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Ellen's Ecuador Travel Page

David, Ellen, Cole and Paige visit Mitchell: our trip to Ecuador, Spring Break 2012, to visit our high school junior on his Rotary Youth Exchange. Quito, Santo Domingo, Cotopaxi, Banos, Riobamba, Cuenca, Otavalo, Quito, and home!

Diary Entries

Sunday, 01 April 2012

Location: Quito, Ecuador

Last night we went to the restaurant where we saw the fanesca soup advertised, but they were out of it. Dinner was nice, but more expensive than we have been used to, probably because we are in the tourist section of Quito. There was a harp player who tried for twenty minutes to tune his harp, then gave up and played anyway, out of tune, then came around and expected a tip. He got one, but Mitchell and I had been making fun of him secretly. The night life didn´t stop until about 2:00. This isn´t really our part of town. :)

David was sick all night, and didn´t wake me to tell me. So this morning I stuffed him full of Imodium and Cipro and we hit the road anyway. (He was better by noon, but tired all day). We left for Otavalo about 8:00 and made some stops on the way, including for biscoche (not spelling that right) - sort of a biscotti but savory rather than sweet. They were wonderful, and we bought a bag and ate them with dulce le leche. We spent two hours in the marketplace in Otavalo, and I think we bought one of everything. Seriously. Thank goodness we had Mitchell to bargain for us, because we were pegged for easy marks pretty early, as we were laden with bags! Fun shopping was had by all.

For lunch I finally got my fanesca, poor David had chicken broth, and Mitchell and Cole had beef. Paige ate empanadas, and everyone had either ice cream or figs and cheese (yum). Then we went to the equator museum. I was expecting a marker and a photo op, but instead it was a quite enjoyable interactive museum. Move the drain five feet, and the water seriously DOES rotate the other direction.

We said a fond goodbye to Ruben this afternoon. He was a wonderful guide. Another guide whom we have met once, Freddie, is taking us to the airport at 4:00 a.m., then it is back home for us. Mitchell will go to the airport with us then taxi to his host sister´s home. Pictures will go up later this week!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Location: Quito, Ecuador

This morning we walked around colonial Cuenca. What a beautiful city. We loved the cathedrals and parks, the markets and the street musicians. Then we toured a Panama hat factory. Factory is a misnomer. The hats are made there, but all handwoven. The best and most expensive are as much as $10,000, and as cheap as $5. Panama is also a misnomer. All Panama hats are made in Cuenca, Ecuador. They used to be imported to Paris by way of the US and Panama, which is how they got their name. Needless to say, the Flottman family is now richer by three Panama hats. After the factory, we went up to a high point to view the city, then to lunch at a traditional restaurant. The ceviche there is wonderful, but I had already had it three times this week, so I ordered a Plato Typico, which included pork, blood sausage and a dish which I had before made with hominy, eggs and cheese. Everything here is served with aji which is a sauce made from a fruit similar to passion fruit and onions and aji peppers. Wonderful. I will have to learn to make it (and also ceviche).

This afternoon we flew back to Quito. Ruben is driving back, which is about 7 hours. Our very modern hotel in the tourist section of town is fun, but the restaurants in the neighborhood are more expensive and many of them serving American rather than Ecuadorian. But needless to say, we have found the traditional restaurant nearby, serving Fanesca soup (made with dried salted fish and only served during Lent) so we are good for tonight´s dinner.

Tomorrow, Otavalo!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Location: Cuenca, Ecuador

