Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ecuador-Saturday, December 31st:Traveling Back Home

We had time Saturday morning to stop by the markets on our way to the airport.
The trip, of course went by way too quickly.
Every single flight we went on, Preston was fascinated with the airplane safety instructions.  He still asks about airplanes daily.  The travel home went smoothly.  We got back just in time to celebrate the New Year.  James' dad picked us up from the airport and we watched the fire works as midnight hit on the drive home.

The summary movie James put together of the trip. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ecuador-Friday, December 30th: Salinas

Left Guaranda after a breakfast at the hotel.  It was about a 30 minute drive to get to Salinas.

Salinas has an interesting history.  It is named for its salt mining but until 45 years ago was a very poor area.  We hiked out to the salt mines.  Going into the drying hut where the smoke was pouring out hurt all of our eyes, but was interesting. 
In the 1970s an Italian missionary helped to establish a fair trade co-op.  The locals worked together to produce cheese and share profits equally.  After that proved successful, they created other small businesses all as part of the co-op.
As we drove into town we were able to see people bringing in milk.  
Brought in my llama, donkey, motorcycle, or even just strapped to someones back.
It is a long daily trek made after milking the cows to get the milk to the cheese factory.
The milk is weighed and tested and the farmer is given a paper slip that is used to track their contribution.  We got to see the cheese being made and tasted some of the different kinds.  Our favorite was basil.
At the center of town, we got to witness election day.  What was interesting is it was divided by gender.  We were able to hire a guide to take us to some of the other factories.
We went first to the yarn making factory where they process sheep and alpaca wool. 
Their machines were donated from Canada and were built in 1915, but they keep them working. 
They keep the sheep and alpaca wools separate.  There were piles everywhere.  Brielle and Ethan found it so funny when my mom told them "We're going to see some dying next."  They do dye the wool in all different colors.
We then went to the textile store where they sell things they've made with the yarns. Brielle bought a poncho she loved. 
We stopped by the chocolate factory to see the process and taste the result.  Aji and Maracuja were new kinds of chocolates we tried and liked.
Next stop was the soccer ball 'factory' it is a family business run by 2 people in a small upstairs room. 
All the balls are handmade.  Each piece is cut out one at a time.
The boys were both very excited to choose balls to purchase. 
Finally we went to eat pizza for lunch. It is made with all local ingredients and was very tasty. 
It was time to hit the road after that. On the drive we ran into a few El Viuda groups (men dressed as widows), they were creating traffic stops with logs across the road begging for money.
Apparently it's a New Year's Eve thing, but these groups were starting a day early.  After handing them a few coins they will move their blockade and let the car past.
Preston serenaded us during our drive with his made up songs.  One of his favorites showed he was picking up on some Spanish.  Sort of.  The lyrics went: "Muchas Galasidas and a Happy New Year."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ecuador-Thursday, December 29th: Baños-Guamote-Guaranda

We enjoyed our last morning at the beautiful cliff house in baños. 
The girls enjoyed hanging out in the hammocks to work on journals and seminary together.
We again purchased fresh bread from the baker that drives through town for breakfast. It is such a yummy treat, everyone especially enjoyed the nutella that Mom purchased to put on the rolls.
Preston helped mom make scrambled eggs to go with the fresh rolls.
We made a couple stops in town before heading out. Going to get smashed pennies (Nickles actually at this one) at the hot springs and see the waterfall that comes into town. 
We found a chocolate empanadas stand also to try. It had been on our list but we hadn't gotten them yet and we're glad we did. So yummy.
A lot it the day was spent driving. It was about 2 ½ hours to get to Guamote. There were some amazing views of the volcano and farming lands along the way. 
And we saw a lot of people hauling their goods on their backs.
Some on their way to or from the markets.
The locals would pile up in trucks or big buses to come from towns near and far.
Guamote has an open air indigenous market on Thursdays.  I wanted to experience the cultural aspect of seeing a traditional market and this was indeed that. 
There were pigs and sheep every where and piles of produce, chicken, fish, bread…everything being sold. It was not a touristy place, so we stuck out being the only white people walking around. 
We tried to be respectful, or at least sneaky about getting pictures of things and places there. 
They were staring at us as much as we were at them though. The kids didn't seem to care about it as much as the adults did, but I loved it and enjoyed walking around.
So much to see
as we wandered around I was surprised every time to turn a corn and see more tents set up.  It was huge.
And the people are beautiful
each tribe has a different hat style and clothing
From there we drove about 2 more hours to Guaranda. It was another pretty drive up (14,500 feet was our highest point) next to Chimborazo. 
We loved seeing all the vicuña on the side of the road. Kids did well with the drives. They love the connect game that grandma taught them and tinkered with backpack toys or slept.
Once we got to our hotel the boys had some energy to burn. There was a small playground on the property that I took them to before dinner. Dinner was good, but there were t.v.s playing kid's movies and the kids were glued with tired glazed over eyes. Everything came with potatoes, rice and salad. So all the adult were full after their own meals.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ecuador-Wednesday, December 28th:Baños

It was a slower morning.  We were up early, but spent time writing in journals and playing around the house until close to 10.  The view from the house (and the house itself) was incredible. We got bread from the baker that drives through town to deliver.  That was fun.  He honks his horn as he approaches and if you want bread you can go to the road to get it from his car.
It was raining, so we decided to start with Pailon del Diablo where we'd get wet anyway.  
The waterfall was impressive.
Our family climbed in the tunnels to get behind the falls. 
We all got completely soaked.  But it was very cool to see.
After hiking back we went to the La Casa del Abol for the "swing to the end of the world" experience.
James especially loved having a swing with enough leg room for him to go.  He felt like a kid again.

Preston was mad about the short uphill walk to get there.  He was having a hard time when we got there.  We said he could have a snack when he stopped screaming. At which time he yells "I started to stop!".  When he saw the zip line he got a huge grin on his face and was much happier after that.
Ethan loved the balance beams.  He didn't feel a need to hold the rope and I kept imagining him falling in the muddy water, but each time he made it without a fall.
Everyone loved spending time there.
It had cleared up,  and we had mostly dried out, so we decided to try out the zoo.  

The zoo wasn't too impressive, but the views were incredible.
We had a good time seeing the animals, and especially enjoyed the english translations on the sign.  They weren't done well and were very funny.
Dinner was at a French restaurant called Marianes.  The kids were shocked when Katie told them that the locals actually enjoy eating the heads of the fish.

We stopped on the way home for groceries and James and Brielle picked up sugar cane taffy (melcocha) for us all to try.