John, Truman, Kay, Mikayla, Jackie and I all piled into a pickup truck and headed up a dirt road toward the town of Quilitoa. I busted out a package of Oreos to share with everyone. It was delicious! Nothing like Oreos to enjoy a long truck ride through the mountains in Ecuador.
Quilitoa is a beautiful, tiny, and semi indiginous town up in the mountains. It is positioned right on the edge of Laguna Quilitoa. Laguna Quilitoa is a lake that formed in the very center of a once active volcano. It is breathtakingly beautiful!!! It looks like one mountain in the shape of a circle with a lake in its center. When we arrived in Quilitoa we left our things in a hostel run by a local family and went to explore the laguna. We watched the sun set over the mountains on one side of us and enjoyed the view of the lake on the other side. It was a perfect way to spend the evening before heading back to the hostel for dinner.
The hostel was adorable! For $10 per night (per person) we got our room plus dinner and breakfast. And since it was so cold up there they lit a fire in our fireplace that kept us warm all through the night. We all sat down together for a candel-lit dinner. Since there has not been much rain to power the electricity lately most places turn off the power at night. So for dinner we had...i dont remember. But I had told them I was a vegetarian earlier and they said they would give me an egg instead. But they brought me a plate with chicken on it and I reminded them I was a vegetarian and they took the plate back to the kitchen. They brought it back a minute later minus the chicken. Haha!
That night we all went outside an laid down and looked at the hundreds of stars in the sky.
So to pick up where I left off....
The next morning Most of us woke up to watch the sun rise over the mountains on the opposite side of the Laguna. A word about me and how I travel: I like to travel leisurely but I do not like to waste my time doing senseless things like unpacking and repacking my bags or sleeping when I could be watching the sun rise. When I decide I am ready to go somewhere and do something I am ready to go and usually put my patience to the test waiting for members of my group to get ready. Usually I am ok with this, but that morning I was not waiting for anyone to get dressed because the sun was close to rising. So I told them where I would be and headed out with my blanket, a mango, a pocket knife, my journal and colored pencils. They ended up not finding me, but I absolutely enjoyed the sunrise. I ate my mango with my pocket knife (which is one of the best things I bought before I came, mangos and pocketknifes make a perfect snack). Then I drew a picture of the sunrise, snapped some photos and did some yoga. what a beautiful way to begin the day...
So to pick up where I left off....
After a breakfast of bread, yogurt, tea, cereal and eggs our group split up to do different things. 3 motivated individuals set off for a 5 hour hike around the ridgeline of the Volcan. One girl stayed near the hostel to read. And Kay and I hiked down to the Laguna where we rented a canoe for $2.50 from a beautiful indiginous 16 year old and her younger brother. We put on life jackets, were given paddles and without so much as a "stay safe" were pushed off shore and onto the lake. Beautiful!!! Just to think that we were floating on water right where a volcano had once exploded...
I brought out my journal and some watercolors and colored pencils and Kay and I occupied a few hours with drawing, painting, writing, and of course paddling. When we were all done we hiked about 2 hours back up the side of the volcano for the hostel. Upon arriving in town we were thirsty so we stopped by the store and I bought the first thing I saw which I thought was peach juice in a box. Turns out it was wine. Made for a fun afternoon hanging out outside the hostel in the grass waiting for the other members of our group to return.
That night we all piled in a pickup truck and rode about half an hour to Chugchilan. We spent the evening hanging out in the town square, eating a delicious pasta alfredo meal at the hostel and looking at the stars. There were THOUSANDS of stars. More stars than I had ever seen before in my life! This town is in the middle of nowhere and the electricity had been turned off at 6. The only light came from a few candles and a lightning storm in the distance. We saw 10 shooting stars in about half an hour.
The next morning we all woke up at 3 AM (the only time a bus came) and got on a bus to Latacunga for the Independence Holiday with a parade in honor of Mama Negra. We arrived in Latacunga at 7 30 AM, slept in our hostel for a couple hours, then headed out into the town to experience the parade. Usually people go to watch a parade. But this parade is an experience. Bands march past and men will pull you up into the parade to dance with them for a minute. People walk past with huge pots full of somekindof fruity alcohol stuff and ladels to feed it to whoever will open their mouth along the parade. Men come past with shot glasses and alcohol to give the the girls. Men dressed as women filter through the parade with WHIPS. I think they were to keep the crowd back? But some of them were drunk and I was sure to keep my distance from them...Others came by in packs of three or four people dressed in whit. They picked out a tourist girl or any local chica they could. They danced in a circle around her chanting all the named of mountains and volcanoes they could and then sprayed alcohol on her by spitting it out of their mouth. And the occasional group had the girl take a swig of the alcohol also. And then they asked for a ´donation.´ In case you are wondering, yes, I was baptized by one of these groups with my group of friends.
There were soooooo many people at the parade. When we were walking through a crowd suddenly the crowd felt even more crowded. A few women and a boy squeezed their way through my group of friends and friends of friends that consisted of about 10 people. I had had my watch on the straps of my bag. I felt someone messing with it and looked back and made eye contact with the 40-something man who had tried to steal my watch. I didnt have words to say to him. But I believe my eyes and even his eyes said it all. Suddenly my friend was yelling, "she stole my phone!!!" And then a woman pushed through us yelling "Excuse me!" frantically. That my friends was a pack of robbers. Luckily, yet sadly, the only thing stolen was a phone.
