Sunday, June 29, 2014


Today I undertook one of the most physically challenging activities of my life! I went up one of the world's highest active volcanic mountains, Cotopaxi. I did not go all the way up though but went up until the beginning of where the ice/snow is as you can see in the picture.

This mountain is the second highest in Ecuador and stands at more than 5000 meters above sea level, I can't tell you the exact numbers but just know it's 5 thousand and something.

Since I am on a quest to experience as much as I can on what Ecuador has to offer in terms of it's diverse terrain, I figured Cotopaxi would be something worth checking out. The mountain is about two hours away from Quito making it very convenient and there are tones of tours available to Cotopaxi, the tours are cheap too! average price is $45 and it includes transport from the city and back, park entrance and lunch.

I had been warned about the cold conditions at the mountain so I was well prepared plus my host at the house I am staying at was kind enough to give me extra clothing just incase. At 7 in the morning we set off on the great adventure and I was pretty excited, little did I know what awaited me....

As we got near to Cotopaxi there was definitely a change in weather. It was very windy and felt colder even though the sun was out. The winds were actually pretty strong! we stopped right before getting to the mountain to take a group picture as our guide gave us a bit of history about Cotopaxi and the surrounding area. He also warned us to take it real easy and walk slowly because of the high altitude and potential for altitude sickness.

When we got to the base there were a lot of people who were also climbing while some were coming down. Since it was a Sunday there were lot's of families and I was surprised to see really young kids going up too.

Once we begun our hike up Cotopaxi, I was already breathless and panting within the first 5 minutes because of the altitude. You should have seen my face when our guide told us it would take one hour to get to our first stop. One hour doesn't sound bad at all on flat land and lower altitude but in this case, one hour seemed like forever. On top of the breathing issues we had to deal with the tough hike up on loose slippery soil. I am not even going to lie, I wanted to give up and turn around but I pushed myself to go on plus seeing really young kids passing me by gave me the motivation to tough it out.

Don't even ask me how I managed a smile in the picture below at our first stop because I was panting like a dog and just about ready to collapse.

Shock on me when the guide told us that we had more climbing to do. To be honest I hadn't realized we were going to go further up to the ice at the top but I figured since I had already made it this far, why not continue. The second leg of the climb was shorter than the first so that was encouraging.

Finally at our second and last stop before descent. Ecstatic! I made it y'all.

We hang out at the second stop for a while to rest and take pictures before heading back down. Going down was easier than going up but it was still challenging. Remember we were walking on loose soil so going down you risked the chance of losing your footing and falling down. I was very careful and proud of myself for not falling even once but I did end up falling near the base of the mountain, it was more funny than painful.

That's it folks, after the climb we got some well deserved lunch before heading back to the city. I was tired, my legs were shaking and I had more respect for mother nature. She is a force to be reckoned with.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I will never ever climb a mountain again in my life! don't get me wrong, I am glad I experienced Cotopaxi and I am proud of myself for facing and overcoming the challenge but frankly speaking I never want to physically feel like how I did today, ever again.

There were lots of wild horses near Cotopaxi, the sight was so beautiful.

Buses here have a problem with emission. Every time a bus drives past me I feel like it just farted on my face because of the amount of emission that follows. Not cool at all.

I am debating on whether I should check out the jungle or not. Okay I have to admit I can be a little high maintenance, I like to be comfortable so I like a warm clean bed and a nice clean bathroom at the end of the day. I am just not sure about the conditions in the jungle. Plus when I think of heat and mosquitoes I am just not feeling it.

On a day like today I am so glad I got to go back to a nice hot shower because I needed it. Tomorrow I am sure my legs will be so sore.

Since being here in Quito I have noticed my skin gets really dry, I am talking ashy appearance dry even my usual lotion doesn't help at all. My face though is very oily if only it could spare some of that oil for the rest of my body.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Getting Good Views In Quito

This city seems to be surrounded by hills so there is always potential of getting some really good views of the city depending on where you are. I will go ahead and highlight a couple but trust me, there are more!

