Semana de Vacaciones- Viaje por carretera

28 Mar

I didn’t go to Colombia- we (Lucy, Toby, and I) found out the day before our we were supposed to leave (while I was getting a mani/pedicure with Kelly) that we would be expelled from the program if we went because, as I am very aware of now, there is a U.S. State Department travel warning for Colombia. If we had wanted to go, we would’ve needed to create a petition that would’ve been approved by a board of senior-level University officials only for strictly academic purposes. Our proposal would’ve been denied, without a doubt.

This is despite the fact there is an MSID program in Kenya, which also has a travel warning, and LAC programs in Mexico which ALSO has a travel warning. Cartagena and Medellin are two of the safest cities in Latin America. The University responded that because students are in those countries with experienced/qualified staff, they’re exempt from this blanket policy. (Toby did his senior thesis on violence in Mexico… fourteen people were killed in a drug-related shootout last year). We had asked staff here before we bought our tickets if we were allowed to travel to Colombia and were told there wasn’t a problem with that- so because of the miscommunication between CIMAS and U of M staff, we were assured that we will be getting our money refunded. Also, as soon as this program ends we are allowed to travel to Colombia because we are no longer under the U of M’s protection… talk about international politics. Venting done.

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Anyway, we were not hindered in enjoying ourselves for our week of spring break. Option number two: road trip! (public “Thank you!” to Lucy and Toby for arranging the details). We had a map, a plan to make it to the coast and follow El Ruta Del Sol, and a rough idea of what we wanted to do, but for the most part, we kept the itinerary open and worked with our (surprisingly few) wrong turns. The thing about traveling in Ecuador is that you mostly know (despite the lack of road signs) when you’re on a main road- they’re the ones that are mostly maintained and, for the most part, paved. Our maps could have been more user-friendly, but luckily the people wherever we stopped to ask directions were as helpful as they could be and were extremely amable in any case (the drunk man on the side of the road, who almost fell over when we slowed our car near him, was the least effective).

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Día Uno, Domingo, 13/3/2011: Quito to Bahía de Caraquez. We drove for most of the day- through all kinds of towns and landscapes. We made a pit stop to buy music- out of the three cds we got, only the Reggae Hits was a sucess and became the soundtrack for the rest of the journey (“All she wants is a baby!”).We arrived in sleepy Bahía de Caraquez as the sun was setting. The ciudad is on a penninsula and the colors surrounding us were fantastic. I think I had a long moment of ecstasy in anticipation of the week and the beaches. We picked La Herradura Hotel and found a Mexican restaurant to eat at. Burritos and cerveza after a long day in the car.

Día Dos, Lunes, 14/3/2011: Bahía de Caraquez to Puerto Cayo. Consulting Lonely Planet and our maps, we decided at breakfast where we were headed. (Btw, breakfast was an amazing Bolón de Verde con Maní y Café con leche- que rico!). We drove for a second and then decided we should take a right turn and drive a block to stop at the beach in San Clementi. I tried to take a quick beach run, but the beach wasn’t long enough to run for more than a couple minutes in each direction, so I joined Lucy and Toby in the waves. We drove (and stopped when we wanted) along La Ruta del Sol, which runs near the ocean for long stretches of time, occasionally dipping inland to take passes through mountains. We ended up finding a “family cabin” to stay in (at a reduced price- everything is a negotiation) outside of Puerto Cayo. We bought some pasta and veggies, cut up the pineapple we bought from a road stand, opened the red wine first, and looked out on the ocean from our porch table as we ate. After we had finished and cleaned up, we took a night beach walk… and ended up going skinny-dipping. A feeling of freedom, if I’ve ever felt one.

Día Tres, Martes, 15/3/2011: Puerto Cayo to Frauilles Beach to Puerto Lopez. From Puerto Cayo we headed straight to “the most pristine beach in Ecuador.” Fraullies Beach National Park Area is an arid land area (complete with cacti, lizards, and poisonous trees) that opens up to a white sand beach and a crystal blue bay area, bordered by rocky outcroppings on the edges. I spent a fair amount of time walking and taking pictures as Lucy and Toby spent a fair amount of time being cute and couple-y. We met three people (two Germans- Christian and Sabina- and an Ecuadorian home on vacation from studying in Germany- Byron) who we met up later with for lunch in Puerto Lopez. As we were hanging out in a hammocks at a beach-side cabaña, Christian came hobbling up to us from the water. He was stung by a manta ray on his big toe and apparently it was really painful. Within a couple minutes he was being doctored-up by a couple middle-aged women who had were owners of hostals and other cabañas and had treated ray stings before. Once Christian was stable, Byron and I decided to take a day-ending dip in the ocean. We didn’t encounter any rays, but I was stung all over both my legs by aguamala (jellyfish). I had red, itchy welts in funny patterns for the rest of the week (I was relieved from the itches once I learned about the power of vinegar). We spent the night in Hostal del Sol… where the music didn’t stop until 2am and I attempted to sleep on the top bunk of a stuff dormitory.

