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Published: August 27th 2014
Me and my Beau
I know, sailor boy's face has a greenish tinge to it. He was feeling a bit nauseous after a rough night at sea. (photo taken by Lillie at Farallon de Dillon on the Santa Elena Peninsula)
No sooner had I said good-bye to the Simonellos from Florida, I caught up with the Hughes family from New Orleans. I had travelled with Gary & Fay and their granddaughter Lillie in March. At that time I helped 11 yr old Lillie prepare for her upcoming exams (she did great!). When her grandparents asked where she'd like to go for summer vacation she responded, "Back to Ecuador to travel with Miss Jill," so they came down again! As was the case with my last blog entry, this one will have more photos than text, so to see them all please scroll all the way down and click next.
Their first week in Ecuador the Hugheses went to the Galapagos, and then I met them in Quito. We started out by heading north to eventually connect with our mutual friend Roger, but first a quick visit to Otavalo. We visited the early morning animal market saw the afternoon closing-up of local street market with an obligatory visit to the Shenandoah Pie Shop. We continued on to Lake Cuicocha, located at the base of Cotacachi Mountain. It was a gloriously clear day so we could
Otavalo Animal Market
Cute llamas, cuddling as they wait to be sold. Imagine the background sound of high-pitched squealing as reluctant pigs are led off to become bacon.
see Taita Imbabura across the valley and the tip-top of snow-capped Cayambe in the distance.
We continued on to the town of Cotacachi where we visited a leather workshop (amazing jackets, furniture & even tiny change purses made from scraps). What luck! When we stopped for an ice cream, we were treated to a procession celebrating the saint's day of the town's patron saint. From there we headed north to San Antonio de Ibarra where we watched the intricate carving and painting of a wooden saint statue. Staying at a artsy, cool inn further north in Tumbabiro, we went to some soothing hot springs just beyond (Chachimbiro) and visited with Roger on his farm in Cahuasqui.
We all squeezed into the truck to bring Roger & his luggage down to Quito (flying out to the US for his daughter's wedding) and then picked up the remainder of Gary, Fay & Lillie's luggage at their Quito guest house before continuing on down to my place in Banos. We ended up modifying our itinerary to spend a full week at my house - all needed some downtime. We
It was windy and chilly out on this crater lake; the glorious skies showcasing mountaintops all around.
soaked in the Salado thermal baths, visited the Swing at the End of the World, ate lots of wonderful meals and were treated to a show by Mama Tungurahua. The volcano began erupting again and though she was clouded over most of the time, one evening we managed to glimpse some ash plumes between the clouds. Lillie & Gary went horseback riding with a friend's daughter, Lillie & I did some studying together, we ate lots of avocados (my trees produce the most creamy, luscious fruits!) and then set off for Guayaquil refreshed and regenerated.
After just one night in Guayaquil (to visit Iguana Park and break up the long drive to the coast), we headed to Ballenita and the funky fun Inn called Farallon Dillon (Dillon's lighthouse). Owned by a retired Merchant Marine Captain, the place is filled with maritime memorabilia. His wife is a decorator and it shows in all the quirky design details. Lillie and I enjoyed the mermaid infinity pool (dropped off to an ocean view!) and we took the steep walk down the cliff to the beach below. It was Lillie's first time on an ocean beach and
Santa Ana Festival
Lively procession with music and dance and priests in high hats. Wonderful surprise in Cotacachi!
she was fascinated by the shells and seaweed. Before heading further north up the coast, we visited the museum of the Amantes de Sumpa (skeletons found embracing, 10,000 years after their burial) and the mud baths at San Vicente. After soaking in hot springs and wallowing in the mud pool, we luxuriated in aloe massages. Happy skin!
Next stop, Hosteria Mandala. What a treat to be a hotel guest at the lodge where I work each year as substitute manager. I loved sharing this special place with the Hughes Family, and we explored all the nearby sites. Lillie & Gary went horseback riding along the beach while Fay & I visited with friends who have built a house on the beach. We went swimming in my favorite lagoon - the sulphur warm springs of Agua Blanca, and enjoyed stunning views from the overlook at Los Frailes Beach in the Machalilla National Park. We also took a chocolate tour, visiting a cacao plantation and learning about the chocolate-making process (very labor intensive!).
Continuing northward, we stayed in Bahia de Caraquez and had a nice pizza dinner with some friends
Where there are animals, there must be ropes!
I hadn't seen in a long time. We spent one day at Isla Corazon, a heart-shaped Island completely made of mangroves and home to the world's largest frigate bird colony. Some of the males were in full mating posture, inflating their huge red neck sacs. Nature in its purest state! Further north we stayed at another of my fave guest houses, Punta Prieta. Lillie & I had the little cabins on the beach while Fay & Gary stayed in a cliffside suite with stunning views. We indulged Lillie's love of sea shells with a long walk as the tide was receding, leaving behind wonderful treasures.
For the last few days of their visit we headed inland towards Mindo, a lovely inter-Andean valley with spring-like weather, known for its variety of bird life (especially hummingbirds) and butterflies. We stayed at Mariposas de Mindo where there's a large "mariposario" (butterfly propagation center). As guests of the lodge we were permitted to visit the butterfly enclosure early in the morning when they were emerging from their pupae (chrysalis) and at dusk when the whole tented area was filled with the large Ojo de Buho (owl eye-named
Girls and Beads
Fay & Lillie choose a beaded bracelet for $1.
for the eye-like design on each wing to scare off predators who might see it as a larger animal) and bright blue morpho butterflies.
In Mindo Lillie took some handicraft classes, learning to carve tagua (vegetable ivory nuts) and weave knotted macrame bracelets. We took another chocolate tour and saw different aspects of the process. Lillie & Gary went for a short horseback ride and right after it we all went tubing on the river. They lashed 8 inner tubes together and we bounced and jounced over the rocky river, grasping rope loops to hang on. There had been no rain for months so the river was low, but it was still a wild ride. Since Mindo is just a few hours from Quito, we had plenty of time to make the last day's drive for their late night flight. Since we got to the airport early we had time for a yummy sushi dinner (what a treat!) before saying our farewells.
The following morning I dropped off my truck for her 35,000 km service before heading by taxi over to the EIL Center where I
These musicians up on the hill harmonized with the grunts and squeals of the animals below.
was to observe and assess TESOL Certificate Training course (for English teachers). The university where I did my master's degree (SIT - School for Int'l Training in Vermont) oversees the Quito training session, so they hire me a couple times a year to observe the course, interview the participants, and send them a report. I like keeping my hand in the academic world, but am glad that I'm no longer working day to day in a classroom setting, dealing with administrivia!
The day after sending off my assessment report to SIT, I met up with four volunteers from Engineers Without Borders for another visit to the village where we have been installing water systems for almost 8 years. Over 1500 people now have a tap that comes to their house. They used to spend 2-4 hours a day hauling water by burro or on foot, just to have enough for daily cooking needs. Now they can wash their clothes and bathe more regularly, contributing to better health. Amazingly, the village now has internet access so I am publishing this blog entry from my bedroom where I have rigged up a desk with boxes!
Straddling the equator, Cayambe's peak is said to be the highest point from the earth's core. It's not the highest mountain, but the bulge of the globe pushes out.
Alas, I haven't been taking many photos, but promise to do so starting today! Thanks for reading and be sure to take a look at all the great photos Gary Hughes & I took to contribute to this blog entry. Hugs!
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