Justin and Silver Al

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Yarn, Quito

Man and His Sheep

Raod into Ecuador

Eli and Jamie at the Border

We Made it to Ecuador

Tuesday, Feb. 25th  Even after a mind-numbing dial-up connection web-page uploading session in Pasto that shot up my nerves more than the potholes at night (hours and hours) and the late start that followed, we got on the road toward Ecuador around noon, with Eli behind the wheel, and rapidly made it to the Frontera (border).  At the border there were semis backed up for what seemed like miles.  In the past we have just cruised past them, but here, the cars were backed up behind them as well.  At the onset, you could not see how long the line was, because of a long curve in the road that descended down a long hill.  Thus it was decided that I grab the papers and passports and hike up ahead to see what I could get done in advance.  As I rounded the corner and saw the line up, I thought our chances of crossing anytime before the end of the week were slim.  Just them a police truck came cruising up the hill with its lights on, and after it past, all the cars were allowed down the hill around the trucks.  It was only a few moments before Silver Al was cruising by.  I jumped on the bumper as Al past, gave the two 'all cool/let's go' slaps two and we were down the hill passing hundreds of trucks and at the border.  On the Colombian side, things moved quickly and I was able to check us all out of the country myself in a handful of minutes.  We changed over the last of our Colombian pesos with a money changer who was prowling around the parking lot and were over to the Ecuador side within a click.  On the Ecuador side it took a little longer, mainly because the one stone faced immigration officer sitting behind the window wanted to see everyone and while I got everyone, a gaggle of Colombians got ahead of us in line.  After this the bastard sent me to the wrong window to do the car papers, where I waited in a blurry line and was continuously cut in front of by truck drivers.  When I finally did maneuver myself to the front of the line, the guy behind that window, who had seen me getting budged there for the past twenty minutes, asked if he could help me.  I told him, 'yo necesito los papeles por el transito de mi coche para conducir en Ecuador' (that's my Spanish at its finest, but people usually understand) and he pointed to my right.  'Vas a la esquina aca y despues vas isquierda y la officina es en la isquierda - se dice Aduanas'  (that's my trying to write the few parts that I understood, which is usually 'sufficiente'.)  So I headed around the corner, took a left and saw the office on the left which read Aduanas (or customs).  There was no line, just a really chill young fellow behind a computer and a Colombian girl sitting in a chair.  My papers were processed and printed in moments while I chatted with the girl who had only been to Quito but thought that Quito was worth a visit.  When I mentioned how many days I had been in Columbia I got the typical responses 'oh, muy piquito' very small amount of time, and 'vuelves pronto' return again soon.  Colombians are super cool...diacachemba.  With the papers and not the slightest look at the car or in the car, we were roaring through Ecuador.  We made it as far as Ibarra where last night we sampled the rum (never again) and the beers (very good) and ended up eating at a 24 hour Chinese joint with good MSG soup and good MSG fried rice, lousy service and lousy main plates.  A taxi home and we finished off the bottle of Colombian rum that we had been carrying.  I didn't sleep great last night for some reason, maybe the altitude change and dry air, but this morning I had a manticulla y naranja jugo fresca (fresh squeezed passion fruit and orange juice mix) and a very good, considering the meager temperature, tinto (cafe sin azucar o leche) (Aka, cafe negro o cafe solo) Lots of times they put sugar in the coffee without permission, (like they sometimes put coke in your rum) even in a tinto, so it is important to reiterate the sin azucar part.
So soon we shall head for Quito.  It is not far, but I want to stop there mainly because it will provide sufficient time to get a load of laundry done.  I haven't had any clean clothes for weeks...since Panama.  Maybe tonight we shall decide what we want to do and see in Ecuador.  We are craving the beach and beach chicken, but there are also many beautiful highland sights to see and even the jungle on the other side.  I'll keep you posted!

