Thursday, 16 February 2017

Friday January 27, 2017

We started our day with another breakfast at the hostel. A young couple were chatting about how they had gone up in Teleferico (gondola) yesterday, for aerial views of the city. They explained how they got there, and highly recommended this activity. There was a single lady from Germany sharing breakfast with us. She said she would like to experience the gondola, so we made plans to share a taxi and enjoy the experience together. Our new friend Martina told us that her friends always ask her why she doesn't mind travelling alone. She explains to them that she frequently meets other travelers along the way and joins them for sightseeing or actvities.
The taxi was only $4, although the ride in the gondola was $8.50 per person. We boarded the gondola with a couple from Argentina, and were chatting with them during the 20 minute ride to the top station. The views were stunning. When we got off at the top, we followed a trail that went even higher to some stunning lookoutspoints. The highest point of this trail is more than 16,000 feet or 4000 meters. Martina and I had slight headaches from the altitude, and needed to drink extra water to help with this. When we returned to the base of the gondola ride, we talked to an artist who had a display of his unique works at the station. He showed us some of his finely detailed paintings done on feathers that he collects from the ground. We were so impressed with his talent, we ended up purchasing a small feather painting of a bird, and Martina also bought one of his artworks. We met up again with the couple from Argentina, and decided to share a taxi back to the hostel. We piled 5 of us into a small car and chatted all the way back to our location in the old town in Quito. Martina found out that the couple from Argentina were going to the Galapagos at the same time as she was, and they made plans to meet at that location.
After a brief rest to recover from the elevation, we headed out with our new friend Martina, to try to find a restaurant recommended by two of the other guests at the hostel. Despite not knowing the name of the restaurant, we were able to locate it on Venezuela St. They served us an excellent lunch, with chard soup, meat brochettes and rice. After lunch, we returned to the hostel to rest before heading to the airport. When the power went out at the hostel around 4 pm, we decided to head out to the airport.
Thanks to our amazing hosts at Friends Hostel, we had excellent directions for getting to the airport using public transit. We took a metro bus to an exchange station called RioCoca. At this station, we asked an employee to direct us to the green buses that were headed to the airport. The metro bus fare was 25 cents each, and the airport bus fare, for a 45 minute ride, was $2 each.
When we arrived at the airport we had many hours to wait, due to our midnight departure time. We rested and charged our electronic devices while waiting. We were given boarding passes for all three flights at the check in desk. Thankfully we experienced no delays or disruptions on our trip home. We arrived back in Ottawa on time at about 2:15 pm. on Saturday January 28, 2017. Our daughter Erin picked us up at the airport and we returned home to tell tales of our trip to our two youngest daughters, Erin and Sara.
Photos from 16,000 feet above sea level

These horses live on the mountain and are available for trail rides

The only time on our whole trip that we needed pants and long sleeves

Amazing local artist with display at the site of the gondola

Friday, 27 January 2017

Thursday January 26, 2017

We started our day by sharing breakfast with other guests at the hostel. Right after breakfast we walked to a hair style place that we had seen the day before. It was less than a block from our hostel. Mike got a haircut and shave for $4, and I got a haircut for $4. For us Canadians, we could not believe how affordable this service was, and the quality was excellent.
We spent the day following many of the walking tours that highlight the historic buildings in old town Quito. We paid too much for coffees in the morning ($5.50 for two small) but found some excellent pastries and really good quality organic chocolate. The highlight for me was the Basilica Cathedral, a huge structure that is over 100 years old. The Basilica featured beautiful stained glass depictions from the bible, and ornate architecture.
In the afternoon, we went back to the hostel to take a break. Later we returned to the hairstylist so that I could get a pedicure, for the excellent price of $5. After a brief rest, we headed to a restaurant called "Leña Quiteña" to try a local specialty called "cuy". This is roasted guinea pig! Mike wanted to try this traditional South American meat dish, but we found it was very rich and fatty, and not to out taste. We walked around the old town looking for a cafe, but did not see anything we liked. I think that it is worth mentioning that we were walking around the Old Town area in the evening, and we did not feel unsafe at any time.
We returned to the hostel for tea and coffee. We played cards for awhile, then chatted with Jenny from California and Alma from Finland. They told us about a really good restaurant for lunch, but they could not remember the name. So we got general directions and a description and vowed to try and find it the next day. We had a good laugh about trying to find this restaurant with the description of "a green banner, red tablecloths, and a grill near the entrance." After a very busy day, we headed to bed.

