Monthly Archives: July 2013

A bit of an explosion in Banos

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I just received this via an Ecuador group I belong to…

“Baños is one of Ecuador’s top tourist towns and we recommend a visit there if you get a chance. But be aware that Baños sits in the shadow of Mt. Tungurahua, an active volcano. It’s been active since 1999, but that doesn’t imply constant or even regular eruptions.

If you’re planning a trip to this area any time soon, do keep an eye on the situation, though, as in the wee hours of Sunday morning, July 14th, Tungurahua belched mightily. The explosion was heard throughout the country, and ash is falling on some nearby communities. Depending on which way the wind blows, some domestic flights, particularly, could be affected, as planes are re-routed to avoid the ash fall.”

We were just in Banos near the end of June, sitting in the thermal pools at the bass of Mt. Tungurahua, romping around the Amazon just outside of town and enjoying one of the best meals of the trip at Cafe Good: our filet mignon dinner.  OMGosh, I can still remember the perfection of every part of that meal…even tho I had just stepped in DOG SHIT on the way to the restaurant. Luckily Rene saw a hose resting in the front yard of a house nearby and I was able to wash my flip flops and toesies.  All the rest of the trip, he kept teasing me about that unfortunate occurance whenever we saw dog poop and even when we didn’t…Baby brothers can be such fun!

Just outside Banos...On our way to the Devil's Waterfall

Just outside Banos…On our way to the Devil’s Waterfall

THE Filet Mignon meal at Cafe Good in Banos

THE Filet Mignon meal at Cafe Good in Banos

The Thermal pools at the bass of the Volcano

The Thermal pools at the bass of the Volcano

The HOTTEST pool in Banos

The HOTTEST pool in Banos

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That’s all folks…

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I’m back home, filled with memories, new ideas and plenty of work to do here. I’m back to gardening…the Compost is ready and Dahlias are blooming. I’m getting ready to plant fall seeds like Kales, collards, leeks, etc. It was a great trip and I’m so happy to have shared it with Rene and Robin and all of you.  I’m making a picture book like my friend Jan showed me of her Bali trip. I’m including my blog entries and I think it will be better than just pics in a picture album.  I’m feeling good, ready to take on new things and hoping I see all of you soon.

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My best meal…

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Our happy cooks

Our happy cooks

Wow, going thru these pictures brings back great memories as well as things I forgot to post or did not have time to post. Here’s one…

My best meal occurred while we were going up the coast to Pedernales (D3 on the map).  We had a heck of a day, getting out of Crucita, getting lost and finally back on the road via a private Escort by a kind man at a gas station.  According to the layout of my pictures, this place must have been located between Crucita and Bahia de Caraquez.

We finally pulled off to get some lunch. This place was great. There was a big semi out front, a couple of motorcycles and 2-3 women manning the place.  The meal started off with a green soup, which was awesome. Then it expanded into a plate of food which was so delicious…Add some juice or soda, pay your $3.50, use the Bano and back on the road. I will remember this meal….

Green soup: potatoes, spinich, milk/creme, cilantro?

Green soup: potatoes, spinich, milk/creme, cilantro?

Dominica's...that was the nameDominica’s…that was the name: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Robin enjoying her soupa

Robin enjoying her soupa

and then lunch: lentils, rice and chicken in a savory sauce

and then lunch: green beans and carrots, rice and chicken in a savory sauce

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I forgot a whole day…

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go around, 'cause I ain't movin' for you or anyone

go around, ’cause I ain’t movin’ for you or anyone

Well, it was a whirlwind of a trip and trying to remember every cool detail was difficult since I didn’t keep a journal and tried to blog on my new IPAD. So here’s the scoop.

When we were in Simon Bolivar (our first night on the beach side) we took a day trip up to Puerto Lopez.

Puerto Lopez and tuk tuks

Puerto Lopez and tuk tuks

Bat man tuk tuk

Bat man tuk tuk

We found this place called Agua Blanca that had been recommended in TLP (page 260).

Excerpted and paraphrased from TLP…”This indigenous community and surrounding territory is a chance to escape modern Ecuador. It is a scattering of simple wood and bamboo dwellings and there is no noise or pollution. Pay your $5 fee at the turn-off, which covers a museum admission and a personal guide!).”

