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Showing posts from March, 2010


Last night after blogging i went back to La Ronda. The street was even livelier last night. There were street musicians and performers and all of the restaurants and bars were filling with happy people. In the doorways women had skillets of unidentifiable meat and fish and bubbling cauldrons from which they were ladling cups of soup and hot drinks. (Really, they were proper cauldrons.) I had a glass of hot blackberry juice (which was sweet and tart and tasty) and I walked in the crowd. There didn´t seem to be many tourists there. It is only two blocks, but it is a great place to spend an evening.

Two little girls, about 5 years old walked around selling cigarettes from wicker baskets.  It is amazing, all of the children who are out at night by themselves, working. Some of them seem very happy, but others look so tired and and sad. I saw a very little boy carrying a bag of potatos that was almost as big as he was. It is kind of tragic, really.

It is interesting, a number of people here h…

A Relaxing Afternoon in Gringolandia

This morning, after an excellent coffee at El Cafeto, I caught a bus to the New Town, or more particularly, to Mariscal Sucre, or ¨Gringolandia¨as the locals called it. It is the part of town where most of the hotels and tour/travel agencies are located. (I am staying in the Centro Historica). It is actually pretty nice. Very colorful and packed with hostels and hotels and international restaurants and bars catering to the back-packing and traveling crowd. (There are also lots of locals there.)
First stop was the National Museum, where i viewed some excellent ancient and Incan art, mostly pottery, sculptures and gold. There was also a lovely exhibit of Colonial religious partings.
After that I had a coffee on the Avenida Amazonas, the main street. I browsed in the shops and waled up and down all of the blocks.  I had a leisurely lunch and cigar at a cafe in a square (below) and then browsed at an art market.The weather was perfect today and it was a delight to be outside. Upon returning …

Return From the Jungle

Thursday morning I woke up at 5am and caught a canoe at 5:30, which took me back to the Rio Napo where a motorized canoe made the 2.5 hour journey back to the port of Coca. The air was cool and thick with wet fog. Once there we caught a pickup truck back to the airport. It was pretty squishy in the cab, so i volunteered to ride in the back with the luggage as we wound our way through the lively and dirty streets of Coca. Arriving back in Quito, i returned to my hotel where i had a much-needed hot shower. Soon i was back out on the street. What a change from the Quito of Sunday! The whole city is alive and bustling. Where there had been only closed doors before were now hold in the wall bodegas and boutiques, restaurants and bars. Women on the streets walked around selling everything from pencils and toothbrushes to baskets of fresh fruit and cups of hot soup. I am totally enjoying Quito. It is so lively.
I spent about an hour and a half looking for a store that sold disposable cameras an…

Why It's Called the Rain Forest

Wednesday morning after breakfast we hiked into the jungle to a kapock tree, around which a wooden scaffolding had been built.  At the top, we were above the jungle canopy and had incredible views of the lush green sea. Our purpose there was to look for birds.  I have never gone bird watching before, but now that I have i can say that i don´t enjoy it. Don´t misunderstand - i like seeing the birds, but when you are waiting for birds to appear, it is very dull.  Fortunately, we didn´t have to wait long. We saw bright blue swallow tanagers and brilliant red summer tanagers, parrots, and many other birds the names of which I cannot recall.  Later that day we saw flocks of nighthawks, black vultures and toucans flying overhead. Our bird watching was cut short however when a heavy rain came out of nowhere.  We climbed down the tree and put on our ponchos. Some people wanted to return to their huts, so Bolivar took them back. They rest of us went on a rain walk with Marco. We were wearing po…

Welcome to the Jungle: Day Two

I woke up at 5am and had coffee while watching the sunrise over the lagoon. It is so incredibly peaceful, just watching flocks of birds swoop over the water and the odd indigenous jungle resident silently sailing by on a dugout canoe.  I had breakfast (toast, yogurt and fruit) and then a very serene canoe ride down the river to a clay bank where dozens of parrots gather to eat the clay, which helps them digest certain fruits.  We then went for a walk through the jungle and encountered a cocoa tree. I ate quite a bit of the fruit - basically, you suck this sweet white goo off of the bitter seeds. It was good. We then went to the home of an indigenous family. They lived in this two room hut on stilts. The littlest girl (about 4 maybe) had a pet baby monkey - only 1 month old - the monkey sat on her head. She let me hold it and it clung to my chest. So adorable.

We walked a bit more and then learned how to shoot a blow gun. Our indigenous guide put a papaya on a stick and that was our targe…

The Creature From the Black Lagoon

I have returned from the depths of the Amazon Jungle, where i was exploring from a base on a black water lagoon on a tributary of Rio Napo.  There is so much to say, so i will not say it all now.  I will start at the beginning and stop at the end of the first day.

I caught an early flight from Quito to Coca on Monday morning, where i took a bus to the River. On the River i caught a motorized canoe to a smaller part of the river where i switched to a dugout canoe, then hiked a bit to reach the the La Selva Lodge. The canoe ride was amazing! it was just like being on the jungle cruise ride at Disneyland, except a million times better.

It is a wonderful place, right on the lagoon and in the jungle. It has a main building with a dining room and  social area and then it has a number of huts. All of the buildings are built entirely out of bamboo and roofed in palm fronds. No other materials, so they are pretty rustic accommodations, but they are so charming! All of the huts are on stilts and …

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

I arrived last night after a wonderful flight (two wonderful flights actually).  On the first one, i had three seats to myself and had Direct TV, so i watched Spongebob and an awesomely bad movie called ¨Mega Shark v the Giant Squid¨. I arrived at about 10:30 and caught a taxi to my hotel, the Hotel de San Francisco in the Centro Historico of Quito.  I like my hotel.  It is in a converted historic house with all of the rooms looking out onto a courtyard filled with plants.
My room is simple, but is comfortable and clean and has hot water and a free breakfast - for $20  a night, what else could you want? I had a brief sleep then awoke, ready to tackle Quito. I am pleased to report that i do not seem to be suffering from any symptoms of altitude sickness (Quito is at 2850 m, in the Andes). I feel a bit tired, but other than that i am ok. Sunday is a lousy place to arrive anywhere, as everything is closed....except the churches.  Fortunately, i like visiting churches and most of them let me i…