Leaving Quito

Feb 12, 2012

Early this morning, my transfer driver from ATC (Andean Travel Company) was waiting for me in the lobby of my hotel. He was there early. I was ready slightly early, so off to the airport we went. I forgot to get his name, but he was lovely. He didn’t speak any English, but he was very patient with me and my broken Spanish.

He even stopped the van a couple of times in the middle of the road for me to take a quick photo through the window with my cell phone! Ha ha! And here you thought I was a fancy photographer! Although it was cloudy today, there was no fog, so I could see how stunningly beautiful this huge city is.

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador

The city of Quito is 45 miles long and has approximately 2.5 million people (I think). It is built in the valley between mountains, with one of the mountains being a volcano. There are houses in the valley, but then they climb up the sides of the mountain as well. It is jam packed with buildings, most of which look poor to us from Canada / US.

I was thrilled once again with Bamba Experience, as they had someone waiting at the airport to help me navigate around the airport. It is a tiny airport, only five gates and three airlines, but I’m so glad she was there. Her name was Deanna. She was friendly, spoke great English and explained every step to me. I’m sure I would have been lost without her, as come to find out many tourists were.

As soon as you enter the airport, they immediately scan your bags through security. She explained, mostly to check for items that are not to be imported to the Galapagos (plants, pestisides, meat, nuts and seeds). She then took my passport and $10 to get a tourist card to go to and return from the Galapagos. I knew that this was necessary, but I would never have known it had to be done at the airport, or where! I was very glad she was there to take care of it.

She then led me to the line for check in. Behind me in line, there was a couple from Alabama. They told me this was their third time to the Galapagos and that they always have done land based tours instead of yachts. They also warned me that the boat ride (a panga) to Isabela Island is three hours of open, very rough water. I think I’m glad I didn’t pre-book that trip! Even though I don’t know these folks, I think I’ll take their word for it and stick with the closer islands in my five days here.

After I was checked in, Deanna pointed me toward a different security, the one where they check your laptop and luggage and screen you for metal. She then went on her way. I headed to Gate #5 and looked out to see beautiful snow capped mountains not to far in the distance. I hadn’t yet seen any because of the heavy fog yesterday. Beautiful!

I had been disappointed yesterday with the amount of fog in Quito. I wasn’t able to get fantastic pictures of the city … or even really see the city because the fog was so heavy! Today, when we took off from Quito toward Guayquil for our brief stopover, it was heavenly!

The scene at first was of crowded houses in the city surrounded by beautiful towering mountains. I wasn’t able to take any photos because they ask you to turn your cameras off during take off.

Within about five minutes, we were above two layers of broken clouds. Below and in the distance you could see beautiful snow capped mountains. My point and shoot pictures don’t really do the scenery justice, but it was breathtaking! You could also see how the peaks of the snow caps sat amongst the clouds. My photos didn’t capture that very well, but I assure you it was beautiful! Check out a few of these ‘snaps’.

Mountains near Quito, Ecuador from plane
Mountains near Quito, Ecuador from plane
Mountains near Quito, Ecuador from plane
Mountains near Quito, Ecuador from plane
Mountains near Quito, Ecuador from plane
Mountains near Quito, Ecuador from plane

45 minutes later, we were descending into Guayaquil, Ecuador for a brief stopover. It is a totally different landscape here. There are fields as far as the eye can see, but today they were more like ponds, lined with trees. It was kind of the same as flying over the prairies and seeing the ‘quilt’ of fields. Except in Guayaquil, the fields were flooded. Or at least I’m assuming they were flooded as it is rainy season here.

Aside from the flooding, there was a beautiful large river running through the city and then another massive city, but this one is built on flat land instead of the valley beside a volcano!

During our stop in Guayaquil, the plane refueled and they asked us to turn off all electronics and to undo our seatbelts. Hmmm … What’s that all about? Anyone know? My guess was so if we needed to evacuate quickly we could, but I don’t really think that’s it.

The next leg of the flight from Guayaquil to Baltra Island, Galapagos was smooth flying! A beautiful flight with sunshine, big puffy clouds and lots and lots of ocean. On approach to the Galapagos I took these couple of photos of my first view of the islands! Pretty.

