Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Years

Well, here we are at the two year anniversary of this blog. On October 31, 2007, I started tracking the numbers of visitors to esteeucador with clustermaps. Since then, the site has been visited 5,567 times. Now, that's pretty cool. The map for this year looks like this:

That's a bunch of dots, in a ton of diverse places. I'm flattered. I have to say that the word probably got out because of the Ecuador Reporter, and I would like to thank Tom and Kathleen for their support of "The Blue Footed Booby."

As I've said before, this blog will be slowing down in the next months. I'm living in Turkey now, and it seemed best to start a new blog about my experiences in the Middle East. We thought about calling it este-pavo, but I settled on nargileistan. Nargile is the Turkish name for the ever-present water pipes here in Turkey. And, istan, I believe, means country of men with beards. Anyway, it works. Please visit, bookmark, or subscribe to the new blog. www.nargileistan.blogspot.com

Maybe one day the list of visitors to that blog can look as cool as the people who have visited this one:

United States (US)1,382
Ecuador (EC)342
Australia (AU)58
Canada (CA)56
United Kingdom (GB)54
Turkey (TR)50
Colombia (CO)40
Venezuela (VE)37
Germany (DE)30
Italy (IT)24
Peru (PE)23
Spain (ES)17
Netherlands (NL)16
Malaysia (MY)14
Thailand (TH)12
Philippines (PH)11
Saudi Arabia (SA)11
Bolivia (BO)10
Panama (PA)10
Korea, Republic of (KR)10
Bulgaria (BG)9
Indonesia (ID)9
Mexico (MX)9
Honduras (HN)9
France (FR)9
Iran, Islamic Republic of (IR)9
Pakistan (PK)8
Romania (RO)8
China (CN)8
Chile (CL)8
United Arab Emirates (AE)8
Dominican Republic (DO)8
Belgium (BE)7
Japan (JP)7
India (IN)7
Vietnam (VN)7
Norway (NO)6
Argentina (AR)6
New Zealand (NZ)5
Kuwait (KW)5
Brazil (BR)5
Georgia (GE)5
South Africa (ZA)5
Finland (FI)4
Uruguay (UY)4
Greece (GR)4
Trinidad and Tobago (TT)4
Russian Federation (RU)4
Nicaragua (NI)4
Bhutan (BT)4
Costa Rica (CR)4
Sweden (SE)4
Poland (PL)3
Austria (AT)3
Brunei Darussalam (BN)3
Sri Lanka (LK)3
Hong Kong (HK)3
Oman (OM)3
Algeria (DZ)3
Switzerland (CH)3
Serbia (RS)2
Montenegro (ME)2
Slovakia (SK)2
Qatar (QA)2
Lithuania (LT)2
Jamaica (JM)2
Netherlands Antilles (AN)2
Jordan (JO)2
Hungary (HU)2
Morocco (MA)2
Portugal (PT)2
Cyprus (CY)2
Mongolia (MN)1
Estonia (EE)1
Denmark (DK)1
Ukraine (UA)1
Czech Republic (CZ)1
Ireland (IE)1
Israel (IL)1
Guatemala (GT)1
Puerto Rico (PR)1
Cayman Islands (KY)1
Senegal (SN)1
Madagascar (MG)1
Zambia (ZM)1
Singapore (SG)1
Togo (TG)1
Namibia (NA)1
Egypt (EG)1
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA)1
Croatia (HR)1
Europe (EU)1
Albania (AL)1
Syrian Arab Republic (SY)1
Lebanon (LB)1
Malta (MT)1
Liechtenstein (LI)1

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The last BFB article

Here is a reprint of the last article I wrote for the Ecuador Reporter. Does anyone know if it is still being printed in Quito? I hope so.

