Tag Archives: Ecuador

Loja to Lima

Standard

Travel, travel and more travel…by bus.

From the jungle of Loja I took a bus at about 11:30pm to Piura for a 12 hour bus ride and a good $18 USD for a bus fare. It was easy and I slept the whole time, I was so confused when I woke up at 3 am to realize we were at the border. The border is so disorganized and didn’t make any sense to me. You have to get your passport stamped on the Ecuadorian side and then proceed to walk a hundred meters and get it stamped on the Peruvian side as well.

The staff is not very friendly and the rules are unclear. Finally at 3:45am we were on the road again…until we got in an accident. I was so scared we hit something and there was a huge thud, screeching noise and a quick half stop. Everyone was curious and awoke abruptly from slumber. When we got out of the bus we realized that the huge bus plowed into a cow! The front of the bus was messed up from it but the bus driver decided it was still good to drive. Onward! I fell right back asleep and slept well.

Upon arriving in Piura I was so confused and lost and disoriented. I felt so out of it and on top of that I didn’t have the Peruvian currency of soles so I was a lost puppy. I met a French girl and invited myself to join her because for one of the first times I was a little freaked out. I could tell she didn’t want me to go with her, but I didn’t care I just wanted to walk with someone and to feel more comfortable I forced it.

We were going the same direction, south, so we both got tickets together. Another 3.5 hours from Piura to chitoga $15 PEU ($5.50 USD). I slept the whole time thankfully! I was tired!

Once we got into Chitoga at 10 am the only bus to lima to Lima that was direct was at 8 pm. So I had to kill 10 hours in this busy, dirty town! Thankfully there was a place in the bus station for my bag. So I decided to search the lonely planet travel book (which I never use) and find out what to do in Chicalyo. The only thing in the guide was the “witches market” where there were natural plants, remedies and potions. I got cleansed, met some lovely people and learned about the medicines and plants native to the area. They were selling tons of magical and sacred medicines of auyuaska and San Pedro there as well.

20130709-151813.jpg

San Pedro, herbs, and other natural remedies at the Witches Market

20130709-151824.jpg

The Witches Market

Finally as 8pm rolles around I boarded the Peruvian bus to Lima. 13 hours at $75 PEU ($27.5 USD). I was blown away at how luxurious and fancy the double decker buses are compared to the Ecuadorean and Colombian ones! Talk about VIP first class – dinner, drinks, dessert and quiet included. I have to admit I kinda missed the constant loud blaring noise of rigaton music the whole time…not!

I stayed in Lima just for the night. It’s loud, dirty, full of advertisements, and people don’t look you on the eyes or say “happy eating” like they did in Ecuador. But, different country, different culture. Definitely different energy, I haven’t been to a big city in months! Off to Cusco now!

Advertisements

Caves of the Tayos, Macas

Standard

The Amazon Jungle: Full of energy, breathing life, and adventurously addicting.

Instead of taking the more traveled pan-american highway to Peru I took the back road through the jungle and stoping in the small town of Macas for a little cave pitstop.

Macas is a burning hot heated jungle town with hundreds of caves. The ¨Caves of the Tayos¨ have many myths and stories about them. One is about the lost city of Atlantis that may found there where you can literally spend days walking through the complex network of trails. All the caves are naturally made, and some even go as far as saying that there are indigenous people that live in the caves with higher intelligence than anyone else in the world.

4

Here we are deep in the cave, I am not going to lie I was scared at many points. To the right of us you can see a bat flying.

There’s been books, movies and legends about them and the caves reach all over the jungle fo Ecuador and Peru. I would of liked to spend more time doing the four day walk through some of the caves, and eventually end breaking through the ground with a stick to get out of the caves when the guide permits. It is possible to do that through Zamora, I would of loved to check it out!

With me my friend, Natasa came to the caves! We weren’t prepared for the day we got into as it was much longer and less planned than anticipated.

We caught a 6:30 am bus from Tena to Puyo, 1.5 hours ($1.5 USD) and then a bus from Puyo to Macas, about 3.5 hours ($5 USD). Once in Macas we tried to find a guide because you cannot go into the caves without one (you wouldn’t want to anyway, they are scary and complex).

We searched around town for 1 hour trying to find someone in the scorching heat. We had limited amount of time and were banking on someone being avaialbe for a say of tour to take us.

