One my my New Year's resolutions is to be more active and to explore the beautiful places that are all around me. Literally all around me. Just from the balcony of the Manna house I can see four different mountains (Cotopaxi, Pasochoa, Pichincha and Ilaló) on a clear day!  

I decided to stay in Ecuador over our holiday break and I got to visit some amazing places. I stayed near the Cotopaxi National Park and hiked Pasochoa and it was amazing! It was definitely challenging but so worth it when I reached the summit at 4,200 meters. When the other volunteers returned at the beginning of January, they too agreed that we need to do more active (free!) activities on the weekends. Since we work on Saturdays we're often tired and just want to relax come later Saturday, Sunday and even Monday. Living and working abroad is an incredible experience but is pretty exhausting at times.

Last Sunday we finally committed to hike! Ilaló is a steep mountain with large cross on top - Ilaló means cross in Kichwa. It is a short bus ride away and is a (supposedly) relatively short 3 hour hike. However, it is straight uphill the whole time. No breaks, just straight up. Kate, Jessa, Allegra & Perry (the house dog), and I set out for Ilaló a little later than expected so by the time we got there it was very hot. We started on a winding stone path and I immediately felt the altitude and how out of shape I was. After 2 1/2 hours of huffing, puffing, stopping and creatively walking uphill backwards to work different muscles we reached the top! And the view was stunning. We rested at the bottom of the iconic cross, munched on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and took it all in as Perry harassed the grazing cows.   

The way down was a workout in a different way as in we all had to brace ourselves from tumbling back down the mountain. In under an hour we were in a taxi ready to head back home - and that's including having to restrain Perry while guys on dirtbikes zoomed by. We all collapsed on the dining room floor but with joy and the adrenaline that comes from conquering an amazing hike.  This kind of outing will for sure be a regular one for the Manna chicos! 
                            ~ Amelia Hulbert ~