06.24.2008 - 06.30.2008
Ecuador is an enchanting land. Varied in landscape and terrain, you can find anything here. It has beaches and mountains, markets and malls, and everything in between. I have spent a majority of my time in the highlands region (center of the country), but teetering on the oriente (Amazon rainforest) at times.
It was here where I experienced many firsts:
- First time in South America bitches!!!
- First time I went to a cockfight
- First time I did laundry on the trip (three weeks)
- First time I got sick on the trip (hopefully the last)
- First time I was on land above 4,000 meters (12,000 feet)
- First time I had a drink that combined beer with raw eggs (since cocktail Ive always wanted to have a red eye!)
- First time I saw any animal being sacrificed
- First time I was told to throw dirty toilet paper in any place other than the toilet
- (most importantly) First time I broke the $5 barrier at a hostel.
This place is cheap. Like really effin cheap. For a meal you get Almuerzos which is like a fixed menu. For two bucks or less you get soup, chicken, rice, beans, salad, a coke, and sometimes a cookie. I went white water rafting (more on this later) for 30 bucks for the day. Gas is $1.50, and Hostels are between $4 and $8 a night (some including breakfast!). The possibilities are endless!
They aslo have really poor water pressure here, so you cant flush toilet paper which is such a foreign idea to me... Females may understand, but I was not about to go down, but eventually I had to give in.
With this website I have a limit to how much photos I can upload, and I couldnt make all the ones I wanted to put up from Otavalo, so here are some that didnt make it into the last post:
Since I left you last I was sick. I didnt do a whole lot since then. I have unfortunately spent a majority of my time in Ecuador in Quito recovering from that stomach infection. When there I went to this thing called Teleferiqo which is a big ass gondola that takes you to the top of the volcano that is on the outskirts of the city. Good views. Somebody got robbed up there hours before by a guy with a machete and revolver. Good timing. Then went to the Mitad Del Mundo. I need to dedicate a few paragraphs to that place.
The Mitad Del Mundo means quite literally the middle of the world. It gets that name because it is the place where the equator passes through (they consider the equator so important, they named the country after it. I took the .25 cent bus an hour north of Quito to the area, and went to the real one. The ¨real one¨is a large monument that is about 125 feet tall and 40 feet around that has submonuments for the four cardinal directions. Its in this place that costs $2 to get in (a ripoff if you ask me), and is just there. Fortunately for technical advances and the computer age 12 years ago, with the advent of the computer age, the ¨real¨equator was found to be approximately 600 meters off course from the monument thereby creating the ¨fake¨Mitad Del Mundo.
I went to the real one, had a guy take my picture and left. I talked to that guy, and he was cool so I asked if he wanted to go to the fake one. He had an elaborate story that condensed to the fact that he bought a bicycle in the south of Peru, and bicycled through Bolivia into Ecuador, and on that day to the Mitad Del Mundo. On the way there his money fell out of his pocket, and he sold a red bull to get into the real Mitad. Awesome! So I paid for him to get into the fake one and he was sooooo happy. He was going to have to sell his cigarettes otherwise. At the fake one which is $3 and worth every penny you go through and they do all these funny experiments, and show you about Ecuadorian culture. They show an Anaconda hide, a shrunken head, Cuy (not that interesting), and a hut from 1835. The experiments culminate in the balancing of the egg. First they describe coreolis forces, gravity, and the shape of the earth and then you balance an egg standing up on a nail. To sum up all the science and physics its easier to balance an egg at the equator. Now, mind you this is no special nail. In fact it was crooked, and had been rounded at the edge, and it was windy, and a light misting action. Not conducive to egg balancing, but I got it after a few intense minutes followed by light calesthenics, and a retry. My mission was accomplished. I can leave Ecuador a happy man. I got a stamp in my passport, a certificate for balancing the egg, and left.
In case you were curious how to make a shrunken head...
The whole reason I came to Ecuador was because three years ago I saw on TV someone balance the egg, and since then I made it my goal to do the same. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! Like if I could don a flight suit and have a big party on an aircraft carrier I would, except this time it would be for real.
Job well done if I might say so...
Also went to this church and climbed to the top of it for a view of the city. It wasnt anything that noteworthy except that to get to the top is ultra shady, and even by this guys standards. The staircase was almost inverted, it was so vertical, and you took a rickety rope bridge above the actual cathedral ceilings and the roof to get to the dome. This sounds weird, and youd never understand it, but it was really cool. Walking around I found a skate park in one of the main parks of Quito, and shredded it up for a heartbeat with these dudes. Also went to a museam of this famous Ecuadorian artist Guyasamin. His art is amazing. Since I have failed to have been properly educated in the fine arts (even though I dated an art history major for a couple years), I faked the funk with my nose high in the air ensuring at least one minute on an internal timer to properly examine each article of interest.
And a sculpture of Blakey Holmes doin work...
There was a soccer match in Quito between this team from Brazil and Quito. It was nuts because it was the finals for the South America Cup (smaller continental competition than World Cup, but quite impressive nonetheless), and Brazillians poured in from everywhere to watch. I was going to go, but for $50 a ticket from a scalper (not sure my spanish is up to that par yet), I decided its out of my price range. The second and final game of the finals is in Brazil on Wed. Should be sick!
