Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mitad del Mundo, La Ronda, y Termas de Papallacta

I stayed in Quito this weekend because I leave Monday morning for the Galapagos (I am so excited and I will post picture as soon as I can!). I went to a few places in and around Quito: Mitad del Mundo, La Ronda, and Termas de Papallacta. It's hard to make it to these because we are usually traveling outside of Quito on the weekends!

Mitad del Mundo

Mitad del Mundo is a tourist town about 45 minutes north of Quito by bus. In the town is the monument that marks where the equator is. However, since the use of modern technology they have found that the real equator is about 400 meters North of the monument. However, the monument was giant and really pretty and the town itself was very cute.


















La Ronda

Calle de La Ronda is a historical street with many spanish style historical buildings in Centro Historico Quito. It is also very cool because it is a walking only street, which is super uncommon. It is nearly impossible to get places without nearly getting run over by cars every where you turn. It is well known for drinking Canelazo, a traditional warm alcoholic drink that is made with sugar and cinnamon. They are super sweet! We tried to do a Canelazo tour by drinking Canelazo from eat place that served it, but we only made it to 2 restaurants until our stomachs hurt from all the sugar. 

Just getting started!
Our stomachs hurt!






Termas de Papallacta

The Termas de Papallacta are hot springs located in the Napo province about 2 hrs from Quito by bus. The water in them so hot! It was so hard to sit in some of them very long! Some of the hot springs looked more natural and others looked more like pools.








Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tiputini- The AMAZON


This past weekend I had one of the most unique experiences of my life. I got a chance that most Ecuadorians don't get in their entire life. I traveled to Tiputini Biodiversity Station on the Tiputini River in the Amazon on the northern border of Yasuni National Park, a hot topic of the news recently for the Petroleum drilling. The 1500 acres of TBS is one of the most bio-diverse locations in the world with 12 species of primates, 525 species of birds, various species of insects and plants, jaguars, tapirs, capybaras, caimans, otters, sloths, peccaries, and so much more. However, getting to Tiputini was no easy task. We started out at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning and headed for the airport. We took a 45 minute flight to Coca. From there, we took a 2-hour boat ride down the Napo River to a petroleum checkpoint. There we had to go through security and get on a bus. We were not allowed to take any pictures, likely because they don't want anyone to know that they are actually drilling in the Amazon. We were on the Chiva for about 1.5 hours through Waorani territory until we reached the Tiputini river. We loaded onto another boat for a 2.5 hour boat ride during which it began to pour down rain. However, we finally made it soaking wet and miserable to TBS where I was able to eat my first pack of Oreos for the weekend and my entire trip to Ecuador. We found our cabins, unloaded our gear, and changed into dry clothes and headed straight for dinner. It was one of the most amazing dinners, partially because I was starving and partially because it made me think of my moms homemade chili. I was exhausted, so I went to bed early. The next morning we work up, ate pancakes for breakfast and split up into groups for our activities. For my groups first activity we went up to the Torre (a viewing platform) 45 meters above the ground in a huge tree overlooking the Amazon as far as the eye could see. In the torre we saw 5 monkeys, macaws, butterflies, bugs, and lots of other cool things. After about an hour we headed back down and finished out walk on the ground where we had the chance to see about 6 more monkeys as well as so many spiders, katydids, lizards, dung beetles, etc. After our hike we went to lunch and took a siesta and then headed out for our afternoon activities. My group took a boat to a small path to a laguna where we canoed around and saw many colorful, beautiful birds. After, we headed back to camp, but on the way back the boat slowed and our guide pointed up to the top of the tree at a sloth sitting drying out his fur after the rain storm. After we headed back, ate dinner, and went to a presentation about the cameras around Tiputini that are used to count the number of jaguars and other large uncommon animals around the area. It was a cool way to see a few animals that we were likely not going to see in our short time at the station. Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and headed to the torre to watch the sun rise. It was one of the most amazing sunrises I had ever seen and definitely the most amazing I'd seen in Ecuador. After our French Toast breakfast, we split up for our final group activity: the puentes (bridges). We walking along bridges through the rainforest canopy. It was definitely a time of conquering my fears! On our way back to camp we saw 5 more monkeys, ate lemon ants, and watched some dung beetles devour monkey poop. After lunch, during siesta time, I got to do something really cool and abnormal for students. I traveled to the Salt lick, a place that we heard about the night before that is a common meeting ground for monkeys and other large animals that is usually off limits to students. There was a Spider monkey researcher at the salt lick when the 3 of my friends and I arrived. She said that unfortunately, even though the weather was perfect, she had seen basically no monkeys all day long and we didn't get to see any either, but it was a gorgeous spot and an awesome opportunity. After returning to camp, I headed to my cabin put on some swimming gear and headed to the docks. We loaded up the boat to go swimming but first we stopped on the side of the river. At first we were unsure why, but then one of the guides pointed up in to the trees and we saw a small monkey run by. It was a Dwarf Tamarin, or more commonly known as a finger monkey. My friend Savanna came to Ecuador after she heard that finger monkeys lived here and her dream came true when her guide searched them out for her. Also along the river we saw a group of howler monkeys. The boat stopped along the river and we all jumped in with our life vests and began to float down. It was nerve-racking at the beginning but in the end, I was so relaxed and it is one of my favorite parts of the trip. We returned to the station, ate what I still believe to be a thanksgiving dinner, and then headed out for a night hike. The Amazon is arguably more alive at night than during the day. There were so many bugs and frogs and noises along the trail it was amazing. We saw the most poisonous spider in the rainforest, huge spiders that can't bite and heard a singing frog. It was amazing. I was exhausted after such a long day that I basically crashed when I got back to my cabin. I woke up early again on Monday morning to see the sunrise, but unfortunately it was too overcast to see. We packed up our stuff and headed out. After the first boat ride, the chiva took us to a small Waorani village where we had an extremely awkward encounter with some Waorani people. They sang a welcome song, a goodbye song, and asked us to buy some handicrafts. We couldn't get out of there fast enough. We continued our journey back home. We returned to Quito around 8 p.m. The trip was amazing overall! I got to experience so many new things and cool creatures. I have never seen so many types of spiders and katydids in my entire life and I have never been so excited to see bugs before. Everything was new and amazing.

Rio Napo


Rio Tiputini

My Cabin
Jalese and I in front of
the cabin. 



Exploring the Station

Torre

View from the torre. 

torre

Morning Hike



Amazonian Sunrise

Puentes

Lemon Ants
Eating Lemon Ants


We are gonna find those finger monkeys!
We just saw finger monkeys and we
are about to go swimming in the Amazon!
Swimming in the Amazon



Here are some of the coolest things I saw on my trip:


Finger Monkey
Katydid: Can you see where he is?



Moth Cocoon


Most poisonous spider in the rainforest











Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vamos a la playa - Canoa

Last weekend all of Ecuador had a day off of school for Guayaquil day. Although that doesn't mean much to me because I have every Friday off school, the other students were really excited for their day off, so we went the beach! All of the pictures make it look really grey, but it was actually quite warm and many cloud breaks that made it bright in general. We just walked a long the beach and played in the sand the whole weekend, so I don't have many pictures. I collected a bunch of gorgeous seashells! 
This weekend I am really excited because I will be going to the Amazon!