Hello again from tropical Ecuador…the adventure continues.
My first night in Quito was at the Chicago Hostel which I recommend wholeheartedly if you’re ever down this way. It’s about half-way between New Town and Old Town, so pretty quick to get to either, and in a nice quiet area not far from a beautiful park.
I was rummy with fatigue, but couldn’t let the day go to waste, so visited with some Danes, Swedes, Brits and later some Canadians – it’s a world wide group of travelers down here. Then I wrote you all the first installment from the rooftop terrace of the Hostel – incredible views from there – and watched a BatMan movie that was playing in the common room with the fellow who picked me up at the airport and the two Brits. Later we caught the bus ($.25) for a ride into New Town where we had the most delicious steak I may have ever eaten at an Argentinian Steak House. Returned to the hostel and finally crashed.
5:30 a.m. my alarm went off and I was still not used to the new time zone. I had lost many hours of sleep in the flights, but managed to get myself up. My previously arranged taxi arrived at 6 a.m. on the button! The owner of Chicago Hostel had told me I had to be at the airport for my flight to Loja a full two hours before its departure. My taxi got me there lickety-split – the roads were free and clear at that hour of the morning – and we arrived at the airport at 6:30 a.m. When I attempted to check in, I learned that the ticket counter wouldn’t be checking in my flight for another hour!
So, now with an hour to burn, I wondered around the airport and learned they are building a brand new airport that should open this year (2010). It is being built by three companies – Canadian, Brazilian and one from Houston. Amazing! It will be larger than their current airport, and more out-of-town.
Then I began to watch the folks preparing to take the morning flight to the Galapagos, and even met some of them and learned some info about tours over there, etc. What’s terrific is to see so many families taking their kids to the Galapagos. One group who had organized their own trip had two couples with kids, 5 kids, and one older couple, so they had 3 generations in one family going together. How wonderful! There were many sets of couples who were in their 60’s and 70’s or so, which was also impressive.
Finally it was time to get my ticket – no problemo – and I proceded through security into the waiting area. And, delightedly, there was free wi-fi again! So I checked email and answered a bunch, and then boarded my Tame flight to Loja which had a total of maybe 15 passengers on a plane that could have held over 100 people. It was a quick 50 minute flight above the clouds which seem to blanket most of Ecuador right now, and we were served fresh-tasting orange juice that didn’t taste artificial in the least! It tasted almost fresh-squeezed! I was impressed.
Upon departure at the Loja airport I was met for the second time ever in my life by a person holding a sign with my name on it. My driver and I made a speedy get-away from the crowds and terminal – how delightful. And then the gorgeous 2 hour ride all the way to Vilcabamba through the most verdant, abundant plant-filled wide expansive valleys, stunning ridge lines, steep dropping canyons – awesome. Once again I was reminded of Pandora in the movie Avatar. We passed small towns and crossed rivers, and finally arrived at Vilcabamba. It is a small town, very pleasant looking with a town square surrounded by businesses, restaurants and trees. My driver drove on another 3 kilometers to my destination. Pulling into the driveway of my hosteria was gorgeous – flowering plants and trees and artistically arranged landscape was in every direction. These folks have created an oasis!
The Hosteria Izhcayluma is enchanting. It has individual cabins, or dorms, or shared rooms, a pool and jacuzzi, a Spa, a restaurant, bar, movie room and pool table. I was terrifically glad I booked my private cabin over a month ago! This is Carnival week, and though the holiday is finished tonight it gets pretty crazy in the small towns. The big thrill is throwing buckets of water on people – they just can’t get enough of it. Another thrill is foaming people with big cans of pressurized foam – I don’t know what kind it is, but looks somewhat like shaving cream. Anyway, the town is inundated with people, though they’re mostly leaving now to go back home to their cities. There is a real scarcity of rooms to be had in small towns at the last minute during this national holiday.
I had lunch at the little restaurant at the Hosteria. It’s open air, and has a couple of beautiful hosteria-owned dogs that meander through, looking for pets and maybe a hand-out. The squack of parrots in nearby trees frame the spectacular views of the valley from the lunch table. The place is stunning!
After lunch, I took the taxi ($1.00) into town, and spent 2 hours exploring the Town Square area and its shops and restaurants. I did get hit on the backside once with water, as there were hundreds of kids gathered around a town square (park) that were engaged in water and foam fights, but for the most part I avoided the dangers. Took some pictures and learned about horseback rides into the National Park, then caught the taxi back to the Hosteria for dinner.
During dinner of chicken in red wine sauce, rice, braised potatoes and salad ($5.25) with a HUGE Pilsner beer ($1.25) I ended up meeting more people – a couple from Oregon and then a woman from Germany and another from Canada – and learned alot of travel info from them. Great folks traveling! It’s been awhile since I’d traveled like this, and I’d forgotten how fun it is to meet other globe-trotters.
At 9 p.m. the kitchen cooks and waiters erupted in water fights and hysterical laughter and screaming and tearing through the restaurant in chases after each other so I called it a night. If employees had behaved like that in the U.S. they would have been instantly fired, but here it’s different – and it’s the end of Carnival. Before retiring I borrowed a plug adaptor to recharge my laptop battery – I had forgotten to bring one, and they’re essential for these countries. My laptop plug requires the ground prong, and of course none of the outlets in my cabin have the third hole. But fortunately my neighbors (new friends from Canada) had one they loaned me for the night.
I hope I’ll be able to sleep. There are the strangest noises going on outside on my deck somewhere…it sounds like some kind of animal is chewing on the deck! And some of the cries and calls and other noises I’m hearing I’ve never heard before – a little unnerving, as there is nothing but a glass wall between me and the deck. I’ve locked the glass door and before that I went out once to investigate, but saw nothing. Meanwhile, the outsides of the glass are covered in very large moths trying to get in because my bed lamp is on…Hmmm. If you don’t hear from me again it’s because whatever is eating the deck somehow got in and found me tastier !! More news tomorrow, hopefully!