Saturday, November 29, 2008

Salkantay Trek & Machu Picchu

Well let me begin this blog with the fact that I am still alive right now. About 2 days ago (Thanksgiving Day to be exact) I felt like it was close to the end for me....well maybe it wasn´t that bad, but I did have a fever, traveler´s diaherrea, bug bites all over my body, blisters on my feet, lost a toenail, and could barely walk because my body was so sore.
Why was I under this sort of condition you may ask? Because for 5 days prior to Thanksgiving, I decided to take the Salkantay Trek to visit Machu Picchu. Let me start from the beginning.....

It all started in Lima, Peru....where I spent about 18 hours hanging out in the airport. I flew there from Ecuador and thought that I would save money by staying the night there to get to my connecting flight the next morning. Too bad I forgot that the prices are all jacked up in airports. I probably would have saved more money by shopping at Sacks 5th Avenue for 2 hours. I felt like Tom Hanks in "The Terminal" roaming around the airport...checking out all of the stores and restuarants. I did not sleep what-so-ever.
Finally, I fly into Cuzco, Peru which is the main city hub for treks to Machu Picchu. Cuzco is at an altitude of about 11,300 feet. As soon as I stepped off the airplane I was short of breath. I started to get a little bit of altitude sickness and was even feeling a cold coming on...Probably due to the altitude and lack of sleep the night before. After checking into the hostel, I roamed around the city and talked to several tour agencies. I found one that I liked and decided that I wanted to do the Salkantay was 5 days long and the views in the pictures looked amazing. Come to find out, though, the Salkantay is the most challenging of the Machu Picchu alternative treks. It is the longest and it goes to the highest altitude. I was a little worried, considering I have never really hiked in the mountains before.
Since I had altitude sickness, the tour agency suggested that I acclimate my body for a I checked out the town of Cuzco and mentally prepared myself for the 5 days ahead of me. I also went and bought a few items that I needed for the hike such as a pancho, sunblock, bug repellant, water purifer pills, and snacks.
Day1 - 4:30AM
A cab picked me up and I met 2 of my fellow trekkers, the Mexicans: Rolando & Mario. We immediately got along right off the bat and started chatting it up with each other. The cab started to drive and backed right into made a horrible crash noise. However, it didnt seem to phase him as he threw the car into drive and kept on going. Mario looked at both of us and said "Let the adventure begin". We arrived to a random bus that locals were piling into. The driver just motioned us towards the bus so we got on. After about ten more minutes, 6 more trekkers got on the bus and we headed off on a 3 hour ride. It was at that point that I looked around and realized that I was the only girl amongst the group of trekkers. Hmmmm...I thought to this even a "girly" type thing to do. Am I completely out of my element? Am I actually a Man-Woman??? Just kidding...haha, but I did think it was odd that I was the only chick. Come to find out though, two other girls were to join the group the following day.
After we arrived to our starting point, we met our guide, Henry, and had a breakfast. Everytime we ate during the hike, we were given cocoa leaves to help with the altitude. By the end of the trip we were all pretty addicted to the leaves....we would put them in our tea, soup, beer, or just chew on them for fun.
So we started trekking on the first day. The view was amazing. The rolling green hills were turning into mountains and it felt really good being out in the open air....I didn´t feel like I had a cold anymore and I could not stop smiling. I wasn´t sure if this was because of the magnificient nature or the cocoa leaves. We continued walking and getting to know each other. Other then the 2 Mexicans, there were 6 American guys. 3 of the guys were friends from San Francisco and the other 3 guys were from San Diego and LA. We all walked briskly and tried not to act like the trails were very challenging. After lunch, the sunny fresh weather grew into a dark storm cloud. Soon the temperature dropped and it began to rain. I was really glad I bought that pancho. I slipped into it and before I could get it all the way on, the hail began to fall. It was at this moment that I felt like a true adventure I was...walking through the mountains of Peru in a pancho with hail beating on my head. It was a neat feeling for about 3 minutes and then I was totally over it. The hail and rain SUCKED. My shoes, socks, and lower pants got soaked. Since it was later in the day, they never came close to drying. (This would pose a major problem later in the night).
