Posts Tagged With: travel

Ten Things We Won’t Miss When We Leave Ecuador

10. The Lack of P-Traps
The P-trap is an easy to install, simple invention meant to allow drainage of waste water into the sewer and prevent the escape of sewer gas back out. Apparently, these don’t (or rarely) exist here. So because of this, our social/guest bathroom smells like the entire 4 floors of the apartment defecated in there and didn’t flush if we leave the window and door closed. It probably wouldn’t smell so awful if we regularly used the shower, but we opted to use it for storage since there were exposed electrical wires on the shower head and our landlords left it rather dirty and I didn’t feel like scrubbing/disinfecting two showers. Even a tile placed over the drain doesn’t keep out the stench. Gag!

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The stinky drain. Notice the landlords didn’t bother cleaning it before we moved in.

9. Noise Pollution
Of course, this is mostly an issue in the city. People seem to have no concern for making noise at any time of day or night. They honk their horns, blare their music, shoot off fireworks any time they wish, wear high heels and tap, tap, tap on the tile floor upstairs, let their dogs roam the city, barking, etc. Car and house alarms go off round the clock. The gas man drives by multiple times every day honking his horn. Also, every morning around 4:30 or 5 the street cleaners roll their garbage cans along the uneven streets. My personal favorite, probably because they seem to schedule their drive by our apartment according to the nap schedules, are the trucks that drive by selling fruits and veggies or offering to buy your junk. They blare out advertisements from megaphones atop their trucks, “mandarinas un dolar!”

20140301-072143.jpgOkay, this noise pollution isn’t awful. I would get excited when one of these small neighborhood parades would promenade by. But I have heard that in some neighborhoods the bands may practice at 5 am. I would not be so delighted to hear them that early in the morning!

8. Air Pollution
Diesel fuel is commonly used here. The buses, and they are a frequent form of transportation here, are all diesel-fueled. The fumes are heavy in the air, especially in the city center. You will often see people walking around with scarves wrapped around their faces. There is a permanent black dust present on everything, including our floors.

20140301-071628.jpgBuses are a big polluter and they are also a good reason I hate driving here. In this photo he’s cutting us off.

7. Tile Floors and Having to Constantly Sweep and Mop
See number 8. We have to sweep at least daily and mopping must be done at least twice weekly because a black dust from the diesel exhaust fumes settles on the floors. Plus, tile floors and a new walker are not so fun. And the women here love wearing heels and apparently find it unnecessary to remove them once home, particularly the woman upstairs from us. The call them tacos because they tack, tack, tack on the hard floors.

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My daughter’s filthy socks. We could’ve just mopped and they’d look the same!

6. Overpopulation of Dogs
One of the reasons we’ve decided to head back to the states is it appears that veterinarians are not used very often for what we have been trained to do, treating and preventing illnesses and injuries in animals. It seems very few people neuter their pets or keep them indoors, let alone confined to their property. Because of this, we have seen numerous pets roaming the streets, limping along on a previously injured leg. The veterinary clinics seem to be nothing more than a dispensary and feed store. And even if they are doing an ok business treating animals if the dentist only charged us $25 to clean our teeth, I shudder to think of what measly salary we would make here. I know the cost of living is lower here, but I’m not sure it’s that low.
Also the rampant breeding and freedom of these dogs only adds to the excess noise of the city.

20140301-103140.jpgJust after this photo we met another VERY friendly street dog that kept humping Cory’s leg.

5. Fumbling Through My Spanish
Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for the opportunity to become more fluent in Spanish. I studied the language for a total of six years in high school and college and grew up in Texas where the Hispanic population has surpassed the Caucasian population. But it has been many years since my last Spanish class. My Spanish has improved since moving here and if I didn’t have the girls I would’ve loved taking lessons to improve my comprehension even further. I envy those that can fluently speak more than one language. But for now it is exhausting having to constantly try and understand what people are saying to me. Often I get the gist of what is being said, or I finally realize what they meant five minutes after they’ve said it. I do have a great appreciation for people that speak slowly and clearly and use their hands to help me understand. I hope I am the same way when speaking English with people that do not speak English as a first language.
I would love to continue learning Spanish once we return. It is a beautiful language and becoming fluent in it is definitely on my bucket list. There are no photos of this but I’m certain I have written many texts and email messages recently that sounded like a drunk 3 year old speaking Spanish.

