Sunday, November 27, 2011

Starting to make plans

I know it's a long way away, but I am having so much fun perusing my guide books and the internet for ideas of where to go and what to see and do while in India.

I did decided to cut the trip down from 6 months to more like 4.5 months. For one thing, it means I'll have a little more wiggle room when it comes to money while I'm there. It also means I'll actually have money left over when I am done! I also decided to come back to Boston after my trip to India. I'll either sublet or see about couch surfing for a few months while I temp or do other odd jobs to earn some more money, then take off again to another corner of the globe after I've replenished the piggy bank.

But I am still following the same route I had in mind for India. A couple of months up North (try to get up into the mountains, where I can do more to beat the summer heat) before heading South.

Here are most of the places I have in mind to visit for my first couple of months.

Ranthambhore National Park
McLeod Ganj
Ladakh and Leh
Valley of Flowers National Park

You can do a Wikitravel search on all of these places (except, apparently, Hardiwar... but regular wiki has plenty on that) to get a little idea about them.

Still don't really know about the second half of my trip. I *MAY* may may may get my best friend joining me for that part! FUCKING AWESOME is my response to this idea. :) I've got a few ideas, but nothing permanent yet. Once E has a better idea of she'll be able to join me or not I'll figure out how I am going to approach that half of my trip.

Friday, November 11, 2011

India - beginnings of a plan

Yes, India! I realized while traveling in Ecuador that it was actually cheaper to be traveling down there than living in Boston. And India is even cheaper to travel in than South America. And if I volunteer at hostels or organic farm programs (WWOOF is a program my sister introduced me to) in exchange for room/board I could save even more money and get the chance to immerse myself in an area to really get to know it and the people.

A girl I met down in Quito gave me a website where I can look for traveler work opportunities by country as an alternative once in a while to the hostel idea. Also, a friend from the hostel down there knows a guy who runs a hostel in India, but couldn't remember exactly where. So he's going to get me in touch with his friend and maybe I might use that as a starting point for my trip if the location appeals to me.

My brother-in-law is from Mumbai, so I am using him as my "guy on the ground" to get ideas and to bounce my thoughts off of. He's also great as a source to ask with regards to what to bring with me. I already know that I will not be wearing my strapless cleavage bearing dress or all my tank tops... it's a conservative culture, I intend to respect the hell out of that. I'll be there when it's wicked wicked hot, so I'll likely buy some clothes once I arrive, since I don't know if I'll be able to find anything here truly appropriate for both the heat and the conservative-ism.

So yes. The lease on my apartment is up February 1. And since I didn't get the MIT job, I just felt that since travel is currently flowing and I can do it cheaply, I might as well stick with it. I can spend a few months in Florida with my parents til I leave. Save money, and also work on writing. I'd like to try to sell some of my writing, or try to find publishers for future writing while I'm in India. Wouldn't that be fucking cool? I'll likely come back to Boston for May... to celebrate my birthday and also because it's cheaper to fly out of Boston to India than from anywhere near my parents in Florida).

For the summer months I liked the idea of going north. So fly into Delhi, then immediately head south to the Tiger Reserve to see if I can see tigers! The internet said that Ranthambore is actually best November-March, but I am hoping late May/early June might prove lucky for me.

After that, head to McLeod Ganj. It's the first place I ever discovered about India, and I'd love to spend some time up there. Home of the Dalai Lama. Would also love to see Amritsar and the Golden Temple (dude, that's where Bride and Prejudice takes place!). Maybe then head east to the Valley of Flowers.

I'm thinking maybe stick up around that area til around August. Then head south after visiting the Valley of Flowers (which I've heard is spectacular in July/August). I haven't done a huge amount of research yet into other areas. I mean, I've heard of Goa. EVERYONE's heard of Goa. And said something about Ooty and the toy train to get there. That could be interesting and fun.

Anyway... I'm plugging away on the internet for ideas while I wait for my Lonely Planet guide book to arrive from Amazon. I asked Nilesh (my brother-in-law) if he has any other ideas to throw them at me! And you, my dear readers! If you think there is any particular place I must see at a certain time I will add it to my list.

I'll be in India for 6 months. Going to get the 6 month visa. So late May til around Thanksgiving. Who knows, after that I may decide I'm done and come home. Or I'll throw caution to the winds and keep traveling through Asia.

Traveling while bipolar - the importance of a plan

This was the biggest concern some people had about me going into my trip. I've been off my meds since July. And I know more than one person was concerned that I planned my trip while manic and just wasn't thinking straight with regards to safety, money, security, and all the other stuff you should probably have solidly set before disappearing for a while.

I'll admit, the original idea of "hey, I'm unemployed let's take off and go adventuring while I have the time!" did occur to me while manic. But I love to plan. And for me, planning is a very serious thing. I may not have every detail in place, but I am going to make sure I've covered every situation and ensured that I am at least aware of the potential difficulties and dangers before I make the leap. I'm just not going to let difficulties or dangers stop me from jumping!

One of the reasons I am less concerned about the overall general worries of traveling while bipolar is because I am so obsessed with detail. So obsessed with lists. I overthink everything. And I am perfectly aware that dude, I was in a good size city. It's not like I was far from civilization and the basics of medical care in case something did happen!

However, it's the little things that do worry me. The anxiety. The need for routine. The being far far from home and everything I know in case something happens. But I needed to not let even those things stop me from doing what matters to me. So I went anyway.

Here are some things that I learned:
  • Creating a schedule that had me returning back to a central location between my adventures allowed me to form a bond with a place and the people there. It gave me a sense of "home away from home" that is very reassuring.

  • Similarly, a slow and relaxed schedule allowed me the chance to go at my own pace. If something unexpected came up, I was able to go with the flow and not feel pressured. It also allowed me to form a routine of sorts. So when something unexpected came up, it wasn't a shock because I had the time to slide it into my schedule.

  • Discovery that I can call the States for free from Google Chat. I was able to call my parents when I needed my mom and dad. I was able to clear up finances when hiccup occurred. I never felt completely isolated. Now, sometimes the internet connection totally sucked and calls wouldn't go through. But it was okay. Because I knew that they were there and if I did absolutely need them I could just go find an internet cafe or move to a better location and call them back. Or in most cases, just send them an e-mail and things were fine.

  • Bring with me something that is comforting. In the case of my trip to Ecuador, it was my favorite shawl. There was just something very reassuring to wrap myself up in the shawl and feel warm and cozy. After my tumble down the stairs I admit that I became somewhat depressed for a few days. But I didn't let that stop me completely in my tracks. I allowed myself a few days to recover, then I stepped forward and shook it off.

