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Reflections of a Year Abroad…Part 1

2011 was an epic year in so many ways, good and bad. I still can’t believe that I visited 8 countries (9 if I can count Malaysian Borneo separately, I did have to go through immigration) in under 12months.

Ready to Go…

Here are a few flashbacks and memories. The titles are all linked to the first blog entry of that country with a few others scattered around. Hope you enjoy…

Peru

When plans to volunteer in Botswana fell through I felt I needed somewhere else to replace those months before heading to Australia and New Zealand. It’s not like any tickets were bought or anything, it was just something my mind had decided on, there had to be a country or two before. I was at a loss of where until a friend said “don’t you know someone in Peru?”. Why yes I did, a co worker from the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. Fernando was our imported penguin expert for the new exhibit and all of us summer employees got on really well.

So I contacted him and it was on, Peru was destination 1. I honestly had no idea what to expert, I had never been to South America and the only Spanish I knew was hola. But ever the one to shrug off obvious adversities I booked my ticket the day after my 33rd birthday. Now only 4months and 5 days till I would leave.

Peru was amazing, and I loved every minute of it. Cusco is now one of my favorite cities, although next time I am definitely pre-dosing on the altitude tabs… Man that hit me hard.

Fernando and Me

Machu Picchu was at first unimpressive, just a ruined city in the rain… the the clouds parted and it all became clear why it was so revered as a must see, that and the thought of “what bloody crazy idiot would make his people lug thousands of stones up a mountain side that scares the living daylights out of on the bus ride…and down??”. Seriously, it was breathtaking.

Good Friends: Cathleen and Me at Macchu Picchu

Lake Titicaca, just giggle everytime I say that, was awe inspiring and I would love to go back. However, the port city of Puno was a real dump and I was glad for fellow traveler advice to avoid it as much as possible.

Lake Titicaca Local Kids

The worst thing to come from Peru : The altitude sickness that actually had me bed ridden for a day.

The best thing to come from Peru : A great new friend named Cathleen!

A reason to go back : I haven’t tried roasted guinea pig yet 🙂

Ecuador

I was almost to the point of buying tickets when my mom held out a newspaper article about volunteer travel. It had a 2 sentence blurp about Amazoonico Wildlife Refuge in Ecuador. The part that caught my eye was the minimal cost of $120/month for food and accomodation. Bonus! I dropped them a line and soon had that on the map. Or actually I couldn’t even find the town of Tena on the map, but Ecuador was right about Peru so how hard could it be.

42hours later my bus (with the locked bathroom) pulled into Quito. Have you ever experienced the need to pee so bad that you can’t… Let’s just say when I could finally see through the wall of water in my eyes, I was in love with the loos of Ecuador. At least the one in the daughter’s home of a lady I had met in Spanish class and who was kindly putting me up for a few days.

My two months at the refuge came with high highs and low lows. The first month was tough as I was the only new volunteer, all the others were girls averaging 21 and had Spanish as a common language. By now I think I could almost say my name and ask where the bathroom was. In short it soon became apparent I was back in highschool and … I still wasn’t popular. My amazing volunteer co ordinator, Sarah, took me aside and said “you can leave, or you can stay and it will change your life”. Who am I to argue with authority, I stayed and in that first month got through a good number of books and enjoyed my alone time since group time was in Spanish, which I was picking up quite well.

“Walking” a Monk Saki Monkey

The second month was much better, we had a new cycle of fresh blood, English became the common language, I was a senior volunteer (and ok I admit I love being the one who needs to teach others), and I discovered my gift for making cookies… That pretty much made me popular in high school! It was very hard to leave.

Beata Relaxing at Sunset

At the end of my time in the jungle I went to the ocean and saw blue footed boobies… again another thing that just makes me want to giggle.

The worst thing to come from Ecuador : Struggling with the volunteer dynamics that first month.

The best thing to come from Ecuador : Blue Footed Boobies!! Oh and discovering an inner strength.