Virgen de Panecillo

This is a big statue of the virgin Mary that can be seen from the historical district of Quito and probably beyond. The statue lies on a hill called Panecillo and this hill was used by the Incas back in the days to worship the sun. The statue of the Virgen de Panecillo is a popular landmark in the city and when you get up the hill you can enjoy some amazing views. It's advisable not to go up the hill on foot because the surrounding area isn't safe and you can be easily mugged, however; you can always get up the hill using a taxi.

The statue from a distance.

View from the hill where the statue lies.


The teleferico is a cable car that takes you high up in the mountains and you get to enjoy good views along the way. At the very top where the teleferico let's you out there are various hiking paths that you can take to get to one of the higher mountains, it is cold and very windy up there plus sometimes breathing can be a problem because of the altitude.

It's advisable to wear sunscreen and bring a warm jacket.

Yeah, this is the furthest I got before turning back. I wasn't ready of the hike because my thighs still hurt from the Quilotoa trip, that descent to the lake wasn't east. The path was very slippery so you had to use all the muscles in your legs to balance and control yourself from falling. It was a good work out though!

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure certain experiences are real because they just come across as a bit telenovela-ish or in other words, dramatic. I met a BEAUTIFUL man from Cuba, he owns a restaurant near the house I am staying at. I met him when I stopped by his restaurant to try some Cuban food, we ended up talking....and talking.....and talking. The restaurant was empty and I was the only customer there since I was having a very late lunch. He was awed by my adventurous spirit and he said I had captivating eyes. He put on some slow, soft Cuban music and pulled me up to dance, as he held me close my knees got shaky. I knew there was a mutual attraction but............

Here in Quito it is always better to take a taxi that has a meter. Actually the law mandates that the taxis have meters, certain taxi drivers have a tendency to hike up prices when they realize you are a foreigner so the meter helps prevent being ripped off. When I was going to the teleferico this one driver tried to charge me $5! I insisted it was too much so he said we will go by the meter. Guess how much the taxi ride cost according to the meter? $1.80!!!

I just love female friendships and camaraderie, I met this really sweet girl and the first time we hang out it felt like we had been friends for so long and we talked a lot. We hang out again and she introduced me to her friends who welcomed me like I was part of the circle. One of the girls in the group was going through some crazy mess and it was so sweet seeing how she was able to open up and have her friends rally behind her. This reminded me of how cool it is to have friends that you can really talk to.

Unlike Cali and Medellin I have yet to see a fake butt or boobs on the streets of Quito. The mannequins don't have huge boobs as the ones in Cali and Medellin either. Just an observation.

On my way home this evening I passed by a car that was parked on the street, I happened to look inside and saw two dudes making out. I was shocked and almost stopped to take a second look but kept it moving. Who I'm I to interrupt a couple's "fun time."

Friday, June 27, 2014


Ecuador is a small country but has a lot of geographical diversity. Within this country you will find the coast, the jungle, the highlands and of course the famous galapagos islands. Since I already live in Ecuador I want to take advantage of all the goodies that this country has to offer so I will be doing quite a bit of internal traveling to experience more of it's diversity.

One of the goodies I will be sharing with you today is Quilotoa, a dormant crater lake. I decided to go with a tour group on this trip because I figured it would be easier. Getting there from Quito took about 3 hours and we passed through some amazing scenery. The weather was colder than Quito and windy, I had worn a fleece jacket with a short sleeved shirt inside and I was freezing! the sun did come out on and off so one minute I would be freezing and the next I would be taking off my jacket because of the heat.

When we arrived at the lake the guide took us up to a viewing deck that enabled us to get an aerial view of the lake. Look at it, isn't it amazing???

At the viewing deck we were informed that we would be walking all the way down until we reached the lake, the pathways leading to the lake were very slippery because we were pretty much going down a slope. Trust me, it was not easy and I almost fell several times but the view made it all worth it because it got more beautiful as we got closer to the lake.

Doesn't the background look like a painting?

In the picture below we were enjoying the view next to the lake. The guy next to me was from Spain and the couple next to us were from Colombia. They were all really friendly and guess what??? when they spoke Spanish I could understand a great deal of what was being said. I even took part in the conversation.

After spending some time by the lakeside it was time to go back up. I don't know if it was the altitude but I was feeling super tired and breathless so I opted to go up on a horse. It wasn't scary at all but I felt so bad for the poor horses, they got so tired from going up the slope. If a horse can stop to take several breaks and you hear the animal panting then that gives you an idea of how tough the walk up was.