We are in Cuenca. I am sitting in a sitting room of the Hotel Carvallo, where a waiter just brought me coffee on a cart. I was proud to be able to convey "black" to him. This morning we had to get up at 5:00 and breakfast at 5:30 to make the train to the Devil's Nose. It is really touristy, but fun. Taking a train through the Andes isn't going to be a bad thing no matter what. Then on to the Incapirca ruins, where we sat on the terraced hillside and ate box lunches after our tour of the ruins. Ruben tells us that Ecuador isn't really an Inca country like Peru. The Inca were only here 70 years and mostly borrowed from the indigenous people who were already here. Then to our hotel in Cuenca. We might eat here, or might walk across the street to another restaurant we saw. Last night we had a lovely dinner at the Hotel Abraspunga in Riobamba, with live Andean music. We ate ceviche and pasta, splurged for wine and dessert. Dinner here is not until 8:00 or 9:00 - we went at 7:30 and were the first ones in the restaurant. Tonight we will hold out until 8:00 as the box lunches were large and not until 1:30. Tomorrow morning we are touring colonial Cuenca then visiting a Panama hat (a misnomer) factory. Maybe I'll buy David a hat.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Location: Riobamba, Ecuador

Today we left Banos about 11:00 a.m. and went to Chimburazo volcano. We drove up to the base camp at 15,500 feet above sea level. We took big sandwiches from town and drank hot tea. David and Mitchell and Cole walked higher to a marker, and started to hike to the snow line. But Cole started feeling bad from the altitude at the marker and Paige and I were already feeling bad in the base camp, so David and Mitchell didn't hike all the way up. None of us got sick, but I was seeing spots before my eyes, and we were quite dizzy. I don't think any of us had been that high before. I'm not sure if I was ever higher than Estes Park in Colorado - and I think even Pike's Peak is only about 14,000 feet. David had not been above 9500 at Philmont.

So Santo Domingo: we drove down Monday morning in a breathtaking two hour descent through the mountains. The skies were clear, which is unusual, so we could see all the volcanoes and mountains with no clouds. Our guide, Ruben, kept telling us how lucky we were. Once we got to Santo Domingo, we went to Zona Karting, where we were staying with Mitchell's first host family. We had an entire house there to ourselves, although it had no hot water. It was quite lovely, and the family set up beds for us and even brought in a large flat screen tv! We met the family, then met Manuel, the father, at a marisco (seafood) restaurant about 2:00. After a large meal including mussels, shrimp and cow stomach, we went to see the Tsachillas with both the Rey family (first family) and the Charpentier family (second family). We had met the Charpentiers the night before in Quito, as they brought Mitchell to meet us at the airport and gave us a tour of the colonial area of Quito in a horse and carriage.

After the Tsachilla museum, where we were given a traditional "cleansing" of our bad spirits, we went to a swimming area, then to dinner at a empanado stand - chicken, beef and cheese. The cheese ones are traditionally eaten with sugar, which Paige really liked. Then we went back to the Charpentier home and met their extended family before they took us back to Zona Karting.

Oh, and sometime in there, David, Mitchell, Cole and Paige all rode the go carts at Zona Karting. I think before the Tsachillas. :)

On Tuesday, we met more family, then went to the river to swim with all the cousins. We returned to Zona Karting for a traditional dinner of chicken and rice and a birthday cake for Mitchell, who had turned 17 on Sunday. Then we rested at the house until 8:00, when we went to the Cherrez family for dinner and more birthday cake. Jorge Cherrez is Mitchell's Rotary counselor. The other Santo Domingo exchange students were there too. We had already spent a lot of time with one of them, Jemes, who is from Australia, as he currently lives with the Rey family.

Wednesday, yesterday, Ruben picked us up about 8:30 to drive to Cotopaxi. But the car broke down on the way up the mountain and we lost a lot of time. So we went to Quito and got a different car, then went straight to Banos and toured the waterfalls. That is why we added the Chimburazo volcano today.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Location: Banos , Ecuador

Still in Banos. Walked back to the hotel and found we had wifi in the lobby and the Playbook works. So blogging from here. Banos is amazing. Beautiful. Thought it would be touristy and it is a little but it has been a lot of fun. Ate more American last night for Cole and Paige who have had more trouble finding things to eat (especially Paige ) but that's okay. We are going to Chimburazua volcano today and hiking up to the snow line at 15000 feet. I have spelled the volcano wrong I know and I am a little worried about the hike! Tummy a little iffy this morning but to be expected and I won't let anything stop me. Poor Cole was so sick on safari in Kenya but we just kept going,

Santo Domingo was great. The families took us out everywhere to restaurants and to the river to swim, to see the Tsachillas, to the pool. We ate lots of chicken and fish and strange fruits all wonderful. More later.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Location: Banos, Ecuador

We are in an internet cafe in Banos. I will try to write a longer post tonight in the hotel in Riobamba if we have wifi. Yesterday we mostly drove and went up to the waterfalls. The mountains are beautiful. We are hiking up a volcano today. In Santo Domingo we did a lot I will post about that later when I have more time.