  • I have a good amount of Ativan that I'd been hoarding since I ran out of everything else. Just for emergencies. And guess what? I didn't need any during my trip. Not once.

  • I realized I have never been happier in my life. And that feeling was intoxicating.

I met a lot of people during my trip who were all like, "We don't even know what we're doing tomorrow, let alone where we're staying tonight." I know me, I wouldn't be able to fully enjoy travel like that. I like having a plan in place. It's necessary. Now, that doesn't mean I am going to follow the plan. But having a plan gives me an outline of what my options are. And it gives me a fallback if something unexpected happens and then falls through.

A plan gives me a direction. It helps me build structure around me.

Being bipolar, structure is the most important thing. And traveling all willy nilly is simply not something I'll ever do. Jumping off the deep end is fun. But I like to know whether the deep end is relatively clear of hidden rocks or undercurrent, first.

Last year I went to Europe for 9 days. Half of which I spent with Bine and Cathy, adjusting to being in a foreign country before I jumped into exploring a different city all on my own. That was like dipping my toe into the water. Wading in was this most recent trip to Ecuador. 3 weeks to determine how I'd handle things.

I'm ready to throw myself in now.

The plan is starting to come together. I've got the support of my parents and the people I've talked to so far. I feel that life is pointing to a road in front of me and telling me to start walking. You'll get another post with more details, but for now... here's the idea:

February 1 I take off and go to Florida for a few months. Stay with my parents for a little while and save money. Return to Boston in May (flying out is cheaper from here than from Florida) and in June I take off to India. Be there for up to 6 months. Then take off across SE Asia for a while. Til I am ready to come home or til the money runs out.


Am I crazy? Of course I am! But it feels right, so I'm going to do it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Breaking my budget in Otavalo - my final days in Ecuador

Saturday November 5 - Tuesday November 8, 2011

Otavalo is about 2 hours north of Quito. And while their market is open 7 days a week, the Saturday market turns this small town into a big big deal. On Saturdays the Otavalo market is South America's largest indigenous market, and the crowds show up to demonstrate it.

I'd meant to visit Otavalo my first weekend in Ecuador, but through various misadventures I ended up waiting til my final weekend. Best idea ever! I broke my budget, shopping for all my nieces and nephews and for my siblings and for a few friends and for my parents (though dad's impossible to shop for and I couldn't find anything for him!). I only got a few things actually for me. Things I had in mind to get myself before even arriving Saturday afternoon.

Bargaining is the way to go when shopping at the market. Never accept and pay full price. Here is when even my limited Spanish came in perfectly well, because out of all the Spanish I remember I remember my numbers the best. Besides, I love a good bargaining session. Always have.

After breakfast I grabbed the buses that Laura taught me to make my way to Terminal Carcelen to head out to Otavalo. And unlike Wednesday, the bus station was empty and I got to experience Laura's description of people calling out locations and pulling you to exactly where you needed to be. I paid my $2 for the bus ticket, and then an additional 20 cents to go through the turnstile to the actual buses. That annoyed me, but I did it anyway. I didn't have to read the signs to find my bus because the driver and his sidekick are standing out calling "Otavalo! Otavalo!" and helping people up into the bus.

I managed to get the back back seat again, like I had coming back from Baños. I didn't worry about my bag or anything, because all I brought with me was my over the chest day bag. And that just sat happily in my lap. The day was warm and sunny, so I opened the window and was able to admire the scenery for the whole trip.

At one point a little girl sat down next to me, and we got to chatting. She and her little sister loved when I would say "Como se dice?" and point to something. I also shared a Reece's peanut butter cup with them (with their dad's permission) and WOW did their faces light up on that one! I shared one with him as well, and the joy was just awesome to see. Sorry about the terribly fuzzy photo. It's from not having my glasses. Everything is blurry, so I have no way of telling if a picture is clear or not! Oops. The family got off the bus before Otavalo, and I waved from my window. It was fun.

I really had no idea where I was going once I got to the town itself. So I just waited til we got to the bus terminal and after getting a general direction from a nice police officer from Germany (we chatted) I just walked to the market. He said I'd see it before I got there, and BOY was he right!!! Anybody who knows me knows that I have a fondness for bright colors. And this market was just a feast for my sensations.

The colors, the sounds of vendors calling out their wares and calling out "senorita, senorita" to get my attention. The food vendors with everything from a whole pig to cuy to various corn products to fruit to ice cream. I finally tried cuy, and it was wonderful. I felt like it tasted more like duck than anything else. It was more oily than chicken. I didn't eat the whole one, I just got a leg. But I am glad I did try it. I'm usually pretty good at trying new things, so this was definitely something I'll remember.

For the first few hours I just wandered the stalls. Touching the sweaters and blankets. Rubbing the alpaca against my cheek and reveling in the softness. The day got progressively warmer, so I'd stop every once in a while to pop into a shop for a bottle of water. The cold water never felt so good.

Once I got a sense of what I was looking for I made a mental list of what I wanted to find for each person on my list of who to buy presents for! And oh I had fun! For my sister Tracy's kids I made my offer to the first vendor and she wouldn't sell for that low. So I pretty much just said, "fine, I'll find a vendor who will" and I walked away. The second vendor also didn't want to sell that low, but she gave in as I was walking away. I learned early on that you figure out your price and eventually you'll find a vendor who will accept it. Bid lower than what you're willing to pay and if you're lucky you may even get a lower price, too!

I was wearing a long sleeve shirt under my blue dress, and it was getting pretty hot. So I pushed the sleeves up. Unfortunately, I hadn't put on sunblock, so now my lower arms are sunburned. Whoops! Three weeks I'd been in the Andes, I really should have known by then. Not badly sunburned, at least. I am getting quite tan, though!

Bit of trivia? Did you know that Panama Hats are made in Ecuador? They're called Panama Hats though because Panama is where they were popularized. I got one hat for myself to wear around the market (I plan to send it on to someone as a gift now that I'm home) and one hat for my brother Alex. He had told me he wants to pretend he's a Cuban gangster and specifically requested a hat. But you see, Alex has the most gigantic head of anyone I know. So when shopping for his hat I told the vendor "mi hermano tiene una cabeza grande" and she pulled out a hat. I tried it on and had to tell her, "Más grande." She laughed and pulled out an even bigger hat. I tried it on and felt like I was swimming in it! That ought to fit him! :) She let me choose the hat band for it. I hope Alex likes his hat when it eventually gets to him. *smiles*

I got so much stuff that I bought an extra bag just to store all my new purchases! And by that time I was completely exhausted and was starting to feel kind of sick from the sun and the heat, so I decided to just call it a day and find the hostel I was booked into for the night.

