Monthly Archives: September 2008

Cuenca y fotos…

well the computer is displaing the photos in a funny text way to me, so i can´t explain what each of them is in the proper order, but here´s an overview of what you´ve got:

there is one of chris and i are the national park right near cuenca called las cajas. we went there for a nice little hike yesterday. the trail wasn’t marked well, but the scenery was beautiful and we managed to not get lost (staying within sight of the road above us didn’t hurt).

there’s another of chris at a hot dog cart. he hasn’t lost his taste for such american treats despite our travels. funny.

there’s one of me sitting in a cave at las cajas. i could have sworn something big and furry was going to crawl out of a hole and attack me. eek.

OH, there’s one of us in Zaruma (before Cuenca) in a cave pushing a cart full of gold. we still aren’t quite sure how we’re going to declare our riches.

there’s another one of the happy travelers on our hike in the park.

the final picture is of chris pointing at our house. it’s tiny and far away, but he’s pointing at it nonetheless. we’re at pumapungo, some inca ruins right near our house in cuenca. sweet.

that’s probably our of order, but you all can figure out which caption goes with which picture i imagine.

anyways, it’s a dry weekend in cuenca due to the elections (i’m not talking about the weather), so we have had a nice, relaxing time of wandering around, reading, and relaxing. not too bad. yesterday was our hike in the national park, then this morning we headed to a town called gualaceo to visit the sunday market there. they had two…one was fruits and veggies, the other live animals. the animal one was kind of cool. cooler still was watching the people load their new purchases into the back of their trucks to cart them home. you should have heard the pigs squeal. ha.

other than that, we just finished a big old lunch for our host dad’s birthday and we’re expected home shortly for ice cream and cake. yum. tomorrow morning marks the beginning of our volunteer work, so hopefully we’ll come up with some good stories from our ecological travels around cuenca.

hope all is well at home, it’s time for cake in ecuador!

Una escuela, una familia, y un voto muy grande

yesterday was a whirlwind of a day, that’s for sure. we woke early for breakfast at our hostel, then headed over to the language school to meet the staff there as well as our new family. the staff got a big kick out of chris being a he and not a she; they were all expecting two girls to arrive. evidently chris sounds rather feminine to them as well because our family keeps confusing our names. kind of funny. so yeah, after a few chuckles and a bit of relief when they realized we were “novios” and would be content staying in the same room, everything was fine. our host mom, rita, arrived shortly after we checked in and whisked us off to the casa. we live about a twenty minute walk from school…not too bad despite the big hill along the way. the household consists of rita, jaime (the dad), rita’s 103 year old grandma, and a 15 month old granddaughter who only hangs out there during the day. there are two sons (both married) who join the family everyday for lunch (this is typical for married men in ecuadorian culture), and last night at dinner we were joined by rita’s aunt and uncle. from what we have gathered so far, the house is generally aflutter with people. it’s nice and spacious though, so there’s plenty of room for all of us. the only complaints thus far have been that they don’t have the nfl sunday ticket (chris) and that the shower was horrifically cold this morning (also chris – i had a nice hot shower). other than that, they seem like wonderfully kind people, and it should be a nice place to rest for a few weeks.

yesterday afternoon we had our first classes from 3 until 7 in the afternoon. we both left school incredibly tired but pleased with the way the day went. four hours of class is a lot, but it will certainly do us some good, as all the classes are one on one. no dozing off at this school.

this morning we were scheduled to begin our volunteer work, so we went to meet miguel, our supervisor. he informed us that he has no work for us this week, so we must wait until next week if we want to help. both of us agreed that a few free mornings this week would be fine. the work sounds pretty interesting. from what we have gathered so far, we’ll be visiting towns around cuenca and assisting with various ecology projects. if nothing else, it will be interesting to see the agricutlural industry around here – it seems like it is quite extensive – and to visit some neighboring towns. we’ll see.

oh, an interesting tid bit we learned yesterday. there are elections in ecuador this sunday to approve or reject amendments to the constitution. because of the elections, it is illegal for anyone in the country to drink alcohol from friday at noon until monday at noon. the voter turn-out is also very nearly 100% because if you do not vote, you lose all kinds of privledges (including going to school, purchasing certain items, leaving the country, traveling within the country, etc). kind of crazy, but it should be interesting because the vote seems to be divided down the middle.

well, that’s about it from this neck of the woods. we’re currently working on weekend adventure plans, but in the meantime it’s school, school, school.

bye for now!

oh, and no pictures because i’m on a mac and for the life of me couldn’t figure out how to upload photos. maybe next time…

Zaruma on to Cuenca

hello again and greetings from Cuenca, our new home for a few weeks. we made it safely into town this afternoon after a surprisingly efficient day of bus travel from Zaruma to Machala, then Machala to Cuenca.

