Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Sesentith

Well, it had to happen some day.  I wasn't ready.  But, I was dragged into it unwillingly.  I said "NOOOOOOO!!!".   But, 'IT' said "I'm marching forward whether you like it or not!!".  

DAMN 'IT'

60

Now I understand Jack Benny (you young people...Google it!).   He didn't look it.  He didn't feel like it (he felt 39, I feel 35).   So, he decided to place a moratorium on further aging and just stay 39.

So am I.

So there, I'm OUT and PROUD.  Like the song says in 'La Cage Aux Folles'..."Your life is a sham if you can't say, out loud, I am what I am"   I'm sssssssssss......ugh...I just can't say it.   Here....just read it yourself.
60

I was very honored that two of my best friends from the US of A came to mourn....rrrrr....celebrate my sssssss....um...my birthday.  Only took them 4 years to come visit me, but that's another matter.

I drove up to Quito in my new (to me) car I had just purchased several weeks prior.  A spiffy 2007 Hyundai Terracan diesel.   After all, one of my friends, Christopher, stands 6'4" or so, thus I needed a bigger car to transport him about.   Brian, my best friend of 17 years or so is much MUCH smaller so he could fit into any space in the car.


The umpteenth time I've driven to Quito was great.  It was a treat to feel the power and torque that diesel engines provide, and at just a few cents over a dollar for a gallon of diesel, well....who can complain?

I stayed in a 2br apartment I rented via AirBnB in Quito the night before my friends were due to arrive.  The next day, their flight arrived on time at the new Quito airport.  I'd never been to the new one before but had read and heard all sorts of tales of woe about how far it was outside of the city and how long it took, etc etc.

I followed the signs guiding me to the new airport.   I could see why it took so long as I drove down winding hills and through the center of villages and then, ultimately, into a narrow ravine and across a narrow two lane bridge.  I looked up to my right and saw this enormous gleaming new bridge spanning that same gap!  Waaaaait a minute!!!   Maybe I should be over THERE!!!

Yep, the new highway and new bridge were 'over there' but the signage hadn't been changed to guide me over there.  DAMN 'IT'.  

The new airport is very nice and very much out in the middle of nowhere.

Chris and Bri showed up.

Coming out of baggage claim.
On the trip back to Quito, I drove the NEW road...a nice wide freeway that sailed easily to the city and across that big new bridge.

Our apartment was located in the 'new town' area, a 'highrise' of 14 floors.  We were on the 12th.  A nice 2 bedroom modern apartment with amazing views for about $80 a night.



The first day, we headed for the Teleferico.  It's an aerial tram that takes you up the side of a dormant (we hope) volcano that looms over the city of Quito.  The air is very thin at the top (about 13,000 ft) but the views are amazing on a clear day.  The city of Quito is straight down below you and you can see snow-capped volcanos out in the distant.

The boys each did their stint of climbing onto a rail and standing at what looked like an infinite precipice of 3,000 feet below.

That is Christopher...the tall one.

.....and Brian

A small chapel at the top of the Teleferico.

 Then I took them to the Basilica.   A large gothic church that sits on a knoll overlooking old town Quito.  I did a blog about this a few years back, when I climbed to the top of one of the steeples, so I won't repeat all the photos here.  An amazing experience that NO ONE should miss if ever in Quito.  It's an easy climb.  Each level has it's own 'OMG' factor.



I love gargoyles.  But, looking at them makes me wonder....who inspects these things to make sure they don't fall off and smoosh someone innocently walking on the ground below??

Last time I climbed the Basilica I didn't go up this part as the stairs are darn near straight up/down.  But, this time I did.  I just kept looking straight at the stairs and nowhere else.  We went down the stairs facing the same way as facing outward would've been just too freaky.




Then I took them down into old town (or El Centro) Quito where block after block is yet another church of amazing architecture, plazas, gardens, restaurants, and THE Presidential Palace (the equivilant of the White House).



We then saundered over to the church and convent San Francisco located a few blocks behind the presidential palace.  This is an awesome complex which I've been to several times.  But, what I didn't know was there is an artisan shop in the bottom and off to the side that held surprises for everyone who ventured in.  I was shocked and completely giddy at what we found.   Tunnels and alcoves that enticed you deeper and deeper into who knows where.  Art was displayed (and for sale) at every nook and corner.  I learned from the operators, this area used to be the CATACOMBS!!!   Thus, the web of corridors and alcoves that made you wonder....'will I ever find my way out of here or will I die somewhere deep inside?'.

Really cool handcarved wooden masks.







From there we wandered through church after church, gazing at the amazing architecture created by visionaries who weren't affected by budget or time constraint the like of today that crank out lifeless, uninspired structures.

Ceiling finished in GOLD.



The next day we visited Guapulo, a place I hadn't been before.  Down in a ravine, outside the hustle and bustle of the city, was a sanctuary built in the 1500's.  Yes, over 400 years ago!!!




Notice the modern (lifeless, uninspred, boxes) highrise condos lining the ridge above.
My birthday fell on a day we were in Quito.  Bri and Chris wanted me to select a super-dooper restaurant to mark the milestone, but I wasn't very familiar with places in Quito.  I went back-n-forth over places I read about in reviews on TripAdvisor.   Nothing stuck.   But, someone recommended 'Mosaico', a restaurant on a ridge above the city with fantastic views.  However, the reviews on TripAdvisor were not very complimentary.  However (again) the common thread amongst the reviews was the views where exemplary.  Never mind the food, go for the views.  So, that's where we decided to go.