In MotoGP news, Rossi crashed out of the race in Assen last week. He took out De Puniet, which is good so that bastard can get a taste of his own medicine. They used to call him the big green bowling ball. Despite going down on lap 1 with cold tires he still went on to take 11th for the race relinquishing the championship position back to Pedrosa who came in second. Germany is in a week and half time. The Sachsenring circuit has been a favorite of Rossi, and on the Bwin.com bets he is holding the odds for winnner.
After being in Quito too long, it was time to move on, but I wasnt feeling too hot just yet. I took a day and went to the thermal springs at Papallacta. A two hour bus ride away its a solid trip that leaves one refreshed, and ready to tackle the next big challenge. I met up with an asian guy from Brooklyn, and we exchanged a lot of ideas. They had a really hot bath that was next to the flowing river, and if you go back and forth its supposed to cleanse your body of toxins and cure ailments. It didnt take any more convincing than that. DONE! The guy ran a Kaplan, and was on vacation so wasnt going that cheap. He bought me lunch (SCORE!), and we headed back. I was ready to take on Cotopaxi.
Back in Quito I signed up to do a day trip to Cotopaxi which is the second largest mountain (volcano rather) in Ecuador. We were suppposed to go to 5,000 meters and see glacial ice and then mountain bike down to the refuge. I had to be at the cafe in the Mariscal (gringo town) at 7 AM. At the hostel I set my watch, and after watching a few minutes of Demolition Man in spanish dozed off. I woke up to a creak in the hotel at 6:53 in the morning, and knew it was impossible to make it. I smoked $35 down the drain that day! Soooo pissed
Instead of Cotopaxi I went to Baños, which if your wondering why there are bells going off in your head your high school spanish is kicking in and you are recalling a bathroom. You guessed it, there is a major town in Ecuador named after the John. Just like the southern tier has a town named after a Johnson, Ecuador also has a potty mouth. I got here and after checking into the hostel plants and whites (wtf?) went to this place. They rented motorbikes. A 250CC dirt bike for 10 an hour, a shitty CVT quad for 8, and a baja for 12. Wait did someone say Baja? Hell yeah! I laid ten on the table and took the keys. After they gave me a helmet that looked like it came straight from TEs shed it was on. I attacked the mountains of this place with a vengeance (ok, it was a lil underpowered so I have a hard time emphasizing the vengeance part). I went up this volcano above town which they said not to because two years ago it erupted killing people and blocking the only road to the town, and went untill I couldnt see anything in the clouds. Then I raced down determined to max out the speedo. Time to test the brakes (on a spot of sand and mud). Got it to 65 kph and locked em up. I no shit almost went flying off the mountainside, and in the process of gaining control almost rolled it, it was awesome!
Couldnt help myself
Twisties, going ultra slow because taking pictures and driving is always a bad idea
Today I went on a bike ride and white water rafting. It was cold and miserable at 830 when we were supposed to leave, and I almost copped out but fuck that. I paid, and I need the exercize. How else am I supposed to climb effortlessly in the Himalayan plateau. Me and Tito took these bikes in the worst weather ive ever ridden a bike in 17km to the pickup point. I couldnt see most of the time, and we were covered in mud at the end. Halfway we stopped at this place with a basket thing. Tito said I could do it for a dollar, so I hopped on without knowing what it was. It was some sort of a zip line thing run by an engine, but this was no regular engine. It was a four cylinder turbo hooked up to a car transmission in third gear. It took me and these two older folks (who im sure soiled their diapers) across at like 40mph to the other side. After looking around for about two blinks of an eye the girl gave the signal (waving a blue jacket in the air), and we were immediately back. Since the guy didnt have change for a ten I rode for free (so many scores in this entry - im getting good). We then had to go through a couple of tunnels. They were curvey so you couldnt see light at the other end. It was really weird going in, getting darker and darker, and going like 15mph into nothingness. If I felt the wall Tito told me to turn away, that was his only guidance, other than to try and imagine where you should be. I managed (or we managed, and went to the rondezvous).
After biking was white water rafting. We met with four others (who didnt want to do bike riding - panzies), and hit the water of this river. It was really moving because it rained hard the night before. Tito made us hit every gnarly wave, and cruize the hardest line through every rapid. Without the ailing foot and duct tape boot I was ready to be the captain of the ship and took the helm (or bow?) and got my face in the action. It was class four, and was way cooler than when I went on the black river in NY. Although, before I went in NY the day before I almost died twice on the DRZ getting loose in the twisties by the Binghamton airport and I remember being like ¨fuck motorcycles are crazy¨and then white water rafting wasnt all that of a rush. This time I didnt have anything like that so it was really sweet. After I got a free meal at the indigenous village (where the others in the boat were going), and we headed back.
Last but not least, the Cuy Trifecta...
Tomorrow is steam bath, bungee jumping, and then maybe a $12 massage. In three days time I head to Peru!