Good day to you all.
I hope you are well, and eagrly anticipating this last installment of blogging-mania from Ecuador. These last few days, since I returned from the depths of the jungle have been packed with touristy goodness! I know you all can´t wait to hear about it, so here goes.
In a break from previous installments this post will be picture heavy. (Is that the sound of applause I hear...)
On Tuesday 19th I stepped out of the hostel in Quito and went in seach of pure tourism glory. My day began with a walk around the artisan market, where I purchased a fetching belt and a classic cheesy "I´ve been to Ecuador T-shirt". You can expect to see that on Tuesday when I´m back in the office.
I then jumped in a taxi, and went to Parque Carolina to visit the Jardin Botanico. It was beautiful, and I strolled around enjoying the flowers of all shapes, sizes and colour.
After the gardens I went on a stroll around the massive Parque Carolina, and found myselft some brunch. I sat on a bench and ate, and people watched. It was good, and I did eat, and watch people.
Having filled my tummy, I headed to the Teleferico, which is a gondola that takes one up the slopes of Pichincha, to an array of magnficent vistas.
It was cloudy.
I´ll tell you now that the best bit of kit I have ever bought, is a Joby tripod for my camera. Being a frwquent individual traveler, and not wanting to ask others to take my photo, I was able to set up a shot, prety much anywhere, and then get into it, using th self timer on my camera. It was so much fun!
On Wednesday 20th I got colected at 07:00 and taken to the province of Cotopaxi. Gloves and hat packed, I was going to be walking up to the refuge, and then mountian biking back down. Our best view of the gigantic volcano was on our approch through the National Park. The weather walking up to the refuge was absolutely horrible, so I don´t have any good snaps from there. I did do it though!
I found the short walk of 300 meters to the refuge one of the hardest things I have ever done. My head throbbed from the altitude and I couldn´t catch my breath. The rain pounded us and progress was slow. In an attempt to walk faster, I put Glee on my ipod and turned the volume up, ¨Doooon´t stop! Believing!!!!" etc etc. It didn´t help.
The best bit for me, by far was the mountain biking back down. I went full pelt and, and where I had been at the back of the walking, I was very much in fron on the bike! "Yarooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo" all the way down.
On Thursday I packed a small bag and caught a bus to a small town 3km north of Otavalo, called Peguche. I stayed in a friendly hostel which used to be the old Train station, which had a disused railway running along outside the entrance. On arrival I was greeted by friendly staff who gave me a map to follow so that I could go and see the Cascades.
That evening, in the hostel I sat by a warm fire and read my book, The Hours of the Night, by Sue Gee. It´s very good. I was the only one in there for a couple of hours, until three North American Ladies walked in. They quickly engaged me in conversation, and invited me to have dinner with them. For me this is one of the best things about traveling alone. You meet, and spend small snippets of time with some incredible people, and your trip is the better for it.
Elizabeth and Geannie were from Maddison, Wisconsin and had both worked in the Department of Agriculture, and they were on holiday visiting a friend of Geannie´s who has lived and worked in Ecuador for the past 40 years, Michelle. Michelle is a nutritionist by training, but has publsihed a cookbook in Spanish and worked for the UN. Both Geannie and Michelle were in the Peace Corps for two years.
I spent Friday with these three and we went around Otavalo market and then the Parque Condor, Centre for bird of prey. It was a great day and I ended up getting a free ride back to Quito with Michelle, rather than taking a bus. Durng the course of our journey, I learnt that Michelle has worked in the past with Javier, who is the Perma-culture expert that Camp Ecuador is hoping will help with the Kitchen garden at Camp Maqui. Michelle has worked all over Ecuador and the world in her role at the UN on school food projects, trying to find ways to improve the diets of children simply by using the food that grows naturally around them. It would be wonderful if she could get involved with our efforts at Camp Maqui.
My flight home leaves at 00:05 this evening. It has been the best two weeks, and I don´t really want to come home. I will though, just so I can talk to you all about it some more, which I know you´ll love.
Camps International, you are the Bees Knees, ney... The Cats Pajamas, and I thank you for sending me to this beautiful, friendly, and charming country.
Over and out.