Home

Three days home now – woke up to pancakes and eggs – I’m terible at making breakfast as it turns out. Got to practice that one.

Our flight home was of a similar nature to our flight out. Our delay this time left us in Dallas for the night with dinner and breakfast and lunch on American. Lony was there at the air port in the morning and we were in Tucson by late morning. I was home. A couple of phone calls and it was like I never left.

… and thus the blog ends until my next venture to Ecuador. Thanks for reading.

http://jpmizell.blogspot.com

Iguanas before we leave.

We went to this park.. Parque Bolívar.. and there were Iguanas everywhere… umm… I don´t think you understand so you´ll have to look at Jon´s pictures. But seriously, EVERYWHERE. You step into the park and you can´t walk without stepping on them. They can´t walk without stepping onto each other. Hundreds of them. If you like Iguanas, it was pretty awesome. If you don´t .. it was still quite the site.

Tomorrow we fly… now, ¿where to eat?

… wait a second.

After our wonderful last beer in Cuenca we shoved off for Guyaquil this morning at 7:00 AM and arrived. A short taxi ride into the center of the city dropped us on the curb to begin the ever present search for someplace to stash our stuff for the night. One hotel was $30. Seriously.. we didn´t win that much at the Casinos. So we walked. And to my delight Jon ducked into one that starting at $10 a night was at $8 five min later. For a centralized place to stay for a night, I was okay with $8. I stayed out front as Jon checked on the room to see that it was to our liking. All the while I noticed the neighbor store owner with a smirk on his face. Not too irregular for folks looking at me while I´ve got my pack on and I´m standing around 4 other bags. Soon after he disappeared his buddy appeared and he too had a smirk. I just thought they were jerks and when Jon came back we went to the room.

The place smelled like bleach. There was no carpet. The beds are hard. There is a full length mirror in the room. The shower is only cold. The elevator holds just Jon and all our gear. The place smells like bleach again. There is a rotating fan on the ceiling. It´s hot. The sheets are really clean. There is always a guy cleaning rooms it seems. Funny, the room next door was occupied when we arrived and now it´s not. Funny, the room is occupied again. It smells like bleach again, the guy is cleaning. That room was just occupied.

On our way out we passed a couple who had just checked into the hotel. A nice looking older gentlemen and a younger, smiling woman, dressed for the dance. He was eager to get to the room – perhaps he wanted to get out and see the city as soon as possible.

Jon and I returned to the hotel to drop some stuff and noticed our new neighbors had already checked out. I guess they didn´t like the accommodations. Perhaps they weren´t in Guyaquil for that long. Perhaps…. wait a second. What Kind Of HOTEL IS THIS!!!

People laugh, I laugh, every time we walk in and out. Two young American men, proudly, energetically, ducking into the Hotel Liberadador, the Guyaquil version of Notel-Motel.

Swiss Sisters

Okay – I know I thought I was done with it all and the next two days were going to be boring bus trips and reading books in air ports, BUT after I wrote that last entry we went for beers. It was good. Good Beer.

We walked down to the popular hostel in Cuenca, one we had initially avoided because of the noise and lack of Ecuadorian culture. Alas, we were essentially done with our trip so what the heck, we didn´t need any culture, rather we needed to start getting back into the American swing of things.

Looking at the menu, a half liter of beer cost $1.70 – the place was a little pricey, BUT what the hey, we´ll have just one and see who shows up.. perhaps someone we know.. Half way through our beer a friendly German fellow asked to join us, I presume to practice his English. He was nice enough and kept us busy chatting about anything and everything – as it turns out he too was a German Economist.. interesting. I became slowly depressed as a table of American girls had sat to dinner and were quite friendly in humoring my questions on recommendations. Unwilling to totally abandon our new acquaintance, we sat and talked, just us dudes. One beer soon became two and guacamole arrived at the table and still we talked with the German. Anticipating an uneventful night conversation dwindled and was about dead when Felix, our German friend had a visitor. A very friendly, very cute lady from Austria. Austrian.. I´ve never met an Austrian. She entered the conversation, with English, and my energy perked a bit. Then halfway through some sentence.. some unimportant excuse for attention of a sentence enter 3 more friends. Two Swiss sisters and their new Swiss friend. WOW. Eager to find enough chairs to accommodate and prevent attrition we were all back sitting within 2 min. of their arrival finished with greetings and kisses and the whole shabang.

