In Baños de Agua Santa. Today we go to the airport in Quito. Tomorrow morning we arrive in Atlanta. If the weather improves and I have 3 days (6 half days) to work on the boat, in less than 2 weeks I go sailing - solo - from Charleston towards and maybe to Jacksonville. Either way, 30 days from today we leave for 10 weeks in Europe starting with a month in Istanbul. The adventure with my Queen continues.
Friday, February 20, 2015
At first, I carried you.
Home to my family.
Since then, you have carried me thru Managua and across Lake Nicaragua and the volcano in the center. Through a downpour as we crossed into Costa Rica and explored Arenal. We took a short trip to Medellin on a cheap ticket, then Quintana Roo and the streets of Havana. Two weeks around Ireland you carried me. Across America from East to West then North to Calgary. East across the plains of Saskatchewan we bounced together before turning south through the Dakotas to home. Two months we strolled through France with kids and friends -20 in all. Next Woolpit UK up to Newcastle and back to the Lake District before a month in Florence with side trips to Pisa, Sienna, Perugia, Verona, Roma, Venice, and the Austrian Alps. Next up St. Patty's Day in Dublin to Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and London, all with son Rollin. Then to Warsaw with son Trevor and daughter-in-law Elle. We jumped back to Paris for a week to find my MeggieMoo an apartment. Then you and I raced to Prague to get all ready for Donna's arrival. There you came apart and were reassembled with TLC. Fixed, we strolled the city with her before taking the train to Salzberg and the German/Austrian Alps which were perfect for you. Budapest then a week in Bucharest: walk, walk, walk. Hop to Izmir to see Ephesus, then a week with friends in Istanbul before the long hauls. Capetown and the Cape of Good Hope with son James. Doha. Chicago. Home for a rest. Then we walked and rode where Ghengis Kahn had ruled on the northern fringe of the Gobi Desert, before walking the Great Wall of China. Camped from Georgia to Niagra to Acadia to Gettysburg and home. Now we are in the mountains of Ecuador. But yesterday we were in the jungle of the Amazon river basin. So far so good. Each time, I carried no other footwear. Thanks for carrying me. Lots more to come: we are just getting started.
"It's better to go see things than to buy stuff".
That's been my choice all my life. My friends drive fancy cars, have luxurious homes - and often second, lake, homes - and Club memberships and wonder how I - who avoid those - can afford to travel. Anyhow...
Today, Thursday, February 19th, was one of those days. First, in order to enjoy the amazing day we had, we had to adjust to Ecuadorian (aka South American) time. 8:30a departure MEANS 9:30a departure. 7:30p return MEANS 9:15p return. 20 minute rest stop MEANS 40 minute rest stop. Lunch at noon MEANS lunch at 3p. Once we adjusted, everything worked out fine.
28 of us: 2 Swiss, 4 Ecuadorians, 20 Chileans, plus Donna and me, plus our driver and guide, piled into a "bus" of sorts. Everyone but us was under 30 years old. Seven rows of tightly packed, hard, seatbeltless benches bolted to a floor 4' above the ground. Sides that extended up from 4' to 7' with brightly painted doors that opened so we could pull ourselves up to the floor, and enter. A roof. And huge speakers that started out blaring mariachi music at 100db until I protested at 110db and they quickly turned it off for the entire trip. Hooray for my big voice!
So we bounced along the rough Ecuadorian highlands, headed down to a river in the Amazon River basin, in the jungle that you might expect to find as part of the Amazon ecosystem. Our first stop was at a zoo featuring lots of local animals. [Photos]
Next, we canoed down the river in bouncy wooden dugout canoes. [Photos] Then off to a hike (we walked 8 miles yesterday) to a waterfall and swim. [Photos]
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Ecuador is not ready for prime time. There are lots of gringos everywhere in Ecuador for three great reasons: awesome weather in the high cities of Quito, Cuenca, and Baños; cheap cost of living - much less than half the cheapest places in the USA, and great, cheap, healthcare. But you want anything out of the ordinary? Forget it. Charging cable for Asus tablet - not in Ecuador. Basalmic vinegar, sour cream, Alfredo sauce, peanut butter, decent wine... hard or impossible to get at any price. Times 10,000 things we use and think we "need" in the US. Today we went to the waterfall in Baños, and read how far away we are. Photos.
9a bus full
10a bus full
Fortunately, we found out the day before.
So, we took the 8:30a bus. Reserved seats. But Flat Stanley had to sit in our lap. Seats were too small for us gringos, but we made do. Hot inside the bus - everyone but us and one other gringo bundled up against the 80+ degree bus. So Donna and I took turns sitting beside the small widow which had some fresh air. 7 hour trip to Ambato was 7 1/2: our "20 minute" bathroom break/stop at lunchtime was 39 minutes, then one girl missed the departure and so we had to wait while someone found her and got her to the bus. Our 45 minute trip from Ambato to Baños was 1:30 because of Fat Tuesday traffic. On the eay - what scenery featuing the 17,000' volcano on which our apartment sits. Photos.
Then when we got to the apartment.... horrible. Bed linens had not been chamged since the last tenant, apartment was filthy, no plates, no serving spoons, no dishes, no coffee pot. We arranged for a cleaning crew for 1p Wednesday, took photos, sent them to AirBnB and then called them. They were agast. Without us asking, they immediately refunded our entire payment and let us stay because there were no other apartments available in the city.
Monday, February 16, 2015
Tomorrow we will be in a bus almost 8 hours going to Baños so we decided today to just walk around. We did. We walked to the bus depot to buy our tickets, FS went over to Cuenca's "Big Chicken" and we met an interesting couple from Nrw Hampshire and we spent 7 hours walking and talking with them.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
We have started casting about for things to do today. The primo thing to do is to go for a hike in the national park nearby. But while we are at 8,500 feet and I am - slowly - adapting to the thin air, it is at 13,000 feet and I can't go there for that reason.