Justin, Jamie and Eli in Ibarra

The Frontiera

Men in Street

Friday, Feb 29th (if it a leap year)  I am writing to you from the beach town of Mantanita (or some name similar to that)  We just pulled in today  and are going to hang out here for the day tomorrow before hitting the road toward Peru.  Yup, we are starting to feel the pressures of the calendar upon us, unfortunately.  But I have so much to let you know.
Quito.  We spent a full day and a half in Quito and I left feeling like I could spend a year there.  There is so much to see and do in Quito, it is dizzying.  Quito is in a beautiful shallow valley up in the Andes with great vistas on all sides.  Rolling into Quito, we got terribly lost and fought our way through one way streets, high roads, low roads, roads that came so close to taking us where we wanted to go but then didn't quite, roundabouts and back tracks all to the not-so-steady beat of angry taxi drivers honking at us and traffic police in white gloves whistling stop and go and stop again.  We aimed for the old city and once we finally got there and found our desired hotel, there was no sign of parking anyway...even stopping for a moment brought down a hail of taxi wrath.  Finally we got ourselves situated, parked the car a hundred blocks away for the remainder of our city stay and began to take in the city. 
      It rained almost our entire time in Quito...that is true, but it was generally a lightish rain when we were out and about, only dumping hard when we happened to be inside.  Of the tourist 'must see' places that we attempted to visit in Quito, our luck was not the best.  We tried twice to take a funicular up a volcano and twice it was closed.  We did visit the remarkable statue on the hill that you can see from everywhere (a name would make me look good right now, but I don't have it -maybe The Virgin Something-Or-Other...but proabaly not.)  Anyway, it was raining and while we were able to stand beside it, it was closed and we couldn't go up in it. 



One thing that we were able to do -and do up right, was a climb up the towers of the Basilica in the middle of a lightning storm.  The Basilica Something-or-Other (Pathetic, I know) is one of the largest structures in Quito, and climbing up the tight winding steps, across rickety planks and then up higher and higher and around and up again...if you happened to be afraid of heights (which I am not) this would be a painful ordeal.  For me, the most unsettling part was the fierce lightning storm that was blazing all around us as we climbed up the tiny, steep steel stairs with the lightening rod wires woven down right beside us.  It was completely stupid to be where we were, but we made it up to the sketchy chicken wire cage way at the top - one of the highest spots in the whole city and you can assume as you read this that we are still here to tell of it.
      The other place we visited was a monastary with 20 nuns that only speak for one hour a day and hide from the public all the time.  They do sell a handful of natural made products from behind a wall where you can hear their voices. They put the goods on a sort of turning bin and twist them out to you. (I had wanted to buy something, but I just couldn't figure out what any of it was, so I refrained.) The entrance fee included a tour which involved mainly looking at paintings of saints, paintings of Jesus and paintings of people burning in hell.  I couldn'ít understand all the religious jargon in Spanish, so a lot of the explanations were lost on me and in general, the tour dragged on until a point came when I told our guide that I was sorry, but we needed to meet a fictional friend.

