Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Looking back over the last few weeks

Well even though we are now in Peru and currently hanging out for the night in a bustling little beach surf town full of Peruvian vacationers, I am beating the heat by taking an opportunity to post some pics from the past few weeks. Well this is a church in the beautiful little town of Cuenca that was somehow perfectly blessed with this godlight on our afternoon walk to work off some food we ate. I guess god must shine his light more often in Towns with a church every three blocks.
In Quito we went to this amazing ice cream place where you can get ice creams made the same way they have been since the 1700´s or something like that, in giant copper pots. The Heladeria San Agustine creams were really good but not like regular ice cream, more like a fusion of ice cream and slushie, but I shouldn´t even mention the 7-11 travesty in the same uh, webpage
These are from out little side jaunt to Baños a little way away from Quito. I think I already posted some Volcano pictures? I thought I should include this nice one to show the deepness of the valley and the lushness of the forest. For some reason there were a number of places in town that sold tour packages on 4-wheeled 4-track off road go carty things that buzzed down the streets. All over the place these guys stand in doorways pulling taffy. Just hauling on it with their bare hands over wooden hooks. We tried a bit, but it was pretty salty and hard. I was really worried that it was going to pull out my brand new fillings - a sort of reverse destistry by way of sugar over hook pulling.
When you descend, and that´s what you do, down down to the coast you go through zones and zones of different vegetaton. It´s very beautiful and striking and a little freaky rolling at crazy speeds down washed out roads and around switchbacks down through cloud forests until you pop out in harshly tropical, sweaty jungle. I didn´t really get a lot of great shots as we were on the inside side of the bus most of the time but as a sidebar that man in shilouette with the ball cap and a few other of us passengers ended up getting stranded in some woebegotten bus terminal due to a protest and a closed road and we ended up going on a little roundabout trek together by land and sea to get to our destination! At each juncture we would confer with eachother the best way for us to go which was no small feat in itself, but all went well... This is on the carratera to the coast. Very hot and jungly here. Lots of little pueblitos on the side of the road with all kinds of ramshackle shacks and little comedors (small restaurants). Seems like people have less money down in the jungly lands, but that´s just my bus-whizzing-by heresay. On one note I thought this was a creative way of keeping people from driving on the brand-new blacktop as they were still working on it. Screw the fancy lights and traffic herders just throw a few thousand giant tire busting rocks on there.

This is the bustling big city of Guayaquil. And this picture if fairly indicative of the general feel. It was hazy and dark from the greyness of it´s towers and the smoggy streets, but to be fair it was a little overcast. It bustles and it hustles! Guayaquil is Ecuador´s biggest city and while it has some interesting aspects, it felt a bit rough and tough as well. Safe neighborhoods had a distinct ¨gated¨ vibe with security zones at night and dark hazy rolled-down sidestreets that might only be lit by one orange streetlamp and a few dim flourescent tubes. Not many smiles here and with the size of it´s sprawling slums I can see why. We were on our way to Canoa which proved to be pretty nice as they go.
Canoa is a small fishing and surf town north of Bahia that has a bevy of hotels and hostels where fishermen still ply their trade from small boats they launch themselves over the long flat beach every day. It was similar to the town I´m in right now, but way less crowded and built up. We did find a place that made good coffee and pancakes though. I liked it. Especially the Japanese run bakery cyber cafe. As you can see it looks a bit like Tofino, accept that water is the temperature of a bath!
This picture is from a weird hotel we stayed at in Bahia on our way to Canoa and it´s about all I can say about this little hub of a place. The people were a bit cold there. I think it was low season for them and things seemed pretty slow. Many people glared at us from hammoks, but we did enjoy the heat after the relative briskness of Quito.
Now back to my favourite! Cuenca! WE stayed here for a week. (the church at the top of this entry is the first cuenca picture.)
The image of the weird boys face is a drawing Hayley did of me! I´m not sure if I should be flattered or not. I do look a bit younger and rather more like some animee character, but with 5-0-clock shadow. These images are of a woman´s resource centre and an example of some of the amazing breakfasts that we are having

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Salero Tipica

Salero Tipica, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

Este es el salero muy tipica de los comedors en Ecuador. Nosotros comimos en Quito comida tipica de los almuerzos del Gente de Quito. Mas rara fue el plato Chaulafan que es de China pero muy popular con los Ecuatorianos. Tiene salsa Soy y mariscos mexclado con carne y verduras.

