Location: Brighton, UK
I should have written this final entry ages ago, since it had been almost three weeks (*sob*) since I returned from Ecuador. As you may have noticed by reading my weblog, I had the most fantastic-est time and have zillions of great memories of the three months I spent out there. However, the time arrived when I had to catch that flight home, and sad as it was to say goodbye to everyone and to the wonderful country i'd grown to love, in a way I was ready to come home. Although there is a lot that I miss about it already, I'm just grateful for the amazing time I was able to spend there, and I'm hoping to have the chance to return at some point in the future.
I spent a lovely week at home in Mallorca before returning to Brighton about a week and a bit ago - where my life has suddenly become incredibly hectic again (how I wish I could go back to those stressfree days up at the Hacienda!). But I only have one year left at uni, so I want to make the most out of it and enjoy it as much as possible - and obviously do as well as possible too!
I'm currently writing an essay on my time in Ecuador - specifically on my experiences at my work placement - which I am going to submit for the Trainee of the Year Award that's taking place in London in a few months' time. The deadline for the essay is Friday 19th Oct, and two weeks after that I'll find out if I made the top ten list - in which case I would then have to go to London for the final part and give a 5min presentation in front of a panel of judges (gulp!). First prize is £1000, second £500 and third £250, so fingers crossed!
Lots of love to everyone,
Location: Quito, Ecuador
My time here is now coming to an end... I fly home on Thursday, only 4 days away. It's so sad to think of leaving, cos I know I'm gonna miss it so much...
Anyway, an update on what we've been up to these past few days. After spending a second night at Hostal Bambu, on our second day in Canoa we decided to visit an organic farm/hostal, Rio Muchacho, that we'd heard about from several people, so we got up earlyish and caught a bus to the place... Problem was, the bus dropped us off at the edge of the road and, after asking a passing girl, we still had a 2hour walk along a track till we'd reach the place... We were almost about to give up and turn back (we were worried we wouldn't have a chance to see anything since we hadn't called to reserve) when a car passed us by and was able to give us a lift most of the way. After a 20min walk, we arrived at the place, and what a place it was! The organisation is run by an Ecuatorian/New Zealand couple, who are really into the ecological, organic way of living. They set up this farm about 20years ago, when they started planting trees and organic crops (and apparently turned the area from a desert into a luscious tropical garden/forest), and then opened it up to tourism about 10 years later. They have a bunch of cute bamboo cabins surrounded by amazing vegetation, and a large farm where they keep pigs (to sell, not eat), guinea pigs, earth worms (supposedly very useful for the earth, cos they make the soil really fertile), chickens, horses..., plus a HUGE 'huerta' with hundreds of different crops, vegetables and fruits (from cocoa and coffee beans, to sesame seeds, to mangoes, bananas, papayas, maracuya, pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes... You name it, they had it). We asked to have breakfast (delicious muesli and fruit, which we ate out of bowls and spoon made from coconut shells, and yummy home made coffee) and after chatting with the owner, decided to go for the 3-activity day package. We spent the day making our own set of bowl and spoon, rings from seeds, and learning how to make chocolate from bean to actual melted chocolate (which tasted completely different to the normal stuff you try). We also had a tour of the farm, learning about the ways they recycle water, checking out their compost toilet, and the ways in which they promote permaculture and the diversity of crops and vegetation. It was a fun day, slightly pricey, but worth the money. They also offer volunteering opportunities (cos they work with the local community school too), so I might look into it if I decide to return to Ecuador next year.
We got a lift back to Canoa with an American couple who's been there for 3 days, packed our bags, and got a bus to San Vicente - a town just 20mins away - where we had to get a boat across the river to another town, Bahia de Caraquez, where we bought a bus ticket back to Quito and had dinner. The bus ride back was probably the worst I've had here so far, cos it was incredibly bumpy (which I should've been used to by now, I guess) and they kept the music on ALL NIGHT LONG at top volume (despite my asking them to turn it off to allow us to sleep), so it really wasn't a very restful night. We arrived at about 6am in Quito, and tiredly made our way to Casa Canela, where we asked for a room and to have breakfast. We bumped into Tim there, who'd also just got back from a week of scuba diving at the Coast, and after breakfast, went on a day trip to some natural thermal baths in a place called Papallacta. We spent about 1 1/2 hours lazing around in deliciously warm/hot pools, before having a snack for lunch and then catching a bus back to Quito. It was Tim's and Mia's last night in Ecuador, so they'd invited the IAESTE's and some of their friends over to Casa Canela that night. Funnily enough, I met a Scottish girl called Louise, who'd arrived a week earlier - also IAESTE - and who I'd been in touch with via email before coming to Ecuador. I'd completely forgotten she was supposed to arrive in September, so it was a lovely surprise to actually meet her before leaving. I was planning on having an early night cos both Axel and I were feeling K.N.A.C.K.E.R.E.D. after two weeks of travelling and a terrible night's bus ride, but Louise and Laura (another Scottish girl, who's been here 2months already, working for a children's charity in Quito) and the rest of the IAESTEs managed to convince us to go out clubbing with them, and I actually ended up having a great night out. I was actually the first time I'd been clubbing since I got here (the only other fiestas or parties I'd been to were local ones with traditional national music) so it was great fun to experience the young Ecuatorian party scene at least once before I leave...