First view of Galapagos Islands from plane
First view of Galapagos Islands from plane
First view of Galapagos Islands from plane
First view of Galapagos Islands from plane

I should also quickly mention that I flew with LAN airlines. They had the most beautiful airline hostesses, who were all perfectly dressed in red jackets. I think they even had matching lipstick. It seems funny to notice, but it was hard not to. They were so well put together that it made an impression. They were extremely polite and helpful and all spoken excellent English (with a Spanish accent of course). I really enjoyed my flights with them!

Still working out the kinks of packing in a ruck sack

Feb 12, 2012

Last night, I was late getting to sleep in Quito. I decided it would be a good idea to shower that night and pack my bags so I wouldn’t have to get up so early in the morning. I also decided to only take one carry on the next day (my camera gear) and to not take the travel pillow and snacks as carry on because it was only a total of four hours in transit.

So, I packed everything away and lo and behold, I was able to fit everything I needed to in my checked baggage (ie huge travel backpack). I went to bed at midnight and felt pretty good about my packing job.

This morning, I woke up at 6:45am and got dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before. Ooooops … I didn’t leave any deodorant out. Now, if I was smart, I would have my ‘necessities packed at the top for easy access, but instead, I packed for comfort. This means that the heaviest items go low in your pack and close to the centre of your back. The heaviest item I have with me is my toiletries because they are all liquid. Commence unpacking to reach my deodorant. Worst part is, I brought two sticks of deodorant with me and packed them BOTH in my toiletry bag last night without thinking! I won’t make that mistake again. It has also made me think about rearranging my toiletry items with necessities in a smaller bag at the top of my backpack for easy access. This, I will do when I leave the Galapagos Islands on Thursday.

Despite having to repack my bag this morning, I was very happy to only have to lug two bags around instead of three today. Carrying extra weight in the pack on my back is a lot easier to deal with than carrying my ruck sack, my heavy camera gear AND a third bag. Overall, happy with my decision to condense to two bags for shorter flights. I’m sure on my way home from Lima to Halifax I’ll be once again traveling with two carry ons. One, likely stuffed with alpaca scarves. So soft, warm and touchable!

Old town Quito

Feb 11, 2012

I was standing outside the Basilica del Voto Nacional taking pictures. Oddly enough, the bottom section of this church, outside is converted into small stores. A man from one of the stores approached me. When I said ‘No, Gracias. No hablad espanol.’ he started speaking to me in English. Pretty good English actually. He came up and gave me a couple of post cards to take for souvenirs. When I tried to get away, he told me $5 – It’s for the church. Well, honestly, I doubt that $5 was for the church, but maybe, afterall, he was working out of a small store built into the church. I took two post cards and gave him $2. I made a big mistake at this point though and that was to let him see that I had a $20 bill.

When I tried to walk away, he brought me back in by offering me a tour of the old town and the churches. He was free right now and he could show me everything. I could hire him for 30 minutes or 1 hour, or longer. He was a very nice, clean cut man with fairly good English and very friendly. Even though he was obviously trying to make money, I did not at any time feel threatened by him. He told me $20 for a one hour tour and promised to take me to La Compania, which is the church that I most wanted to see. Looking back on it, I decided that he asked for $20 because he previously saw it in my hand … and I didn’t bargain with him at that point .. shame on me!

$20 for one hour is a huge amount of money for someone working in Ecuador! I wasn’t really thinking of that at the time though. And, really, I had originally planed to spend $80 on a different type of tour in Quito today, but unfortunately that fell through.

So, Joseph and I went on our merry way. He joked about the fact that I’d like the tour because it is all downhill. Not sure how I was supposed to get back out of that valley without climbing the hill later though!

We wound through very narrow streets with room for 1.5 cars, but two were somehow fitting. The sidewalks were only wide enough for one person, or a mom and child. Joseph pointed out all kinds of architectural features of the beautiful old buildings such as the lamps that used to burn candles outside of many of the homes, and that all of the balconies on the homes were unique. I took photos along the way, but with sidewalks being so small, it was hard to stop for long to get the ‘perfect’ picture.

