Thursday, March 28, 2013

Basilica del Voto Nacional, Quito Ecuador - Basilica's view / climb to the top with an 8 year old

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Yesterday we went to this church and climbed halfway up the first viewing tower.
But we had no camera.
So we decided to come back the next day, armed with camera - so here we are.
We are charged $2 each - the ticket office entrance is hard to find.
You need the side gate, then go to the back outside courtyard.
We then head up a lot of stairs to get to the balcony overlooking the inside of the church.
You can read my previous blog on this separate visit a few weeks ago. 
This church took over 100 years to build.
It is the larges in Ecuador and is amazing architecture.

There is a huge pipe organ on wheels.

Most of the lead-light is intact. The whole place is glorious and reminds me of Westminster Abbey.

We head up to the clock tower first.
It strikes whilst we are inside there - pretty crazy to be there at that time.

We then head up a spiral staircase.
The top of this has no handle and is really hard to get up.
I get a bit freaked - but it is worse when I go to head down.
Finally get myself safely positioned, only to have to exit up again as it is single file traffic.

The view at the top is pretty wild. Right over Quito. 

 Each direction is amazing in this tower alone.
This is the easy climb tower.
I suggest you do this first.

We try to get up to the bells - but there is a locked gate.
So down we go again.

We knew there was a lovely coffee shop.
We are there alone.
The lady is lovely.
She has little variety of food available.
Much of the menu is not served.
It does worry me - there is a huge selection of hot wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Not a safe thing for before a climb - maybe people need it after? 

We then head back down a level so we can go up?
There is a walkway that is not well built across the roof inside.
My son swings this - yipes! 

He then heads up the first ladder.
Trust me - this ladder is easy.
It is protected and inside.

 Not so easy is the next ladder - in fact it is the worst.
It is only welded and there is no protection from falling to your death.
Given time again, there is no way I would take any child up there.
But we have people behind us, so we have to go forward.
I freeze partway - it really, really is scary.
However, my son is safely wedged between two adults the whole time.

We make it to the top.
The third ladder is easier.
It is protected at the top.
The view is incredible.

I tell my son to hang on for dear life - he does. Good boy! 

I am amazed at the places people graffiti.
How they get there is crazy. 

We head down.
Down is worse!
There are a couple that help me safely with my son.
They encourage him and ensure he can't fall. 

Partway down you can see detailed architecture.
All the birds are different on the side of this building. 

As we finish our couple of hours here, we walk back to our hotel.
We get to buy lunch for $2. 
If you walk in front of the church and down one block there is a street full of cheap cafes as you head to the park with the observatory.
We decide to feed the a stray dog.
We also hand out food to the poor.
Then we have a bag of toiletries from the hotel - so my son enjoys finding ladies to give these to who are begging - he comments on how good it feels to give.

We wander back and realise how comfortable we feel in this city.
Soon we will be on our next big journey.
But we will be back!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 5 Guacamayo Ecolodge, Cuyabeno, Amazon Jungle Ecuador with an 8 year old

This site is obsolete

After our early night we are ready to leave.
We join the others at the bird watching tower.
This is not a place to leave children unattended as it has very little railing.
But my son is well behaved and knows to stick near me.
Our wonderful guide lifts him to see a yellow macaw.

Our wet clothes are packed in plastic and we are ready to go.
As usual, my boy is at the front so he can glean information from the guide. 

Awesome greenery surrounds us as we motor the two hours back.

 Gorgeous blue butterflies finally pose for photographs.

 Bird nests hang from the trees, and we see a lot of various bird life too.

We meander slowly over partly submerged logs.
Our driver is a champion.
I shall miss the lush beauty of the jungle.

Then another anaconda awaits us, and so does a water snake.

We arrive back at the river border.
We then catch a mini-van back to the bus depot.
We purchase a ticket to Banos.
The bus winds through mountain passes, and they quickly pass out plastic bags.
An annoying thing about Ecuador buses is they lock the toilets.
I am told so this is so they don't have to clean them.
I am a bit shocked as a mother opens the window; then stands her boy on her lap.
Next thing he is relieving himself all over the side of the bus.

Our bus trip is supposed to be 11 hours.
Children sleep so easily - I got none.

A travel tip is to always hang your knapsack over the seat in front.
It is good anti theft.
It is also to keep it clean as people can become ill.
You don't want puke on your bag!

As we near Banos I notice my son is covered on his face, neck and back with hives.
I also have incredibly itchy lower legs and ankles that are driving me insane.
I decide to pay the extra as we will continue on the bus to Quito.
We can stay a couple of days at our old hotel.
I have anti-histamines there in First Aid.
I am pretty sure this is from Poison Ivy.

We end up meeting a lovely lady on the bus.
She talks more to us than we have had from any of our group the last two days
(besides the others we mentioned earlier).
We share a taxi at 3 a.m. into town - a 14 hour bus journey in total.
She ends up staying where we are.
It is nice to hear her stories.

The next night as I sit and do my blogs, we meet a lovely English couple.
I have just bought a bottle of red wine and ask them to join me.
We sit and chat for a good two hours.
They tell me of their adventures.
I realise the world is full of positive people.

My mother has passed away many years ago from cancer 
- she was kind, accepting, and lovely to all she met.
A good example of how I would like to be to others.
I think of her as my new friends share how his mother just passed away a few weeks ago.

I feel so happy to be back in a clean, warm hotel with good company, and the love of a wonderful son.