However, it did kinda ruin our plans of getting up early the next day to head to Otavalo market. We ended up going to bed at about 4am, and so were unable to get up early enough to get to Otavalo - a 3hour bus ride away - before at least noon (and apparently it gets so busy on Saturdays that it's best to get there as early as possible). Plus Axel and Laura had hit it off the night before, so Axel wanted to stay in Quito to spend the day with her, and then head to the Hacienda that night to spend Sunday with her wooing her over with his cowboy skills (heehee). But because I was so tired I didn't mind missing Otavalo, and after lunch Axel, Laura, Mia and I headed down the road to a local Mercado Artesanal (arts and crafts market), where Laura told me you can find the same kind of stuff as in Otavalo, so it was just as useful for buying souvenirs etc. After Axel and Laura headed off to Machachi that eve, Louise and I chatted for a while and then decided to watch a movie at Casa Canela before having an early night. The following morning, after breakfast, we decided to ride the TeleferiQo (cable car) up Guagua Pichincha (the 4100m high active volcano towering over Quito), and then hike a further 700m till the actual summit. We hiked for about 2 1/2 hours, when we decided that it was much further than we'd imagined (and harder too... I think I lost my adaptation to the high altitude after travelling for 2 weeks at lower altitudes, especially after being at sea level) and after asking someone and finding out that the summit was still at least another 1 1/2 hours away, we decided to call it a day and head back. We had a sandwich at the top of the TeleferiQo before heading back down to Casa Canela. It was only 3pm but I was so exhausted I snoozed for 2 hours when we got back. We had an easygoing evening, chatting with Axel and Laura once they arrived back from the Hacienda, cooking pasta together, and then heading to bed. Today Laura and Louise had to go to work, so Axel and I left early and went to the University of San Fran so Axel could visit it, and so we could use the internet. It was fun to see the uni full of people, but you can really tell only the rich Quiteños study here... We then came back to Quito for lunch and had a look round a shopping centre, then popped by the TDV office, cos Axel has lost one of his paycheques and wanted to know if they could write me a new one, and so we could say goodbye to David and Paola, and to Jorge (who for the first time ever was in a really good mood, asking me how I'd been, and giving us a TDV cap as a goodbye gift... Only after I asked for one though!). We're probably gonna have another easygoing eve tonight, and tomorrow will do some more shopping around for souvenirs... I need to decide when to head back to the Hacienda to say my goodbyes, but don't know whether to go tomorrow or Wedn. It's really nice to be spending our last few days in Quito again, taking it easy instead of rushing around doing as much as possible before leaving. I feel we've seen plenty of lovely places in Ecuador, and although it's a shame we didn't get to go to Mindo (which is supposedly really beautiful) or Otavalo, it's just another reason to come back again! And it's a nice way to end my trip, in Quito, like I started it.
Anyway, there will probably be a final update before I leave on Thurs. Goodbye for now xxx
Location: Canoa, Ecuador
Hey everyone again,
After 22 hours of travelling by bus (including a 2hour wait in Vilcabamba, another two hours in Loja, 1/2hour in Guayaquil where we changed buses at 6am, and another 1/2wait in Puerto Viejo, and a painstaking final 1/2 on the bus where I got chatted up by an 80+ yo man, who insisted I was the prettiest girl ever, repeating how much he loved my nose and ended up asking me to marry him...!) we finally arrived at 2pm in Canoa, a gorgeous little seaside village. We found a hostal we'd been recommended, called Hostal Bambu, which is right on the beach at the end of town. We were given a cute little bungalow-style hut, obviously made from bamboo, which is just big enough to fit two beds, mosquitoe nets, our two large backpacks, and ourselves... And is also on the beach, so we have sand for a floor, which makes it all the more authentic! After dumping our stuff, we headed out to find something for lunch (we were ravenous after not having had a proper breakfast other than a snack or two sold to us on the bus), then went back to the hostal at 4ish, where I fell asleep whilst reading, and woke up again at 8.30pm... Axel was also asleep in the bed next to mine, so I headed out to have a stretch and stopped off at the bar for a crepe and a chat with the barman, before heading back to bed at 10pm and sleeping all the way through till this morning... That's how exhausted we were! We're gonna have a relaxed day - read, sleep, read and sleep some more, and maybe venture out for a walk along the beach if we feel up for it... It's a gorgeous place here, but to our disappointment the weather's quite stormy and it's quite overcast - apparently it's the time of year (the weather's better here around Dec, Jan, Feb), so it's not as hot and tropical as we'd imagined. But it's still really warm and humid (I got to wear my skirt for the first time yesterday!) and it's a really pretty, relaxed place to be, so we're really happy we came here. And it's great to see YET another part of Ecuador... Seriously, this country has EVERYTHING (beach, mountains, rainforest, sun, snow...) and it's only the size of England! No wonder I'm in love with it.
We're planning on spending another night and day here, just relaxing, and getting the bus back to Quito tomorrow (Thursday) night, in order to be there Friday morning. Then we're hoping to go to some natural thermal baths in a place called Papallacta (about 1 hour or so southeast from Quito) during the day, spend the night in Quito, and go to Otavalo market (north of Quito, apparently the biggest indigenous market in S America) on Saturday morning. Then we're thinking of going to Mindo (a beautiful biodiverse cloudforest northwest of Quito) for a couple of days (probably Sun-Tues) and then head back to the Hacienda for my last day to say our final goodbyes, leave a few gifts behind and pick up our bags) before I fly home on Thursday 20th... Boo hoo! Although there are loads of things I'm happy to go back to, it's gonna be SO HARD to say goodbye to everyone and leave this country. Still, as they say, all good things come to an end, don't they? I'm just grateful for the AMAZING time I've had here, and will begin planning a return trip as soon as I arrive home!
Loadsa love to everyone,