Finally, we arrived to our camp site...worn out from the first day and sick of the rain and hail. For the time being, the weather had cleared up. We were all freezing though, because the site was at a really high altitude. I do not remember the exact height, but it was dang cold!!! Since we were on park land, we were not allowed to build a fire. So our wet shoes and socks were not going to dry anytime soon. We all gathered for tea and supper and huddled close to one other to stay warm. During dinner, the rain started up again. And while it was raining...we realized that icicles were forming around the hut. This meant that it was below freezing. The rain turned into hail again and we sat there wondering if it would let up for us to get back to our tents. Finally, there was a break in the rain. I had my own tent for the night, but I was shaking so bad that the Mexicans let me come sleep with them. We figured we would have a better chance of survival if we had more bodies in one tent. We all layed down and after a few moments realized that the tent was leaking. The rain was so fierce at this point that it was causing a river to run underneath our tent and the water was not only coming in from the sides, but up from the ground as well. At first we all kinda laughed because this was the perfect scenario for one of those Survival shows on Discovery Channel....but after about 5 minutes...we were not laughing anymore. We were miles away from one else around except for our group. No fire, no electricity...nothing! The bottom of our entire tent filled up with water and we layed there shaking through the night. It was miserable....I watched the time pass had to have been one of the worst nights of my life. I could hear the other guys in the tent next to us going through a similar situation. We all just layed close to each other and waited for the sun to rise. I long as we were in the tent next to another human body, we would be able to stay alive.
Finally....the morning came. I got up and tried to find some dry clothes to put on that I did not sacrifice the night before. I put back on my wet socks and shoes and headed to the cooking hut. The other 3 guys were in there already with a blank stare across their faces. They did not look good. We switched stories about how horrible our nights were and they then confessed to me that they were not going to continue on with the trek. The night was so horrible for them, that they just wanted to go back to Cuzco and take a bus to Machu Picchu. Since 2 other girls were coming by taxi up the trail, they were going to take the taxi back. So....after day 1....our group went down 3 guys and gained 2 girls.
Day 2 was the hardest trekking day of the entire trip. Not only were we all running on no sleep from the night before, but it was the day that we would reach our maximum altitude of the Salkantay mountain. The views were extrodinary as we walked passed rivers, lagoons, and glaciers. We even saw a couple of avalanches from a distance. What was really neat about the hike was that we never passed any other hikers. Every once in awhile, we would see locals or herders pass by, but that was it. I pushed my body to its limits on this day....slow and steady...I kept my pace to get to the top of the mountain. It was very difficult, but I was mentally ready for the challenge. When I reached our destination at 15,000 feet I was extremely proud of all of us. We took tons of pictures. The San Francisco bunch had a video camera with them. They have been filming themselves dancing at various sites throughout their travels. It was here, that Andrea made her debut on their camera. The whole gang danced around the altitude sign in their own crazy way. (I will let you know when they post the video on is going to be a good one). After reaching that point, the rest of the day was down hill. But we were all so worn out that the down hill wasnt as easy as we had planned...but we made it to our camp site. The site was at a much lower lever and warmer then the night before. It was on a beautiful ranch heading into the jungle. We drank a few beers...told a few stories..and slept much better.
Day 3 we walked through the jungle. The terrain was completely different. The weather was warm and sticky and it wasnt the altitude or hail that we were was the MOSQUITOS! Those damn pesky things....I must have had an inch layer thick of repellant on my body at all times. We stopped at a rest station and there was a make-shift soccer field. We played a short little game with each was a lot of fun, but pretty exhausting since we were still high above sea-level. After our hike, we arrived to a town called Santa Teresa. This town is known for its Hot Springs. We all headed to the springs since none of us had a shower since we left 2 days ago. The springs were felt good to clean off my body. Everyone wanted a beer so I volunteered myself to go get them. This was a mistake! As soon as I stepped out of the water and walked to the bar I looked down and saw my entire body covered in bugs. The spring water had washed all of my repellant was too late...they all had already bitten me.
