Monday, November 16, 2009

Exploring Ecuador

By Oma (Ruth's Momma Myra)

It seems like a long time ago and yesterday that Ruth fetched me (the Oma) from Guayaquil airport at 1:00 am on October 21st and took me to their hotel where Maya awoke to greet me with huge hugs. After a good, but short sleep on the bottom bunk, I awoke to the realization of being part of the Kamaya family. Our exploration of Ecuador with Oma began.

The morning started with a walk along Guayaquil’s magnificent Malecon which weaves along the waterfront for many miles peppered with stores, restaurants, exotic gardens, children’s playgrounds for Maya and Kai and adult playgrounds for Tim and Ruth. The excitement of the moment was a sizeable and very noisy demonstration by university students and teachers who (as we were told) protested the new law requiring teachers to take a test. The young man working at our hotel's reception questioned why the students joined in the protest as he, a student himself, felt that teachers needed standards.

With some nine pieces of baggage divided between the five of us, we boarded a bus for Banos. Along the way, our bus stopped at lots of little towns where “hawkers” boarded selling a variety of goods from banana chips to ice cream. The ride being longer than anticipated - and the Kamaya passengers getting itchy to run around, demanded an overnight stop at Riobamba for a traditional dinner, a good night’s sleep and - why not see another little town? We lucked into a small trade show of Ecuadorian products held in the local community auditorium - the major event of the town.

Enough of the local transportation, we splurged on a taxi to take us directly to Banos - a friendly vacation town, staying at Posada Marquez Inn in the town center. Ruth, Tim and Maya rented bicycles to investigate the town while Kai and Oma donned helmets and zoomed all over in a sort of doon buggy with a very loud horn and a maximum speed of 9 miles per hour. Kai honked the horn, moved the turn signals and advised “Floor it, Oma.”

Banos - as its name signifies, is known for its springs and baths - so we took a ride on horses up the volcano to a bubbly spring - the nob on the saddle might be for a lasso, but for me it was to hold on to for dear life.

From Banos to Quito where we stayed in the historical Old Town on Saturday night with its classic square, surrounded by churches, government buildings, shops, and hotels and people going in all different directions. Saturday night is holiday and wedding time with open horse carriages, beaming brides, and folk dancing in the plaza. The following day, we met up with Pilar, Kai’s Spanish teacher from his old school in Hood River.

Pilar is Ecuadorian and moved back here last year. She and her family introduced us to the local drink, Candelaza which is now our all time favorite. Pilar graciously invited the five of us to stay at her home and we had a grand dinner with her husband Eddy, daughter, Manuela and younger twins, Gabriel and Paula.

From Quito we bussed to Otavalo - the weaving town where the women wear traditional long black skirts and embroidered white blouses and they tot babies on their backs as they work away.

Atop a hill we visited a Condor Preserve run by a Dutch falconer who has Andean condors (they have the biggest wingspan of all birds),

and hawks, falcons, eagles and even a relative of Hedwig, the snowy owl in Harry Potter.

Back on a local bus to Cotopachi, the leather town with a hundred shops lining the main streets and all showcasing different leather jackets. I bought a leather jacket from a man who gets ideas for his patterns from the internet. We also stopped in Peguche to find Jose Cotopachi (again a local bus - we’re getting good at this) supposedly one of the finest weavers in Ecuador. Walking on the streets to Jose’s studio, we could hear the loud hum of the electric looms that have taken over the town. Jose weaves the old fashioned way, by hand, and he showed us how he makes the natural dyes, red comes from a little bug (the cochineal) that lives on the cactus plant.

The bug is squished into a natural red color:

From Otavalo by taxi to Quito airport and a 40 minute airplane ride was better than a twelve hour bus ride to our home to Bahia de Caraquez - where we were warmly welcomed by everyone in Puerto Amistad.

A few days at home to celebrate Halloween (Maya and Kai trick or treated by going boat to boat in the anchorage - pretty neat?) and to prepare Kamaya for our wild upwind sail to Isla de la Plata - the poor man’s Galapagos. We had the island to ourselves and the blue footed boobies loved us as they showed us the proper way to court a mate (Nate are you taking notes?) -- show off your blue feet, pick up a stick, and if all is going well, then point to the sky with a melodic whistle.

Tomorrow we sail to Manta where Oma finally gets a shower in preparation for her plane ride home. She is very sad to leave - and will be back on Kamaya soon. Besides, we have to continue rating all the ice cream stores.


Ramona said...

Thanks for the lovely story, Myra. Being grandmother to a wandering family presents both great opportunities and interesting challenges. It sounds like you weathered both in good stlye.

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