We knew there were two tour agencies in town. First place was closed, and so was the second. We were so lost and wandered for what seemed hours. Finally a hostel gave us a random flyer of a man who offered tours. We managed to reach his house, a little cottage tucked away on a street corner. The man, Darwin was just leaving an jumped at the opportunity to take us for a hike. He said 3 hours, lunch, transportation and 1 hour in the caves would be provided and the price would be $25 a person. That is a great price for a jungle tour, most start at $40 and we were booking it last minute so of course we said yes!

This leads me to my next point and lesson in traveling:Never, ever, ever assume anything.

As the tour started we walked quite a way from the mans house and we were expecting to get into his car and go to the caves. Well ends up we were walking to the bus station. ¨Okay¨, I thought to myself. ¨I do not mind taking the bus, but I was expecting a car¨. No bus came, we ended up hitching the way there to the entrance of the path for the caves. We tried to find a car to the entrance but after 1 hour of waiting around we had to walk the 4 miles just to get to the entrance of the hike. All of this would have been fine if I wasn’t worried about catching my bus that I had booked, a night bus, at 7:00 pm.

6

So we start to walk, and by walk I mean run. Darwin didn’t wait for us one bit and knew that I probably wouldn’t make my bus and was trying to make up for it with running the trail. It wasn’t even a trail, it was just treking through the jungle (gorgeous) and finding ways to get around huge bolders and rivers and streams.

7

Here is the river, the hike was unlike anything I have done before.

The hike was divine, we were in the deep jungle, bats flying by just barely garzing my face, and flowing powerful rivers playing in and out of the trees.

The caves were out of this world, I’ve never seen anything like them. We came upon a huge bloder rock wall and looked down into the rocks cracks which was a window into another world.

We crawled on our hands and feet, through the thick clay mud and into the darkness.

1

This is the entrance of the caves, see you later!

Big boots were necessary as at the entrance of the cave was a river deep and loud which would become our hiking path. The sound of the water echoed in the caves and you couldn’t see a thing, it didn’t help Darwin was still going fast and was the only one with the light.

The river was shallow in some parts, but deep in others. The whole time our boots were full of water and heavy in weight.

3

Here we are dancing our boots around trying to get all the water out.

We hiked for about an hour and turned off our lights to feel the energy from time to time. Powerful, dark, cold and yet still full of life. I felt like an animal, primitive and timeless. It was a trip, so beautiful I couldn’t take in all I was feeling at the time.

2

This is us climbing out of the caves.

Once we hiked out of the caves, we had only limited time to get back to town to catch my bus. So we walk the same 3 miles back to the road and hitched a ride back to Macas.

I would of never entered those caves without a guide, but honestly this guy Darwin I would never go hiking with again. He was smoking joints the whole time and walking ahead of us. However, I am glad he was there because I wouldn’t of had the nerve to go through the caves alone. And as a bonus when we were heading back from the hike we ran into a venomous snake that has a rodent in its mouth and wasn’t letting us pass. The guide grabbed some cigarettes and blew smoke in its face and had some type of drink with him in case it did bite. That made me feel better.

5

Here is a photo of Darwin, he was taking pictures the whole time.

Darwin said that he once saw a anaconda kill a little boy in a river about 15 years ago. A bunch of kids were washing up in the stream and he watched the snake strangle the kid and then squish him to death before eating him. Could you imagine! The stories from this guy were pretty rough he has lived his whole life in the junge and been going to the caves since he was a kid.

If I were I do the tour again I would take it from Puyo, not macas and make sure I asked ALL questions and not assume that all guides are professionals. Even though the guide wasn’t the best, I was back on time for my bus with two minutes to spare and was off! Macas to Loja night bus is supposed to take 8-9 hours and it ended up being 10-11 as there was tons of traffic an construction. The trip cost $14 USD and led me to Loja where I took a bus for $1.5 USD to Vilcabumba. The whole trip was worth the stress and adventure. The caves were definitely a high light and the energy from them is something I will remember for the rest of my life! (Photos to come soon!)

Tena, Ecuador Mural – The Amazon!

