Tag Archives: video

Video: Galapagos Islands – Darwin’s Land

To finish up the Galapagos Islands Series, I have made a video of the voyage.

I hope you have enjoyed the adventure just as much as I did.


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Waterfall Trekking & Horseback Riding

My friends and I spent the weekend in the Cotopaxi Province of Ecuador. It is home to the Cotopaxi volcano, which is the second highest summit in the country. We stayed at the gorgeous Secret Garden hostel, which had a guide take us trekking in the forest and along the streams to waterfalls. We also went horseback riding for six hours up to the top of a mountain for a closer look at the volcano. Here is the video:

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Wheels & Paints

Every weekend Quito becomes a quiet city. The sidewalks are empty and the noises seem to cease, creating a peaceful solitude. However, when  Sunday arrives certain streets in Quito are closed and no cars are allowed. What is? Loads of cyclists and runners.

This past Sunday my friends and I walked around exploring Quito and visited La Capilla del Hombre, an art museum that offers breath-taking pieces that make you really ponder life in all it´s happy and sad glory.

Here is a video:

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Protests & Chaos Explode in Ecuador

a fire burning in old town quito during protests in ecuador credit: rachel tavel

This morning my co-workers and I walked to work, as we do every morning. We are a small group of expats who are interns and staff writers at ViVA Travel Guides, which is a travel guidebook company that publishes books for Central and South America.

I had just started on my work for the morning when a co-worker received a phone call from a friend, a  Frommer´s writer, who said something in regards to the ¨[The] city is turning to shit, the airport [is] shutdown and everyone is burning tires.¨

We started looking up news on the internet and that was when we began to realize what was going on in Ecuador. Protests had broke out and the city had erupted into chaos. People were burning tires in the streets, protesters were chanting, schools were put on lock-down, people were looting from the banks, tear-gas was being sprayed and the President was trying to calm everyone down, while fighting for his life at the same time. The reason, according to all news articles being published by major news networks:

The striking police were angered by a law passed by Congress on Wednesday that would end the practice of giving members of Ecuador’s military and police medals and bonuses with each promotion. It would also extend from five to seven years the usual period required for before a subsequent promotion.

Not too long afterward my co-worker’s phone, which was near death itself with little battery life, rang again. A teacher at a nearby school in close proximity to the protests said that what was going on is very serious, advising us to leave Quito, the capital.

We were told by co-workers that something like this had never happened in Ecuador before.

We started to panic, wondering whether or not to immediately go home or stay. With the overall feeling of security in all of us, being in a room with Ecuadorians, we put the office on lockdown. Schools were eventually being evacuated because the government had canceled all classes. The streets outside the office were bustling with people and school children. “The usual car alarms and sirens had us actually concerned and worried, rather than just ignoring it as the typical everyday sounds of Quito. Shop owners were standing in their doorways looking left and right at all the commotion, others had shutdown” (Quoted in an MSNBC.COM article). At one point the office door bell rang and we all let out a little ::yelp:: “Who is it? Don’t let them in!” Our anxiety was getting the better of us, being Americans from the U.S. and never experiencing such an event. However, despite what my co-workers said about this event never occurring before, this is not unfamiliar territory for one of the smaller South American countries.

Ecuador, a South American OPEC member of 14 million people, has a history of political instability. Street protests toppled three presidents during economic turmoil in the decade before Correa took power. – Reuters

One of the first videos we found online was of the President being bombarded by groups of protesters as he tried to make his way through the crowds. Eventually giving a very passionate speech telling the police protesters and others, “Kill me if you want to. Kill me if you have the courage.” As the violent scene continued to escalate, streets were blocked, a bridge was blocked, looting was taking place in Quito and Guayaquil city, people were being robbed and the airports shut down due to protesters taking over the landing strips.

Our boss did not even come in today because of the blocked streets. He sent us an e-mail telling us to, ¨Please make your way home today well in advance of nightfall and it would be best to try to get a taxi if possible, or walk home with someone, not alone.” Just one of many warnings through media we received as the time wore on inside the office building.

fire burning across from my apartment in quito, ecuador

Our lunch time came and went, no almuerzo for me today. After many stomach growls, a group of us braved up to go get some food around the corner at Carlos’ market store. An assortment of the most random snacks and food items was consumed safely back in our office. Some time later an Ecuadorian co-worker knocked on our door and said, “Let’s go.” He had  decided it was safe enough for us to leave and go to the safety and comfort of our homes.

Four of us walked 30 minutes back to our apartment here in the Mariscal area. We saw everyone out on the streets, no one seemed to be working except in the almuerzo places. I saw two ladies pulling down the metal door to their workplace, closing the padlock. Clusters of people sat on steps outside buildings, others were drinking, some kids were playing a game of soccer in the streets. For quite a few, it was as if they didn’t care a revolution was taking place, or they took this as a snow-day: a simple day of getting out of work in a country that already prides itself on not living to work.

watching the protest updates unfold live on local news

Right now, all of my roommates and I are locked behind a gate and two doors in our third floor apartment after being sent home from our workplaces. The television, which is never on, has been tuned to the local news channel. We are constantly waiting for updates on the situation and contacting close friends and family to let them know we are safe.

The President has declared a State of Emergency via Twitter.

Later in the afternoon, President Rafael Correa was recuperating in a hospital after being attacked with tear gas and water bottles. Rebel cop protesters were scrambling to reach him inside to hurt him more and he said he practically felt like a prisoner. Civilians are being asked to help protect him since the police are on strike. He is speaking on the local news station, which is rumored to be currently suffering attempts of sabotage.

