well it has been quite a while since we last touched base…apologies for the delay. we finished up our last week in cuenca before hopping on a night bus to quito. since then we´ve been on quite the adventure; hopefully you´ll all enjoy our tales. first things first: a couple photos. there´s one of chris and me with our teachers (they´re so wee next to the american giants). the second one is me in the bar we went to our last night in cuenca with the folks from the zoo. the ceiling really was low…although none of the ecuadorians seemed to have any problems with it. damn.
quito was nice although we had terrible rains each afternoon while we were there. the first day was spent wandering around the old town. the streets are all pretty small, and because it was a holiday in ecuador, they were packed with families milling about. it was a nice way to spend our first morning. here´s a look at our smiling faces in quito:
following the first day in old town, we enjoyed an afternoon of pouring rain, a dinner of street food, and an early night to read. saturday morning we were up early to head to la mitad del mundo…the center of the world! we took about two hours worth of buses to get to the equator despite the fact that it is right outside of quito. chris had little interest in the tourist trap, but i insisted, so we went – and it was fun. i´m not sure if the video will post properly (i know it´s the wrong direction – but hopefully it will work because it´s funny)…i´ll try it anyways. if it works, you can judge for yourselves whether or not chris has fun at the tourist trap. ha.
anyways, here´s a few photos of us too (scott, this one´s for you):
following our trip to the equator, we returned to quito for more rain. needless to say, come sunday morning we were happy to find ourselves on a bus out of the big city and away from rainy afternoons (or so we thought). we hopped on a bus to Zumbahua, a tiny little town on what is known as the Quilatoa Loop. the bus ride was absolutely beautiful…pretty, pretty scenery of rugged mountains, patchwork hillsides (much like ireland though less green), and scary roads. upon arrival in Zumbahua, we were greeted by music from the town below. we made our way down the hill only to find very, very drunk indigenous people stumbling up the hill towards up. it was around 4:00 in the afternoon. anyways, as we walked around town – a tiny town that was packed with people – we found more music, more drunks, and a HUGE town party. we managed to check into a hostel right by the market square (which was now the main party spot) after the hostel owner saw a couple of gringos knocking on her door and emerged from the dancing masses. oh, and at this point it had started to rain again. anyways, here´s the view from our hostel balcony (where we spent much of the night drinking beers and observing the craziness below), along with another photo of our mischievous looking selves. it was a fun night (the party was for 3 weddings and a bunch of baptisms and it finally ended around 10 pm…crazy).
the following morning we hopped into a truck that would take us to Laguna Quilatoa, a volcano crater. from there we planned to hike around the crater and then down into a town a couple villages away where we would spend the night. the day started off beautiful and sunny. the hiking was amazing despite the altitude (we started at around 12,000 feet and wound up at around 9,000). there were supposed to be signs leading our way, but most of them had been removed by locals wishing to work as guides for the hikers. lucky for us they removed the signs but left the signposts so combined with our guidebook´s instructions, we had plenty of information to help us on our way. the total hike was around four and a half hours which was great aside from the rain and the canyon that made up the last hour and a half or so. when we reached the canyon, we could look to the other side and see the hostel where we would stay…we just had to get there. it started raining about halfway down into the canyon so for the second half of the way down and the entire way up, we were drenched and tired. it´s three days later at this point and we´re both still sore. needless to say, it was a tough hike but we both went to sleep that night with big smiles on our faces (part of those grins may be attributed to the celebratory beers we shared with a group of canadians at our hostel). anyway, here´s a few more photos…one of me on top of the crater (the view was amazing), one of chris and i along our way, and one of us drenched at the end of the hike (brr):
following the hike we spent the night and the next day in the village of Chugchilan. it was tiny, beautiful and wonderfully relaxing. not a whole lot to do, but a morning walk, an afternoon of reading and chess, and we were both quite happy.
the following morning we had to be ready by 9am to catch the milk truck on its way through town. it was to be our ride to Sigchos, a village about 25km away from Chugchilan. we quickly learned that by milk truck they did not necessarily mean milk DELIVERY truck so much as milk GATHERING truck. we stopped every so often to collect buckets of milk from the locals along our journey. the man in the bed of the truck dumped them into two giant blue drums, at times offering the milk deliverer a fresh jug of milk, at times picking up an empty propane tank, at times collecting a few locals to join along our voyage. it was a tight squeeze by the end (when all was said and done, there were 2 milk truck workers, at least 3 locals, 4 french folks, a canadian and two americans in/on the truck). here´s a few photos from our journey:
once we got to sigchos, we waited a few hours for our next adventure (this was a busy day): the bus to latacunga where we would then catch another bus to ambato, followed by another bus to baños. our bus left sigchos at around 1:30, which meant we were to arrive in latacunga around 3:30. perfect. the ride was a bit crazy…we hugged the side of cliffs for the first hour´s descent. about five minutes from the bottom a very noticeable burning brakes smell made its way into the bus. we made it though, and our only interruption for the next bit was an alpaca in the road, followed by a few cows in the road. not bad. proceed forward about 45 minutes and things turn sour. we´ve since climbed and descended a few more hills, and have reached a semi flat spot when CRUNCH GRUMBLE CLUNK SMASH the bus stops. we´re stopped on the side of the road and we´re not going anywhere soon. it´s raining now too. all the bus kids (by that i mean the men in charge of the bus) hop off, most of the riders hop off, and we wait. they pull some rope down off of the roof, grab a couple metal rods, jack up the bus, and begin working…and working…and working. at one point they had about eight men pulling on a rope attached to something under the bus in an attempt to fix the problem. hmm. anyways, fast forward an hour (not bad!) and they have successfully secured a couple metal rods with rope to whatever caused the problem below. we´re back on our way. the bus isn´t making awful noises anymore, so all seems to be fine. we make it to Latacunga (where we are to change to our next bus) and can´t help but wonder if they intend to actually fix the bus or just go along with their ropes and rods until something flares up again. either way, we´re done with that bus and on to the next.
two buses later, we´re making our way into baños, a town known for its thermal baths. we arrive without a glitch, check into our hostel, eat some pizza (mmm…a lovely american reward after a long day of travel), and head to the thermal pools. we have about an hour to spend before they close for the night at ten, and i have to say it was magnificent. we sat in a pool gazing at a waterfall about thirty feet from us, all of it illuminated by the dull glow of lights from the thermal bath place. it was absolutely beautiful and a perfect way to unwind after our long hike (the hot baths were great for our aching selves), our crazy bus rides, and an active few days.
now it´s thursday morning and we have our hostel here until 2 in the afternoon. we plan to walk to some springs about 3 km out of town for the morning, enjoy the hot baths there, then return here to gather our belongings and head for the bus. we need to be in Riobamba this afternoon in order to buy tickets for our next adventure: a crazy train ride down La Nariz del Diablo. look that one up. that will happen tomorrow morning, then we begin our journey back to Lima. Machu Picchu begins next Friday, so we have from now until Wednesday to be in Cuzco.
Off we go for now…sorry again for the delay! hope all is well at home!