Updated: May 18, 2021
January 4, 2021
Adventuring! Off to a new part of the world for me. It would not be true if I said I wasn’t a little nervous... but maybe that’s just excitement. I’ve got a very loose plan and only the first hotel reserved. (Thank goodness I had my mask to protect me from the chem-fog from the anti-hysteria wipes the lady next to me was mopping her seat down with. I choked back a coughing fit for fear of starting a panic! After she had a couple Chardonnay’s she pulled her masked off and chatted me up at 3 feet from my face. (internal sterilization)
ECUADOR January, 2021
January 5, 2021
I'm off to Quito, Ecuador! I have a loose itinerary but will wait to see how I acclimate to the altitude before making any decisions. Ecuador's capitol city is at 9350 feet and I’m feeling a little funky, but some of that may be the long journey and lack of sleep...and the aforementioned chem-fog from the plane. I’m also feeling an intense awareness of my Gringa status. The streets are full of people and not another gringo in sight. I checked into the Casa Montero and am the only guest. The man who is at the desk was welcoming and so friendly and will make me breakfast in the morning I had a hot shower and ate my half sandwich left over from the plane and am cozy in bed at 5:30pm. I chose between the Ellen show and CNN on the tv, which are in English ...fluff or propaganda. In the morning I’ll head over to the Tourist office and see if I can find a guide to drag me around town and tell me important things.
Januar 6, 2021
This morning I woke to the sound of a deranged woman screaming something in the plaza across the street from my hotel. I stood at the window looking out to the wakening city and was aware of how out of place I felt...and uncomfortable in these surroundings. After pulling myself together, I went up to the rooftop terrace for my breakfast for one. My hotel host answered some questions for me and suggested I go to the tourist office to hire a guide for a city walking tour.
The tourist office is run by the civic police and my guide was a beautiful, young woman in a tidy police uniform. As we walked through the historical center of the city I leaned in close to try to understand what she was saying, with her accent, through the mask. It was challenging but I caught enough to get the gist of what she was trying to tell me. She gave me the history of Quito and the indigenous peoples and the religious back stories of the buildings. We stood in the shadows in a beautiful church during a service. And she took me to visit the shop of a metal artist. Hungry, tired and dehydrated, I headed back toward Casa Montero and grabbed a couple of empanadas for dinner on the way.
The rest of the day was spent figuring out my next move...trying to wrap my brain around public transportation and how to get where I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do.
Quito - Cotopaxi - Sigchos
January 7, 2021
I really didn't know what to expect for today, which was great because there is less of a chance of disappointment if one isn't really expecting anything. But there was absolutely no way I would have been disappointed. It was an awesome day.
I think I've only hired a guide or tour one other time when traveling. Yesterday I was trying to not only plan a tour to hike Cotopaxi volcano but also try to figure out how to get to my next destination as easily as possible. Many of the tour guides I checked with wouldn't take just one person but I finally found Luis of Ecuador Best Tours and he said he would take me up the volcano AND drop me off at my next town as well.
After breakfast in Quito I met up with Luis and we drove south down the Pan American Highway to Cotopaxi National Park where we rapidly climbed in altitude. We saw herds of wild horses and an enormous Andean Condor.... huge birds with up to 10 foot wingspans. The landscape felt wild...but it is beautiful.
Luis parked the car at 15,000 feet and we started the hike up to the Refugio José Ribas. For most people, that is the stopping point. For the serious hikers it is the base for the night before climbing to the 19,347 foot summit (no thank you). It takes most people between 45 minutes to an hour to make it from the parking area to the Refugio and only about 15 minutes coming down. I took it slowly enough to not be completely out of breath, but I'm not going to lie...I was happy to arrive at the 15,953 foot stopping point. Inside we warmed up with some coca tea and headed back down.
Before leaving the park we stopped to walk around Laguna Limpiopungo, an alpine lake at a bit shy of 13,000 feet, then we continued for a couple of hours up to the small mountain town of Sigchos where I will begin my 3 day hike to Quilatoa crater tomorrow morning.
