El Ceibo Tree House

Tree house + Kids = Happiness (and peace for parents?). We had been told about one in the small village of El Progresso only 5km from San Cristobal so we decided to go for lunch. A $2 taxi ride later we were there and in the time it took me to pay the driver Ben, Zoe and Lara had disappeared up the suspended wooden bridge to explore the 300 year old tree, the largest on the island.

Tree house, cool!

Having built more than a few such bridges in my time I was interested in the construction which I studied on my way up to make sure our intrepid explorers were safe. I am glad that they are 1) Sure of foot and 2) Weigh a lot less than I do! More

Cute pair of boobies on the beach

I was late for lunch yesterday after a long session in front of the computer. I grabbed a taxi (you have to love the $1 to anywhere in town) and dashed down to the Malecon for lunch to be met by a very excited Zoe who dragged me to the beach,  “Dad, boobies, you have to come and see the boobies! Boobies!”. More

Travellers In(n) Quito

We spent almost a month in Quito (a big chunk of our family gap year), busy attending Spanish school and enjoying just being in one place. Here’s the account of our arrival and  first two weeks staying at the lovely Travellers Inn…..

Monday 8th October 2012

We leave Coca and the Amazon rainforest on a bus that leaves at 12.30pm and is supposed to take around  7 hours, climbing up into  the high Andes, from little above sea level to nearly 3000 meters.  When I bought tickets two days ago, why, oh why didn’t I make sure this bus went via  Loreto, South West of Coca, and not Nueva Loja, North East of Coca and up near the Columbia border? (Martin reminds me that I went for the $9 bus fare rather than the $10 one!)

In the shiny new Coca bus station going from booth to booth, I clear forgot to check the route although I asked what time it arrived in Quito and was told 8pm which sounded pretty good to me!

We board to find no air con and no working toilet but the seats are comfy and there’s hardly anyone on board – excellent!

Not excellent.

The girls snooze on the long journey!

The bus pulls out of the terminal and immediately pulls over for half of the population of Coca province  to board. Then it proceeds to drop off and pick up passengers every hundred meters or so for approximately 2 hours. Often vendors get on and sell sweets, empanadas, fruit, pens and some get on and stand at the front and seem to be preaching to anyone who’ll listen, then they hand out sweets, no doubt to the converted! More

Why not to run in Flip Flops!

As dictated by Zoe…

We were sitting in a restaurant going to have dinner, supper, whatever you call it. Because it was so cold Mummy was going to run back to the house to get our jackets but when she had gone about 5 meters from the restaurant she fell over and got a giant cut in her knee.

Mo in emergency room

Mum in hospital

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A few days of R & R in Coca, Ecuador

At the end of our hot but amazing river journey from Belem in Brazil to Coca in Ecuador,  Hotel Le Mision was quite a find!

There isn’t much listed on trip advisor or Hotelbooking.com which both list only posh jungle lodgings 20km or more out of town. We’d read Coca was a bit of a dusty, dull, oil town but when we walked into Le Mision, it was clear everyone would want to stay a few days and we could wait to get to Quito where it will be much cooler and we won’t be swimming!

A hot stormy day at Le Mision, Coca

It’s a quirky place, right on the river in between a rusty old bridge and beautiful new one paid for with oil money – its so new that it doesn’t appear on Google Earth.

The old bridge at Coca, Ecuador

Sunset over the Napo and Coca’s brand new bridge with the unusual addition of the grounded aeroplane boat!

Part hotel, part restaurant, part zoo, part curio museum with an old passenger aircraft who’s wings have been chopped and a double decker bus both converted into boats moored at the rivers edge!

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My World School – four months in, at school in the Galapagos!

My Mum’s cousin Val is the head teacher at a school back home. She’s read some of our blogs and showed some of our photos to all the children in assembly.

They sent us some questions and these were mine :

Zoe – What do you do when you get bored? What games do you play? We are all jealous that you don’t have to go to school. How is World School school going? Have you been on any more adventures like your jungle journey to the beach?

We decided to use the questions to do our next blogs!

When I get bored, I have a Kindle so sometimes I read. I really like to draw or make stuff and now I have just got some new paints. We have pencils and paper. In Quito we got some scissors, sellotape and glue and more drawing paper!