A reason to return : Perhaps a chance to see the Galapogos.

Surprise Easter Visit

It turned out cheaper to fly back to the states and then to Australia rather than from Peru to Aus. So I found myself with 8days in the states. I decided to surprise my parents for Easter. Officially the best surprise I have ever pulled off. The first time they were ever speechless.

Australia

Australia and New Zealand were always on my list, part of the reason for this trip was to find a place I might want to live and since they were on the “most likely” list.

My first impression of Australia, especially after 3 months in South America, was “Oh shite!!! I can barely afford a coffee”. I was shocked at the prices and the Aussie dollar was stronger, of course that changed a few weeks after I left… I quickly worked out plans to mooch… I mean visit any friends and family I had, along with sorting work trade with hostels.

Yes my finger is down its throat


Forcefeeding Kookaburra at Currumbin Wildlife Center

Australia ended up being a country of many new experiences:
I attempted work trade at a farm that has now become known as the Looney Farm by all of us who were there.
I saw Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus and many other strange and wonderful critters.
I saw friends I hadn’t seen in over 10yrs.
I shaved my head for charity.
I swam with manta rays.
I force fed Kookaburras.
I swam in a freezing lake.
It might have been expensive, but I have some amazing memories that are worth every penny.

Carolin and me!!


Carolin and Me on the Day I Shaved my Head for Charity

The worst thing to come from Australia: The cost.

The best thing to come from Australia: Shaving my head for charity.

A reason to come back: Friends and a little town called Coral Bay.

Tonga

I discovered this amazing organisation that spent a month on the island of Tonga every 3months running a vet clinic. I contacted them months before arriving and was super excited. Accommodation was included and there was no fee to volunteer. A great way to experience island life and do something good for the community.

This was a month of extremes, as it turned out there had been a misunderstanding and I went from being a vet nurse to designated pee/poop cleaner and coffee maker. But I had committed to a month and so I pushed through proving my skills on more than one occasion when they needed me to monitor during surgeries when no one else was available. I think one of the biggest problems was that I was there in the middle of a year long trip and to volunteer while reserving my finances, the others were there as a vacation and had money to spend.

My Favorite Puppy

At the same time I met some amazing people, locals and expats (including 4 South Africans, what are the odds) and got the chance to visit one of the outlying islands.

No Matter What, It Sure Was Pretty!

The worst thing to come from Tonga: My treatment by the other volunteers and the organisation.

The best thing to come from Tonga: Fulfilling my commitment and discovering an amazing culture.

A reason to go back: maybe for a vacation and not to volunteer.

I must admit I had a hard time finishing this post for some reason. So many things that go through my mind and writing this entry makes the journey complete. Luckily there are still many more to come.

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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Australia, Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Introspective Review of South America

South America was an after thought, if that is possible, I wanted a starting point and I knew someone in Peru, so why not. In truth I was petrified of the thought of heading down to countries where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the culture and the only thing I knew was that I had to wait for a canoe at some point to volunteer at a wildlife refuge.

You would think after traveling alone in countries like Cambodia, China and Vietnam, this would be a snap. But at the same time, nerves also mean you keep your edge, even if you feel like throwing up most of the time.

After spending 3.5mths in Ecuador and Peru I can truly say, I want to go back. I wish I had had more time to explore and to learn Spanish. Here are just a few things I managed to accomplish while I was there:
– surviving the altitude in Cusco, barely.
– visiting Machu Picchu, and meeting a great friend in the process.
– Exploring lake Titicaca, insert teenage boy giggling here.
– I survived not dying in a car accident while in South America, although I did become religious on more than one occasion.
– I got bitten by a Spider Monkey, then hugged by said monkey.
– Helped with a tail amputation on a wooly monkey.
– Been pooped on by a squirrel monkey.
– Developed biceps.
– Swam in the Amazon.
– Went horse riding for 4hrs through the mountains, and couldn’t sit for the next day.
– got to see blue footed boobies, insert teenage boy giggling again.
– Fell in love…with the beach of Puerto Lopez.
– Tried surfing, need way more lessons.
– got a tan while wearing a bikini.
– Met amazing friends, said goodbye to friends.
– Cried, laughed and danced.
– And most importantly survived with hardly any stomach issues!