Basillica, Quito

The Virgin Something-or-other

Soup on a Cold Rainy Day...Yum

I feel like I am not painting the best picture of Quito when, in fact, it was a wonderful city full of great things to do.  We just had bad luck doing some of the tourist things.  The streets and the plazas and the people were wonderful.  We hardly scratched the surface of the museums and vistas and other marvelous things the Quito had to offer.  Naturally, it is here that I will need to mention the nightlife.  I had a utter blast the two nights that I stayed in Quito.  Both nights we ended up in a touristy street full of bars, and both nights we managed to enjoy ourselves through and through.  The first night we first went to an Irish pub and drank countless beers and tequilas across the counter from one of the friendliest bar tenders I have ever met.  He drank shots with us, poured us free ones, and by the end was giving us samples of exotic liquors, teaching us the proper way to get the annoying pour tops off the bottles that you see everywhere here and chopping up mezcal worms for us to snack on.  The next bar we went to was called Bungalow Bar and one of the managers was from Mass....so of course that was a good time.  He was also setting us up right with all sorts of liquid treats.  We hung out here for a while as well, and I got so wound up that I skipped the taxi ride home with Ei and Jamie and stayed out late.  First I hung at the Bungalow Bar until that closed and then I joined the Mass bartender and another Swiss bartender to a dance club up the street.  With them I got in for free, and we all danced that place closed.  Just as that place closed (around 3:30 AM) I met an Ecuadorian fellow and his cousin (Eddison and Christina) and they invited me out to an afterhours party.  (Which was just a bar open even later.)  So we bought a bottle of rum and talked until dawn about Ecuador and our trip and their lives (they both spoke perfect English).  I made plans to meet up with them the next day, but I got Eddison's phone number wrong and missed a digit, so I felt kind of lousy about that (they probably think that I blew them off).  Unfortunately at some point at the after hours bar, someone stole my jacket, so that was a drag because Quito is quite cold at night.
      The next night, we went out to a Churrascaria (Brazilian restaurant, where they bring meats around on swords) and ended up meeting the owners and being given a free drink and getting a bunch of information on Argentina from the owner's friend) After that we went back to the gringo drinking street and watched a great band rock out great cumbia and salsa music at a second floor bar.  We had mug after mug there, and when the time came once again to head home, again I decided to stay out.  I went back to the Bungalow Bar where the Mass guy wasn't there, but the Swiss bartenderess remembered me and hooked me up with a towering pint glass of rum-all I needed for the rest of the night.  On this night the club was a totally different scene than from the night before...packed with everyone dancing.  There was a shadowy big screen TV with a boxing match raging in the background.  The dancing took on a strange boxing feel...I've never seen anything like it.

Quito Night Life

Friendly Bar Tender, Quito (Note: Moose Head Beer on Tap)

Live Cumbia

Quito Night Life

Hills Around Quito

We left Quito fairly early yesterday morning.  Jamie opted to stay in Quito, so we bid her farewell and hit the road, just Eli and I.  The drive was crazy and we encountered just about every type of road imaginable.  From a beautiful paved highway to ....oopss I have got to go...they are shutting this internet shop down.  I will try to get back on tomorrow and finish up because last night was pretty crazy and Eli and I are both feeling kind of sick today thanks to the town of Puerto Viejo.  Until tomorrow, Adios!

On the Drive to the Coast

Driving Behind El Bin Laden

Where was I? Oh yea...every kind of road imaginable from beautiful paved two lane highways to concrete streets to dirt tracks to half tar half pothole rattley riders.  This drive took longer than we expected because of some of the bad roads.  While the roads were bad, they weren't as bad as one Quito taxi driver warned us about.  He had told us not to go to the beach because it had been raining for days and many roads were flooded and landslide ravaged.  There is a certain competition between the mountain folk and the low land folk and I think this taxi driver just didn't want us to see how beautiful the coast is here. 