Tonight I am staying at a very "rustic" hostel in Sigchos. It is a bit outside of town and I won't be walking back into town for dinner, so it's a packet of Emergen-C and beef jerky from my snack bag for me tonight!
And...note "hostel"... which means "shared bathroom", which isn't my favorite situation. The good news? I am the only guest. The awkward news? The bathroom is located 3.5 feet from the front office desk where Victor the owner is sitting.
I am currently sitting in my bed next to the window overlooking Rocky the llama in his yard below. There are about 4 blankets on the bed and I' m still fully dressed in 2-3 layers...shivering. Thankfully I brought a silk sleeping bag liner that I may pull out for the night. The thought of going down the stairs and nuding up to get in the shower, in this cold, and just feet from Victor is the fear that I will face for the day. #personalgrowth
PS. Eventually I did go down to see about a shower. In my troubled Spanish I asked if there was hot water for the shower, and Victor went into the kitchen and brought me a cup of hot water. I took it upstairs and made some tea and summoned up my courage to try again. This time, I just went into the shower stall, turned on the water and when it didn't get warm, I quickly attended the necessities and got out. After getting into my long underwear and under the assortment of blankets on the bed, I noted that all the shivering had warmed me up and I drifted off to sleep in mix of gratitude and excitement.
January 8, 2021
Sigchos to Isinlivi
2900 meters starting - 2950 meters finishing
… but it was the 1446 ft descent and the 1632 foot ascent in between that beat me down.
I had a good enough sleep at the Starlight Inn and woke to look out the window at Rocky the llama standing in the rain. I took a second to assess my personal wreckage in my phone-photo-mirror and thought that in comparison, Rocky looked pretty good.
Victor’s sweet, tiny little wife made me a big and interesting breakfast. First came out a soup bowl of diced apples and bananas, accompanied by a small glass of a peach flavored, milkish smoothie item. Next out was a plate of scrambled eggs with some wonderful smelling herbs and something that looked like an Egg-o waffle. This was all followed up with what appeared to be a bowl of coconut, chocolate cereal and a tall glass of mystery juice, a cup of hot water, tea bags and instant coffee. Now, even though I only had a couple of packets of Emergen-C and a dose of beef jerky for dinner, there is no way I could put down that kind of volume. I felt bad leaving some behind. (PS, the Egg-o waffle item seems to have been like an Ecuadorian toaster empanada, but not bad for processed food)
I completed my very marginal dental hygiene (dry brushing) up in my room due to the weird bathroom situation and saddled up to head out. When I came down the stairs to leave, I was met with the sweetest little matted doggy face. From reading their hostel website, I knew this had to be Rambo the dog. He was hungry for attention and had the coat of one of the street dogs you see being rescued in those horrible social media videos. He saw me off with a kiss on the cheek. I was a dozen yards down the road when Victor’s sweet wife called out with a wave and goodbye in her pjs. Warm fuzzies.
Thankfully the rain had stopped around 7 so when I started out at 9 I had incredible views all around. The mountain slopes are seriously steep and almost every acre is being farmed with something….potatoes, corn, broccoli, cabbage, onions…and things I didn’t recognize. My guide from yesterday told of how all the older people kind of waddle because their knees are so shot from carrying the huge loads of produce down from the fields. I get it.
After a few minutes on the road I checked my map app and saw that I must have already missed a turn off from the road. Thankfully it was just a matter of a few yards and correcting course was easy. This trail took me down a heavily overgrown, steep path that would shortcut to the road below. I had some mixed feelings of excitement and amazement and some humor. Who IS this old lady packing through the middle of nowhere Andean mountains? I hardly recognize myself!