Of course we all returned to the normal conversation – what are you doing, where you from.. yadda, yadda, yadda.. but there is a difference in talking to a glass of beer and talking to a very attractive smiling team of Swiss traveling sisters. – oh delight!

¨And by the way, those Swiss chicks were hot, like uncalled for hot.¨ – Jon

From Ecuador

2 Days until we depart Ecuador.

It seems not that long ago I was sitting on the beach in Baja California, Mexico with the Surf Club and I know it wasn´t that long ago that we were trying to convince Continental Airlines to let us on a flight out of Chicago. With our adventure almost over, it seems there isn´t as much to write about except lunches and taxi rides to find a bowling alley. I think I´m ready to be home and to not worry about how to say ¨Do you carry the Rambo Machete?¨ Alas, I will miss it a little, especially these keyboards with the super functionality, upsidedown question marks and such ¿?¿?¿ ñ ó .. .. I´ll add one last time to the travel blog before sealing it off until the next time I visit Ecuaodr when I arrive back in Tucson and with it perhaps a new collection of pictures from Jon´s camera.

A über long 5 page entry was added regarding our Sunday fun – and thus I didn´t send it out. I attempted to use MS Word to summarize, but Latin American Word just doesn´t assign the same importance to phrases. Thus I´ll attempt to summarise here – ¨We Went Hiking.¨
You´re welcome to read, as always.

Our Arrival Plan:
Jon and I will be arriving (according to plan) on an American Airlines Flight at approximatly 9:30 PM. We have a ride from the airport to Tucson from Lony, Jon´s pal, though we had a very gracious offer from Megan. If you´re wondering what I´m going to do when I get home.. I´ll tell you. I will take a shower. Hopefully there is hot water and shampoo.

Thanks for reading – see yáll soon.
Cheers!

John

http://bananas-to-ecuador.blogspot.com/

Nick Names

List of names that will be comming down the line. Watch Out!

1. Duke (M) 05-08-06
2. Zulu (M/F) 05-08-06
3. Corduroy (M/F) 05-08-06
4. Salchipapas (M/F/Girl Friend) 05-09-06
5. Moose, Bull, Bullmoose (M,M,M/F) 05-09-06
6. Pancho Via (M/F) Adopted for Grant’s on the way. 06-06
7.
8.

… I will update this list.

Into Heaven…

Jon told me he was looking forward to reading this one, so now I´m nervous…

After eating and sleeping and eating some more and finally going to bed for the night. Neither of us slept very well, but we slept. At nine we got down stairs for desayuno, Nescafé con leché y coco, bread, and fresh juice. Ready for the day we made it to the bus station and were on our way to Cajas National Park for the day. Armed with sweaters, and backpacks full of cookies and water, we felt invincible, Especially since I was wearing my Panama Hat – no sun burn today! Jon even put shoes on.

The bus crawled up into the mountains and we were on our way back to Guyaquil – except we didn´t have any of our luggage. After entering the park, the bus pulled over and kicked us off. Less one dollar in our pocket we were on the side of the road looking across the lake Toreadora, situated just below the ranger station for the park. Excited to set foot into adventure in the Andes we took our time walking down to the station from the road, taking time to notice the lama peacefully and picturesquely sitting in the grass looking out across the lake, as if longing for something. I imagine greener grass.
I was pleased to meet the ranger and discover that he was just like any US park ranger, mellow, eager to give us his opinion of the way we should go, particular about getting our information and destination, and most importantly, collecting our ten bucks. That´s what we get for being out of state.

Newly equipped with a bird guide, park map, and little ticket that said ¨Paid,¨ we started off on the ranger selected route. Down the hill to the lake, half way around, and then out. Out past this hill and that peak, around all those lakes, DON´T GO RIGHT, and then hook back around to the road about 4 km to the west. From there we should be able to flag a bus back to the station and then back to Cuenca.

