Monday, 27 February 2017

Last Days in Quito

19-02-17 Sunday
Today was very much a family day. Ruby and I had a sleep in before getting up to greet the family. Our host mum's son David and his wife and three kids were there.

When it came time for the afternoon meal it included Ruby and I's first experience of homemade soup (soup is extremely common as an 'entree' over here). The soup had a piece of Yuca, lamb and Maiz and was of a broth consistency. For our first homemade soup it wasn't too bad! The rest of the meal was pork, potatoes with cheese on (runny consistency and tasted vaguely like Sour Cream) with avocado and tomato.

After lunch David asked if he could 'adopt' Ruby and I for the afternoon to which we agreed. His wife, 2 month old daughter and his 10 year old daughter came with us and he took Ruby and I to Parque Itchimbia where there are awesome views of the city and a large building made of glass known as the 'Crystal Palace.'

David then took us to 'El Panecillo' where a large statue of the Virgin Mary sits atop one of the city's hills. It was rather incredible to see up close and you could even go inside and up a few flights of stairs to a balcony about a third of the way up the statue. The views of the city were in my opinion better than those from the top of the Teleferico purely because the cloud/smog wasn't blurring the city.

20-02-17 Monday
Today was technically our first day of orientation with Lattitude (don't ask why they put it at the end of the first two weeks of Spanish course ๐Ÿ˜›). First we had an admin chat at 'Vida Verde' and shared our Hopes and Fears for the whole experience. Then we were taken to 'Mitad Del Mundo' aka Latitude 00°00'00".

Fun facts:
- The Equator is actually 5km wide
- The monument for Latitude 00°00'00" is not the correct Equator line (the red one pictured is technically the correct one.

We spent a while wandering around the monument, taking the obligatory tourist photos, trying to pet the llamas (not me though) and looking at the high quantities of shops with all the same souvenir things. At 1pm we had lunch in one of the many restaurants at the location which was a rather large lunch with all typical Ecuadorian food.

After lunch we walked down the road to the Inti ร‘an Museum where the actual calculated Equator lies. We had a tour round and learnt about some of the tribes and traditions in Ecuador and the Amazon and were shown some cool things that prove you're on the equator including...

- Directly on the equator line water does not spin when it goes down the plug hole it is simply pulled straight down.
- You weigh 1kg less at the equator because you are further from the centre of the earth and so the gravitational pull is weaker.
- Your balance is offset is you walk along the equator due to the contrary motion of the forces in each hemisphere.

After being amazed by the effects of the equator and North and Southern Hemispheres we headed back into Quito on the bus and went home (not before being caught in the rain though).

21-02-17 Tuesday
Not much to say about Tuesday except that if you need to get a visa other than a tourist visa, be prepared to sit in a hot stuffy room with many other people for 3 hours.

Take snacks and water
Don't make other plans (Lattitude had plans to take us to Old Town but we missed out due to the unusually long wait at Immigration)

22-02-17 Wednesday - Last Day in Quito
For the others, Wednesday meant having an individual 10 minute chat with Rossy in the morning and a teaching skills workshop in the afternoon at 'Vida Verde.' However for me, this meant lying in bed feeling incredibly nauseous for most of the day until I was eventually sick and managed to drift in and out of sleep for the rest of the day/night in the hopes that I would be okay to travel the 9 hour bus journey to Cuenca in the morning... Not fun but glad it is over with and my host mum was very helpful. Also, special shout out to Ruby who took good care of me and gave me the hug and love I needed ❤

(Sorry for the delay in the blog post, things have been very busy and full on in the past week)
Being sick makes things 10x harder and brings on the homesickness but the people around me were awesome and that's what counts and what makes things easier.
Miss you all.
Georgia xx

Sunday, 19 February 2017

El Teleferico

Saturday's adventure was a trip up the Teleferico, a gondola taking you up to Cruz Loma on the upper slopes of Ruca Pichincha. It costs $8.50 for a return ticket and it is about a 10 minute ride up. The views are absolutely incredible!

We left our houses at approximately 10.30am and hailed a few taxis to take us there. We bought our tickets and didn't have to wait long to get into the cabins. Each cabin took 6 people which was perfect since there was 12 of us meaning we neatly fit into 2 cabins. The ride up was pretty scary but the view was amazing looking right out over the whole city.

The Teleferico climbs from 2800m to 4100m in the short 10 minute ride and is breathtaking (literally). At the top it is rather chilly with an average temperature of 6℃, I was definitely glad I took my scarf. There are many platforms and areas from which you can take photos and you can see the whole of Quito city which spans a much larger area than I imagined. We had a relatively clear day but as you can see in the photos there was already quite a few clouds and a layer of smog over the city by the time we arrived (in typical fashion Sunday was a much clearer day but nevermind!)

