Category Archives: South America

The Layover

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As evidenced by the Kanji on the aircraft, this photo is not from my travels. :P

The last time that I was in the Houston Airport was an eternity ago, and yet this time, walking through the corridors, it felt as though it were yesterday. I have spent the last seven months in a paradise, in a place so different from anywhere that I have ever known that it was destined to change me. No way could I live through that and come out the other end exactly the same person that went in.

And yet. I could have sworn that no time had passed at all. A part of me felt as though it had all been a dream. I left my mountains, my dear, incredible mountains, only the afternoon before and I could already feel them slipping into a memory. Continue reading The Layover

On top of the world – Ecuador

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Riding a quad up into the hills east of Olón this week turned out to be a bumpy adventure and though some small instances may have required minor trespassing, it was well worth it.

As the sun was beginning to set I found myself standing atop a world more beautiful than I had known existed.

Horses and cows were the only creatures inhabiting the immediate area, and for the first time I found myself envious of what a member of the animal kingdom possessed.

The ocean, in its blue tranquility, stretched along the horizon, caressed by a soft sandy beach that teased and invited each and every wave that broke upon its shore. The ocean seemed to be, if such a thing were possible, contained on the left by the cliff that cuts the beach off from Montanita and on the right by the lush green hills that led to the rainforest near Ayampe.

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The small pueblos of Olón, La Curia, San José and Las Núñez marked mankind’s habitation of the area, yet they did so with a finesse, a smooth blending that western culture has yet to master. Nature here possesses a strength that is not so easily cowed by man.

Rushing up from the coast, to my vantage point above the world, was a blanket of lush vibrant green. Life, rich and intense, covering every inch of earth.

I fell in love I think, in those moments, with a dream or with possibility. It was breathtaking, and I mean that without a single ounce of the creative exaggeration that us writers are liable to wantonly throw about. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe, my mind empty of thoughts, the deep thrum of desire at the core of my being the only sensation that I could feel.

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You need to have felt it, I believe, to understand it. The pinpricks of goosebumps along flesh, the inexplicable welling of tears in awestruck eyes and the uncontrollable wanting that burns from the inside out.

I can see myself there, in the elusive future that I have never been able to imagine, in the still morning with a steaming mug of coffee in my hand, watching the world come to life before me. I can see the nights, the sun setting in a blaze of color, giving the world over to the stars, and on the clear nights, the milky way stretching out above me as fireflies dance through the darkness, performing for me alone.

Only one addition could improve this daydream; something this incredible is not meant to be experienced alone.

A crack in reality – Ocean’s Edge

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As I walk down the dark beach, the roar of the ocean the only sound I hear, the faint shimmer on the white capped waves the only thing I see; there is nothing to distract me from the power that surrounds me. The earth, the air; it hums with it. You can feel it down in the depths of your bones. I cannot imagine that anyone could stand with me and not sense it. It isn’t the gentle ebb and flow of the tide, it isn’t the gentle lapping of waves upon the shore. It is more than that here. The waves crash and roll, leaping forward; more alive than anything I have felt before.

It is strength, and here in this deep darkness, the moon and stars hidden by the clouds, the fog shrinking the world into what is right in front of you, it is loneliness. A great emptiness that rages and beckons. Terrifying and alluring. A sirens call.

Just the beginning

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I think first impressions are important. Often in that first split second you will get a feeling, a gut-reaction that can be extremely telling, even if you don’t know exactly where it is coming from. A sense of suspicion when you first meet someone. An unsettled feeling when you walk into a room. That flip in your stomach when you lock eyes with a perfect stranger. These moments have meaning, and should never be ignored.

That being said. There is only so much that you can know about a person or a place from the first initial introduction

I chose Ecuador as a destination because circumstances made it the most convenient and affordable place for me to shake things up a little. Not to mention the rather loud voice inside of me insisting that should I leave Canada, I had damn well better go to a place with sun.

Sun there is. My slightly crispy shoulders will attest to that fact.

I arrived in Quito with a cold. It had started developing the night before in Calgary and by the time the plane landed in Ecuador my ability to breathe, or eat without embarrassing myself had diminished almost completely.

When I arrived I was tired, my face felt like it was the size of an elephant and I was unprepared to enter a completely new world. My initial feeling was more akin to dread than excitement. I was afraid. Afraid I had made a mistake in signing the next six months of my life over to this new country. I was overwhelmed. The language was unfamiliar, I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying around me and it seemed like I was in a completely different world.

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I didn’t actually enter the city of Quito, so if you’re hoping for a run-down of the big cities you’re not going to get it yet. The airport is on the outskirts and since we arrived in the middle of the night we immediately went to our hotel in a small area called Tababela. (I’m not 100% certain the first hotel we stayed in was actually IN Tababela, though it was certainly nearby).