All in all it was an amazing trip and it taught me a lot. I have grown a lot physically and emotionally and I have the scars on both to prove it. Thanks to all I met and all who supported me on my journey. Next leg involves Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Sri Lanka, who knows what I will learn there.

To Cathleen, met in Aguas Calientes, you are like a sister to me, thank you so much for being there when I needed you through a fairly emotional part of the trip. I hope to meet up with you again soon my friend.

To Sarah Hayday, the head volunteer of AmaZOOnico: thank you so much for encouraging me to stay and for giving me the best advice ever – don’t make me coffee, make yourself coffee and surround yourself with people who will share their coffee with you.


At start of trip, nervous and very pale.

End of trip, beautiful vivacious well tanned and not afraid to dance on the beach all night

The scars to prove it

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Return to Lima – Day 101-104 – Bus Rides

April 17th to 20th 2011

Another Bus ride
Leaving Puerto Lopez at 4.30am I had a 4.5hr bus ride to Guayaquil bus station, where, I hoped, I would find an international bus to Lima. The problem is finding concrete schedules on the net, they just don’t exist. So you have to go off backpacker gossip, blog tales and general hope that you haven’t missed the last one for the next week.

As it turned out I was lucky and there was a bus on the Cruz Del Sur line that left at noon, only a 2hr wait. There was an internet cafe so I grabbed some coffee and headed to pass the time.

Below is a photographic diary of the trip:

I am in the top right window.

Waiting to leave.

Just made it through Ecuadorian Immigration no problems.

The road to Peruvian Immigration.

Another night on the bus.

But first Dinner.

Breakfast.


Almost there.

Made it. I have now clocked over 115hrs of bus travel in the past 3.5mths. That is more than the last 33yrs combined.

Lima
I didn’t do much in Lima except recover from the trip, repack bags, run a few errands and then prepare to leave again 36hrs after arriving.

The next leg is Australia with a brief stop of 8 days in the US of A. Stay tuned for more adventures…and a few surprises.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Puerto Lopez – Days 95 – 100 – Return to the Beach

April 11th to 16th 2011

Return to Blue Lagoon… sort of
Having made it back to my beloved beach in Puerto Lopez, the struggle of getting there just making the return all the more sweeter. I set about getting myself settled for the week and found all my old mates, and a few new ones still there. Gustavo, the bartender, was happy to see me and we renewed our language exchange, although it was more like a Spanish lesson than an actual exchange. I have decided I really love the language and would like to return here, maybe at the end of my trip, to spend 3mths living and learning Spanish.. and maybe Salsa and Surfing too (all the important “S” words).

Moving Hostels
Since my friend Heidy was in the process of building a hostel and had a private room for $10/night I decided to move over to her place. the hostel owner of Fragata asked where I was moving to and once I explained a friend she understood, but it was a little awkward. Heidy’s hostel, yet to be named, is half way to being done and is a perfect location. Across the road from the beach, right where the fishermen bring in their catch its a great place to pick some fresh food. At present she has 2 small dorm rooms and a private, she is in the process of building the 2nd level, an outside kitchen/bbq area, and doing the garden. It promises to be a very quaint and comfy hostel. (If anyone wants contact details let me know and I will put you in touch with her).

Dinners and beach
The next few days were a whirlwind of making dinners for large groups, having great get togethers and spending the day at the beach. One morning we bought some fresh fish from the incoming catch and cooked it up for dinner, another day we had fish soup, they were kind enough to give me the best part…the head.

There were also many afternoon frappuccinos at our local Columbian cafe with friends, they truly are the best in the world.