Finally everyone reunited at the top of the crater and we had lunch before heading out. On our way back to Quito the guide took us to this amazing crater that I think he mentioned is a million years old, it was huge but unfortunately I forgot it's name.

That's it folks, watch out for more goodies coming up.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

There was a guy in the tour group today who is traveling for two years. He was a successful banker in South Africa and made good money before deciding to give it up for travel. He was older though and had kids in college so he figured it would be the best time for him to travel.

Many of the indigenous people here have very small body structures. At times standing next to some of them I feel like a giant. I am only 5 feet tall.

Transport here is super cheap, I suppose having gas/petrol prices lower than $2 a gallon does help keep the prices down. Ecuador does have oil and someone had told me that gas/petrol here is cheap because the government subsidizes it.

Every weekend I plan on taking short trips outside the city so I can see as much as I can in the country.

Every taxi driver I have encountered here in Quito has brought up the, "do you have a boyfriend" question.

I was having a conversation with the Spanish guy from the tour and I was telling him about how I came to be in South America. He looked at me then said, "wow! hearing stories like this make me wonder what I am doing with my life." Dude works for a huge American bank in Spain and from the type of job he does I am sure he makes oodles of money. I felt flattered because here was a well to do guy who saw my story as an inspiration.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Salsa In Quito

Whoop! whoop! I finally figured out how to post a video in this blog so you can finally get to see me salsa dancing. I am always looking to improve my dancing skills so I decided to try out this salsa dance school that I had been passing by everyday, on my way to and from my Spanish classes.

The guy who ended up teaching me is Cuban so he was showing me the moves involved in Cuban style of salsa dancing. Too many turns and hand movements, por dios! at times I would get confused but the dude was really patient and would take time to show me the moves. Check out the video, how do you think I performed?

After an hour's worth of dance class I was ready to be done! don't get me wrong, I enjoyed everything immensely but I was tired! it was a good work out though.

This was after class and that "glow" you see on my skin is actually the sweat of my hard work, just keeping it real folks.

I had talked to some of the dance teachers who work at the school to get some inside scoop on good places to go for salsa and they had recommended a club that plays strictly salsa every Wednesday night. I decided to check it out and all I can say is, "I think I may have found my salsa spot for Wednesday nights."

The club is called La Muy Muy and it's near Plaza Foch in the Mariscal district, a vibrant area with lot's of clubs, restaurants and bars. The sign for the club is really tiny so it took a while to find it but it was well worth it, the place has good space for dancing and it didn't feel awkward being by myself because I ended up dancing with several people and had the time of my life.

I did meet this one cute guy but by the end of the night he ended up being a bit creepy and annoying so I had to avoid him. There was another really sweet girl who asked me to dance and she could lead very well and had some strong arms! every time she would prompt me to make a turn I would think to myself, "dang Hercules! can you please turn it down a notch or two!"All in all I really had a good night.

This is the happy look I get when listening to some good salsa music....

That's it folks, what can I say? me encanta salsa!

Random Thoughts of The Day:

You can not even begin to imagine how mad I am right now, I had another dance video which was way better than the one I just posted but I accidentally deleted it. I felt like dramatically dropping down on my knees and screaming, "WHY??? Aaargh!" yeah really!

Right now the best compliment anyone can give me is saying I dance salsa well and I speak decent Spanish, not perfect but good enough for now. I will get there someday, darn it! I will get there.

I think some people take things too seriously, just because I ask you to dance doesn't mean I am interested in you or I have any ulterior motives. I simply just want to dance.

I have noticed something interesting here, when you go to a restaurant it's common for a total stranger to tell you buen provecho (bon appetit) when passing by your table. First time I experienced this I was taken aback and I thought, "Ummmh! do I know this person?" I responded but I thought it was weird until it happened again and again and again then I figured out it must be customary. I think it's actually sweet and I have started saying it to other people as well.