Monday, 26 March 2012

We are at Zona Karting, Mitchell's first family's business (and home to many cousins) in Santo Domingo. Flew into Quito last night, and Mitchell met us at the airport along with his current family, Arturo and Graciela Charpentier, and sister Megan. We went to the hotel, then around the old colonial section of Quito in a horse and buggy. Lots of beautiful churches. Then dinner at the hotel. I tried a soup which Mitchell later told me was made with duck organs and corn. We also had shrimp ceviche. Early breakfast this morning, then a breathetaking descent to Santo Domingo (down through the mountains, from 9200 feet above sea level to 2000 feet above sea level in a two hour drive. Lots of curves, lots of passing on blind spots. :) Beautiful.

The family here is lovely, but we can't communicate except through Mitchell. They are very welcoming and we are having a blast.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA

In the Best Western in St. Louis near the airport. Jack said the rooms were okay but the halls were creepy, and that is absolutely correct. The kids are down at the exercise room walking on the treadmill and using the elliptical and exercise bike. The sign on the wall says for adults, but there is no one in there, and they will leave if anyone comes. The only pool here is outdoors; not so good for March. We have put our car in the long term parking and signed up for the 4:15 shuttle. This time tomorrow we'll be in Quito!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Location: Missouri

On the road! We finally got away about 4:15 this afternoon. We are going to eat at Galati's on the way to St. Louis, then spend the night at the airport Best Western. Early morning - need to be at the airport by 4:30.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Tomorrow the adventure begins! We have moved our hotel reservations in St. Louis from the nice Airport Drury (100 dollars, plus pay about that again to park for nine days) to the somewhat more questionable Best Western (75 dollars, FREE parking for nine days). Hey, it's an adventure, right? Less than 48 hours till we're there!

Mitchell called last night from the Shopping to tell us that all his family wants to come meet us at the airport. They know we have a driver meeting us and taking us to our hotel in Quito, but they want to come anyway. They sound so nice. Mitchell also said they can't really understand why we aren't going to the beach in Ecuador. I wish we could, but we had to make some choices with only five days to travel around. We've done lots of beaches, but not so much volcanos and Inca ruins!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri, USA

The suitcases now inhabit the living room. Lists abound. The passports have been copied and the copies hidden in secret pockets of said luggage. The remainder is only anxiety-making: have we forgotten anything? will we need the altitude pills? who is available to feed the chickens? I suspect that only I really worry about those details. The others blythely and cheerfully expect me to do the worrying for them. And I do. Oh, I do.

But among the worrying a secret excitement builds. Mountains! Beautiful vistas! New food and people! And especially - Mitchell. Six days till Mitchell! He would be embarrassed to know how much time I spend mooning over him. Hard to spend ten months without your sixteen-year-old. I knew it would be, and it has.

This seems an overly prosy entry, but what is a blog if not to write as the mood strikes?

Friday, 02 March 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri, USA

Mitchell is going to have to take some online courses this summer to make up for all the school he has missed this year (he has been in school all year, but isn't getting credit for it in Missouri). So I think I'll take him at least one of the textbooks when I see him so he can get started. He has to take a whole year's worth of English and US History, so it will be good to get started. These are nice online high school courses through the University of Missouri, and he has no deadlines. He can do the whole year class in two weeks or six months.

