A Travellerspoint blog

Day 11: Thursday 16th July - Amazon Homestay

Amazon adventure continues - school visit and natural slides

sunny 24 °C
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We got up early in the morning for our first home cooked breakfast in the Amazon. Breakfast was served at 8am every morning and always came with fresh juice from local produce; papaya, banana, etc. And maybe some fresh fruit; slice of pineapple, or watermelon, etc.
After breakfast we thought about having a shower, however a freezing cold shower first thing in the morning just isn't what we felt like. So we 'Maori showered' and used face wipes (god send) as we were swimming later anyway. So got ready, sprayed a can of mossie spray over us to start our first day in the jungle.
We walked to community school, which was about 20 minute walk. The school was set-up by the G Adventures' foundation. The money we pay for our trip goes towards funding the school. There are 8-10 kids that attend the school, they all live in surrounding villages, but it can take some of them up to a couple of hours to walk to and from school everyday. The mother of the homestay we are staying at is the teacher of the school, however on the day we went she had a doctor's appointment, so her daughter was filling in. When we made it to the school we met the kids that were there, and learnt all their names and ages. (They were very tiny for their age!) We also a learnt a bit more about the history of school and their curriculum etc. Then we had to work out how to say our name and age in Spanish (scary!!). Then we gave them our gifts that we bought at the supermarket. (colouring pencils and paper) After all the hard work we got to play a game of football with the kids. Was so much fun and very inspiring.
By this stage we were incredibly hot and sweaty, so we walked to a nearby swimming lagoon/river where we swam for an hour or so, got to play on a natural slide and jump off some cliffs. We also saw a water spider the size of a side plate, with the body the size of a teaspoon.
Feeling very refreshed it was time for home. We got picked up and driven back to our homestay for another yummy lunch (highlight of my day). Had a bit of free time before walking around the homestay with the family leader (the Feen)?. He taught us all about the native plants and what they are used for. They are all used in some part of their everyday life, be it food (spices, bananas, etc), medicine/healing, or jewelry every plant has a use.
We finished just in time for another yummy dinner. Every dinner started with soup (sopa). Tonight was really yummy asparagus and potato soup. The main was grilled or roast chicken, mash potato, avocado and salad and rice. Harrold had organised some marshmallows and rum and coke to be delivered to our homestay from Tena. So we spent the evening at our hut around a bonfire with a few drinks and card games. Was really nice getting to know everyone a bit more, some clear clicks started forming. All the swiss couples stick together with the other older 2 ladies (When I say older I thought they were in their mid 30's. But just act it. One is younger than me. Oops).
Our close group has become the 2 brit girls (Clare and Steph), English guy (Jack)/our son apparently. He's our baby of the group 19. Very funny guy. The Aussie (Rob), the Austrian (Johannes). As everyone got tired they went to bed, the rest of us hung out the hammocks drinking and swapping stories till about 2am, then went to bed ourselves.

Posted by Maraka Saunders 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Day 10: Wed 15th July - Quito to Tena to Pimpilaya, Ecuador

