Journal

Another (ecua)Week(end) in Review
May 31-June 1, 2003
We hop on the bus at Quito's Terminal Terrestre bus station, heading for Cotopaxi National Park to camp at the base of and climb Volcán Sinchilagua with a couple friends. We get a bus outside the Terminal and head south on the Panamerican Highway. On these buses there is usually a driver then a money collector guy that goes around and charges everyone on the bus after they get a full load of people. They usually charge you according to your destination and the rates are pretty much the same.

So our turn comes around, Jenny gives him a ten and we have to wait for him to charge everyone else on the bus so that he can come back and give us our change. We know the rate is 1.50 or less and he charges Jenny $5.00. We both argue with him a little and then the guy comes up with some bullshit excuse to charge us more that makes no sense and we start complaining more and yelling out "falta" (missing, as in change) as he walks away. This is a pretty standard thing here. I imagine this guy has done this a ton of times to foreigners before without problems because they probably didn't know the price or enough spanish to argue with the dude. So he walks away and sits in the front of the bus with the driver behind this glass window. The women sitting next to Jenny in the front row asks Jenny how much he charged us. They she starts rapping on the window and yelling at them as well. They she stands up and faces the rest of the bus and yells out something like "Countrymen! These men are trying to destroy the tourism of our country and our pride and integrity" Then the rest of the bus starts yelling out "Ladrones!" (theives) and hissing and stuff. Then another guy comes up and asks us what is going on. Then he yells out "Fine, then we will just tell the police at the next checkpoint!" Everyone else is like "YEAH!" The money collector guy cannot even look back in the bus anymore by this point. We go through the checkpoint and everyone is trying to open the windows and yell out to the police, he flashes his drivers license without even stopping and blazes through the check point.

We get to our destination and we get off the bus. I hang out by the door because all our packs and stuff are underneath and I have NO IDEA what these guys are going to do. Everyone on the bus is peering out the window to see what will happen. We get all our packs out and the guy returns our money. We finally won against the crooked bus guys.

Next we hire a truck to take us out to this mountain on the far east side of the park. It takes about and hour and a half to get there and he lets us off. We walk in about 5 miles to the base of the mountain and set up camp before dark. In the middle of the night I wake up with some intense chest pain. It hurts real bad to roll over, sit up, breath, anything. I get up in the morning and it just kills to stand up. I figure it must just be some tight muscles or something. I make up some tea and a bagel hoping a little warm food will make me feel better. I figure I just need to walk it off. So I decided to head up the mountain with the group. I barely get to the base and I am getting no air at all and it really hurts. I head back to the tent and just wait it out. We walk out of there and it is still not getting better. I get back to Quito and head to the emergency room. They take an EKG, blood tests, x-rays, and give me some injections, all in about an hour and a half. They tell me I have a inflamation of the membrane that surrounds the heart caused by a virus, called Pericarditis. Nothing serious and it goes down in a couple days.

The (ecua)Week in Review
Sunday, March 23, 2003
It started off last weekend with Jenny and I walking down the street on Amazonas. There are a ton of buses picking people up on this street. We heard something going on behind us. Some dudes were kicking the bus behind us because the driver wouldn't let them on. They were total punk from mohawks to leathers to boots and all and wasted. One of them went up to the bus door, which was closed. He kicked in one window of it and then the other. They walked away thinking they were all badasses right in front of us. Meanwhile the bus driver parks the bus, runs out with a big metal bar, crowbar type thing and runs up to the one that kicked in the window and gets in about 3 good hits before the rest of the group jumps him and starts beating on him. A bunch of people go up and pull the punks off the driver and he gets in a couple more good hits and the punks run off.

Most of the rest of the week was pretty tranquilo (chill). Jenny and I are walking home yesterday and the guard of our street is just grinning and greeting us as usual and we notice blood is just pouring out of his mouth. We go up to him and talk to him and he is just kind of dazed and doesn't really know what is going on. Normally the guy has a couple screws lose anyway, but he is really out of it. We ask him what happened and he just keeps saying "me sacaron, me sacaron" (meaning they took them out of me) and that it hurts. We ask him who, and he just can't understand or answer. The whole time blood is still just pouring out of his mouth. We Run inside, grab him a bottle of water and some napkins and some tylenol. and go back out to him. The guy is is total shock and just spitting blood everywhere. Another neighbor comes out and gives him some cotton and tells him to put some pressure on the gums but he just doesn't have a clue what is going on. We finally get it out of him what happened. I guess his tooth was hurting him real bad so he just grabbed some pliers and yanked it out. Fortunately he was just getting off his shift and headed home. We saw him this morning and asked to check out the damage. He still had the remnants of the roots in there but he said it doesn't hurt anymore. He also said he kept bleeding until he went to the pharmacy at 1:00 and they gave him an injection to stop it.

