Of Buses and Beaches

Trip Start Sep 17, 2012
Trip End Dec 06, 2012

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Flag of Ecuador  , Pastaza,
Sunday, November 11, 2012

Greetings from South America!

Following our Machu Picchu excursion, we packed our bags and began our week long voyage to the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador. Lucky for us though, there were quite a few stops along the way!

The first of said stops was in Lima, the capital of Peru and one of the largest cities in all of South America. The city itself was unlike any we have visited thus far in terms of both size and nature. It is a city of extremes and in the the short time we spent there we were exposed to modern urbanization and rich cultural tradition, extreme wealth and rampant poverty, as well as both the very familiar and the inherently strange. 

As soon as we dropped off our bags, many of us decided to visit the catacombs of the San Franciscan Friary in the heart of the historical district. For hundreds of years this crypt has housed the remains of many saints and monks, and today is widely regarded as one of the jewels of the city. Following our tour, a short ten minute walk took us to the main plaza, an area that looked like it could have belonged in Western Europe. The plaza consisted of many high end boutiques and department stores, and also played host to the first McDonald´s any of us have seen in the last two months (interesting to note, that here McDonald´s is more along the lines of a legitimate restaurant as opposed to its more traditional role of fast food back home). As night fell, we decided to stay in the hostal (not wanting to take any unnecessary risks in a city as large as Lima), playing instruments, telling ghost stories, and mentally preparing ourselves for the days ahead. 

The next day we boarded a bus destined for Mancora, a town situated in the beautiful northern beaches of Peru. The ride was a twenty hour haul up the coast, made nice by the luxury bus we decided to splurge on. Although the ride sounded awfully intimidating beforehand, many of us used the time to begin our vacation a little bit early, catching up on some sleep, reading, and watching movies (the bus attendants were nice enough to play several in English, as our group took up more than three quarters of the bus).By the time we arrived in Mancora we were already in full relaxation mode. We changed into our bathing suits and picked our favorite hammocks as the next two days passed in a blur. 

Our first night we built a bonfire on the sand and were serenaded under the stars by Noah and Shawn. I think the old saying is true that ¨music is the universal language,¨ because not long after the instruments were brought out, were we joined by the other members of the hostal. Soon we had Americans, Canadians, Germans, and Argentinians all singing around the fire. It was truly a sight to see (and hear)! This was also the night of the presidential election and everybody, no matter the nationality, was interested in the outcome. The few with wi-fi enabled devices kept us all updated on the latest news, and when the final decision was announced, those of us who were still awake celebrated Obama´s victory with a couple of late night hamburgers. 

Mancora passed all too fast, and before long we found ourselves on another bus, this time headed for Cuenca, our first stop in Ecuador and the beginning of the last leg of our three month journey through South America. We crossed the border with no problems and arrived in Cuenca late at night. Not to worry though, because the next day we had ample time for independent exploration of the old colonial town. We stayed in the middle of the historical district. The streets were cobblestone, the buildings old, and each corner, it seemed, had a church and a bakery. 

First impressions of Ecuador had us realizing that there is something different about this country than the others we have visited thus far, although none of us could seem to place our finger on it. Perhaps it is a more modern culture with less of an Aymaran and Quechuan influence, or perhaps it is a tad bit newer or the area as whole cleaner. It is too early to tell for sure, but we are all excited to see and experience more of this new chapter of the trip.

Again, after having only spent two nights in Cuenca we boarded another bus to Baños, a city known for its natural baths and outdoor adventure. With just a two night stay to enjoy one of Ecuador´s main attractions, we decided to make the most of it. Donning our wetsuits and life jackets, we braved the whitewater rapids of the Rio Verde.  We left with more than a few stories to tell. It is safe to say that this rafting adventure has definitely been one of the highlights of the trip thus far!

Feeling rested and relaxed after our mini vacation of sorts, we are now all eager to begin the next portion of our adventure -- the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. It is sure to be a difficult two weeks both mentally and physically, although for many of us it is the challenge we have most looked forward to. We will not have access to internet and so, unfortunately, there will not be another blog post for quite some time. However, as the holiday season nears, we would like to say that we love and miss all of you back home and wish you the very best. Happy Thanksgiving! 

- Tyler and John

 P.S. The Youth International South America team would like to wish a happy birthday to Mrs. Judith Young! Happy birthday Judith!
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Judith Young (Jo's Mum) on

Thank you for your birthday greetings. Enjoying your blog!

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