A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

I´m not a celebrity, don´t get me out of here

overcast 18 °C

Quito is just a distant memory now and I´ve since teamed up with 9 other intrepid explorers. We headed to Otavalo to see the "famous" markets ( no I had never heard of them either) and a chance to try our bartering skills. I was nearly tempted to buy a couple of things but I know how souvenirs have a habit of transforming themselves into hideous pieces of tat as soon as you get them home.

Pretty street light in Otavalo

The next day we endured two long bus rides and a river boat trip to reach our lodge in the Amzon jungle. Our accommodation was surrounded by lush green foliage, spiders that were the size of my hand, set to a chorus of insects and frogs. The "rain" forest lived up to its name as we hadseveral torrential downpours hard enough to make Noah consider building another Ark.

Amazon Red Funnel Ferry service

It´s the Amazon (but you can´t order books here)

Of all the things I expected to learn in the Amazon, the rules of contract Bridge were not one of them. With little to occupy us in the evenings myself and another volunteer came under the tutorledge of two other travellers from the UK who are veterans of the game. It seems bridge requires a fair amount of brain power, something I forgot to pack...........

Our last day in the Amazon involved river tubing down the river Napo, which just involves sitting inside an inner tube and floating downstream, followed by a visit to a local Quechuan family to stay how they live and have a christmas dinner with them. The evening started well enough as I watched the men playing football, the children running around having fun whilst the women prepared the food. It was when a large bowl of beetle larvae were introduced to the menu I begin to have my doubts. They were about the size of a thumb and as I watched one of the women removing their inners she then threw them into another bowl where they writhed around whilst a yellow substance oozed from within. Yum yum, I could hardly wait. Still, when in Rome etc.... so I swallowed my pride and a couple of grubs (once they had been cooked of course, I´m not THAT mad!) Crunchy, smoky and full of protein is about as descriptive as I can get. Our tour guide made a slight blunder when she decided to wash her hands in, what she thought was a bowl of water, but turned out to be a bowl of lemongrass tea for everyone to drink. We decided it would be better not to tell anyone, ignorance is bliss and all that.

Christmas lunch, Quechuan style with a grub surprise within the leaves.

Well we´ve left the jungle behind and another couple of bus journeys later I am now in a town called Banos (pronounced Banyos). It is the adventure capital of Ecuador, with all sorts of activities to do. This morning I went canyoning, which is basicaly walking down a river with the occasional bit of abseiling and leaping into water pools. The local volcano is rumored to be active again so I may be going to see that tonight (from a distance of course), although I did consider taking a couple of potatoes to see if I could make supper while I was there.

View from the hotel in Banos (mistle murkle)

Next stop is a couple of days away, in the city of Cuenca.

Posted by esotericmind 13:21 Archived in Ecuador Tagged amazon banos Comments (0)

Quito, A Tale of Two Ciudads

semi-overcast 18 °C
View South American Odyssey on esotericmind's travel map.

I´m not normally a nervous flyer, but on the flight to Ecuador, the woman sat next to me performed the Catholic holy trinity action no less than 3 times before we were about to take off. I wondered if she knew something I didn´t. Similarly, after the wheels finally hit the ground in Ecuador a round of applause echoed through the cabin. It seems the saftey of air travel in this part of the world is left, not to the professionals that fly them, but to more spiritual beings.........

Quito is divided into what is known as the Old town and the New town. The New Town consists of mainly concrete buildings, of dubious build quality, not much character and choked with traffic. The Old town, by contrast, retains its oringinal colonial influence and is full of plazas and more interesting architecture. Various Latin music belches out of different shops and I´m pleased I didn´t rush to judge Quito on the New town alone.

I did take a couple of unremarkable pictures but the computer at the hotel is an eMac (no, not an iMac) and I have no idea how to transfer them. The one thing I didn´t get a picture of was of some of the local electrical stores. Alongside the usual fare of fridges, washing machines and TV´s, you can also purchase a motorbike! I´m sure this seems perfectly logical to the Ecuadorians but I cound´t see the connection.

I did try to venture up to the towering Angel statue that over looks the old town, but on setting out on the long climb up the hill I spotted a sign sprayed onto a wall in English stating "TOURISTS BEWARE: Robbery Area. Do not use this street". How efficient I thought, they have contained their crime into a single street. Needless to say I did not venture any further.