Photo of Balconies of Quito
Balconies of Quito

We visited two local ‘squares’ or central areas surrounded by important buildings. The first was the National Theatre area, the second was surrounded by the President’s residence, the government buildings and a church. Being with a guide was nice at this point as he kept me safe from speeding traffic on small streets, helped keep street vendors from harassing me and constantly kept an eye out for suspicious folk. The more crowded the area, the more pick pocketing is likely to happen. These central areas are swarming with locals and tourists, many who are Ecuadorian and a few from other areas. I certainly stand out like a sore thumb with my blond hair and pale skin!

Another benefit of being with a guide is that he knows the right people. He simply asks for permission to enter private residences or other buildings that you might normally pay for, and he gets us in with no trouble.

Then there’s the President’s Residence. It is beautiful, no question. We couldn’t go inside, but we did skip in front of a line of about 30 people waiting to go on the balcony and into the one corridor that you were allowed to view. He also insisted I have my photo taken with the guards. Just like in Halifax at Citadel hill, they stand very still, rarely speak and don’t smile.

Shari at President's Residence, Quito, Ecuador
Shari at President's Residence, Quito, Ecuador

One of my favorite parts of this tour (although there were many), was the museum that we stopped at which had historic photos of the city. Most of the photos were taken between 1880 and 1905. They were beautiful, large format film photographs of the most important buildings and areas of the city at that time. It was amazing to recognize the areas and see how they had changed. Many of the images were made prior to a devastating earthquake that damaged a lot of the old buildings. I wasn’t allowed to take photos here either, but I quickly snapped one on automatic, from the hip and this is what I got.

Photographic history of Quito
Photographic history of Quito

Next stop, the library and school next to La Compania, which was the church I most wanted to see. Joseph said he had a surprise for me. Three flights of stairs later, (heart pounding, shortness of breath …), I see these three beautiful sites:

Church tower wtih Quito in background
Church tower wtih Quito in background
Angel on panicillo in Quito
Angel on panicillo in Quito
Praying statues Quito Ecuador
Praying statues Quito Ecuador

Then we headed back down stairs (no problem!) and over to the very historic, La Compania. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside which is incredibly disappointing. I cannot even begin to describe the incredible architecture, delicate hand-carved everything, and all, plated in gold. The WHOLE inside of the church shines beautiful gold. Here is the one measly photo that I ‘snuck’.

La Compania, Quito, Ecuador
La Compania, Quito, Ecuador

Outside, after La Compania, Joseph pointed out a few other nearby sites and asked if I’d like to continue the tour, or not. Knowing that my price had likely already doubled, I said no. He did in fact ask for $40 instead of $20. We ended at $27 as I told him I needed money for taxi’s and the teleferico (next post – coming soon).

Exploring on my own – The Trek to Old Town

Feb 11, 2012

I woke up this morning at 7:30am feeling pretty good. I took a hot shower, with cold flashes, used the in-room hair dryer and then headed down for breakfast around 8:30am. There wasn’t a lot out for options when I go there as in was wrapping up. A few cold cut meats, yogurt, juice, milk, toast and watermelon. I sat down with a couple of slices of toast, a piece of watermelon and the lovely ladies made me some scrambled eggs which were pretty good.

After breakfast I headed back to my room to pack up for my one and only full day in Quito. I didn’t have any tours booked, so I was on my own, for better or worse! Because I’ve read and heard so much about crime here, mainly pick pocketing, I decided to pack light.

I took one camera and two lenses (24-70 & 70-200). I packed in a regular backpack, not a camera gear backpack. I took a photocopy of my passport with me and left the real thing in the hotel safe. I also decided to take a minimal amount of money. This was suggested in case I was to get robbed. At least I would only lose what was on me, not everything.

I struck out on a walk from the mariscal district or ‘new town’ to the ‘old town’ district. I had my map in hand and camera around my neck. By walk, I really mean hike and it isn’t just a few blocks. The first part of my trek, yes, let’s call it a trek, was downhill, so no major issues. Traffic signals and cross walks operate much the same as they do in Canada, but people aren’t quite as courteous, so you do have to be very careful.

I walked for an hour and a half. Normally that would be 10 kms. I was a little slower because of the altitude though, so probably still 8kms. It wasn’t all down hill! It’s kind of like the story your grandfather told you about having to walk uphill both ways to get to school. Somehow, no matter where you turn, you are walking up a hill! I would complain about walking small hills on a regular basis, well these aren’t small hills and on top of that, lack of oxygen from altitude, it was grueling! However, I didn’t complain (only because I was by myself, so no one was listening.)