Zaruma turned out to be a great pick for a couple of kids that like mountains, small towns and relaxation. we arrived into town on friday afternoon and hiked our way up the hill (a BIG hill) until a few Zarumians guided us to toward the plaza where we would find our hotel. it turned out to be a good one, with a balcony overlooking a quaint little town square. perfect for afternoon reading, scrabble and beers. as the afternoon rolled on, chris insisted that we hike up an even bigger hill to reach the pride of the town: the giant cross atop the hill. so we hiked, asked a child playing in the street for directions, hiked some more, asked another kid, hiked some more, saw a one-eared goat, hiked some more, and ultimately we were there…at the foot of the cross (Jesus had HUGE feet in case anyone has ever wondered). anyways, following the cross, we completed a loop that ran around the town, down a hill and back up the other side. by the time we got to the other side, there were people everywhere pointing to the side of the hill from which we had just walked. finally we found someone who told us that a car had driven over the side of the mountain and was caught in the trees! crazy. we never found out what happened, but it was kind of a crazy scene to witness. anyways, we continued on our walk, got a bit lost, and finally made our way home for, you guessed it, an evening cerveza on the balcony. mmm.

the next day was spent wandering through the local mine. the tours are free, but they´re entirely in spanish, and our spanish geological terms are not quite up to snuff, so it could have been tricky if not for the high schooler they brought in to translate for us. evidently his mom worked over by the mine, saw a couple gringos approach, and called him to tell him he needed to come translate. it was actually quite helpful…and quite funny. you´ll have to wait for photos of this one though because again i have neglected to pack the camera cord. lo siento.

this morning we were up bright and early to catch our first bus. lucky for us we arrived in machala after a pretty ride through a cloud forest and caught another bus right away to cuenca. school starts tomorrow morning (we meet our family at 10:30 for coffee and then have class in the afternoon). it should be good; we´re both ready for some intensive classes. we´ve been getting along well with what we know, and it has been quite fun for me to remember what i used to know, but it will certainly be nice to have a formal grammar refresher. classes will run for about 3 or 4 hours in the afternoons, and we´re going to learn more about volunteering in the mornings tomorrow when we meet everyone at school.

so yeah, things continue to roll along nicely with us down here. hopefully all is well at home, and maybe we´ll hear from some of you soon! until then, hasta luego.

estamos en ecuador y tenemos fotos!

back again… we made it all the way to ecuador yesterday which didn´t seem like a big feat when we began our journey, but as the hours rolled past we had our doubts. first things first though, we have some pictures to share from the past few days…

this first one is of us sporting our new alpaca hats while enjoying a bottle of wine in lima. the house red wine was only 8 bucks and we swear it didn´t taste like vinegar.

this next one is at a park in lima looking out over the pacific. it´s called el parque del amor. though we found it quite nice and peaceful during the day, a walk past the park at sunshine is sure to be greeted by lots of maker-outers. it´s not the called the parque del amor for nothing, i suppose. either way, it´s pretty nonetheless…

the next one is in huanchaco, on the roof of our hotel where we enjoyed a sunset beer. it´s the roof that you all were invited to meet us at but neglected to do so…

Next up is our dumpy hotel room in Mancora, the sweet little beach town. that´s the room we left in favor of a nicer one across the way. from the looks of things, you might understand.

And the final one is the entire coconut we ate. again, YUM.

Anyways, as for the present, were in Machala, Ecuador for the morning. Were headed out of town shortly to work our way west into the hills to a town called Zaruma. We should be there for tonight and perhaps tomorrow night as well, then its time to head up to Cuenca.

As for our adventures in the past couple days, the biggest bit was that the trip yesterday from Mancora to Machala encountered some funniness on the Ecuadorian side of the border when we arrived at immigration. it seems that the electric company had decided to replace a pole and all the wiring in the middle of the day, so we stood there watching for a long time, hoping that the old pole would not crush the meat on a stick/coca cola vendor working beneath as it swayed precariously on its rope. even the peruvians in line behind us found the way they were working to be questionable, so i suppose it wasn´t just our anal american ways at work. regardless, they accomplished everything after a while and we made our way into ecuador. once in ecuador, the bus guy asked for our tickets, and when we showed them to him gave us a perplexed “Machala!” (there´s supposed to be a question mark there too but the key wont work on my keyboard). We were like, yeah, machala, does this bus not go to machala (again, question mark). he responded with a “yes, this bus goes to machala…” and we were off.