We visited the Archaelogical museum where a Spanish speaking guide explained the significance of the artifacts, including well-preserved ceramics and funeral urns.  The tour started at the Manta site, believed to have ben an important political capital of the Manta people.  There are thought to be approx. 400 buildings, some waiting for complete excavation.

Agua Blanca check in

Agua Blanca check in

Our guide at Agua Blanca: Danny DeVito and Arnold Swartzenager

Our guide at Agua Blanca: Danny DeVito and Arnold Swartzenager

Museum

Museum

The sulphur pool

The sulphur pool

The hour plus walk, across a riverbed and thru an arid tropical forest…How could that be but it was…We stopped at the Sulphur pool but did not soak. In the water is also a therapeutic mud.

Local resident of the pool area

Local resident of the pool area

He likes the therapeutic mud wraps

He likes the therapeutic mud wraps

Dave fit right in

Dave fit right in

The sulphur pool

The sulphur pool

We climbed the raised platform near the end of the walk and saw an outstanding view of the area. We saw plenty of birdlife and plants. Not these pigs but this…

The viewpoint

The viewpoint

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Our guide and some of his kids

Our guide and some of his kids

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Simon Bolivar and our First two nights on the beach

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I wanted to show you all our very sweet Hostel on the beach in Simon Bolivar.  This little fishing town was just a 2.5 hour (or less) from the GYE airport. Alex Landt, the hat man set us up here and it was just down a sandy street from his casa.

We had several choices of rooms and David and I took the ground floor while Rene and Robin took a room on the 2nd floor. We could literally walk out our door and in one minute be at the water. Rene was the first one to the beach and ordered a beer!

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That’s our room on the left and my undies drying in the window. hahahah! They never dried.

Next door there was a simple home (pretty rough really) and I noticed a horse tethered in the driveway.  Alex told us later that the place is a Therapy Horse place and the young woman walking the horse is from ?Switzerland. She is volunteering there for several months. We met some people who were bringing their children there to ride the horse. One family was from the USA and their son, Charlie had ADHD but was not interested in the horse ride at all.  Rene kept encouraging him to try it and we found out later that Charlie came back and DID ride the horse.

Well, the coolest, funniest, weirdest thing happened: Rene and the horse bonded. Rene got therapy! The horse would lick him, nuzzle him and love was surely exchanged. I’ve got the pics to prove it.

The day we got back from Puerto Frailles (remember the top rated beach in Ecuador and possibly S. America?) David and I walked into our ground floor room and discovered a trail of ANTS!….Thousands, encircling our whole room, not concentrating on anything that we could see. We didn’t have food so what could they be after? We never did find out, but our host Javier, a young man in his early 20’s and a friend of Alex’s quickly got a broom and started swishing them out the door, while I moved the bed, suitcases, dressers, etc. to aid his fight of the Ants. Sorry no pics as I was busy scrambling to move stuff.

After all of that, the thought of sleeping in that room with ants possibly crawling over us in the night was too much for even me so we moved to the third floor. We hauled our luggage up there, with the help of Javier and then we turned around and the view was amazing.  I wondered if an iguana would visit us during the night. Here’s pics of Simon Bolivar…

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Updating with pics

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Hey everyone, I’m home and will be adding pics to some of the old posts in the next few days. I hope the pics will help you enjoy our trip even more. Look for updates. Gerry

Here's a woman who will deliver fresh fruit to your doorstep if you live in Cuenca

Here’s a woman who will deliver fresh fruit to your doorstep if you live in Cuenca

More fog?! Come on…give us a break!

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Our last morning in Cuenca. I miss it already..especially since I am writing this while I am back in the states.. But really, what a nice town.

We still had some unfinished business of the phone charger and returning it to our friend Neil at his NEW condo. Like last time, he gave us no address…just two street names, plus the name of a building and some landmarks: The Coliseum, The Olympic pool and the river. We drove around for an hour looking for these two streets in the area of the three landmarks. No dice. NO ONE knew where these streets were. I tried to call him several times….Remember: I had returned the only cell phone that would work inside the country to him yesterday. To use a phone I had to ask people, “Uhhhh, can I use your cell phone? Oh, and BTW: do you know where Neil lives?”  I must have sounded like a raving Gringo-Idiot.

Each time I would call him, we would get cut off right when he was trying to give me more directions. This was sooooo frustrating.  One time he put his facilitator, Ana, on the phone…Of course, she did not speak very much English to my Not so good Spanish. Comical yet frustrating because we had to get to Guayaquil to return our car on time.