Thursday, 01 March 2012

Location: Columbia Missouri , USA

Today bought all the things Mitchell had requested we bring him - two each of his brands of shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant, plus canned chili, clam chowder, and ravioli. Oh, and ranch dressing. Can't forget the ranch dressing. I'm going to have to divide the cans up among the luggage - they are pretty heavy! He wants Mountain Dew but I can't pack that. Maybe I can buy him a can in the Miami airport once we're through security.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

I emailed Mitchell today and told him to let his first host family know that we probably won't take them up on their offer of a car. I can go by AAA and get an International Driver's License for ten bucks, but the thought of driving there makes me too nervous. We can take taxis and buses for the two days we are in Santo Domingo (and his families may offer to drive us around). Our tour company is picking us up at the airport, taking us to our hotel, then the next morning down to Santo Domingo. They are picking us up after our two days there, and driving us the entire rest of the week. We have a driver and an English speaking guide. So it is only the two days we are in Santo Domingo that we won't have guaranteed transportation.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Hooray! The 2.0 update on the PlayBook seems to have fixed my login problem on Planet Ranger! Back to our original plan!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Got our prescription for altitude sickness pills today - not going to take them unless we need to. We're landing in Quito then going down the mountain for a couple of days, so we can start them then if someone feels bad in altitude.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Bought two new large rolling duffels at Walmart. With those and our two small carry-on size suitcases, we should be good, and none of them will be monster bags. That will give us room to take all the things Mitchell wants - books, toiletries, American foods he is missing, gifts for the host families. We are taking a lot of Girl Scout cookies, both for Mitchell and for his families. And we will have a whole suitcase to bring back souvenirs.

I talked to him today - he is going to have a great month of March. He is going to the Galapagos with the Rotary Exchange kids, then to Mompiche with the familia Rey, then we are coming on the 25th (which is also his birthday). Can't wait to see him in person!

The only downside to this trip is that our oldest son, Tucker, can't come with us. Tucker is a freshman in college, and has a different spring break week than Cole and Paige. And we're going to be gone nine days - no way for a college student to miss that much.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Today I called the travel nurse and asked for prescriptions for altitude sickness medicine. I think we can fly into Quito and see how we feel. Then if anyone is sick, they can take the meds during the two days when we are down the mountain in Santo Domingo, so they'll be effective by the time we are back in altitude. I also called and told my credit card holder we are travelling. Yay! And I mailed off the last payment to the tour company. We are almost ready to go!!! Gotta figure out luggage next, and presents for Mitchell's families.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Glitch in the Playbook plan - I can't get it to log into Planet Ranger, no matter what I do. Something about the Blackberry browser, I guess. So my choice is to rely on internet cafes and business rooms in the hotels, or to take our mini-netbook instead of the Playbook. I'm thinking the netbook - it isn't that much heavier, and I can upload pics onto it from the camera, which would be nice. I will miss my Playbook, but it really does make sense to use the netbook instead, darnit. I will have to replace its battery. We use it so seldom that right now it only works while plugged into the charger.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Location: Columbia, Missouri

I've brought my Freedom Pro portable bluetooth keyboard home from the office - it folds up tiny and pairs with my Blackberry Playbook. I can take them on the trip and blog while we're there (way more portable than carrying a laptop). I will have to be on Wi-fi, since I don't have a SIM card for my phone for Ecuador. (Blackberry Playbooks don't have their own 3G - they bridge to the phone). But I think most of the hotels will have Wi-fi, or at least the ones in Quito and Cuenca. I won't be able to upload pics from my camera till we get back, but I'll try to take some pics with the Playbook itself to post. We're all getting excited!

"We" is me - Ellen, age 48, my husband David, age 50, my son Cole, 14, and daughter Paige, 11. Mitchell, whom we are visiting, turns 17 the day we arrive. Our oldest son, Tucker, is in college so he isn't going with us, unfortunately. His spring break fell at the wrong time for him to get away for nine days.

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Recent Messages

From Hana Park
Ellen, You are so inspiring. It is a brilliant idea to set up a blog to document your trip. You are my role mom. Hope you and your family have a memorable trip!
Hana (Junah's mom)
Response: We are having a great time! Can't wait to hear about Junah's adventure in New York.