With nearly a month and a half on my hands and eager to experience the culture I’d been learning about while living with Hernan and his family, I decided a trip to Ecuador was in order. This trip marked finally heading in the direction I had originally intended when beginning the Dromedary Tales: South.
Departing from an eerily quiet terminal at BWI.
After few short plane rides I landed in Quito and was picked up by Hernan’s friend Lucy and her family. Soon I was at home with a new family, eating a delicious Ecuadorian meal, and fully immersed in what Hernan had been joking would be my “Spanish final exam.” Chevere! Off and on for the next two weeks I traveled with Lucy and her family all over Ecuador, seeing more countryside and meeting more friends in that short time than I could ever have imagined.
Lucy and I at the Palacio de Gobierno in Quito, the Ecuadorian equivalent to the White House in Washington, D.C.
Looking out at the Panecillo from the bell tower of the Santa Catalina Monastery in Quito.
The Ecuadorian flag flies over the Palacio de Gobierno.
Looking out from the courtyard of the Palacio de Gobierno.
The streets of Quito through the entry hall of the Palacio de Gobierno.
The Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito.
Lucy and her family on Rucu Pichincha after we rode the Teleférico (aerial tram) skyward from Quito.
Como se llama, llama?!
I also got to meet Eugenia’s family, enjoying more wonderful food, sightseeing to el Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), and dancing the night away at a club in Quito. This trip to Ecuador was my first time south of the equator, and finally stepping foot on this imaginary line was quite thrilling. And more than a little harsh on this bald head of mine, the fierceness of the equatorial sun at an elevation of nearly 10,000′ left this gringo with quite a sunburn!
Cooking dinner with Faviola, Lucy, and Don Luis.
From L to R: Giovanni, Lucy, yours truly, Marcello, Faviola, and Don Luis enjoying a delicious dinner.
Don Luis showing off Marcello's motorcycle.
Marcello heading to work on his motorcycle. I certainly wish the Camel was here!
At el Mitad del Mundo!
The earth and the moon.
Marcello, Don Luis, and Giovanni at el Mitad del Mundo.
Next it was off to Hernan’s hometown of Latacunga to spend a few days with his sister Elvia and her family. Day one took us to their family farm, where as an Idaho boy I got my first experience picking potatoes. Elvia’s family was more than a little surprised that this visitor might want to spend an afternoon working in the fields, and even more surprised to see how much I sucked at picking potatoes. But enough laughter ensued that hopefully the quantity of potatoes I slaughtered in the process was forgotten.
The Ronquillo's farm near Pujilí & Latacunga.
Slaughtering a cow to be taken to market later that day.
Elvia's husband Oswaldo, son Ivan and I pose high above the city lights of Latacunga.
The Mirador de la Virgen del Calvario above Latacunga.
My timing in Latacunga was perfect as Elvia and Oswaldo’s daughter Diana (Hernan’s niece) was on spring break and ready for adventure. We enjoyed many a day hiking, exploring Latacunga, and later visiting the town of Baños for more outdoor excitement.
Diana and her friend Freddy posing at the base of the mountain we're about to hike up.
On the summit of Putzalahua (11,525ft / 3,512m)
The streets of Latacunga.
Beautiful cobblestone sidewalks inlaid with vertebrae of some sort.
When the volcanoes are angry, run this way!
Diana and Freddy are both in engineering school at the Escuela Politécnica del Ejército, so one afternoon they showed me around campus. Certainly brought back a lot of memories of my own experiences at MSU!
Freddy and Diana in class.
One of the many labs, this one for fluid dynamics research.
Familiar books at the library. Great system they have here, instead of spending a fortune on text books every semester, you just check them out at the library!
The next day Oswaldo, Diana and I drove into the mountains and hiked down to Laguna Quilatoa, a huge lake in the crater of a dormant volcano. On the way back up, as if on queue, a dense cloud cover washed over the crater, thus concealing the lake as if it had been but a dream.
I'm tryin' to eat here and there you go stickin' your camera in my face. Baaah!!
Pointing the way to the trail down to Laguna Quilatoa.
An alpaca stops to question us on the descent.
Panorama of the crater and Laguna Quilatoa.
The guesthouse and restaurant at the bottom of the crater where we ate lunch.