Also, I still have WAY more people checking this blog, than checking my new blog about Turkey. Maybe more folks are traveling to Ecuador, but, eventually, this page will stop getting updates and everything will shift to


Until then,

The BFB…slows it down

I’ve been in Ecuador for two years now. In those two years, I’ve been to Otavalo once, I’ve never been to a beach besides Canoa, and I’ve never set foot in the jungle. I leave Ecuador in 25 days and have no regrets about any of this.

There are many tourists who come to Ecuador for two weeks and manage to see more than what I have seen in two years. But do they really? I remember a course I took in college, called “Traveling the world, from Gulliver to Kerouac.” In it, we studied travel, travel literature, and our own travel habits. One of the more salient points of the course was that travelers move with purpose; they have a specific destination or goal in mind for their escapades. Travelers also move slower, and spend more time getting to know the areas and communities they visit. It’s actually a movement now in the travel community—slow travel. The philosophy revolves around less use of the guidebook and passport, and more use of language and observation.

Three years ago my wife and I decided to embrace this philosophy in a six week trip to Nicaragua. Instead of spending our six weeks collecting passport stamps in Central America, we opted to stay in one town for our entire trip. In San Juan Del Sur we fell into a routine. Every morning we would catch a dawn patrol of surfing with our new friends. In the afternoons we would take Spanish lessons. Every night we would go to the same restaurants where we would sit and get to know the owners and locals—marveling at their stories and their sentiments. When the ocean swells were low we volunteered at the local library, taking books to kids who lived deep in the Nicaraguan jungle. On our last night, we danced till sunrise in the local club. It seemed that we knew everyone there. We may not have seen every corner of Nicaragua, but the corner we did see was one to remember.

As I look back at my time here in Ecuador, I realize that I have been lucky enough to travel through it slowly. As a climber, I was immediately enveloped into a community from the first day I arrived. Through my climbing community, I’ve traveled through Ecuador. We’ve stayed at flea-ridden cheap hotels, we’ve summited snowy mountains, and we’ve soaked in hot springs after a long day of climbing. I’ve hosted Polish-climber students from Yale at my house, I’ve traveled to Colombia and stayed with friends of friends at the foot of an amazing three-mile cliff, and I’ve learned every single filthy word in the Spanish language from the “juevons” at the local climbing gym. These are the experiences I will take from Ecuador; not the time I got an indigenous woman in Otavalo to drop her price 50 cents on an alpaca blanket or the time I took my photo on the equator.

Of course, divorcing yourself from Lonely Planet and buying a climbing harness isn’t necessary to travel slowly. The first step is to take a hard look at your vacation itinerary. Will you be spending more time on busses than in towns and villages? Where are you staying when you travel? Are you staying in a hostel with a bunch of other gringos surfing facebook—or are you staying with a family in a homestay or couch-surfing with a local? Finally, and most importantly, what’s the purpose for your trip? Finding purpose is often what tips the scales from tourist to traveler. The ultimate slow-travelers I met in Ecuador are a group of mountain bikers who are sloooowwwwlllly (without ever using paved roads) mountain biking from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Their purpose is to travel the length of two continents under their own power, and on their own schedule; reaping the intrinsic rewards of slow travel along the way. It would be nice if we could all take three years off and slowly ride down the continents, but it doesn’t matter if your purpose is a mission trip or a mountain bike adventure. The key is to have one, and then follow it passionately…and slowly.

This is the BFB’s last column for the Ecuador Reporter. He is moving to Turkey where he hopes to find his purpose in whirling dervishes and hookah pipes. His blog is at www.esteecuador.blogspot.com

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The BFB, plays Ecuadorian Frogger

I missed posting a few BFB articles, so here is one that never made it to the blog. Check it out, and don't forget that I am eventually only going to be posting on my new Turkey blog, www.nargileistan.blogspot.com

The BFB, plays Ecuadorian Frogger

Running in Quito is a bit like playing Frogger. Frogger, if you recall, was one of the first popular video games from the 80’s in which you had to maneuver your frog across a busy street without meeting an untimely, and very flat, death. Luckily, I don’t have to date myself by accepting credit for this moniker; my friend Andrew coined it as I took him on a running tour of the streets of Quito last year. Narrowly avoiding a collision with a lane changing taxi, Andrew yelled out, “Shit, this is like playing Ecuadorian Frogger!”