The Rose Cottage got nice reviews, and was supposed to be very pretty and quiet. About a mile and a half outside of town. Normally I have no problem walking that, but I didn't have a map with me and wasn't sure where I was going. So just walked for a ways to get away from the market and then grabbed a taxi. The driver, Carlos, was super nice and I got to practice my Spanish even more. I have had awesome luck during my entire trip with nice drivers.

Got to the hostel and found out that I was the ONLY person checked in for the night. And everything is pretty spread out, so once I got shown to my dorm cottage I got to feeling pretty isolated. I had spent so much time at the Secret Garden in Quito that I was used to a jovial, social environment. And while yes, it was nice to relax and get away from people after the insanity of the market, I really missed having people to talk to "at home" afterward.

I napped a bit, ate dinner at the hostel (alone, not a one of the staff knew any English, so I couldn't even converse with them), and wrote in my journal before calling it a very early night.

Woke up early Sunday to pouring rain and waited a bit, hoping it would clear up but no dice. So rather than get myself and all my new belongings wet while exploring the town and surrounding area I decided to just head back to Quito. Had to wake someone up in order to check out (it was 8am by this point) and call me a taxi to head to the bus station.

I lightly dozed for most of the drive. Then again managed to navigate the buses to get back to the area where my hostel was located. I normally would have grabbed a taxi, particularly since I was carrying so much stuff. But I just spent too much money at the market and was trying to not spend more money than I had. And 25 cents for a bus is much better than around $10 for a cab.

It was when I got closer to the area of my hostel when I noticed someone pretty sketching looking lurking in front of me. I'd caught him glancing back at me once or twice, so was on my guard. He was wearing a big coat and his hands were in his pockets, one of which seemed to have something heavier in it than just a hand.

He wasn't walking at a normal pace, either. And since I'd gotten to know this area pretty well by know, I knew there was a hidden corner exactly where he was more or less lurking. So I stopped and ducked into a little shop right where I was at to buy a bottle of water. And when I poked my head out, the dude was just standing there on the sidewalk like he was waiting for me.

So I stepped out in front of the door to the stop and just stood there. Stared defiantly at the sketchy guy and was all "I am not moving from this stop until you move." He finally did move, but I kept a good distance between us until we reached a nice open plaza for me to wait him out some more. There were clumps of people scattered around, though it wasn't crowded. And again sketchy guy and I had a face off. He finally made to cross the street (it's actually a three street intersection), and once he did I continued on my way.

I turned onto the street my hostel was on and was heading up the big hill when something told me to look behind me. My paranoia was again on target, because the sketchy dude was following me up the fucking hill! Luckily, there are always a bunch of cabs out front and the drivers are super nice. So I crossed the street to them and was ringing the doorbell of the hostel to be let in when sketchy dude drew even with me and passed by on the other side.

I have no idea if my suspicions of this dude were correct or not, but I am glad I let my instincts tell me how to handle things. Too many people I've met this trip had been robbed (one person at gunpoint, even!). Somebody was telling me that he was with a group of 11 people hanging out one day and asked for a show of hands for how many people had been robbed in Quito. 9 people raised their hands.

I am aware that I had great luck while in Quito, not having had a single truly bad experience here. I am even more aware of this luck based on my experience with that sketchy dude. But it's also made me aware that I do have good instincts and made me glad that I know what to do when my instincts tell me something isn't right. It also taught me to say "fuck money. Pay for a damn cab next time!"

I spent the rest of the day and all day Monday just hanging out with folk in the hostel. I was definitely feeling off, and didn't want to get sick. Had a music exchange with a few people before I left, and now have a ton new music for my collection. A lot of German stuff I've never heard of before. Nina just tossed a bunch of stuff my direction and I will sort through it when I've got time. Leigh works at the hostel and plays his music all the time. So he and I had already mostly figured out which of his stuff I wanted to snag.

My flight home was due to leave at 6am Tuesday, which meant I needed to head out at 3am. Rather than book a room for the night, Edgar the night security guy let me crash on a couch in the computer room. Edgar liked me. :) A bunch of people thought he was mean, but he was always super nice to me, and was so funny because he doesn't speak a lick of English. He even brought me a blanket when he came in and saw me stretched out when he arrived! :) Awww.

Flights home were uneventful. I got some lunch in Houston and grumbled about the cost. I am really going to miss how cheap everything is!!! At least until my next trip, where things are even cheaper than in Ecuador! But again... more on that plan later.

I still have a bunch to write about. Thoughts about traveling while bipolar. Thoughts about traveling as an overweight woman. And musings on travel in general. So expect more here, as always!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Liga vs Libertad

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I am still not 100% clear which tournament this was, but it's a major South American international one, and Liga made it to this quarter final match. They were playing La Libertad, from Paraguay. Initially only a few people were planning to go, but over the course of the week the number of people interested in going grew. Until finally on Wednesday it was decided that we'd look into hiring a bus to drive us from Finn McCool's to the stadium! 15 people.

Remi was working til 3, so when he got off work a number of us gathered out front to decide the course of action. A couple of taxis were grabbed and brought 10 of us to the pub. The rest of us slithered in over the course of the next few hours.

We were scheduled to leave Finn's at 6. So we had a few hours to get a bit of pre-partying done before heading to the stadium. And a lot of beers were consumed!

There's Remi. We both particularly like this picture.

I got pretty hammered before we left. But it's all in good fun, and everyone was having a great time. And at 6:00 the bus pulled up outside and we trooped in to fill it to near capacity. After we got going we stopped shortly thereafter so Jay could run into a store to buy MORE beer. So we were able to keep drinking on our way to the stadium.

Once arriving Remi was asking around for tickets, but it looked like the cheaper end tickets were all sold out. And the scalpers were selling the side field tickets for $15. Too much! So we actually had to stand it line at the box office to get our tickets. $12. Not bad! Too bad it was the rest of the money I had brought with me.

The game started shortly after we found seats. Most of our group left our little corner to sit closer to the side, but Remi, Martin and I stayed where we were.