Reading on a long bus trip – once I thought I lost mine on a bus which was awful but we found it  safely put away in Dad’s bag!

I have beads and elastic too and we make necklaces and bracelets – sometimes for ourselves but often as presents. we got more beads in Otavalo,where we visited a massive craft market. Its a place where lots of people wear traditional clothes.The men even have long black plaits!  I have got quite good at plaiting! We play on iPhone apps too, or play travel games like Rumicub, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo and sometimes cards.

This traditional lady in Otavalo was as interested in us as we were in her and she wanted to touch our hair!

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Galapagos Volunteering – Part Three

The horror of being involved with getting the kids ready for school! Maybe I am a lone Dad who finds this part of the day a touch frustrating but I suspect this may be a common problem even in the more perfect of Stepford households. I feel lucky at home that we have had au-pairs to herd the fruit flies out of the door and Mo who loves this ‘quality time’ with the children when she can. Suffice to say that asking a child to put their shoes on 20 times makes me think of Einstein’s quote about doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, yep I am going mad…

So the toys go out of my pram but with the help of a taxi we make it. The headmistress seems happy to see us and we get the obligatory peck on the cheek, smile and burst of Spanish which my brain fails to translate and I hope is nothing more than ‘good luck, you’ll need it’. The kids are gone, no need for embarrassing parental delivery to the door and we head to the classrooms we were shown yesterday. How will the kids fit in? Will they enjoy it? Get anything out of it? What about us?

Outside the new school

Us at our new school

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Galapagos Volunteering – Part Two

Monday we have a reprieve, we will start on Tuesday at the school and Willy sits us down and talks to us about the kids and what to expect. San Cristobal has a population of 6000 of which just under half are of school age!?! This not so much a demographic problem (young people are good news as they will soon be workers) but a contraception problem. We are told that 13 year old Mums are common place and many teenagers struggle, unsurprisingly with parenting. Some quick maths tells me that I could already be a great grandfather and not just plain old dad if I started so young and my offspring followed in my footsteps. I start to wonder about Ben being 13 years old quite soon but don’t want to go there.

San Cristobal School Sign

Our skool

Willy lays it on and tells us if it is ‘different’ here and not to expect the standard of discipline we might expect. Classes will be noisy and kids often get up and run around. With no streaming the mixed abilities mean it is difficult to target lessons to the brightest and slowest and the large class sizes make much of the lesson about crowd control. Some kids get hit at home or don’t come from loving homes so expect some emotional issues. To be a teacher you now need to have a teaching degree but they have a transition period so some don’t which is apparently a problem. We don’t admit to our shameful degreeless status. But they need help and we can make a difference. I remind myself that if it was easy it would be boring. More

Galapagos Volunteering – Part One

Map of Galapagos Islands (Ecuador, South America)

Map of Galapagos Islands (Ecuador, South America). We are on San Cristobal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a long time since I blogged and I have missed it! Mo has been hogging the computer with her excellent Amazon Diary but I have plenty of posts planned so I won’t be as quiet.

We spent a few weeks in Quito learning Spanish, the success of which we will soon find out as we are in at the deep end with a month volunteering in the Galapagos. Apart from our one way flights to Rio the ‘volunteering’ was the only thing we booked well in advance. My preference was to try and find projects while in country but Mo was insistent we book something, perhaps she thought this was the only way to ensure we did give something back and not just spend our time on idyllic beaches drinking cocktails between swims and massages?!? More

Rio Napo – Diary Days 10-11 Nuevo Rocaforte and El Coca

So the publishing of the diary is a little behind, for which I apologise – we’re almost a month I from here and just flown from Quito to the Galapagos. I’ll blame it on wifi (lack of) internet connections (lack of) Spanish lessons (a lot of and hard work making my brain dredge up what I learned 30 years ago at Kings Manor Comp! General family life on the road / not on the road (which after all is for living not blogging!) Oh and the random deletion by my iphone of my Napo River diary so that it all had to be re-written and remembered – gutting! I’d spent many hours in my tent keeping up to date! But finally, here’s our last two days on the river traversing the great continent as far as Puerta Francisco de Orellana, aka Coca!

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The journey so far to Coca, Ecuador

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