July, 2007

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Finally Twenty-One

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Thought I’d sum up some of my birthday presents so far (the American side always holds back until I get back to the US):
- from Alice: duck-pen and giant ‘I’m 21 Today pin’
- from Heather: cuddly dog in a paper bag and singing card
- from the guinea pigs (don’t ask): Maltesers (UK candy)
- from the fish (‘ ‘): ‘Deadly Diseases’ book
- from the dog (yea, we’re all nuts): (I forget)
- from my grandmother: purple/silver necklace/earrings & £20
- from Libby: IOU for Super Smash Bros Brawl when it comes out (Dec 3rd?)
- from Kenneth: copy of the poetry book his poem was published in
- from Liz: ‘Planet Earth’ DVD set
- from my Dad: money for the camera I bought before leaving the US, new (purple) snowboarding goggles, new Harry Potter book

My birthday was spent packing up to leave our holiday house, then going to Saltburn (English sea-side town), then driving back to the cottage, then eating tea, unpacking, and getting to use the internet. Overall, not bad. Do kindof wish there was something more notable to mark the day, but oh well, it’s over now.

Well, thanks for the Happy Birthday wishes! : )

I am, at last, 21.

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Happy Birthday to Me

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Well, here it is- eve of my 21st year. It seems somehow more momentus than previous birthdays, even the grand 18. Perhaps because I knew even then full well that I didnt deserve to be called much of an adult, and somehow feel more ready now. Perhaps its just because for once I want the legal rights that come with the age. Im sad, however. In the past I never much minded having mild birthdays in quiet seaside towns with only direct British family around. But tonight I find myself wishing that I could spend tomorrow night surrounded by my friends in a town I know well – to celebrate this last youthful milestone with all thats been so present in the years leading up to now. I know Ill have my party sometime in August, and I hope it can be a fitting tribute to what seems a special point in life, but that always seems hard to achieve when the date is past. I truly hope it can be done. Well, no point mulling over the unfixable. Ill have my small quaint birthday tomorrow, and hope for some small event to mark the day a little special :) . And I look forward to having a good celebrate with you all when I get back!
(Mobile Post)

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Part 2 of my trip is almost over!

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

Unedited email. Gotta run!

Thought I´d write another quick email and try and give a little update!
Well, we did the bike riding and rafting from Banos. The weather was quite an issue, as the rain was very cold, and we were soaked through and shivering. Plus, we could barely open our eyes in the driving rain, and we couldn´t see any of the views for the low clouds. Rafting, at the beginning, was also very cold, and most of us were shivering. However, the sky cleared a bit, we dried out a bit, and we ended up having good fun on the rafts. Then we drove to a riverside spot where we had lunch, and then continued on the Amazon! We stayed in bamboo huts on stilts, and had to use mosquito nets tucked under our mattresses. The first night, at our first place, there were cockroaches everywhere in our rooms, and none of us liked that. Other insects I can handle ok, but cockroaches are horrible. The place had a monkey they´d rescued and some puppies, and they fed us like kings – three course meals in the jungle! The next day we got up and went for a 6 hour hike through the Amazon, which was really interesting. We were split into groups, so there were only 5 of us with a guide, and he told us about medicinal plants, made us some jungle treasures (necklaces, crowns, and bracelets) from plants, and painted our faces with the juice of a plant the Amazon tribes use to ward away evil spirits. We hiked to two waterfalls – one was quite close and easy, the other was more of a hike and harder to get to. In fact, at the end, we actually had to swim up the river a little way to get to the waterfall! It was really interesting though, and very cool to swim in a rain forest pool in the Amazon! Then we put our bags on the bus and get into canoes, and floated down the river to our next accommodation. It was a similar place, but without cockroaches, which was a big relief. We didn´t do much there but have dinner and enjoy the evening, though we did go on a night hike. Didn´t see much but some insects and caiman´s (small crocodiles) eyes in a lake. It poured rain that night like I´ve never seen in my life – like the sky had turned into a giant waterfall!

The next morning we were up early for our road trip to Cuenca via Banos, 8 hours. We set off on time and in good spirits, but the bus mysteriously came to an unexpected stop in the town of Puya. Our guides explained that apparently the rain the night before had caused land slides that had again closed off the road into Banos! So we were told to take half an hour to look around Puya while they figured out what to do. Half an hour later we all assembled and were told that the landslide had been cleared, but that they had decided to completely remove a bridge and put in a new one, so the road wouldn´t be open til four. Our original plan was to arrive in Cuenca by four, so obviously our plan was going to be changed! Of course there is no point moping around when you are stranded, so we went back to the riverside park with waterslides we´d been to before, and all had a refreshing dip in the now incredibly deep water (due to the rains), and a sunbathe on the banks. Then we had an impromptu lunch in Puya and set off towards Banos. Luckily the bridge was indeed up and we were able to get into Banos no problem. We had planned to take half an hour there, but we were obviously running late, so we stopped no longer than was necessary to drop off our guides. We then drove straight on, stopping only for toilet breaks and gas, but did stop in Rio Bamba for a delicious pizza dinner. Then on into the night, and finally arriving in Cuenca at 12:30am.