Before going, I was getting a bit testy with my guests.  Chris went out that morning to find an ATM but came back having no luck.  I said to Brian, 'why didn't he ask me where an ATM is...I could've told him where to go?'.   Shrug...'I dunno'.   When we were out the day before, we happened upon a coffee shop that also sold Panama hats.   I have NEVER been able to find one that fits my big head, but this place had one that did...and it was a great color.  But, when I heard the price...no way.

I was ready to go to my birthday dinner.  But Bri/Chris weren't ready yet.  I was losing my patience.  So, I sat in a corner of the apartment surfing the net.   Then, a comotion started with singing and out comes Bri/Chris with a big-ass oreo cheesecake and candles and a bag with gifts!!!!  Holy crap...how/when did they pull this off?  I was completely caught off guard.   The bag contained 'the hat' I had seen earlier in the coffee shop and the cheesecake came from a bakery Chris had spotted the night before and, under the guise of looking for an ATM (wink, wink), had earlier went to, to order my special cake (which took me 2 weeks to eat!).  WOW....they pulled one on ME!!!

Off we went to Mosaico.   WOW.   An old converted house on the ridge overlooking Quito.  We were advised to go BEFORE sunset so we could enjoy the transtion TO sunset and the night lights.  I was giddy as we sat out on a balcony overlooking the entire city and watched the transition from daylight to nighttime.  The food was blah, the service was lacking, cocktails didn't have a buzz, but boy howdy the view and experience from the balcony squashed everything else.  They could've served us liver, figs, and prunes and I would've still been giddy...hungry, but giddy!!

A panoramic I shot with my new tablet.  That's Chris and Brian off to the far right at our table on the balcony.



Tha Basilica out in the far distance.   We climbed to the level above the clock.

OH...it keeps getting better.

We left Quito and drove to Banos about 3 hours away.  For me, the 5th time (I think).  Banos is a town (at the flank of an ACTIVE volcano) perfect for the adventuresome types.  Here you can zip-line, bungee-jump, rapel waterfalls, river-raft, ride horseback, rent quads, relax in thermal waters, etc etc etc.

First up....zip-lining.  I signed us up for an excursion into the canopy (aka forest) to ride cable lines through the trees, over the river, and across ravines.   I said 'SH_T!!!' a LOT!!!!

Christopher, me, and Brian


We flew across upside down, and.....

....like Superman

Take note of the highly sophisticated wooden structure (ahem), and the OSHA approved safety rails (ahem...there are NONE!).   The person holding Chris back is not tethered to anything and at the end of that platform is straight down.

We drove up to a place known as the 'tree house' where you can hop a swing and fly over a drop that makes you feel like you're soaring over the world!

Brian reliving his childhood.   
From Cuenca to Quito, Quito to Banos, then Banos to Cuenca.   I had arranged a 'Pity Party' at my favorite Mexican restaurant and invited friends (and those I paid to attend to plump up the number of guests to 19) to celebrate my.....sssssssss...60th.. ugh.....birthday.

Again, mi amigos Christopher and Brian fanagled yet another birthday cake to be delivered by some unknown 'masked man' who, strangely, turned me on.  hehehhehehehehe

Stacey and Joanna, former guests of my short-term rental apts...now friends.  Freshly moved here from Ashville, NC.


Based on the number of candles, I'm 3.

It was time to go.   I drove the boyz down to Guayaquil to catch their flight back to the world that idolizes the Kardashians, known as the US of A.   We had time to experience a few things while in GYE....aka in my opinion 'a butt ugly city'.



Across the street from the cathedral is located what is known as 'The Iguana Park'.   Amazingly, the iguanas didn't choose to escape the park via the many open entryways.  They hung out in the branches of the trees, saundered the walkways, and generally didn't give a rip about the pedestrians ogling over them.  A lady was selling baggies of lettuce for a dollar which revved up the iguanas so much they would run and crawl over each other for a bit.  We emptied our baggies.  As we left we noticed a sign 'Don't feed the Iguanas!'.   Ooopsie.




Fascinating creatures.  Some 4-5 ft long!



Well, that's the story of my ssssssss  60th   birthday.   I never had a party for my...
  • 18th
  • nor my 21st (I went to a bar and never got carded)
  • my 30th
  • my 40th (I went to San Diego and jumped out of an airplane)
  • my 50th  (a few of us went to a casino and had an all-you-can-eat buffet and lost a good chunk of money in the slots....but I got a free casino sippee cup because it was my birthday...whooopeeee)
....soooo, it was about time a milestone in my life was marked with some extra special sauce!!!!

DAMN 'IT'!!!!!

Thanks to:

  • Brian and Christopher for coming all the way to EC, barely letting me pay for anything, and going way overboard with all the gifts and surprises.  Even a bottle of CHIVAS SCOTCH!!!!
  • The Pity Party of 19 who came to celebrate my birthday...or maybe it was just the margaritas they wanted.
  • Cards and emails from Mom, Auntie Gloria, my sis, my 'little' brother, nieces and nephews, and Mavis.
    • Note to 'lil bro'....add to the list....you riding on the front of my Honda 65
Did I leave anyone out?  GAWD FORBID.  If I did, just remember, I'm.......60!!!

DAMN 'IT'!!!!!

Dano



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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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