I took a couple of wrong turns, ending up not quite where I wanted to be, but yet not really lost either. I made my way past McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King to a park where there was a market. I was very surprised that the locals at the market didn’t hound me. A few of them tried to get me to look more closely at things, but when I said ‘no’, they left me alone. I must say that I can’t wait to bring home some beautiful Alpaca scarves. They are soooooo soft and warm!

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
As I was leaving the park, I saw my first view of the houses grouped on the side of the mountain. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but Quito is really an amazing and unique city.

After walking through the park where the market was, I headed down another not-quite-right street, but still not lost … heading in the right direction! I needed a break after walking up yet another hill. I saw a small monument/fountain, so I took a couple of photos, caught my breath and then sat down on a bench in the small park area to have a drink of water.

The unsafe park
The unsafe park

Just as I stood up to leave, a lady came over to me speaking urgently in Spanish. Now, of course I don’t understand Spanish very well, but she was wagging her finger and very clearly telling me that it wasn’t safe for me to be in this area. PANIC! When a local comes and tells you it isn’t safe, you et a move on. Why I chose to move on UP THE STAIRS instead of down the stairs, I don’t know. I got to the top of the stairs and needed another break!

All along this trek I saw regular police cars passing by, a few security guards at stores and lots of people who looked at me like they might just run at me.

About a block from the area that I was steered away from, on top of another hill, was the beautiful Basilica del Voto National with construction dating back to 1892.

Basilica del Voto Nacional Quito Ecuador
Basilica del Voto Nacional Quito Ecuador

My next post will be about my tour of Old Town. Coming soon!

Hotel Villa Nancy – Arrival in Quito

Feb 11, 2012

At the Quito airport, once I got through security and had my luggage verified to say it was actually mine, I found a man holding a sign with my name on it. Phew!

Cristian was my transfer driver and he was very friendly and spoke English. A warm welcome for my arrival into Ecuador.

Cristian drove me from the airport to Hotel Villa Nancy which was about a 10-15 minute ride. He provided me with some papers and important information about my trip, phone numbers and transfer times.

He helped me check in to my hotel and then I made my first attempt at the stairs. Thankfully I was only going to the second floor!

At this point, I’ve been in Quito for all of about an hour. I’m tired and drained. I noticed that I was a bit out of breath in the airport, but didn’t think too much of it. Mostly just thought it was because I was carrying an extra 60 lbs of luggage.

Then came the true test … the stairs. I started up the stairs, got to the first landing and took a few extra moments before moving forward again. Another 6 or 8 stairs to the top, you can do this! Crazy enough, I had to talk myself through it. I was exhausted! By the time I reached the top of the stairs I was huffing and puffing like I had just run a marathon!

Oh, so this is what altitude is like!

I dropped my things on my bed and caught my breath. Phew! I’m here! I’m actually here in Ecuador! How exciting is that!?

I got my wifi working immediately and had a great connection, but it was already too late for anyone at home to still be awake. Sent off a couple of emails and hit the hay!

Houston to Quito

Feb 11, 2012

I got into my hotel really late last night, so I didn’t get around to writing about my flight from Houston to Quito. Always entertaining!

It was a 6 hour flight and I was in an aisle seat. Sitting in the middle was an Ecuadorian man named Jorge and at the window was a lovely Ecuadorian woman, about my age named Nina (I think).

I slept for the first bit of the trip, but after about an hour I woke up and started talking to these two ‘locals’. Come to find out, they were talking like old friends, but didn’t know each other prior to take off. So, I jumped right in to the conversation (in English of course). I talked to Jorge for most of the flight picking his brain about all things Ecuadorian … what to see, what to do, what to eat …

He taught me that ‘papas’ is Spanish for potatoes and that I should try a ‘cane lazo’ which is an Ecuadorian warm alcoholic beverage. He told me about his home town of Ambato and that he would be enjoying carnival festivities while he was home! Now, not that I wanted to go home with Jorge, but it definitely made me itch to find locals who I could hang out with and participate in local celebrations as part of the community instead of just a tourist. I wouldn’t be able to do this on my own this trip, but it reinforced my urge to learn Spanish in a homestay environment where I would be immersed in the culture, not just the language.