anyways, were being booted from our computers, so its time to go.

again, we hope all is well at home, and enjoy the little comments that come our way from time to time.

bye for now!

still working on our tans…

hello again and greetings from the lovely little beach town of mancora. we arrived here yesterday after a night in piura followed by six hours on a bus. not bad.

piura turned out to be a decent sized city – bigger than we expected. we stumbled upon a great place to stay after wandering around for a while, so that was a definite bonus, as was the chinese food the hotel guy told us about. oh and for about 13 bucks, we got a room with our own bathroom, cable tv and internet.

mancora has been a treat for sure. its a very laid back, very surfy, very beachy little town. aside from the panamericana, all the other roads weve come upon are sand. after arriving yesterday, we checked into a dump of a place and headed out for some lunch. lunch meant a restaurant on the beach with tables in the sand and big cheap beers. not a bad way to start a beach getaway, thats for sure. following lunch and a walk around town, we secured a less dumpy room for the following night. the convenient thing was that it was right across the street from the old place and right on the beach. the inconvenient thing was the woman at hostal number 1 watched us this morning as we made our way to hostal number 2. so it goes. the funny part about the whole thing is that a group of german backpackers who we shared buses with from trujillo to piura, then piura to mancora, stayed at the same dump the first night and appeared this afternoon seeking a room (refuge?) at our new hostal. poor suckers went back to dumpy hostal number 1 in an effort to retrieve the money they already paid for night number 2. we havent seen them since. ha.

anyways, were heading out of mancora tomorrow and should make our grand entrance into ecuador before the day is done. in terms of travel, weve got a little bus to tumbes, a peruvian border town, followed by an ecuadorian bus that will carry us over the border and ultimately into manchala, ecuador, before the day is done. language school starts in cuenca on monday, so we have a few days yet before we need to settle ourselves in for some good old educacion.

in the meantime, were headed back out to the beach for a beer and a sunset. spending days on the pacific coast does wonders for one’s sunset viewing, thats for sure!

take care for now; hopefully well be able to share some more photos soon!

p.s. we just ate an entire coconut. yum.

vamos a la playa

well, we´re back. no pictures this time because the camera cord is in the hostel right now. that´s a shame because there are some good ones to share, but alas.

since we last wrote, we wandered around lima for a third and final day. i managed to convince a starved christopher to eat lunch at a vegetarian restaurant (muy rico), and then we spent some time exploring the mercado de los indios. it´s a huge crafts market that was located fairly close to where we were staying. they had some neat stuff, and i can guarantee that by the time you see him next, chris will be the proud owner of a llama sweater. yep.

to make our grand exit out of lima, we hopped on a night bus up to trujillo, 8 hours north on the coast. the bus wasn´t bad aside from the music they blared for the first couple hours and the lack of AC throughout the night…and of course for the fact that we were sleeping on a bus. upon arriving in trujillo, chris befriended a peruvian guy who led us and our new canadian friend (from the bus ride) to a nice little breakfast spot. delicious fresh squeezed pineapple juice made the meal for me, for chris it had to be his manwich that incorporated ham, turkey, chicken, pork, some other meat we did not know, and a fried egg: the breakfast of champions.

after hopping in the tiniest cab in the world, we headed to Huanchaco, a beach town about 10 miles from Trujillo. here our day was spent lounging on the beach, reading and enjoying a cerveza or two on a patio right before sunset. not a bad way to spend a day.

today has been much of the same after sleeping in and disfrutaring a nice breakfast outside on the patio. we made our way into trujillo once again to purchase our bus tickets for tomorrow and explore a bit of the town´s quaintness. now we´re back around huanchaco for the rest of the day with a fresh avocado in tow from the market in trujillo (it cost us about 25 cents). if anyone would care to join us for a rooftop beer and some freshly sliced avocado, that´s where we´ll be in about 2 hours.

anyways, tomorrow we head north once again to a town call Piura. we should have one night there, then a quick bus ride the next morning to Mancora. that´ll be our last stop before we enter ecuador. Mancora is supposed to be a pretty nice little beach town, so we shouldn´t have much trouble entertaining ourselves there for a few days. we´re looking to try some surfing…we`ll see how that goes.

hope you´re all doing well! oh, and please don´t hesitate to post comments and let us know where we´re failing (or excelling) in our travels and travel writing. if you just want to say hello, that´s cool too…we would love to hear from everyone

