Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good quote for travel

... good quote to live by, too!

Thanks, Patti!

"It simply wouldn't be an adventure worth having if there weren't any dragons." -- from the book Simple Abundance


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

more on Quito

For those who've asked for more info on Quito, interesting article.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

some good links (coast and more)

(We'll keep adding to this list... so we can refer to them later for the next time...)


For Jan -- shots recommended

Jan, more on our conversation last night on the recommended shots...a good site for other info, too.

Also check the CDC site.

We got all the shots, except the rabies.

Thanks for the great visit! We had a wonderful time.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More about 'cuy' (KOO-EEE)

Cuy means guinea pig... an important protein staple for, originally, the indiginous peoples...roasted whole, head and feet and all.

Carlos says it's delicious. Edy says it's nasty. Edy says it tastes like strong rabbit.

No, we didn't try it.

There are restaurants that serve only cuy... cooked about a zillion different ways. Popular places.


Monday, February 11, 2008

What we'll do next time / notes

I'm just listing some reminders for us... which could help those who are planning, too.......

For next trip:

--Galapagos islands. We'd fly, rather than take the 600 mi boat trip.... you might need to book the trip before getting there as the waiting list is long... $100 entry fee. The airports have special rules for what you can take, too, with their own baggage/security areas. We're thinking of doing a tour for this, could be easier than trying to arrange ourselves.

-- highlands, llamas/alpacas/yarn -- check the volcano activity first.

-- more Cuenca, more coast

--Ecuator monument

--Buy more of those wonderful shawls!

--Visit the Panama hat factories in Cuenca

--See more Quito (beyond old town and the mall)
--Maybe a jungle trip? B/R stayed on a floating hotel...
--re-visit the ikat studio (on, hopefully, a dye day)
--get more pics of the rivers in Cuenca

--More buzz off/tropics clothing, see online shops like
--remember the sunscreen...don't forget to really layer it on if you have a window seat on the plane! Remember the sunhat, too.
--We overpacked... not knowing what we can buy there. If in Quito, and even in some places on the coast, you'll find the more main-stream vitamins, aspirin, hand lotion, clothing, etc
--bring your 100% DEET for the coast... you can find at WM, or hunting/travel shops
--hotels can arrange tours/drivers who speak english
--visit Banos, if the volcano behaves
--Bring motion sickness stuff, if you're prone... those elastic bracelets with the beads are great! Your doc can also perscribe patches, but we didn't need those.......ginger helps, too.

--Hotels:: we stayed at Sheraton 4 points Quito -- suites are nice, some have full kitchens and laundry facilities, but bring/buy your own laundry soap. Everyone speaks English.
Oro Verde hotel in Cuenca -- reminded us of old European hotels with lots of wood and older baths. Staff speaks some English. It's on the edge of town though. No water the day we were there. Construction next door. (Note to us: find hotel closer to town)
--Remember... water and power turn off peridically, for whatever reason, even in the 'good' hotels

--drink more beer! Pilsner brand is delish!

-- high altitude tea -- called mate/coca.... works like a charm! You might be able to buy in Quito (and maybe the coast)

(Denver's altitude is 5,280 feet. Quito is at 9,200 FT; Cuenca is at 7,650 feet.
Typical flight is at about 8000 ft.)

--doublecheck meds... farmacia didn't have bp pills for R and, with the trip dates changed, we forgot to refill for the trip.

--probiotics and electrolite mix -- we got meds from the farmacia, He gave us Floritil and buscapina which seemed to halt the symptoms. Pretty good deal at five bucks for the course.
It was probiotics and replacing the electolytes when we were sick... You can find traveler's pills (the probiotics) in the health food section of Fred Meyer and the electrolite mix online, magellans,com, I think. The electrolyte stuff at the farmicia is horrible tasting! Or, just buy lemons/limes for your bottled water. (add sugar? add salt? Not sure.)

--Do not use the tap water! Bottled water only. Or, go for distilled, if available. Pack an extra toothbrush for those times you'll forget and run it under the tap... Yu can find water purification pills online to pack, or go for a water purification filter to pack (also online or sport stores)

--laundry soap (instead of hotel shampoo, bar soap, body wash...which I used in a pinch)

--if you do side-trips from Quito... leave main luggage at hotel storage. Makes the side-trip, especially if you fly in country, much easier because of the weight limitations. Remember: weight that is ok on Continental may not be ok on the smaller airlines.

