Saturday, April 4, 2009

sore knees, wild llamas, karaoke

Today has been… a day. I can’t remember ever being this tired and worn out. Every bone, joint, and muscle hurts. I convinced Jonathan that it would be fun to hike to the first refuge/base camp on Chimborazo Volcano (inactive, the tallest peak in Ecuador, 20,702 feet). We walked to the bus terminal in Riobamba and found the bus that would go past the base of Chimborazo was about to leave with all the seats filled, so we got on anyway and stood up in the aisle.

There are three things you can do on a bus here in Ecuador, from what I’ve seen. One, you can sleep (if you’re not one of the unlucky ones standing in the aisle). Two, you can make out passionately and shamelessly (okay, I only saw one couple doing this, but it left quite an impression). Or three, you can stare at the tall, awkward Americans standing in the aisle… free entertainment.

After about 45 minutes, the bus slowed down to let us off. We jumped off and were surprised by the landscape. It was very different from the green, lush countryside we’re used to here in the Andes. Since we were at the volcano, and so high in elevation, trees and grass couldn’t grow anymore. It was really barren. A park ranger was waiting in a truck and charged us $5 each to get into the park. He told us it was 8km to the refuge, so off and up we went. We realized really quickly that air up there was very thin. We had a hard time getting enough oxygen, which made it really difficult to exert ourselves hiking. We’ve become acclimated to Riobamba’s elevation of 9,000 ft (Salt Lake is 4,300), but the volcano, even at the base, is higher than that. The higher we climbed, the steeper it got, and the harder it was to breathe.

A couple tour groups passed us in vans, and I was jealous. I guess we were doing it the hard core way… I’ll just keep telling myself that. The barren landscape was pretty in its own way but we started to get kind of ornery as we continued with the same old rocks, brush and vicuña poop. As we got higher, though, the view was amazing: huge mountains in the distance in all directions. We ended up going back down before we reached the refuge, though. We were hungry, very cold, very out of breath (even after taking a break), and I had to peeeeee!

This is the only pretty plant that was growing on the volcano.

Me taking a break at around 12,000 feet.

Jonathan trying to catch his breath.

Me dumping dirt and rocks out of my shoes (I wore the WRONG shoes) after sinking into some dry quick sand... I know, not really, but it felt like it.

Me getting way ahead of Jonathan on the way down because I had to pee so badly. I forgot that there wasn't a bathroom at the bottom of the road anyway, so it was useless.
Vicuñas. I looked the word "vicuña" up in a Spanish-English dictionary and it gave me "vicuna." No idea. They look like wild llamas and seemed to be the only living thing on the volcano (besides little plants).
We walked back out onto the highway after hiking down and waited 15 minutes for a bus to come. We flagged the bus down (yeah you do that here) and stood in the aisle again. This time it was harder because we were exhausted and I had to peeeeee. I started feeling sick and looked around to see who would be the least mad if I puked on them. BUT, we finally made it back to Riobamba, walked 25 agonizing minutes back home from the bus terminal (we’re stubborn about taking cabs even though it’s only a buck) and collapsed into bed.

Somehow Jonathan dragged himself out of bed to go to church to watch the priesthood session so I dragged myself out of bed and walked to the grocery store so we’ll have food tomorrow. I can’t believe how sore and tired I am. I think I like Chimborazo better from the distance. This is what it looks like from our apartment roof.
Other happenings this week…
Last night we went to Carlos’ sister’s apartment to help their other sister’s English students practice the language. We ordered a big pizza, and guess what? She had karaoke at her house so Jonathan FINALLY got his karaoke fix that he’s been dying for for quite awhile. It was a fun night even though I’m not a huge karaoke fan. Jonathan was hilarious. He got so into it and everyone kept saying how amazing his voice is. Carlos kept singing 80’s and 90’s lovey-dovey songs (think Mariah Carey). We made fun of him so he sang “Born to Be Wild” to make up for it. It was great. Here are some photos from the night.

Carlos' niece, Jonathan, Carlos' sister's English student, and Carlos' sister.

This is Jonathan singing his heart out.
Carlos' niece singing. She loves it. We had to fight her to give other people a turn.

Carlos and his niece singing a love song together since his wife wouldn't sing with him.

Thursday and Friday I got trained on how to keep track of the daily expenditures and office budget. There is a lot of paperwork involved and it’s a little more complicated than I thought since Ecuador has some interesting rules for NGO’s. It will be good knowledge to have though, so I’m happy to do it.

Monday we went out to a community to check out how their water system that gives them running water is working. They’re having some problems with the design of the system and we wanted to see if there’s anything we can do to make it better. Look at this view they have… This is from the school’s playground. Everyone in Ecuador seems to have such a nice view.

Well I’m glad church doesn’t start until 11 tomorrow because of conference. I’m going to miss staying home and watching it in my pajamas (we Utahn’s are so spoiled), but maybe I’ll get more out of it this way. It’s amazing to me that we can watch conference live here in Ecuador (since we are one hour ahead). I can’t imagine how hard it would be to translate live, but I’m interested to see how it works.

I miss all of my family and friends. We love you guys. I can’t believe we’ve already been here over a month. Time is flying. I’d love to hear from all of you.

P.S. – I know there are a lot of parentheses in this post. Sometimes it’s just easier that way. I’m not sorry.


cathy said...

Amanda! I can't believe you guys are working so hard. And that hike - it sounded eerily like Emily's SSA experience on Angel's Landing. Glad to hear you got some karaoke in. So is the pizza weird like it is in other countries? In England they put corn and tuna on pizza, in Russia, I can't remember but I'm sure it was weird. Anyhoo, hang in there.

Michemily said...

Ummm, you went hiking in ballet flats? Awesome. I used to hike in flip-flops and people passing us would look at my shoes and look at me to see who the crazy girl was.

Linda said...

All I can say us I know how you feel. Paul and I trekked in Nepal last spring and did the Annapurna circuit were we crossed at Thorong La pass at 5400meters (or 17,700 feet). Basically thought I was going to die (giving birth to babies was easier), was peeing constantly (and other...), felt like I was going to throw up the day we went over this pass -- I could barely breathe. I have never hiked so slow in my life. So I understand how you feel completely! It is fun to hear about your adventures.
Linda Lou -- Victoria

Jessica said...

Looks like you guys are having fun! What is it with bowels and hiking? Love the updates! You guys look great!

Sarah Williams said...

Why didn't you just pee?

amanda said...

I didn't pee because:
a.) I was too cold to take off any clothes.
b.) no toilet paper
c.) no shelter (no trees, no big rocks, etc.)

Mostly because of c