Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here's our trek to 1,000,000 feet....
Okay, maybe not that high, but really, really, high...

I thought we were heading out on a kind of rigorous Saturday hike.
Little did I know we were climbing up a mountian whose summit was at 16,000 feet. And at that altitude there isn't much oxygen to breathe and it's snowing and hailing when you get to the top (oops! no one mentioned we might need some gloves!). Oh yeah, and when someone told me at the bunko game the night before that they liked the hike and there was a good 'scamble' at the end ~ I also didn't realize scramble was a code word for rock climbing. But maybe it's best that we went in without really knowing...

We met at the school at 6:40 am (Amerian time ~ when you're meeting at a party and it's 'Ecuadorian time' you're supposed to show up 30 minutes to an hour late ~ see, we're figuring things out) and headed to the Mariscal neighborhood (gringolandia) to meet our guide, Ramiro.

We all hopped into his souped up 70's style van, complete with music console on the roof and headed out toward the mountain.

We live in the 'avenue of the volcanoes' so there's lots of mountain climbing in the area. The big one is Cotopaxi which, I think, goes up to 18,000 feet and you need ice-climbing gear for that one (definitely not ready for that). Mt. Corazon is considered a good training hike for Cotopaxi.
Here's a picture of Mt. Corazon from the van ~ you can see that the summit (the big bump) has clouds surrounding the tip.

Anyway ~ it was ridiculous. We hiked straight up hill for hours, and hours and then climbed up some rocks to reach some more rocks to eventually reach the summit where it was hailing on us.

But along the way it was amazing to see the landscape change. This type of habitat is called a paramo. It's a high altitude grass and scrubland that's located above the cloud forests. It's like a big sponge that catches and releases water. And some of the plants are super spongy ~ it was really cool to walk through. Here are a couple of pictures to give you an idea of what it's like.

Some of the plants looked more like they should be underwater and part of a coral reef.

When we started out it was a beautiful sunny day ~ we were really lucky to have such great weather in the middle of the rainy season. Then, as we started to climb higher we were literally amongst the clouds. You could see them rolling in and catching up with us.

As we got higher, the landscaped changed dramatically. We left the paramo and were climbing a rocky side of the mountain and then had to do a little 'scrambling' and then climbing along lots and lots of rocks to get to the top. Our guide kept saying 'un poco mas' (just a little further) until we finally got there.

So this was an amazing challenge~I couldn't believe how hard it was for me (I was dizzy, nauseaus, etc. toward the top) and chris was plugging away and without his patience and perseverance I would have never made it to the summit. You would have thought we were climbing Everest or something. It sure felt like it.

Here we all are at the summit ready to eat our sandwiches ~ can you tell we're really cold and don't really care about eating our sandwiches. We had to hurry back down the mountain so we could get back to the van before the rain trapped us in (we were parked on a very sketchy, muddy road).

And here's a picture of chris and I on the way back down with the moutain behind us.

Oh, and here's me with the 3 litres of water we each had to carry in our backpacks and a picture of me adding my extra layers while being surrounded by clouds ~ luckily we ran out the day before and bought some wateproof pants.

Hope you enjoy all the pictures - we enjoyed getting home, taking a hot shower and crawling into bed!

More to come soon.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

the other season...

we have two new additions to our little family here in quito ~ but we'll get to that later ~ first the news...

as we live our life on the equator there are two seasons~ we have just entered the second season~ wet.

honestly, i prefer dry but as long as it's sunny and warm for a few hours each day we don't mind the rain so much.

we have learned quickly to take advantage of the dry, sunny hours of the day and will often go for a walk in the park near our house (described previously) early before the weather changes. It's a steep climb into the park (and remember the altitude) ...
here's the entrance that we walk up. then we hang a right at the water treatment area and head into the eucalyptus woods.

Chris is surprised by the lack of mushrooms~ it seems like in the wet season there should be tons of mushrooms in the park ~ especially since there is also sun and warmth, but we've seen very few mushrooms ~ just a little orange fungus coming out of a tree.

but there are rows of eucalyptus trees....

there's a great path off the main road where the sun shines through the trees and there are even a bunch of chartreuse trees..