--pack your patience... breathe more... pack your very best Spanish, too

Stuff to take to Bob and Rox, next time:
--wrapping paper/ribbon! None in the stores... Funny story: I helped Rox wrap the wedding gift... she used white computer paper, white baby yarn from my stash, and she cut out tin foil bells...very cute! The gifts for us were wrapped in handmade, hand decorated paper... Rox is an artist! Very cute reindeer! Come to think of it... forget the wrapping paper, Rox's art is so much more creative than the store bought kind!
--check to see about what meds, bandages, etc they might need
--more books! check with them for a list...
--if you drink gin, you'll want to bring a bottle from the duty free shop (not available near B/R's)

I know we have more pics from the first stop in Quito... we'll post those later. I think Rich found those on the computer...


Camouflage colors

This will be interesting for Ellen and those who have had these discussions as we craft for the USA military...

The USA military uses 'digital camo'... and most of today's soldiers don't like jungle camo (the green, brown, black combo) as the combo reminds the soldiers of their 'parents' war'...BUT, jungle camo is still the norm for the Ecuadorian military uniforms and planes. Gee, I wonder why!

Also saw a black/grey camo for the police in Quito and a bright blue/white camo for the police in one of the small towns... No pink camo anywhere! And, no desert camo...


Sunday, February 10, 2008

A belated mucho gracias to Bob and Rox!

Sorry about the delay in thanking B/R for the wonderful addition to the birthday day...

Bob took the trouble to wire $ into our account so we could have that fancy dinner, wine and an extra-gooie dessert! We had one of the best steaks in Ecuador, wonderful tasty veggies, too.

The dessert you see in the pics is called a wet chocolate cake..... 'wet' from almond liqueur, lots of choc sauce, candied cherry on the top (and b'day candles). Just delish!

Such a nice end to the perfect day!

Thanks so much, you 2!! You're the best!

Love, N

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Return to Quito from Cuenca and on home to USA

Feb 5th we took the local Tame Airlines flight back to Quito. On the way, we passed near Mt. Tungurahua, the name means "throat of fire" and it is active. There was heavy cloud cover at the time. However, you could see ash and smoke pushing through. That night it blew up. Some of the farmers near the volcano were killed along with livestock and distruction to crops. Thousands of acres were covered in ash. Experts said a larger explosion was expected on the order of the one in 1999. The winds continued to blow the discharge in a westerly direction for a couple of days, away from a popular tourist town of Banos. Thousands have been evacuated.

Although this next one is inactive, it is still impressive from the air.

Coming into Quito.

We took a Continental flight on Feb 7th to Houston on our first leg home. The seating is close together with little leg room. So ask for bulkhead seating or upgrade to 1st class if you are able.

At the very least, get out of your seat regularly to exercise your legs. About 4 plus hours to Houston. There is about a 6 hour wait in Houston for the final leg to Portland. There is usually a plane change as well. The final leg to Portland is about 5 1/2 hours.

Remember, all Ecuador airports have baggage security. No one can just walk in and take your luggage. The only exception was Portland. Late at night, no security for your bags and it is close to an exit.

A word about security and procedures on the return trip from Ecuador to the USA. I believe the US pays for a certain amount of screening on the Ecuador side. For most international flights, the airlines suggest getting to the airport 2 hours before your scheduled departure. Our flight was to leave at 7:15AM. We had a 3:30AM wake-up. Checked out at 4:30AM and took the 5AM shuttle to the airport. There are (5) five different lines, or queues, you will be treated to before getting to the final boarding lounge.

First line or queue, check your baggage. The folks in front of us must have left their hotels on the 4:30 shuttle. It took us over one hour to get through that line and get our bags checked in. Any bag over 52 lbs, (Continental Airlines) you will pay for overage. Over 72lbs, it can't go on the plane or you un-pack right there and balance the weight with your other baggage. Many passengers in front of us had to do this.

Second line, or queue is for the purpose of paying an "exit tax". The kicker here it must be paid in "cash" only. We thought we would just hit an ATM when we got to the "duty-free" zone which is located after you get through all screening. We only had about $90 cash on us, the tax was $82. Time: Fifteen (15 ) minutes, this line went fast.