twin spires of the Basilica from a distance

part of a plaza and street in old town

One of the many plazas in old town Quito

Presidential Palace

Narrow one way street sloping down

Colourful apartments with balconies

Twin spires up close

Entrance to the Basilica

View from the terrace of the Basilica

A plaque with some of the history of the Basilica

Inside the cathedral

Local plaza with a statue and a church steeple in the background

Entrance to the Iglesia de la Compania, most visited church in Quito

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Wednesday January 25, 2017

We got up early this morning to finish packing and catch the bus to Portoviejo. We knew we would be on the road most of the day. We said goodbye to Angelo and Eric and the dogs and went down to the malecón to catch our first bus of the day. When we got to Portoviejo, we asked about a bus to Quito. We had to wait about 90 minutes for the bus, but there was a nice air conditioned waiting room available. The bus to Quito left at 10:30 am and arrived in the city at around 6 pm. During that time we saw beautiful valleys with farmland and brush, waterfalls and rivers. We also watched 3 movies with Spanish voice over. It is amazing how much of a movie you can understand without the words! When we got to Quito, we took a taxi to our hostel, for only $7. Our driver was very nice and offered a lot of advice for activities in Quito, as well as some general information about the city and the country.
We arrived at Friends Hostel, located right in the heart of Quito's historic district. We were welcomed by our hosts, including one host who spoke English. Our room is spacious with shelving for luggage, and a desk for writing. The bathroom is large and has new fixtures. This hostel is rated very highly on many internet sites, and has so far impressed us.
We headed out to a street called Morales, where our host had recommended several possible choices for dinner. We chose a place and Mike had pork with rice, potato pancakes and plantain. I had a traditional potato soup with cheese. The food was excellent. We noticed that the choices were quite different from our coastal stops. We walked back toward our hostel, and decided to stop at a cafe, right on the corner of our street, for dessert and coffee. The name of this place was Cafe Dios No Muere. It is owned by an ex-pat from Louisiana, who is loud and obnoxious. His sons were all working for him, including one boy who was about 6 years old. The coffee and bread pudding were excellent but the service was terrible. We waited a very long time for our order, and went down to pay our bill, so we would not have to wait further. Unfortunately I would not recommend this place to other travellers.
We returned to our hostel to sleep in cool comfort. The temperature in Quito is drastically different than on the coast. It was about 10 degrees when we arrived. Hoping this will help us with acclimatization when we return home!
Iglesia Santo Domingo

One of the many streets in historic section of Quito

Tuesday January 24, 2017

We started the day by making our own breakfast with eggs, shrimp and cheese as well as coffee. It was delicious! The ingredients cost less than $5. After breakfast, we went to a nearby market with Eric to get some vegetables for our supper. We were planning shrimp stew for supper. We returned to the hostel, and I got some writing done while our host Angelo continued to work on repairs for his motorbike. Mike was snoozing in the hammock. We went for a walk around town, picked up some coconut milk for our stew, and enjoyed the fruit drinks "batidos" that are offered everywhere. We walked around the town of Crucita several times during our stay, and we found overall that is was not as welcoming and helpful to strangers as the other places we had stayed.
We spent a quiet afternoon at the hostel, trying to stay out of the very hot sun. At around 4 pm we headed to the beach for a swim. The waves were 5-6 feet high, and the undercurrent was very strong. I had a hard time staying on my feet, but it was fun! This was our last outing into the ocean, so it was bittersweet. When we returned to the hostel, we made our shrimp stew and it was very good. Once again the ingredients were less than $5. We went for a very long walk in the evening to get to the bank machine on the main road. There was a shorter way to go, but we did not realize this at the time. Oh well, good exercise. When we returned to the hostel, we got all of our belongings together, and organized them for our trip the next day.
The beach in Crucita

Napoleon and Charlotte were the mascots of our hostel in Crucita


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Monday January 23, 2017

This morning we returned to Blanche restaurant for breakfast. This was the cafe we started out with on Saturday morning. The owner, Nicolas, is from France. We were chatting with him and an older gentleman, also from France, about life in Ecuador. The older gentleman lived in Africa for many years, and met his future wife there. He married her and moved with her to Montreal, which is his current home. His wife was with him until recently, but she returned to Canada for her job, while he is staying longer in Puerto Lopez to enjoy some fishing outings. During breakfast we also met two different couples from Montreal. One young man was born in Ecuador, but moved to Canada when he was young. He is married to a young woman in Ukraine who was a student in Montreal when they met.
For breakfast we shared a fruit bowl with yogurt and granola, followed by a crepe with ham and egg. Nicolas serves Ecuadorian coffee at the cafe, which is one of the best coffees in the world. For some reason, all of the high quality coffee is exported, and the locals drink horrible instant coffee. Mike had three cups of coffee!
We returned to our hostel to finish packing and to say goodbye to the new friends we met there. We will be keeping in touch with Estani by e-mail. We took a taxi to the bus station and grabbed a bus to Manta that was following the coast line. There were many spectacular views of the sea along the way. Manta gave the impression of a working class city, with industrialization, traffic and other western traits. We did not enjoy the trip through the city. Atthe bus station we had empanadas for a snack. We changed buses and headed to Crucita.
Crucita is a beach town, with a malecón running the length of the town. There are no structures on the beach side of the road, unlike other towns we have visited. There are many restaurants on the street side of the boardwalk. We got off the bus and asked a couple of different people for directions. After a few false starts we located the "Cabañas Rusticas del Sol".
 This is a basic hostel setting with individual rooms and bathrooms, and a nice courtyard in the centre. Our host, Angelo, is from France. He speaks French and Spanish, but very little English. His army buddy Eric, who is staying here at the moment, is from Montreal. He speaks French, English and some Spanish. When the earthquake occurred, Angelo was living in a house separate from the cabana property. However, his house fell in the quake, so now he lives at the hostel in a room connected to the kitchen. Our host was quick to offer the use of the fridge and kitchen as needed.
Our host also told us about the Moringa tree, which is grown here in Ecuador. He uses the leaves from the tree, dries them and grinds them into a powder. This is sold as a supplement with multiple health benefits, including assisting with joint pain. He has a side business where he sells this supplement.
Mike and I went out to explore the town. We had a very good lunch on the malecón, then walked around looking for a grocery store. We found a larger store and got some eggs, cheese and shrimp to take back to the hostel for breakfast the next day. We stayed at the hostel, visiting with Angelo and Eric for awhile, then headed to the beach for a swim and a sunset.
 We saw, by far, the most beautiful sunset we have seen on this trip, with beautiful colours and thin clouds to increase the overall colour in the sky. In addition, as it got darker, we could see the coast of Manta light up in the distance. The beach here has coarser sand, and the water goes from shallow to deep several times as you walk out into the waves, The surf is very active here and high tide comes up almost to the road. We walked along the malecón, and stopped for a frozen yogurt treat along the way. When we returned to the hostel, we chatted with our host till almost 11 pm, then slept.

