Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hippyville to the Middle of the World


Well the countdown to Christmas is truly on and cant believe we only have 2 more sleps left before we fly to Oz! We spent a week chilling in Montanita on the coast Ecuador. weather was warm but cloudy for 6 of the 7 days so we entertained oursleves surfing, getting annihilated by huge waves. eating and drinking in cafes and hanging out with our new huge clan of Israeili friends!
One day we decided to go in search of the local waterfall that wa supposed to be an amazing natural sight, one bus ride later, 5 stops at local stands that pose as supermarkets later looking for information and one taxi ride later we find ourselves at the end of a dirtroad with a river to cross and a pile of rabied looking dogs howling at us. So we arrange for the taxi driver to pick us up 4 hours later and gingerly cross the river to start our supposedly hourish hike to the waterfall. After an hour of crossing rivers and walking in the middle fo nowhere we find oursleves at a random little place that claims it has a natural pool - they were very keen to tell us it had no chemicals in it. It might not have had any chemicals in it but it did have a lot of dirt and a few random locals. It didnt look the most enticing. This was part of the attractions that you could avail of for 4 dollars including a look out point of Montanita and the view of the waterfall. We couldnt see or hear any waterfall and considering we were only a couple of hundred metres from it we decided it wasnt worth spending 4 dollars( thats at least a meal or 2 cocktails worth of money!)
So ever the budget backpackers we hiked on much to the surprise of the people running the waterfall "attractions" who told us htere was nothihng but a dirt track ahead. we decided there surely must be a way to the waterfall if we kept going. An hour later after trepsing through mud and mistaking chickens for monkeys we came across the most desolate school Ive ever seen and then made a final effort to get to a viewpoint by clmabering up a dried up mud hill.Much to our disappointment we were not greeted at the top by a view of the waterfall or coast as we had hoped but rather 4 mules chomping away at dried up grass looking very bored! We paused for a 10 minute fruit break and wondered what wed do to fill in the next 2 and half hours before taxi was to come back for us! we opted to strat walking back instead hoping to meet the taxi back on the main road. We reckoned the walk tot hte main road would take us a couple of hours. Tired out after about an hour we haile ddown the only visible vehicle that wasnt animal powered - turned out to be the local church bus , driven by the foreign missionalry woman and including the local ancient priest riding up front. we piled in the back with all the locals who spent hte next half hour chanting some form of prayer and a bit of singing. A quick stop at the convent on the way back to pick up some more women and a few handshakes with he esteemed pries t up front and soon we were on our way back to Montanita. They very kindly dropped us off righ near our hostel and that was the end of our day out in Montanita!!
From Montanita we got the gruelling 12 hour bus ride back to Quito. Boarded a bus at 5.30 am to Guayaquil a straightforward 3 hour ride. This was the ride I got robbed on last time so this time I tied my backpack to my shoe, hugged my handbag and sat right up the front in view of the driver and conductor!. Arrived to Guayaquil and had to wait 2 hours for connection bus to Quito which would take about 9 hours. The bus never turned up and we were told to all go back downstairs to where we cought the tickets and get a refund. Ecuadorian Spanish is a little difficult to understand so when we got ourselves and our bags back down two flights to the ticket booth there was nobody there and everyone else who was supposed to be on that bus with us were rusing off somewhere intot he distance. Eager to find out where they were going we tried to keep up, lugging the bags this is not an easy thing to do!
Eventually a man came along and in very rapid Spanish signalled we should go back upstairs as out bus was leaving - yes hte same bus that 5 minutes ago was cancelled! Welcome to South America. So as we raced back upstairs puffing and panting we saw our bus about to leave the station. We ran over nad banged on the door and quickly got he bags loaded and off we set! Tied up the bag to the leg again and settled in for the long ride. A half hour into the journey the bus conductor had us sitting up front woth him and the driver taking photos, wearing our hats and feeding us mangos! We werent sure it was such a good idea to be up here as we were clearly able to see what a maniac driver he was formt his vantage point. Passing out 3 trucks in a row on the wrong side of the road which was under construction on a dangerous uphill bend was nothing unusual for hte next 8 hours! After playing our ipods through the bus speaker system (giving the whole bus the Pogues version of Fairytale of New York , under the drivers request for Pogues music!!) we decided to move back to our original seats with the rest of the passengers as the ride was getting rougher as we started climbing back up to altitude of Quito. The ride seemed never ending and only got worse as was proved by the man pissing out the window right beside us as they wouldnt stop and from wither the wobbly ride or alcohol mangaging to spill most of it at our feet. So along with altitude nad motion sickness and the smell of urine the ride did not get any better! We soon stopped long enough for the conductor to sprinkle highly pungent lemon disinfectant by our feet to cover up the smell urine and wash down the window where the deed had been done!

Eventually we made it back to Quito and gladly got intop bed by 9am in our nice clean and comfy hostel. For the next 4 days Quito was celebrating its foundation of quito festival, which is actually in February but for some reason they celebrate it in December. This involves bullfights everyday for 11 days inwhich they kill 6 bulls everyday. As a strong opposer to bull fights we didnt go but our friends did and we saw the gorey pics ad vids of the first bullfighter being dragged unconscious out of the ring as the savage bull awaited his death by the next so called hero. Not sure if the bull fighter survived but well done that bull!!
From Quito we took a day trip tot he middle of the world as they call it or the Equator. Visited a museum where we learned a lot about hte different tribes on Ecuador, learned that Ecuador was originally called Quito after its frist tribal settleers but he country name was changed to Ecuador because of its position on the Equator and took part in some very cool experiments. Such as balancing an egg on the head of a nail , watching the water go down the sink in opposite directions and straight down right on the Equator , trying to walk along the equator with your eyes shut and weighing ourselves to discover we are 4 kg lighter there!! All in all a very educational fun day out!!

Having suffered with my ears from the amount of water in them from being trashed in the waves in Montaninta nad then the pressure change I was a bit nervous about out upcoming flights to Chile. So our every fiendly Columbian friend form the plane we met came to the rescue again and brought me to her homeopathic doctor who gave me some painful acupuncture and some herbal prescriptions. A quick dash to the pharmacies to look for these and soon we were dropped by the lovely Tulia at the airport. 3 flights later we landed in Chile and after a very dodgy start to our arrival with a near taxi rip off job that we talked and cried our way out of in Santaigo in the early hours of the morning we are currently residing in the most tacky but homely Christmas decorated house in Valparaiso. Moving back to Santiago tomorrow and fly out to Sydney via a 2 hour stop in Aukland on Monday night, woohoo! So one more day of empanadas, dulce de leche and salsa and then its onto barbies and stubbies! Will get some pics up soon, but right now have to go as the impatient computer addicted son of the household is having withdrawal symptoms as Ive been on his computer for over an hour! Love you all, already missing you all at Christmas time. Love to all and a very Happy Christmas if I dont get on again before then!! xoxox