*an aside…
The state of Ecuadorian soil.
Depending on where you are it could feel sandy, solid, squishy, or soggy and slippery. The beach, Montañita and Mompiche offer the sandy, while Cuenca, Quito, Guyaquil, and Baños offer solid. Squishy, soggy, and slippery, all kind of meld together sometimes. Vilcabamba and Otavalo were a little slippery at times, and Tuminuma was a little squishy. But no place yet had the hybrid version of it all as did at Cajas. …

So down we went. With my Timberland’s I was particular with where I stepped and Jon with his brand new Top Stars, the same. Because of the moisture in the hills, the ground was saturated to the brim. Where there was no vegetation there was trail, and where there was trail there was mud. So, we walked upon vegetation. Little guys, grasses and these funny plants that resembled sea enemies. I was so proud with every jump and tip toe, by the time we were halfway about the lake and ready to depart the very damp and hike through the slightly damp, my shoes were clean and purty. – you know there´s only one reason I mention this… okay, good, I´m glad we´re on the same page – around the first peak we went and into a Quenua (Cane-wah) ´forest.´ Now these Quenua are special for some reason or another, but for those of you playing the home game just imagine Mansanita bushes in the California hills, except bigger.. or you´re really small.. so you´re walking under all of them. Still clean, we walk down, under, through, and over these in tangled trees. Their red bark pealing as you traverse their monkey bar orientation. One hand hold out of every one is covered with lichen and moss and it oozes between your fingers leaving you feeling guilty for the heinous murder of some squishy animal – alas, I think, or hope, it was only plant life and not worms or larvae or baby chickens, I pray. Under your feet the Quenua play a different trick. The bark stripped and the wood bare, words like traction and sticky, standing and happy, are thrown out the window and thusly replaced with ¨Awe F$”K¨, and ¨Ho!y S*!T, here I go!!!,¨ and the ever present, ¨Agh!¨ and ¨Ouch.¨ With a grumble and a brief and gentle rub of the rump you continue along the trail. Not long after our forest slip and slide begun we became as you say – rained upon.

My hat drooped and my jeans and perfectly preserved shoes were wet. We hid under a rock and examined the map. Jon pulled out his fancy smanchy GPS – why didn´t the bus lords pluck that from the sky on our way to Quito? eh??.. anyway, we tried to rectify ourselves with the map. For the first time since we started along the very well marked trail we actually looked at the map. Now this map… I´m going to bring it home so y´all can have a purty look at it, doesn´t make any sense. Starting with the longitude on the left it then gives gridded numbers like 6-89, 6-90, 6-91.. etc.. all the way till 7-15, then it provides the other longitudinal coordinates, 79 degrees 7 min 18 seconds to 79 degrees 23 min 31 seconds.. there was no smashing 6-89 into those cords. Frustrated we folded the map up, shoved it into our back pockets and kept on keepin´ on. Jon with his idea where we were and I with mine. I´ll be the first to say, I was wrong. After loosing ourselves in the forest and then above the forest we took a break, attempted to decipher the map one more time and then, from a higher perspective found the trail and were back on track – except we didn´t know what trail we were on. The map was horrid. After sometime in the forest and then out onto a bluff overlooking another lake we determined where we were. Soaked and already starting to get tired and frustrated we opted to walk back toward the ranger station. – perhaps we´d give up for the day, with our ten dollars paying for an ankle mud bath, or perhaps we´d seek higher ground, ten going to the full cleanse of body and soul.

Back at the lake the rain was gone, our shoes were still wet, but they´d been that way for a while now and one hardly noticed. Looking left, across the lake, the ranger station, with it´s smug roof and fancy concrete paths mocked us, and even further past that the fancy highway that buses drove upon carrying smug dry passengers to their happy dry homes to eat their warm, well cooked meals, sleeping on their soft dry beds. Ooooh, Left – the emotion it evoked. Looking down one only saw their shoes, muddy, soaked, and behind the darkened leather cold toes wiggled just enough to move warm blood in and cold blood out. In front of that was the map, the map with lines intersecting and colors representing, the map that placed us some where within 30 km of someplace, there it was in our hands as we looked down. In front of us the trail back around the lake which ended us to the left, and behind us, well, trail we had just walked, muddy and covered in memories. That left right.

