The second chapter with my Ecuafamilia provides plenty more adventures and an abundance of blessings. In this episode I re-negotiate with Sonic, smuggle a belt, eat a rodent, get a Korean guarantee and try not break anyone’s toes.
These days were so packed full of experiences. Just as I did in my last post, I’m going to be a bit more brief than normal. I’m really needing to catch up before I forget things, so I’ll be departing from the everyday descriptions.
My flight back to Quito went relatively smoothly, other than having another layover in the abomination that is the Lima airport. I didn’t count for sure, but I think there might be more ATMs than chairs.
Gaby, of my Ecuafamilia, was waiting to pick me up. We stopped for lunch with her parents on the way back to Cayambe. They are also the parents of my hostess, Rosita, in Cayambe.
Gaby took some great shots of me over the days, but I think the next one might be my favorite. I don’t remember what she was telling me, but knowing mothers, it was probably something about me being so skinny. 🙂
The first day back I took it pretty easy, but then my guided tour of Ecuador recommenced. Gaby took me to the equatorial monument north of Quito called Mittad del Mundo (middle of the world). The monument itself is quite impressive.
On its interior are a number of scientific exhibits. One of them was a scale which shows the discrepancy between weights at the equator and the north pole.
This was my first time weighing myself in quite some time. I’ve lost a little too much, falling below my marathon running weight. I blame it on the lack of bean options in South America.
The site around the monument is expansive and filled with lots of fascinating historical exhibits and demonstrations. It was really fun to visit. A chocolate demonstration:
This building, used for conventions of the South American countries was really unique. I’m not really sure how it doesn’t fall off.
A little further down the equator is Pululahua. There is an interesting place called the Temple of the Sun. It was built by artist and sculptor Ortega Maila, one of the most renowned artists of Ecuador.
There were lots of interesting things, from magic rocks to incense experiences. I also got to try my hand at achieving equilibrium with an egg.
Hail your Sun King, mortals!
In the evening we visit the area called La Ronda. This famous street is a pedestrian walk filled with history and culture. There are lots of restaurants, live music, performers, vendors…a real feast for the senses.
We got some drinks and saw some live entertainment….
…got some fried food the size of my head…
…and sang some karaoke.
It is a really neat, lively area.
Next up was a fun, family day.
We visited the Falls of Peguche. Something about them reminded me of Smith Falls along the Niobrara River in Nebraska. A very special place for me.
There were all kinds of nature trails to explore.
They even had *gasp* CAMPING! (…and you thought Ecuadorians were civilized people!)
I’m not sure why I like the following picture so much. I have an affinity for goats and even sometimes call myself “Cabro Loco” (crazy goat) down here. Like a goat, for some reason I just like to climb up stuff.
Next up was a special experience. We went to San Jose de Chaltura which is known for specializing in cuy (guinea pig) cuisine. There were cuy everywhere you looked.
Still, it’s more of a special occasion food for locals, I think. My meal cost $14, which I didn’t pay for of course.
(Make sure not to miss the meat on the face. That’s a rookie move.)
The restaurant had an “Arbol de Amor” (tree of love) where you could write something sentimental to a special person in your life. I didn’t have much time, but threw together this stanza.
Our final stop of the day was to the north in Ibarra. There’s a picturesque lake called Yahuarcocha.
Apparently, speed boats and jet skis are not very common here yet. That added to the serenity of the location.
The whole day was filled with treats, of the food kind, the scenic kind and the company kind. My Ecuafamilia made me feel so comfortable and taken care of. As I became more comfortable in my Spanish, our conversations spanned a huge variety of topics. Though it took me awhile, I think I sufficiently explained the importance of the Ogallala Aquifer. 🙂
The next day, I wanted to get some business done. One of the last missing puzzle pieces of my South American adventure is obtaining my visa to visit Brazil. This is the only country that I need to get ahead of time. It is possible to do in the US, but my schedule never allowed sufficient weeks to be without my passport. (My “local consolate” is in Chicago.)
Americans can get the visa at any South American embassy, with usually a wait of a few days. Quito would be my first attempt.