It was warming up so stopped to take off my scarf and rain jacket. I still had under layers on both top and bottom and a wool sweater, which later proved to be a bad choice. Once I hit the road below I heard approaching trucks about every 15 minutes. They each gave a honk and a wave as they passed. Eventually I reached the base of the canyon and crossed the river. Getting to the bottom is bad news…it always means that going UP is next. It makes it more difficult when the lowest elevation of the day is at 8400 feet. Anyway, up by winding road, lead to up by small cow path, which lead to up by grossly steep one foot in front of another path and through a gate into someone’s pasture. At this point both of my map apps were pointing in opposite directions so I chose the one that looked more right and continued to head up.
In the Sierras when I’m struggling with altitude and up-titude I just take 100 steps at a time and stop to breathe and look around. Well…50 steps were the max for a bit, and then that reduced to 15-25 that I could handle at a time. At one point on the switchback above me I heard moos and hoof steps and looked up to see a little señora de la vaca herding about 10 cows down the path. I quickly mooved over but the cows got spooked and she had a few split off from the pack. I gave a “lo siento” and continued up while she ran after the wayward few. The next hour was a slow, sweaty slog up through mud and cow mud. Stopping to breathe, I looked back down the trail to see the angry looking little cow-gal blazing up behind me while carrying a whole milk can. I tried with everything I had to stay ahead of her, but in defeat had to pull off the trail and sit down while she passed me. I got no love from her as she went by.
Thrilled to get off the little trail and back onto the road, I made it the last 2 miles or so into Isinlivi and found the Llu Llu Llama hostel. Santiago showed me around and to my “garden cottage”, room #2, which is …. well…wonderful. Beautifully simple, and comfortable…with my own private bathroom and heating stove in the corner. Though hot and sweaty on my way up and up, it quickly cooled off and I’m back to feeling chilly. I’ll join the other hikers for communal dinner at 7pm and have Santiago light me a fire for a warm and cozy sleep.
PS. When I arrived I met a gal from LA who is traveling alone. Two other younger couples are here as well. Dinner together will be interesting to hear everyone’s story.
January 9, 2021
Today was a beautiful, peaceful, slow paced rest day. I spent some time cozy in bed with tea doing some reading, then wandered around on the farmland roads above town, enjoying the solitude and nature. It is well with my soul.
January 10, 2021
Isinlivi to Chugchilán
Supposed to be 7.7 miles or something but my records show I went 9.
I thought I had actually found the literal hill that I was going to die on today.
There were more than a few times when I thought my heart might actually give out.
The map information says this leg should take between 4-6. hours and I made it in 5.5, even with the extra mile or so and recalculating a few wrong turns. The leg tomorrow is supposed to be the hardest of the three and I decided a long time ago that I would, somehow, somewhere find a ride, pay any price to not have another day anything like today. It was a great accomplishment, but I am finished!
Santiago had suggested an alternative route for getting me to Chugchilan today. While the younger Canadian couple set out to go Up and Over the mountain, Santiago let me know there was a friendlier route that went Around the mountain. I followed his instructions on where to turn off the Up and Over trail...but from there things got a little dicey. I wandered through muddy culverts and overgrown path ways. More than a few times I lost any sign of a trail. I went through barbed wire gates, over fences and under fences. Somewhere along the way I lost my glasses so, that's going to make thing interesting for the rest of the trip! But every time I began to feel a little uneasy about being lost in the Andes, God, as he so often does, gave me a little sign, a spray painted rock or post that assured me I was going the right way.
Long beyond the time I had nothing left in me, I arrived at the Cloud Forest Hostel in Chugchilán, While enjoying a joyously and painfully hot shower I could hear the sky unleashing a torrential down pour outside. I feel strong, sore, and incredibly grateful for the experience I've had today and for the grace and mercy of God!
(Without my glasses I can barely see what Im trying to write and the photos to post!)