Off to the Amazon - Yay no Wifi.....time to get to know each other

sunny 22 °C
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Woke up early so we could have breakfast and pack, as the bus left from the hotel at 8.30am to take us to the Quito bus station, to catch our connecting bus to Tena. After grabbing our a few snacks (some dorritos :-P) when jumped on the public bus to Tena, which took just over 5 hours. Public buses in South America are very different to buses in NZ. They stop every so often and let local on who sells snacks and drinks. (Empanadas, soya chips, coke, etc). Most of these items are only a $1 US. Had a pretty nice bus ride. I sat next to Ina from Norway, just had a bit of chat, slept and took a few photos as we started entering Amazon Jungle. Lots of waterfalls and trees. Once making it to the small Amazon town of Tena, we quickly grabbed some bit and pieces from the supermarkets (snacks and gifts for the homestay family that were having us and the school we would be visiting). We then took 5 4WD trucks to our Amazon village homestay near Pimpilaya, taking 45 mins.
After getting ourselves sorted in our rooms, which were much nicer than I expected, we had a very deserved home cooked lunch, then just chilled out for the arvo as it was raining. We were meant to go for a walk around, but as the whole area is dirt, it was very muddy, so we decided to go another day. A bunch of us sat around the table and played cards (well attempted). This is where all the friendships and relationships started budding. Johannes (the Austrian) tried to teach everyone Rummy. Was sooo funny cause no-one understood or everyone had different rules, so we decided Shithead was the way to go. Everyone had different rules but after a few rounds we got settled in for a few hours.
Around 8 it was time for home cooked Amazon style dinner. Lunch and dinner always consisted of banana of some description, whether it was fried, mashed or something else. There always rice and sometimes fresh salad with avocados and mash. Oh and can't forget the yummiest spicy sauce (tomatoes, red onions and spices).
After dinner it was time for more bonding and getting to know each other. We just chilled out in the homestay communal area for a while and then went back up to our group's hut to play more cards before bed.
The beds looked like some kind of honeymoon suite as they had nets draped over them. They were actually mosquito nets, otherwise you would get eaten alive at night, or the massive cockroaches or spiders would want to sleep with you.

Posted by Maraka Saunders 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Day 9: Tuesday 14th July - Quito, Ecuador

Journey around Quito - gorgeous day

sunny 20 °C
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Woke up in a new city to explore Quito, Ecuador. We didn't have to meet up with our tour until 7pm so we had time to kill. Firstly got up and had a really nice shower and blow dried my hair for the first time in a while. :-) This hotel also came with a full breakfast (more than Santiago hostel). Had cereals, pineapple, melons, yogurt, eggs sausages and toast; yummmm!! Really nice restaurant too. After breakfast we investigated this best way to get around the city. The Hop-on, hop-off tourist bus was the best way to get around Quito. And see the old and the new towns. Saw lots of cool buildings but the Basilica Ingleis, was by far the coolest. It was on a hill in middle of city with 360° views. Apparently they have taken the last hundred years to build it and haven't finished yet. They don't want to finish it as that will create a siege. We paid $2 each and went for a walk inside and up to the top; well Callum did. I almost got there and then my knees started shaking and I could no longer walk anymore.

After an extremely long day walking around and on the bus we got off at Plaza Foch and walked back to the hotel where we had a much needed nap.
Show time! This is where the real fun begins ;-P. Kidding, had heaps of fun and life changing experiences already; how about some more. Meet up with our tour group at 7pm to discuss the trip from Quito - Lima, as we just found out trip is actually 4 parts, Quito to Lima, Lima to La Paz, Laz Paz to Buenos Aries, Buenos Aries to Rio. Everyone is going to Lema (18), 7 continue to La Paz, then only 5 go to Rio and I assume new people will join us on each section. Our group is pretty cool ranging from 19-33. They mostly from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There are 3 Brits, 1 Dutch girl, 1 Aussie guy and 1 lady from Norway. Our tour guide Harold is fantastic his is very funny. He's 32 and is from Pincha, Peru. He has a never-ending source of knowledge, find it very hard to stump him with a question, he has the answer to everything.

After the meeting we went to dinner with some of the group, accidentally ordered seafood pasta, was pretty nice though, and Claire (from Bristol, England) ate all the actual seafood. After dinner we head back to our room and packed ready to leave in the morning and go to the Amazon Jungle.

Posted by Maraka Saunders 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Day 8: Monday 13th July - Santiago, Chile - Quito, Ecuador

Long Flight

sunny 16 °C
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Woke up this morning and packed our bags ready to move on again. Had to check out of our room by 11am but weren't needing to leave until till 2pm, so we sat in the communal area with a desktop computer and sorted out photos, blog etc. Also managed to get a load of washing through before we left. We ordered a cab to pick us up and take us to the airport at 2pm. Now this wasn't a normal cab like you see in Wellington, there are a bunch of people in Santiago that work for themselves and use private vehicles. This guys car was a very flash spacious family wagon. He was very very lovely as we didn't have enough Pesos, so he allowed us to give him our Pesos and the rest in US dollars.