I had a little trouble getting Annie out of her room without assistance. After about 20 minutes, we were ready to roll.
It was a lot of fun riding on the pristine roads. There are two main routes from Cayambe to Quito. I took one on the way there and returned on the other. Annie felt noticeable spunky, being free of the hundreds of pounds of luggage that usually sits on her back. Additionally, I’d like to welcome back a feature that has been missing in this quality publication: Sonic cam!
My handlebar mount was broken in my crash in Mexico, so this view has been absent for awhile. Sonic’s agent has initiated some trade talks, as Sonic feels like his role in the story has become diminished. Hopefully this will sate his need for the limelight.
I arrived at the embassy during their three hour lunch break (are you hiring, Brazil?), but I had a wonderful way to pass the time. I reunited with everybody’s favorite Korean traveler, Leebong.
He had been staying with a family in Quito for a few days while he worked on some car repairs. It was great to have our paths cross again. Though we had not been apart for too long, we still had plenty of stories to swap.
Additionally, I was able to correct an oversight on my part: Leebong never signed Annie. I usually request that signers use their native language and he put a beautiful tattoo on Annie’s left mirror.
The phrase is a message to women, letting them know that I’m a pretty swell guy. This will come in handy in case I find out that song place Winnemucca is actually located in Korea rather than Nevada. 🙂 We agreed to meet up further down the road and exchanged a fond farewell.
Back at the embassy, I prepared to unleash a substantial arsenal of Spanish phrases that I had been composing in my mind. The lady behind the window took one look at me and began the conversation in perfect English. 🙂
She gave me a handout with all of the information on it. Most important was that the wait would be around five business days. I already had a flight booked from Lima and waiting this long in Ecuador (even if they ran on schedule) would leave me with too little time. I’ll try again in Lima.
The path home provided more great riding.
I decided to make one more stop close to Cayambe, another “middle of the world” exhibit. This one features a large sun dial. It is probably the best place for an equator photo for a motorcyclist. Indeed, they have the entrance fee for a bike ($5) posted on their sign.
It was near closing time, so I had the place completely to myself. Hanging above their bathroom is a sign reading “fake equator museum.” All around the stalls and sinks are posters mocking the pseudo-science demonstrations that are given to tourists along the equatorial line.
The guide gave a great, science-focused explanation of the site. I really appreciated that they did not try to sensationalize the experience. The presentation was fact based and well delivered. After the presentation, I got one of my favorite photos of the trip.
Good thing one of my ankles is still fully functional. 🙂
The next day was another episode of Brett and Gaby’s grand adventures. We loaded up in the toughest car in Ecuador, Piancho, and hit the road.
Our first stop was at the archaeological site of Cochasqui.
We had a private tour with a guide who spoke clear, slow Spanish for me. I probably understood around 80% of what was going on.
One of the things that I don’t know if I fully understood was if there were common sentiments about the pre-Columbian cultures here. Though most maps show Ecuador as being included in the Incan Empire, it is important to note that the Incans were only in Ecuador for about 60 years before the arrival of the Spanish.
Inca culture is a major source of tourism, but it is not really the heritage of Ecuadorians. Whether they identify more as Incan or pre-Incan was possibly beyond my Spanish level to ascertain. I guess I need to keep studying.
Our tour was going swimmingly until we almost had proceed swimmingly. A heavy storm rolled in forcing us to find shelter for awhile.
Pretty much every tour or demonstration that I’ve taken part of here has been critical of our current Gregorian calendar (with good reason). The culture here developed both a lunar and solar calendar. The depressions below were used as reflective pools to track celestial movements.
There were a couple of museums on site, filled with items from the area.
A reconstruction of an abode:
One of my favorite part was at the end when our guide demonstrated some of the toys associated with this culture. I give you the “Man’s top:”
This one weighed about a pound, but our guide said they use some that are closer to four or five pounds at his family gatherings. He did such a great job making the site come alive for us.
We made our way down to Quito through some pretty roads. There were probably more goats than cars.