Día Quatro, Miercoles, 16/3/2011: Puerto Lopez to Isla de Plata to Montañita. We got up early and spent most of the day on our Isla de Plata adventure. The boat ride there took 1 hr, 15 minutes. We saw dolphins!! They are amazing animals and I wish I knew what it felt like to play like they do. My pictures are thanks to a German who stuck out his hand and demanded a camera when los delfines were on his side of the boat. The island, now dubbed “The Poor Man’s Galapagos” (because there are a few bird species that are the same) used to be someone’s private land in which he attempted to run a tourist business. When he abandoned the project, the island was turned into a national park (around 1979). The Blue Footed Boobies we saw have grown up seeing humans, and because of this, we would walk a few feet away from them and they would just watch us go by. They also can’t walk on land very well, hence “boobies,” but are fantastic swimmers who dive at crazy speeds and for this reason, do not have nostrils. The babies are cotton balls with big (not-blue-yet) feet. The frigot birds weren’t in mating season, but apparently when they are, “they look like a party of red balloons in the tree,” said the guide.When we got to the boat, there was a big turtle eating watermelon thrown to him by the fishermen. A couple of people went snorkeling, but there was aguamala so I decided to watch the beautiful fish from the boat.

When we got back to land, we headed straight to Montañita with an Australian named Stacy we met on the boat. We picked a hostel on the corner of Calle de los Coctelles… we knew we weren’t going to get much sleep. The other street near us was full of street performers. I think everyone who has dreadlocks in Ecuador lives in Montañita- it’s a party/surf/beach/artisan mood. We had ourselves a fun night of talking, dancing, and music.

Día Cinco, Jueves, 17/3/2011: Montañita. Had a late breakfast at a vegetarian restaurant… with REAL coffee. Lucy and I had two little mugs each. Although I was reluctant at first, we all took a surf lesson. Our instructor Adany, who recruited us on the street, is on the Montañita longboard team (which has gained international attention for it’s recent accomplishments). Montañita is the best place to surf in Ecaudor, says everyone. I had success for a first lesson. I’m seriously considering of spending my last week of travel hanging out and renting a board for the day. (Ah! I don’t want to think about the end of my time here!) We went to dinner with Adany later (who was honestly a little weird outside of surfing), browsed the talented vendors’ work, and then I headed to our newer-quieter hostal and crashed.

Día Seis, Viernes, 18/3/2011: Montañita to Zumbahua. I went for a beach run in the morning- It was one of those runs that not only is interesting and fun during, but that carries over for an extended period of time after… which was good because we had a long day of driving to come. We got lost in Guayquil for over an hour and I feel like I got an unfair bad vibe from the city. Once we got into the mountains, we realized that the actual distance on the map did not take into account elevation, periodic and unannounced road construction, clouds, one-lane wooden bridges with approaching construction trucks, one-restaurant towns speed bumps, and, ultimately, night… so it took us longer than expected to find a place to sleep at. We ended up in Zumbahua (at 13.000ft), which we discovered later, reading from our guide book in our hostel room, has a fantastic Saturday market. Lechoso! Because of the English/Spanish/Quechua language barriers, explaining we didn’t want meat with our dinner please was more difficult than usual.

Día siete, Sábado, 19/3/2011: Zumbahua to Quito. We went to the market- bought shigras bags, alpaca sweaters, really sweet cornbread, humitas, cevichochos, pan de sal, pan con chocolate, red bananas, and other fruits. The market is for the people in the surrounding communities, and not touristy, which made it fun to compare to the Otavalo market. We saw animals in the backs of trucks, being walked on the side of the road, and on tops of buses on the way to Lago Quilotoa. The locals say that the lake has no bottom- it’s color is aqua bluegreen and I guess the alkaline in the water makes it hot. You can walk down to the lake, rent a canoe, and take a horse-ride up… but we didn’t do either of them. Concerns of time, energy, and elevation (coming from the coast, It was definitely a bit more strenuous to move here) led us a quarter of the way down to take a moment of pause. Quito was surprisingly easy to find, and we took one last celebration lunch in La Mariscal before heading back to our respective houses.

Domingo, 20/3/2011: Packed my room up, spent forever uploading photos to this site, went for a last run in El Parque Metropolitano, and almost finished my take-home Spanish exam. I got ready to go to Otavalo… which I will have updates about soon, ojalá. This may be the longest blog post I have ever accomplished.

Saludos y amor, k

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One Response to “Semana de Vacaciones- Viaje por carretera”

  1. Mom March 30, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    Hey Kelly,

    Thanks for the update and the great pictures! I can’t wait to see some of that countryside for myself!!!

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