At the top we wandered around taking multiple photos for a while, then we decided to head up and round the corner a little bit where the view was slightly elevated, it was pretty magical and there was even a layer of mist floating above the ground due to the crisp, cool air as seen in the photo below.

There is the option to walk right to the top of Ruca Pichincha however even just being at the top of the gondola the effects of the altitude were apparent with an increased heartrate and shortness of breath from just wandering around to take some photos. Only Timo was up for walking to the top so we reluctantly left him behind to venture to the top. These photos below were taken by him from the top of the mountain and are pretty incredible!

The rest of us headed back down on the gondola and enjoyed the gentle descent down the mountain. At the bottom we hailed a taxi and a van to take us back to La Floresta (the neighbourhood we are staying in) where we decided upon somewhere to eat for lunch, we were a little hangry by this point (approximately 1.30pm). We decided upon 'Pollo Campero' a Latin Chicken Fast Food Chain so we hailed two taxis and piled in hoping the taxi drivers would bring us to the right place. Thankfully, our taxi driver did take us where we wanted to go however the other 5 not so much... we waited outside the place for half an hour in hopes they would turn up but no luck and the hunger was immense by this point so we went in and had some lunch anyway. The lunch was pretty good for fast food and considering it only cost us $12.65 for 5 people to eat we certainly had no complaints!

By this point we were pretty tired so Ruby and I caught a Taxi back home and the others walked. We still have no idea what the others got up to whilst we waited and eventually went in and had lunch but it was all part of the fun and they were safe ☺

Hope everyone is well, miss you all back home!
Having a great time ☺
Georgia xx

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A Week in Quito

Every week day since we have arrived, we have been having spanish language classes at a local spanish language school called 'Vida Verde.' These ran from 8.30am until 12.30pm eachday with a break at 11am during which we would usuallly just talk and have a coffee. After classes finish we all head to our host homes for lunch and make use of the Wi-fi to make any plans for the afterrnoon or just chill and do our homework.

13-02-17 Monday
Monday afternoon we had nothing planned so a group of us decided to head to a cute little cafe known as Cafe 'Jervis' which looks like something you might find in Wellington and has very yummy cake, biscuits and apple scrolls. Although it is slightly on the pricier side for Quito, it is still definitely cheaper than back home and we spent about 2 hours there just chatting.

14-02-17 Tuesday ♡ VALENTINE'S DAY ♡
This morning our break time at Vida Verde was a little different. They made us hot chocolate on the stove and we each got a small scone/roll to go with it as well as a piece of chocolate and an adorable little message on a heart or mickey-mouse shaped piece of paper attached to a popsicel stick. We definitely felt the love! The hot chocolate was also very warming as it was a rather cold day here in Quito (approx. 10-13 degrees celsius)

We were also lucky enough to receive our host mum's delicious homemade hot chocolate after dinner as well! (proof that it was just too cold). Except this time she served it with a plate of cheese... which Ruby and I were confused about until she explained that you put it in the hot chocolate - google 'Colombian Hot Chocolate' its a thing! Definitely different but worth a try and doesn't taste too bad if I do say so myself.

15-02-17 Wednesday
Today, after classes noone was doing much so Ruby and I decided to venture out in the rain and find the 'Amazonian Museum' which some of the others had visited the previous week. It was quite a small museum but it only cost $2 entry and had some interesting things to see. There was lots of amazonian pottery as well as taxidermied animals... and shrunken heads. Shrunken heads were used both as war trophies and in religious rituals/ceremonies. The Museo Amazonico is Quito's only display of Tzantzas (indigenous word for 'Shrunken heads').

After spending 20 minutes or so in the museum we explored the Mariscal area - lots of night clubs, bars and hostals - which is the main touristy area of Quito. We managed to find an English Bookshop which Ruby wanted to go to so she could buy a cheap book to read. It was tucked in amongst the bars and nightclubs and was run by an older British man - definitely refreshing to hear some familiar accents and fluent english.

16-02-17 Thursday
After lunch we decided to head to the 'Vivarium' in the nearby 'Parque Carolina' which is one of the bigger parks in Quito. The 'Vivarium' in Quito was quite small and was mainly home to many different types of snakes... not exactly my cup of tea but still worth the experience I guess? I mean they do say you should do one thing that scares you everyday. Don't worry all the snakes were behind glass though and so were the other 'exotic' animals including lizards, frogs and little alligators.

After dinner, a few of us headed round to Timo and Katy's host home and played cards for a few hours until 11 or so. Anna taught us an Ecuadorian card game called 'Cuarenta' that they had learned in class. So much fun! It is especially played in the mountain cities such as Quito and Cuenca. Can't wait to share it with friends and family when i'm back :)

17-02-17 Friday
Friday was our last morning of spanish lessons and we spent most of the lesson talking about fun tourist things to do and visit. During the break we also sung some Ecuadorian folklore songs and some spanish pop (good old Enrique Iglesias) whilst Fernando played the guitar and pan pipes. It was a nice way to end our 2 week spanish course.