For awhile I also practiced my Spanish on my laptop when I thought he was sleeping. Nope, he was peering over my shoulder to see how much I knew. He later told me he was very impressed at my vocabulary and that it should take no time at all for me to pick up speaking it.

During the flight I had a man sitting directly behind me who had several fits of anger throughout the flight. Apparently on Continental airlines, movies are not offered for free and you have to swipe your credit card to get one. Not only this, but once you are over international waters, the movie may or may not work. The flight attendant certainly had her hands full trying to keep this man in his place. I was honestly a little concerned that some kind of security might be put in motion to calm him down. All this over paying for a movie? Wow! People just don’t have their priorities right at all.

Near the end of the flight (the last 45 minutes), we hit a bit of turbulance. Jorge was very good at telling me that it was normal and that shortly I should suspect a ‘drop’ as we approached the runway. This wasn’t the first time I had been warned of this. It is something to do with the altitude and the shortness of the runway. When the plane approaches, it has to drop quickly a couple of times in order to properly land on the runway. And, it is a noticeable ‘drop’ … one that would have made my heart stop if I hadn’t been pre-warned that it is normal. Moments after the ‘drop’ we were landing … by landing I really mean bumping and screaching to a hault. Quito has a relatively short runway and I remember wondering if we were actually going to stop moving before the end of it! The end of this flight was a little rough, but overall, I had great conversation along the way, so it was all kinds of fun!

When we finally got off the plane and headed through security, Jorge stuck by my side and helped me navigate to get my luggage, get through security and find my way to my transfer driver. Thank you Jorge! I think I would have been a little lost and definitely much slower than I was if it hadn’t been for Jorge leading the way and explaining to a couple of officials in Spanish for me. It was a huge help and stress relief for me after 16 hours of travel and it being close to midnight in a new country where I didn’t speak the language.

I am thankful for helpful people!

All mishaps are now out of the way … RIGHT?

I’m usually pretty good at sleep. Excitement, stress … doesn’t matter, sleep comes pretty easy for me. Not last night! I was up until 12:45am then tossed and turned all night (loosely stated) before getting up at 5:30am. On a positive note, because I have to get something positive in here … I didn’t cut myself shaving and it may be awhile before I shave again, so I’m particularly enjoying my smooth legs. I’m trying to be positive here!

I got to my sister, Anita’s just a little past 6:30am … almost on time. We chat and head off to the airport. We hug and the last thing she says is ‘Tweet lots’ and I jokingly said ‘Should I start right now?’. I headed inside lugging two backpacks and an oversized ‘purse’ with my laptop in it. Attached my comfy new travel pillow to my camera bag and headed in.

Immediately inside the doors and part way up the escalator to US departures I realized I had made a devastating mistake! Panic struck. I looked for a pay phone … I looked for a quarter … no luck! I asked a lovely lady if she had one and she didn’t but she sent me to her husband as she had just given him the change from Starbucks. THANK YOU lovely strangers. I put the quarter in and dial what I hope is my sister’s cell phone number. Ring … Ring … Ring …. panic … Panic … PANIC! No friggin’ answer … answering machine, bye bye one begged for quarter.

I head back down the escalator to Starbucks to get change, except I have to buy something to get change! Can’t take a drink through security, so I decided to head to the change machine in the arcade. $20 Canadian bill in change? Well, that would add a little extra weight, but PANIC! Insert change machine noises … Insert Shari controlling herself and not kicking the machine as it spit the $20 bill back out! Back to Starbucks I go to buy a $2 bag of almonds and ask for a bunch of quarters. Who knows how many times I’ll get my sister’s answering machine and lose quarters!

Pay phone attempt number 2. What was that cell phone number again? Ok, it’s ringing … and ringing … and ‘Anita speaking’. PANIC … RELIEF … ‘Um, I’m an idiot. Is my cell phone in the cup holder in the car?’ … And, back my sister comes to the airport.

I head to the escalators for a second attempt to check in and I hear click, thunk and then I lightly kick something. Now, what do you think that was? To my utter dismay … I mean really stomach churningly disappointing … I look and my camera bag had come partially unzippered … out had tumbled a lens, hit the floor and smashed in two. Anyone out their crying for me yet? I haven’t even checked my luggage in yet!