Day 4 was also still through the jungle. We trekked along a strong river all the way to this town called Hydro Electric. This was the train that could take you to the town, Aguas Calientes, which is the gateway into Machu Picchu. On the way to Hydro Electric, we stopped and played in a waterfall for a bit. We walked by wild pepper bushes, coffee bean trees, lime trees, and banana trees. The jungle had so many awesome plants and flowers everywhere. After lunch at Hydro Electric, some people decided to take the train to the next town, and the rest of us did the 6 mile walk along the rail-road tracks. I was determined to walk the entire way to Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes was a major touristy town, but it was also very nice. This was our last night as a group and we were staying in a hostel. It felt so nice to get a real shower and sleep in an actual bed. After our last supper together, we all headed to bed early....tomorrow would be a long day at Machu Picchu...and it started at 4AM.
Day 5 we all woke up and began the trek up to Machu Picchu. It was a 1.5 hour hike uphill to the site. I was sooooo worn out this day. My body was on its last leg of hiking and I was running on low. Not to mention, my stomach was not feeling too good from the "last supper". I spent most of the night sitting on the toilet. This was also the day that my toenail was starting to fall off. So, despite my body slowly telling me to take a break, I made it up to the ruins. As soon as I got there, I forgot about all the pains in my body. Machu Picchu is a site to see! No matter how many photos you have seen in your text books or on the internet....nothing compares to seeing it in real life. Our group was especially lucky because it had been raining for the past week. This was the first clear day they have had in a long time. The sun shined down on all of the ruins and we explored for hours. We even tried to do a dance for the video camera, but we got in trouble by security.
The ruins itself actually do not have a one has ever been able to determine it. It is the mountain next to the ruins that is called Machu Picchu. On the other side of the ruins is a mountain called Wainapichu. Most people hike up this mountain because there are more ruins on the top of it. It is a bit dangerous fact, 7 people have died on this mountain just this year. I was so exhausted that I decided it was not a good idea to hike that mountain. I would hike Machu Picchu instead...simply because they did not tell me a statistic of people dying...surely it would be easier, right? Oh my goodness....this hike was insane!!! Not only was I not mentally prepared for it, but it was an optional hike...and that really bugged me. Why was I putting myself through yet another challenge? Why did I have to be apart of this over-achiever group? Anyways, it was painful...there were times where I was crawling on all 4s up narrow steap stairs....people must have died on this mountain as well. It was worth it though, once we got to the top it felt like we were on top of the world. We could view the ruins below us as well as all the mountain ranges surrounding us. My friend jammed his Iphone music and turned on the video camera. For about 15 minutes we all danced on top of the mountain like was a glorious moment!!!!
That night we ate beer and pizza and struggled to move any part of our bodies. We took the train back to Cuzco and said our goodbyes. We were all exhausted.
The next day was Thanksgiving. I woke up and simply felt like shit. I felt a fever coming on and my body could barely move. My toe was officialy throbbing now and the bites would not stop itching.....I dont know how many times I had gone to the bathroom since the last supper.
I called my family on Skype....I was a little bit homesick. Here I was sick and sore in some random peruvian town, while my family was gorging on turkey. I tried not to dwell on was just one day and I would feel better again....this emotion would soon pass. The Mexicans were still in town so they decided to join me for a nice feast. We ate at a very nice restaurant and exchanged stories back from the first day we met and the cab hit some unidentified object. After dinner, Mario and I tried out one the Inka was extremely sketchy. The place was pretty gross and smelled bad. I am not sure why we even went through with it...we both kept looking at each other waiting for the other person to back out of it. Basically, this woman just beat the crap out of my body and then used some hot wooden ball with thorns to scratch my bug wasnt the best massage of my life, let´s just say that. I went to bed shortly after the massage because I could tell that my body just needed rest.
The hike was amazing....I honestly can´t believe that I put myself through something like that, but I would do it all over again. I met some amazing people and saw sights that I only dreamed about. My body was not 100%, but I think that it did alright for its first mountain hike ever.
The good thing is, having walked 50 to 60 miles with traveler´s diaherrea, my jeans are now a bit loser. See, you always have to find the glass half full when traveling or else you can drive yourself crazy. For instance, the 20 hour bus ride I took yesterday is not so could have been 40 hours instead. Or, the guy sitting next to me smells pretty awful, but at least I am not sitting next to a big pile of poo! The moral of this blog is....always look on the brighter side. My body may be falling apart....but I saw Machu Picchu :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Wedding

So Brad was heading back to Montañita (beach town) for one last effort at spearfishing. Montañita is only about 2 hours from the airport I am using to get to Peru, so logistically it was better if I headed in that direction, too. Plus, there were rumors of a Full Moon party at the beach that weekend so I figured it would be a good time regardless.