Stung by a ray
One particularly lazy relaxing day with Mitch, Rowena and Hettie at the beach ended in quite the episode. The girls went to go swim and shortly after I saw them coming back, Hettie supporting Rowena. Turns out she had managed to find the one sting ray on this part of the beach. We soon were surrounded by locals willing to help and very concerned. The therapy was to melt hot wax onto the sting site, the heat would draw out the poison. Rowena managed to make writhing in pain look sexy, while Hettie sang to her. Definately a scene out of a tv series. Then we got some antibiotics from the pharmacy and, much to her horror, informed her she was not allowed to drink. What is a 20something English girl meant to do on a beach in Ecuador??? Mitch carried her home.

Surf Lessons
Gustavo agreed to give us surf lessons even though his board had snapped in half a month ago. He went and rented a board from a friend and we were off. Well Hettie was, she got it down almost immediately. I on the other hand floundered, swallowed half the ocean and ended up by tweaking my back on the last wipe-out. I did however manage to raise both my knees of the board and start towards the standing position, for about 1second, but there was still knee clearance!

Salsa and Friends
On my second to last night we had a fantastic time. We went down to one of the bars and almost immediately I was asked to dance. We had them throw on salsa and I got to shake my ass all night long, it was fantastic, even if I had to go soak my toes in the water from dancing barefoot on the sand.

All good things come to an end
I have made so many friends while staying in this little town, and had so many amazing experiences. But once again it was time to say goodbye. As I was leaving at 4.30am I said goodbye to as many people as I could the night before. Gustavo was kind enough to meet me and help me carry my stuff to the bus station. He had become a good and dear friend and saying goodbye was hard, even if it had to be done.

I will miss this beautiful beach town and hope to return, but for now it was Lima bound and another day long bus ride.

Some Random Pics

Farewell to one of the most beautiful places on earth

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Quito & Mindo – Days 91 – 94

April 7th to 10th 2011

Morning’s Catch
Woke up at 6.30am and went to watch the morning catch being brought in. There is something so beautiful and vibrant about standing on the beach, frigate birds and pelicans swirling overheard and the sounds of the fishermen bringing in their haul. At the same time it is often tragic what you might find within their catch. Today it happened to be a juvenile whale shark. The first time I have ever seen one and it has to be dead on the beach. I later found out that it was illegal to catch them, but when authorities arrived the guilty party was no where to be found. At the same time you have to understand that fishing is the sole source of income for most of these families, and often things get caught in the nets accidentally.

On the Road Again
Heading back to the hostel I saw Waka Waka (Jordan). His real name is Ayman but his nickname suits him perfectly. We went and grabbed some coffee and then he helped me with my bags to the bus. Another great friend to say farewell to.

It turned out Michi (volunteer from AmaZOOnico) was also on the bus and so we settled in for another long trip, this one totalling 11hrs. The trip was reasonably uneventful except for the fact that a mother / daughter team sat next to me, ending up with 3 of us sharing 2 seats. I didn’t mind too much but it did make comfort non existent. About half way through there appeared to be an issue with one of the passengers and the driver increased speed to the next town where an ambulance was waiting. A young woman was carried off the bus complaining of severe abdominal pain. Hopefully she will be ok. Then the bus pulled off and we continued on our way.

Eventually pulling into Quito at about 9pm. Michi and I shared a cab into town and I arrived at Tiffany and Jose’s apartment just before 10pm. It is great having friends all over the world, and I greatly appreciated having them there. Shortly after I arrived, Tiffany returned from the airport with Emily (a friend from Eugene, Oregon) and soon we were all chatting about jungle experiences and flight details.

A day in the city
Emily and I caught a cab the next day into town and spent the morning exploring Plaza Grande, around the presidential palace (where numerous late presidents had been murdered in a variety of ways – note to self don’t run for president in Ecuador). We grabbed a bite to eat with Jose during his lunch break and then continued to walk and marvel at the architecture. At the end of the day we met up with Tiffany and Jose and after a few errands headed back to the house for pizza and a movie.