4. Driving (Jessica)
Cory has grown to love the seemingly lack of road rules, winding mountain roads and aggressive driving. I, however, am quite happy allowing him to drive us everywhere. The one time I drove to Loja was quite enough Ecuadorian driving for me. I find it difficult and hair-raising enough being a passenger.

20140301-071945.jpgOn second thought, driving here is totally safe…just kidding.

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This was an accident a block up from us, one of at least 3 we’ve seen at that intersection in our 5 months here. Most certainly it was because some idiot ran the stop sign, or because the person without the stop sign didn’t warn the person with the stop sign that they were coming through with a courteous honk.

3. Lack of Seasons
While I adore the mild temperatures it is odd not having seasons. Having been in the Southern US most of my life, I am used to having an extra long summer with shorter springs, autumns and winters, but there were still signs of them, even if they only lasted for a couple of weeks.

20140301-071245.jpgIt’s perpetually Spring here.

2. Men Urinating in Public
It is very common to see a car pulled over along the road with a man walking back to it zipping his trousers up, or someone facing a tree, transformer box, or the river, relieving themselves. I even saw a tot at the produce market run out hurriedly, pulling his pants down to urinate in the drain.

20140301-070717.jpg Ok, this is not a man, but it is my child urinating in public. I wasn’t too interested in taking pictures of strangers urinating. It may not have ended well.

1. Lack of or Expense of Certain Products Easily Obtained in the US
Cost of living is rather cheap here. There are many things that can be obtained quite inexpensively. We’ve found that the Coral Hipermercado (basically their equivalent of Wal Mart) had many inexpensive products, most likely things that were rejected from the US. The mis-translated English words on the packaging are entertaining. Some cheap wall decals we purchased for Miss P’s birthday advertised that they were laser flavor. Yummy!
On the other hand, if you want to purchase something like electronics, automobiles, or name brand items (basically any quality items imported from the US) be prepared to shell out a lot of dinero. For instance, a brand new Toyota Hilux (Tundra) with 4wd, and non-power windows will cost you 40K, a set of Igloo coolers, $90, a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter, $6 and a large jar of Nutella, nearly $11. But gas is $1 a gallon for diesel, fruit and veggies cost pennies, and a very filling lunch at a restaurant may cost as little as $3.

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We’re so thankful my dad came a couple times while we lived here and brought us some goodies from the US.

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A couple products I suspect were US rejects. Look how excited that kid appears to have Electric Blocks and I like to call that Barbie (and each one of them looked the same), ‘Go Home, You’re Drunk’ Barbie.

A few others to mention are
Scorpions and their cousins, the giant spiders, at the farm.
Coins, dollar bills are rare here.
Choclo and Mote. These large and white kernel, nearly tasteless corn (similar to hominy) are served alongside and in many dishes here. We definitely look forward to enjoying it’s US cousin, sweet yellow corn.

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Now that I’m looking at the photos I won’t miss the large haba beans either. They’re kinda like lima beans but worse.

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Categories: Ecuador | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

I’ll Let the Photos Do the Talking

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I’m going to miss exploring this city by foot. Lots of packing to be done. We’ll be heading back to the USA next week.

