Monday, June 8, 2015

Last Day: Veggie Market,Rose Farm, Quito, and last minute shopping

Today started out really cold; there was no hot water. So showers were short and freezing. But it got us going. We had breakfast and went on a quick walk before we headed out. This time  we were only accompanied by the two goldies, we learned their names were Miel and Luke. It was a shorter walk and we only had one incident when we ran into a bull. The dogs freaked but the cow was being handled by a farmer so no worries.

We headed out and our first stop was a veggie market in Paleleo city. We had a little game where we were supposed to find a fruit or veggie that we didn’t know what it was or looked weird. If we stumped our guide too we would get a bar of chocolate.

The market was fun, a little chaotic but everyone was busy about their wares. I approached a lady with a basket filled with yellow long fruit. I tried to ask what it was and the lady just handed me a piece for free. She was really nice. My sister and parents found some other fun weird fruit and it was fun interacting with the natives.

The next stop was a farm for roses. Normally there would be workers everywhere but because is was the weekend after Mothers Day most of the workers were off but it was really cool to walk around the fields of roses and see the process of how they harvest and ship them.

 They sort through and dethorn the roses here
 this shows how they transport the bunches
 Out in the fields

Apparantly in some countries the longer the stem on the rose the better. Some even getting to 6 feet!

We had lunch at a beautiful mansion that was like  a plantation from the south. They even had lamas! While we were having lunch we pulled out all of our strange fruit and even had the chance to try most of them. The one I got was Taxo the flavor of my ice cream the other day. Most of the other fruit were really unique but our guide was not stumped by any of them. It was still really fun.

After lunch we headed to Quito for the end of our trip. When we got there we were given free time and of course we spent it at the market getting last minute souvenirs and gifts. We had some trouble talking them down on a few items but in the end we got what we were looking for. Then we wanted to explore the city a little more and mom said she saw another market up the street. When we got there it was amazing. It had all the normal stuff but then there were a lot of very unique items. Mom found her nativity and dad found his chess set. I ran across some awesome earrings made from real butterfly wings, one was even the Blue Morpho that we saw in the Amazon. All of it a great find.

I didn’t get anything else big though, at the beginning of this trip I had to use a small luggage and a backpack to get to Ecuador so not a lot of space. I still made off with a good haul and it all fit! That’s a miracle.

For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant owned by our guides twin brother. Tasty food and fun to just relax with our guide. Then we got back to our hotel and watch a movie and then bed.

I’m going to finish up our trip here. Then next morning we headed to the market for a just in case look but didn’t see anything. Then got on the bus to the airport. Then it was off to home.

It was an amazing trip; exceeded all my expectations and more. Definitely worth doing if anyone is looking into it.

Thanks Ecuador, and farewell :)

Adventure is out there!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

day 6: Zip-lines, Waterfalls, and Toffee

Well, did I mention that the amazon is humid? Well it is, and normally we would have the fan going all night to keep a nice breeze on us but last night the fan started making a squealing noise so we had to turn it off to actually sleep but yeah now we had to sleep with humidity. Sorry I had to complain about that.

We caught a canoe back to the main land and jumped on the bus to head to the Devil’s Canyon.  On the way our guide stopped to buy some sugar cane, and gave us a piece. I’ve never had it before, it was like a tightly woven sponge filled with sweet water, all you had to do was crush and suck out the juice. It was really interesting and tasty, but not my favorite.

We got to Devil’s Canyon next; this is a huge waterfall surrounded by black lava rock. There was a trail leading down to the base of the waterfall.  We had to go over a suspension bridge to get there but it was so worth it!

this was the top of the falls
 on the way down
 we had to go over a couple of suspension bridges to get to the bottom

We had a boxed lunch at that location. We tried their roasted corn on the cob which was really good.

After lunch we went to a canyon where we went on a basket/ zip line ride across the canyon. That was fun, and it only cost around 6 bucks to go. It was pretty fast too; and the view was spectacular!

We then went to another town with a cool church; the building was made from the volcanic rock surrounding the area. It was cool but kinda dark.