Third line, or queue is for "Customs and Immigation". It is extremely important you have all the right papers. In particular, when you enter the country, you get a receipt as you go through customs. It is a carbon-like tear out that looks like a laundry receipt or a Walmart receipt you might throw in the glove compartment. Suggestion: guard this little yellow piece of paper with your life. You can't get out of the country without it. It is my understanding you must go downtown to the counsulate to get an alternative document. The kicker is, at this stage you have already been separated from your baggage. Again at this stage, we saw many people being "escorted" out of the area because they hadn't kept that little yellow receipt. Time: Forty-five (45) minutes.

Fourth line, or queue is carry-on bag x-ray and removal of all metal on your body to pass through the personal metal detectors - you know, wallets, keys, watch, coins, jewelry, glasses, metal in shoes, or in my case, metal in my suspenders. After I set off alarms, they wanded me and let me through as they could see my pants would fall off without them. Time: Fifteen (15+) minutes.

Fifth line, or queue is the search of your carry-on bags even though they just passed x-ray. All folks had to open bags for inspection. Among other things they were looking for, all liquids had to be in the right size plastic bags and the right size oz limit. Ten (10) minutes for us, much longer for some poor souls. Bottom line, if our plane hadn't been delayed, we would not have made our flight. Allow 2 1/2 hours at the airport. Take the earliest shuttle to the airport for those early flights.

The best is yet to come. Even though you have never left a secure area, we and many others had to do it all over again in Houston, but more. Retrieve all luggage and start over again, plus recheck luggage and change planes in a different terminal.

This time, I wasn't as lucky with my suspenders. With my shoes off and all other metal removed, I again set off alarms. I said I would take off my suspenders. That statement didn't cut it. They escorted me into a bullet-proof glass cage with two doors which only opened from the outside. While I waited for the special personal search person from Homeland Security, I watched Nancy getting the third degree about our computer which they took from her and disappeared into another room. In the meanwhile our passports, wallets, jewelry and shoes, jackets were taken off the conveyor by another person and placed on a table common to all other passengers down the line while we both were held back and couldn't get to them. Nancy was trying to get my attention through the glass cage. I couldn't hear her as I was now being searched and patted down. Sitting in a chair, I was asked to put each leg in the air for pat-down. Arms at 90 degrees, palms up for back hand pat-down of arm pits and crouch. I thought the guy was going to ask for a date. Bottom Line: lose weight, buy a belt. There is nothing like the warm embrace of the George Bush airport.

Customs was a breeze. They let me have my coffee beans from Ecuador. Once we were done with all arrangements for the flight to Portland, we stopped at Ruby's Cafe in the secure area and had a burger and shake. Bob called when we sat down. It was good to hear a friendly voice.

We made it to Portland about 11:30PM. The shuttle from the hotel came about 35 minutes later to take us to the hotel. Temp was around 30 degrees. I was still dressed for Bob's back porch. Our heavy coats were in the trunk of the car at the Country Inn, Portland where we left the car 26 days ago. Consider this place because you get 10 days free parking for every night you stay. This modest hotel is on airport property.

Friday the 8th, we had a confortable 5 hour drive to Grants Pass.

As we turned into our driveway, I thought to myself, be it so humble, there is no place like home, Toto.

The deer were in the front yard to greet us.

Nancy rushed to the front door and found Mr. Boots waiting for her. They were happy to see each other. Happiness is a big hug.

We sat for a while on the front porch with Boots, not quite believing we're home. We talked about the trip and the warm and kind people we met in Ecuador and the great visit with Bob and Rox.

The problem with taking advances from your publisher is that you will likely be doing it again soon. We talked about that too.


We're home!

Still on Quito time...

Just a quick post to tell you we made it back to Grants Pass, Oregon, USA.

What a long slog home! Took us about 20+ hours... ALOT harder to get back into the USA, than to leave. We have stories...From the time we left the hotel in Quito, to the time we checked into the hotel in Portland, it was truly over 20 hours, with LOTS of security 'opportunities' at both ends, flight delays, etc. Yowser!

We'll be posting more pics this weekend, catching up on sleep, getting back to the routine...

Loving your comments on the blog!

Much more later...

Love to all, N (and R) and our precious Mr Boots the kitty, who is just fine and up to his old tricks...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More Cuenca! pics, Ikat Site and Town of Gualaceo

More pics at the Ikat site of the antique equipment used in the trade. The owners said they still use them.

