Sunday, March 22, 2009

termas papallacta

The thermal hot springs of Papallacta provided a wonderful recollection of childhood vacations. Papallacta is located to the east of Quito, less than 2 hours away. We spent Sunday night at the "Termas Papallacta" resort and despite it's cost it was worth it. They have piped the hot springs water (87 to 110 degrees) into waist deep pools that are immediately in front of the cabins. The pools in our courtyard area were very hot, hot and ice cold. The cool mountain air forces you into the wonderful pools in which you cannot remain because it gets too hot, so we moved around alot, enjoying the views from all angles.
As a kid, this resort was nonexistant, but the hotsprings public area was. This is what I remember, but has been kept up nicely, and improved now to have a nice restaurant, changing areas and whirlpool jets in some of the pools. I was glad that someone had the idea to develop the natural resource so that it could be visited comfortably by tourists and others. I was saddened to think of the local people, who used to bathe in the springs along the roadside. The natural springs that flowed there arent' there any longer (water piped to the resort) and neither are the people. It clearly would be cost prohibitive to many. What remains unclear is whether there is a place for the townspeople to enjoy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

risk and La Ronda

Mike took the kids to Peguche waterfalls on Saturday morning, allowing me to peruse the Otavalo Indian market alone. I had taken the kids to Peguche, but had not allowed them to cross the rapids on the fallen tree bridge. I had too many fears about losing one of the kids in the river. I was glad they were able to experience it with their dad, who was not scared of the risks, but allowed them to take it on.
Later, we left Otavalo, and returned to Quito. After getting the kids to sleep we went to dinner at La Ronda, a touristy restaurant, styled after a well-known street. The food is typical Ecuadorian, accompanied by live music (panflute, guitars and drums). As a kid, I had been there many times when we had visitors in town. This time, I enjoyed Fanesca (a 10 grain and legume soup with a fish stock base. I had never had it, but had read an article about it and had been asking people where I could find it (only served one time a year, right before Easter, so I was lucky to have it).

minga at the lake

We took Mike to Lago San Pablo on cloudy Thursday and Friday. Before the rains came in, we were able to take a boat ride around the edge of the lake. We were able to watch a minga (community work crew) on the northwest side of the lake come together to put in some water pipelines so they could have water coming to their homes. There were people of all ages digging up the ground. There were more than a hundred working together with their hands and some primitive equipment, without the government helping. In talking with some of the hotel staff, we learned that sometimes the province will lend the equipment to the people of the community, but that mostly, improvement is left to the people of rural communities.
Mike had cabin fever and went hiking in the rain. He witnessed some women with babies tied to their bags carrying buckets of water up the mountain to their homes. He had just been thinking how good the hike was going and felt humbled.
Despite the rains, we had an enjoyable time in our cabin with our fireplace lit, eating popcorn and watching Space Chimps.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Atacames finally

We rode all day, but finally arrived in Atacames (a well-known beach in the northwestern part of the country). We were the only guests at "La Marimba", which was at the southernmost part of the beach.
The ceviche de camaron (my other favorite Ecuadorian food) was best at our hotel, but we found some other great seafood at "Paco Foco" in town.
We walked to town a couple of times and then enjoyed the open-air motorcycle taxi ride back, usually with loud music.
The beach was heavily littered, because of the heavy rains that overfilled the rivers and washed the trash out to sea. We observed men in the low surf every day, looking through the trash for money or usable items.
The hotels pool was the kid's delight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stewart gets lost in a cloud