Now right didn´t seem so bad after justifying why all the other directions were so aweful, but as it turns out, perhaps we should have done better analysis. 365 meters later we´d be questioning our decision to take the high road. To our right a seemingly small peak, compared to the jagged peaks about us, promised a wonderful view of the park, local to us, as well as a challenge that we easily met. So we began, at approximately 3,900 meters. Unlike trails of the California Sierras, or the Colorado Rockies, or even that of Ecuador´s Volcanic trail up Tungururha, this one went up – straight. It was unfortunate we didn´t have the Chinese technology of thousands of stairs to climb. Instead, just muddy foot prints and clumps of tall grass – the same grass, as it was, which is used to weave the fine Panama Hats of Ecuador.

Our eager pace fell to fast and fast fell to consistent and consistent finally ended with sitting. The air seemed to lack a certain smog – or something I couldn´t quite put my finger on. Light headed and ready to vomit we sat, breathing heavily, and exchanging half words between every four breaths. Are we THAT out of shape? Thankful to have 625 mL of water a piece, as soon as we were confident we wouldn´t breath the water, we sipped in order to achieve semi-natural vital signs. Our next steps were slow and deliberate. Heavily planted feet guaranteed less slippage and slower pace allowed for less exhaustion though we still took breaks at every available rock out cropping. As it was, we were essentially climbing a rock face, thus there were frequent stops.

Finally we were at the top. We could see it, the post stuck into the tallest rock sitting atop the peak. 10 meters, 6 meters, 3 meters, defeated! We were defeated. Just as you took your seemingly ultimate step and looked up there it was, a higher point one more hill up from this one, taking a break to console each other we kept on truckin, after all we couldn´t stop there, not with the pain in our lungs and the burning of our legs. 10 meters, 6 meters, 3 meters, was this some kind of sick joke? If I had a nickle for ever time…. we kept on. By now the rain was long gone and had been replaced by a bitter wind. The kind of wind that asks for your hat, but takes your hands, your nose, your ears, and anything else that is cinched down tight enough. It kept my water cold, but my hands were ablaze just as much as my lungs. Jon was equally incapacitated. We rested under yet another rock. This one quite large and quite apt to squish. I´m glad it didn´t. From our safe house the wind was a little less bitter and the view was promptly moved from our footing to the spectacular horizon.

The Clouds had receded from where we were and hung about the taller peaks. The mountains seemed different from the others we´d seen in Ecuador. While the hills of Cuenca and Vilcambama slowly melted and withered with time, these seemed to grow larger. The rocky buds atop each crest, with enough water, sun, and time, would bloom into taller, more grandiose pillars of nature. Massive implications of mother Earth´s Dominance. Perhaps into Heaven they´d reach.. perhaps the one we were aboard was on it´s way right at this moment. I couldn´t feel it move – I suppose I was just impressed. Below the towering sides, forests of Quenua snaked their way up ravines and crags, weakness in the design of superiority or strength of symbiosis. Below the forests, a black opal mirror had been shattered and strewn about – dark and then spotted with color and magnificence rivaling that of the tallest peak. Each lagoon was connected by pieces of silver thread and as the sun peaked in and out of sight so did the river beds below. What a place to rest. Alas we must keep on, the view at the top – if such a place existed, would be magnitudes more spectacular.

The following peak was too a fraud, but finally we arrived. Making a full scan of the local horizon, we were indeed at the top of this seemingly unimpressive hill. 4,265 meters later we were pooped.

Jon pulled out his Pentax and did his best to take a full panorama of the place, I wrote a bit in my journal, and Jon fell asleep for a short bit with a handkerchief over his eyes because in the magnificence of it all. Blue patches of sky polkadoted above our heads and the sun had come out to play. The top´s purported spectacularity was indeed legit.