To be sure, running in the streets of Quito is not for the faint of heart. The lack of oxygen makes any endurance sport at 10,000 feet difficult. The smog quadruples it. The cars speed, shift lanes, and seem to be of the general viewpoint that any piece of pavement is a driving space reserved for their exclusive use. Street dogs rejoice in chasing runners, and men revel in hissing at female ones. So why do it? For the challenge. For the authenticity. For the bitter-sweet taste of adventure that running in the suburbs lacks.

Quito is rugged, gritty, dirty, and yet it’s surrounded by majestic Andean mountains. Running in the city puts you in touch with the smells, the sounds--the potholes, and the pollution. And, when you start looking at the features of the city less as obstacles, and more as a jungle gym, endless opportunities come to light. Run through the narrow streets and squares of old town. Try your hand at the steep stairs of Guapulo. Join in the collective fun of running through Parque Carolina as you stop to bounce off some sculptures, crank out a few pull-ups, or join in the weekend morning outdoor group-aerobics class. If you need some motivation, check out the 5,000 hit-popular YouTube video, Quito Soul, where my friends Brett and Bennett demonstrate their free-style running skills. Ecuador isn’t meant to be seen from a taxi or a tour bus, it’s meant to be seen from the pavement and from the tops of mountains.

I know running through lanes of moving traffic isn’t for everybody, and my wife would reprimand me if I made it seem like that was your only option for enjoying a run in Quito. Up above the Batan Alto neighborhood is the relatively safe, quiet, and beautiful Parque Metropolitano. In Metropolitano you can run through miles of dirt trails hinged by groves of Eucaliptus trees. The park is up out of the valley, and so the pollution isn’t quite as much of a challenge. Usually the only dogs you encounter are monitored by owners, and there are still lots of jungle gyms, sculptures, and exercise stations to cross train with as you run.

Finally, Ecuador hosts some excellent road races. It’s a different experience running a race in Quito; nobody lines up by pace, water is passed out in plastic bags instead of cups, and race packets come with items like hot-dog coupons and bottles of ketchup instead of Powerbars; but the races are well organized, safe, and fun. Coming up in June is the popular Ultimas Noticias 15K, which runs through Old Town and ends with half a lap around the Olympic Stadium. Then, in October is the Ruta de las Iglesias, which runs at night through the beautifully lit-up churches. Finally, in November, my favorite race is the half-marathon to the middle of the world, where the finish line is literally, the equator. Just look both ways before you cross it.

Info Box:

Running Website:

Race Information/Registration: http://www.vidactiva.com.ec

Running Stores:

Yes! You can get GU, Powerbars, Gait Analysis, Sports Bras, Polar Watches, and more:

Silvio Guerra Sports. Centro Comercial Caracol Locales 9, 10, and 11 (Across from Tony Roma’s on Amazonas and Nacionas Unidas) - Phone (02) 2258 027

Podium Sports Store. Luxemburgo N34-340 y Poturgal, Edf. Braganza T (Near Mr. Bagel): (02) 3331509

Running Safety:

Try not to run alone

Always tell someone where you are going, and when you plan on returning

Do not run at dawn, dusk, or night in the parks

Don’t run with an i-pod

Carry Pepper Spray (available at Kiwi) for dogs, and other “pests”

Don’t repeat your running routes/times…thieves look for patterns

In Metropolitano, try to stay on the main trails unless it is a weekend

Pack a little TP, and a dollar coin for some water at the end of your run

The BFB is training for the return of Brett and Bennett to Quito this June, keep an eye out on the streets for some frogger action, and check out www.esteecuador.blogspot.com for their excellent videos.