Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mission to the Sierra

Overnight bus to Quito : better than I expected, at least on the way there. They only blasted music on our way back. However, I still missed those 2 nights sleep, I really hope I learn to sleep on buses for our trip south!
Monday I had a meeting in the morning about my visa, ugh straight off the bus. What a nightmare! Paperwork, whoever invented that… So the hostel owner here said a friend of his from school was working in the immigration office and could help me so I spoke on the phone with him and all seemed too easy. I had done a bunch of research on the internet and figured I needed a bunch of things and an actual visa, not just an extension of original 3-month stamp. Well to keep a long story short: I was right since things had changed recently and was then left to gather everything I needed within a few hours in Quito, pay ridiculous amounts to get the visa, to the immigration office and to this guy who turned out to be a lawyer that worked in immigration (but that I knew more about what I needed than he did?) No wonder no one trusts lawyers here!! I was pretty nervous since I had to wait another 2 days for them to process it just praying it would come through but all’s well that end’s well and that mission is complete!
Otherwise…. Monday we slept all afternoon since we hadn’t on the bus and then made our way to airport to wait for Simone, and wait, and wait and por fin!! Ya esta!! I’m so happy to have a friend and travel companion!!
Tuesday was my other meeting for my visa then that afternoon we were going to go to Mindo but well…. By the time we left it was pouring, I mean POURING. Not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. We were staying at a friend of ours (Chenty)cousin’s place (amazing view! on really clear days you can see both cotopaxi and chimborazo, the biggest volcanoes and chimborazo is halfway across the country!) and walking down to the bus was like walking down a waterfall. We got soaked before we even got on the first bus and by the time we reached the shopping centre to drop off the keys, well we could’ve swum all the way there and arrived drier! Plus by that point it was quite late so we decided instead to pick up stuff for dinner and head home. We were going to go out but then decided we were too tired and just watched a movie. Dinner was delicious if that can compensate for doing nothing all day!
Wednesday we did go Mindo, early in the morning though it took us the whole morning to get there, I think navigating the buses all the way across the city to the north terminal took longer than the bus ride out to Mindo!
Now, Mindo… I had heard loads of wonderful things about this town in the cloud forest so perhaps my expectations were a bit high, but there really isn’t much there. One street lined with tour agencies, hostels and restaurants. Just for tourists, nada mas. Didn’t help we were there during the week either. Plus we’d all been zip-lining so we just decided to hike through the cloud forest to a waterfall. Mindo is famous for it’s birds and butterflies but apparently you have to go to the butterfly house to see them since we didn’t see a single bird and very few butterfies…
But it was wonderful to hike through the cloud forest again, nothing like an intense uphill struggle in the extreme humidity to make you feel like the least fit person in to world! Later we continued on to find the waterfall, but there was a sign saying you had to pay. However there was absolutely no one around so we just went in. Hiked down to the river and along it to a nice but smallish waterfall. Someone had obviously tried to set up something along the river but a landslide had put an end to that idea and everything was in disrepair. Then all the way back up again, and just as we were leaving, a man came out and asked us what we were doing. When he figured out we had just come out of the path he demanded we pay the $9. Well, that might not seem like a lot to you, but here that is a lot. Especially for nothing. But his wife was yelling from the house about calling the police and we ended up settling it with a $5. Before that the bridge into the cloud forest had been closed so we saved a dollar and took the “cable cart” across. For a place with nothing, it sure was expensive! Food was about twice the price of anywhere else and as beautiful as it was there I think we will be avoiding small tourist towns from now on. At least in the big tourist towns you can get normal food.
After our sweaty adventure we attempted to get a warm shower (our $4 room only had cold water) but somehow only Chenty succeeded… mine was cold and the light didn’t work! And then we treated ourselves to pizza. I went to bed since the bed was incredibly soft and I was dead tired but Simone and Chenty decided to go out, only to return 2 minutes later with the verdict that there really was nothing in este pueblito!
6:30am bus back to Quito, mad adventure to pick up the keys and head to the house, (witnessed a crazy fight between the bus driver and a taxi driver, not sure over what, decided to switch buses... you know you're in Quito when...) drop off stuff, back downtown to get my visa and bus tickets. No more morning bus so we decided to hop on the bus that night. Was 4 mins late to the visa office (had no idea of the opening hours) and almost got turned away but managed to convince them that I had been told 2:00 (dos) instead of 12:00 (doce)…. And I HAVE A VISA!!! Finally, I can relax. Flight home for March 4th and ideas of working all spring again, relaxing in the summer and heading to Japan in August. Pretty excited =)
Thursday afternoon we walked around the Mariscal Sucre with Chad (who happened to be in town, can’t believe how many times we’ve run into each other!) and I bought some street art that I saw the guy do, all with spray paint, incredible!
From there we went to the shopping centre again with the intention of watching a movie but then decided we didn’t have time since we had to go get our stuff and make the bus. So Chenty and Simone decided to go ice skating for the 30 mins that was left of public skating. (I opted to take pictures since the more I try to skate the more I fail!) It was Chenty’s first time and I was prepared to laugh at him spending more time on his butt than on his feet but instead I was blown away when I realised he could skate better than me on his first try! Anyway it was still hilarious to watch them! I guess that was my winter since it was so cold in Quito (none of the houses are heated so if it gets down to 10C outside, it’s 10C inside too).
Back to grab our stuff, leave it at the bus station and literally run over the Mariscal again to hunt down Shawarma/Kebab/Donair (why are all the names arabic but still change from continent to continent??) since Quito is the only place you can get them here. And on to the bus for the ride home =)
Got back yesterday at 6am, slept all morning and went to Puerto Rico to visit in the afternoon. Made an amazing fruit salad for dinner (finally!) and went out for a bit last night. Miserable weather here, but we need it! I’ve ruined my flats, my sandals and a pair of jeans… the roads are pure mud.
Going to relax this weekend then back to the ‘grind’ next week but we’re leaving in 2 weeks and motivation is kind of low, I can come here with the best of intentions but things are just too laid back. Oh well, I have real projects for Jan/Feb now!!

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