I said goodbye to my family and friends in Baños....I am hoping to get back there for a few more weeks, but things seem to constantly change with me.
At the bus stop we met a strange character from England, named Adam. He was also on his way to Montañita. He was extremely obnoxious and all he talked about was his wild stories and whether or not he could score drugs in Montañita. Brad seemed really annoyed with him and muffled to me that we were not going to travel with him after the bus ride. I just thought the dude was crazy and was entertained by his lavish travel stories. Anyways, more on the weird English dude later.
We had another glorious 15 hour bus ride to the coast. UUUgggg I really do not like the bus rides and my stomach hurts just thinking about how many hours of bus travel I have ahead of me on my trip. I lost all my ipod music on some shitty computer, so I just sit there and stare out the window and try not to vomit from motion sickness. Ok...I´m done bitching....I just really don´t like the bus rides here.
Anyways, on the last bus ride heading into Montañita, I sat next to a charismatic local named Darwin. He spoke really slow and clear so I was able to practice my spanish with him. We were chatting it up and he told me how he loves to scuba dive and shoot fish with a spear. My eyes lit up as I told him that my travel buddy has been DYING to spearfish and needs some people to go with. I didn´t realize at this moment in time, that Darwin was a well-known local in Montañita. By meeting him..Brad and I were instantly friends with many of the locals.
Once the bus ride was over, I introduced him to Brad and they went off talking about Spearfishing. They arranged to meet the next day to go.
That night we met up with some friends that were in town that friend Jim works at the language school there. They were having a BBQ with all of the students and he invited us. The BBQ was awesome...steak, chicken, fish...yummy! I met some really cool people from all over the world. We all went out that night and hit up the scene. People were buying drinks left and right. We went to this bar that had a band and I ran into the crazy English dude. He said he travels around Beat Boxing and was going to get on stage in a few minutes. I was like...oh lord...this guy IS CRAZY. Then all of a sudden the dude gets on stage and goes to town with Beat Boxin. Everyone in the bar is super impressed and jamming out to him. I must admit, he was pretty darn good and I was moving my body to it. It is just funny the type of people you run into while traveling. A day ago I thought he was some washed up druggy. Come to find out...he is a washed out druggy that is damn good at Beat Boxing!
Anyways....I must have had a lot to drink that night because the next day was AWFUL. I felt like dog poo...and swore I would never drink again. Of course, it had to be the most amazing beautiful sunny day of the week. So I dragged myself out of bed and layed on the beach awhile....I got kinda burned, but sweated out the hangover. Brad went fishing with his new friends and they caught a couple. One of the guys invited us over to his house to cook up the fish and hang out for a bit. It was a really neat experience to be invited into a strangers house that we just met and have him prepare us food. The guy spoke REALLY fast spanish so our communication was very basic. During dinner, he invited us to his cousin´s wedding that night. We were a little hesitant about going, but decided that it was a unique opportunity. Lenein, the guy, told us that we just needed to bring a gift for the bride and to meet at his house at 10pm. Oh yeah, the weddings start late....and go ALLLL night long.
We had no idea what to bring as a at the last minute we were running around the town trying to find something. I ended up just buying a nice bottle of wine bc that is totally normal in the USA. After I purchased it though, I asked the clerk if the wine would be appropriate for the wedding and he simply just said ...Not really. Hahaha oh well...we were late and I already bought it. So we met up with Lenein and he took us to the store to buy wrapping paper and then we headed off to the wedding. We walked to the wedding bc Lenein explained that the cab wouldl charge double since he was with Gringos....its better if we just walk.
So we got to the wedding and Brad is holding the bottle of wine THAT I BOUGHT (he hadñt paid me back yet at this time). The wedding is huge...and there are tons of people already sitting down. We all walked down the middle to greet the bride who is standing there accepting gifts. Brad walks up to her and hands her the wine and she graciously accepts it and gives him a party favor. She then looks at me...empty handed. I have no idea what to do so I just walk up to her and say ¨Congratulations¨real Texan like and give her a hug. She says thanks, but doesn´t hand me a party favor. HAHAH oh well... I jsut followed the others to a table and sat down.