Time for decent. Not wishing to evoke memories of old we started down the other side of the hill – by the map, this was the lighter way. oooh, that map. At our first cliff we were curious, at our second, perplexed, the third we scaled. Finding ruts carved out by rain water and waterfalls we were able to wedge our selves down each seemingly preposterous trail head and onto the next with unimpressive falls and highly impressive tumbles in between. Tired and sore we wish we had in our possession cardboard and at times resorted to skiing across grass tops with prayers of cactus and cliff free landings. After our half hour decent we arrived back at the lake and the ranger station couldn´t look any better. Another fifteen min of carefree shoe placement landed Jon in the lake once, I with mud about my face and chest, and both of us within ten meters of the station. Stopping briefly to talk with a fellow, local Ecuadorian Biologist, about his beautiful country, our travels, and the awesomely taxing hike we had just returned from, we hoofed it up to the road to thumb the next passing bus.

The sun slowly disappeared and the wind began to prod. I tried reading to avoid thinking about it, but I knew I´d be cold soon enough. I could see my breath. The bus never even put on it´s brakes.

Our biologist friend with his daughter and wife and another couple pulled out of the drive and turned back toward Cuenca. They stopped and pointed in that direction. We spent no time at all trying to decipher language, we were in the 1990-something Jeep with the door closed, warm.

All of them spoke very clear English and the words that one didn´t know another would. They were interesting people who loved their country, regulars at the park on weekends, the liked the Beatles and we listened to them the entire way back. The were good – genuine. The dropped us off closer than the bus would have and happy to have met new people and to be so close to a shower and dinner we were back at the hostel in a flash.

Tired and beat – we´re both satisfied with our decision to earn a good nights rest.

(Awesome photos by Jon)

 

Rode the Nose in Mompiche

We returned from Otavalo and Met Gabbi one last time for dinner before leaving Quito at 11:45 PM hoping to arrive in Mompiche soon thereafter. Dinner was goooood. Crepe place.. umm.. you all should try it sometime. Got to relax for about 40 min at Gabbi´s before we had to catch a cab to the terminal and then we were off. OFF TO SURF!!!

We woke up as the bus came to a halt. We were assured that this was Esmeraldas and directed to where we could catch our next bus to Mompiche. We were on the corner at 6:00 AM at cross roads, there was a gas station, and a sign telling which road when where, and told us that the bus would come. Indeed buses came. Quickly. From the left, from the right, from in front of us, from behind us. After half an hour the cross roads became busier with people.. which was good? vendors started selling breakfast rice and school kids lined up next to us and then quickly hopped aboard their respective buses. We were still on the corner, now with an unmanageable amount of gear… because of said purchases in Otavalo, picking up and putting down was becoming frustrating to say the least, attempting to catch a bus that doesn´t stop was not something I was looking forward to. As one bus rolled by and the conductor shuffled people aboard as the tires rolled at a visual speed, Jon was able to ask what he knew about the bus to Mompiche. We were relieved to hear ¨it was coming¨ and ¨from that way.¨ Another 10 minutes and sure enough a bus rolled by, ¨Mompiche, Mompiche, Mompiche!¨ It passed us. ugh. Then stopped, actually stopped, 40 meters away, ugh. The conductor seeing our interest in His bus, hustled over to help us with our gear, confirmed that we indeed wanted to get to Mompiche and lugged both us and our gear aboard. Another bus, another view of the country from a well worn and dirtied window.

The bus stopped and the water was right in front of us, the only thing that stood between us and it was the fleet of fishing boats that make this small town viable. About 30 different boats, some large dinghies, and some dugout canoes, there was the smell of fish, outboard motor fuel, and more fish in the air. The waves in front of us peaked and broke, not a surfing wave, but at least there was a swell. After some inspection and negotiation we found our place. It was tough to beat… really tough. Tough to imagine leaving too.