Into Cuenca and out of Cuenca

we´re in Cuenca and have just completed a week of Spanish classes where I got some much needed review of my verbs etc. and Hayley was introduced to the past tense! We paid for a week each of spanish classes with a private teacher! Well worth it. The teachers here are quite good and the hourly rates are very cheap. Unheard-of really for the skills of the teachers. We are having a really good time here. The city is a beautiful and colonial surrounded by mountains and up in the high andes. It´s quite a bit safer and more laid back than Quito and a little warmer. There are lots of Americans and foreigners here. Indeed they seem to almost own the town. Despite this, the town retains own identity and people are friendly. The food is very good here by our standards. There is international cuisine and very good traditional Ecuadorian food. I did try some roast guinea pig which was not-surprisingly delicious with a little hot salsa. It resembles rabhit, in flavor. There are also yogurt stands all over the place where you can buy uh, yogurt and fruit blended with yogurt and giant goblets of fresh tropical fruit drenched in yogurt. In the mornings we´ve been going to this cafe that sells fresh fruit and yogurt and pancakes. We buy an order of each and top the pancakes with the fruit and yogurt. Yogurt! Woah, it´s really good. Yesterday we went to a public market that was epic in it´s selection of foo0dstuffs; a testimony to the wealth of the countries breadbasket/s. It was multi-floored and in addition to the giant meat and fruit/veggie sections there was an ample fresh fish section and an isle dedicated entirely to fresh herbs and medicinal flowers and roots etc... Here a Shamana will cleanse your soul with a little ceremony that culminates with breaking an egg and reading the yolks, etc. to see if bad energy has entered your soul. I got a little scared and kept my distance. I´m not sure if I avoid this kind of thing (I am also kind of creeped out by Tarot - I keep distance between me and that guy outside Tio Pepe´s on Commercial Drive in Vancouver) because I don´t believe in it or because I don´t want to believe in it, but it was pretty interesting too see. Uh, we are leaving tomorrow for the upper top coast of Peru, so it´s with a little sadness that we leave Ecuador behind but it{s been an amazing trip so far. Ecuador was a really big surprise in many ways. It´s much more diverse and interesting than I thought it would be and the people as I have said before are quite friendly. So far this little city has been the highlight of our trip here.

Advertising Advice needed

It´s a low blow to make fun of crazy crap you see on the street in foreign countries, but this one really made me think about the dying art of studio photography and the function of photography in general in different places. Additionally, my blows are often low. There has to be a little room for this in my blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New years Turkey with garnish

I know this comes a little late but Feliz Nuevo Año por 2010 to all my family and homies in Canada and USA y mis amigos de Mexico tambien! Aint no turkey like a NYE Quiteño turkey!

cathedral door

cathedral door, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

There is some really nice artwork in a few of the churches in Quito and some of the other towns. This was from a cathedral in Quito. As always cherubs figure big.

Why I don´t get Callbacks

WoodenHorsey, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

This is a picture I would like to entitle, ¨Why I don´t get Callbacks¨ Hayley took it of me fooling around at a park which looks down over Quito, but I think the look on my face especially if you look closely says it all.

Waterfall in Banos

Waterfall in Banos, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

This is the waterfall on the far side of Baños that comes right off the side of the mountain, through a few pools and then straight through a clothes washing area that looks like it´s a few hundred years old where people (read women) are busy scraping clothes clean on the stones. We went to a hot springs here which was interesting. Very interesting. ¨Rustic¨ is the word I´d use. Maybe there are more rustic natural pools around the world but this pool we went to had many people crammed in together as it was the only really hot one so it was kinda like taking a bath with a whole gang of Strangers. Hot water percolated up through the cement on the floor and the perforations where the water was coming through were boiling hot so you had to watch your step. The co-ed pre and post dip shower was pretty interesting if not altogether sanitary feeling. I´m not sure if Hayley would call bug-eyed stares interesting though. It was refreshing though and the water was so cloudy with minerals that I´m sure we got some rejuvination from them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Baños

IMG_2732, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

Here´s another view of the town.

Smoking Volcano

Smoking Volcano, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

We are on the road to Baños which is near to Quito nestled deep in the shadow of a valley of a gigantic smoking volano. See photo for proof I was there. This is the volcan Tungruahua which was spouting vigorously enough to scare everyone off the mountain a few years back, but slowly people have trickled back as it hasn´t erupted yet. Now it´s a tourist attraction despite the fact it hasn´t been settled weather or not it might blow someday soon. Besides the beauty and awesomeness of a smoking volcano, Baños is really amazingly beautiful and has hot springs to boot. We stayed at a very comfy hostel and ate giant breakfasts and admired the small towns quaint streets. There is a challanging set of stairs that climb the steep jungly slopes up the side of the mountain to a statue of GOD that overlooks the whole place. We went up there, saw him but had to run down to catch a bus but we wished we´d had a few more days to go on a longer hike further up the ridge onto a plateau where there is a little hamlet with farms and cows and other stuff like that. Next time tunguahua unless you haven´t destroyed everything by then - hope not.