Diana and I ready for lunch.
Kayaks for rent to explore the lake. Apparently there's a hot springs on the far side of the crater.
Diana hitching a ride back to the crater rim.
A trail crew improves the steps near the rim of the crater.
On the drive home we had a rare view of the surrounding peaks. Finally they were unobstructed by the clouds which hid them for most of my visit. Beautiful and mostly volcanic, they rise from lush green valleys up to geometrically perfect, snow covered cones.
The active Volcán Tungurahua (16,479ft / 5,023m) putting up a cloud of steam. Its last major eruption in 2006 devastated a town, and as recently as last year lava could be seen flowing down its slopes.
The beautiful Illiniza Sur (17,218ft / 5,248m). I had hoped to climb this peak while here, however the weather didn't cooperate and this was in fact the only glimpse of her I had the entire trip.
Next Diana, Freddy, and I went to Baños for two days. A town nestled in the mountains (at the foot of Volcán Tungurahua in fact), it is the gateway to the Oriente jungle and a popular destination for hiking, canyoning, rafting, and other outdoor sports.
Hiking down to the Rio Pastaza for a view of the Pailón del Diablo waterfalls.
An open air bathroom with quite a view (note the mirror!)
The trail leading up to the Pailón del Diablo waterfalls.
Freddy navigates the increasingly cave-like trail that leads to the precipice of the Pailón del Diablo waterfalls.
Diana and I stand under the precipice of the Pailón del Diablo waterfalls.
View of the Pailón del Diablo waterfalls from the suspension bridge over the Rio Pastaza.
The jungle has a way of eventually turning everything green.
During our adventures in Baños we came across an interesting car. You may remember a similar vehicle from my first post, it’s something of a Citroen 2CV “Deux Chevaux”. This one was carrying a couple north from Argentina, you can read about their travels here.
A long way from home!
True to its claim, Baños provided much entertainment in terms of outdoor sports. With only two days there we packed in as much as possible, returning home to Latacunga thoroughly exhausted!
Diana and I both bunjee jumped from this roadside bridge. Not a bad thrill for 10 bucks!
The Manto de la Novia waterfalls.
Freddy and I at the base of the Manto de la Novia waterfalls.
Mathi, a friend we met from Chile, Freddy and I prepare to raft the Rio Pastaza.
Freddy, Diana and I after a late night hike high above Baños to the Virgin on the hill.
Soon it was time to leave Latacunga (I’d be back shortly) and travel to Lucy’s hometown of Loja in southern Ecuador. It was to be an exciting weekend of traveling around Loja as a family reunion with many of Lucy’s 11 siblings.
Boarding the plane for the hour flight to Loja from Quito.
Flying over Volcán Cotopaxi (19,347ft / 5,897m).
About to land in a lush valley near Loja.
Lucy and her family catching up after nearly a year apart.
A sports arena being constructed in Loja. - HDR Composite
Kids playing fútbol in one of Loja's many city parks.
Soaking in the "life giving" waters of one of Vilcabamba's rivers. Vilcabamba has a huge number of 100+ year old citizens whose health is attributed to the local water.
A donkey carrying sugarcane over a footbridge in Vilcabamba.
A church in Vilcabamba. - HDR Composite
One afternoon was spent at Lucy’s brother’s hacienda in the mountains, a beautiful spot with a grove of every fruit and vegetable tree one could imagine, as well as farm animals to complete the perfect image of tranquility.
From L to R: Andy, yours truly, Emilio, Marta, and Andres Felipe.
Freshly laid eggs.
The next day we went to Zamora, a journey which took us through canyon upon canyon which seemed to contain a thousand waterfalls.
Just one of the many waterfalls on the way to Zamora.
Andres Felipe & Emilio under the Zamora hillside clock.
Meanwhile, some difficulty getting a horse into a truck.
Making using of a motorcycle's full utility, reminiscent of Malaysia!
Pool party at a winery near Zamora with much of Lucy's family.
Next we returned to Quito and unfortunately I fell under the weather for a few days. Thanks to the great care of Hernan’s friend Miriam and her husband Lincoln I was soon well again and ready for the next adventure. Though I had another two weeks in Ecuador, there was a small detour I had make first!
Flowers over the Loja countryside.