For $5 dollars a night each we shared a small two room palapa, a small bathroom and only cold water, but that was okay as no matter what time it was, the weather was balmy and hot.. is hot included in the term balmy? Perhaps. There was a small deck that we shared with the adjoining residence which was unoccupied. The deck was ours. The locality of Mompiche was small, manageable, and a little of a walk off of our place down the beach. Our place was surrounded by coconut palms and sand and we were no more than 10 meters off the high water line. Our view looked right out into the large bay that Mompiche sat to the south of and we were situated to look out at the southern boundary, the point from which the surf arrived. That night we enjoyed some good fish – fresh, some Cold Beer, perhaps the coldest beer in Ecuador.. or maybe it was just so hot that the beer seemed colder.. it was good, and then hit the sack because travel and heat wipe you out. Woke up in the morning, got ourselves some food and then some boards. We surfed. I walked the nose in Mompiche We surfed some more.

While relaxing after a session in the water a curious boat steered right at us on the water and landed. From it jumped three German tourists, and thus we had German friends while in Mompiche. There was a daughter, sturdly built – like any good German girls should be, working in Quito for a mission, as a missionary.. something, then her parents had come to visit her. Her mother was a happy woman, who smiled a lot in our company, I presume some of that was due to her lack of English. She was short in comparison to the family, but by no means tiny. Then there was the father. A very friendly man, who knew enough English to converse by himself with us and seemed to be energetic to talk to us, almost like he wished he had sons. He was an Economist as it turns out and did consulting work for German companies in their marketing and development strategies, who was also quite interested in, and had read quite a bit about, the U.S. Civil War. The whole family had quite the character, perhaps the German character? Nice folks. We had dinner with them that night and then breakfast again the following morning.

After breakfast Jon and I had decided to leave the allure of Mompiche simply due to lack of waves the previous day. We found when the last bus leaves back to Esmeraldas, and discussed options for where to spend our last 5 days. Then we promptly rented boards for the remainder of our time there and jumped in the water. As we got in and paddled up to the point, catching little waves on our way out, just in case we didn´t catch anything later, another fellow was getting in the water. Smarter that us, he had walked out to the point and strategically jumped into the water from the rocks, my arms were tired. This guy was a local so all we had to do was sit right off of him and we´d be in position, right? As it turns out we didn´t even have to do that, he told us where the good olas were, with a point and a shout and a paddle, it´s an international language. Shortly after we were in two more fellas got in, by the sames means as the first – stupid us – then the waves came. Good sized waves, about 2 meters for the big sets, but meter and a half consistently, fairly quick, and right on the rocks. It was awesome. Drop-ins were fast and fun and I just wish I had more experience with the short board speed. The session was great and we caught waves in to toy about in the shallows where the waves peeled like Rincon – no joke. It was no problem putting the board right down the line and lovin´ it every second. Jon got out.. so turned my board backwards, caught the next wave, spun the board around, 180, and kept riding. Awesome! A perfect end to a great session. I offered the German girl a quick surf lesson and hopefully inspired another surfer.

It was 3:45 we had to pack and decide: the Jungle, another Beach, the Mountains… we landed on Cuenca and hustled to the bus to barely catch it at 4:45 PM. Tired, it was too hot to sleep, so we watched the towns go by. We stopped for one pick up where a rival bus cut us off and subsequenty our bus driver got in a fight with the other – it came to shoves, and watches were removed, but it never came to blows. It was still Very Hot and yet we had no cold beer. I was hungry. I broke out the last Dogoba chocolate bar I had and we ate half. We change buses in Esmeraldas, ate a boxed dinner courtesy of Jon, and were on our way again. Military Check Point – twice. They don´t bother to ask for my passport, but the give Jon the run down, we both got the pat down. Hands on the bus. Caught a new bus out of Guyaquil at 5:55 AM. Out of the terminal witnessed a taxi run head on to a bus.. 0 injury incident fortunately. Still hot, still tired. Passed a crew of folks shaving a pig before hanging and carving for the days sale. Flat land right up to the Andes. Lots of banana farms. lots of bananas, ate a smashed and fried banana for breakfast on the bus, it was good. I went back to sleep. Beautiful View back toward the planes as we moved slowly, then quickly into the lush mountains, steep, vicious, we passed a rock slide as it was occurring.

