Friday, January 21, 2011

Camping in the Highlands

 I finally have internet connection! And surprise it's actually in my host families house. I don't think it is their network, but I am not going to complain. The internet at IOI is down so Lauren set us up accounts at an internet cafe, but if I don't have to deal with that it would be awesome. I typed this up Thursday night:

Wednesday we visited another local house. This one is called “lava house”. The owner is an old man who built the entire house by himself and has personalized it to the extreme. When you first walk in there is a ceramic tile pool/pond. When we visited there were several local children swimming in it. All the walls are covered in some kind of decoration that is plastered on. He has many pieces of coral and even a whale fin. Local fisherman put all kinds of stuff aside when they are fishing and then sell it to this man who then incorporates it into his home. The second floor is his art studio where he creates large paintings along with painted ceramic tiles with different animals on them. There was also the cutest puppy running around.
We packed up all our stuff in the hotel which took about an hour because the combination of having 3 months worth of clothes plus no place to store it created madness. We rode in a chiva (an open air public bus) to the highlands were we stopped at Senora Chapi’s house. She was one of the first settlers in her village and she has a plaque on her wall honoring her family’s achievement.
The highlands were awesome. It was cooler when we got there compared to the burning pavement streets so close to the equator. Our tour guide owns a bunch of small cabins up there and it was so quiet and peaceful. We went on a long hike through the fields behind his property where there are roaming cows. A quick slide under the barbed wire and we were walking past the largest wild tortoises. We ran into numerous fruit trees and bushes and of course I had to try them all. The first one was wild, endemic Galapagonian tomatoes. They were the freshest, most wonderful things ever. And they grew like wild flowers. I kept snacking on them whenever we ran into some on the hike. There was what looked like an orange tree, but the pieces of “orange” were the sourest things ever. Comparable to War Heads. There were some mora (blackberry) plants and those were amazing. The final one I tried was a disaster. It is a small, yellow, flowerish thing that lies close to the ground with what looks like pomegranate seeds in the center. Our guide instructed us just to lick it, but Sarah said that it was also edible and Galapagonians used it for medicinal purposes to cleanse the blood. It was a very, very unpleasant taste. Never again. I had to spit it out right away and continuously spit to get the flavor out of my mouth. I’ll stick to unclean blood in the future. The hike culminated at a water hole full of tortoises. Originally there were 20 but more kept joining in. We sat around this water very quietly and the tortoises didn’t even seem to notice us.
We hiked back up to the cabins and enjoyed a BBQ. There was a mixed drink made out of whole lemon and limes, sugar, and sugar cane rum. It was like a margarita minus the tequila. There was also roasted potatoes, native lettuce that our guide picked for us while the fire was heating up. It was lettuce, but it was very spicy. Others said it tasted like horseradish aftertaste. We sat around the fire and talked about everything. We listened to stories in Spanish and some of them were pretty crazy. Four of us decided to on a full moon night hike without any flashlights. Since we didn’t have a destination it was more of a workout instead of an adventure. I headed to bed after that and enjoyed sleeping under a fleece blanket with a cartoon character. During the night it rained and at 3AM there was a rooster that would not shut up. Every time I thought it was done and was drifting back to sleep it would start up again. The same rooster is now tied to our guide’s cabin by one leg. I have a feeling his life isn’t going to last much longer.
Thursday morning was pretty lazy. We had breakfast at the campsite and sat around talking for hours. The chiva finally took us back to Puerto Ayora where we had to run into town so we could buy our next book, but of course it was closed for almuerzo. We loaded our stuff in the back of the taxis for the last time and went down to the dock. The officials had to inspect our bags for fruit, nuts, or any type of food that we may be taking to Isabela, but it was the least thorough search ever. I escaped with my peanut pretzel bars. The boat ride took over 2 hours and I got a chance to sleep. 
Our first stop was IOI where we were given basic rules and a tour. Lauren then told me that the host family that I was supposed to be with could no longer have me. Their daughter, Priscilla, had to go to the mainland to receive treatment so their family no longer seems like a family. That made me nervous because I was fairly certain I would do well with them, but I soon got to meet my family. There are two parents and a five-year-old girl. The house is very nice inside, it has two bedrooms, but outside it is a pretty run down area. From what I can tell the whole town is like this. The mother works in the mornings cleaning for a hotel and the father does something with cows in the highlands. They speak no English so I try to figure out and piece together what she is saying. I haven’t met the father yet because he was off working. When I first got to the house I was super nervous and definitely outside my comfort zone. I took a shower and afterwards they were watching The Lion King in Spanish. We sat and talked and I felt much better. All the families gathered at a local restaurant and so far it seems like all is going well.

1 comment:

  1. You do so well with kids, I'm sure you'll do just fine with that family :)