Standard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tena, Ecuador – The Jungle. Loud animal noises, neon yellow, green and brown luscious trees (bigger than you have seen in your whole life), pounding singing rain for days (literally), poison tree frogs (only if you eat them), unique jungle fungus (not on me, on the trees), hundreds of bug bits, turquoise translucent blue butterflies, dancing moths around lights, and hot heat filled the life of the Amazon jungle.

Tena, Ecuador was my home for almost a week while I painted my mural at Pakay Tours and Hostel, run by a couple, an Ecuadorian man, Tony and German woman, Inga who were more than welcoming and friendly my whole stay. The couple switched speaking languages from German to Spanish to English which was quite an entertaining thing to witness.  I litreally had the best breakfast every morning with granola, yogurt, eggs, coffee (from a french press), milk, bread, homemade jam and usaully something extra and different for each morning.This is one place I wish I was at for longer. We cooked meals at night including a tradtional Ecuadorian meal with fish and vegetables over the fire using palm tree leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tony works as a guide through the rainforest and took me and some friends out for hikes and waterfall hunting. One hike was to his brothers property where we hiked for 4 hours.We wore mud boots because it was raining the entire time and we were lucky enough to see poison tree frogs, a fungus called cordyceps , and magical mushrooms. It was rare to see the cordyceps as they are used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicines and many athletes take it as a form of medicine to heal the body and mind. The fungus feeds on a host, a insect, and will kill it from the inside out. When humans digest the fungus, it is thought to be healing for the human body. Some people pay thousands of dollars for this fungus!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The other hike Tony took us on was a hike to dazzling waterfalls that led to pools where you could swim and jump off cliffs. The rock around the waterfalls made for good water slides as well! It was a beautiful day for swimming, super hot and even had some Ecuadorian boys that asked me to marry them. Now that I speak Spanish it is quite interesting to see some of the ways that men try and pick up women. You could call them very forward!

       OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now, back to the mural.

Where: Pakay Tours and Hostel in Tena, Ecuador, the Amazon!

What: A mural of course! It was a wall that wrapped around the hallway. It was halfway outside-inside and was quite large. The theme was amazon and it was such a pleasure to paint it!

How long?: One week, 6-8 hours a day

Accommodation: Unbelievable place. The home is made from Panama Palm tree its the name but its really from Ecuador) and is situated in the jungle only a 10 minute walk into town. I was provided with a wonderful bed, and meals for everyday. Breakfast was a luxury as we ate eggs, pancakes, granola,

What I learned: Always wear pants, socks and long sleeve t-shirt while working in the jungle because san flies and random bug will bite you. In this moment I have close to 100 bug bits just on each of my legs. No fun! I learned how to paint dangerously with the help of an added platform to get the high edges, as the ladder wouldn’t cooperate with the stairs. I also learned to paint for longer than 4 hours a day, average was probably 8 hours. I also learned that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee in one day helps painting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rhiannon Community Farm

Standard

For the past 12 days and for the next 3 weeks I have and will be WWOOFing with a Farm about 1.5 hours from Quito, Ecuador at Rhiannon Community. Internet is scarce as I must walk 1.5 hours into town to get internet so if I have been absent know that each day I have been waking up at 6am and have been:

  • -Feeding and taking care of donkeys
  • -Getting REIKI certified
  • -Getting a massage class
  • -Cook healthy vegan and vegetarian meals
  • -Change the compost
  • -Feed the chickens
  • -Changing human feces from the sustainable bathrooms in the community
  • -Building things
  • -Making art projects
  • -Painting signs
  • -Sitting around bonfires
  • -Practicing Yoga
  • -Meditating
  • -Adobe new houses (applying donkey poop, dirt, water and sand to houses made out of rocks filled bags).
  • -Picking flowers
  • -Participating in San Pedro Ceremony
  • -Reading many new books

Of course not all of this happens every day but it’s what I have been fortunate to experience in the last two weeks. I feel full of energy and fully supported by a community of 15-20 volunteers and cannot describe how wonderful and full of joy it has been!

You can find more information about the Farm at the Rhiannon Community Website at: http://www.rhiannon-community.org/

For pictures of the community feel free to click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhiannon_community/with/8361158896/

Hopefully I will be able to write soon, if now then know I am not forgetting. Health and blessings to you all!

