ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy

ECUADOR

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To: People on the old mailing list
Subject: ECUADOR
From: jean

hello everybody!!! its jean and she´s OVERSEAS

i’m writing a group email because its more economical and i am time poor and selfish, and postcards take 2 weeks to arrive and fit about three sentences on them.

I’ll try to be concise but in case you cant be bothered reading the lot, HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEARS AND BEST WISHES TO EVERYONE

so.
MY TRIP: South America 9th Dec 2008 to 3rd March 2009
FLIGHT IN: Melbourne-Auckland-LA 15hrs-Panama-Quito. survived.
TOUR: (12th Dec to 16th Jan) Ecuador, Peru (including Inca Trail), Bolivia
AND THEN:17th Dec fly La Paz-Lima-Sao Paulo-Rio De Janiero. meet up with Bec D, spend approx 1 week in Rio
AND THEN: Make our way down to Argentina via Iguassu Falls. Our tour was cancelled so make it up
AND THEN: Arrive Buenos Aires early Feb. Spend time there and maybe take a week to go to Chile (Santiago and Valparaiso) and back. Bec D goes home 15th Feb
AND THEN: Chill out in Argentina until hometime
FLIGHT OUT: BA-Panama-LA 21hrs-Auckland-Melbourne!

MY TOUR GROUP is a lovely bunch. Consists of 14 people between 18-30, of which there are 4 doctors, 2 nurses, a med student, a nursing student, a physio student, and a ridiculous amount of first aid paraphanalia. We are therefore currently all in good health!
However we´re at a slight cultural deficit with one (1) music student, and a BIG language barrier. Other than our guide, only two of us speak ANY spanish, and a disappointing few are even attempting to learn the basics. We have four blondes, who are lovely people, but it screams “GRINGAS!!!” wherever we go (which screams alot louder than “Gringos”)
Fortunately everyone gets along and there are no noteable tensions, however i am finding the group dynamics a fascinating social experiment!!! 36 days is a long time, its already day 10-ish and i already feel i´ve been away for ages and have known these people forever.

WHERE AM I NOW?
we arrived in Peru yesterday. I am in Mancora, a desert beachside town which is very touristic. There is a stray cat sleeping above my computer and it is very very noisy and the keyboard is shite.
so mostly i have only seen Ecuador so far.

STUFF ABOUT ECUADOR

  • i already miss it!! it has beaches, mountains, and volcanos, and is mostly very lush and fertile and green
  • there is a lot of crazy fruit (and the most remarkable fruit juices), an abudance of fresh produce and everything is available pretty much all year round cos they don’t really have seasons
  • most meals (even steak) are accompanied by banana, fried or otherwise
  • if your meal is not served with banana, it will almost definitely come with avocado or kidney beans.
  • everyone pays (USD) cash for everything, but the change situation is ridiculous, there simply isn’t enough coin or change and every transaction is a struggle. notes above $20 are unusable and even a $5 bill is enough to make a storekeeper groan and have to run outside to swap money with people on the street.
  • despite the fact there is no change, you can still buy individual pills from the pharmacy or single cigarettes from a pack
  • the people are tiny and i am a giant!!
  • the bootblack trade is thriving- they are everywhere! i guess most people cant afford new shoes, but many have enough cash and pride to indulge in the upkeep of what they have
  • Early in the morning, everyone is out sweeping! inside, outside, shopfronts, the road, and all with really good brooms that seemed much more effective than stupid leaf blowers (that or the people working the brooms actually put in some effort).
  • The indigenous population is proud and healthy, even the very elderly are physically super strong and have jet black hair. The merging of cultures and religions seems to work, and Ecuador is fortunate because the land is so fertile. The indigenous also have a lot of political influence and are much better represented than in many countries.
  • There is still a big divide between rich and poor but apparently its getting better and the current president is a top bloke and not nearly as corrupt as the last bunch (12 in six years or something crazy like that), who were mostly helicoptered out and now live in mansions in the Caribbean…
  • Toilets are generally foul, you often have to pay to go and you can´t flush the toilet paper and it all sits in open bins. but what i find most disgusting is that people sell food inside grotty public toilets ew

WHAT DID I DO IN ECUADOR?
Lots hiking, tubing down a river (got caught in whirlpool capsized bashed toe on rock not fun), went into the amazon, learnt indian cultural stuff like how to make chocolate from cacao and beer from yuca, long bike ride up down many hills on very dodgy bike, bungee jump swing thing over river, swam in waterfall, sat in thermal springs, lots time on bus, ate weird food, drank cheap cocktails, learnt salsa, went to many markets (animal one was crazy), saw lots of churches and colonial buildings etc.

i think that is all for the time being.

lots of love

jean

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