So we decided - after a huge breakfast of eggs, bacon, oatmeal with peaches, banana and coffee to head out to Sigsig, a small village an hour away. The bus was full so we could not sit together. This photo is from the bouncy back seat.
Our advertised $1.25 1 hour trip to Sigsig was 2 hours and $2 so when we got off, I was hungry. Carnival was in full go in the main area but the amplified Spanish Screamers were too loud for us so we went to a restaurant off the main drag where I took this dual lens photo.
Flat Stanley was very hungry and ordered the Rice with Seafood. Photo. He left some which I ate and then he disappeared. Shortly afterwards four police who had heard FS was here, showed up asking for "El Famoso Bandito Sr. Flat Stanley." When they could not find him, they sat down to eat and wait. FS met us outside, around the corner and we hopped a bus to get back to Cuenca after taking two last photos of Sigsig and Carnival.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Valentine's Day! It surely is enveloping having The Best Wife. Laughs and adventures, love and joy, at every turn. Today, she had to work: the charging cord on her Asus tablet broke so she went to the internet cafe to do her work. While she was gone, I made a picnic: chicken salad sandwiches made from chicken and flour+. We walked a couple of miles down to the river. Because it's Valentines Day, FS stayed at home. Donna and I pitched our double hammock and took a nap before eating our lunch: [photos] Then we went to a museum of the Incas - just so-so - and came home to more chicken salad, vegatable soup, and lots of fresh strawberries.
Friday, February 13, 2015
I went out early to get banana bread and bottled tea for Donna, then back for breakfast of bacon, eggs, and banana bread. On the way, she looked out our window to wish me off. [Photo]. After breakfast I caught a bus to the terminal and figured out what we were going to do on Tuesday when we go to Baños (the one up north). [Photo]. When I returned, we packed our swim suits and headed out by local bus (25 cents) to Baños (the one closeby) to go to the "Novagua" spa. We bought the $80 couples' deal which started with a swim in 97F mineral water for half an hour, then we went to a hot tub of mineral water at 105F. Then we slathered ourselves with mineral mud and sat in a warm cave for 20 minutes letting it dry and do its thing. After showering off we went to a sauna for awhile, then back to the 97F swim until our masseuses summoned us. We had 30 minute awesome massages. Then the most unusual part. The masseuse had me (and Donna's masseuse earler her) stand in this small room with a drain on the floor, two vertical support bars on one wall, and a 2'x2' open window on the opposite wall. Standing outside and leaning in, the masseuse spent 10 minutes blasting me with a firehose at 97F. Where it hit muscle or bone, it felt good. It really stung my "love handles!" When she was finished and I dressed, I realized that was probably the cleanist I have ever been.
Since it was a "couples" massage, Flat Stanley waited outside patiently, so we took him to lunch and then to share a banana split!
After a 25 cent busride back, we bought Donna a great leather hat, and us some groceries. We may go to the Symphony tonight at 8p
Day 2 is Day 1 of Carnival - the celebration prior to the 40 days of lent. It starts today, Thursday the 12th through "Fat Tuesday" next week. I am still struggling to get acclimated to the 8,300 feet altitude 24/7. I am sure it is because of age and lack of excellent conditioning. In 1986, just after retiring as a very good triathlete and weighing 60 fewer pounds I adapted in 24 hours to the much greater altitudes of Cuzco and Machu Pichu Peru. The weather here is unsurpassed. For me t-shirt weather. For most gringos, light sweaters. For the locals, coat and scarf. Highs are breezy near 70F. Lows are breezy and near 50F. It has so far only rained late at night. Breakfast pancakes and bacon with honey - no syrup here. Then, we went to the market [photo] to buy yeast (for bread) and pintos (for frijoles refritos). On the way out I saw something new. [Photo] This is a fire in a metal pan with prongs up to hold a pan not umlike a wok, with food cooking in the pan and the whole process wrapped in a STRAW basket to keep the heat in and wind out! Then to an internet cafe to print out pages for Donna's work since the charging cable is broken. Big lunch at a tapas restaurant, thrn home for a nap. 3p went out to the central square for drinks with Nancy, Stephen and Mariah who been emailing us info to Waleska. The new cathedral is beautiful [photo]. Dinner was chicken curry. Later we returned to the central square for the start of carnival, then home for a Netflix movie and to sleep.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
We arrived last night at 8p after a 55 min flight from Quito. We decided to fly for $80 each instead of a 9 hour bus ride for $8 each because we have an 8 hour bus ride when we leave here for Baños and it gave us most of an extra day in Quito. On the way in, Flat Stanley almost got airsick but he recovered to be featured in a photo. We also saw a snow-covered volcano. Photo. I saw and photographed the same volcano - except it was erupting - in my last flight out of Quito headed to Machu Pichu in Peru. Photo.
Our apartment is about average, 1 story up on a side street 50 feet from a major road so it's noisy, but the location is good and FS is behaving. We took him on a tour of Cuenca today. Photo. The tour went up on a mountain nearby and we were able to take a nice photo of the city. Photo. Ok, so you can't see the city for us. Donna took a nice photo. See her blog. Took a nap!
Afterwards we went to the market. Fresh veggies and fruits are 40% or so of the US cost. [We bought everything else at the supermarket where we spent $88 for what would have cost $55 at home. Everything is significantly higher than the USA at the supermarket: bread, butter, chicken, bacon, paper products, wine... everything.
Spaghetti with avocados, local cheese, wine for dinner.
Netflix works here. So we are going to watch a movie now, go to sleep, and start fresh tomorrow.