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Pumapungo

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Cuenca is a city with a rich history. It boggles my mind to think of how old some of the structures are here. Bear with me as I’m not a historian but from what I have learned from my trip through the Museo del Pumapungo (Museo del Banco Central) and the wonderful Wikipedia (eye roll), the Cañari were a major inhabitant of the area from around 500 AD. The museum thankfully has translations in English, but with a toddler there is barely enough time to read one sentence unfortunately. I end up taking photos of the descriptions in hopes of reading them later. The Cañari were defeated (actually they peacefully surrendered) by the Inca empire. The Inca commander, Tupác Yupanqui, then built a magnificent settlement, Pumapungo (Door of the Puma) in what is now the city of Cuenca. It was rumored to be quite a glorious sight, filled with golden temples and other magnificent structures. It rivaled the Inca settlement of Cuzco in it’s beauty and may have been the mythical city of gold, El Dorado, the Spanish conquistadors sought. But by the time the Spanish settled here, Pumapungo had been destroyed during the civil war (1529-1532 Ad) between Tupác’s two grandsons, Huáscar and Atahualpa. Therefore, by the time the Spaniards discovered the area, Pumapungo was in ruins. The Spaniards used much of the stone to construct the early buildings of Cuenca.

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On the western outskirts of El Centro (historical Cuenca) lies the ruins of Pumapungo and the museum. The museum offers a look at Ecuador’s vast history and the inhabitants of the different regions of this diverse country. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the costumes and customs of the different groups. Photography is not allowed inside the exhibits so I can only say that you will see the colorful costumes and customs of the people of Ecuador. There are glimpses into the life and history of it’s people. It is free admission and a must-see while you’re here. Without children, I’d suggest about 2-3 hours to explore. If you want to see the ruins too on the same visit allow another 1 1/2 -2 hours. We broke it up into two visits as the children did not last but an hour and a half in the museum. There is a snack bar within the grounds of the ruins, near the aviary in case you want to get lunch while visiting.

The ruins were magnificent. There is a beautiful garden of indigenous plants, a peaceful lake and an aviary full of local birds. It is such a peaceful place in the midst of a bustling city. There were numerous places to stop and take in the serene views, my favorite was under the cover of trees alongside the lake. Whatever you do, if you visit Cuenca, do not miss this gem!

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Categories: Ecuador | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

El Cajas

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So we’re coming down to our final month here in Ecuador and we’re trying to fit as much into this last bit as possible. We had a leisurely visit to the farm last week and then Monday we took a trip out to Parque Nacional Cajas which is a scenic 30-40 minutes from Cuenca, heading toward Guyaquil. We had been mesmerized by it’s beauty on our way from Guyaquil our first day in Ecuador and again we admired it’s majestic landscape, covered in mist as we drove to the Pacific Coast.

We drove to the information area overlooking a large glacial lake. There are several hiking trails throughout this large park. We saw one on the map in the information center that looked fairly easy until the information woman told us it was a five and a half hour hike. Yeah, that ain’t happening with two young kids! So we decided to hike around the lake. I had read reviews about hiking here, that it was difficult even for seasoned hikers, so I figured it best to stay near the visitor’s center. The two hour hike was a bit challenging, especially when carrying a one year old, and even worse if you have to carry a three year old (poor Cory). There were some soggy areas, difficult to find paths, steep climbs and descents, and areas loose dirt making for some unsure footing. Ms. E slipped several times, but all in all we did fairly well. I especially loved the beautiful paper trees as is evidenced by my many photos I took of of them.

After our hike we rewarded ourselves with lunch at Dos Chorreras. The beautiful atmosphere made up for the mediocre and somewhat pricy meal. I wish I hadn’t been too tired to take pictures of the inside, but you can see some on the provided link. It would be a nice hotel to stay at if you were to visit the area.

Our visit to the farm. We love the hammock we got my dad for Christmas!