Arrived in Cuenca at 10:00 AM. We´re back in the same awesome hostel, we´re tired, we looking forward to having something to eat and drink. I´m looking forward to Thursday´s arrival in Phoenix.

— Surf Club Post —

I named the place ¨Shark´s Cove¨ because it made me feel like there was danger.

Jon and I spent the weekend in Mompiche, a small fishing village in the north of Ecuador. We stayed in a two room palapa about 10 meters off the high tide line for $5 a night. Waking up in the morning we looked right out at the point. We found the guy who rents surf boards and learned that wave height is about 3 meters during the ´winter,´making it a perfect place for a surf trip over winter break, eh? but not that great during the spring, summer, and fall months. Surfing the first day was fun – the kind of fun that goes with getting back into the water after spending a month out.

The break comes from the open ocean onto the point and slowly raps around into the cove. The wave peaks like the shore break on a New Port Jetty, crashing against the rocky point and pealing from the rocky reef bottom (the reason Jon limped for a number of days after). With zone about 3 meters wide the first meter puts you against vicious rocks, your limited in where you could take off and it was easy to be intimidated by the proximity of the shore. But the wave pealed perfectly and there was always the option to bail because of the limited size of the curl. There was no close out with these waves. These waves (Olas) moved along the shore about 100 meters to where there was a lull..this was Shark´s Cove. It was a nice place to rest and had a bottom 5 feet below, mostly sandy (again, Jon´s limp). After the swell rolled past Shark´s Cove (another 100 meters) it began to peak again and then pealed all the way to the beach, another 100 meters, are you counting? This second break was such a nice mellow but well shaped wave that I give it second only to the waves of Rincon that I´ve surfed. It was easy to get to the nose, stand up straight, and make any old goofy pose you wanted all the way till the fin dug into the sand. So there´s the picture.

The first day of surf was filled with scoping the place out, testing the bottom for big rocks, riding the shoulder, watching boils turn into dry land, and in general not sackin´ up. Fortunately our second entrance into the water was followed by three locals. Friendly enough to point out the place they were going to take off from, it made it easy to sit off and examine the local technique. After a set or two, we were ready, I was ready, or so we though we were. As it turns out – we were. The waves rolled in fairly consistently for the next hour and a half at about one and a half to two meters and made for fun quick drop ins. I´ve still got to work on my short board speed skills, but for the most part I think I´ve got take offs and drop ins down. The waves were fun and the locals really nice and willing to laugh with us – at us.. there was laughing done, I´m not sure where it was directed. Probably at Jon.

After the session outside we all slowly gravitated to the inside break where more fun was to be had. Now we ran into a 4th local – he was about 5 and wore only a white loin cloth and surfed a 6 foot board. That guy was on fire. Jon and I practiced our same wave surfing, exchanging high fives and shoves and I was able to pull off a clean 180. It was awesome – I mean I am awesome – err… yeah, I´m awesome. With this eir of awesomeness I promptly skipped (yes, skipped) up to our place and offered to teach the female German missionary to surf – or at least give her the opportunity to give it a shot – in the spirit of the club. Accepting reluctantly, I found out later she didn´t like to get her hair wet… that made for difficulttutelage, but none the less she was smiling.

In summary – Mompiche had the surf, I´d suggest bringing your own board, but definitely coming down. Oh don´t forget your 50 spf, rash guard, and tropical wax.

Home in 3 days, I´m ready for some summer surfing with the club.

