Monday, April 26, 2010



We got up at 5:30 am and had breakfast. After breakfast,we walked out to a tower. The tower is built around a huge tree. It goes 40 meters (120 feet) up, so you are above the forest canopy. The view is amazing. We saw monkeys and a lot of birds. Then we walked out to a lake. On the way, I swung on some roots. It turns out, our guide told us, that what we think are vines are actually roots from strangler plants. When we got to the lake we paddled around in dugout canoes. Dugout canoes are very heavy and tippy.

Day 2
In the morning we took a boat ride up the river. On the boat ride we saw a parrot clay lick. The clay licks are clay banks full of vitamins and minerals, so the parrots eat the clay. Different types of parrots come at different times. Many other types of animals have clay licks, including Jaguars. Then we went up to a local village. The villagers live in bamboo houses on stilts. Since it is warm all year round, only their bedroom has walls. Most women in the village had ten or twelve kids. When someone needs a house, the whole village helps to build it, and it is finished in one day.

Piranha fishing

We went piranha fishining. You get a line with a piece of wire attatched between the hook and line. If there wasn't wire in between the hook and line, the piranhas would bite it off. I didn't catch a piranha, but my mom did. It was about 4 inches long, and they cooked it for us to eat. It didn't taste like fish, it really tasted like nothing.

Chocolate Factory in Mindo

We went on a chocolate factory tour. First the cacoa beans are put out to ferment for 6 days. If they are out for 5 days they aren\t nearly as good. If they are out for 7 days they are completely ruined. Then they go out in a green house to dry. They take 7-21 days to dry in the green house. Then they are roasted. They take 35 minutes to roast. If you don\t roast them for long enough, they have a taste like wine from fermenting. If you roast them for too long they get burned. You can smell them burning, but by then they are ruined. Then they are put through a Champion fruit juicer. Bigger companies have a special machine, but the fruit juicer works well. It crunches the cacoa beans around and removes the shells. Then they are dropped in front of a fan. The beans fall into a bowl and the shells get blown away. The beans have to go in front of the fan 4 times to get enough shells out. Then they go through the juicer again. This time the beans get powdered and fall through where the juice would go. After a few minutes the motor has heated up, and the cacoa powder comes out as a paste. It is pure cocoa and very bitter. Then some of it goes into a grinder which has 2 stone wheels close to each other. The grinding from the wheels melts the chocolate so it flows through. The grinding also makes it smooth. It stays in the grinder for 2-3 days. The rest of the paste goes into a press. The paste goes into a cylinder with a filter on the bottom. It is pressed down with a car jack and blow torched so it stays melted (again bigger companies have a special machine for these functions).  Under pressure, cocoa butter goes through the filter but the cacoa paste doesn't. The cocoa butter lookes like real butter, and is added to the chocolate in the grinder so it will set well when it cools. The pure chocolate left in the press is ground for hot chocolate. White chocolate is made from the cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is also used in lotion.


Baños is a hot springs town. It is the second most touristy place in Ecuador, with the Galapagos being the first. On the first day we went to a hotel which had hot springs. They also had a water slide, but it wasn't very steep, so you had to push yourself. The next day we went downhill to the next town. It was 20 km downhill, so we barely had to pedal. It was very fun.

Bella Vista

In Bella Vista, they had a dome where you ate meals. There were also rooms in the top of the dome. We stayed on the very top floor. The view was amazing because the walls of our room were totally glass. They had hummingbird feeders out. They had some bumble bee sized hummingbirds come to the feeder. We went one morning to see the Cock Of The Rock birds. A group of them come to one place to try and attract a mate. The males come and make a huge din. If a female comes, they start jumping up and down and flapping their wings while they screech even louder. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see a female come.

This is the dome.
Climbing up the ladder.

A new country

We are now in Quito, Ecuador. It is one of the world's highest capital cities at 9,800 feet (3000 meters) elevation. We are staying in the Old Town part of Quito. Some of the buildings are 450 years old. The buildings have huge carved-wood doors. There are also a lot of churches in the Old Town. The San Francisco church was built in the 1500's. Two Sundays a month there are no cars allowed in the Old Town. We were there on one of the Sundays. It is nice because you can just walk in the street. There are also lots of people on bikes because when  there are cars, there isn't any space to ride a bike. We walked to the Basilica Del Voto Nacional. It is a 1920's church were you can climb up the tower. The tower is 17 stories high, and you can climb right up to the top.  There is also a restaurant on the 9th floor and a gift shop on the 8th floor. The tower doesn't look very big in the picture, but the clock is about 12 feet (3.5 meters) across. You can see the whole city from the top of the church.  We took the cable cars up a mountain just outside of Quito. In ten minutes, you go from 9800 feet to 13451 feet. It was the highest place I have ever been. The air was very thin and you got out of breath just walking around. The view over Quito was amazing. You could see Quito and the surrounding hills.