Quito & Cotopaxi

Saturday, August 2, 2003

23:41 - The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX is a zoo! Flying international out of San Francisco seems to be much easier. Stepping off of the airport transfer bus here almost puts you in a foreign country: personal space shortens, and the chatter of many different languages adds colors not normally found in daily life in Noe Valley. Wendy and I have beaten our parents here; they still seem to be stuck out in the security line. This is the first international vacation we have taken as family in years (trips to Taiwan to see our extended family don't count!).

Travelling as an underwater photographer is not convenient. I've made concessions by not bringing everything I feel like I "need," and I already have two large check-in bags whose weights fall just short of the international luggage limits (and far exceed America's domestic 50lb/bag limit). And going to the Amazon for five days before heading to the Galapagos further complicates the packing and luggage situation. Assuming that the luggage storage at our hotel in Quito is secure, I should be fine (I will leave dive gear and the underwater housing in Quito during our jaunt to Kapawi).

Leaving San Francisco for these particular weeks is also going to complicate things. I've decided to become a nomad for an unknown period of time; yesterday, I rented out my house for a year! Late August and mid-September will be devoted to moving out and figuring out where I'm going to go. It's actually quite exciting to have taken the steps I've taken in the order I've taken them. Normally, people decide where they are going before terminating housing. I have done the opposite. :)

Sunday, August 3, 2003

09:12 - Oh! The "CR" in "San Jose CR" stands for Costa Rica. For some reason I remember the airport code SJO standing for the San Jose airport at the southern tip of Baja California. Stupid me.

We're sitting as a family of four at the San Jose Juan Santamaria airport in Costa Rica, surrounded by wallpaper depicting greenery and cows hauling little red nuts. There's a pleasant 10' waterfall splashing just behind us, and just now, my mother almost spilled free coffee from local shop onto my computer. That would have been fatal for this journal. :)

On the airplane, Wendy and I sat next to Colonel Marcelo Castro, an Ecuadorian man currently living and working in Beijing. As such, he was extremely interested in chatting with me (Wendy promptly lost consciousness as soon as the plane took off), so I practiced my extremely rough Spanish for a few hours before fading away myself. He did leave me with a few souvenirs: a business card, photographs of him wearing a Kapawi T-shirt on the Great Wall of China, and a few fingerprints on this LCD display, which I have yet to successfully remove.

20:59 - Yippy dogs (they sound really small) are driving me insane. This window five inches from my head doesn't really close, so if they don't shut up tonight I may have yet another sleepless night. A woman keeps yelling, "Cállate!" but it doesn't seem to be working. I think that she may need the help of a hose to really be effective.

I am *so* tired. We arrived in Quito at 2pm and checked into our hotel an hour or so later. Because we only had a few hours to explore, we ended up walking out from Hotel Café Cultura to the little trinket market a block away (we bought nothing) and then out to Avenida Río Amazonas, which we followed to a large park, nearby. Dad bought a shiskabob-thing from a very nice vendor for 50 cents, and Wendy photographed a watermelon and citrus juice stand, for which the owner charged 30 cents. I snuck in two shots after Wendy had paid. :)

Advice: take hotel suggestions for restaurants with a grain of salt. The Hotel Café Cultura is really cute, and everyone so far has been exceedingly nice, but we were told that we should go to a restaurant called "La Ronda," which was only a short, $2 cab ride away. So we went, and discovered that the clientéle were 100% American -- probably returning from to or about to embark on Galapagos cruises. Prices were not bad by San Franciscan standards, but for Quito I suspect that they were quite high. The sopa was good. Everything else was just fine.

Dog is still barking (just one, now. I hear more yelling, too...). I hate him.

-- Kapawi Rain Forest Trip Here --

Friday, August 8, 2003

20:05 - The plane flight out of Kapawi went as smoothly as it could possibly have gone: the weather was nice, and getting off of the muddy airstrip was no problem. Returning to Quito, we checked back into the Hotel Cafe Cultura and booked Luchito, their driver, to take us around the city for the afternoon. We drove to the Middle of the World to straddle the equator, wound our way up to Panecillo for a view of the entire city, and then took a nice walk around old Quito, which was built in the 17th and 18th centuries. The cathedrals here are gorgeous, their gilded interiors shining warmly inside.

We miss Lorena. She had a nice smile, taught us a lot, and was a pleasure to spend time with.

Saturday, August 9, 2003

22:39 - We spent most of the day with Juan Carlos, a driver and guide, who took us to Cotopaxi in his van. Cotopaxi is the world's highest active volcano; standing over 5900 meters high, it is covered in snow year-round, and cars can drive up to a parking lot on its side, at 4500 meters. It tooks us about an hour and a half to reach the national park, and another half an hour to actually get to the visitor's center, where we read up on the volcano and its surrounding area. On the way to the highest parking lot, we stopped at Laguna Limpiopunga, which used to be used by the local people for animal sacrifices to the sun god. It's no more than a little pond, really, but is important to the animal life in the area because it is the local watering hole.

After parking at the final parking lot, we started walking up to the shelter, which is bright yellow, and sits at around 4900 meters in altitude. It's where people hoping to reach the top spend the day, waiting until midnight to start their summit attempts. We made it to around 4700 meters before turning around. Wendy and Mom were feeling a little dizzy, and it wasn't important enough to me to reach the shelter. The view from the side of the volcano was stunning, and fast-moving clouds kept sweeping past us, framing and obscuring the summit in turn.

When we returned to our Hotel, Wendy and I ventured out to an internet cafe for an hour, and poked around local shops a bit. I bought a pair of scissors for $0.25 (Wendy was looking for a roll of Scotch tape, which she found for $0.25). Afterwards, I walked into a local beauty saloon [sic] and had a hair cut and shampoo for $4. The price of merchandise and food varies widely within the same block, in the area we are staying in. One place will have a plate of food for $0.80, and down the street, a seafood platter costs $15.00. Speaking of $15.00 seafood platters, we went to Las Redes for dinner, which was highly recommended by both The Rough Guide and Lorena. They have a $33.00 seafood platter for two people that is packed full of a delicious variety of seafood. Combined with a cebiche mixto and sea bass with garlic, the four of us were very satisfied. :)