It's a wonderful place to walk (or run) and we're going to try and take some walks in the a.m. before school this week to prepare for a pretty intense hike we agreed to go on this saturday~ we'll see how that works out... Saturday we're supposed to get up early and hike 'corazon' which is about 4 - 4 1/2 hours up to the top and then a few more hours to get back down the mountain.

there are also lots of bromeliads in the trees in the park ~ they are so incredibly cute ~ que lindo!

and there are lots of tree trunks covered in lichen ~ and chris really loves lichen. Well, here's one or two more pictures from the park and by the way, i have no idea why everything is suddenly underlined!

we love the park.
on another note ~ it's hard to believe thanksgivng is next week. especially since the weather doesn't change much here, it's hard to believe that it's getting cold up north and people are preparing for winter.

We will miss everyone greatly at Thanksgiving and miss being in eaglesmere at the cabin.

We get out of school at noon on Thanksgiving day and we will then head over to a friend's house who has a bunch of people over for Thanksgiving dinner.

And, it looks like we're going to have our first visitors here in Quito! My wonderful friend Susan Holt is coming to visit at the beginning of December with her boyfriend, Tom. They have perfect timing because we have 3 days off after the weekend they arrive and then they'll head out to explore Ecuador and come back to Quito. We'll all spend christmas together and then, hopefully, head to the black sheep inn for a few days. we are so excited for their visit!!

Okay, and now for the additions to our household here in Quito....
first, chris has been growing lots of plants from seeds and from clippings and our first zucchini blossom came out this weekend which means we will soon be eating delicous zucchini from our terrace!
we might be inspired to start growing tomato plants off the back terrace.

and for the next addition... as some of you may know we haven't had a couch of our own for a while. our friend, brenda offered us her sofa bed couch that was in her basement ~ and sofa beds are very hard to find in quito ~ they are rare and expensive. so, we had the couch picked up from her place by the reupholstry people. we started out by picking a neutral color that was not too expensive and then we threw caution to the wind (it was after school and we were both kind of hungry) and picked a swatch of beautiful pink fabric. Well, after they left with the couch we had a few doubts about whether an entire, huge couch would look good in pink ~but the couch was delivered on friday (and i have to say they barely got it up the four flights to our apartment) and it is simply beautiful. we have never owned anything like it. and not only is it pink and beautiful but it's also huge and comfortable and folds out into a bed in case we have guests.

we love it!!

anyway, that's about if for now thanks for all the comments ~ Dani thanks for all the feedback ~ keep them coming and hello to Paula ~ thanks for a hello from the 5B dayroom ~ I think about Mt. Vernon a lot and wonder how everyone is doing!
happy thanksgiving everyone ~ we have so much to be thankful for~ we will be thinking of our families and friends and we love you!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We've had a quiet couple of weeks since halloween but we wanted to post to say hello.
Here's a picture of one of chris' birthday presents ~ it's a wall hanging from the crafts market of what else.. fish. It's actually kind of different than a lot of the stuff you see and it's really beautifully done.

I've decided it's time to start taking private spanish lessons ~ I have 'survival' spanish and can get by but I need to be able to speak a little more since basically no one in the neighborhood where we live speaks English at the stores, banks, taxis, etc. and it's such a great opportunity to learn.

I don't know if we mentioned this, but the largest park in Quito is behind our house and Chris and i go for walks there as often as we can ~ it's really magical. you walk up a huge hill to get in there and then you're in this eucalyptus tree filled park and the air is wonderful and smells so good ~ we'll post some pictures from the park soon. We've been looking for some cool fungus since it's been raining a bit but there aren't as many mushrooms as you would think in the woods.

We're thrilled to be here in ecuador and appreciate the beautiful views from our terrace each evening. It's really cool to watch the clouds come in and cover the mountains and even surround us since we're up so high.
here's a sample:
We'll post more soon and hope everyone is well and happy ~ and thanks again for all the comments posted .... oh, and T.J. was right ~ chris was a shrimp for halloween. I told him he should have carried around a jar of cocktail sauce so people would know what he was...