As soon as we sat down, they put beer on our table and handed us a heaping plate of food. The music started blaring all around us. The vibe was amazing...and Lenein told the bartendar to make sure there was always beer and drinks on our table. Let the party begin!!! Darwin, from the bus, rushed over and asked me to dance. I was already reallly nervous about this because of my dancing experience on Halloween. I told him in broken spanish that I was really bad, but that didnt seem to bother him. He grabbed my arms and whisked me onto the EMPTY dance floor. Thankfully, he was a really good lead and twirled me around everywhere. I was able to loosen up and actually started enjoying myself dancing. For about the next 5 hours, Brad and I consumed beer and danced all over the place. Unlike the USA where I normally just sit in my chair at weddings, I had the guys lined up ready to ask me to dance. They dont care about anything...they just like to dance and have a good time. Oh, and the songs are like 20-30 minutes long. Right when I thought the song would be over, it would remix and another beat would start. I definitely had a good workout that night.
At about 3am we tried to leave the wedding to meet up with our friends at the Full Moon party. However, the locals were not having that idea. They grabbed our hands and brought us right back to our table and gave us fresh beers. They said the night was 3AM!!!!!! We danced for a few more hours and got home close to 5am. The next day, we found out that the wedding didnt close down until almost 8am! Now thats the kinda wedding I want to have!
The night was amazing and definitely an experience for the books. It is crazy how we just met these people the day before and they already invited us into their home for dinner and took us to the biggest wedding in town. I was very greatful to them for doing that.
I will get some pics up in the next few computer keeps screwing up. Oh, and there is a fabulous video of drunk Brad at the wedding. I am hoping to put it on YouTube. Try searching Brad Butler Ecuador Wedding in the next few weeks and hopefully it will pop up.
Well, I leave tomorrow to head to Peru. I have a 12 day adventure ahead of me but I am really excited for the challenge.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baños...and My Decision

The past 2 weeks in Baños have been amazing! Each day is fulfilling and I have enjoyed my homestay family and my spanish school. This is one of those places that I could see myself living in for a long period of time. It has so many things to offer. Over the past 2 weeks I have done tons of adventurous things...for instance, me and my friend Natura and this random Irish chick rode mountain bikes for 50 kilometers to the next town. It was not an easy rained and there were some difficult hills to go up. I wanted to quit about 5 times, but I hung in there. There were some amazing views of waterfalls and mountains. The town we were going to was the passage way into the Amazon at one point I was looking at the rolling mountains behind me, a volcano and snow covered peaks to the right of me, and the jungle in front. It is a view that I will never forget and it made the bike ride totally worth it.
The next day Brad and I went on a 3 hour hike through the mountains. There are so many hikes and it totally beats running down Duval road everyday. I could definitely get used to the outdoors here. Also, I have attended a couple aerobics classes in Spanish at the local gym. It is absolutely hilarious...Natura and I are the tallest (only white girls) in the class. This morning we did "Latin Dance Moves". You better believe that my ass was sweating too. Hopefully this helps improve my skills in the discotecas.
A few days ago I decided to take a tour through the mountains by horseback. No one else wanted to go with me, so I went alone. It was just me and this 18 year old guide, Edwin. I didn´t really know what to expect from the tour considering the last time I was on a horse was in Mackinac Island, Michigan when I was about 10....I just imagined myself riding on this grand stallion through the mountains of Ecuador totally comfortable on this perfect robotic horse. I kinda forgot about the whole "live animal" thing though. Ya know...the part where your life is now in the hands of this 4-legged creature on the side of a cliff. Needless to say, the tour was a memorable experience. As soon as I got on the horse I was reminded that I did not know how the hell to ride a horse and decided I was just going to hold on for my life. Edwin took me through the mountains and I saw gushing rivers, waterfalls, was beautiful. There were a few moments though that I wondered how in the world this horse was going to get me through that passage way...or down this side of this cliff. Edwin was a hoot, too. I was practicing my spanish with him...and he was so interested in why I did not have a boyfriend in the states. I just laughed and giggled because I just wanted Edwin to get me home alive. The horse tour was a blast, but I am not sure that I will do another one on my trip. I can hardly walk today!