We ended up at night staying in the town of Puerto Viejo which was surprisingly far from the coast for a puerto.  It took us a while to find a hotel and when we did find one, it was a complete dump.  There were wires hanging out of the wall, hole covered screens stuffed with toilet paper, nasty beds each with an ill placed bar which made itself known to our backs through the dank mattreses.  There were spent condoms in the parking area and when the lights went out, herds of some of the largest roaches that I have ever seen came up out of the shower drain.  The toilet was broken in mulitiple places and had a plastic bailer on top of it. 
      We wandered into town looking for a beer after such a long tedious day of driving.  It was hard to find a beer for some reason but finally we found a little outdoor plastic table and chair place where the boy working said that they had cervesa.  After a long wait, however cervesas didn't arrive but rather hambugesas.  I looked at the nasty things and asked about cervesa...no they didn't have cervesa.  Eli ate his burger, which had french fries buried in it and a hard item that stopped Eli dead in his burger-eating tracks and resigned the burger to an overflowing trash can.  I held on to mine to give to a homeless person or a dog and finally found a scroungy skinny hungry dog.  The dog, while excited at first realizing that he was going to be given something to eat, took one sniff of the burger and walked away.  (Perhaps it is tue that an animal will not eat the flesh of its own species) 
     We finally found a spot to grab a beer and had a few.  Then we found place that had roasted chickens rotating over a flame and we each had a couple pieces of chicken.  Once back home, we had a little fun with the roaches, photographing them and dressing them up in tiny costumes that we made out of tissue paper, aluminum foil and embroidary floss....Okay we didn't dress them up, but we did photograph them, chase them around and mash up a good few.  They can take a beating, I'll tell you, and still swim around the toilet bowl for hours.
     I was able to hang my hammock up in the room, which made me feel quite good, but we had trouble falling asleep so we polished off one of our half drunken bottles of rum, took a percocet each and made a bunch of foolish recordings that will never get published onto this web site. 
      Around 3 in the morning I woke up with my stomach feeling like a cramp-ground of bacterias.  I lay awake for a while, dozed off for a few minutes and them woke up again.  Eli was up too.  We needed water in a terrible way.  There was none in the room and only a sip in the dozens of empty water bottles in the car.  It was about 4 AM and we headed out into the streets trying to find a tienda (24 hours).  After walking around everywhere in a haze of upset stomachs and sleep, we caught a cab that brought us to a bus terminal that had a store with bars through which you could order water.  When we got home, Eli immediately lost the contents of his stomach and I wished that I could have too.  We did fall asleep for a little while longer, but then the power kicked off and with it the fan and the room heated up like an oven.
      I drove today to the town that we are at now.  Eli's sister Sadie recommended it so we knew it would be a fine spot...which it is!  (Thanks Sadie!) It was a beautiful drive along the coast to get here on roads that fluctuated back and forth from good to bad.  It is called the 'Ruta del Sol' which reminded me of Big Sur.  We both feel pretty lousy which is unfortunate because there is a lot going on.  It is a gringo surfer town, the likes of which we haven't seen in weeks.  A bit of a culture shook, true, but fun for a change.  The water is beautiful, the waves HUGE and our room is pretty nice.  We don't have a fan, which might be trouble, but there is a private bath.  (The bath is not so private in the room...no door and only shoulder high walls around the toilet which we hope to be able to use at some point soon.) 
We will hang out here tomorrow, beaching it, and then hit the road again for Peru.  Right now, however it is 9:45 PM and Ei has already gone to bed.  I am right behind him.  We both dropped a Cipro an hour ago and hope in the morning things will start moving again...if you know what I mean.
I have, by the way, just found the fastest internet connection that I have seen in a long time.  For you, that means pictures and a few audio clips shall be posted tomorrow.  CHEERS!

Puerto Viejo Dive Hotel (this Picture Makes it Look Good)