Antique weaving equipment.

When we left the Ikat facility we drove to the town of Gualaceo about 22 miles east and south of Cuenca. Around the typical town square there were examples of very early colonial period wood and white washed adobe structures. Balconies and the support by hardwoods were the main feature of most of the buildings fronting the square.

Like every small town and village we visited, this community also had an active market in the
central square known for its handicrafts. The unique feature of this market is also its emphasis on prepared food. There was a very large, multiple level food court. As we may have mentioned, this was a "carnival" day and the people were soaked from the custom from Spain of throwing water. I don't know why. Many people were inside the food court for something hot to eat and drink.

In the two pics above, whole pigs have been slow roasted over hot coals for no less than thirteen hours. After they are fully cooked, they are placed on heavy stays, or racks for carving. The carved meals is placed in a skillet for a quick heating and then served to the customer.
(Added by Nancy: We watched the women make those 'dumplings' in the skillet. First, the cooked potatoes are mashed and mixed with seasonings/herbs. Then, they are fried in the pork fat for 'added flavor'... seemed to be a fave of the locals.)

Below, tortillas are being prepared on a concave, heavy lron skillet. The heat is distributed evenly. But these are not the American/Mexican tortilla we know. These are more like pancakes, the dough prepared with many whole grains, including whole corn- Sometimes cheese. Great, clean wholesome taste. Especially when you are cold as hell. Served with these
tortillas is a hot milk drink. It is brought to a near boiling points and thickened with a mixture of fine grains, together with cinnamon, rasins and sugar (and more stuff we can't remember.)
Good tasting, great for type 2 diabetics.

Guinea pigs ("cuy") roasting on a open fire, da da da - kinda reminds you of Christmas.
(Added by Nancy: Cuys are NOT rodents, according to Carlos... they only eat alfalfa and not garbage.)


It was now late in the afternoon, we made one more stop in the village of Chordeleg. Jewelry.
This is a gold and silver producing district.

We returned to Cuenca happily. A great day. It was Nancy's Birthday and the staff of the Hotel
did their best to sing happy birthday, in English! We helped as we had finished a great bottle of Luegi Boca Cab. All the other guests joined in.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

More Cuenca! and the villages -- IKAT!

More architecture shots, just for Maureen :-)

Here are some more road shots...another city park...oops, a duplicate, I'll have to figure how to delete it later.

This next one is an overview shot of the city... a sea of RED tile roofs...

Somehow, the camera got switched to video so I don't have stills to share of the rivers...but they are just beautiful, reminds me of the Applegate River at home... fast moving, white water. Some ladies were doing laundry there. Gorgeous apts and houses line the rivers...

After the morning drive tour of Cuenca, we had a delicious lunch at a beautiful restaurant owned by one of Carlos' friends, the El Jardin near the Victoria Hotel... wonderful veggie soup, chicken with herbs, fresh veggies and tiramusu for dessert. One of the best meals in Ecuador. Here's a pic of Edy, me in my rain hat (bad hair day, no water at the hotel!) and Carlos...

THEN... the afternoon of nearby villages...I was in textile heaven!

Meeting Carlos' friends, a couple of ikat weavers and dyers, made my b'day!

They graciously opened up their studio to us... I am still sooo impressed with Carlos' knowledge of the looms, the techniques! Who would have thought...

Here is the gentleman wrapping cone yarn (sheep wool)... an intricate wrap... you can see the woman has begun the tying process on the hot pink thread...ikat is like tie dye, but much more complicated.

After the threads are dyed, ties removed and threads washed, the threads are 'connected' into fabric by back-strap weaving... so fascinating!

OK, I know these pics are a little crooked, but you get the idea... here is the woman knotting the fringe...

This couple has a wonderful collection of really old shawls... they should be in a museum...

The fabric is ikat, with the fringe of old lace (kind of like filet crochet, very delicate and detailed...) Patti, thinking of you!

Here's me, Edy and Carlos admiring the goods...

Here we are modeling shawls... these guys were such good sports!

A floor loom for bigger pieces...The woman embroiders, too:

Check out the wonderful garden, fellow Master Gardeners!... and the threads drying...

We got sidetracked admiring the hummingbird...

Not a dye day... but, Carlos says the dyes are made from roots and leaves from the market...

Back on the road...more colonial style...

I'm going to post now...with the rest of the day to follow later!