My hostess is one of the sweetest people I have ever come across. Her hospitality is beyond amazing and living in her house is such a good experience so far. I feel at home in this house and that is why I decided to stay longer in Quito. Every morning she prepares breakfast and lays it out on the table and it usually looks so cute! I always look forward to what's for breakfast because she prepares something different everyday. Check out what awaited me this morning. Ooh! did I mention everyday she also prepares fresh fruit juice with different varieties of fruits? Honestly I lucked out when I found this place, it's the best place.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Whole Lot of Stuff

This weekend has been really eventful with a lot happening and I will try to cover everything in this one post, I hope I don't lose any of you during my narration because I will be covering different things so bear with me. Here goes.......

I finally got to enjoy a free walking tour of the historic district of Quito and I enjoyed it a lot, the guide was very knowledgeable and engaging making the tour fun. Last week I had walked around the historic district by myself and while it was fun, I appreciated taking the walking tour because thanks to it I was able to know the history behind some of the areas in the city and I was able to pin point the places I would like to go back to and explore more.

The weather was really good and it never got overcast as it normally does, the sun was in full force and at times it actually felt really hot but not hot enough to make it uncomfortable. It sure helped with picture taking because it was bright outside.

View from the presidential palace.

There was a traditional summer solstice celebration taking place at this plaza.

The city tour guide explaining the process of chocolate making.

After the tour I grabbed some lunch then met up with this really sweet girl that I had connected with through couch surfing. She had invited me to hang out with her and her friends and I met up with them after the city tour. We were supposed to go to a concert in the evening but plans changed so after hanging out for a while everyone split up and went their separate ways but not before taking a group photo.

On Sunday which is today, I finally moved to a new place and I love it!! it's official ya'll, I am staying longer in Quito. The room I got is super cute! the apartment is clean, bright, warm, the water pressure is the best and most importantly my hostess is really sweet and used to be a Spanish teacher so I get to practice my Spanish with her. There is another American guy renting a room in the apartment as well and he is very friendly, we have made a pact not to speak to each other in English because we want to learn Spanish, he speaks way better Spanish than I though.

You have no idea how I felt arriving to this after the dumpy place I had lived in for the past two weeks.

Yes, that's a real rose flower and there were chocolates included as part of my welcome to the home. The chocolates came from my hostess' family that makes them and they were darn good!

It did not take long to unpack everything and finally feel settled.

I took a walk around the neighborhood to familiarize myself with the area and found out that there is a huge artesian market not too far from the house and I believe it is open everyday. It's located at a huge park and there were lots of people around which made it exciting for me.

That's it folks! phew you can now breath out, feels like I was on a marathon with this post. Too many things to be covered and my mind was all over the place. I feel settled here in Quito and I want to make it my main base in Ecuador until it's time to move on, I hope I don't change my mind because it could happen.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

The bed in my new room is super comfortable! I will have a hard time waking up early in the morning. Ooh! wait, I don't have to work and my Spanish classes are in the afternoon. I am not rubbing that in, promise!

On Sundays almost everything is closed around here and the streets are much quieter. Walking around my new neighborhood today actually felt peaceful because the streets were empty and I took my time familiarizing myself with the different streets.

It is very common here for people to ask you your age and religious beliefs out of the blue. 

Every time I have a conversation with a taxi driver or someone I really don't know, I always say I am an exchange student here in Ecuador learning Spanish. Well, technically I am a Spanish student after all so it's not too far fetched.

Today pigs must have flown because I found myself actually watching soccer/football in the apartment and enjoying it. My hostess joined me later on but trust me, I even surprised myself! I guess being in a place where soccer/football is like a religion, the enthusiasm does rub off on you.

Speaking of football, I am so neutral and don't have a favorite team so watching the different games is not nerve wracking for me because I am not emotionally invested. Trust me! emotions can get pretty high and I have seen tears being shed.

Turns out I either have a strong stomach or good luck. I have been drinking water straight from the tap and have had no issues. When my hostess was showing me around the house she was telling me never to drink from the tap because the water is not very clean and I could get sick. You should have seen her reaction when I mentioned I had been drinking water from the taps through out, starting in Colombia and now Ecuador. 

I was having a conversation with my hostess and she was telling me about the time she lived in England and spoke no English. She said the day she dreamt in English is the day she started getting fluent in the language. I have yet to dream in Spanish, come to think of it I don't even know if there is speech involved in my dreams because I do not remember anything!