We arrived at the airport and checked in, it was around 2.30pm, for 4.55pm flight. Check in was quick but border security took ages. I was sooo hungry so got some Subway. First thing I asked the guy behind the counter is 'Hablas Inglese' (Do you speak English?) His answer, No! Right, this'll be fun. Pointing and sign language works well. Subway in Santiago apparently doesn't come with lettuce, however they do have Jalapenos; big mistake!! Chilean jalapenos I found out they are a lot hotter than NZ ones, Callum had to get me a bottle of water, pronto.

Finally realized our flight was delayed 1hour 20mins, once we worked out what all the signs and intercom meant. We went to find our seats on the only to find out we weren't actually sitting together. The nice man sitting next to me spoke English and asked the attendant if I could switch seats, which ended up being quite easy to do. The flight was a pretty horrible 5 hours from Santiago to Guayaquil in Ecuador, then another 55mins to Quito. There no was entertainment, not very nice food and we couldn't get comfy.

We arrived at Quito airport at 10.30pm, quickly got through customs then meet our airport transfer driver who drove us to our hotel. Took an hour to get there, but once we were there it was well worth the wait; what a gorgeous hotel. Soooo tired both went straight to bed in our two very comfy single beds.

Posted by Maraka Saunders 17:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Day 7: Sunday 12th July - Santiago, Chile

San Cristobal 15km Hike

sunny 18 °C
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Woke up this morning feeling reasonably well rested, so got up and got ready for a bit day. Went down stairs for our all included continental breakfast, which was yummy, then packed our bags and head out.

We started by walking in the general direction of San Cristobal. Went past all of the same places we'd been before except they were a very different atmosphere compared to Friday. As it was Sunday everything was closed. So instead of the hustle and bustle of the pedestrian streets, markets, magazines stalls, shoes shiners and controlled ciaos of people, it was all roller doors and silence. Saw some awesome building on our journey through Plaza de Armas. More big brick buildings and sculptures and then the odd brand new building just randomly in the middle. We continued on our travels until we reached an area that seemed liked possibly the dingier part/slums of Santiago. Luckily everything was closed otherwise I probably would have felt a little unsafe. This part of Santiago was especially dirty, lots of rubbish and graffiti and fair few stray dogs. Actually during the whole day I counted a total of 33 stray dogs and I didn't start counting straight away. Apparently people bred a lot of dogs here (South America) but only the pure breds live inside and the 'general/regular dogs' (mongrel) are made to live on the streets. We finally made it to the bottom entrance of our destination, San Cristobal. Distance so far: 3.5kms. As Murphy seems to be our best friend, the cable car was under maintenance so instead of a 2 minute ride up, we had to walk up the dirt path - 1.5kms. (Typical Murphy's Law); fantastic views though. Finally got to the top to even more incredible views across most of Santiago in a 360° span, as San Cristobal is the highest point in Santiago (apart from the Andes of course). We could also see two ski fields in the distance. Looked like one of them had huge apartment buildings on it.

At this stage it decided it would start raining (yay!!), so we decided the mud track wasn't the best way down. Murphy's Law, the only other way down (the road) was 6km walk and it started really bucketing down. Then once we got back to the bottom it was just a quick stroll home (3.5kms). Stopped at the supermarket on our way to get a few easy pastas for dinner. Supermarkets have very different stuff in them compared to New Zealand. Once we got home, we heated up our left over pizza and garlic bread. We worked out we left home at 10am this morning got home around 3pm, which is 5 hours and just walked around 15kms. No wonder my legs are sore. Good training for whats to come though. Chilled out for the afternoon, charged everything up for the long plane ride and watched some more Mentalist, and downloaded photos. Had some dinner and went to bed.

Great day! Great views!
Money Spent: $6,000 pesos

Posted by Maraka Saunders 17:00 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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