What was really fun about the town was the food we got to try there.

First there was the toffee, which was being pulled right in front of the store, they even let us try it. It was super good and the toffee was cheap, a big bag was only a dollar.

Then, I tried guinea pig. They had the poor creatures being roast right out at the front. It tasted like chicken, or pork…or both. Well it’s just another animal I got to try.

We then went to the seed shop; here they care seeds into jewelry and figurines. They say it is the same quality as ivory and they even had a presentation of someone carving one of the seeds into a little pot. It was really cool and again everything was cheep there. So I got a jewelry set and it was under ten bucks. Amazing!

We then headed to a chocolate shop, which was closed so we checked out a small market. Nothing different but it was a cool looking alley.

The shop opened up just as we were about to leave so we got in and honestly it wasn’t that impressive. The chocolate was ok, still am bias toward swiss chocolate :)

We then all jumped in the bus to our next hotel, which was a small-secluded bed and breakfast place up in the mountains. The place was called Hancienda Monteles. Beautiful location, on the way we passed an active volcano spewing out clouds of white smoking stuff. Nothing dangerous, but beautiful.

 It's a volcano!
When we arrived at the BB, we had a couple hours till dinner so we decided to walk down the road we had come up. This was made more fun by those who accompanied us. The three dogs that lived at the BB walked with us the whole way down the mountain and back up. Two goldies and a beagle and a chocolate lab, They were fun to have along, but we did have some trouble when we passed some neighbors with chickens. The beagle went crazy and chased the chickens. Not a good situation and we weren’t sure how to control the situation since they weren’t our dogs. They just followed us; though we did figure that clapping caught their attention. We learned later that the beagle has had a lot of trouble with chickens, even killing some. Not good; no chickens were harmed on our walk though. They just got a lot of exercise.

When we got back we had dinner; we each got something different so we could share and try lots of different food. They also had a really tasty cinnamon tea. So good and apparently easy to make, I am going to have to try it.

Before bed we had our final round of five deck and dad and I won. Whoot!

I killed two moths before bed and called it a day.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Day 5: The Amazon, I jumped in!!!!

This was the big day in the Amazon!  I awoke early this morning and from out balcony all I could see was mist and a slight outline of the river in the distance, all that and I was surrounded by birds chirping and calling. It was a great way to wake up,  though I did feel drenched from the humidity. Nothing horrible though;

So we ate breakfast, lathered on the bug spray; sorry I have no desire to catch yellow fever or malaria. Then we got our boots on and jumped into the canoes to head to the rain forest. We were heading for a hike.

I was so excited I forgot my mortal peril of being in a canoe and truly looked forward to this unique experience. When we got to the location of the start of the hike we were greeted by a Morpho butterfly, it was huge and just fluttered by us like nothing special was happening.

When we got to location we were given two options for a hike, we could go on a mile hike or a half mile hike. Knowing who my sister is I’ll let you have a guess on which one we went on…… yep, the long one. But totally worth it.

First thing I noticed when we got into the forest was a spider, then another spider, then an even bigger spider. Yeah, if you thought the forest was filled with frogs and butterflies like I did you would be mistaken. The forest is the domain of spiders, and big ones, and ones that are bright yellow with horns, and ones that would drop from the canopy above to land on you unexpectedly…. Story time!

So mostly the hike was going really well, beside the first few spiders which just chilled in their webs not caring about the tourists, we saw ants, and a frog and termite hives in trees, we saw walking trees and rubber trees, I even ate a lemon ant. The hike was going really good, we had just come off a zip line to get across a dip in the path. It was going really well, then we stopped for a rest and as I stood there waiting for others to catch their breath, something caught me eye. Right above my dad something the size of a pingpong ball was lowering itself from a 20-foot tree. My first thought was spider, than no. Spiders don’t have webs that long, but then the thing landed on my dads leg and all I could do was point and blubber. It was a huge spider! Our guide rushed over with a branch to coax the monster from my dad’s leg and after successfully maneuvering the thing proceeded to show us. It was all speckly and big, did I mention big. After a good look, our guide thought we had enough and brought the thing toward a bush but the creature had another agenda and started climbing up its thread it originally climbed down. It went and all I could think was I really wished I had brought a hat.