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El Cajas

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Categories: Ecuador | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Roasted Garlic Hummus

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So I’ve been craving hummus. In the US we always seemed to have some store bought hummus in the refrigerator to snack on. It’s such a healthy snack and really very easy to make. I made a plain hummus for a snack when we went to the waterfalls in Oña and we liked it so much I decided to try another recipe. I chose roasted garlic. I love roasted garlic plain on bread as well as in foods. I got the recipe here. The only things I would say to add to the recipe is:
1. You can make this from dried garbanzo beans, which I did. They are super easy to make. Just clean them, soak them (use plenty of water as they soak up a bunch) overnight or during the day while you’re at work, then rinse, cover with water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until done. Start checking at 30 minutes. These beans don’t take long to cook.
2. This hummus is best eaten the next day. As hard as it may be, stick it in the refrigerator until the next day. It soaks up that delicious garlic flavor and tastes oh so much better the next day.
3. You will smell like garlic if you eat this. It’s the price you pay for eating such a delicious snack!
4. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil atop it before serving. Serve with pita bread, vegetables (celery and carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers…) or crackers (if I could find some of those nutty crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers I’d totally eat this with those).
Enjoy!
PS My kids love hummus and it’s a great way to get them to eat veggies and to eat healthy!

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Categories: Ecuador, Food | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Rainy Season

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Oh how I’m going to miss the fresh fruit here!

We’ve been told several different things about the rainy season here. I was told, October, December, February by 3 different people. Well, how about January? It’s rained every day this week, sometimes quite heavily. The Tomebamba river is higher than we’ve seen it since we got here. So what is one to do when it rains so much? Cook! At least that’s what I do. I took some photos of the outcome so I’ll share a few recipes with you since it’s been to rainy to explore and photograph. Here’s what to expect:

20140110-145343.jpgRoasted Garlic Hummus

20140110-145402.jpgBorscht

20140110-145410.jpgHuevos De Aji

I’ll post the recipes as I write them up. You’re welcome!
Hopefully I can make my Blueberry, Coconut, Banana Batido (Smoothie) and some more Homemade Granola to add to the photos and recipes. They are definitely recipes worth repeating too!

Categories: Ecuador, Food | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Feliz Navidad

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¡Feliz Navidad! While Christmas is a bit sad without our families we enjoy experiencing the holiday in a foreign country. Retailers have been capitalizing on the holiday for a couple months now so in that aspect we feel right at home. While they have the normal Christmas decorations, Santa, reindeer, snowmen, lights, and trees, the major focus is a Christian one. There are many special masses held and most every home has a nativity, some being very large and ornate.

The Christ child is the most important part of the nativity, as He should be. He is often much larger than the other members of the nativity scene and always ornately dressed. In fact, since Christmas items have been up for sale in Cuenca I have seen many a shop or stand selling wooden cribs or ornately decorated clothing for the Baby Jesus.

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The events leading up to Christmas culminate in a parade, El Pase de Niño Viajero, on Christmas Eve. The main attraction of the parade is an 1823 sculpture of the Christ child. The sculpture was taken to Rome in 1961 to be blessed by the Pope and since it’s journey there has been an annual Christmas Eve parade. The parade includes Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, angels, as well as Santa (or Papa Noel as the jolly elf is known here) and his elves. The parade is an all-day affair with people coming from all over the country to watch and participate. People come dressed in their finest and the children play a major role, dressed as angels or in extravagant indigenous clothing. It really is a spectacular site and I’m so glad we went. The temperatures rose to about 80 with a very intense sun so we only lasted for about an hour before taking a scenic stroll back home, complete with a stop at the cathedral and then for ice cream to cool off.

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Miss E is off from school for two weeks. She had a Christmas program at her school last Friday. It is apparently very traditional here to have Christmas programs at the schools where the children learn songs and dances and perform. Parents were asked not to stay since the teacher felt we may be a distraction to the children but our friend, Rich, filmed the production. Miss E has been singing her own version of Campana Sobre Campana. I love hearing her sweet little off key voice making up words to the song.

