Puyo & Macas

After Banos we took a fairly short bus ride closer to the jungle to a city called Puyo. Here there are many tours that take you deeper into the jungle. The weather went from cool to humid and wet upon our arrival. As we crossed a rickety old suspension bridge over the Tena river we found our home for a day. I would read in my hammock and two resident parrots would play right above me and this extroverted turtle would cruise by every so often. Lots of hummingbirds too. There was a beautiful walk right alongside the river where we felt like we were right in the thick of the rainforest, saw wild monkeys and all. We also visited a monkey reserve where we got to play with the monkeys. They were just running around and very friendly. As you can see from the picture they loved their friends – the dogs.

Next was a short bus ride to Macas. Here we stayed at a couple’s home. He was from Ecuador and she was from Texas. Super nice home where our room overlooked a river and mountains. He was a bird guide so the grounds they had their home on were just beautiful. They also had a gigantic black lab named Blackberry-got some good leaning and love from him. We were pretty low key here as we knew the next day we had an eight hour bus ride to Cuenca. Needless to say, that bus ride sucked! No food and no bathrooms. If you really had to go you had to tell the bus driver to stop and just go right there. Luckily the people from Macas were so sweet and packed us a lunch knowing what was ahead of us (we had no idea) and we will forever be grateful for those peanut butter and honey sandwiches. We made it but will not do another ride like that unless a bathroom is on board.

Keith is going to blog about Cuenca separately but my two cents…..LOVE it. Great city with a bit of a European feel to me. Lots of churches, cobblestone streets and museums. One of the things that was fun about this city too is we are staying in a 100 year old mansion and many of folk people here are American. Lots of folks are buying retirement homes here….guess its hopping for that just like Costa Rica was years back. We met people from Texas, California and Boston and partied with them last night and it was great to socialize. You know me-gotta have that social butterfly come out every once in awhile! Tomorrow we make our way down to the Peruvian border. I believe we will be departing Ecuador around Saturday. It’s hard to believe that our Ecuadorian journey is coming to an end. I have really enjoyed this country and was surprised how charmed I was. The scenery was just gorgeous with the combination of beach, mountains, rolling hills, volcanoes and rain forests all in one country. It will be a new challenge utilizing new money as Ecuador uses the dollar. I also hear as we make our way South the language will be more and more challenging as they talk faster and more slang. Big five stars to Ecuador-it was one gigantic success story! Sad to say goodbye but on to adventure the next country. Talk to you in Peru!

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Baños, Ecuador

Dawn broke early in Otavalo. We packed up our bags quickly and dashed to the station to catch our bus back to Quito. Two hours later we arrived back in that sprawling capital, then hopped into a cab that would take us the hour’s journey all the way across town to the station that served all locations to the south. We were bound for Banos, a city another three hours away that’s popular with both gringos and Ecuadorians alike.

With the congested, polluted streets of Quito rapidly fading in our wake, we entered a verdant valley teeming with smaller towns and fields full of crops and cows as far as the eye could see. The highway ran due south though “Volcano Alley”, and along the way Cotopaxi and Chimborazo stood tall, snow-capped and guarding the route like two silent white knights.

These would not be the last volcanoes we saw though. Upon finally arriving in Banos a couple of hours later, we got a good look at one of the things it’s famous for. High above this little town sits another mountain of fire called Tungurahua, and unlike its peaceful cousins to the north, this volcano is stirring. Just six weeks or so ago it had a bit of a spasm and shot a few bus-sized chunks of rock into the air and onto the town below. It was quiet on this day though, and we were grateful for that upon seeing all the signs throughout town marking the various evacuation routes and learning that folks there have a whopping three minutes to get out should the mountain show its anger.