We didn't do much in the afternoon except walk to one of the many nearby bakeries and enjoy a sweet jam-donut like bun and a bun with custard in the centre. It only cost 75c for both! I am definitely in love with the delicious, fresh and cheap bread over here!

Will update you on our weekend adventures soon :)
Georgia xx

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Laguna Quilotoa

Saturday morning we were up at 6am to get ready for a day trip to Laguna Quilotoa. Laguan Quilotoa is 3800m above sea level (Quito  is 2800m) and is a part of the Ecological Reserve "The Ilinizas." The water of the volcanic-cratere lake is a stunning emerald green colour and the whole area is so peaceful. Scientifically, the lake is 250m deep however many of the locals believe it has no bottom.

We left at about 7am and arrived at around 10am - a rather long drive to say the least. The view was definitely worth the early start and long drive though! From the top looking down the lake appeared a yellowy, greeny colour and as the clouds moved in it became more of a deep green.

Our guide told us a few things about the lake and we took some group pictures before beginning the steep, windy and dusty descent to the lake 400m below. Thankfully, I managed to avoid falling flat on my bum but there were certainly a few near misses and I did go for a slide a couple of times.

It took about 40 minutes to reach the bottom with a few photo stops along the way. At the bottom there was the classic 'swing' which cost $2 and although seemingly a little wobbly it was generally quite safe and made for some awesome photos! At the bottom you could also kayak out onto the lake which cost $3.50 for 25 minutes. I did not choose to do this but apparently it was beautiful and the water was incredibly cold!

After eating our lunch and taking in the view we began the arduous journey back up the crater. This took us about 2 hours and was incredibly tiring, especially since we were up another 1000m in altitude from Quito. When we reached the top again the temperature had dropped signifcantly and all the layers we had taken off during the taxing ascent were put back on.

Overall, it was a beautiful experience and definitely worth the long journey to get there and the steep walk to the bottom and back. We arrived back around 6pm extremely shattered and had an early night and a sleep in on Sunday.

Hope everyone is well.
Georgia xx

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Interesting Experiences Make Good Stories

And so the first of the crazy experiences begins...

Tonight Ruby and I's host mum took us to see a theatre performance at the local Teatro Cine, I was super excited about it because I love music and dance which was exactly what it combined and the entry was free. We found out about it through her son who ran the media production for the company and was going to save us seats.

We left around 7.30pm and walked up the street to catch a taxi and here is when the first of the strange but now funny experiences began. We got in an unmarked car with shades in the windows and Mariana told the driver where to go. To clarify, we had been told to ONLY get in taxis which were yellow and had a number on the side of the door. Anyway, it all worked out ok and we got there just fine - it wasn't a fake taxi despite the looks. (Will not be doing that alone or without a local though).

This was when the 'fun' began. We walked towards the entrance gate where there was a group of people outside pushing at the gate and yelling at the security guards to let them in. The gate was closed because the theatre was 'full' and there was a distinct lack of a ticketing system. We joined the mob and followed our host mum (imagine a lovely older lady of about the same height as myself; 5 foot 2) pushing her way to the front. Ruby pulled the gate back and our mum pushed her way through, fighting and pushing against the security guard and the other people trying to get through. All the while, I am trying to keep up and put on a brave face. Thankfully, I kept up and we made it through the chaos running towards the theatre until we were well clear of the guards and we found her son who took us to the seats he had saved.

The theatre performance was really good and was put on by the Ecuador National Company of Dance and the Ecuador National Symphony Orchestra. Following the performance, it was time for another new adventure: taking the bus. We waited for a while before the bus arrived and we hopped on. Luckily, it wasn't a busy bus and seats were aplenty. Buses here are incredibly loud and bumpy, certainly not the place for applying lipstick or trying to sleep. When we got off the bus our host mum took us through a small local park where there were kids playing and a row of vendors selling authentic local food. We had a look at each of the stalls and Mariana bought Ruby and I each an Empanada con Queso and a sweet drink made of corn called Morracho. The only way I could describe 'Morracho' is similar to creamed rice. It was white and creamy with soft chunks of white-coloured corn. It was better with cinammon on top but i'm not sure i'm convinced on the taste. Definitely worth a try though! Also the empanada was delicious!!

I believe the word for the night was "adventure" - even our host mum said to us "it is a night of new adventures" with which I could not agree more. I'll admit at the time it was happening I was rather scared but I certainly did enjoy the night and it is great to laugh about now that it has happened.

That's my interesting story for the week.
Georgia xx