our loyal readers a nice picture of Jay working on a crucial life skill. ;-) -Amanda

Lago Quilatoa

One of the most stunning crater lakes in Ecuador

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Politics is everywhere

From our trip around Quilatoa. This is the only intersection on a multi-hour drive. Some old abandoned building. And even here, 4000 meters plus above sea level and in the middle of nowhere, someone's motivated enough to make a political statement. Yes to the new constitution. yes to socialism (and political party 17). yes to white washed buildings.
In a rather stilted segue, Amanda and I drove by a demonstration this weekend by the Ecuadorian Communist Party. I don't really get it. I wonder if they're loosely associated with the society of creative anachronism that used to run around Penn wearing armor and "smiting" each other.

update on the surreal

So, as I'm walking home from the coffee shop (traffic is a mess, and once again I'm glad that I walk places) I notice the following:
It's relatively light out, and a balmy seventy (maybe upper sixties).
There are amazing views of cloudless skies shining late afternoon light over mountains off in the distance.
There's ice between the cracks in the sidewalk, and the grassy median area between the sidewalk and the road is covered in ice, but the roads aren't slick - just wet.
The heavy downpour has created a faux-fall (and how often do you get to string those words together) - and there are leaves blanketing the ground under trees along the walk.

All in all, it's kind of a surreal experience.

hail is not a form of greeting

I spent some time in a coffee shop down in mariscal today, attempting to envelop myself in some new scenery and strange folks while getting the normal work a day stuff done. All good times, although I did end up in my usual hang out, despite my best efforts. I'm still trying to find other places, but discovered that the papaya net location is just not worth the effort (note for anyone planning on traveling down here and looking for an internet cafe).
Anyway - aimlessly wandering around look for a place, coming to the usual haunt, doing work and drinking coffee, I was just about to leave when it started raining. In these parts, rain isn't the end of the world, although it hasn't been happening with the clock-like regularity as several months before, when we first arrived. The plan is usually to just wait out the half hour or so of downpour, and then go about your business. Today, though, things haven't worked out quite the same way. First it rained. Then it rained harder. During the monsoon the cable flickered and then went out. Then it started to hail. Hail golf ball sized pellets that bounced off of awnings over outside tables, bounced through open doors and the general open front area, and rolled through the cafe. There's little chunks of ice all over the place. Not just across the floor, but on chairs, on counters -- pretty much on all the surfaces. Kind of fun, if you're aren't too worried about the health of your laptop. The power went out, of course, and now we're all sitting in the relative dark - those of us who were waiting out the rain to be on our way, those of us who came sprinting into the closest open establishment when the downpour started, and those of us who would usually be working at said establishment, if there were any power to do anything (there is one waitress lighting candles).
It stopped, eventually. Then started raining again. My battery will fail, eventually, and then I'll have nothing better to do than help drink the beer before it gets too warm.
A and I went no where this weekend. I think it's the first weekend in a long time where we've just hung out in the city with no real plans. Saturday was spent checking out all the events for the run up to the bicentennial of the declaration of independence (did you know that latin american independence from Spain started with the caudillos in Quito? Its true, look it up). No pictures of the event, but the old city was chock full of people, all the museums were open until early Sunday morning, and all the theaters offered free admission to short versions of their full priced fare. We didn't stay until 2 in the morning, although I hear that several hundred thousand other people were expected to do just that.
Oh, yeah - and we finally went to see Batman last night at an honest to god movie multiplex. Full price tickets are a whopping 3.25. Popcorn and a soda will set you back another 5.25. Not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination, for a third world company, but a hell of a lot cheaper than the same experience in a similarly equiped movie theater in the US. One must be careful not to purchase tickets for the dubbed version of movies, though, or else the whole batman experience could turn surreal. We were lucky enough to get the subtitled version. A had no inkling that what's his face who played the joker had committed suicide. Talk about being out of the loop.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In the altiplano around chimborazo

Used the little point and shoot camera to take a video of the high plains area around Chimborazo. We were lucky enough to get a mostly cloudless morning while we drove around the volcano. The images remind me of the stop we took in Africa, between Morocco and the Western Sahara (just before the bus broke down). Switch the camels for llamas, and the ocean for views of hills and valleys - or is it the other way around? I've been looking for the old video of the bus stop near the shipwrecks in Western Sahara, but I haven't been able to find it on the blog. Maybe it's in my computer somewhere...
Some interesting facts regarding Chimborazo - it's the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, and the closest point to the sun in the world (that's right out of the Lonely Planet) I think that has to do with the fact that it's so close to the Equator. Wikipedia has it as the farthest point from Earth's center (dude, check out the story on SAETA flight 232. That's spooky, and brings images of a Lost sub-plot to mind).

potential christmas card

Here's one of those things that you think that you want to do at some point, but turn out to be way too self-consciously awkward.
Only the girls rode the poor llamas.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Blogging is like dirty dishes

If you let it go to long, all the potential posts, ideas, pictures and activities start to pile up and make a big, stinking mess. And wading through all that mess becomes a daunting task, which you wave off until tomorrow, or the next week, or some other time in the future, when it's only going to be a bigger, scarier, and more daunting hurdle.
That's what we have here. A trip to Monpiche (the beach), a visit from Scott (and Amy), various usual activities throughout Quito, a trip over the weekend through Ambato, Salinas, Guaranda, Latacunga, Pujili and the Quilaloa loop (half the fun of traveling around Ecuador is getting to say the names of the towns you go through). Reams of photos of white capped volcanos, llamas, breath taking panoramic views and open air markets. days of driving on bad roads, which turned into worse roads, which turned into horrible roads, winding up and down over mountains and through valleys. Playing chicken on those same roads with buses full of people, bags, boxes (and chickens) and blaring every spanish love ballad known to man.
A good time, but just too much stuff to detail in any one post.
So i'll try to add some pictures over time of the different trip segments, and A, as is her wont, will add her more interesting and better composed pictures at a later date. And then maybe, if we're lucky, we'll get some of the good stuff from Scott, too.