Because of our late arrival, we were allowed to sleep in a bit yesterday, and then it was off to a museum in Cuenca about Ecuadorian history and culture. It was interesting, but only a bit of the museum was in English, so most of it I couldn´t really make much sense of. I did see real shrunken heads, though. Then we went to Incapirca, the Cuna and Incan ruins about an hour and a half from Cuenca. That was much more interesting, as we had an English speaking guide who showed us around the site and explained the history and significance of the shape of the settlement and it´s religious purpose. We had a few hours in Cuenca then, and at 9 set out for our ´dress to impress´ dinner at the Eucalyptus Restaurant, where I had delicious food and dessert and ate like a king for only $20 a meal that would easily be $50 or more in the US.

Today was rock climbing, so we were up early to head about an hour to the rock. They set up 6 climbs, ranging from fairly easy to a little tricky, and I did all of them. We were there all day and had lunch on the rocks. It was really good rock climbing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It´s been about a year since I last went – on my birthday last July in Arran! Then it was back here, where everyone slept on the bus and felt absolutely exhausted. I myself am covered in scrapes and bruises from the rocks, including an especially bad one on my knee that is throbbing quite a lot. I hope it doesn’t interfere with the rest of my time here. We then made a run to the grocery store for snacks for tomorrow (another 7 hour bus ride) and dinner at a lovely place called Blue Monday.

I would have to say that my main disappointment so far is our lack of time to do things that are not included in the adventure tour. We had no time here in Cuenca to visit the church, which is supposed to be very pretty, nor have a good look at the colonial architecture or to visit the Panama hat factory – all things I really wanted to do. But we are busy all day long with other activities, so we don´t have time. I guess you can´t do everything, but who knows when I´ll be back??

I hope everyone had a good 7-7-07. Nothing unusually lucky happened to me, unfortunately, though it was the day that it´s 21 days to my 21st birthday, so I figured that must be of some significance somehow (since 21 is a multiple of 7). Probably means I´ll rule the world someday, or something like that : )

Well, we´re off to Montanita tomorrow, which is a coastal town in the South. We have two and a bit days there, tomorrow after the bus ride is a free evening, then two days of whale watching and surfing lessons and snorkeling. Our trip is winding down to more relaxing activities, as in just a few short days we´ll be in Guayaquil, saying goodbye to half of our group! Then it´s off to Galapagos, which will truly be an adventure!

What can I say, my part 2 trip is almost done! It´s interesting how you adjust. The magnificent Andes have become a usual sight, no longer making us all reach for our cameras. Ramshackle villages, cultural dress, roasting whole guinea pigs and pigs no longer cause us to bat an eye. We quickly scout out our new town and find grocery stores, internet cafes, restaurants, and laundry (it´s great, you can get 5 kilos of laundry washed, dried, and folded for about $2.50!) We´re used to rice and beans and eating in places that might normally make us wonder about food poisoning. We´re all fans of cipro and know the first signs of a troubled stomach. Most of us have upped our fitness quite a bit, and grown used to adjusting to altitude and drinking tonnes of water and Gatorade, and never drinking from taps (and ordering all drinks without ice). Going without electricity, toilets that really work, and hot showers (or showering at all). I´m interested to see what my reaction will be to go back to the clean, sparkling, and modern ´first-world´. We´ll see!

I also wanted to add a quick note to say that I send these emails because I simply can´t wait to share what I´m up to! It´s not because I am homesick and need to be in touch, it is much more that I just have to tell you all what I´m doing and all my adventures! And when I write in short bursts like this, I can include more detail and remmber better what I´ve done.

Well, I´m holding up the internet, there´s only
one computer at this hotel, and we´ve all had to wait, so I´d better get on my way. However, I´ll write again, probably just before I leave for the Galapagos, since I don´t know what my communication situation will be when I´m there. I hope you are all doing well and know that I´m doing fine. I hope those of you who have been following me on the map are able to keep up with my funny routes!

Best wishes to all of you, talk to you soon!
Emma

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