Baños, Ecuador

Standard

20130503-095848.jpg

Mountains covered in layers of green, rivers freely flowing in and out of the town, and steep hikes with striking views of the active Tungurahua volcano. The Ecuadorian town is situated in the middle of playful mountains which makes for perfect adventures. Zip lining, canyoning, bridge jumping, paragliding, horse back riding, and more. It’s a quiet town with 4 baths similar to thermals with waterfalls flowing into them. You will never get bored in this town as the night life is just as fun, I even found my first Indian Pale Ale beer in all my 5 months of travel!

20130503-095929.jpg   20130503-095940.jpg

I went on many hikes including one that was 3 hours straight up stairs and the side of a mountain. It was worth the work as we heard the rumble of the volcano, a louder boise similar to your stomach rumbling, and packed with enormous energy.

Once at the top we were greeted with a tree house, swing, and incredible 360 view of the surrounding mountains and directly in front was the gorgeous Mt. Tungurahua herself. The noises that came from that mountain scared me!

   20130503-095816.jpg   20130503-095802.jpg  20130503-095754.jpg

As we were hiking back down at night (make sure to bring head lamps) we heard the rumbling noises get louder. Immediately following, the volcano began spewing hot neon red, yellow and magenta lava high up into the air and low below, spilling over the sides of the mountain. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. The volcano has been active for 14 years and apparently it is rare to see because of the clouds. However it does happen enough where the people of Baños are not worried. Spectacular!

treehouse

The next day I went canyoning through 5 different waterfalls. Cliffs that drop off 100 feet into canyons filled with sprinkling waterfalls covered in rusty orange deposits and deep green moss. We scaled down the falls with wet suits, helmets and harnesses. Repelling down the cliffs was dream like. At one point I looked up 30 feet to the spraying water bolting down rock and looked down 70 feet to the water crashing into the pebbles below. The whole trip was 4 hours long, and $20.00 USD a person, with pictures included. It was worth every penny!

20130503-095736.jpg

The town is known for its “Baños” which in Spanish means baths, or bathroom. The baths are $2.00-3.00 USD depending on daytime or nighttime. My experience with the baths were not what I thought it would be. It was definitely worth it to see, but they were so dirty. Brown water, people like sardines stacked in a pool. I saw more than 2 children peeing as the parents held them above the water as they were doing it! If you are interested in going to thermals, hot springs, or baths I would recommend either going at 6am or go to the thermals 1.5 hours away from Quito. They are called Papallacta where there are 6 hot bright blue hot spring baths next to a river and it was so much more relaxing and worth it. The price for those baths were more, $7.00 USD and was much more worth the trip. The bus ride from Quito was $1.50 USD.

20130503-095744.jpg    20130503-095856.jpg

My hostel, Princesa Maria was only $7.00 USD a night for a dorm and $8.00 USD a night for a private per person. The staff was so friendly and ultimately why I stayed a week long.

20130503-113557.jpg

There is a market in town where they serve delicious food and the best juices!

Baños is a must visit city in Ecuador. It’s along the way to Peru on the main highway.

From Quito to Banos you an take a 4-6 hour bus ride (depending on night or daytime) which costs $4.00 USD. The terminal in Quito is about 1.5 hours without traffic from the Maniscal and downtown of Quito. It’s only $.25 USD on bus but can get over crowded. I would recommend taking a taxi for $10.00 – 15.00 USD as it only takes 45 minutes. Once in banos the terminal is in the center of town.

If you are coming from Guayaquil it’s about a 7 hour bus ride, and around $7.00 USD in price. It’s best to take a night bus as its fast and easy

Finca Mono Verde – WWOOFing

Standard

20130501-170808.jpgTraveling can be exhausting. Sometimes you get in a rhythm and can start to take things for granted, or feel like you need to mix it up. I found the website World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farming – WWOOFing – (http://www.wwoof.org/) which is an amazing organization that connects travelers, farmers, professionals, all types of people through farming.

20130501-170411.jpg     20130501-170703.jpg

There are hundreds of farms all over the world. In Ecuador a hundred or so, and all you have to do is sign up for $10 membership and send a personal email to the farm. I chose a farm close to the coast in Tabuga for a one week commitment. It was called The Finca Mono Verde. (http://www.fincamonoverde.com/).