Correa later told state TV from the hospital that “I’m leaving here as president or as a corpse, but I’m not losing my dignity.” – News Article

He has received support from Venezuela, Chile, Argentina and others. The United States has officially condemned the uprising because it threatens the country’s democratic government. However, Peru has closed its border.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia said he was ordering the immediate closure of the border with neighbouring Ecuador.

“I’m going to order that our borders are closed right now and that all trade on the northern border is halted until President Correa’s authority is duly restored and resolved,” Garcia said. – News24

helicopter flying overhead in quito, ecuador amid protests

Helicopters are constantly flying overhead, however the airports are rumored to have reopened. President Correa has already stated he will not be letting down on his decision that sparked the protests today, which can only mean it will get worse before better.

The AP has reported that the Ecuador security minister recorded one dead, six injured in the police uprising against the cut in benefits so far. Also, a group of Latin American presidents are meeting in Buenos Aires tonight to support President Correa. Lastly, we do know that the “coup” failed, but the loyal military and police are keeping the State of Emergency instated for a week.

Update: A crossfire of gunshots ensued in front of the hospital where the President was apparently being held against his will. One soldier at least was killed during his rescue. Prior to the hospital rescue mission, the Red Cross reported more than 50 people had been injured during the protests.

They successfully took President Correa by vehicle to the Presidential Plaza where he gave a long-winded speech to a massive crowd that addressed his belief that instability has shaken politics because of three other coups in the past. He once again stated that negotiations would not be made and thanked all his supporters, who were chanting “Correa, my friend, the people are with you!” throughout the speech. In the end, Ecuadorian flags were waved and music began to play. I had survived my first Latin American coup.

Video of a fire that broke out across the street from my apartment:


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Ecuador’s Soundtrack: the noise of Quito

Every city has their appeal: the ancient architecture, the unique food and the differences in interactions with people. Quito is no exception. The stunning, intricate designs of their cathedrals. The way each meal comes with a spicy sauce on the side, that isn’t really spicy at all. The way people greet each other with a kiss on the cheek or pack themselves like sardines on the bus, not minding the close proximity to a complete stranger.  What Ecuador also has is  a constant noise. I have not heard one moment of silence in Quito since I have moved here and wanted to give you a sample of Ecuador’s soundtrack:

These are the sounds that I typically hear on a daily basis in Quito, Ecuador.

Constant dog barking.

Constant car alarms.

Constant whistles.

Almost nightly fireworks.

Lots and lots of church bells.

Just to name a few.

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Standing in two hemispheres at the Middle of the World

There are two equator spots in Quito, Ecuador. One is what I like to call the tourist trap with the big monument that you can’t miss. The other is the real one. It is right around the corner (walking distance from the fake one) and you have to pay close attention for the sign or you’ll miss it.

For $3 USD you get a tour of indigenous homes, learn about their way of living, customs, and get to partake in some equatorial experiments such as attempting to balance an egg and walking on a straight line.

Here is a video of my time spent on the equator (post to come):

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Above the clouds at 14,000+ feet

There’s a point during take-off when the flight attendant comes over the intercom and announces, “We’ve reached 10,000 feet. It is now safe to use all approved portable electronic devices.”

the teleferico ride up pichincha takes about 10 minutes

Well, on the 10 minute Teleferico ride up the Andes mountain range to the inactive Pichincha Rucu volcano (Rucu means “old” in the indigenous language of Quichua), my friends and I passed 10,000 feet and continued up to an altitude of more than 14,000 feet where we were free to roam about the cabin…I mean mountain. We were at a height where we could see planes taking off and flying below us over Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

For $8.50 USD ($4.50 for Ecuadorians), you can ride the cable car, which is located in the vicinity of the Vulcan Theme Park at the base of the mountain, up to the top of Pichincha Rucu and walk around to all the lookout points. If you live in Quito, which I currently do, you live in the Pichincha Province. Many of the provinces in Ecuador are named after the volcanoes located nearby (i.e.Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Imbabura).

the rucu pichincha peak

It is highly recommended to go on a clear day, with blue skies and no clouds because you will be able to see the Avenue of Volcanoes on the horizon. Some of the highest volcanoes in the world are located in Ecuador, most of them still active.

Note: Your ears will pop, and your head will feel the pressure from being up so high. Drinking a lot of water will help. The weather is also much colder at the top so dress appropriately.

I have to mention the danger involved in exploring Pichincha Rucu because it is known by many here and noted in most Ecuadorian guidebooks. Tourists are extremely vulnerable up on the top. There have been robberies and assaults, mainly from those who start hiking from Quito. It is best to hike it with a group of people (at least 3) and on the weekends when there are a lot more people up there. Just be careful and take precautions.

a glimpse of quito below

If you go early in the day, you’ll be able to take the easy 5 hour hike to the Rucu Pichincha peak, which is one of three that are on the Pichincha volcano. The others are: Guagua Pichincha (active volcano) and Padre Encantado.

Otherwise, an afternoon spent walking around and simply admiring the beauty of Quito from an elevation of more than 14,000 feet is just as enjoyable. Getting to see the magnitude of the capital as it stretches in-between the valley of the moutnains is mind-blowing.

Escorted tours are also available.

If you are brave, you can hook your mountain bike up to your Teleferico car and ride the routes down the mountain. There are also horses available for $5/hr, including a hat and poncho, to ride on the trails.

Here is a video of my Pichincha Rucu excursion:

Some more pictures from my excursion.

hats and ponchos for horseback riders

horses are $5/hr to ride on the mountain

breath-taking scenery at pichincha

the rucu pichincha peak in the distance


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