Unbelievably, despite the low temperatures (about 18 degress) and cloudy skies, I have managed to get sunburned AGAIN! Apparently the sun´s strength is 3 times more powerful at this altitude. Really must learn my lesson soon, although my face is now colour co-ordinated with my red fleece.

I suspect that internet coverage will be more patchy from now on, so my next post may be a while....

Posted by esotericmind 15:02 Archived in Ecuador Tagged quito Comments (3)

All hail to Bertie Bassett

sunny 25 °C

Imagine my surprise when I came across this shrine to the confectionery icon that is the Liquorice Allsort. However, it appears my adoration of this sugary deity was not shared at all. It was just a boring sculpture adorned with a light at the type, but to me it will always be Bertie's......

So I survived my visit to downtown Miami. Not much in the way of unique sights with the exception of this rather cool drawbridge that crosses the river through the city. Perhaps I've watched too much television, but I fully expected to see a car come flying across the ramp, shortly followed by Police cars driven by inept police men and faltering at the top of the ramp. Disappointingly, this did not happen.

A stroll out to an area called "Little Havana" quickly left me feeling out of my comfort zone, as the buildings all had bars on them, there was detritus everywhere, and some of the locals began eyeing me suspiciously. I decided now was not a good time to practice my Spanish in case I said something that might end up with a knife coming in my direction.

Despite a vice like grip on my budget, I managed to prise $27 out of my wallet to take a boat trip around Miami. While it was nice to get on the water, the tour quickly turned into a game of "guess who mansion that was". This quickly became tedious, but anyone that has $20 million or more to spend on property clearly has too much money.

In the area I'm staying in there's three main pastimes to occupy tourists: Beach, Nightclubs & Shopping. Since I'm not a particular fan of any of these, I'm not sorry to be moving on tomorrow. I've had a go at this thing called 'relaxation', but it's proving to be more difficult than I first imagined. Still, the beach is great for walking and thinking. Look at the size of this thing:

Here's a couple of the more colourful Lifeguard towers:

For you all Art Deco fans here's a couple of buildings on Ocean Drive:

For those who don't want to read the full blog, here's a potted summary of my short stay in Miami:

Went on Beach
Got sun-burned
Stole a newspaper from Starbucks
Found out where Gloria Estefan lives
Got sun-burned, again
Discovered I need to drink water more often in hot climates
Tried my first (and last) mojito. (A previous bad experience of rum came back to greet me)

Next stop: Quito, Ecuador

Adios amigos (see, I'm fluent already)

Posted by esotericmind 13:06 Archived in USA Tagged art ocean drive miami deco Comments (1)

Miami, formerly in North America

overcast 21 °C

The more astute among you may have realised that Miami is not, in fact, in South America. This was part
of my cunning plan to begin acclimatising myself to the Latino culture before actually getting there. Spanish
is so widely spoken here it doesn`t feel like other parts of the US.

So my first day in Miami started with breakfast on the beach, which is huge by the way. It must be wider
than the M25 and, strangely, has plenty of traffic whizzing up & down it in the form of tractors
quad bikes & trucks.

Ocean Drive has some amazing examples of the famous art deco architecture, pictures to follow later,
ut my favourite sight of the day was a lady out walking her two small dogs. Except, only she was doing
the walking, the dogs were content to be wheeled along in their own push-chair.......

South Beach is very colourful and full of 'shiny happy people' but it feels a bit fake and not how the real
Miamians (just made that word up) live their life. So tomorrow I'm off to downtown Miami for a slice of reality,
and possibly a reminder of what gunshots sound like.

Posted by esotericmind 18:32 Archived in USA Tagged beach south miami Comments (0)

South America, or bust.....

overcast 8 °C

Trekking in the South Hampshire Amazon

Trekking in the South Hampshire Amazon

So here I am trekking in my back garden. Surprisingly, The New Forest isn't that similar to South America, but it served the purpose of reminding myself how much fun it is lugging 12kg around on your back.

Packing has been completed:
Clothes -Check
Money - Check
Youthful exuberance - Umm, I had it a minute ago. Typical, you think of thought of everything and then you remember at the last minute that you've overlooked something. Oh well, I shall pack some middle-aged optimism instead. It doesn't go quite as far, but should get me by.

Next stop: Miami Beach (The bad news is it's only around 25 degrees there at the moment.)

Posted by esotericmind 12:54 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (3)

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