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My father came to visit for about a week. His luggage didn’t quite make it with him but a couple days later we went to the Cuenca airport to pick it up. Thankfully it did arrive as it contained Christmas gifts for the girls and birthday stuff for Miss P’s party next month! We enjoyed my dad’s brief stay. We tried a Spanish restaurant (El Mesón Español) Cory and I have passed several times, stopping to drool over the menu and reminisce about our trip to Barcelona. The food and drink were phenomenal. We enjoyed a jarra of sangria and a rich and creamy potato and chorizo soup as well as a very large paella. I was so inspired by our visit that I went to Pinterest to find sangria recipes. I have tried twice to make it in the past and it always tasted like red wine to me, not the sweet, refreshing drink I fell in love with in Barcelona. I found a guide for making sangria and came up with this recipe that has since changed my mind about homemade sangria. Daniel, the owner of El Mesón Español, explained the basics of sangria to us: a little vino tinto, Fanta, whatever fruit you like and un poco magico (a little magic). Well, I think I discovered the magic!

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Sangria
1 bottle (or box) red wine (you can also make this with white wine or champagne or even sparkling cider)
1/2 cup of juice (I used orange, but pomegranate, grape, or blackberry juice would be delicious too)
1/4-1/2 cup Triple Sec and 1/4-1/2 cup rum (omit if making a spiritless version, but you may want to increase the juice added if that’s the case
1-2 cups fruit (apples, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, berries,etc. I’d stick with fruits that aren’t too soft since they may dissolve)
1/2 cup sweetener (sugar, honey, stevia, agave)
1/2 to 2 cups of lemon lime soda
Mix all the ingredients except the soda in a pitcher and allow it to set overnight. Add chilled soda just before you are ready to serve. Pour into glasses with ice. Be careful, these can be super dangerous!

Well, the cookies have been left for Santa and he has come to drop off gifts for the girls. I’m not sure how well we will all sleep as it seems tonight will be a night of singing and fireworks. Miss E is super excited about tomorrow and I must say, Christmas is even more fun now that we have children!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Categories: Ecuador | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Puerto Lopez, Machalilla and Ecuador’s Rich Coast

Just south of Puerto Cayo lies Puerto Lopez. It was a larger, busier town than Cayo, which seemed like a ghost town. We enjoyed walking along it’s beach (also peppered with litter) and it’s very nice pier and eating at our favorite cabaña, Cafe Normita. Each little cabaña had hammocks to lounge on and enjoy a cocktail or fresh jugo (juice) or batido (a fruit and sweetened condensed milk smoothie). We went to Cafe Normita so many times the waitress knew our names and they enjoyed passing Miss P around. The girls are quite popular wherever we go in Ecuador, and the Pacific Coast proved to be no different. I even saw several Ecuadorians snapping photos of our little muñecas (dolls).

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We also explored some of the area between the two towns, specifically Los Frailes and Agua Blanca. Los Frailes is a crescent shaped beach that is part of the Machalilla National Park which meant it was a much cleaner beach. I sat with the girls on the beach while Cory further explored the rocky shore below the cliffs. There were colorful sea urchins, crabs and coral. The entry to this part of the park was free and it is definitely worth visiting just to enjoy a nearly litter-free beach.

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20131213-152210.jpgMiss E briefly went for a swim with dad but she was unimpressed with the waves. As she came running back to me she stopped and seemed to spit on her arm. I was puzzled by this action until she told me daddy was going for a quick ‘spit’. I said, “I think he meant a quick dip.”

The other stop in Machalilla was at Agua Blanca, a natural sulfur spring. Now, I’m not much for bathing in a stinky pond, no matter how much it helps your skin, but there was much more to this place. The cost is $5 per person (the girls were free). Our first stop was a small archaeological museum. The are is rich in archeological findings dating back to 1500-2000 B.C! At the museum, Julio, our guide greeted us and explained many of the artifacts to us in Spanish, some of which I actually understood. He then stayed with us, guiding us across somewhat difficult terrain, including steep dirt steps and a nearly dry riverbed. Of course I picked that day to forget Miss P’s baby carrier! We also got to see some of the excavation site, the local village of bamboo huts, and the sulfur spring. Cory and Miss E took a dip while Miss P and I rested in one of the hammocks. There were many animals to see that Julio pointed out to us. From local farm animals, like chickens, horses, goats and cows to wild animals, like lizards and birds galore. If you’re a bird watcher, this is the place to go!