January 11-12, 2021
Chugchilan to Quilatoa
The”dad” from the Cloud Forest mountain hostel gave me a ride to the town of Quilatoa on the rim the the old volcanic crater. I have absolutely zero shame for not hiking the last leg of the journey. The altitude is absolutely lung and soul crushing to me! Anyway he brought me right to the door of The Runa Wasi hostel just about 100 yards from the rim. Once again, I am the only guest. Jorge, who does EVERYTHING here doesn’t speak any English but we have managed thus far. He fixes me breakfast and dinner which I certainly can’t complain about. Interestingly there is always some Helen Reddy soundtrack playing in the dining room. From my window I look out onto a hillside where there are some horses and mules tied up and a couple of pigs rooting around. Mules are used to carry weary hikers up from inside the crater after they walk down and decide that they don’t wanna walk back up. Anyway, after arriving yesterday I headed up to the rim to get a look inside. It really was one of those Grand Canyon gasp moments. Takes your breath away. I saw a cute little boy who charges to take your picture with his alpaca. He said he would take my photo for a dollar. The kid was probably only seven years old but he worked that iPhone camera like a pro and took about 15 pictures from all different angles. Every single one of them is pretty good. I figured it was at least worth two dollars.
Jorge de la hostel came in and lit my stove in the corner of my room to get things warmed up and then a little later I enjoyed some chicken foot soup and a nice plate of vegetables, rice and some type of white meat ...I’m pretty sure it wasn’t guinea pig. This morning my ambition was to hike around the entire rim of the crater which is about 8 miles and takes about 5 to 6 hours. Having nothing but time on my hands, I walked slowly and found a comfortable place on the grass to sit and watch the clouds cast shadows on the lake below and contemplate stuff and think about how peace is a choice, and how grateful I am for that.
Back at the hostel Google Translate helped me ask Jorge if he knew someone who he would trust to give me a ride to the town of Baños the following morning. He quickly made the arrangements and I was happy to have that squared away. Now I'm just focused on some food. I'm hungry and hoping he skips the chicken feet for dinner tonight.
January 13, 2021
Quilatoa-12,700 feet to Bańos-5600 feet
This trip has been way out of my comfort zone on many levels. I’ve had some comments about me being brave…but honestly, I’ve been on the uneasy side at least a little bit each day.
I’m not fancy, so having to have prime lodging isn’t a necessity but some of the places I've been staying at have been pretty rough. The people are warm and gracious and lovely and I’ve never felt “unsafe”, but I’ve felt a bit hyper-tense these last few days.
Most people I’ve seen are living at a deep level of poverty. Areas that depend on tourism have obviously taken a very big hit. I do appreciate that nothing seems to go to waste…I’m down with that…but I have noticed that the coffee in the big silver percolator has just been plugged back in and reheated every morning. As long as it was brought to a boil each time, I don’t care…but it does give me pause to question that chicken foot in my soup and that tough meat at dinner last night. And, this was one of the best rated places in town.
Another thing that has been really hard on my nerves was trying to figure out transportation from place to place. In Europe I’ve always depended on the stellar public transportation, but out here in the mountains, there are crowded, slow busses and “taxis”, which is anyone with a car and some spare time. Also, everything then depends on cash, which I have a good stack of, but am constantly aware that I have to budget it so I won’t run out…
Anyway… like I said, I am way outside my comfort zone.
A couple of days ago I ran into the young Canadian couple who are also hiking the trail. We were talking with an older man (blind in one eye) about the three of us sharing a “taxi” to the next town. He told us what he would charge but then we realized they were planning on departing a day earlier than I was, so we scrapped the whole plan and went our separate ways. They left the next day by bus. I decided to ask my hotel Jorge if he knew someone who I could trust to take me and he made the arrangements. This morning when I went out to leave, there were two cars and drivers waiting for me and a bit of a bruh-ha-ha ensued. “Blinky”, the old man I had asked about a ride two days before jumped out of the backseat of one of the cars and a young man from the driver’s seat. The driver Jorge had called got out of his truck and Jorge motioned me to get into the truck. There were some aggressive exchanges and Blinky even started in with me, fruitlessly of course, because it was all in Spanish…which Yo don’t hablo. They all eventually got back into the cars and the other car tried hedging us into a fence, then blocked the driveway so we couldn’t get out. Both drivers got out and started up again. I wanted to capture the scene on video, but an older lady from the other team stood at my door looking at me …feeling totally out of my comfort zone and completely helpless.