Today Mike took Marshall and Stewart on several hikes while Nigel napped. On one such adventure, Stewart had to be returned for a bathroom stop. Nigel awoke and while I was readying him to go out, Stewart left.
He went missing. I was calling his name, but the jungle does weird thing to sounds, and he didn't hear me. I started up the mountain, thinking he had probably gone back to the path he had been on. Finally, I heard him scream twice. I called to him again, running and panting with Nigel clinging to me. There was no answer this time. I saw to the left of the path what looked like a well or a pit, and my mind leaped forward to the worst case scenario. In one minutes' time I imagined having to leave the forest without him. I was panicked.
Anita, from the hotel, raced along side me, and headed up the path. I couldn't breathe and had to stop. I kept thinking that I was failing. I knew he was out there, but I could'nt go any further. My body wouldn't let me. I yelled out again. This time I heard Anita shout that she had him. My mind raced, I still hadn't heard him. Was he ok?
She came in to view, and there was Stewart, crying but fine. He was terrified! I held him for the longest time.
Later, he told me that he had gone back to the path to catch up with Mike and Marshall. It was amazing that he had covered that distance in a matter of minutes.
We talked about it for along time afterwards.
The jungle is beautiful, but it is vast and like an interwoven maze and scary with little independents like my middle son, Stewart.

the usual and unusual finds in a jungle

the unusual find: Dariel,10-year-old bird artist who likes to draw birds and does so wonderfully. Marshall bought a peice of his art.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

birds and clouds from a treehouse

We decided to take the road west towards the Esmeraldas/Atacames beach. By bus it was going to take 7 hours so we opted to leave Saturday and go 2 hours to the Cloud Forest Reserve of Bellavista. We got off at Nanagalito and hired a truck driver to take us up the mountain. It was 12 km to the top, but at places the dirt roads had been nearly washed out. The ride was a bumpy one, and we kept looking at eachother wondering where the top was. Finally, we reached what we called the "treehouse" hotel of Bellavista.
I never expecte d the views of the misty clouds to be so beautiful. The bird calls came from every direction. When we descended from our bambo "treehouse" there were flutterings and the low "dhrrrr"'s from the hummingbirds whizzing by.
The dinning building held a table of travelers having refined and adult conversations over wine. Then there was our entourage of tired boys, with Mike and I trying to get through it. After the kids fell off to sleep, we ended our busy day with a bottle of wine on the deck nestled in the trees.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mike's arrival

We let out cheers as we saw Mike for the first time in nearly 4 weeks. Everyone was trying to talk to him at once, as we all had important things to say to him.
The next morning, we made our way to the Plaza Central, the President's Palace, and the Basilica.
Marshall and Stewart were most excited to play Batman Lego with him.
photo one: Mike enjoyed his first ceviche de camaron (shrimp cocktail of Ecuador)
photo three: getting his first view of colonial Quito
photo four: Mike being interviewed by some kids for their school project.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yaku: Agua: Water

Tonight Mike arrives!
During the day we decided to check out Quito's water museum. It is named Yaku (Quichua Indian name for water). Nigel had a great time getting wet, even though it was chilly.
The museum is in a neighborhood called El Placer ( The Pleasure). Here there was an excellent view of the c
ity in the valley, with the Panecillo to the south and the Basilica to the north.
There were several large school groups there with kids herded into lines with anticipatory expressions. To my surprise, one catholic girls school had allowed the girls to dress in their matching swim suits and caps and run through the fountains. The kindergarden-aged girls were having a superb time, running, slipping and falling. The nuns did not seem to be having such a good time, yelling and barking orders from the side. The scene was unforgettable.
Our favorite spot in the museum was the bubble (burbuja) room. See video below:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

fiber arts in Ambato

After staying at Rumipampa de las Rosas for two nights we took a bus south to Ambato where we stayed at Quinto Loren Hosteleria.
My ambition was to meet with a wonderful artisan named Fabian Rosero. He works with plant fibers, creating braided rugs and weavings. It was impressive to see some samples and photographs of his labor.
The next day we visited Salasaca, where we were able to witness a weaver and Salasaca Indian women making thread.
photograph three: Nigel couldn't get enough toy llamas to care for.
note: inspiration for new art continues. Research looms and check ebay.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

salcedo market

My parents worked with a church in Salcedo for many years. I remember taking the two hour drive usually every other month.
On more than one occasion, we passed the Sunday market. I was awed by the quantity and vibrancy of the yarn I saw there. I asked to stop but we were never able for whatever reason.
Yesterday, the kids and I went. I bought $10 worth of yarn, which is a lot of yarn. I had such a hard time narrowing down my choices. I am not sure how I will use all this yarn but I have been working on several latch-hook designs and hope that I may be able to produce a small show based on this new work.
A childhood dream revisited!