Hi Ho Hi Ho its off to Mindo we go
Saturday we had an outing planned to a town 2hrs north of Quito. Mindo is located in the cloud forest and is reputed to be very beautiful and have stunning bird life. Due to a change in plans, Tiffany ended up being able to join us after classes had to be canceled. A friend of Jose’s, Marco, was our taxi driver, and with Jose, Emily, Franklin and me squished in the back and Tiffany in the front we headed to first do some errands.

I had decided on a course of action for the final week in Ecuador and had bought an air ticket to Manta where I could catch a bus back to Puerto Lopez, the beach and friends just sounded too good to pass up.
So with a short stop to pick up my ticket at the mall and pick up some coffee we were off.

The road to Mindo is through the mountains and it was particularly windy, I think this made Marco a wee bit too happy and it felt like we were on a roller coaster ride. According to Tiffany he actually behaved himself and the ride was not as crazy as one her parents had endured. But as I was feeling a little down (too many farewells start weighing on you) the squished rollercoaster ride started to make me feel a bit car sick, and it took a lot of concentration (and prayer) to make it through the ride.

Mindo was strikingly beautiful, with green hills and lots of waterfalls. Apparently a tornado had tore up the town just a few days before (apparently tornadoes in Ecuador are non-existent, the weather appears to be a changing). We grabbed some pizza for lunch and picked up a ride into the forest where we could hike to a waterfall. A short way down there was a short cut rope and the boys leaped on that in a heart beat.

Half way down there was a zipline option and again the boys were more than willing to give it a try. Although on the video there appeared to be a lot of hesitation by some of the parties. I continued down the path thinking the others were behind me and only realised later that they had stopped to do the zipline. But I got to see some hummingbirds and interesting plants that I might not have seen had we been in a large group.

At the end of the trail there was a magnificent set of pools and a chance to go down a slide into the rushing river below. As the water was freezing and the only thing stopping you from plummeting down the waterfall was a single rope, I declined, but the others were up for the challenge. We enjoyed ourselves at the pools and I played paparazzi for everyone going down the slides and jumping off the ledges. Then we dried off and prepared for the long trek back up the gorge. Thats the only problem with going down, you have to go back up again afterwards.

Back in town we chowed down on some left over pizza and all collapsed into bed feeling very refreshed but exhausted after the day out.

Market Day
The plan for Sunday had been to go to the town of Otovalo, which is famous for its markets. But due to cost of the trip and working around Tiffany’s work schedule we opted for the markets of Quito. It was probably the right decision as Quito’s markets can be overwhelming and are only a 10th of the size of Otovalo, add to that my inability to make decisions and I would most likely still be in amongst the stalls.

I was able to pick up numerous wonderful gifts, chocolate, coffee and even came across a store with beads and stocked up.

In the evening I made dinner for everyone and while Jose watched football (soccer) in the bedroom the girls broke out an appropriately girly movie. Another great day.

Transport Gods foil my plans again
My plans for Monday were fool proof. Take the 2.30pm flight from Quito to Manta, arriving around 3.30pm. That gave me more than enough time to take a bus back to Puerto Lopez and arrive by 6pm in time for dinner. However, this was not to be. I got a call at 10am saying that the 2.30pm flight was cancelled and I was moved to the 6.30pm flight. This meant that I was 1) stuck in the apartment all day (luckily with Emily), as I had no key and 2) there would be no bus after 6pm and I would either have to spend the night in Manta or take a taxi (working out to about the same cost).

I had some choice words for the transport Gods, but I guess it just makes you appreciate it more when you finally reach your destination. Everything went off without any issues and I arrived in Puerto Lopez at 9pm, almost on the dot much to the pride of the taxi driver, and in time to have a beer with my friends.

Ahhh its good to be back at the beach!