Undeterred by this threat, we made our way to what would be our home for the next three days. And what a home it was! La Casa Verde is a charming guesthouse run by the Aussie/Kiwi combo of Douglas and Rebecca. They’ve created a true oasis in the mountains, a welcome respite for the weary wanderer. Spacious, clean rooms, hot water, fantastic food, and (saints be praised!) the ability to actually flush toilet paper instead of having to deposit it in the trash can provided. We were overjoyed. We spent the next few days strolling through the streets of Banos, doing various hikes to check out the many nearby waterfalls, soaking in the hot springs, and in general just relaxing and enjoying ourselves in the beautiful surroundings. It was difficult to pry ourselves away, but we knew a long road still lies ahead, so we once again packed up our bags and caught the next bus out of town. Our next stop is Puyo, a town an hour and a half away in the low lands on the edge of the jungle. We’ll check back in soon, so stayed tuned…

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We have started what I would call the first of our “real” travel. Galapagos was quite planned out. We packed our backpacks and headed for the two hour bus ride to Otovalo. First off-my pack is flippin heavy! 36 pounds is more than I wanted for weight so will need to figure that out. The tickets were only $2 per person and the bus ride was surprisingly comfortable and beautiful sightseeing. We drove through a mountainous area up and down these green hills with some streams in between. Once we arrived in Otovalo we headed to the hostel Keith had chosen. I felt like I was 20 again walking around the narrow streets of this city with my legs feeling the weight of my pack…..but I was smiling for sure! Found our hostel with no problems and have checked in here for two days. Cute hostel with our own room and bathroom. Clearly it is much less expensive here-only $26/night including breakfast!

Had a great night sleep our first night and arose to a day at the famous markets here. Oh my gosh was it amazing! The first one we ran across was full of vegetables and meats. Every kind of meat you can think of – pig head, cow livers and hearts, cow eyes….they don’t waste anything on the animal. The veggies were so fresh and robust. The green onions were absolutely gigantic! Keith tells me that volcanic soil is ripe for growing and that sure shows! I walked that particular market twice it was so fascinating. Next we wandered through the clothing and “stuff” market. Here we both bought hats made out of alpaca and they are so soft. I could have filled an entire suitcase from here with gifts for all my family and friends. Given the fact I have six months and my bag is already way too heavy I had to be okay with just a hat. Here they have what is called almuerzo which is a set menu at many restaurants for lunch. Ours was soup (yes it did have a chicken foot in the bottom of it) and chicken with rice and some juice. It was fantastic! Not too mention for the both of us it was a mere $3.50!

Tomorrow we rise early and catch the bus back to Quito. I have to pick up my camera from a camera repair shop and then we are bussing it to Banos which is a city full of waterfalls and volcanos. Until next time!

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Quito & Galapagos Islands

Well we are definitely not in Colorado anymore! We arrived in Quito and our hotel is nestled in this super green valley. Our first day was spent in the “old town” of Quito wandering the streets which reminded me a bit of San Francisco because they were so hilly. Beautiful colonial architecture with store fronts all along the town centre. Keith and I both dove right into trying to speak the Spanish language. It is definitely confirmed that he is a better speaker and I can hear it better – so as a team we do pretty well. I am just trying to digest and remember all the new words. Each night I have been super tired and I think part of that is just feeling like you are always working at communication.

We just returned from our five day tour of the Galapagos islands. WOW is all I can say. This unique place met all expectations. I could go on and on about the wildlife. As we first landed on the island it felt a bit like I had been transported right into the movie Jurassic Park. You all know how much that made me smile! So to give some of the highlights…..The first island was Santa Cruz – the largest island we visited. We spent the morning at a tortoise reserve walking around in the wild with these gigantic creatures. They look like a cross between ET and a very old grandpa and are so darn cute! We also walked and crawled (I am not kidding) through lava tunnels which was quite an experience. The next day was spent on the smallest of islands we visited called Floreana. This island only has approximately 200 inhabitants. Black sand beaches, Christmas iguanas, blue footed boobies, penguins and sea lions were everywhere you turned. It was so strange to just walk by these creatures like they were a domestic animal. We snorkeled off of a white sand beach with turtles. Sunsets were gorgeous! Then off to the last island of Isabela. Here we did some pretty fantastic snorkeling! We played with a baby sea lion in the water. I thought Keith said it best when he said that they were like the golden retriever of the sea. We also swam with turtles, sharks, sting rays and large colorful schools of fish. I will be smiling for months. We returned back for one more day in Santa Cruz and got to see flamingos both hanging out and flying – they are beautiful when they fly. Now we are back in Quito. I am swaying right now as I type since we took many boat hops from island to island. Galapagos was a GREAT start to our adventure. Tomorrow we are moving to Otovalo to experience one of the most famous markets in Ecuador. I am beginning to decompress but I have to say the dream of all this has not quite hit me yet. Will certainly let you know when it does. Buenos Noches!