The first morning I awoke to the sound of birds. Beautiful birds with their delicate voices raised in song… and the rather forceful cock-a-doodle-do of the resident rooster. I don’t mind the roosters, they make me giggle a little every time I hear them. I will say this though: The idea that they only crow at dawn….. absurd. If he sees sunshine, a tasty bug, a pretty chicken he wants to make his own… you know, any of the things that are going to make your average rooster happy, he’s going to be doing a little cock-a-doodling. Love him for it. At least you know he’s enjoying life.

The hotel was really a collection of buildings, each with a few rooms and washrooms as well as a central building for eating. The whole area was enclosed in a compound of sorts, and filled with all manner of lush trees and flowers. Edible fruits were growing on trees that had barely grown to hip height, they don’t bother waiting for maturity to begin producing. It’s incredible. Flowers of every color and size lured me in and occupied both me and my camera for a great deal of time. This, my first real sight in Ecuador, was a veritable garden of Eden.

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And yet I wasn’t happy. I let my initial fears and uncertainty govern my reactions and didn’t let myself move beyond that initial impression.

The first three days we stayed just on the outskirts of Quito and didn’t do much beyond explore the small town center of Tababela. I found the combination of my cold and the altitude rather exhausting. I was passed out by 6 every night; there was no way I could keep my eyes open for another second.

But. An hour long flight from Quito to Guayaquil and a 3.5 hour bus ride from Guayaquil to Olon, and everything began to change.

I should never have let my first impression color my opinion of Ecuador. It is one thing to take that first feeling, that gut-reaction into consideration. But it is entirely another to hold on to it when the reality before you is so obviously different.

There is poverty here, without a doubt. The people live differently and yes, when they realize you are a tourist there are some that will try to take advantage of you. No where on this earth is perfect, and it never will be so long as humans remain imperfect. Such is life. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of the people here aren’t beautiful, kind and open. They greet each other on the street, they smile and they mean it, and it’s perfectly normal to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.

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So I’m taking Spanish lessons; I’m going to learn enough that I can communicate with the beautiful people here. I’m going to eat the amazing food, see the incredible sights and do my best to fully experience what this country has to offer.

See you soon chicos!

 

Countdown to Ecuador (eeeek!!)

You might think, seeing as how I have chosen to spend the next six months of my life in Ecuador, I would know a great deal about the country. That is not precisely the case. I have heard a number of first hand accounts, as both my parents spent time there last winter – but beyond that my knowledge is rather limited.

via fabulous fabs (flickr)

With my departure date looming I’ve been trying to dedicate some time to researching my destination but I find myself more entranced by the videos of the beaches and photographs of the wildlife and waterfalls than any technical details. It will be interesting to see how much my expectations diverge from reality.

via Tea, Two Sugars (flickr)

I have made the executive decision to pack as little as possible, I don’t want to be dragging around an accompaniment of unnecessary paraphernalia. The first items rejected from my list were beauty products; hair dryers, straighteners and the like. I’ve always been a hint of a diva, no extremes, but I’ve never travelled without ensuring that I have the opportunity to beautify myself when I feel it’s necessary. I think this might be good for me. :P

I’ll be arriving in Quito on the 14th of January; I have a vague idea of what is going to happen after that. Very vague. The plan is to spend the first two months near the ocean. I get the feeling that I’m going to get really good at flying by the seat of my pants. Which… also might be good for me.

If you want to know something in particular about the places I am visiting; just let me know! I’m not at all opposed to taking requests for blog topics. :)

Adiós amigos!

Up, Up and Away!

Life is a funny thing. The more I feel like I’m figuring out who I am, the less I seem to know what I should do with this new-found knowledge. Perhaps it’s because life, the good kind, is meant to be a mystery. I certainly wouldn’t want the rest of my days to count out in ordered predictability. I find that the older I get, the more chances I take and the more willing I am to jump blindly into my future.

(My fortunes tell me this is a good idea. Obviously you should always listen to the cookie.)

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Life doesn’t work out the way you plan. Well. Perhaps if you’re seriously great in the planning department, it might – but if you’re like me and leave everything until the last minute, forget to pack your socks and resort to winging it, life can throw you some unexpected curve balls. (Not sure what’s up with the sports metaphors… but lets roll with it.)

I’m a writer. A bit of a slow one. I slack, I get distracted and I STILL haven’t finished anything. But it doesn’t make me less of a writer, just an as-yet-unfullfilled one. I don’t know what it’s going to take to launch me into the seat of a published author, but I figure one of these days I’ll finally spit out the next great Canadian novel and be able to figure out what my next step is.

In the meantime, because I can’t sit still anymore, and what I’m doing just isn’t working for me… I’m going to change things up a little bit.

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January 13th, 2014 – I’m skipping town for a while. I’m going to add to my collection of experiences and hopefully end up with hundreds of stories to entertain you with. (Should you enjoy the stories I plan to share, and happen to be capable of offering me a job as a travel writer, do not be afraid to contact me. I’d be willing to talk.)

Where am I going? Somewhere with a little bit of jungle, a little bit of beach, and whole ton of character and culture.

I’m off to the wilds of Ecuador; and I won’t come back without a story.