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Another Tragedy for AmaZOOnico

I just found out that Angelika, the co-founder along with her husband, Remiggio, of AmaZOOnico and the heart and soul of the refuge died a few days ago in a car accident. She was traveling with her family for vacation and the car collided with a bus.

Angelika first travelled to Ecuador around 20yrs ago where she met Remiggio, a local guide, they fell in love and she gave up everything in Switzerland to move to his remote village on the edge of the Amazon. Together they built AmaZOOnico and spread the word of wildlife conservation to foreigners and locals alike.

Her indomitable spirit and love of the jungle will surely be missed, and we hope that AmaZOOnico can survive without her vibrant energy. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and everyone who is/has been involved with her amazing project and legacy.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Puerto Lopez – Day 86 – 90: The BEACH!

April 2nd to 6th 2011

Mr. Sympathetic
After arriving in the Guayaquil bus station at 2.30am and finding it very difficult to find a bus to my chosen destination of Puerto Lopez, I settled in with a couple from Spain who were heading in the same general direction. Most of the ticket offices were closed, and there must be over 200 of them, but we had been pointed to one office that was meant to open at 4.30am. While we waited there was a rumor that we could take a bus to Salinas and then get another bus further up the coast. Right as we were on the verge to leave with it, a very nice gentleman explained that it was better to wait, as it wasn’t a guarantee we would get a bus and this bus station was larger and had more security. We decided to wait it out and chatted with him, he also spoke some English so was able to help me figure out my ticket too.

As fate would have it he was on our bus heading to Olon (from there I had to catch a local bus to Puerto Lopez) and it was quite fun having all four of us on the bus together. We all promptly fell asleep and at some point into the journey our new friend deboarded. I found out later that he had actually managed to get into the couple’s bag and steal their laptop, mp3 and phone. Makes you lose faith in human nature.

The Beach, I can see the Beach!
After 3.5hrs we reached the town of Olon and had to flag down the local bus, that speeds down the road at beyond top speeds. Finally reaching my destination after another 1.5hr drive at high speed down a very curvy ocean road (I think I am now praying to any God that will listen on these trips). I threw my bag on my shoulder and decided to just hoof it to the hostel, the town wasn’t that big. I found a sign pointing to the right and followed it. I came across a distinctly hostel looking establishment but it had no name. Turns out it was Sol Inn Hostel and so I went about getting myself booked in. This is where things first got confused. I asked for a private room on the first night and then transfer to a dorm, I just needed to sleep. I was quoted $10 and then pointed in the general direction of room 1 as the guy walked off. So lugging my bag up the stairs I went into what was supposed to be a sanctuary in my present state. It was instead littered with leaves and twigs and dirt (caused from the heavy rain the night before). I found the guy (turned out to be the manager, Darwin) and he apologised and promised to have it cleaned immediately. I sat and waited.

Over 10minutes later I went to find him and was told they were all on lunch. I just looked at him and said I need sleep now, I will take anything, a dorm room is fine. He directed me to a different room that was a 3bed dorm with a private bathroom. It looked perfect and I said yes. He mumbled something about “privado” and I assumed he meant there was no one else tonight so it was like a private, because obviously this was a dorm room.

5hrs later I emerged from a dead sleep feeling very refreshed and headed down to the beach, the amazing beautiful beach. As I stepped onto it I immediately fell in love with this tiny town. The beach is long and white (a minor trash issue), the water was warm and clear and the beach was lined with little shack like bars all serving the same stuff and playing the same music.

Eventually I decided to grab a drink and stood in a daze trying to decide which one of the little beach bars to choose. Its kind of like standing at the cheese counter in an upmarket store in the States, just too many to choose from. One seemed to draw me in and I went and found, what was soon dubbed, my hammock. A particularly nice looking bartender brought me a menu and I ordered a chocolate shake. When he brought it to me he also brought a table and said “para mi princessa” (for my princess). I think I am going to like this bar. So sitting in MY hammock watching the ocean listening to Bob Marley and some 80’s remixes it felt about as close to heaven as you could get and well worth the trip.