The game was awesome! Remi and I were expecting Liga to take a quick lead, simply due to how much more accustomed they were to playing at altitude. But Libertad managed to hold their own. There were a few giant plays that left the crowd on its feet just screaming in frustration at the lack of a goal. Liga definitely held control the entire game, though, despite the 0-0 score. The way they play is just beautiful to watch.

And in the final 20 seconds of the game, they scored! The crowd went wild.

Singing and pounding the drums and even louder singing filled the stadium even after the whistle blew to end the game. I meant to ask Remi what the song was they were singing, but never got a chance. I don't know the lyrics but I am going to keep the tune in my head for days.

So, our group was split up. But we eventually all managed to find each other through the crowds and all 15 people managed to make it on the bus. Some people wanted to keep partying, so the bus went back to La Mariscal to drop folk off. 10 people got off. I was broke, unfortunately, so I continued on back to the hostel.

Best idea ever. Cause I woke up the next morning with a WICKED hangover. In fact, all fifteen of us woke up Friday morning with a hangover. Remi left Friday for Cotopaxi, but at least he was able to wake up early enough that I was able to say goodbye to him before heading to my bed. Even though I suffered all day Friday, the fun that was had Thursday totally made up for it, and was by far my favorite night in Ecuador.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sticking around Quito

Monday, October 31 - Wednesday, November 2

Last week was just a series of me trying to leave Quito and the world saying no, I don't think so!

See, last week was also a series of major holidays. Dia de los Muertos being the biggest up here. And everyone in Quito takes off and goes to the coast, or go to Baños, or Otavalo... all of the places I tried to visit!

So, I woke up early Monday morning and after grabbing a quick breakfast I caught a taxi to the bus station where I could buy a ticket to Canoa. Got there and nope! Only two buses a day, and both buses were full. I could have taken one the next day, but it's an 8+ hour bus ride, and I needed to be back in Quito Thursday night. It really didn't make a lot of sense to me to spend ALL DAY on a bus, get one day somewhere, only to take off and spend all day on a bus again and then head straight to a pub for beers and then a major futbol game!

So no Canoa for me. Which actually amused me, since my original plan for Ecuador didn't involve Canoa to begin with! Besides, I never did manage to get vaccinations for the scary diseases you can catch from mosquitoes, so I had been quietly freaking out about the thought of going somewhere where there is the potential risk of yellow fever or malaria. Mosquitoes don't live this high up here in Quito so no worries here.

Instead I figured I'd join Matt and Laura in going to Mindo for the day on Tuesday. But again... all the buses were full! Eeeeep! Wednesday was the actual Day of the Dead festival in Otavalo. Matt was off hiking with a few people from the hostel so Laura and I decided we'd go to the festival together.

Also, I had plans to go to Otavalo this weekend, so it was nice pre figuring out how to get there!

Well, you have to take one of the metro buses to the end of the line. Then from there transfer to the another bus that takes you to the terminal. There you get people yelling at you to get you to buy tickets for their bus. Once you get to the station it's a piece of cake. The bus leaves every 20 minutes and it's easy as hell to find what you're looking for.

But not Wednesday! On Wednesday, Laura and I arrived at the terminal and we actually had to stop and stare. The line just to get a ticket was probably at LEAST 1.5 or 2 hours long. And after that who knows how long it'd be to actually manage to get on a bus! We were only going for the day, wanting to be back in Quito by dark. So we figured if we stuck around we'd get maybe an hour in Otavalo.

So again no dice. We were laughing as we got right back on the bus we'd just gotten off of. And laughing even more when we showed back up at the hostel and got teased for how many times we'd attempted to leave Quito and failed.

So yeah, I have spent way more time in Quito than I'd planned during this trip. But you know what? I don't mind. I actually love it here. So many of the other people I've met have talked to have hated it here and when they're here they are out again as fast as possible. But me? I know that if I don't go to the airport Tuesday morning and I don't get on that airplane that is supposed to take me home I will never leave. I could stay here forever.

I love the hostel I am in. How easy it is to meet people, how many places there are to hang out and talk or read or play card games. I love how much my thighs and ass are hating me for all the fucking stairs here plus the nasty hill you have to climb any time you leave the hostel to visit the city or get lunch.

I love being surrounded by so much beauty. I think growing up in Alaska I just got so accustomed to living in one of the most beautiful places on earth that after I left I forgot how impressive being around MOUNTAINS can be.

I love sitting on the terrace and being able to look to my right and see the Basilica and look to my left and see other similarly stunning architectural masterpieces. And when walking through the city being always happy to look around me.

I've even come to love Pilsner, one of the two beers you get here.

I love the markets. The bright colors. The cries from the vendors. How soft everything is as you run your hands over the alpaca blankets and shawls. Bargaining and digging through your unused Spanish vocabulary to express what you want or don't want. The smiles from children.

And I love how cheap it is to travel down here. And the joyous thank you receive from the man sitting next to you when you share with him some of your American chocolate w/ peanut butter..

I don't love feeling constantly paranoid that I will be robbed or pickpocketed any time I leave the hostel. But I know that it's not the city, it's not even the majority of the people. Just like any other city around the world.

Oh, another thing I love? South American futbol. And it's killing me that if Liga wins (or draws) their next game I won't be here to see the semi-final match.

There are so many more places around the world for me to visit. But I do know one thing. Some day, I am coming back to Ecuador. And back to Quito. And next time I will expect to stay here for a while and will make plans to take Spanish classes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Zip-lining is both terrifying and exhilerating!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday morning I woke up bright and early... again. :) This entire trip has been like this. Go to bed by around 11pm or midnight at the latest, wake up before the sun rise. It's been like clockwork.

Anyway. I realized that I didn't know which room in the hostel Julien was staying. And he didn't know which tour company we were going to go zip-lining through. So again I am kicking myself for not having these kinds of details worked out ahead of time. I wandered down to the thermal baths to check on my glasses, but no dice. And decided, since I had met Julien upstairs in the hostel's terrace cafe, that maybe I'd eat breakfast there and hope he'd show up there.

As it turns out... he was already there when I arrived! He too was wondering about how late I would sleep in, so had made sure to wake up early just in case because he didn't want to miss me at all.

At 9:30 we went down to the tour company to pay our $25 each for the tour. And then, since we had half an hour to kill, we decided to explore a little bit and just kind of wander around til 10am.