Besides outdoor adventures, Baños is known for its natural volcanic springs....a few times each week we go and soak in them. You sit in the hot water for a few minutes, then sit in the freezing water from the waterfall...and go back and forth. It is supposed to add years to your life.
I cannot emphasize how great this town is, I can picture myself studying here for a year and doing a new adventure each day. It is small, safe, and the people are nice. Not to mention, I have found some fabulous places to eat.
The past 2 weeks I have been living this fantastic, comfortable routine in my new home. However, I have also talked to several travelers passing through. Many of them coming from the jungle or Machu Pichu...heading to Colombia or Central America. Their stories are awesome and it makes me want to go out and see some things. Originally, my plan for this part of my trip was dedicated to learning spanish. I was going to come down here and spend 6-8 weeks in a town and just study my butt off. I decided that I would not visit certain places because that would take away from my time to learn spanish. Well, even though this town is awesome, I have made the decision to change my plan a bit and go out and see things. I have a lifetime to learn spanish, but who knows when I will ever be back in South America again. I think it is worth skipping 2 weeks of Spanish to visit Machu Pichu. So, I bought a ticket to Peru. I wasnt planning on seeing Machu Pichu at all as it is almost rainy season, but I have already decided that rain or will be an experience that I will never forget. It will consist of 4 to 5 days of hiking so it should be a nice challenge for me. Now don´t get me wrong, learning spanish is still very important to me and I will continue to study and take classes....just not as many weeks as I had planned.
I also realized, that after South America, I will be traveling to places around the world that will not be speaking spanish. I unfortunetaly will lose some of my speaking skills. So, I have another idea of swooping back through South or Central America on the last leg of my trip to refresh before I head back to Texas next year...we will see how things go. "Vamos a Ver"

Anyways, I am really excited for my trip to Peru next will be the first time I am officially alone, so hopefully everything goes alright. I will be gone for 12 days until I regroup with Brad back in Ecuador (before we head into Colombia). Anywho, I´ve added a few more pics to the Baños album on Picasa. Ciao Ciao

Monday, November 3, 2008

My new home...and poor dancing skills

Since the last time I blogged, we left the coastal town of Montañita and traveled by bus over 10 hours to a small town called Baños. 10 hours on a bus is not very fun by the way. It was my first night bus and for security purposes, Brad and I held our bags in our laps. So not only are we sitting in a chair for over 10 hours, but we are holding our your ass gets numb after awhile. Anyways, Brad managed to pass out the whole trip, but I had trouble sleeping since we were apparently driving over the worst road in the entire world. It felt like we were literally driving over 100 million speedbumps...the road was really messed up from massive potholes and we were turning all crazy throughout the night..up and down the Ecuadorian mountains. I pretty much sat there and stared out the window of darkness and asked myself if this was the last bus ride I would ever take in my life. The stereotype of crazy bus rides in South America is TRUE!!!!
Anyways, we arrived to Baños alive and well. Brad was refreshed from his sleep and I looked like a mad woman from hell, but I was thankful that we made it there safely.
As soon as I stepped off the bus into Baños I immediately felt positive energy from the town. It is surrounded by plush green mountains and there is even a waterfall that falls right into the city. There are tons of hikes and outdoor activities and 3 big spanish schools. Not to mention, they are famous for their "hot baths" that are from natural springs...hence the name Baños. I was excited because I knew that this was going to be my home for the next few weeks. I had been bouncing all over the place since I started my trip and was looking forward to chilling out a bit. We found a Spanish school....Brad and I had an interview session with the teachers so they could see what level we were at. This session consisted of me and Brad staring aimlessly at them and laughing non stop. I started crying I was laughing so hard....we decided we needed seperate tutoring sessions since we clearly could not speak spanish in front of each other without making fun of each other.
We spent a few days in Baños hiking and checking out the city, then it was the weekend. Brad had met some people off couch surfing ( a website where you can stay at people´s homes for free around the world) and they invited us to Guayquil for Halloween. I wasn´t super excited to hop back on a bus since I was feeling comfy in Baños...but I also love Halloween and wanted to have a good time. Off again we went...for another weekend of travel. We arrived in Guayquil..which is the biggest city in Ecuador. It is much more modern and active then Quito. I bought a mardi gras mask for $1 in the bus station and Brad bought a cowboy hat and american flag hankercheif...our costumes were ready to go. We met up with his friends and they took us to this posh club called ZOUK... for only a few dollars we got into the club and there was an open bar. For some reason, Ecuadorians are not very big drinkers. In fact, most of the people we were with hardly drank. So it was kinda akward when the Ecuadorians asked me and Brad why we were holding 2 drinks at a time all night long....haha.