Enter Boris, a rather skinny weasely looking Ecuadorian who seemed intent on talking to me. Its not as if I felt creeped out or anything but I just really wanted to relax on my own. He chatted a bit about tours and things to do and asked where I was from. I replied and was cordial but eventually, at the end of my shake, I decided I needed dinner so said my farewells. As I left my yummy bartender asked my name and asked if I would come back that evening as it was Saturday night and there were usually more people around then. I said yes.

Saffers are everywhere
During my time in the jungle one of the best tours I did was with a group of South African students. The last group of people I ever would have thought to encounter there. As I was walking down the sidewalk of Puerto Lopez, looking for dinner, I suddenly heard a young man say “I knew it was you”. And low and behold but guess who was there, the group had come to the beach for a couple of days. It was great seeing them and they greeted me like an old friend. I walked with them to meet the rest and I got hugs all around. Apparently the pic they took of me (looking bedragled after severe rain) was all over facebook. It was great seeing them but unfortunately they were heading out of town that day. Its a small world after all.

Dinner and beer in my hammock
After saying cheers I decided to eat where they had and ordered some fish and chips. The thought was to have a quick dinner and then go back to the bar for a beer. It appeared they had to catch my fish as it took over an hour for it to be cooked, and I was 1 of 2 customers. However, I just ran across the street to take some pics as I waited.

Finally finished I headed over and was able to recline in my hammock with my large beer (a whopping $1.25) and watch what remained of the sunset. This was heaven…until Boris showed up again. He chatted away, inviting me to his bar for a free drink etc etc… He even insisted on paying for my drink, I argued on that one just a little bit. But eventually I explained how tired I was and headed back to the hostel. My bartender waved goodbye as I left.

Mitch the Aussie
When I got back to the hostel, I discovered a rather dashing young man playing with himself, pool that is. His name was Mitch from Gold Beach Australia and he was actually trying to learn how to cheat at pool. We ended up playing a couple of games and I came fairly close on one of them, think I needed a second beer as I always play better when I have a slight buzz. By the 3rd game 2 local kids had shown up, about 5 and 7, apparently they are there every night and are child prodige pool sharks. They made it their mission to teach me how to win, and I fear I failed them as a student. There is nothing quite demoralising as having two kids act completely disappointed at your ability to hit a ball right in front of you.

So as I headed to bed, I hung my head in shame and we let them take over the table.

Blue Footed Boobies
Today was my tour to Isla De La Plata and my chance to see Blue Footed Boobies. My trip to South America would now include Lake Titicaca and Blue Footed Boobies, I was content and this section of travel has been worth it.

I met up with my tour and we boarded out little boat out to the island. Heidy was our English speaking guide and was really good. A tiny 5ft petite Ecuadorian girl with lots of knowledge of the area. I made some new friends with a group of Americans and soon we were enjoying the sea air as we jetted across the waves. It would take at least an hour to get there. About half way through we were welcomed by a huge pod of Spotted Dolphins, apparently rather rare at that time of year and never that close, under the boat and all around us. Truly amazing.

When we got to the island we had a bathroom break with little buddies, crabs. Most of the girls came running out screaming, I went running in with my camera. Gives a whole new meaning to “catching crabs in the bathroom”. Finally it was time to search for the Blue Footed Boobies (insert hysterically giggling here). The island was quite desolate and very hot, and we had 201 steps to walk up to get to the top. I hate stairs. But at the top our very first juvenile Boobie was there to greet us, I think he must be on the pay roll. The entire hour and a half walk was incredible. We saw longtailed mockingbirds, candelabra catcus, small lizards, frigate birds and of course numerous boobies. They just sort of stood there and looked at us as if to say “yes I have blue feet, do you have a problem with that?”.