We got an old man driver to take us out to where the zip-line company was. It was only about a 15 minute drive, but what a beautiful morning! We got dropped off at the base of the mountain, and then had to hike up to the company's main house to get our gear. When I saw the gear Mario was putting on Julien I was a bit worried that I'd have to say something. I mean, I am not a small person, so really hoped they'd have gear for someone my size. But I needn't have feared! The harness and gear that got pulled out for me was very secure and they gave things a few extra security precautions that left me feeling very very safe. I knew that no matter what, flying through the canopy would not result in my death. This is a good thing.

However, I did eventually wonder if hiking from platform to platform would result in my death! The altitude was killer, and many of the footpaths and trails were narrow and very very steep. I am so grateful that Julien and our two guides were so patient with me, and I am also glad I had decided to wear my sandals and not my hiking boots that day. I never would have made it if I'd been wearing the boots. Just too heavy.

Some areas we hiked to were spectacular in their beauty. We got led at one point to a waterfall slightly off the path, but worth the visit. I took a photo of Mario and Darwin there.

So, do you remember that my first Friday here I fell and hurt my right pinkie finger? Well, I was definitely reminded of this last Saturday! The hurt finger made it impossible for me to do a few things that turned out to be pretty important in being able to zip-line happily. Such as break and slow yourself down while flying through the air! So my first line was completely terrifying for me! I just kept gaining more and more speed, and try as I might I just couldn't get my right hand to do what I needed it to do to slow me down. Mario and Julien had gone across first, and I see Mario making the pumping hand signal trying to tell me to slow down, but I couldn't, and was completely freaked out.

I got to the end and kind of just flew into Mario, who caught me, and then Julien pretty much comforted me til I was able to get my bearings again. After Darwin came across, I asked them if it would be possible to go tandem for the second line. I was told the second line was much mellower, so I wouldn't go nearly as fast, and it's a lot easier to handle.

It's also I believe the longest of all six of their lines. And because of how nice and mellow it is, my speed ran out entirely mid way through and I got stranded in the middle of the air, dangling over a canyon with no way to push myself forward again because of my stupid finger! So there I am, just hanging and going nowhere, and panic set in. I burst into tears and just lost my cool entirely. This was NOT FUN and fuck it all once I reached solid ground I was done done done done done!

Mario had to come out and rescue me, towing me to the next platform. There, Julien again comforted me (Julien was a rock star through this entire thing!) until I was ready to go on with the assurance that I'd have Darwin going with me for the rest of the lines. Cause really, by this point there was absolutely nowhere for me to go but forward.

Julien had no fear at all. He went superman pose (stomach down, head first), and at one point went butterfly pose (totally upside down). We exchanged our cameras a couple of times in order to get photos of each other. And he had mine when I came down that third line, with Darwin at my back.

As you can see, I enjoyed this one quite a lot more than the first two! In fact, with Darwin at my back I was able to just relax and let the adrenaline flow through me. No worries and no pain from my various injuries. It got harder and harder at the end to stand up once we reached the platforms, because the hiking was murdering me. But holy fuck I did it! I did all six lines, and I was more proud of myself than I think I've ever been before in my life.

I have to tell you, after that adrenaline wore off I was more relaxed than I'd ever been. Every muscle let go and I just wanted to melt into the ground. We got done with the zip lines around noon. Good thing, because I still needed to get back to town and find Ryan... because we were supposed to catch a bus back to Quito together and he was waiting for me so I wouldn't have to bus back by myself!

The rain started right as we were finishing up and then waiting for our driver. What amazing timing, right? I was told that the rain makes the lines run even faster. And I am also sure that they make the hiking even more horrible and impossible. So I didn't mind getting wet while we waited.

Back to Baños a little around 12:30, where I asked the lady at the front desk if Ryan had checked out yet. He had! She said he was looking for me, but knew I hadn't checked out yet, and they wanted to catch a 1:00 bus. Eeeep! I had no idea where to find them, but I hoped they'd come back to the hostel. So I went up the stairs to my room to grab my stuff to check out... and there was Ryan... waiting for me on the stairs! :) What a friend. Apparently Thomas was supposed to have come with us as well, but Ryan lost him. Oh no!

We decided to grab a taxi to the bus station rather than walking, because we had all our stuff with us. And Ryan had a quick errand to run. Turns out Hayden's camera had broken a few days before and he'd dropped it off at a repair shop. It hadn't been finished the night before, and Hayden and Josh had to leave earlier in the day than Ryan and I did. So Ryan offered to go pick it up when it was ready. But when he'd checked earlier the shop wasn't open yet! So he'd already sent Hayden a message that he couldn't get the camera, when in fact, he was able to at this last minute before we got on the bus. We knew Hayden had planned to get a new camera, but we hoped he'd be able to return it or something, now that it was unnecessary.

When we got to the bus station, finding the bus was easy. There is someone there screaming Quito Quito Quito and practically dragging you to where you need to go to buy your ticket and then to your bus. Even though we were both hungry, the bus was leaving in two minutes and we decided to grab that one after all rather than wait for the next one.

When we got on the bus it was pretty empty, so Ryan and I were able to spread out in the very back seat. But it filled up pretty quickly and Ryan made friends with the old man who sat next to him. They had some wonderful conversations about religion and futbol while I daydreamed and stared out the window at the spectacular scenery.

Eventually, we both got pretty tired. And the bus opened up again. So Ryan curled up in his corner to nap while I turned on my iPod and instead of napping again just stared out the window at how amazingly beautiful the world was as we passed through it. I recognized Cotopaxi as we drove around the other side of it. And I took a lot of photos from the open window. Most of them aren't very good, but I did get one great one of Ryan.

I was pretty amazed when we reached the bus station in Quito, because I had had no idea we were there already and I hadn't recognized anywhere we passed. Quito is just so insanely long that it's no wonder since I hadn't had the chance to see that side of town yet. But Ryan and I got our stuff together and after getting our bearings we grabbed a taxi back to the hostel rather than taking the metro bus.

Got back in time to sign up for dinner at the hostel, and I hadn't even been back a full hour when Remi grabbed me and asked what my plans were for Thursday night.

"Well, I'm planning to be in Canoa til Friday," I told him.

"Change your plans." He said. Apparently Liga was playing a big Paraguay futbol club for a major international cup quarter-final match, and he knew I'd want to go with him.

:) Plans adjusted immediately!

The rest of the night was just hanging out with people in the hostel. A huge group of people were dressing up for Halloween parties in New Town, but I wasn't interested in that. So I gave Hayden and Josh and Ryan big hugs and wished them good luck for the rest of their travels. They were all leaving first thing Sunday morning to head to the Galapagos, so I wouldn't be seeing them again.