Piscos, ceviche and damn those are some hot tomatoes

Well, we made it…and here we are:

After gathering our bags at the Lima Airport, we couldn’t help but grin at the taxi stand where a sign reading “CHRISTOFER AAROAL” beckoned us forward. Not too bad for midnight on a Tuesday after traveling all day. We hopped into our cab and sped through the empty streets of Lima until we arrived at…well…nowhere really. It seemed that way at least, but after Frances, the hostal dad (no, not hostile, hostAL), welcomed us to his home, things fell quickly into place. By quickly we mean less quickly and more thoroughly, but they fell into place nonetheless. Frances presented us with a map of Lima and its various sections, and proceeded to offer us a guided tour of said city map for the next hour or so. Helpful? Very. Timely? Not really. We were beat.

The next morning held some promise for us as we navigated our way around the local bus system and ultimately found ourselves in Central Lima. Where in Central Lima, we weren’t quite sure, but we were there nonetheless. So yeah, our morning was spent wandering around Plaza Mayor, Plaza San Martin, and whatever we found in between. We managed to stumble upon the changing of the guard in Plaza Mayor which was pretty interesting, especially given that it was an Olypmic athlete honoring changing of the guard. Lots of music, plenty of guards marching, and a handful of athletes in the middle. I imagine they were thrilled. ha. Anyways, here’s a glimpse at Plaza Mayor…

Well, after an exciting morning it seemed like a good idea to find ourselves some lunch, so following Frances’ map, we wound our way through the streets until we arrived at China Town. Lima has a surprisingly large Chinese population, and we were pleasantly pleased with the ability of this lunch to further prove the theory that Chinese food tastes pretty much the same no matter where you get it…with one exception. It tastes just like home whether it’s from home or from Lima; HOWEVER, it does not taste like home when you fill your wonton soup with “tomatoes” that turn out to be the hottest things your mouth and your sinuses have ever seen. Christopher learned the hard way on that one. He cried like a baby. HA.Anyways, after that excitement we took the bus back to our hostel in hopes of wandering around Miraflores, the district in which we’re staying for the moment. We made our way down to the cliffs lining the ocean and hung out there for a while. Pretty pretty place. Logically, after wandering around such a pretty place, we decided it was time to reward ourselves with a beer, so rewards ourselves we did. Yum. And even more logically, after rewarding ourselves with a beer, we thought, what better time than now to reward ourselves with some dinner? So we did, and along with that dinner came a free pisco sour. Delicious. Chris ordered ceviche, and I, attempting to try something off the menu that I wasn’t quite sure of, wound up with fried cheese wontons. For real. They made a nice appetizer, but I have to admit the ceviche took the cake. It was delicious. Next up was a quick stop at the store to grab some beers and head home to watch the Peru/Argentina soccer match. Lucky for us, Frances shares a similar mentality and was there at the hostal to welcome us with some type of pisco/coke/lime/booze booze booze drink. Again, it was delicious. Peru tied the match and that means they’re still in the running for the World Cup in 2010, so needless to say the horns were honking outside our windows as we went to bed. Fun night.

This morning held more Lima bus adventures for us as we made our way south of the city to visit Pachacamac, the closest set of Incan and pre-Incan ruins to Lima. They were pretty sweet and certainly bode well in terms of our Machu Picchu trip at the end of October. Lesson learned though at lunchtime regarding Peruvian food: salchipapas is french fries covered in sliced up hot dog. Nothing more, nothing less…really.

Interesting note from the ride home: we took a little omnibus (kind of like a 15 passenger van but with less room and a dude hanging out the window hollering where it’s headed as the bus flies down the road). By the time we go to our stop, we were all the way in the back and the van had amassed a total of about 18-20 riders. Needless to say getting out was a bit of a trick. Chris equated it to being born again, and I have to agree. Just put your head down and plug on through until you’re out…breathe…ahh…

Anyways, here I am posing with my new friend from Pachacamac:

Well, tomorrow we’re headed north, though we’re not entirely sure where yet. Possibly a city/town called Trujillo. Otherwise who knows. The goal is to get to a beach town in the next few days…smaller town, fewer people, more hammocks. We’ll see how it goes.

Bye for now; hope all is well with everyone at home.

Welcome Welcome

With about twelve hours to go before we leave, I’m learning to blog and Chris is…well, Chris is watching football instead of packing (somehow this seems a fitting way to begin the trip). So welcome, friends, to our big South American/Mexican adventure. We’ll do our best to post some photos and thoughts here for the next few months; hopefully you’ll find our exploits to be as amusing as we surely will.