photos at bottom of page (text that refers to a photo is followed by o)
During July, the kids continued weekly volunteering at the school, teaching English to the kids there, as well as keeping up with their school work. We completed another 20 lesson segment and had a couple of days off before the 4th. Time was spent kayaking o, playing ball, reading, beading, sleep-overs, running around on land with all the animals and a day spent in town with another family at a local museum. We also had fun making pupusas (El Salvadorean food) with some friends. On the 4th, there were festivities planned in town to celebrate. We went in and helped set up and prep for a big BBQ in a local park o. Lots of locals came out also to partake of the the hamburgers and hot dogs. Afterwards there were fireworks and water balloon fights. A good time was had by all! Our family was also on the front page of the local paper with pictures and everything in an article about Independence day and what it means to us. The next couple of days were getting ready for our next inland trip. We were going up to the Ecuadorian Andes to see some towns that were recommended. Bussing it in Ecuador is different than in Peru. All the buses are local buses also known as "chicken buses", that is there are no real tourist class buses (no toilets). Even though you have seats reserved does not mean that you actually get to sit in them or even get to sit together or even get to sit. Getting anywhere took a series of buses, but no problem, as soon as you get off of one bus, then next one is already pulling away from the terminal and you are literally running to catch it. The first day was 10 hours and 4 buses long, but really not too bad. We spent the night in a cute town called Latacunga and had a fun local dinner. The next day was just 2 buses and 2 hours to get to our destination of Banos. This is a cute mountain town with several hot springs. It is very oriented to tourists and is a major destination for tourists in Ecuador. There are great restaurants and many cute hostals to choose from. We found one that was one block from the waterfall/hot springs o. It was brand new and only $7.50 per person. We got two rooms, each with a nice private bathroom. There was hot water and free internet. It was a great home away from home. While in Banos we went to the local zoo which had been recommended. The animals were very friendly and well cared for o. It was about a mile outside of town and we had a nice walk up in the rain. This area of the mountains is almost always rainy for at least part of the day. The next day we went to the local church for a look at the museum that is in the upper floors. They had quite the variety of items, from mementos of miracles attributed to the virgin of the healing waters to taxidermied animals of all kinds. Also a collection of baptismal gowns and wedding dresses. We visited two of the mineral hot springs around town and had some nice soaks in the yellow, mineral rich waters while gazing at the waterfall. We decided to do a 4 hour horse back ride up a very steep mountain (instead of hiking it) o. It rained all day and was very steep, rocky and treacherous. We were exhausted just from the stress of it, let alone the hours on horseback! There was some beautiful scenery along the way and at the top was a great swing that we all had fun on o. Because of the rain and the clouds, we never did see the active volcano that continually threatens the town. Another popular thing to do here is to take an open air truck with seats to see all of the waterfalls along one section of road o. There is so much water flowing through these mountains! We took a cable car ride across one of the gorges o. It was really fun and actually more exciting than it looks. We had some delicious snacks along the way, roasted corn on the cob and roasted plantains (cooking bananas) stuffed with cheese o. We caught a bus to our next stop, which was the town of Tena in the Amazon region. We visited a small town along one of the major rivers that flows into the Amazon and spent a couple of hours playing in the river o. The next day we made our way outside of town and up a dirt road to an amazing swimming hole that we had heard about. It was so beautiful, we had a great time there swimming and relaxing o. We wanted to go on an exciting rafting trip, but it was not to be. We arranged to go on a class IV river, but the night before, it rained hard all night long and the river was too high. They loaded us all into the van and we went to check it out o. One of the guides had to run a couple of miles down a dirt road to take a look, and when he came back, they said no go. Oh well, better safe than sorry. We packed up and headed back to Banos to begin our trip back to the coast. We had a couple of other cute mountain towns that we wanted to check out. This was our funniest bus ride. The bus was so crowded with at least four times as many people as there were seats for. Finally, the driver stopped stopping even though there were people waiting for the bus. We were just happy to have seats! On the buses, at nearly every stop, there are vendors who go on and off the bus selling all different types of food and drink. We indulged and got a snack and that night we all had food poisoning. Now really, after three full years of traveling and eating whatever was at hand we have been pretty lucky, but that night we were not feeling so lucky! We ended up resting up in Banos for a couple of days and skipping some of what we had wanted to do. We returned to Bahia by a different route and it was very beautiful, but windy and slow going. On these buses we saw the most varied assortment of animals so far, llamas, pigs, chickens, were all loaded on top, underneath and in with the passengers o. Again the bus transfers were as quick as could be, not even time to pee or get something to drink! We were so happy to arrive home to our own beds and bathrooms! The pets were also very happy to see us return. We think that because of the food poisoning, our immune systems were down and we ended up getting a couple of other bugs also. Some belly amoebas and bad colds. Like I said before though, for all the traveling that we have done in some very third world spots, we really have done pretty well in the illness department so we can't complain too much. If you have to be sick, it sure is nice to be back home! As soon as we returned we began our last 20 lesson segment of school for the year. We are all so ready for school to be done. It has been nice to take breaks in the middle, but it makes school seem to go forever. We all went to the dentist and got our teeth cleaned and are taking care of things that we want to have done before we go back to the states next month. There is so much to think about, all of the things that we need to do on the boat before we leave, and all of the things that we need to do in the states. The list seems never ending.
Please click to enlarge!
Fourth of July in Bahia de Caraquez, kayaking and community BBQ
Scenes from Banos, Ecuador- The public laundry station, waterfall, fresh cane juice, taffy pulling, a critter getting pets at the zoo, our rainy volcano horse ride, roasting cuy
The waterfall trip- along the gorge there are several large waterfalls, a cable car ride across one of the falls, beautiful scenery, some roadside foods along the way
Mishuali near Tena, Fletcher makes a friend, in the midst of the Amazon region, Dana going tropo
Secret spot near Tena, beautiful river grotto, Fletcher getting into the swing of things, two friends we made along the way, playing in the river and cave
Our aborted river trip, scenes in the Ecuadorian Andes along the way