All to soon we ended the loop and headed back to the boat where we were given lunch and moved on to a snorkeling spot. We were lucky enough to see a green turtle on the way and at the spot there were numerous colorful fish all around the boat. A fantastic day all in all. Afterwards some of us headed to grab a drink, my bar (Oscars Bar) was closed so we went to another. One of the guys had agreed to be my boyfriend if Boris showed up, but wouldn’t you know it, it looks like I had been dumped for another couple. Oh well I wasn’t really into the relationship.

Back at the hostel I hung out with my new friends Mitch and Connie (Wales). Heidy also happened to be there so we all hung out till 11pm. Great times, great friends.

Agua Blanca
On Monday Anya, met her the day before on the boat, and I decided to grab a moto (small tuk tuk 3 wheel transport type thing) and head out to Agua Blanca. Famous for the historical significance of the settlement and the sulfur pool, the local community has truly embraced this and made quite a decent living off tourists coming to visit. The ride was great fun and our driver was hysterical.

At the community there was a small museum that we were taken around and had everything explained to us, all in Spanish and I could understand and translate most of it for Anya. Then we took the moto to the sulfur pool and were greeted by the overwhelming smell of rotten eggs. We were given the option to swim if we wanted, but we both declined. We did however put the mud all over our faces. Heading back we stopped at a view point and then went back to town. We grabbed a drink at Oscar’s Bar and just relaxed.

The plan was to meet Anya at the bar at 7.30pm, so I headed back to relax and take a nap. At the appointed time I headed to the bar and waited, and waited and waited. Chatted with one of the local guys, Felix, and Gustavo. When Felix got up to leave Gustavo (the bartender) started asking me about my family and where I was from. Then he asked if I wanted to join him in the morning to go to another beach 15min by bus up the coast. I thought what the heck and said yes. Later I got a free mojito. Some other friends showed up and it turned into a great night.

Private Beach
Just before 9am I headed to the bus station, picked up some rolls and a piece of cake (it was Gustavo’s birthday) and waited. It turns out Ecuadorian time is 25minutes later, but no worries. Soon we were on the bus and heading to the beach. It was spectacular, white sand, black rocks, no trash and littered with interesting shells. We spent the morning collecting shells, sunbathing, swimming and generally hanging out. Since he spoke virtually no English we communicated in Spanish and it turned into a great Spanish lesson. When the sun became too hot we headed back into town.

Gustavo’s Birthday Party
My small group of new friends, Connie – Wales, Mitch – Australia and Heidy – local, headed over towards Oscar’s Bar to celebrate Gustavo’s birthday. When we got there the bar was still closed so we went and had a beer next door. We decided to pick up a couple of bottles of rum as the guys had promised to make us free drinks if we brought the alcohol.

When they finally arrived it turned into a humdinger. Great music, great fun and great friends. The biggest surprise was seeing Michi from AmaZOOnico, he had come to meet a friend who ended up knowing Gustavo and so both came to the party. enter “It’s a small world” theme music. We danced and drank and had a whale of a time. Gustavo being shy ended up spending most of the time making drinks or playing DJ. At one point Oscar, bar owner, grabbed both of us and made us dance salsa along with everyone else. A great night, and one that required ibuprofen, a large bottle of water and sleeping in till 11am. Luckily my medical precautions prevented any serious after affects.

Dinner with Friends
Wednesday was a lazy day. I went to buy my 11hr bus ticket to Quito for the following day and spent most of hte day relaxing at the hostel or on the beach. I had planned to make dinner for everyone, Pasta Italiano, I invited Gustavo when I bumped into him on the beach, but due to a disagreement with the hostel owner he didn’t like to go there. So we agreed to hang out afterwards for a beer.

The dinner was delicious and I managed to feed 5 of us, I will really miss my new friends, hate having to say goodbye. Then I headed to the beach and hung out with Gustavo for the evening.

All in all I think I have fallen in love with this little beach town, and have made amazing friends along the way… perhaps I should come back????

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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