Finally free of the other car, we were on our way for a three hour drive with next to no communication. About 15 minutes on the winding mountain road, we stopped along side the road and picked up a tiny lady who got in the back seat. It was the drivers wife, who produced an infant from under her many wraps and they were equally mum for the rest of the ride.
We arrived in the town of Baños after 3 hours on a bumpy road wishing I had a baño. I was dropped off at the bus station and found my way to the hotel I had booked online yesterday. It is 7000 feet lower in altitude than where I’ve been the past week…it’s warmer… it is a tourist town and people speak some English. They take credit cards here. Once in my cute room I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I’ve been tense this past week. Up in the mountains it was freezing and almost everything was an unknown. It wasn’t comfortable. I do think it is good though…. It stretches me and strengthens my dependence on God and the goodness of others… but it has been uncomfortable for sure.
I skipped breakfast this morning. The mystery meat from last night left me a little...agitated. But now Im thinking I’ll need to head out into Baños and find something to eat.
The adventure continues!
January 14, 2021
Wow! What an awesome day.
I feel like I'm back in my “zone”
After a hearty breakfast I grabbed my day pack and started out toward the trailhead leading from the city up in to the mountains, with my ultimate goal being the Casa de Arbols. I don’t remember exactly how I came across this place and deciding I wanted to go there…but a swing that takes you out over a deep gorge below? What’s not to get excited about there? I read one blogger's take on it…”It’s not that big of a deal unless you’re an Instagrammer…There are other swings.” To that I answer, “You must not have read the history behind it”. Which I did, by the way and thought it was a pretty cool story, which makes the experience more than Just Another Swing, in my opinion. You can enjoy the background story here, if you are interested.
So, anyway, I have a picture of a map from the tourist info center and set out this morning to hike to the swing. For 5.00 you can get a ride from any tour agency in town, but why would anyone want to do that when for only 2.75 hours of steep uphill climbing, one could walk to the swing and see llamas, cows, puppies and amazing flowers (oh, and one snake) along the way.
Within the first 4 minutes of the uphill I was asking myself why I volunteer for such torture, but I pressed on. It really helped that I found a little friend early on who stayed with me for company until I sent her back down the hill with a passing runner. The uphill was without any flat for 3.3 miles and it led through hillside farms, jungle covered paths, past little farm shacks and eventually, to Casa de Arbols. For $1 entrance fee you are ushered into a lush mountain top garden with several swings, a zipline, and an outdoor restaurant. It was way more than just another swing. I took my time swinging and laughing with others who were having fun. Sadly, traveling alone means you are subject to the photography skills of whichever person you ask to take your picture. Today…not great. I was wishing I had the cute little boy who took my alpaca photos from Quilatoa. He was great. Also, on the unfortunate side was the cloud cover which blocked the would be incredible views into “below”. The upside though, was not hiking with the equatorial sun beating down on me.
I stopped to see the huge hillside statue of La Virgin on the way down. I didn’t realize there was a long flight of stairs up to her from the town below. As I approached, two ladies who were probably in the 40s were running up the stairs, looking like they do the workout together often. Anyway, they immediately told/motioned to me that I needed to take my earrings and sunglass off and not wear them if I was going down the stairs. They motioned that someone would rip them off of me and push me aside. Through a wild game of charades I determined from them that if I continued back down the dirt trail rather than the stairs, that I would be safer. I galloped down the remaining 15 minutes or so and once back on the city streets, my sweet hermanas drove past me and waved.
I loved that sisterhood.
Back at the hotel by 2:00…just shy of 5 hours… really tired. I brought a snack but wasn’t interested in eating it and drank most of my 1.5 liter water. Now, Im showered, clothes washed and am laying on the bed wishing I didn’t have to go out and get some dinner.
January 15, 2021
My alarm was set for 6:45, but breakfast is served until 9:00, and I have nothing on the books for today so I cozied in for a bit more. I slept with the patio door wide open and loved the sound of the rain throughout the night…interrupted only by the occasional car alarm.