John

Cost

After spending the day in Quito, we arrived in the northern city of Otavalo last night and did a good deal of spending today … but I’m ahead of myself….
Quito is a city.. there are taxis and rapid transit systems, one way streets and central squares, large parks and planted trees, thugs, friendly residents, and hills to walk up and down. They have skies that cover with clouds and rain that comes down.. and then rain that really comes down, blue skies, tall buildings, colorful buildings, mountains that stretch into heaven and houses built upon them. There are poor children and poor families, rich drivers and rude spenders, there are loads of tourists, English speaking waiters and English menus, drunk fellas talking about Castro and a strange addiction to Che Guevara. Most importantly there were two very handsome fellas that arrived and walked around with no purpose for several days.
Jon and I, having spent the majority of our time in small towns in Ecuador, are not quite sure what to do with ourselves in a genuine bonafeid city. Unfortunately we quickly resorted to US tactics.. spend money.. at least tried to. We searched for guitars to buy, we both got shaves from the local barber, we looked at buying street art, toured about the old town, taking pictures with Jon´s camera.. as the whereabouts of mine are still unknown, and finally we did it.. we went to the casino(s). We went to 5 separate ones. We gave them our money.. but damn it.. they just gave it back over and over again along with drinks and food. For every meal we went into the casino, threw down our dollars and promptly ordered a beer (then scotch) and a ham and cheese sandwich while they stacked the chips in front of us. Needless to say, we weren´t being very adventurous in Quito.
Our third night in Quito we were able to get a hold of a friend of Andrew´s from Oregon´s School of Architecture, a girl by the name of Gabbi. She´s a native Ecuadorian and lives in Quito. She got a good portion of her education in architecture from Oregon, but her degree from a school here in Ecuador so that she could immediately start her practice. Fortunately she was well educated in Oregon about beer and made sure we ended up someplace that served good beer – by no means on par with the micro-brews of Oregon or Colorado, but better than the national brand, Pilsener. She kept good company too and it was neat to see how much she loves her job and her country. She told us that she made more money as a truck driver (yeah, she was doin´ long hauls) in America than she does as an Architect down here. It was the best way I could think to practice my Spanish, speaking English with a Spanish speaker.. right??
The following morning, after a quick review of our time line, Jon and I made the decision to trek up to Otavalo to see the market (which is simply a larger scale of what we´ve seen in Cuenca, Ambato, and Quito.) the next day and then out to the coast in our final week here.
Otavalo is a small city that serves as the hub of commerce for the area of weavers. There are large markets every day here where they sell their crafts and Wednesday and Saturdays are even larger. Given this is where we´ve done most of our spending I thought I´d give a quick run down of the scale of costs, including some spending in Quito…
Hour of Internet Time: $0.60
Taxi Ride to Casino: $2.00
Scotch, Sandwiches, and Meat Balls on a toothpick while we gamble: $0.00
Walk home counting our winnings: $0.00
One pound of laundry service to get the casino smell out: $0.26
Bus Ride to Otavalo: $2.00
Nights Stay at Residential Santa Fe: $8.00
Sweater in Otavalo: $5.00
Hammock in Otavalo: $9.00
Cost to ship the hammock(s) home: $?.??
Almurezo: $1.00
Propositioned in the park… in Quito.. on Sunday: ….
(Jon tells this story)
The day was sunny, but the breeze kept the intense warmth of the Ecuadorian hotness under control. The sharks were out. Strolling along a walkway in the park, we browse the various local arts & crafts for sale… the shark eyes her prey.While admiring some graffiti on a statue, John is approached by a strange and wayfaring woman. The following is a translation of their Spanish conversation:

Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Do you speak Spanish?”
>John: “A little.” (A slight overestimate… poor guy.)
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Good. If I have something valuable to you, could I trade it for something from you?”
>John: “What?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something very special for you.”
** At this point, I take a few steps backwards and whip out my Pentax and start shooting, because I know this is going to be good. **
>John: “What do you have?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Something very valuable to you.”
>John: “What do you have?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something you want, and you can give me something for it.”
>John: “I don´t understand.”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Do you want what I have for you?”
>John: “I really don´t understand.”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something for you which is very valuable. Do you want it?”
>John: “Jon, what is this she talking about?”
>>Jon: “Prosssstitution!”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Yes.”
>John: “Oh… no thanks. I don´t, uh, I don´t need that. No thanks. Are you really a prostitute?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Yes.”

Poor guy…

… priceless
I got a hold of a Miami Newspaper yesterday and saw that we haven’t attacked Iran yet.. if we do, will someone let me know. :) Home Soon Enough.. time for a milkshake.