Me, I just relaxed. And deep down I wondered if I shouldn't have looked harder into getting my bus ticket to Canoa ahead of time. I should have.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Exploring Baños

Friday, October 28, 2011

The tour company I was going to arrange canyoning with said we were going to leave at 1 or 2. I woke up Friday morning and still hadn't heard from the Belgian girls, so was a little concerned. But I got up cheerfully and with the purpose of going out to find breakfast I left the hostel and began to explore the town.

I spent a good two hours that morning wandering around. I would turn a corner and see something else worthy of having a photo taken! Interesting buildings, a sign that amused me, colors that anywhere else should not exist in architecture, hangings and jumpers and hats galore! I bought a couple of braided bracelets from an old man at the corner of the street my hostel was on. I think they're part of the traveler's dress code or something, so I had to have them. One is mostly purple, the other is black and white. I'm quite fond of them! :) The old man spoke no English, but I was able to pick up that his daughter lives in the US... goes to school for music in Chicago and he is very proud of her.

I kept having to remind myself that I am going to Otavalo next weekend. The same things will be there, only for better prices. So I held off doing most of my shopping here in Baños. I walked up and then down a giant hill. Down to the waterfall out next to the thermal baths. The waterfall feeds a long wash station. And I saw two women there with their pile of clothes, scrubbing away in the stone sinks.

There was a lovely park near the middle of the town that I kind of stumbled upon while walking around. It's not the big one right by the main church, but this one had some lovely views and even a treehouse you could climb up and perch in!

"Run this way if the volcano erupts!" I think I loved this sign more than any other I have ever seen. There were other signs, too. "This way for hiking." "This way for swimming." The town knows that it is a huge tourist destination, and the signs are exceptionally helpful in pointing out things to do and places to see.

OMG! The graffiti and murals on walls in Baños are completely amazing! This one just amused me the most, but some of the others were pure works of art (though, the aliens came close to being my favorite). They also really like to splash about how awesome their town is. *smiles*

Just an example of some of the wares people sell all over the place here in Ecuador! Markets everywhere sell just about the same things. I am holding off for Otavalo, though. I want to hit the giant market. (I also don't want to carry around with me piles and piles of awesome stuff!).

Yep, here's the easiest waterfall you can walk to within Baños proper. If you grab a mountain bike or a buggy you can really push out further and see some spectacular scenery. This particular day, most of my group ended up getting the bikes and spent the day exploring that way. I am happier on foot.

And here are those two ladies I mentioned, washing their clothes.

I got back to the hostel around 9:30 and still hadn't eaten breakfast. So I popped up to the Secret Garden dorm room and knocked, to see if anyone there was up (and home!) and interested in joining me for breakfast. Alas, they'd mostly all already left together. So I decided to just go up to the Terrace Cafe and relax up there with my journal.

I ran into Hayden and then Caitlin upstairs as they were returning and then heading back out for various activities. I think it was Caitlin who told me that they'd all made plans to head over to the thermal baths when they got back from their bike ride. So, since I was still going to go to canyoning and didn't know when I'd be back, a note would be left for me downstairs if they'd returned from there already with indication of where they went next.

Still no word from the Belgian girls. I was getting a tad concerned. Really didn't want to go by myself. For one thing, it costs more. For another... it's just not as much fun! So I decided to go out and explore some more. Left a note for Rani that the tour lady wants to confirmation by 1, so I'd be back at the hostel at a quarter til. Then I took off to explore again.

Along the way I ran into Anja, who I think was still recovering from her fall on Wednesday and so was just taking it kind of easy. We heard music out by the big church and went to check it out.

These guys posed for me, and I also got a video of them playing. I'd asked around earlier about all the decorations adorning the town and had found out there was a festival going on. The reason for the festival got lost in translation, but I understood festival! Anja and I got to see part of the parade and enjoyed the smiles being thrown our direction by the crowds around us. The parade wasn't like the kinds of parades you think about here in the states. No floats or giant balloons. Just a lot of people carrying flowers, and at the front a platform with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

At this point I was getting hungry again. And I still hadn't tried cuy... Ecuadorian staple otherwise known as guinea pig! Anja wasn't going to partake in the cuy, but she was willing to look around with me for a place selling some. However, by the time we did find a place I sort of chickened out. I think if I am going to eat cuy I would rather eat it in pieces, not as a whole. I know there a bunch of places that will serve it that way. So I need to explore Quito more in order to find one of them before I leave!

12:45 came around and I went back to the hostel. But still no Rani and Annelies! So I went to tell the tour lady no dice on canyoning, and I went off for a massage and spa treatment, instead! 1.5 hours... full body massage, facial, and pedicure for $20. Ohhhhh man that felt good! The girl giving me the massage was very careful around my poor injured pinkie and the KILLER bruise on my right hip. I think she's probably used to gringos coming in covered in crazy injuries like mine. I mean, come on! The place is famous for all its insane adventure tours, after all! For my pedicure I chose a bright pumpkin orange to paint my toenails, in honor of Halloween. *smiles* I knew the paint job wouldn't last long, anyway. I was wearing close toed sandals and had plans to go to the thermal baths later. But for that brief period it made me giggle happily. :)

Came back to the hostel and got an update on the baths situation. Turns out they close it from 4-6, so we were all going to head over at 6. So I took my computer upstairs and there met Julien, young guy from Holland traveling on his own for six months. He was going the same direction as Caitlin and Anja for the big festival in Cuenca, so I made sure to introduce the three of them so that they could work together to arrange a hostel there (which I'd heard would be a bitch because of the festival). I wrote in my journal, shared a beer with Julien, and generally just enjoyed the quiet time til people began trickling in from their day's adventures. We also met Flora, from Paris, and invited her and Julien both to join us as well for the evening. A few girls Thomas had met before also joined us.

So at 6 it was on to the baths. Josh and Hayden were our experts here, since they'd been there the day before. It's $3 to get in. You get a bin and change into your bathing suit and hand your bin of stuff to the admin office. Take a quick shower, then decide where to go.