Breakfast, as per the norm was huge, starting with the fresh, tropical fruit extravaganza, a meat and cheese plate, toast and a roll and today my eggs were a huge omelet. It’s all just too much. Yesterday I put away as much as I could because I knew I would be hiking. Today it was a little harder to justify.
The sweet little gals at the hotel desk recommended I go to a particular tour office to see what they had going on today. When I got there, immediately the Juan behind the desk made his recommendation of paragliding, saying that there were a couple of other Americans signed up. He asked about any physical limitations I may have and I assured him I was not pregnant…but told him my knee was a little rigid. He got on the phone and a few minutes later said that instead of going with the aforementioned tour, that he would have me go a little later when an “instructor” could take me, because of my *special needs. Whatever.
So, at 2:30 I headed to the meeting point in town and was shown into the gear room to get some initial instruction and then and off we headed. When we arrived at our destination I looked up onto a hill and there was one of my new Canadian friends waving at me. What were the chances they were the two “Americans” that the Juan behind the tour desk had mentioned. Anyway, here we were together again at the top of a “hill” covered with a gorgeous patchwork of farm fields in the late afternoon sun.
Ari had finished his ride and Dani was just coming in for her landing and I enjoyed hearing about their experiences while we waited for the wind to calm so I could have my turn.
Once I has harnessed up and all the tiny little threads connected to the sail thingy were straightened out and the wind hushed just for a minute, I did just as I was told to do and started running. My running feet never even hit the ground. We were swept up so fast and were soaring around high above the fields in seconds.
I thought I’d be afraid…at least more nervous than I was, but was surprised at the quiet and calm I felt once we were circling around in the sky. In the distance the clouds cleared away and the Tungurahua volcano could clearly be seen, standing like a giant. Huge.
The lighting was so beautiful and I was sorry to have not brought my phone to get some pictures….although, honestly I may have been too afraid of dropping it to have used it. My landing was as smooth as my take off, but seeing the guys positioning to receive us on the ground was a little intense…it all was smooth, like buttah.
It’s a different vibe for me, doing tours and activities. Usually it’s just me and my pack and my feet. But, this has been really amazing. A great way to see the country. …and deal with that long bucket list…
January 16, 2021
Saturday, slow day. I’m feeling the culmination of many days of hard physical expenditure. I’m tired, ya’ll. My quads are sore and just climbing the one flight of stairs to my hotel room burns. Plus, I’ve started the “one more per day” push up I did in 2019, so my arms are yelling at me too. All that to say, I wasn’t going to be in a big rush to get out into the day.
However, today was my last full day in this great town and I didn’t want to do nothing so I messaged the Juan behind the tour desk to see what they might have available for me today, He said I could do a zip lining and “circuit” tour leaving in 45 minuets. So, much for a slow morning.
The tour was just me. “Darwin” and his little boy picked me up from the tour office in their van and drove me out of town and up into the mountains, technically, probably a “cloud forest”, but very rain-foresty for the layperson. Very quickly Luis, a stout little man, had me in my helmet and harnesses draped with carabiners and off we headed, out of the office and to some steep, winding stairs and paths, leading up, up, up. I think they were a little surprised that I was able to keep upwind them. But, burning quads and all, I didn’t want to be “that old lady”.
Once up to the first platform, they clicked all my safety lines to the cables, told me I was going “super-girl” style and with a push, they sent me soaring across a deep and beautiful gorge, complete with river below. So, exhilarating!. The morning was spent zipping lines and climbing rock faces and wobbling across Tibetan cable bridges from one side of the gorge to the other with the sound of rushing water and singing birds in the background.
I understand now why the Juan at the tour agency said this is about a 3 hour tour… that when there is a group of people going, it can take a rather long time to get everyone through the lines and across the bridges. But for just me, we got through it pretty quickly and next thing knew I was back in the van on my way back to town.