 this is a caterpillar for a beetle...not a butterfly :(

 These are the infamous walking trees, which will move 2in each year, 
for a tree that is fast
 Here is your natural grater, used by the locals

 There was a lot of mud
We had to pass a suspension bridge, which was a bit sketchy, there was just one small rope stopping you from plummeting to your doom. But it was still fun. Also at another point, we got to sit in a little basket and zip line across a small valley.  There were lots of other very awesome things to see, many I put above as pictures. The place was beautiful, scary but beautiful.

About halfway through the hike it started to rain; and since it being the rain forest it did a nice job despite our parkas to soak us through.  It was fine though cause the forest was awesome, not only for the creatures but for the plants too; and mud, it was fun squishing around the paths.
But like I said we were soaked at the end and ready to go back, but our guide had another surprise tucked up his sleave. Cause after we got into the canoe we only went a small distance to another shore where there were two raftes on the beach. Aparantly they wanted us to float down part of the river. As soon as you stepped on the raft is sunk about five inches into the water and with all of us on there it stayed that deep in there. But hey we were already wet.

So I got on and we started down our merry way, I thought ‘this is nice, I don’t know if this is a good idea but ok’ then out guide stood up, looked around and said that this was a pretty good spot to jump in. We looked at him as if he was crazy and I snidely remarked that he should go first. He shrugged and jumped.

Well great that means it was my turn and since I was already sitting in the water, already soaked from the rain, might as well get the full experience and I jumped in. I didn’t stay in long, it was cold and you couldn’t see two inches into the water; (apparently these are a good sign, as it would be too cold for reptiles and piranha can’t survive in murky water.) But I did it, I swam in the Amazon. I goaded Tasha into jumping in as well, thought I’m sure she would have done it without me saying anything but mom and dad stayed on the rafts. Missed out!

Well, the rest of the raft ride was uneventful; we got back into the canoes and headed to the hotel. When we got there, instead of letting us go back to our rooms to shower they took us immediately to a native food tasting session. There we tried tilapia, palm centers, Yuka (it’s like a tuber mix with potato), caffeine tea, plaintains, and grubs. I thought I would never try those wriggle squishie worm things; but I did. I tried it all. I smelt like dirty water, dripping wet and I was eating grubs, and these weren’t small. But I was there for the experience and that is what I got.

We were finally given time to go shower and clean up which was perfect, and I was grateful for the plastic bags I picked up from Otavalo because my cloths would not dry in that humidity. Oh well.

We had lunch then we were given the option of going to a butterfly farm or an animal rescue center. We chose the animal rescue center and it was so worth it!

When we got there, we were greeted by a trumpeter bird that followed us around during the whole visit. The rescue center was named Amazoonia, clever but they did good work, they rehabilitated animals then released them if possible. There were all sorts of awesome creatures, we saw an anaconda, three Ocelots, toucans, macaws, Pekeri pigs, black and gold guinea pig like creatures, long nosed raccoons, caymen, spider monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. The spider monkeys had a new baby that they showed off which was adorable; but my favorite was the Ocelots. They were so cute and pretty.

This is Trumpie the Trumpeter bird

As we were leaving we were ambushed by squirrel monkeys. One lept on a couple of peoples shoulders finally landing on our canoes, we couldn’t leave till the monkey was off but it was just playing around and wouldn’t leave despite our canoe drivers attempts to shoo it. They were really cute but eventually it got the hint and lept to a nearby branch.

We got back to the hotel and had dinner, played a round of five deck, watched the bats fly around a bit then it was finaly time for bed.

But the adventure in the rainforest wasn’t over yet. Earlier in the day I had laid one pair of my pant over my bed and as I remove them I found ANTS, hundreds of them all over my bedspread where my pants had been. They were tiny, about the size of a grain of sugar, but even more weird was they were all dead. So weird. I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I just wiped them off and went to bed.

Yeah, I didn’t know what to expect on this trip but so far, not a disappointment.