Bad Hotel

Ont the Way to Montanito, Ecuador

On the Way to Montanito, Ecuador

The Coast Again

Our hotel in Montinita

Eli, Watermelon and Montanita Beach

Montanita, Ecuador

Just a quick one.  First, did no one notice that I had spelled Colombia wrong a hundred times.  I told you all that I am a horrible speller...how my pride has suffered.  (I realize that between me and my typos I spell ever other word wrong, but Colombia is sort of essential to the...whole page and ...well thank you Bret...of all people to correct my spelling....Dios Mio) 
      I just uploaded a lot of pictures (after fixing the spelling of Colombia for an hour on the Colombia page)...but there are another bunch of good ones that I still need to add because I forgot to shrink them properly for the web.  I will get on that soon...lots of landscapes.
     Today we rented up chairs and an umbrella and hung on the beach for hours.  On the beach here you can get anything you want without moving.  We had beers, watermelon, and smokes delivered to our chair, but we could have had Ceviche, henna tattoos, all sorts of hippie jewelry, massages, and ...really just about anything...if they didn't have it, they would get it!
      After the beach we grabbed lunch (awesome fish, vegetables and ceviche) and then we spent the afternoon tossing the frisbee, swimming and watching a spectacular sunset.  Dinner tonight was street food (choclo con queso ((Corn on the cob rolled in mayo and then parm cheese)) and meat stick) and then killer ceviche and plantain chips.  The scene here is rocking.  It is Saturday, mind you, and it is going on.  Lots of Ecuadorians flocking here for the weekend.  Hoards of backpackers selling jewelry up and down the streets and beaches (much of which all looks the same and the same as anywhere else)  (Anyone with a unique style cold make a killing here) and bunches of surfers and surfer wannabes, strutting around with their chests puffed out and their shoulders thrown back but rarely making eye contact.  The waves here are totally and completely huge...huge-mungous.  The water is warm. Things are expensive for Ecuador but cheap as can be for most of the outside world.  Big beers for a buck, full on lunch or dinner = 2.50-4.00.
     Our hotel -the Marina Brisas - is run by a great family and our room is nice.  BUT THAT IS ALL FOR NOW, CUZ I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR A REALLY LONG TIME AND ELI AND I NEED TO HIT THE TOWN!!!  ADIOS!!


Sunday Night. (gotta be March by now) We hit the road today and landed ourselves in the large city of Guayaquil. Last night we drank a few rums and sat on the beach for a couple hours. Both Eli and I have been feeling better, but our energy has been a little low. We were in bed by 1 AM last night, but despite going to bed early, slept great long into the morning. There was a terrific thunderstorm that past over our heads last night...Huge lightning bolts that shook the ground and set off all kinds of car alarms again and again. It was intense sitting in the top bunk of the bed on the top floor of the hotel, with the metal ceiling just above my nose. One bolt hit so close that the hair on my arms stood up and I felt tingley (or is it tingely) (tingly!) It rained so hard over night that a bunch of roads were closed including the road to a section of coast that we were originally considering spending the night tonight at.

This morning I woke up a bit earlier than Eli and hit the street for a coffee and a peach yogurt drink...trying to load up on the acidophilutsy-notsits after killing off every living thing in my belly with the Cipro. After coffee I caught up with our British friend Wade. Wade is a total free spirit and mad man- friendly as they come- traveling around alone without speaking a word of Spanish. We first bumped into him in Cali, Colombia, and just ran into him in Montanita the day before yesterday. He was feeling quite sick yesterday, so we wanted to check in on him today. Today he was much better, and he bought me a beer and we had a smoke and watched the madness from the balcony of our hotel. He considered joining us toward another beach today, but opted to stay because 'I reckon this be the place, man'. We checked out of the hotel around 2 PM today and I managed to escape the hotel owner who I had befriended and somehow might have given the wrong impression in my less than perfect Spanish that I was going to sell our car to him. In two years I am supposed to come back with a new car...a German car, and sell it to him. I'll try, Leonardo!!

Today we hit some good roads and made it to Guayaquil in a quick burst of high speed driving. It did pour on us for a while...the hardest rain that we have driven through yet on this trip, but we kept her on the road. There were also no police checkpoints today, which is nice because we have been getting pulled over at pretty much every one of them here in Ecuador.

Here in Guayaquil, we got a decent room with AC and TV and private parking. 15$ apiece, which is kind of steep, but do-able for a no-hassle night. We were a little jazzed up to go out, but it is Sunday and after a big dinner at a crab restaurant (Red land-crabs) we have toned down our evening expectations to a movie in the hotel room. We will need to catch a cab back there, so there is the potential for diversion. I feel like an ice cream all of a sudden....and now the feeling is gone.

Tomorrow we are hoping to hit and cross the Peruvian border. Another country. I spent a few weeks in Peru before. Ecuador will actually prove to be the last of the new countries for me on this trip.

I have a few more nice pictures to upload onto the site from Ecuador, but that will have to wait for now. Wish us luck on at the border tomorrow. Nighty-nite!

A new fruit

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