Monday, May 25, 2015

ECUADOR - With Friends!

Our entrance to Ecuador was a warm welcome from the CrossFit Machala owners, Rogelio and his wife Cheryl.  Wonderful hospitality in treating us to a traditional Ecuadorian lunch and education about the plantains and bananas that his family grows.  Largely, this is where a large percentage of our bananas come from - and there is a big difference between them and plantains, as we learned!

What's the difference between plantains and bananas?  One is sweet, the other is savory - but it also has some types that are sweet - both are awesome!  Plantains are starchier and lower in sugar.  To be eaten, the need to be boiled, baked, fried or roasted first.  We love them!  We have eaten so much of the patacones and fried bananas, I'm pretty sure we will have withdrawels when we get home...
Finally we get to Carlos' house in Guayaquil!  A very good friend whom we have been looking forward to seeing for a long time!  He and his wife, Carola and their 2 daughters were WONDERFUL hosts to us.  Inviting us into their home and CrossFit gym, showing us their city, helping us with a trip plan to see their country, and feeding us plantains served in many AMAZING different ways!  Big thanks to Carlos!!!!
And look who's here!!!!!  Yay!!!!  We have been looking forward to meeting Ali and Mark down here for a long time!  So excited they made the effort to come and visit us while we are on our trip!


Guayaquil iguanas - they are everywhere!

We climbed the many many stairs up into the Malecon Simon Bolivar, overlooking the brightly colored neighborhood of
Las Peñas, where the city was founded.
Aaaand, we are on the road! The van is now a bus with lawn chairs - and it sleeps 2 with a driver and a navigator! Jet lag is kicking our butts!


Cajas National Park hike at 14,000 feet elevation up in the Ecuadorian Andes.  Jet lag and post-illness left all of us a bit out of our normal element and this elevation didn't help!  But, the hike was spectacular and helped us start to condition ourselves for higher hikes to come.  Beautiful rugged landscape, interesting flora, and a welcome relief from the high heat and humidity of Guayaquil!

Cuenca is a beautiful old city with lots of cobblestone streets and colonial style buildings.  The roof of this church caught my eye as we passed through the city.  It's no wonder this city attracts so many retired Americans to live there! Alex Proimos
The Friends Tour:  A. Peruvian border to B. visit CrossFit Machala to C. Guyaquil to see Carlos and his family and Jauriá CrossFit and pick up Mark and Ali.  D. Cuenca and Cajas National Park.  Rough mountain back roads through to G. Puyo -the entrance to the Amazon forest.  H. Baños and waterfalls and hikes by volcanoes. I. Volcán Cotopaxi climb attempt and then back road drive past J. Volcán Chimbarazo to  K. Guaranda, with a final finish at Carlos' in M. Guayaquil!
A lot of ground to cover!  We had a stiff itinerary after asking for guidance from the locals and they had a lot for us to see!  Mike was our hero in all that driving, and Mark and Ali were troopers for tolerating all that time in the van!
If you're going to ride in the front, you have to feed the driver....

Proud.  So proud of these crazy people I hang out with.

We showed Mark and Ali our "road workouts"....Putting up a tent can be a challenge...


Pailon del Diablo (Devil's Cauldron) - really amazing waterfall that you truly experience when you descend all the stairs down into the cauldron and feel the power of the thundering water.  Then you get to climb behind it, and cross swinging bridges in front of it.  What's not to like?

Loop trail to Casa del Arbol and the Virgen statue - We spent one full day of our time in Baños hiking the loop trail that climbs first to the Bellavista lookout, saved a momma sheep from her tangle, traveled alongside and up to the base of Tongurahua volcano and up to the Tree House - La Casa del Arbol, before swinging around to another viewpoint and down a narrow and slippery little path to the Virgen del Agua Santa.  We traipsed down 675 steps to finish it off!

At Quilombo (which means ‘mess’ or ‘insanity’ in Argentine slang - so it was appropriate to have given company seated with us...) - where there is a hodgepodge of decor, you're served brilliantly large platters of various kinds of meat on cutting boards, and upon being seated are asked which language you prefer to speak in.  We loved this place!


Cotopaxi is the second highest mountain in Ecuador (5,897 m / 19,347 ft.).  We managed to get to 16,000 ft. to the refugio, battling wind and driving ice-rain.  15 hours later of waiting, sleeping, and freezing, worsening weather conditions and gastrointestinal issues drove us back down.  Mike attempted a 1:00 a.m. summit and made it to about 17,000 ft elevation in another 2 hours of climbing and crossing crevasses and slippery snow bridges in freezing rain.

The day before we climbed, of course....
A little under the weather in more ways than one...but glad we tried!  In the center is our awesome guide, Ignacio!
Mike returned at 3 a.m. from his midnight attempt to summit, encased in ice.  He and our guide had to break ice off the ropes to get them to pass through the gear as they climbed the icy snow and crossed the snow bridge over the crevasses. 


We returned to Guayaquil via Andes mountain and farmland back roads, taking us past another big volcano, Chimborazo. We found rest and recovery in the little berg up in the Ecuadorian Andes of Guaranda. The colorful downtown market gave us some fun sights to take in!

                                                             Little people, and littler people.
Beautiful native hair, wraps, and some serious cuy inspection seen in the markets...

Thanks for a great trip, Mark and Ali!  We will miss you on the rest of our road North!

Mike and I headed to the Ecuadorian coast and took it North, relaxing and getting well after our bouts with the mosquito viral disease, Chikungunya, which gave us fevers and severe aches! The sun and beach time took care of us!

We were not to escape this country without van issues!  Over a rough bump in the road, and suddenly the bumper box is swinging around behind us, hanging on a broken hinge again!
 Thankfully Ecuadorians are incredibly helpful and a local mechanic dropped everything he was doing to lead us to another shop who could do the welding we needed.  They too dropped everything they were doing and got right to work!  Within 40 minutes, we were back on the road!

The flora around here is just amazing!  And the homegrown coffee and chocolate from a town called Jipijapa (pronounced "Hipihapa") isn't too bad, either!

Great way to close out Ecuador - workouts with the great crew at Takana CrossFit in Quito! Thanks for the hospitality!

Roll ooooon to Colombia!!!

Ecuador Photo Album HERE
(thank you to Mark for a lot of our great photos while they were here!)