I have always known that I was a bad dancer, in fact, it is something I have just accepted about myself. But never before have I felt more ridiculous about my dancing then in a thriving latin american dance club. 100s of people were smashed into each other salsa and grinding for hours. Their bodies were sweaty and they just shaked and moved harder and harder throughout the night. Then there was me....I seriously must have looked to Elaine from Seinfield. I looked like a wet dog from the heat of everyone around me and was timidly trying to shake my hips and look like I knew what I was doing. I am not sure if people really noticed me...or if they even cared, but I did feel pretty akward. I decided it was best if I just sat at the bar and it was cooler at the bar :) People are also way more touchy in Latin America. Men will come up to you and grab your hands and twirl you off to dance. They love to hug and kiss and hold each other, even if you are just friends. I am not a very touchy this is something that I am having to get used to.

After the dance club we went back to our friend´s house. There was not a lot of sleeping room and I ended up staying the night in a single bed with this girl that I had just met. It is amazing how nice people are in Latin America, they will take the floor or offer their bed to people they hardly even know....I felt akward sharing a bed with this girl, but she felt honored to be able to host me. It is a completely different culture that is taking me a bit to get used to...but the more I learn about it, the more I love it.

The next day we walked around Guayquil and then went to a restuarant for dinner to enjoy some beers and listen to music. They love music here and around every corner you can hear a band or a solo artist playing instruments just about any time of the day. I decided that if I ever got married then I would have a latin american band at my wedding. I think I should marry Mathew McConaughey because they love bongo drums down here. Anyways, Brad and I decided to get a hotel this night because I felt bad sharing a single bed with the girl. Of course, penny pincher Brad knew of a cheap place since he had stayed in this city before. On the way to the hotel he told me that it was actually a¨"pay-by-the-hour" hotel and that it was not very classy. GGeezzz! Not classy is an understatement. This place was awful! We had our own rooms and you pay $7 and that lasts through the night if you wish. It didn´t seem like many people stayed the entire night though. I had my own room..which consisted of a bed, a tv, and a bathroom. The bed only had a base sheet on it. I tried the fan, but it went to moc 10 speeds and I thought it might rip off the ceiling and fly into the I turned it off. The TV only had 2 volumes...loud and REAlly loud. I soon realized why this was the case though. The strangest part of this room was this vent/window thing that opened up to the center of the hotel. Brad said that all the rooms had this. Now, why in the world would you have a ¨pay-by-the-hour¨hotel that had open vents in each room into the middle of the hotel? It was the stupidest thing I have ever seen in my life. I layed in bed and turned my TV on so as not to hear ALLLLL the other people in the hotel through my vent. I will add this to my list of horrible/akward/gross places that I stay in my round the world trip.
After the weekend, we got back on the fun bus ride back to Baños. I met a girl the week before and she introduced us to a family in the town. We arranged to live with them for a week while we studied spanish. When we arrived to their house I felt safe and comfortable. They have a very welcoming home and it was nice to climb into bed....far far away from the Pay-by-the-hour hotel.
As I am writing this blog, it is now Monday....we started proper spanish class today and I really enjoyed it. I have soooo much to learn, but was excited to get back into the classroom and get my brain working again. Hopefully my confidence and spanish skills will improve so I can start to have basic conversations with locals. This weekend was also the celebration of Dia De Muertes...¨Day of the Dead¨. In latin america they use this day to celebrate the death of their loved ones. They make the person´s favorite dish and take it to the cemetary where they spend the day in celebration. It is a positive day where they remember the good old times with their family. On our bus ride home last night we passed by small towns and could see the fiestas in the cemetaries. Also, today in Baños there were parades and bands playing.....they are always celebrating something here. Latin Ameria is a very tranquil, easy going, fun is care free and has nice people who truley love each other and love life!!!! Wayyyy different then the US mentality, I think.