Nescafe Ritual

Nescafe Ritual, originally uploaded by burro come churro.
In Ecuador it is difficult to find a brewed cup of coffee. Most people drink the crystals. Needless to say, I´m addicted to coffee and, like addicts of other stimulants, I´ll migrate to whatever is availiable and resembles coffee if that´s all there is which means I´ve been drinking a lot of Nescafe. Incidentally there is a Nescafe skyscraper in Guayaquil so it seems I´m not the only one. Strangely, there are some old, and classy buildings in Quito that are traditional and old style where you order a Humitas (sweet corn tamale) and sit with a fresh brewed cup of coffee. We went to a place that looked like it had been there for a century and sat down. On the table there were some napkins, sugar and a small crystal bottle of black liquid. I guess because I eat a lot of Chinese food it registered in my peripheral vision as a soy sauce bottle. We ordered coffees and were quickly served two cups of hot water with a cup of hot milk. After a few puzzled moments passed I asked about when our coffee was going to arrive. The server just gestured to the bottle of black liquid which after mixing it with my hot water and milk turned out to be some of the finest Nescafe concentrate I´ve ever had. We are in Cuenca now and have found a place with real brewed coffee but it´s interesting that I was finally starting to develop a taste for the stuff when I was finally able to get the real thing. Nescafe! Its not that bad!

Old Town Quito

Old Town Quito, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

This is a large street in Old Town Quito. The sun really cooks you this high up. The old colonial buildings and mountains in the background sum up the flavor of Quito.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Well that kinda worked.

Now we are still in Canoa. It is Hayleys birthday and it is raining. It is actually kinda pouring. The sandy streets are now filled with mud and many people are waiting under the awning of the corner store accross the street for the bus which just shot past without picking up anyone. This must be the beginning of the rainy season in Ecuador. By the looks of things I´m going to be extremely wet.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Photo Test

IMG_2658, originally uploaded by burro come churro.

Hi this is just a test to see if photos can work. Incidentally, this is Quito in the Old Town just as thesun was rising on our first morning. The Hostel we were staying at had a great patio with a sprawling view. Nice to sip your morning cup to this.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Dias de calor, Noches calientes, Perros calientes de la Playa

OK, we are a few days in at the beach now and our cod-fillets are looking a little more cocidos. The Ocean is amazing here. People are pretty nice at times here. Like a lot of places where small handsome fishing villages have been changed into pseudo-resort like places with a bevy of hotels and restaurants and cabana bars, the people have a fairly easy-going demeanor but it´s hard to smile all the time for the customers. Not everyone is super-psyched to be doling out smoothies for crappy pay to tourists all day we´ve noticed... in between beers and fish dinners that is. Que supresa. I´m not gonna pretend there´s too much difference between me and the rest of the folks visiting here, but that said, it has spread a few dollars around this dry, pretty little town. There´s a few amenities and water and electricity that seems to cut out a few times a day, but overall the people here seem tolerant of the tourist trade. Water is in very short supply so hopefully, no megalith hotels will open up. Right now there is a drought so people are a little apprehensive about water wasting. We will venture to Cuenca Ecuador in a few days and then, we can dutifully pack our swimming trunks away for awhile. Maybe for until we return as we head onwards and upwards to Peru climes and climbs and into Boliva by March at the very least!

Friday, January 08, 2010

We are finally off!

The amazing city of Quito
Well. To be honest I can hardly believe it. We are finally in Ecuador. It´s been quite the trip. We have spent a few amazing days in the bustling city of Quito Ecuador which is pretty unique pricipally that it´s in Ecuador, but it´s also almost 4000 metres higher than Vancouver or sea level so the airs thin and the clouds roll over it´s verdent green hillsides as if they´re in time lapse. No, I haven´t licked any mind altering toads nor drank too many chelas, es verdad me amis! We spent New Years Eve at our hostel and the cozy, cobbled avenue outside, burning old man effigies and jumping through the flames, not to mention a little inpromptu dance lesson in Quiteno style cumbia dancing from the people who owned the hostel accross the road. We bought some soap from them as we had nothing the first night in town because American Airlines had ¨misplaced¨ our bags somewhere between Miami and L.A. I hear a lot of things get misplaced between there. Quito is sort of rolled out like a taco between volcanoe´s steep hillsides and this makes it dramatic. In the old-town which is really the only part of town that bears mention, the streets are narrow and, well, old. Very old. Old enough for UNESCO to give it the big thumbs-up for the world heritage site! I can hear vancouver super-mayor McGregor Robinson Crusoe clacking-out an official request to UNESCO for the DTES in Vancouver as I write this, but his post-olympic hopes would be dashed if he came to Quito and scoped the competish. Old customs, old people, heritage colonial buildings and narrow streets and stairways climb the mountainsides like some detailed escher drawing.
residences near the sea with shrimp ponds behind
We have now left Quito and are on the road and down by the sea! The temps are a groggy 30 plus degrees and we are unabashadly sporting sport shorts and white cod-fillet stomaches around this long flat stretch of beach. I really want to post some pics but untils I figure out how to plug-in the digi-cam into the cyber-cafe computadoras, it´s going to be ASCII only homies!