Downstairs were two baths. The OMFUCKINGHELLTHISISGOINGTOFUCKINGKILLME hot pool. And the similarly screaming out cold pool. Upstairs (and outdoors) were the big hot tub temperature poor, and the cold swimming pool-style temperature pool. We spent some time downstairs, then most of us went upstairs to soak in the hot pool upstairs. The hot pool was just so hot it was making me sick to my stomach. So coming down a few degrees felt wonderful. The biggest problem I had though were my glasses. The heat made them steam up I couldn't see a damn thing. So I just slid them up on top of my head. Later to be a HUGE mistake.

When a couple of us decided to check out the other cold pool, I couldn't bring myself to just throw myself into the cold water. An old Ecuadorian man had to talk me into it! He even kindly held my glasses for me. He and his friend also made some very nice comments to me about my tattoos. I have been pretty amused. Old men are the only ones to say anything about them to me. But always positive comments.

So here's the order of the pools I experienced. Hot-Cold-Hot-Cold-Warm-Cool-Warm-Cool-Ho
t-Cold. I had my glasses all the way up to that final Hot-Cold section. I have no idea what happened to them during that period, but they disappeared off my head and I didn't notice until I got my stuff and went to get dressed. Anja looked around a bit for me, but no dice. If they got lost in the Hot pool, there would be no finding them. The water is very murky and you can't see. And it's so fucking hot that you have no chance of going in and just diving to the bottom of the pool to feel around for them. BOO! I'd included "spare glasses" on my packing list, but of course I completely forgot them despite having a list. I would come by in the morning to see if anyone found them/turned them in. And would otherwise just be glad that I am not completely blind without them. Things are just a little fuzzy and it'd hard to see details. But I'd be fine.

We all trooped back to the hostel and to showers before decided we'd meet in the Terrace to figure out that night's plans. Conor and Emer had left a note for us downstairs. They'd come by around 7, but since no one was here they went to eat on their own but said they'd be back at 8:30. So we knew to expect them up there and not leave immediately.

Ok, here's part 1 of the group! Flora, Conor, Emer, Hayden, (Alex or Bea), Caitlin, (Alex or Bea), Josh and Thomas.

And Part 2! Ryan, Julien, Ari (not part of the group, but we'd met him in Quito and were hanging out with him that evening), and Anja.

Dinner was to be the Mexican restaurant up the street. More laughter. More stories. We became amused by the poster on the wall with rules for children (no playing with the candles, no playing with the sugar bowl, no going to the bathroom and playing with the water, etc) that didn't say ADULTS couldn't do those things. After playing with the candle and getting my fingers filthy I had to go wash them, and was amused even more by some of the posters and signs in there.

Over all, dinner was delicious and we all managed to finalize plans for the next day. Julien was going to come with me to zip-lining. YAY! 10am. The lady said we'd be back by Noon or Noon:30, so Ryan was going to wait around for me to get back and then he and I would grab an early afternoon bus back to Quito. After dinner they were all going to go out to party again. And again I chose to head in to bed early. Definitely not a night owl. I'm okay with that. I was relaxed, and happy, and excited for my first experience with zip-lines that would happen in the morning!

Secret Garden, Cotopaxi

October 25-27, 2011

There were 10 of us from the Secret Garden who decided to head up to Cotopaxi together Tuesday morning.

Florian - French guy who manages the hostel
Conor and Emer - Irish couple
Ryan - Irish guy
Anja - Dutch
Mack and Elliott - California and Oregon
Hayden and Josh - Australia and the UK

The drive from Quito to Cotopaxi takes about 2 hours, even though they're not that far apart. But to get up to the hostel the road is BAD and involves a shit ton of climbing mountains and my ears popped several times. So the going on that road is very slow.

We got to the hostel around noon, and were warmly welcomed by Alex and Peter, the couple who are currently up there volunteering. Lunch was served pretty shortly after that. Rice and beans dish that was quite tasty, but wasn't as good as the food was talked up to be there. I wasn't thrilled with the food I ate for the most part there, but at the same time it was again really nice to be in a hostel that provided free coffee and drinking water.

After lunch we were shown our cabin. An 8-person dorm. 5 of the 10 who came out together stayed there. There is no electricity out in the cabins. Light is provided by candles in each window, and it is heated at night by a fireplace that is in the center of the cabin. All in all it was very cozy and I got my stuff settled pretty quickly.

Most of our group had decided we wanted to hike out to the waterfall that afternoon. Despite the cold cold cold water, we were mostly all prepared to jump off the waterfall for the free beer that we get if we did so. Though, I would have done it even without the promise of a free beer!

Conor and Emer ready to brave a storm to jump off a waterfall!

However, the weather that afternoon didn't agree with us. Clouds came in, bringing with them a major storm. Rain, hail, thunder and lightning. It cut short all of the activities for the rest of the day, so everybody pretty much just chilled in the common room and out in the hammocks reading, writing, or talking quietly.

See? Can't even see Cotopaxi from the front door.

Mack (writing) is from San Francisco. Hayden (reading) from Perth, Australia.

I spent a lot of time writing in my journal. I also did a bunch of sketching. I felt like that place just fed my soul. It was more serene than anywhere else I have ever been. I know if I'd brought my laptop in I could have done an insane amount of writing. But just reading on my iPhone felt like cheating somehow. I'm glad I braved the rain to run out to my cabin to grab my journal and sketchbook.

I didn't get a great look around that first day due to the rain storm. This is what I woke up to Wednesday morning:

Here, have another view.

Since none of us got to walk up to the waterfall on Tuesday, it was something most of us still wanted to do. However, there were other activities to do as well. And since more than anything I wanted to go horseback riding, I decided at the last minute that I wouldn't join the crowd for the hike.

It's like... I know I am fat and out of shape. I'm the only fat/out-of-shape person I have encountered during my travels. No one else there would have had a problem with a several hour hike. I know I would have slowed them all down, and because we all needed to be back in time to go off for our other activities I decided to stay back and just relax in the morning and let my body be prepared for the horseback riding later on. So I chilled out in a hammock and read, it was marvelous.

Anja was the only other person who wanted to go horseback riding. So when everybody got back from their morning hike, she and I got ready for our day's adventure exploring the plains. With Peter as guide, we got going right around 10am.

From the start, it wasn't a good ride. The stirrups they had on my horse didn't fit my feet properly, and I never was able to get my feet decently secured in them. And I was wearing my hiking boots, so the angle that caused my ankles to get stuck was very painful and there was nothing I could do. Add in that both mine and Anja's horses weren't behaving very well and it was a recipe for disaster or near disaster.