So today we head down to the market to get some gifts around noon. In the park there are some pretty harmless protests against the war but a helicopter circling anyway. We are walking down the street and we see two guys standing on the street corner looking around and Jen and I both think they are totally sketch. Not wanting to look scared or anything and usually nothing happens we just walk right by them. We get about 20, 30 feet away and Jen looks back and sees they are smashing the window out of a car and grab something. I say just keep walking. As soon as they stand up in plain view and take off, BOOM, a random passerby guy across the street from us pulls out a pistol and fires off a shot at them. I think they had just gotten away and didn't get hit. He just stands there holding his gun in that direction for another minute or so and keeps walking. We get the hell out of there.

La Navidad y el Año Nuevo
December 21, 2002-January 5, 2003
During the holiday vacation we took off to the beach, determined to stay out of Quito for a good chunk of time. We went to Canoa first and camped there at a hostal for a solid 8 days or so. It was a cool little town with pretty good food and a nice beach. You could walk around on the beach and just pick up pre-colombian artifacts from pots and stuff that had washed down river and into the ocean. I guess a lot of them were around 3,000 years old. There was decent surfing and good beaches too. We stayed there through Christmas and splurged on a lobster dinner (7 bucks). From there we headed to Montañita, to spend New Years. Pretty crazy scene. Huge rave going on the night we got there that lasted until 5 AM and in our hostal room it was pretty much like being there it was so loud. The next day we just spent some more beach time.

New years there was crazy. There were tons of people in town. Little kids were dressed up as old ladies going around begging for money all day (tradition?). Everyone builds these ephagees called "año viejos" to burn when midnight comes. They were burning all over the streets and filled with fireworks so they would occasionally explode. Fireworks were going off all over and then the whole town commenced dancing and drinking all night. I woke up at about 9:30 to the music of the rave next door still bumping away. New Years day we took a bus to Guayaquil then Riobamba. We stayed there that night and then headed up to the town of Baños to finish off the break.

Volcán El Altar
5319m, 17,451ft
December 5-8, 2002
For the last half of the Fiestas de Quito week we went into the Volcán El Altar area. This is one of the most beautiful areas in Ecuador. It is an ancient volcano that totally blew up leaving huge crater and one blasted open side. In the crater there is a lake with a huge waterfall that pours out about 500 feet down into a glacial valley below. This volcano was first climbed in the 50's and is super technical. We just went in to check out the area. About three years ago a huge chunk of glacier fell into the lake in the crater and created a tidal wave. It went over the cliff walls and detroyed the valley below killing a couple people and a bunch of cows. The valley you see in the pictures used to be full of trees and vegetation now it is just bare sand and rock.

For the first night we hiked in and camped below the crater (real smart) then the next day got up and checked out the crater and the laguna inside. The weather wasn't so good. From there we climbed up one of the valley walls to one of ridges coming off the volcano at about 14,500 feet to go look for some ofthe lakes that flank the side of the volcano. The map ended up being a little off and we did quite a bit of walking with full packs to find nothing. We camped on the ridge and the next day walked a little further and found some lakes right at the base of the glacier that were bright blue and deep emerald green. We stayed another night on the ridge in perfect weather and woke up to a perfectly clear day where you could see tons of massive volcanos, El Altar, Sangay, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Antisana, and Cotopaxi. Pretty cool. I took some pictures, we took down camp and walked all the way back the the small town of Candelaria.
El Altar pics

Fiestas de Quito
December 2-6, 2002
Fiestas de Quito is a weeklong festival that celebrates kind of an indepence day for the city. People just party and there are bullfights all week. We only had to work 3 days this week and all were only half days. We stayed for the first part of the week. On Monday I went to my first bullfight. It is a pretty wierd thing because it is surrounded in tradition. Everything from the Matadors actions, to the crowds reaction has different significances. The killed six bulls that day and then we went out for a cevice. The next day some friends hired a Chiva. It is a old truck converted into a bus with seats below, on the back and a platform on top. There were about sixty people plus band that went on this thing. You ride around on it all night around the streets of Old Quito. Occasionally you have to duck so your head doesn't get taken off by overpasses or tree branches. The band plays the same 3 or 4 Quito songs, and they hand you a whistle so you can blow along. You also have a cup tied around your neck so that you can drink this stuff called Canelazo which is fairly strong sugar cane alcohol that comes warm and spiced with Cinnamon. When you drink enough then you join the band and take up playing the Cymbals or drums. It is a pretty good time.
Bullfighting Pics
Chiva Pics

Volcán Cayambe
5790m, 18,963ft
November 29-30, 2002
The weather gets better around this time of year so we headed off to climb Volcán Cayambe which usually gets pretty crappy weather any other part of the year partly due to the fact that it borders the rainforest on the East side. I think it has the largest glacier in Ecuador but the whole was covered in ash because it is directly west of Reventador. We were super lucky because the weather was amazing. As the sun came up the summit had little cloud cover that burned off within the first hour. We got to a point where we had to do a little actual climbing before reaching the summit and beyond that there was a huge crevasse that was pretty much uncrossable. You could have thrown a snowball to the other side and the summit though. Bummer but it was an amazing day.
Cayambe Pics