Our last ditch effort was at a gas station, which I now realize was really closed but the door wasn’t locked so I just walked in and I asked for help and directions. Thankfully, a really nice manager-type lady came out and asked what my problem was. She took me to her office where I again called Neil and again was cut off. Then two lads from Denmark came into the office.  They heard in the parking lot that there was an American woman who needed help. This was almost an International incident!  Their very brilliant idea was to take a cab to Neil’s apartment and have Rene follow in the Car. BRILLIANT except…

Not one cab driver would let me get in their cab when I showed them the street names. By now, we were even more desperate to get out of town so we had to chuck it. Meaning…give up….ARG! This was very difficult for this Virgo to do.  Even a week later as I write this at 11:20 PM at night, my stomach is churning with the realization of defeat.  If it had just been David and myself, I would have cried but I “ate it” and reasoned that Neil could probably purchase a new charger pretty easily AND I had put $10.00 of minutes on his phone, which was a nice thing to do…Gad, can you believe it? I actually thought of giving that charger to the two Denmark lads with Neil’s address and maybe they could find his new place.  But that is ALL behind me now. I did send Neil an apology email and he couldn’t believe no taxi would accept me. Oh well, it’s done, done, done.

Thanks to Robin and her map reading abilities, we got out of town and on the road to Guayaquil and over the Andes. Gosh, it was beautiful and I was happy to show it all to Rene and Robin since I had seen it twice before.

One little bitty detail: FOG!! Can you believe it? More fog AND we ended up behind a car that couldn’t wait to pass us but had no idea how to drive in FOG and literally almost came to a complete stop several times.   We were afraid someone, like a really big bus would come from behind and smash us like a bug so we turned on our flasher lights and honked at them.  They were also riding the center line instead of the FOG line so there was no hope to pass them, which would have been terribly risky anyway so we just ate it and ranted at them in our car till the fog lifted and then we passed them and rejoiced that we were all still alive and then….

Just as we got out of the fog a HUGE tarantula was crossing the road.  We couldn’t believe it. I mean, how often do you see that? But there it was and it generated a whole lot of jokes like, “Why did the tarantula cross the road?”  I admit it…We were pretty punchy by this time. (sorry no picture)

Pretty soon we were on the downhill side of the Andes and seeing things like Banana trees, Watermelon stands, fields of sugar cane and we knew Guayaquil was in the distance.

Banana trees

Banana trees

We still needed to drop the car off and for some reason, all I had was a business card which contained an email address, phone but NO ADDRESS. Gad, here we go again.  Remember, we had no phone, so we went to the Airport side of town because we knew that is where we had picked up the car.  After several minutes of unfruitful looking we stopped at a gas station and I went in and asked for help.  The kind manager man – every attendant would not meet my gaze – took the card and he called the number and told us the location is back one kilometer.  WHEW! That should be easy enough, unless you miss the turn around and have to go forward a mile or so…Good news…We finally found it and funny enough…It was in the same place we left it.

We quickly cleared out our stuff, luggage, Alex’s hats, misc. trash and I went in to pay the bill in CASH. Here’s the story: They would hold the bill on my credit card but wanted a cash payment in the end.  I wanted the Credit Card hold because if we got in a collision, Capital One Insurance would cover us.  The car rental did NOT want the payment via Credit card because they don’t get their full payment and would have to charge us an extra 12% to recoup the lost amounts.

In the end I handed them $700 for sixteen days.  That’s under $44 a day!!  They even provided us with a Taxi and small car to take us to Patricia’s house for our overnight stay.

When we got to Patricia’s – after a hair raising ride thru Guayaquil – we discovered that she didn’t know we needed TWO rooms…but guess what? It all worked out and there were two rooms. Of course there were because that is just the kind of trip this is…It all works out.

We went out for dinner, walking the area around Patricia’s casa looking for our last meal…and we found a little street place and had a wonderful dinner. Here’s a picture of us crossing a VERY busy street to get to the restaurant.

Crossing the street for our last dinner in Ecuador

Crossing the street for our last dinner in Ecuador

Our next big challenge was that our flight left at 6:00 AM which meant we had to be there at 4:00 AM and would need a Taxi at 3:00 AM – Make that two Taxi’s since we now had a lot of luggage.  Patricia arranged for two of her friends to take us and she even woke us up at 3:00 AM.