When my horse took off in a gallop at one point she was very hard to rein in. I was terrified of falling off. I'd already gotten injured once this trip, I really didn't want a second fall! But as it turns out, it wouldn't be me to get knocked off her horse. Anja was lucky that she got dumped into a ditch... it was a softer fall than the road would have been and she was able to kind of roll down the hill rather than hit the ground squarely. Bumps and bruises were the worst of her injuries, though her side would ache for the rest of the time she and I traveled together. I understand how that feels.

To top it off, her horse took off after dumping her. Went running off down the road. Somebody came by and was able to catch the horse for us (guy who owns the horses, I later found out), and gave Anja a lift back to the hostel. Peter and I had to call it quits and ride back, too. Didn't even make it to the gate... maybe 45 minutes tops. Riding back I was extra careful and kept my horse constantly reined in so she wouldn't take off running. I could tell she wanted to.

When we got back, Anja and I decided we both could use a soak in the jacuzzi. At the highest point of the sprawling hostel they had a stunning roofed in jacuzzi with stunning views. I didn't want to get my camera wet, so no photos. But man... Anja and I soaked in that tub for about 2 hours. Til all of our aches eased up and we could move again. My poor ankles were solid bruises. We both took hot showers after that and chilled and relaxed some more while we ate lunch and waited for others to come back in.

The first group back were the Irish... Conor, Emer, and Ryan. This cracked me up... they come back and Ryan is all "We saw a dead guy coming back down the mountain!" He has a very thick Irish accent. I mean, all three of them do, but he's from Belfast and his accent was much stronger than the Dubliners.

"A dead guy? What the fuck?" I was completely shocked at how calm they all were.

"No, a dead guy!" Ryan replies to me.

"A what?"

"A guy!"

"Wait... spell this for me. What are you saying?"

"A dead guy. C-O-W."

"COW! A dead COW!"

Oh my god, I couldn't believe how hard I laughed at this. I think I am going to be asking every Irish person I meet for a while to say "C-O-W" for me, just to listen for the differences in accents.

Now the other group was back, and six of us decided to go up to the jacuzzi. Another hour and a half, playing with bath toys, telling stories, laughing with friends, and generally just having a grand time. I didn't want to get out, but I was quite prune-ish at this point and figured it was time I dried off and got back into some warm clothes. Another evening was spent hanging out reading, relaxing, and talking with friends.

I wrote the above section yesterday before my internet crapped out on me. There were several notes I wanted to add, but I have since forgotten. So instead here some of the dogs who live up at the hostel. Here are Milo and Mesh:

So as it turns out, a large group of us were all planning to head from Cotopaxi to Baños on Thursday. But a few people really wanted to still hike up to the glacier of the volcano, so they wouldn't be able to leave until mid-afternoon. Since I had no vested interest in arriving in Baños early, I told Ryan I'd take the bus down with him in the afternoon, while the others left in the morning. But then suddenly things got flipped, and the majority of the group chose to take it easy that morning and we were going to hire a car to drive us directly to Baños for $70. Split that 7 ways and it's a pretty decent price.

The funny part is that none of us had a place booked to stay in Baños, we were all just planning to wing it once we got there. But I'd gotten a recommendation from a place from a couple of people, so my group volunteered me to call the place Thursday morning to see if we could book everyone into it for the next two nights, so we could stick together. Plantas y Blanca... "Plants & White?" had room for 7 (Conor and Emer were going to look for some place quieter). And cheap! $7.50 for a dorm, and $11 for a private room. With reservation in hand, we were all set to go.

For this trip we lost Mack and Elliot and Florian, but we picked up Caitlin from Australia and Thomas from Switzerland (who up until then had been recovering from his climb to the summit of the volcano the day before). Also, Josh and Hayden decided to take the morning bus, so it was just going to be seven of us for the afternoon transport.

The morning was super quiet. I read, wrote in my journal, and played a couple games of Chess with Thomas. I won the first game, he won the second. We were both quite rusty.

Our transport was scheduled to arrive at 3. And the final group of hikers got back around 2:30. Just enough time to snatch lunch and a shower and get all packed.

Onward to Baños

Now... for the 10 of us coming from Quito to Cotopaxi, we had a big van with seats for everyone. I was expecting something similar for the ride to Baños. But no. It was a pick-up truck with a cover over the bed. Thomas and the other three girls sat in the cab. Conor, Ryan and I got the back of the truck. *laughs* At least we had a row of rucksacks to lean up against, otherwise it would have been quite miserable. And the driver gave us a couple of cushions to sit on, but any time we moved the cushions slid down, so we were constantly having to hoist ourselves up and have someone reach under us to pull the cushion back under our ass.

That's a fucking terrible picture of me, but I wanted you to see just how tightly squeezed we were back there! For a 3 hour drive though, we managed to have a lot of fun. Ryan kept us entertained with music and bad jokes. We all told stories. We wished we had bubbles (or "boobles", as Emer pronounces them) so we could blow them out the back window. We had a wave competition that Conor won in spades (wave at passing cars and pedestrians and see how many will wave back). Spending that much time with a couple of Irish guys, I have picked up several words that are now coming fairly naturally to me. Rucksack, jumper, and petrol. I refuse to call a sidewalk a footpath, though. It's a damn sidewalk!

Shortly after our drive started it started to rain, and the wind flap for the back window was still rolled up! So the guys had to quickly figure out how to get it unrolled, but then we couldn't secure it. So I just kept one of my feet on the corner and we kept ourselves mostly warm and dry for the drive. Before it got dark and we lost the ability to see, we did pass by what Conor described as "The world's most miserable parade."

We got to Baños right around 7pm. Got checked into the hostel just fine. Josh and Hayden had left us a note that they'd gone to the baths and would meet us up at the Terrace Cafe at 7:30. The way we got split up is that I got the private room, while everyone else was in the dorm. I'm not a night person, though, so it was nice to have my own quiet space for a few days.

After we all settled in, we went up to the cafe for a cerveza and waited for the others. Josh and Hayden had seen Conor and Emer, but they were still looking for a place and said to go to dinner without them. A guy at the hostel recommended an Italian place around the corner, so I left a note for Conor and Emer as to where we were and we all headed out.

My day ended shortly after dinner. A bunch of them wanted to get more beers and party some, but I was ready for bed. Anja was also pretty beat, and Hayden had Spanish class in the morning so he walked us girls back to the hostel and we called it a night.

I sent an e-mail to the Belgian girls I'd met in Quito who I had hopes of meeting up with on Friday to go canyoning with, and sleep came quickly. It had been a great couple of days.