So I have now been here for over 3 months! I can’t believe that. It seems like just yesterday I was packing for Ecuador and trying to figure out what in the world I was signing up for. One of the most important things that has happened in the past 2 weeks, is that I finally got my student visa! Thank goodness, since I received this the day that my tourist visa expired. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. I had to go to the immigration office and wait for 3 hours just to drop off my paperwork. Then, I was supposed to receive an email within 5 days saying if my application was approved or if more documentation was needed. Of course, I never received this email, so I had to go back to the immigration office and wait for another 2 hours. Luckily, I was told that my application was approved, and I needed to pay $100. Let me tell you, it is so much fun waiting in the immigration office where everyone that is over the age of 50, with kids, handicapped, or who knows what other reasons they used, gets to go before you, and then you get to pay these lovely people $100. But of course, the process wasn’t done yet. I had to drop off my passport, and come back later that afternoon only between the hours of 3:30-4:30 to pick up my passport with the visa. No idea why, but this office has very strict requirements about what time you must come- not very Ecuadorian. So I left work early to pick up my visa, and now I am legal in Ecuador!
Last weekend was a holiday weekend, but I decided to stay in Quito. One of my friends and I wanted to hike Pichincha, which is a volcano located about 3 km from where I live. We have been told that the weather needs to be good, or it could be very dangerous. Well on Friday, it was cloudy in the morning, so Betsy and I thought we would take a day trip to Papallacta, which has hiking and thermal springs about 2 hours from Quito. So we took the Ecovia, tram, to the bus station, which is 1 hour away. Once we got to the bus station, we realized that the next bus left at 1:30 and costed $8, and who knows when the last bus leaves Papallact to come back to Quito! I know this sounds very cheap to everyone back home, but the general rate for buses in Ecuador is $1 per hour, so this bus trip should cost $2 not $8. We were so shocked by this and based off of principle alone couldn’t pay 4x what the price should be, so we got back on the Ecovia and took it an hour back to the city. Sometimes when you make spontaneous decisions they work out, well this one was a fail. Oh well you live and you learn! However, while we were riding the bus for a total of 2 hours, we were standing, which gave us a good abs workout since you must balance as the bus is turning, slamming on the breaks, or accelerating. Now we know that we can simply ride the Ecovia when we want a good abs workout! Anyways, we decided to pick up Dakota and walk across town to Parque Metropolitano and do some hiking. Dakota was LOVING this since there were tons of birds for her to chase. When we got to the picnic area, there was a beautiful view overlooking part of the city.
Dakota loved the view as well! At night, we decided to do a typical Latin American activity-salsa dancing! A group of about 6 of us went to a salsateca, which is supposed to be THE place to go for salsa dancing. As you all know, I am not much of a dancer at all, but there is something about salsa that I love. I think its the spinning and the fact that the guy has to lead you so it’s not that important to know the steps- if the guy is good, he will lead you in a way that forces you to make the correct steps. So basically, if I am not dancing well, it’s all the guy’s fault- that is a dance that I can support! After dancing the night away, we finally went home and everyone was exhausted. Due to all of the walking and dancing on Friday, Betsy and I decided not to try to hike Pichincha on Saturday. And of course, the weather was perfect on Saturday ha.
The weather ended up being good on Sunday, so Betsy and I headed to Pichincha! You don’t actually start the hike at the bottom of the volcano, you take the Teleferiqo (cable car) up to the lookout area, then start your hike. Most people just take the Teleferiqo up to see the views since hiking to the top is “sooo challenging.” It’s hiking and if it gets steep, then you walk slower right? I mean how hard can it really be? Oh those famous last words…Here is a picture from the Teleferiqo with magnificent views of the city.
Once we were up the Teleferiqo, it was time to start hiking. It usually takes around 3 hours to get to the top, but we wanted to beat that time. The first hour of hiking was great: the weather was perfect, we could breathe and talk easily, and it was only steep for a little bit.
Yes, you are correct, we were heading towards the point on the tip of the rock! We were lucky that we met new friends along the way, and would stop to talk to them for a minute then continue. After maybe 1 1/2 or 2 hours, we were walking along the path and the path seemed to stop. I thought we missed a turn off somewhere, but nope. A group of 2 dads and their 2 sons came walking around the corner and said “…you’re correct. You need to climb those rocks and then the path continues.” Excuse me what? We have to do some rock climbing? So with the help of the dads, Betsy and I climbed the rocks, maybe 6 feet total- no big deal. And then we went on our way and found ourselves in a part of the “trail” that was all loose dirt. At this point, the trail started to disappear and you just had to find the path that you wanted to take that looked the easiest. Now, I was starting to see why this hike could be slightly dangerous. After we got through that section, the real fun started. Betsy and I decided to take a path that involved intense rock climbing. We didn’t have a harness or even a rope, just our hands and feet-FUN! Around 10 minutes went by of this climbing and I was really starting to second guess this decision; I just didn’t see how I was going to be able to climb this entire thing, maybe 15 meters total. Luckily, God sent us help right then as another group of dads and sons came along and said that we should come down and go another way which was much easier. We followed that group and 5 minutes later, we made it to the top… in only 2 hours and 40 minutes! I’m not going to lie, I was cursing Betsy’s name in my head leading up to the moment we made it to the top, but once we got up there it was worth it.
It was cold up there, so we didn’t stay for long. Also, it was cloudy, so we needed to be able to get past the rocks before the rain came. We spent about 2 hours getting back to the Teleferiqo and as soon as we got inside the building, the rain came pounding- perfect timing to end an exhausting day.
This past week, I was able to finish up both of my classes, which meant that I was free at night. So Tuesday night, we went to trivia at this Irish pub because they do trivia in English. We ended up getting 3rd place! Then, on Friday Betsy and her housemates hosted a cookout on their huge terrace. I don’t grill so I don’t exactly know what the problem was, but the grill wouldn’t start. We had lighter fluid and matches, but we couldn’t get the grill going. Apparently, this grill has to be lit with a candle? And even that wasn’t doing the trick. After around 45 minutes of trying to figure this out, someone had the genius idea of using a hair dryer! So yes, we used the hair dryer to keep the grill going so that the burgers could get cooked.
I know this sounds ridiculous, but we were starving and it worked! So now everyone knows to have a hair dryer close by when using a grill, just in case. Because this was a cookout, I was able to bring Dakota and she was the life of the party. Everyone loved having her around and people were offering to watch her for me, this is an offer I will definitely be using in the near future. People kept asking if she spoke/understood English or Spanish haha, Of course my answer was, Dakota understands English, but only responds when she wants to.
The rest of my weekend was spent relaxing, enjoying the sunshine, and getting things ready for the upcoming week. Now that it is May, rainy season is over so there will be lot of sun for the next few months.!