After the parade and crowds we rested in a little bar\restraunt. It was cute, uncrowded, and played salsa, merengue and regatone music until and live band came. By about dark we all retired to our hostel and hung out while the city erupted into chaos. I believe we had the best view of the city. Our hostel was on the third floor and had a window the length of our room that overlooked the town square where all the festivities were. One of the most interesting\scarey things we saw from the window was about 20 guys all walking towards One guy. That guy was backing away quickly. One of the men tried to kick him but fell backwards (haha) and the one guy ran. We did not see any more of that story...they were out of our view.
The next day we collected dust. I mean to say, we were lazy. The three girls we had met en route to Quilitoa headed back to Quito. John, Truman and I hung around the hostel most of the day. We went to an interned cafe (where I wrote the previous post) and then cought a bus to Machachi.
Machachi is a town just south of Quito. Not many tourists go there. The locals could not take their eyes off of us three backpackers. We ran into 2 backpackers (a father and son) from France who showed us to the hotel they were staying at. It costed $5 per night. ¨That is fine with us¨ we thought. haha.
When we arrived to the hostel the 10 year old boy led us (four men and me) to a large room and asked us if we were here just for now (for a few hours) or for the night. !!!!. Four men and me? Sorry kid, I dont think so. Number 1: to of these men already have a room here. And Number 2: We would like one room with three beds for the night. Thank you. I am not sure what kind of place that was...but when John sat on his bed half of the mattress fell through.
That night we ate a few more mangos with pocket knifes. Then while cutting a pineapple John cut his hand. Truman and I set off into the night and came back 10 minutes later with bandaids. The boys also surprised me with a package of Oreos which we ate to celebrate me being half way through my trip! I have completed 38 of my 76 days here! Oreos are great.
The next morning we met up with the Frenchmen and loaded ourselves into another pickup and rode to the start of our hike of Volcan Corazon (Heart Volcano). This volcano is about 15,800 feet tall. We hiked for 5 hours and made it to the ridgeline which I am guessing was 14,000 or 14,500 feet. It was absolutely beautiful! Over the other side of the ridgeline were clouds and more amazing mountains. We all wanted to hang out longer on the top, but the clouds were rolling in and it was getting late in the day (2:00) so we hiked the 2 and a half hours down. That was a strenuous hike. But it was beautiful and well worth it. I dont know if you have ever been at a high altitude before but when you are you become somewhat silly. You gotta experience it to know what I am talking about...
When we got down our trio sat on the side of the road with our bags and waited for a pickup truck we were sure would come by. I cut open a mango with my handy-dandy pocket knife. What a perfect way to relax. And sure enough a truck drove by just as we finished eating it. So we hopped in for our ride to the Panamerican Highway (which stretches from Alaska to the tip of S. AM) where we would catch our bus to Quito. Along the way a few families of locals packed into the back of the truck also. I could not help but laugh. My hands were still dripping with mango juice, I was as dirty as I have ever been from the hike (and maybe a few days without a proper shower because of lack of electrity\water or hot water), and, once again, we were all packed into the back of a truck for a 25 cent ride. Oh how I love Ecuador.
Just before getting on the bus we stumbled upon a little cafe where I ate the best meal I have ever had for $1.75. It was rice, two fried eggs, french fries and salad all covered in spicy ahi sauce. The perfect meal after a 7 hour hike.
We rode a bus back to Quito, got on a few more busses. And at La Marin at about 7:00 Truman, John and I said goodbye. Truman and John have been great travelling companions. I dont know what I would have done, or would not have done without them. Thanks guys! We made a great travel group: John the logical and enthusiastic one, Truman the more quiet but profound and motivating one and me...the girl on the group with the lonely plantet book and always having food. Oh yea, and on the hike yesterday I brought a Maple Nut Cliff Bar I had brought with me from the US. If you have not had one of these go out and buy one and please eat it for me. I brought two cliff bars with me on this trip and wish I would have brought a crate of them. They.are.HEAVEN.
After telling my boys goodbye I hopped on the Ecovia bus to Rio Coca, got on the Calon Camel from there and then got off at Rio Amazonas and walked the few blocks from there to Patrick´s (my volunteer program coordinator) hostel. I am in love with Quito. And I am really starting to figure out my way around. When I arrived at Hostel Jhomana the electricity was out but I was still able to take the most amazing and surprisingly warm shower. Then I stayed up for an hour talking with the man at the front desk: A 22 year old named Pablo who is studying to be a tourist guide and wants to practice English and agreed to help me with some Spanish. After an hour I was content to crawl into my bed at about 10 and sleep. I slept for 10 hours straight.
I woke up at 8, did some yoga to stretch out my muscles from yesterday, had breakfast and now here I am at the South American Explorers Clubhouse.
The South American Explorers Club is a club you can join for $60. There are clubhouses in Quito, Lima, Cusco and Buenos Aires. You can leave luggage at the clubhouses, receive mail there, rent rooms, use internet, exchange books and movies, check out books, access travel information and reviews of all kids of places and companies plus you receive 5-10% discounts at most hostels and restraunts. I saw it as being worth it for me because I have a bag I want to leave here in Quito and would have spent more than $60 to leave it somewhere safe.
Today is my last day in Quito.
Tomorrow morning at 7:20 AM I fly to Lima, Peru where my friend Claudia will be picking me up. I met Claudia while we were both working at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Edwards this winter. She is from Peru and I am so excited to go visit her!
PS If you do want to send me any mail I will be in the Cusco area from about Nov. 20 to Dec. 11. My address (the Cusco Clubhouse) is:
Choquechaca 188, No. 4