La Playa, parte IV: One more time, Atacames, Mompiche, Muisne
November 8-11, 2002
Since work was cancelled all week, Thursday we headed off to the beach again. We caught a bus to Atacames, the really resorty beach where most Quitenos go. We stayed there for a night and then took off to check out this beach called Mompiche that we had headr about. We rode the bus two hours south and he just let us off in the middle of nowhere on the side of a dirt road and said that it is 6k down that road. We walked the whole way in not knowing what to expect. We get there and it is pretty raw. There is one nice little place to stay on the edge of town that was full other than that there wasn't a place to stay or eat. The whole place was just a fishing village on one of the coolest beaches I have seen if the weather was nice. Camping there would be good and I guess the surfing there can be amazing. There was one bus leaving the town all day so we caught it and decided to go to the Island of Muisne. To get to Muisne you have to cross a river in these boats and then you get to the Island. There are no cars on the Island so you walk everywhere. The main town is on the inland side and then there is a small beach area on the coastal side. This place had a feel like it had a hayday as a touristy coastal town about 15 years ago and now it is run down and there is a sense of despiration now and nobody was very optimistic. Most of the buildings are closed up and we were strongly cautioned about going outside at night. This could have been magnified by the fact that it was a low season, but the place was depressing. We stayed in a place with 16 foot concrete walls surrounding the whole hostal. We got out of there the next day and headed back to Atacames for Ceviches, good drinks, and a clean beach.
Playa Pics

Volcán Rrrreventadorr explodes!
November 3, 2002
We stop to get some fruit outside the town of Santo Domingo as we are coming back from the beach. Pablo gets a call on his cell phone from his parents that Volcán Reventador (in english "the exploder") has just blown up and is puking ash on the city of Quito. We keep on driving and it just turns into a blizzard of ash on the highway. Looked exactly like a snowstorm. It took us forever to get home when we did we found out that work would obviously be cancelled and it remained cancelled for the rest of the week. Monday we were all ready to go back to work and a lot of the ash was cleaned up and they cancelled work again because a huge sulphur cloud passed over the city. We continued to get sulphur clouds occasionaly for the next couple weeks.
Volcano Pics

La Playa, parte III: Pedernales to Cojimies
October 31-November 3, 2002
We had an extended weekend because of strikes and a surprise holiday so we decided to head off to the beach. We went to the town of Pedernales and then north to a quiet little Hostal called Coco Solo. It was a cool beach with good mellow atmosphere. We built a little bonfire and met a guy who goes by the name of Pericles. I goes this guy was some famous singer from the past because all of my Ecuadorian friends immediately recongnized him. I think he was like an Ecua-Barry Manilow or something. Anyway this guy invites us out to an all you can eat fish barbeque on a deserted island off the coast of the town north of us called Cojimies. To get to this place we have to go by beach because the town is pretty isolated and the road is pretty undrivable. We get into this place and it is pretty secluded due to the fact that you have to drive 30 minutes on the beach just to get there. We round up some fish with some local guys and they take us out to this island with nothing but sand in the mouth of a river and cook up a ton of prawns, shrimp, snapper, clams and other fish. I guess Pericles has done a lot of charity work in Cojimies and convinced us to go because this town doesn't get any form of tourism and is super poor because of it's inaccessability. Good Guy
Playa Pics

Volcán Imbaburra
4609m, 15,210ft
September 15-16, 2002
This was a long climb in Northern Ecuador of an extinct Volcano. The weather looked terrible the whole way up but right as we were thinking about leaving on the lower Northern Summit the clouds started breaking away and we continued on to the true summit and a cool view of everything below.
Imbaburra Pics

Going Home
May 24, 2002
Right now I sitting on the plane heading into Portland making the final updates to this site until next fall. I am heading back to the states for the summer to make a little cash.

Cotopaxi
May 18-19, 2002
For my last weekend in Ecuador I decided that I should climb Cotopaxi (5900m) because that weekend would be my best chance of getting good weather. I went with a guide and a guy from Oregon and we totally lucked out. There was no wind and it was totally clear. We left that night and made really good time. It was work but we were the first ones to the summit at 5:20. We hung out for about 45 minutes alone in the dark waiting for the sun to come up and when it did, it was definitely the coolest thing I have ever seen.
Cotopaxi Pics

La Playa: Semana Santa
March 22-29, 2002
For the week of Semana Santa we went to the beach and spent a week on the beach swimming and surfing. We stayed at a small resort called Alandaluz where an amazing storm blew in the second night and just destroyed all the beaches with refuse from floods, after that we went south to the small surfing village of Montanita.
Beach Pics