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Ladies and gentlemen, friends and family, random passersby on the internet…I have come here today to tell you all that I have a horrible, incurable disease. The symptoms are not pretty. They include an unstoppable compulsion to memorize airline routes, timetables, and hubs, a constant desire to sample any food being sold on a street corner from a cart or a cooler, a love for luggage bordering on fetish, and the absolutely insatiable yearning to see what’s around the next corner, only to get there and immediately want to see what’s around the next one. Medical science has yet to put a name to it, but I long ago gave this awful scourge my own label. I suffer from a devastating affliction known to me and others as…wanderlust.

It all started out innocently enough. Various trips to Europe with my mother as a
child, random road trips with friends in college, and the occasional trip to
Mexico or the Caribbean after that. But over time, as the trips became longer,
more frequent, and more complex, I began to realize that what began as a casual
flirtation with travel was slowly evolving into a full-blown love affair.  Then something happened that would push me right over the edge forever.  I met Kelly, a
wonderful woman and the supreme love of my life, who was willing to not only
indulge my globetrotting passion, but more importantly encourage and support it.   I had
found my very own Sancho Panza, and the whole world was our windmill.

Our first major trip together was a three-week jaunt behind the Iron Curtain anchored around the ancient cities of Moscow, Budapest, and Prague. This was a whole new experience for me and a sublime departure from my usual comfort zone. For the first time in my life, I was visiting countries where I could neither speak nor read the language as none of them had their foundations in Latin. Russian didn’t even use the same alphabet for pete’s sake. Do you know what happened though? I loved every minute of it! It was like being in some giant, living puzzle for three weeks where even the most pedestrian of activities required you to gather and digest minute clues from your surroundings, to put together mental pieces in whole new ways. It was a challenge I accepted and loved, and it only served to increase my hunger for more.

Fast forward a couple of years. A few smaller trips have occurred in the interim, but I’m still yearning for that big pay-off because, once you get locked into a serious travel addiction, the tendency is to push it as far as it will go. My inner travel junky was in desperate need of a larger dose. Sitting in a cube inside the office of a megacorporation staring at a monitor all day was fine for paying the bills, but I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that there were dreams being left on the table unfulfilled. So, Kelly and I began to plot and scheme. I had always wanted to go abroad to live and work somewhere for a year. Total immersion into a new world was what I craved, along with all the daily opportunities for exploration that came with it. The more we thought about it, though, the more a significant conclusion dawned on us. How much exploration could be had when you’re working full-time? Could you really see as much as you wanted to while tied to one place with a job? We thought not. So, in the end, we decided to trade a year living and working in one place for six months of roaming freely unencumbered by the shackles of employment.

And that, gentle reader, brings us to where we are today. After months and months of planning and saving, we decided to put our careers on hold and take a giant leap into the unknown. It was both terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Our research eventually led us to settle on South America as our destination of choice due to its wide variety of fascinating locales and the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive as world destinations go. In a few weeks, on July 11th to be exact, we will depart for an epic six-month journey through that continent. We’ll begin in Quito, Ecuador, and follow the spine of the Andes south through Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina until we simply run out of land at Tierra del Fuego. When that happens we’ll turn our attention northeast and head back up the other side, passing through Uruguay and into Brazil, finally departing from Rio de Janeiro in mid-January.

We created this website to help keep our friends and family abreast of our travels and hope you’ll check in often to follow along. Our plan is to provide regular updates from the trail, and we’ll do our best given the vagaries of securing an internet connection in foreign lands. In the meantime, please feel free to leave any comments on this site, or drop us the random email, or even give us a shout on Skype.

Take care and we’ll see you in a few months,

Keith and Kelly

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