Update for my second week in Ecuador

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Monday, October 9, 2006

Hola everyone. Just wrapped up my second full week/weekend in quito. Both the week and the weekend were full of activities and/or school work, so here we go with the recap.

1) Honestly, the week itself wasn`t that action packed with the exceptions noted below. My Spanish professor cranked it up a notch and Iīm currently in irregular verb and verbos reflixivos hell. Itīs a lot more memorization than anything else, but still...it`s effin hard. Each day seems to cause more confusion than solution. I need to figure out how to get the synapses firing again...and I don't think more cerveza is the answer.

2) Wednesday trivia night at the English Pub...sort of a strange experience in the middle of South America. Annabell from England organized a trip out to an English pub for the group and she didn't even show up until it was almost over. It was a very surreal experience in a bar with no locals...only gringos...even our local Ecuadorian waiter spoke with a British accent...spooky. We had two teams of 4 people representing our school and one team (my team) did quite well. Question categories ranged from "Mountains" to "Music" to "Literature". In one category you were able to specify before the game started as your double points category. We went with the "Random" category and ended up doing horribly in it otherwise we might have won. Good times with my new friends from school...

3) My Tex Mex experience in Quito. Thursday night after salsa (which I have abandoned) all hope of learning) and we went out for fajita's and margaritas at the local Tex Mex restaurant. It was actually quite good even for gringo standards. A tad expensive and big American portions...but good times.

4) Out with Liz and Stassie (new Aussie amigo) for drinks Friday night. What was supposed to be one drink with these two ended up being 4-5 due to the fact they took me to a decent bar AND there were Irish present. Damn those Irish...I just can't seem to say no when they are up for a drink.

4) High altitude mountain biking on an active volcano. Up early Saturday morning (6AM) and me, Harry, Steve and Stassie all meet at a local gringo hangout at 7AM for our bus ride to Cotapaxi. Mt. Cotapaxi is in Ecuador's most popular national park and is the second highest peak in the country at 5897 meters or approximately 18,000 feet. It is an active volcano although the present activity is a few smoking fires only seen by people who climb to the top of the mountain and peer into the crater. Included in our group were about 10 other cyclists including a girl from America, a couple Brit's and some Danes. Most of our group was doing a two day ride...not us, screw that. After a 2 hour drive, we 4800 meters or over 14,000 feet...effin high. It really did look like the surface of a remote planet. Unfortunately the clouds were pretty bad that day, but I did managed to get off a few shots of the summit of the mountain which I will post. After being assigned our bikes, our guide told us the first 20 kilometers are all down hill and you should not pedal...just keep both hands on the brakes and don't make this a race...otherwise you will hurt yourself. With that challenge issued, we were off...Harry and Stassie were much better bikers than Steve and I...but the four of us ended up being the first 4 down in our group. We covered probably 3000 vertical kilometers in no time and our guide wasn't kidding that the brakes were critical for your survival. The remainder of the trip was fairly flat with some more downhill runs and a couple crap uphill segments...at high altitude, trying to pedal a bike uphill sucks. It was a great trip...we were all filthy and tired at the end...but no time for a siesta, as we had a birthday party to go to that night.

5) Birthday party for Steve...and he and Lis are leaving us. :( It's Steve the Brit and Lis from N.Z.`s last weekend...and it also happens to be Steve's birthday. So after washing Cotapaxi off me, Steve and I catch a cab where there's already a group ready to celebrate...including some very, very cute (albeit young) German girls...but more about them later. Included with this group was about 7 people from school, the German girls, another English girl, two Aussies and that Irish dude from Friday night that wouldn`t let me say no to more drinks. Just from the looks of this group my liver feared for it's life...and from how the night ended, it was right to be scared. We met at the English pub, had a few pictures of beer and some snack food. After that we headed over to a popular cocktail bar for 2 for 1 drinks. After a couple of drinks there, we made our way to the dance club...NoBar....and hereīs where all hell broke lose. I was fairly straight laced (ha)...but a few of my classmates ended up dancing on the bar and there might have been some heavy snuggling in the corner. At 3AM the lights came on, and some crazy fool in our group wanted to go to another bar. I stood in line for a bit...then saw Steve the Brit nearly asleep and as we live literally two blocks apart and I was exhausted from Cotapaxi, I offered to make sure he made it back to his casa de familia ecuatoriana. He fell asleep in the cab, on the street, at his gate...but I think he eventually made it to bed. It was a great time and everyone had fun. Unfortunately I only had my small camera with me and I haven`t found an internet cafe with a card reader so I can upload my nightlife pictures...hopefully in a future post.

6) Sunday hiking up to an recently active volcano crater. So...Anabel and Silvio are preparing for a climb to the summit of Cotopaxi (the volcano I biked down the day before). It`s a fairly difficult hike and the last part requires crampons and ice axes. They tried to get me to go with them...hell no. Anyway...they`re doing a lot of training hikes so I went out with them to the Teleferiqo to hike Rucu Pinchincha...a volcano that is nearly 15,000 feet tall and was active as recently in 1999 when it covered Quito in 5 inches of ash. The Teleferiqo is Quito`s newest tourist attraction and it`s essentially a giant gondola or ski lift that takes passengers up the flanks of Rucu Pinchincha to about 12,000 feet. It definitely provides some great views of the city and hopefully my pictures attest to that. At the top there are restaurants, bars, etc...and for the really bold, a dirt path that leads to the peak of Rucu Pinchincha. A lot of people make the hike up to a certain point...but not too many complete it like we did. It was a long 4 hour hike...and the higher we got, the more difficult each step became. Fortunately Annabell and Silvio brought some food to munch on as we all were starving and needed some energy for the last several hundred feet. The last portion was somewhat technical and there were definitely some scary moments (check out the pic I took of Silvio hanging on a cliff with a severe drop off). The highlight of course was reaching the top and peering inside the crater...hopefully my pictures do it justice. Coming down was quite fun as certain parts were so steep and full of loose rock you could practically ski down the mountain....and Silvio and I did.

I`m currently in week 3 of Spanish and it`s still as difficult as ever. More on week three in a later post. This weekend Iīm off to the town of Baņos which has had some significant volcano activity recently. More on that later as well. Ciao.
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