Estani and Marisa, our new musician friends from Argentina

Best sunset of the trip in Crucita

The lights on the malecón at night in Crucita

Sunday January 22, 2017

On our last full day in Puerto Lopez, I started out with a cold shower, because the drain in our bathroom was not working. We had breakfast with El Bambu, to thank them for their help the day before. We watched the run portion of a local triathlon along the malecón. The malecón was closed to motor traffic, so it was nice and quiet during our breakfast. The power went out, but fortunately after we had our meal of fresh fruit with yogurt and granola, followed by omelets with shrimp. We spoke with a couple from California, who told us they had been to Cuenca and Loja prior to arriving in Puerto Lopez for a month long stay.
We returned to our hostel to get ready for our outing to Isla Salango with Orca Tours. We had some extra time, so we walked along the malecón and the pier enjoying the sunny morning. Due to road closures in town that slowed down getting the daily permit for boat tours, we were a bit late leaving from the pier. On the way to the island, Mike and I sat at the front of the boat. Our tour guide pointed out some blue footed boobies (rare bird found only in this area), as well as rock formations known as Monkey Rock and Turtle Rock. There was also another very small island in the distance that was known to locals as Isla Ahorco (the hanging rock).
Our captain chose an area with many rock formations for our snorkeling. We explored for about half an hour, and saw a small manta ray, many small colourful fish, and some brightly coloured starfish on the rock at the bottom of the sea. Mike and I took a turn with one of the sea kayaks, along with a young couple from Spain. The captain directed us to take the kayaks around the point to a beautiful beach area, where several other boats were anchored. We had a little bit of trouble with the kayak once we hit the current, but overall we did okay. We brought the kayak back to the boat and then swam to the beach area with most of the other travellers in our tour.
The beach was pristine. There is very limited access to this area, as it is part of the protected national forest. While on the beach we had a very nice conversation with two young women from Calgary. They were in Ecuador to complete a volunteer opportunity through IVHQ, an international volunteer organization. They are working with school children in Quito, in an area of low economic status. Their weekends are free and they have been exploring different areas. We were excited to talk to them, because our daughter has signed up for a volunteer opportunity with the same organization. The ladies were happy to tell us about their experiences, and they both recommended IVHQ highly. They were honest, saying their volunteer house had minimal amenities and cold showers, but the food provided by their host organization was very good.
When we returned to the boat, our guide offered us watermelon, cupcakes and drinks for snack. We sat at the back of the boat on the way back, with amazing scenery to enjoy along the way. We returned to the pier and disembarked. We said goodbye to the many people we had met on the trip. Afterwards we stopped for an ice cream on the way back to the hostel. At the hostel, Mike had a long conversation with Estani about music, composition and instruments. Estani played a beautiful original composition on his guitar and harmonica called "Retazos", which means little pieces. Estani mentioned that he would like to have a variety of harmonicas but they are very expensive to purchase in Argentina. I explained to him that Mike and I have a tradition of helping young artists to develop their interest in music. Mike promised to send a couple of harmonicas to Estani from the music store he works at, because he can get them for cost.
We walked to the north end of the beach in town, to see if it was a bit nicer than beside the fishing boats. It was nicer, but still not as nice as Canoa. We had supper at Carmita's, as recommended by another Canadian. We returned to relax in the common area of the hostel, and went to bed.

More pics of the boardwalk

Mike on the pier

Cheryl on the pier

From the boat near Isla Salango

Where we snorkeled

Our assitant captain on the kayak, helping someone get back to the boat

Isla Salango from the back of the boat as we are leaving
Part of the common area at our hostel, Sol Inn

Common area

Whale skeleton on the malecon

Hostel sign with arrows pointing to many different locations around the world

Beach on Sunday in Puerto Loez

Family trying to load huge inflatable on small moto taxi

Lights used at night on the beach in Puerto Lopez