I picked up the pieces (two of them, completely separated to be exact) and pretty sure I said out loud ‘Are you shitting me?’. Then I took a deep breath, thought to myself, wow am I glad I’m getting my cell phone back and thank you for only being my cheapie 50 mm lens and not one of my $1500+ lenses.

Cell phone returned by super sister … broken lens handed off because there’s no sense taking it with me now!

Lessons learned:
1. When I say ‘I’ll tweet about it’ … check for cell phone before vehicle pulls away.
2. Don’t attach travel pillow to backpack zippers.
3. Lenses, even from a short distance, don’t bounce when dropped.

20 minutes until boarding. Mishaps are all out of the way now … RIGHT?

Imagine!

17 hours is the official countdown until I leave for Ecuador.

I’ll admit, the nerves have kicked in now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly excited about this three week adventure. It is the longest one I’ve been on yet.
I’m a little nervous that I’ll get sick, even though I’ve taken my dukoral and will start taking my diamox for altitude sickness later today.
I’m a little nervous about safety. For the first week, I’m traveling on my own. Well, I’ll be on a group tour in the Galapagos Islands, but by alone I mean, no one there to hold my hand!
I’m a little nervous about carrying 50 – 60 lbs of clothing and camera gear with me.

Now, IMAGINE!, beyond all the nerves is a whole lot of excitement. I can’t wait to explore so many places that I’ve never been. I can’t wait to see a different way of life. I can’t wait to discover the animals of the Galapagos Islands and get to the top of Machu Picchu!

For those of you who know me, you are going to be really surprised to hear me say this …

Imagine - Time's Square, New York City 2009
Imagine - Time's Square, New York City

More than anything on this trip, I’m excited about spending time with and on ME! Yup, that’s right. I am truly thrilled to have my first week to explore with no one to please but myself. I can take as many photos as I want, do whatever I want, change my mind, make mistakes, make new friends … all by myself.

I think it is one of the things that I truly love about travel is that it is one of the only times when I do things 100% for myself. And, IMAGINE! that’s probably why I find travel so addicting, so adreneline pumping and so fantastically free-ing.

In 17 hours I will be sitting at the airport (or maybe on the plane by then), probably shedding a few anxious, nervous tears … I’ll be thinking about my friends and family and missing them before I ever leave, but behind all of that emotion, once I’m flying up up and away I’ll be getting comfy with myself and looking forward to my three weeks of pure adventure!

Adios!

Safe Sex has new meaning when you travel!

When I was in to see my travel health nurse, Isobel at Napier Travel Health, we had a conversation about sex. Yes, it certainly seemed kind of odd at first for her to mention it, but then she told me why it is so important. I felt it would be a good topic to share!

Lots of people travel on ‘boys’ trips or ‘girls’ trips, go away somewhere warm and sunny, have a few too many drinks and end up hooking up while they are away. Or, maybe you are traveling on a singles cruise or to a singles resort. Maybe you don’t drink at all, but you find yourself getting intimate with someone you’ve just met. Maybe you have no intentions at all of gettin’ it on with someone while you are away, but sometimes things happen! And, scary, but true, rape can happen anywhere.

We all know about safe sex. Wear a condom, wrap it up, put your rubber on … We all know the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, but how many people really practice safe sex? Further than that, here in Canada, I’m sure the numbers are staggeringly higher than in developing countries for practicing safe sex. What seems like second nature to us here in Canada, is probably not ‘common knowledge’ everywhere else.

Developing countries do not have an education system like ours. They may or may not be taught about safe sex. Even if they are aware of safe sex practices, they may not have the money, or the access to buy condoms, the day after pill and other products. In some countries, monogamy ins’t necessarily standard either, so who knows how many partners that person has been with.

I was recently reminded recently that prostitution and escort services work very differently in other countries. A pretty lady or sexy man hitting on you at a local bar is likely to be looking for more than just a little attention. They are likely looking for your money as well as sex. There are many instances where situations like these lead to someone being drugged and robbed. Could it happen in Canada? Yes, or course it could! It is much more likely to happen elsewhere though.

In Canada we often think of prostitutes who work on the streets, are high on drugs, scantily clad and often not very attractive. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not. In other countries though, the prostitutes may be dressed very well, be very attractive and perfectly sober. They look at trading sex for money in a different way than we do here. Don’t be fooled though. Just because they are attractive doesn’t make them safe or clean!