20130501-170612.jpg        20130501-170557.jpg

Finca Mono Verde started about 3 years ago. The couple living there at the time, Monica an Ecuadorian from Quito, Arnaud a French man and their son, Myel who was one and a half years old. Working with me were my two friends I met in Canoa. the two are from Tacoma, WA.

The location was green, luscious landscape with coffee, passion fruit, banana, platanos, ginger, corn, carrots, and other herbs. There was a tiny house built out of bamboo with no windows, two bedrooms and a kitchen. There was a compost toilet that needed to be cleaned every two days and we tried to eat from the land every day but was hard as the farm was a young one.

This is why we decided our project for the week would be to build a vegetable garden for the farm. It’s an organic spiral garden and we used permaculture techniques. Permaculture is a sustainable organic way to farm. The land had grass growing on it so we used a technique where you do layers to create the beds.
1. Dig the beds 1-2 inches deep. Enough to disrupt the grass roots

2. Pile large logs in a line to create the first layer. The idea is overtime it will decompose.

3. Pile smaller sticks on top of the logs creating the second layer.

4. Lay down decomposing forest layers that include things like leaves, straw, dirt, anything that would create a great mulch.

5. Finish off the beds with manure from cows for about a 2-4 inch thickness.

20130429-115722.jpg

Here is the progession of the vegetable garden beds!

In total we made 9 beds, spiral included. It’s such a beautiful garden and it is going to affect the lives of the family and farm forever as there could be enough food to sustain the family. It was hard work, but worth it!

One of my favorite things about living on the farm was the one and a half year old Myel who always made me laugh. This boy will grow up learning french, spanish and english! pretty amazing.

20130501-170429.jpg               20130501-170520.jpg

The farm also had 5 one month old kittens! I played with them everyday. They were so much fun to watch grow!

20130501-170721.jpg     20130501-170734.jpg

I had such a great experience WWOOFing that I am excited to do more while in Ecuador. I found another farm near Quito that I committed to for a month and am going to paint a mural there. Can’t wait!

Canoa, Ecuador

Standard

Canoa is a small beach town with a handful of hostels, beachside restaurants, no ATM in town, and a popular surfing spot with caves on the beach for exploring. Many new business have started on the beaches. Literally shacks started popping up on the beach a year ago and all of them who sell food or juice during the day and blast their music ALL the time!

In Canoa there are gorgeous sunsets and tranquil walks you can take on the beach. There are even caves you can check out as well! Just walk to the ride side of the beach if the tide is out until you hit the end of the beach and have to take the stairs through the cliff side. Bring shoes it will hurt just in bare feet and then after a nice walk you come to a couple different caves where bats live.

20130501-172228.jpg 20130501-172121.jpg

For the past week I stayed at a little hostel that runs yoga. I don’t think anyone knows about the hostel part though because my friend Steven and I were the only ones that stayed there the whole week. Wait, I lied. We did have one friend with us at the hostel. It was a little 3 week old kitten! Kind of ridiculous and overbearingly cute that couldn’t control how many times it meowed.

At the hostel we were put in charge of showing people around if they inquired about how much it cost to stay here. They gave us a great price for my tent $2.50 USD a night and for a room, $6.00 USD. Other places in town start anywhere from $8.00-10.00 so not bad. Camping is the way to travel, I am glad to glad to have a tent now.

20130501-172214.jpg

For the week Steven and I would wake up and make eggs and veggies with smoothies, swim in the ocean all day long, and then make dinner and dance the night away. It was so lovely to have a friend from back home with me. I definitely did not get as much negative attention from men and was able to put my guard down a little bit. Almost a vacation from my traveling vacation.

I didn’t think I would be staying that long in Canoa (one week) but unfortunately I got really sick! I had a temperature of 102 degrees F (38.8 C) and it was literally 90 degrees F (32.2 C) outside. It was horrible but I was thankful my friend Steven was here to take care of me. I don’t know what I would of done without him and the kitten.

20130501-172256.jpg

Getting back to the beach in Canoa has been great! I’ve made some awesome contacts here and feel ready to move on. I met a lovely couple from Tacoma, Washington who are into permaculture and farming so we are going to a WWOOFING spot next. WWOOF stands for World Wide Organization of Organic Farming. It’s almost always free to chip in 3-8 hours of work in farms all over the world for a room and food. It’s going to be amazing more on that soon!