Backpacks and Broken Spanglish

Just wanted to update and share a little about my current South American adventure. I’m currently writing from Cusco, Peru about a month into traveling.

To make a long story short, I left Quito and first went to the Ecuadorian coast, then back up into the Andes, and finally to the beautiful center of Vilcabamba. Next it was off to Peru for a quick stop in the far north for some spicy, street vendor cebiche al pescado, a 22 hour bus ride to the capital of Lima, and then another 24 hours to Cusco. Cusco, as you probably know, was the capital of the Inca empire and now the jump-off point for the ridiculously popular gringo mecca of Macchu Pichu. I forewent this Disneyland of South America for the Sacred Inca Valley and some less known (read: way cheaper) Incan sites–which I found quite spectacular.

Following are some snapshots from the journey, which has mainly included hitchhiking to unknown destinations, sleeping in tents, couchsurfing, long long bus rides, and lots of Spanglish haggling. Really, not the worst way to spend a summer….

Mompiche, Ecuador: small fishing town, providing a good look at the country’s costal life251210_10100359131185122_1970710_n

We stayed with a local family who welcomed us to use their kitchen and share comida, a lovely experience and great example of the how open Ecuadorian culture can be
Montañita, Ecuador: my second trip to this popular (and backpacker-overloaded) beach town, where I nearly bailed and went home. Fortunately sights like the following helped me remember why I came and why I should continue to stay
Los Friales, Ecuador:  an Ecuadorian National Reserve, where you walk for an hour or so to the beach, then climb a bit to the lookout point…never once encountering another soul
lunch at the mirador, and a perfect picture capturing the food I ate for about 2 weeks straight from Ecuador to Peru
Cuenca, Ecuador:  Back into the Andes to this colonial town, with an array of well-preserved museums and the only Inca ruins in Ecuador called Incapirca.
(*note: it was very very cold, hence the non-smile)
Vilcabamba, Ecuador: This city is known for having the most people over 100 in the world…perhaps the Fountain of Youth?  Well, at the very least, one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I have ever been. I actually made a humble offer on a house here, where we would work the store downstairs for free rent!
Lima, Peru: For me, this is just another big SA city, strikingly reminiscent of Quito. But, I am also sick of living in a big, dirty city (or wait, aren’t all big cities dirty and overbearing?). Anywho, my favorite takeaway was the lovely Museum of Pre-Colombian-Inca Art and Culture==totally worth the 30 soles entrance fee!

Cuzco, Peru:  Expensive as Peru==especially Cuzco==is, June is Fiestas de Cusco, and many of the real treasures of the city and culture have been just simply out on the streets

Well, my backpacking has come to an end (for now). Today I purchased my tickets onwards to Chile, and leave for Santiago in a few days. I am moving there with a few potential teaching jobs (and a positive attitude), hoping to make it work. Chile and Argentina have been my South American goals since the get-go, so I am really excited for this next chapter.

Missing everybody back home, and who knows, could be seeing you all very soon!  Wish me luck, besos a todas.

Volcán Cotopaxi

Volcán Cotopaxi

Last thing to check off my list for things to do in Andean Ecuador: camping in Parque Nacional Cotopaxi.  Cotopaxi is the 2nd highest active volcano in South America.  It is covered in snow and breathtaking.  The total trip cost me $4.75….camped and hitched rides in.  Absolutely no one was there, and it felt like a surreal dream world with the volcano, wild horses, lakes, rolling clouds, the empty spaces…..hard to describe but maybe some pictures will help.  enjoy family and friends, because I know I sure did. 

Our picnic of avocado and chifles.  and rum?

morning clouds rolling.  freezing but beautiful
waiting out the rain in our surprisingly warm tent…i bought it primarily for the beach, so the fact that it survived the wind and rain at the base of the 2nd highest altitude volcano in South America, gives me confidence!
wild horses
high iron content spring near the lake (i think)
lake and volcano
hitching home

disfrutando los ultimos dias del Ecuador

Welp, counting down my last days here in Ecuador.  I have about 3 weeks or so of teaching left here in Quito, then I am getting things all organized so that I can take off to Colombia for a short trip (about 2-3 weeks).  After that its back here then a wandering hitchhiking trip through Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.  I will ultimately end up in Santiago, Chile where I will look for new teaching opportunities.   More on that move later.  For now, here are some of my final amazing sights from Quito!
Stovetop in my home in Guapulo….the most beautiful and oldest barrio in Quito
only problem with Guapulo is that its not the easiest to get out of………hence hitching rides pretty much daily
mmmmm llapinachos
awesome food market in a town called Lataguna.  its great because its huge and as of yet undiscovered by ANY tourists.  Me encanta
every or any part of the pig
delicious legumbres
hungry baby munchin
the hostel/home of the indengous family who knows me fairly well by now.  it isnt very common to return to the very very small and isolated town of Quilatoa twice
and………..i’m back for more of the beautiful Lago
young indegenous children herding sheep on the hills of an extinct volcano lake.  every thing i suppose
we hiked around the rim (6 hour hike) this time instead of going down to the water.  breathtaking
dinner of flaming tuna and beer in our freezing cabin.  oh and a bouquet of sorts as well 🙂
i love love love his look

Lake Quilotoa

Lake Quilotoa is a crater filled lake, formed about 800 years ago when the volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself.  It is the northern-most of Equador’s Andean volcanoes, and filled with minerals, giving it its beautiful color.  You can hike around the rim, about a 6-7 hour hike, or down to the bottom, which is about 3 hours.  There’s camping and boats, and a small town of the same name with nothing more than a hostal or two and very small basic indigenous family homes.  Not yet a well known site, you get most of this town and place to yourself and the locals.  One word………surreal.

Lake Quilatoa from the rim
indigenous children on a field trip
Young local girls in velvet skirts, high stockings, and heels…..hiking.  amazing
Hanging  around the stove with the family

Papallacta Day Trip

Papallacta is about an hour outside of Quito, known primarily for its natural Thermal baths.  Although we chose to forego them for the hiking, waterfalls, and breathtaking views!

rule in Ecuador……when you hear a dog barking, look to the roof first.  most likely place he will be
this dog led us all the way to the thermals, quite the tour guide