picture 1: this is how I felt when I saw the hilo (yarn)
picture 2:
an example of the latch-hook art I brought along to work on
picture 3: the kids thoroughly enjoyed the famous Helado de Salcedo (Salcedo Ice Cream). The locals loved stopping to look at the kids.

Monday, March 9, 2009

$6 bus adventure! (sick child included)

I think we travel light, re-wearing dirty clothes, with few other options (this is why we are wearing the same clothes in our pictures), but when it comes to carrying all our gear, the pack probably weighs at least 80 lbs. Imagine me having to sit down in order to hoist the pack onto my back. It is way too heavy!
We caught a taxi, after an emergency trip to the supermarket to get some diapers (candy and B-A-N-A-N-A-S). Once we got to the bus terminal, backpack engaged, Stewart announced that he needed a toilet. We found one (for $ .15). The toilets didn't have seats, and he was upset about having to sit on the cold. We waited (Nigel and I more patient and understanding than my firstborn, who was dealing some emotional turmoil). We waited some more. Finally, Stewart felt relieved and we went on our way (me hoping that this issue had resolved itself).
We hurried to the back of the bus, got the entire row to ourselves, and settled in for the 2 hour ride to Salcedo. I thought to myself, "today is day of the woman here, and I feel empowered having met the challenges. " I felt proud, with my three strong children by my side. But then I went further, thinking, "It will be "smooth-sailing" from here, What other challenge can top these? "
Mistake to hope for the nice ride. After 20 minutes of boys quietly playing their leapsters, and me being able to nurse Nigel in peace. Shit! Literally...Stewart needed the bathroom again. His cries became increasingly desperate (coming from him, it really meant something. His stomach is made of steel). I convinced him that he needed a diaper. I was trying to keep Nigel asleep, and tend to Stewart's writhing body. He kept saying that he just needed to use the grass, not even a toilet. He wanted off the bus in a bad way.
Finally, about 20 minutes from our hotel, he releived himself and was totally fine after that.
Once we arrived, we cleaned up and I broke out the travelers diarrhea meds for my brave little boy.

to the top

When we woke on Saturday, alas, we had a clear morning in Quito, perhaps our first. The kids played neopets for awhile and watched some cartoons as I packed up and Nigel napped.
Leaving our backpack at the hotel, we took off on our mountain excursion. The taxi took us to Teleferico, which is this new-to-me area that you can take a
cable car to the top of the mountain. On top there are cafes and paths almost all the way over to Rucu Pichincha (the volcano that sits directly to the west of northern Quito).
The air was thin, at about 15,ooo ft above sea level, so the hike left me breathless at times (maybe because Iwas carrying Nigel too). Marshall and Stewart are real climbers, they just kept on. I would have let them go all the way to the rocky part, but Stewart was not listening to me, going his own way, which several times was frightening. I wondered if the altitude was affecting him, so I made the decision that we would try again another time.
We were tired when we got to the bottom, but the kids lite up when they saw a small ammusement park and ice cream. They had a couple rounds on the bumper cars and some Limon/Naranja Gemelo popsicles and we caught the bus back down to the neighborhood where we had stayed the night before (the touristy, bar and shop heavy- Avenida Amazonas). We picked up our pack and made our way to the Hostel, Jardin del Sol for a cheaper nights stay, again keeping us dis-connected.
The kids were purely unreasonable and exhausted by that point. We ate chips for dinner and went to bed early, I not daring to take them out again to find a clean restaurant.
picture 2: in the distance we kept seeing the hem of opalescent snow of mount Cotopaxi to the southeast of where we were.