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12/16 On the flight from Miami to Quito, I sat next to a very intelligent, well-informed lady and we talked politics the entire flight. As we arrived I asked her what she did and she turned out to be the wife of Ecuador痴 Ambassador to Spain. What a trip! When we arrived in Quito we found that some of our gear did not arrive with us. This is not a good feeling, but the next day it showed up intact. Whew!
12/17 Quito, the capital of Ecuador was a beautiful city in the mountains. We visited the Centro district and town square of the city and met three female police officers that took us all over the area and acted as tour guides. We saw a historic 16th century church and other sites. While walking on the streets, we (Dana, Tim and myself) saw a man trying to force a girl to kiss her (and take her away) while holding a pistol to her face. It was a shocking moment as we walked past them. No one did anything or they didn't see it. We had our first Ecuadorian food at Queva Del Oso inn downtown Quito and it was great. That night we stayed at the 4 star Swissotel, which we would return to two more times during the week. The hotel was great and had a first class spa with steam room, Jacuzzi, etc.
12/18 Our next stop was the coastal city of Manta. On the way there TAME airlines changed airplanes due to the weight of our equipment. We keep wreaking havoc on the airlines industry! In Manta we stayed at the Costa Del Sol Hotel right on the beach. Later in the afternoon we got to perform on board a navy ship, the Stephen W Groves. Although we had cover, the sailors were mostly in the hot sun and it was hard to get them going. Later in the show we turned Dana loose (since it was an all male crowd) and she did her steamy show to the boys and that brought the house down. It was truly something to see and something I doubt will ever happen again, since there is always at least one female at every show. Dana can tell you more. Next to the navy ship was a fishing vessel that had hundreds of large tuna they were unloading. Michael and I climbed into the truck with the fish. That evening Michael and I had dinner at El Gato Volador, an authentic Ecuadorian restaurant with great food and a very cool owner who talked with us and had us pose for photos with his female staff. We brought the entire band there the next morning for breakfast.
12/19 We left in the morning in a nice tour bus to go to Guayaquil, the largest city in the country. The drive was incredible and you'll have to see the photos to understand, but better yet hopefully we can visit again with the entire band. We stayed at Hotel Continental in the heart of downtown Guayaquil that was right across from the town square. In that town square were 50 to 100 Iguanas, which roamed freely and we totally harmless. We were able to pet them and take photos. Michael got the scare of his life when he was feeding one of them and another came running up behind him to steal the food. When Ike mentioned that there was another one behind him, Michael yelled and jumped like Michael Jourdan! Tim caught it all on video of course. We had dinner along the waterfront in Guayaquil (it's located in a bay) and then got ready to perform at the 50th anniversary of CEN, the U.S.-Ecuadorian cultural center. The audience was 80% Ecuadorian and there was a significant amount of girls age 15 to 22 who went crazy for the band. The reaction to Lady Marmalade and Mambo #5 was one of the best we've ever had. We catered our song selection to the crowd and did every Latin song we knew including Gloria Estephan, Macarena, Rickey Martin, etc. Dana did songs she's never done before and made it work. The girls swarmed the guys and they felt like rock star for the moment, but nothing like one of the shows to come. After the show, Dana and Ike saw 2 guys fighting in the street. They threw beer bottles at each-other and had stopped their car in the middle of the street.
12/20 We came back to Quito to perform at the U.S. Embassy. We were very tired but the show went well anyways. We played for U.S. and Ecuadorian staffs and dignitaries.
12/21 The drive from Quito to Ibarra was some of the nicest hillsides we've ever seen. On the way we stopped in Ecuador's most famous shopping town, Otovalo. That afternoon we arrived at the high school where we anticipated playing for one of our largest crowds ever. When we arrived almost 3 hours before the show there was already a crowd lining up outside. The show had been advertised on TV, radio and in the newspapers. Michael saw one of the ads on TV that featured clips from our video. Prior to arriving in Ibarra we had stopped at an eatery to grab lunch where we met an adorable little girl who wanted to say hi to everyone and kiss all of us. We gave her parents our card and invited them to the show and they told us they were already going and pulled out a newspaper with an ad featuring a photo of the band. At this point we were pretty excited but as we soon found out, things don't always go as planned in a third world country. When we got inside the h school there was a large stage set up in the middle of the field but no power source. Despite our efforts to obtain power we were forced to start the show more that an hour late. Many of the original 1500 people had already left and many of those that stayed walked out on the first song of two due to the lack of proper power and sound. It may have been the worst we ever sounded and yes, on potentially our biggest show. The approximately 500 that remained were did hard youngsters, mostly teen and pre-teen girls who treated us like we were the Beatles. Prior to the show Dana was mobbed by autograph seeking kids who marveled at her blonde hair and beauty. Not long after that I was mobbed by kids wanting a post card and autographs. During the show, girls blew kisses and hooted at the guys in the band and made it tolerable for us despite the sound problems. Then, as usually happens when we play outdoors, the rain hit us and we did our fastest tear down ever. Loads of people came on stage to try to help us and it got a bit crazy. We were lucky that nothing was stolen. The girls chased down Tim and Ike for autographs even during tear down and we had to ask people to give them some room. Girls were asking for kisses, email addresses and what hotel we were staying at that night. We had never had a show or reaction quite like this one! After the show we went to our hotel which was on a lake, Hotel Club Del Sol. Vinnie the owner was very kind to us and did not charge us for the rooms. During our dinner at the hotel restaurant the local TV station showed up and asked to interview the band. It was shown the next morning on local TV but we slept in and missed it. We are having a copy of the video mailed to us.
12/22 We spent the day shopping and sightseeing. We went to a volcano with a lake inside and then drove to Cotacachi where the quality and price of leather are some of the best in the world. Leather goods were 1/3 of prices in the states. Everyone bought something. Ike is already wearing his new leather jacket, which cost only $60 (and would have been over $200 in the states). I bought three leather jackets (2 beautiful ones for Lelit, one red and one long tan one) and could not believed the price. The only bummer was that everyone wished they had brought more cash. The town of Cotacachi was beautiful and its mayor is famous for being named the best mayor in the world by the United Nations. During the ride, Tim's new girlfriend Sophia painted his fingernails. He never looked so lovely! We then headed back for Quito and on the way stopped at the Equator. This was totally cool and each of us posed for photos with one foot in the southern hemisphere and one in the northern hemisphere. In the evening we performed at the U.S. Ambassadors home in Quito. After our awesome day we had only left ourselves one and 1/2 hours to set up and the guys pulled it off. Dana went to the hotel and ate, showered and got ready in less than one hour. No one complained and we actually made it on time. We did Pop sets (no rock) Christmas music and songs for the kids. It went over very well and we met the future U.S. Ambassador to Honduras who loved the band and even came up to sing with us on a Marvin Gaye tune. What a day!
We have several people to thank that helped make all this happen. First, Mr. John Field and Captain Kara Soules at AFE in Virginia for putting the tour together. Next, Frances N. Rauland in Ecuador for coordinating things on that end, and finally Maria (Toni) Parodi and her daughters Andrea and Sophia for being great tour guides and friends. They showed us a great time. Thanks!