I know, I know, I know … this is all common sense to us … right? Well, try this on for size …

Did you know that condoms are not the same quality and reliability in other countries? Yup, just like everything else, their condom industries may not be regulated like they are in Canada/US. Makes sense, but have you ever thought about that? You might stop by a local store to buy some protection, but really, you could be just as safe with a little saran wrap!

Don’t forget that those condoms may have been subjected to heat that could damage their effectiveness. Maybe they were transported in a truck without air conditioning and sat in 30 + degree heat for eight hours. Do you really want to trust that to keep you safe?

Even if you are able to buy a brand that you are familiar with and trust, don’t forget to check the expiry date!

Better yet, if you think there is even a slight chance that you might hook up while you are away … even if you don’t plan to, the best thing to do is pack your own and keep them safe so that you know you are protected.

Last, but certainly not least, go get your Hepatitus shots would ya? It is just good sense to be protected from both the water bourne and sexually transmitted types of Hepatitus. Whether you plan to hook up while you are away or not, protect yourself!

Cash on hand

This is going to be a really short post, but it will expand as I travel! Really, it is mostly just a note to self to say that I’m starting out with $545 US Cash + $20 Canadian Cash. I’m a little uncomfortable with carrying this amount of actual cash, but I’ll be careful to separate it into different bags while I travel in case one gets lost or stolen. And, I suspect a good chunk of it will be gone in the first week with my visit to The Galapagos Islands. It’s expensive there and I still want to book a couple of excursions that I haven’t arranged yet.

While I am away for three weeks, I will have to pay for about half of my meals, a couple of tours in the Galapagos Islands, tips for my tour guides, taxis or buses and any gifts or souvenirs that I want to bring back.

Every couple of days, I hope to update this post with my spending so that I’ll have a good idea of where my money went when I get home! As well as keeping track for the next time I travel to Peru or Ecuador. You never know where my next photo adventure tour will be!

Feb 10th – $10.50
$2 – almonds at Starbucks
$.50c – pay phone to call my sister to bring me my cell phone
$8 – Supper at Houston Airport

Feb 11th – $65
$0 – Breakfast (included at my Hostal Villa Nancy)
$2 – Postcards
$26 – Guide to help me navigate the streets to get to the churches of Old town. I paid him way too much, but I’m still glad I hired him. He showed me spots I definitely wouldn’t have looked at on my own. And, he kept me safe.
$1.50 – entry to La Compania – really amazing church that I wasn’t allowed to take any photos of inside
$5 – Taxi to Teleferiquo
$8.50 – Teleferiquo admission
$5 – Cafe Lazo & Cheese Empanadas
$3 – Taxi to Hotel
$14.72 – Supper at Hunter’s – Locre de Queso, ham and cheese panini, bottle of water (sin gas)

Feb 12th – $146.80
$10 – Tourist card for Galapagos Islands – MUST KEEP IT TO RETURN TO ECUADOR!
$100 – Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee
$0.80 – Ferry from Baltra to Santa Cruz
$30 – for transportation for my lovely new friends who helped translate for me
$4-$6 – Drinks – bottled water, pop, nestea

Feb 13th – $2
$2 – four bottles of water

Feb 14th – $45
$40 deposit of $80 boat ride, lunch, snorkeling – Floreana Island – booked for Feb 15
$3 – snorkeling gear
$2 – pop

Feb 15th – $45 – $30 refund, only $15 spent
$40 remainder of Foreana Island boat tour
$3 laundry
$2 drinks
-$30 – refund from Bamba for the first day of travel when I paid for two English speaking people to travel with me.

Feb 16th – $18.50
$2 tip to Darwin for driving me one day and helping me at the ferry to the airport today.
$4 drinks
$12.50 ish – supper in Quito at Hunter’s Restaurant – VISA

Feb 17th – 21st – Puno / Lake Titicaca – $295 Soles = $125 US
$140 US changed into $333.90 Soles of which I have $65 Soles left.
Food & Water: $195
Tips: $20 for Lake Titicaca guide, $5 Boat Captain, $3 TukTuk
Reed Boat Ride: $5 – Uros Islands
Hat: $20 – bought at homestay
Two necklaces: $40 – bought at Uros Islands
Market Food for Homestay: $15