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20131213-152759.jpgAccording to our guide this cactus is at least 100-125 years old!

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20131213-152918.jpgwe had to explain to Miss E this cow may not be as friendly as grandpa’s vacas. She seemed to have no fear of the giant beast!

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As you can tell, the coast is rich with history, culture and scenery beyond just the beach. There was so much for us to explore and enjoy.

Here are a few more photos from the surrounding coastal areas.

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20131213-153733.jpgMiss E is just like her mommy, leery of public restrooms. We have a portable potty and she will ask to use it sometimes in favor of the public bathrooms. Cory happened to pull off at this lovely overlook when she requested a bathroom break. Not too bad a view.

On our way home we took a different route down the Ruta del Spondylus, formerly the Ruta del Sol. I’d say my favorite was the area surrounding the hip surfing village, Montañita and the Ayumpe rainforest. I wish we’d had time to stop and photograph and explore the area but eight to nine hours is a long enough trip! Further south it felt as if we were in a dessert. There was nothing but the brown of the dirt, a few yellowed leaves on the plants and the contrasting blue ocean, that disappeared behind us as we drove east toward Guayaquil.

Categories: Ecuador, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Puerto Cayo

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20131212-212543.jpgOur “Casa Blanca”, the red-tile roofed house.20131211-083230.jpgOur view from the bedroom balcony.

Puerto Cayo is a small, sleepy fishing village on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. It is just west of Jipijapa (hippy hoppa) and between Manta and Puerto Lopez. The house we stayed at was two blocks up from the beach. Our first morning there we decided to spend on the beach. Miss P slept in so we didn’t make it out until around 10 am. I was concerned the beach may be busy but there was no need to fear. It seemed the only people on the beach, and there were only a few, were fishermen and a couple cops patrolling.

20131212-212044.jpgYes, the water was that blue!

The beach was nice, except some litter in the area just before the sand became moist and packed. I was rather unsettled by the amount of syringes I saw. I’m not sure if they were from local medical trash or illegal drug paraphernalia. Either way, I dint want to find any needles with my feet. We found that despite the many signs discouraging dumping trash it was a common and unfortunate occurrence.

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We spent the rest of the morning playing in the waves. Miss P squealed with delight as they crashed against her legs. She also enjoyed digging in the sand with her fingers. She’s quite the opposite of her sister who has always had a dislike for dirt (and sand). Much to my dismay she also tried eating the sand and rubbing it in her eyes. I had to fight the urge to keep her completely away from the sand and allow her to explore the world, but I am the one that will have to change that sand-filled diaper soon enough.

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There were several cabaña restaurants lining the beach and we frequented those during our stay. I brought food to cook but found the desire to dine on fresh seafood outweighed my desire to cook (or even throw together a few sandwiches). We sampled the ceviche (calamari being my favorite), fried seafood rice (calamari being Cory’s favorite), and pescado (fish) dishes (apanado/breaded and fried being Miss E’s favorite, though she thought it was chicken, and al ajillo/in garlic sauce was my favorite). The dishes were served with chifles or tostones (thin and thick fried green plantains, respectively). We even went out for breakfast one morning and sampled the local cabaña’s 3 breakfast dishes, two of which featured bolones, a large, round fried cake made of mashed cooked green plantains with queso fresco that is fried. Of course, I forgot a photo, but it was quite delicious served alongside fish in a pepper and onion sauce.

20131211-153717.jpgTypical cabaña menu.

20131211-153728.jpgAll the cabañas had seashell wind chimes. It was so relaxing to listen to them ‘chime’ along with the ocean waves.

20131211-153605.jpgCeviche de calamar.

20131211-153613.jpgArroz mixto (Fried rice with shrimp, king prawn, crab, octopus, fish and calamari.

We went to my father’s friend’s hotel (Los Sueños del Mar) the same evening to get some wi Fi and we watched the sunset over the ocean. Miss E enjoyed playing with the sweet hotel kitty and swinging in the hammocks. On the drive to the hotel I was struck by the simple houses we passed. I can’t fathom how poor some of these people must be, but then I thought of how rich they were in their landscape, the seaside, and that perhaps the life of simplicity truly was a richer, more fulfilled life.