I had them drop me off on the outskirts a bit so I could do some exploring around town. Baños was hopping this morning. I realized that it was Saturday and lots of people were out with their friends and families together. The Catholic Church vendors were selling all kinds of paraphernalia outside the church in the center of town. A long line of cars were parked along the street and a white robed priest circled each car and truck, giving them a few shakes of holy water and blessing them. Music was playing from trucks driving slowly, with speakers in the back. I sat in the park and just took it all in for a while. No hurries No worries.
On the way back to my room, I saw a farm truck with some people looking in the back. I could spot a whole bunch of little piglets suckling on a big mana and was pulling out my phone as I got closer to take a picture. Within a half second, I processed what was happening as I saw a man stretch out one of the little pink babies and heard a loud squeal. Closing my eyes and putting my hands in front of my face I jumped back up onto the sidewalk and felt sick on the rest of the walk back to the hotel.
People doing real life.
Tomorrow I will head back to Quito leaving this amazing valley town behind. It has been a great stay, here… beautiful, warm and comfortable after some days of difficult and cold and rough.
Hasta Luego Baños.
January 17 and 18, 2021
So, the Hosteria y Spa Isla Baños was an island of peace. I felt physically spent and didn’t need to go out and do anything last things before leaving, so I spent the morning sitting on my balcony…sometimes thinking…mostly not… centered in gratitude, in prayer…only touching the edges of the chaos going on at home in the US but really intentionally protective over my own peace while I’m not yet back into the bombardment of information that I can do noting about.
Patricio, my taxi driver who would take me the 3 hours back to Quito arrived to pick me up at 1:00pm. I sat in front and within a few minutes he asked if we could remove the masks. Hallelujah. Sï mi amigo. Take that thing off. The rest of the 3 hours was spent resurrecting my Spanish from school days…honestly I don’t even remember when I took Spanish. But, there it was…. enough for small talk, conjugations an' all and we made our way to Quito and then circled around on dirt roads and gravel roads looking for the small hotel I had booked near the airport that looked so promising on Booking.com
My room was clean enough but there was no food source around and no one was at the desk and when I found someone they didn’t speak any English, inspire of how it was advertised. That’s fine…. I’ve been without English speakers for the bulk of the trip, but day after tomorrow I leave at 3am and having reliable transportation in the middle of the night to the airport is most important.
After looking around for the “restaurant on site” that was advertised and finding nada, I was able to locate a bag of potato chips for sale in the reception area, so it was chips and EmergenC for dinner…and then for the evening's entertainment, I went on to Booking.com and cancelled my second night there.
I left Hotel Alpacacha at 8:00 this morning and hopped in the tour van with my guide from earlier in the trip, Luis and David the driver. We headed north up toward the town of Otavalo, which is home to the largest indigenous market in all of South America…on Saturdays. But on Monday, it’s a beautiful, clean, orderly little town with a nice sized market in the town plaza. I did my little bit of shopping. Throughout the day Luis was a endless source of information about the country he loves. I wore him out with all my questions. We traveled all through the Ecuadorian rose growing area where you get 25 long stem roses for $3.
We stood at one view point facing a distant volcano and just by shifting the glance a tiny bit he pointed out about 5 different ecosystems. We visited small indigenous villages where they farm tilapia. We drove through an enclave that is home to many, generational families of shamans…which as described seem like doctors of age old wisdom with herbs and energy and nutrition , etc. Anyway, poor Luis answered a slew of questions all day long and I feel enriched by everything I've learned.
It was a really fantastic day. Arriving back in the Quito airport area I got back on Booking.com again and chose one of the two fancy pants hotels closest to the airport. I ordered room service, had a scalding hot shower and am watching Discovery Channel in English in a huge bed with crispy white sheets.
So…I don’t need the fancy accommodation …but I do surely appreciate them.
…until 2:15am when my alarm will go off so i can get started on the way home.
PS. from the airport: I had a salad and shrimp ceviche last night for dinner. Around 11pm my belly notified me that something was not quite right. I think it’s going to be a long trip home!!