We recommend Guacamayo Ecolodge and Tours.
We had a fantastic time, and our guide was just the best!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 4 Guacamayo Ecolodge, Cuyabeno, Amazon Jungle Ecuador with an 8 year old

This site is obsolete

We are awoken in the night by the loudest thunder I have ever heard in my life.
Lightning brightly lights the room.
There are spaces in the roof, so I can see the flashes of lightning illuminates our dwelling clearly.
And then - the roof leaks.
A drip, drip, drip on my feet and head.
And a small puddle all over our clothes.
So I am up, trying to shove the damp clothes in a wooden box / shelf in the corner.
Then the bats start.
Circling in the roof - but worse - whilst I sleep one drops a nice poo right where I treat in the morning.
Today doesn't start well.
I am tired and achy, and all our clothes are wet.

Gross !!
Then there is a cockroach as big as my index finger.
I am a tough single Mum, but jungle life is getting to me.

We get a chance to see another Toucan, so this peps me up a bit.

It is bucketing down with rain.
So we don our massive poncho's, as we are to go paddling today.
I tie knots in the corners of my sons, so he doesn't trip over them as his goes beyond the ground.

We are towed behind the motor boat to a small inlet hidden in the trees.
Now it is a steady pounding of rain.
It stings my face.
My son is having a hard time paddling with the heavy poncho.
He takes his off and we paddle to the "hidden lake".
No motor boats are allowed here.
As we enter this area our guide is excited.
He sees a manatee in the distance.
He has only see 3 in 15 years with tour groups.
It looks like a rubber tyre bobbing in the water.

 Now my son is 8 years this week.
He is cold and the conditions are tough.
Sitting for over 1/2 hour waiting for a black thing to bob in the water is as boring as anything.
He really has had enough.
He is constantly told not to move and to "shhhh".
Eventually I think he will pop a blood vessel.
So I say I need to go to the bathroom.
So they paddle to the tree stump area on the left.
I have to climb up.
I hit my head right on a broken branch.
I squat in my poncho over the hollow area.
I want to cry.
This is the worst toilet break of my life.

As we paddle back it is bout 12 noon or later by now.
My son was so tired and cold, and really just not coping.
He can't paddle correctly, and drags it in the water with tiredness and boredom.

Then to my horror, the man in front turns and whacks his paddle hard against my sons.
"Cut it out kid, you are slowing us down".
I was shocked.
I promptly asked him not to speak to my son like that.
I was ignored.
I then deliberately encouraged my sons paddling all the way back.

I jumped out and ran for a hot shower.
My son was so hungry for lunch.
Our moods were not flash.

We did a little school work that afternoon.
Then - not to my surprise - he snapped.
Tears and tempers and a lot of anger.
I decided he would stay in and give the adults some time to themselves.
We were clearly on the outer.
And we needed some "us" restoring time.

By the time they came back, we had played cards and felt better.
I watched as they all sat at the dining room table and no-one spoke to us.
Two times I tried to initiate conversation and was just fobbed.
There were 3 others from Holland that were nice, but they were at the other end of the table.
As soon as desert was over, I took my son to bed.
I have never felt so lonely in all my life.
It was sad, as the rudeness and actions of some can really wreck it for others.
I am glad they are the exception to our travels.
Oh well - at least we leave tomorrow.

We recommend Guacamayo Ecolodge and Tours.
We had a fantastic time, and our guide was just the best!

Day 3 Guacamayo Ecolodge, Cuyabeno, Amazon Jungle Ecuador with an 8 year old

This site is obsolete

Again in the night we have had something try to get at our food.
I had zipped it into a secure bag, but it was still attacked.
My guess is a mouse, but we also had a frog visitor in the night.

This is the day we learn about the indigenous Indians.

Check out these cute little owl monkeys we found in a tree.
They look like they gremlins from outer space.

We also saw amazing butterflies and moths.
I missed the big blue ones that flew around all the time.
But these two are really pretty I think.

In the village we got to try lychees.

And cacao.

 And coffee.  Raw beans are slimy!

Here my son give the kids smiley badges / pins in the village.

I am not sure what bird this is, but he happily scratches around with the chickens.

We learn how to grate the yucca.
My son tries to help.
He loses a little skin and gives up.
Small problem - her nose drips into the ingredients as she sweats it out - yikes!

 She twists the yucca to get the contents compact.

She twists it on a pole to get the raw toxic juices out.

Then she presses it into a flat basket.

She cooks it over a low flame.
I hope this cooks the bacteria out of the nose drips.
My son gets to pass it out.

After lunch we head off down the river.
Most of the group are going to see white magic with the Shaman.
I think it is disappointing that it is not explained to our group as to what it is.
We already feel on the outer and no-one hardly speaks to us, so I don't wish to get into a discussion about what I believe to be further downgraded.
I do not want my son exposed to this, so we ask if we can be dropped at the school.
School however is not on, so we meet one boy.
My son gives him a smiley badge / pin.
Soon there was about 10 kids.

The boys then decided to teach him how to somersault off a post.
Next it was run and jump off the river bed.

A brief stop as more kids (and Mums and babies) came for a smiley badge / pin.

Finally after about 3 hours we were collected.
We headed off for another sunset swim.
As we left the thunder started.
The lightening flashed through the clouds like I had never seen before.

These clouds remind me of a boy in the centre and his Mum on the right.
I felt like it was us.
Wow - God sure put on a display in the clouds for us tonight.
It was just awestruck of the beauty we saw in the sky!

We recommend Guacamayo Ecolodge and Tours.
We had a fantastic time, and our guide was just the best!