20131211-154438.jpgI love her beach waves!

20131211-154458.jpgThe hotel kitty.

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And a bit more of the town:

20131212-212707.jpgA grazing burro near the town center.

20131212-212733.jpgI loved the seaside chapel.

20131212-212645.jpgThe stone work looks like a whale’s tail. Whale watching is a big tourist attraction in the area. Unfortunately, we were a bit late for whale watching season.

20131212-212628.jpgThe local meat market? It’s difficult to see but that stuff hanging was meat/tripe/pork skin.

Categories: Ecuador, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Long Road

We felt a trip to the beach was necessary while we were in Ecuador. My father’s friend kindly allowed us to use his beach retreat for a week. So we packed up all our stuff, and there is a lot when you have two kids, and headed west out of the bustling city into the mountains. Instead of the expected “Are we there yet?” we got, “Mom (and to a lesser extent, Dad), what are you doing?” enough to hope I never hear that again but I am sure it will make a reappearance on the trek back.

20131210-220106.jpgDoesn’t she look so innocent?

Our favorite part of the drive was through El Cajas, a protected national park just outside of Cuenca. We wound up and down scenic, misty mountains. Every turn around a corner proved to be more breathtaking. The government has reintroduced llamas to the area to encourage breeding so we found them grazing along the side of the roads at times. We also saw some hikers in the distance and I briefly longed to be out there with them. The vision was instantly shattered thinking of hefting a whiney three year old through the wilderness. Regardless, I think it will be worth a return trip before we leave Ecuador.

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20131210-220005.jpgWe saw this women when we stopped for a view. She had just appeared from the side of the steep mountain hefting the child on her back!

Just before reaching Guayaquil, as we left the mountains behind, the flora and weather shifted. We began seeing more tropical plants like banana trees and the temperatures and humidity climbed. We also saw cocoa, mango, papaya, orange, and coconut trees. It had a very jungle-like feel and we half expected a monkey to swing out of a tree onto the truck.

Thankfully, we made it without any issues (other than a toddler meltdown when she was told we were leaving the rest stop playground). We went through one police stop just before a toll booth. They were checking everyone’s driver’s lice as the nice officer said while attempting his English. He asked us if we rented the truck and I told him it was my father’s. He then said with a big smile, “My wife” and pointed to me.We were a bit puzzled at this and then Cory answered, “No, my wife.” And, we all laughed as he corrected himself, “Your wife.”

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20131210-220403.jpgMiss P having a rest stop nursing session.

Near Guayaquil there were many gated housing communities that turned into small cement block, adobe or bamboo homes as we neared the coast. There were horses, pigs, and donkeys grazing on the side of the road and the cows became more the beef variety than the milk cows we are accustomed to in the mountains. Taxi cabs became rickshaws made from motorcycles and each roadside fruit stand and restaurant had at least one hammock. It seemed that we were entering an area of beach time.

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This man was pumping gas into two barrels in the back of his pickup truck. Seems safe to me. Notice the fantastic gas prices! Yes, that’s in the US dollar.
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Hay ride Ecuadorian style.
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The buses love to cut you off.
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Moving?
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When you can’t take a bus, pile into a pickup truck.
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Rickshaw Ecuadorian style.
20131210-220750.jpgBeach territory.

Just before reaching the coast we climbed another set of verdant mountains going around many curvas peligrosas (dangerous curves). Thankfully, we made it before sunset so we could see the small town of Puerto Cayo as we crossed the last mountain, an amazing and surreal view of the ocean. It was difficult to tell where the water ended and the sky began. The trip was a long eight hours and we wondered whether it was worth it at times but once we saw ocean we knew we wouldn’t regret it.

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Curvas Peligrosas.
20131210-220902.jpgThe beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Categories: Ecuador, family | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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