I am a bit bashful to admit that an important activity had been missing from my Latin American experience: Attending a soccer match. I’m a big fan of the sport, even working as a referee for a few years, so I was glad to have my first experience. We went to watch a team in Quito called Liga.
Near the stadium, I was stopped in my tracks by a very unusual sight. One of Annie’s sisters:
This was my first time seeing an NC700X in the wild since I left the states. How neat that it was a police vehicle! Indeed, the translation of the Quito police’s motto is something like, “To protect and serve and get really good fuel economy.” (But you probably shouldn’t trust my Spanish.) 🙂
We found tickets ($11, I think?) and made our way to the gate. The security is really tight to get in. Gaby had warned me ahead of time that even belts were not allowed for safety reasons. But I’m not an animal! I smuggled in my little cloth one. 🙂
The game was great, ending in a 2-0 victory for Liga. The most passionate supporters group, affectionately known as “The White Death,” sang, cheered and made a nuisance of themselves throughout the full 90 minutes.
There was still one more step to our evening. Well….quite a number of steps actually. Shield your eyes and take your kids to the other room, because it was time for me to go Salsa dancing.
Astute readers of this quality publication will note that this was actually not my first time Salsa dancing during this adventure. The other instance came during my whirlwind evening in place 30 of 92, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
It was a little confusing at first, since there are three steps per four beat measure, but I eventually sorted out my feet. Gaby was a great teacher.
I really enjoyed just being an observer too. The culture that surrounds Salsa dancing kind of fascinates me. It does not appear that many people come as a couple, rather they partner off with a random person as a new song begins. There doesn’t seem to be any “rules” regarding this. You see older people dancing with young people, fat people dancing with skinny people, beginners with seasoned pros. Salsa dancing is quite intimate (at least from the perspective of a Nebraskan), but there seems to be a real communal trust and respect among the dancers.
Additionally, the complexity afforded by knowing the basics seems very substantial. Pairs who were dancing together for the first time were completing what looked like well planned maneuvers. All in all, I was thoroughly fascinated. (…and I didn’t break Gaby’s toes, so I’m calling it a win.)
One of the experiences that I cherish the most about the time with my Ecuafamilia were the mornings with Rosita at the breakfast table. We had so many wonderful conversations that often stretched out until we would have to start considering lunch.
Rosita almost has a “fairy godmother” type of quality to her character, like she would almost be more at home in a Disney movie than in real life. She’s a true embodiment of the word “maternal.”
She quickly adapted to my love of coffee, presenting me with three options one morning.
I also made them Swedish Egg Coffee a couple of mornings. Since that name is kind of a mouthful for me in Spanish, we ended up just calling it “Cafe Magico.” (Magic coffee)
We had a final day of sightseeing together around the Cayambe area. A couple things that we tried to visit were closed, but we made the best of things. I’m still not sure what the plants below were for, but Rosita looked happy to find them. 🙂
There was a neat little camping site on a local guy’s property just off of the highway. There were a lot of interesting things here.
The overlook point was a quintessential view of Ecuador: Winding roads, patchwork fields, a plethora of different elevations…. there are even some flower growing greenhouses (a major export for Ecuador) on the right side of the frame (white buildings).
Alas, it was time for the sun to set on this incredible chapter of my journey.
They really made their home a difficult place to leave.
I did have one major accomplishment while I was here: Walking down the main hallway numerous times without breaking the overhead light. The first time I saw it, I thought that either it or I would not survive my stay. 🙂
Once again, it’s difficult for me to express what this time with my new family meant to me. As my journey progresses, I’m becoming more mindful of maintaining a sustainable balance to ensure that I am able to reach my goal. Though spending so much time in Ecuador was not in my initial plans, this respite was the perfect opportunity for me to regain my equilibrium from months of taxing travel. It should keep me upright for awhile.
Stay balanced, everybody.
Realtime update: I’m still in Lima. On Friday I was unable to complete my Brazilian visa application (I don’t want to talk about it) so I’ll try again tomorrow morning. It looks like I will still have at least five more days here as I wait through that process. I hope to be pretty well caught up by the time I hit the road again.