Sleeping that last night was difficult.  The street noise was outstandingly LOUD with cats squalling, dogs barking, motorcycles blaring, horns honking, people talking, yelling. I don’t know that I got more than an hour’s sleep before it was time to get up.  I splashed some cold water on my face, pulled on my great Goodwill brown pants that I wore for THREE weeks with No washing and the rest of my gear, back pack, suitcases, loaded the taxi and cruised thru the DEAD streets of Guayaquil to the airport.

Once there we visited the duty free shops and bought a couple of items, including a bottle of liquor (David did that). We made it to our gate and waited.  Then we heard Dave’s name called to the “Drug Enforcement and Inspection” area Please.

David is inspected for drugs

David is inspected for drugs

Being just a bit worried that I might not see him again, I went to the doorway and was told, “It is just routine.” I did not breathe a sigh of relief till I saw this….

No drugs: He's good to go

No drugs: He’s good to go

We finally boarded our plane with Rene getting the leg room he needed for his tall frame and I saw this…

Copa: GYE to Panama City

Copa: GYE to Panama City
 We landed two hours later in Panama City and headed to our next gate for our trip to Vegas.  Lo and behold…This caught us by surprise. At our new gate, there was an entirely NEW Security check of our Carry on bags which had just been checked in GYE (Including a drug check of David’s).  We had to show our Passport, boarding pass, turn in ALL water bottles, even empty ones…I lost my dear Pony Malta bottle…and have our bags checked, be patted down and wait behind the black ropes. All fine except…Remember the duty free stuff of a liquid nature? They would not let us take it in our bags. Nope, no can do, Nada.
We were sent to another desk and we explained:
US: “We just bought this in Ecuador in the Duty free shop and then we boarded the plane”
THEM: We understand Sir, but since you did NOT buy it in Panama we cannot allow you to put it in your luggage”.
US: Hmm what if I had bought it in Panama?
THEM: No problem – you can bring it on the plane.”
US: Does that make sense to you”
THEM: “NO sir, it does not but that is the rule”.
They ended up taking the bottles (Rene & David’s) and putting them on the plane, just not in our luggage – God forbid! and the bottles did show up in Vegas at the luggage turn around thingee unbroken. Whew!
Before we boarded the plane I had to use the bano and brush my teeth. I had to exit, with permission, with my toothbrush and passport, do my thing and go thru the Security check again. Overkill Panama…Jus sayin’
By the way, here’s an idea of how to keep your kids quiet on a long flight…
Child in a bag?

Child in a bag?

Vegas: We land, go thru Customs – It took a long time, get our bags (they weren’t there for 20 minutes which delayed us even more…Now we are going to miss our flight to Portland.  We missed it even tho we RAN, pushing our bags on those cool luggage holders. Yep, it’s gone, can’t hold the flight, you missed it.
The Alaska airline person did a good job trying to get us to Portland. She checked every airline that could possibly make it work but the best she could do was: Vegas to Seattle which leaves in an hour and then onto Portland, with VERY LITTLE time to make that flight, stay overnight in Portland and fly to Medford the next morning. No choice. We did it.
On the Seattle to Portland flight: When we landed (late) we told people around us that we had to get off the plane to make our connection and they all moved aside and let us race out of the plane and we made it!  Of course they did, because that is what people do when they know you need help.
In Portland, we had booked a room at the Red Lion Airport and a kind shuttle driver was there to take us.  We had a marvelous meal in the lounge, got to bed…Wow, did that mattress feel like a cloud of cotton and silk to my weary bones…and the shower with unlimited hot water was so welcome with the little soap and shampoo and body lotion.  So much so, that I took another shower in the morning before taking the convenient shuttle back to the Portland Airport for our 8 AM flight to Medford.
And when we landed, gosh, was it great to see Colette and Sam and the Rogue Valley and get home to my Inga Dog and my Ally cat and my garden that looked great, thanks to Colette’s watering and the house was still standing and the mail was piled up and I went to bed and slept in my own bed and just like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home…”
Thanks for sharing this trip with me. I hope you enjoyed this bloggityblog. Gerry, signing off till the next adventure.
Medford Airport: The tired Crew

Medford Airport: The tired Crew