A little something to think about. Read Jillian's reflections on her experiences here so after her first month in Ecuador.
you find yourself more interested in the character development of a poorly made
Jackie Chan film rather than the climax of the plot, you should continue
reading this blog post. My time in Ecuador thus far has been comprised of
countless meaningful details that have contributed to my personal experience
rather than large awe striking events. For example, in this blog post I will
not focus on the breathtaking zip line trip across a valley with hundred foot
waterfalls, but rather on the fact that Kristina’s loving grip on my left hand
reminded me why it is so much more enjoyable to experience these things with
other people. Even if it results in a sore knuckle and a pierced left eardrum.
I will not focus on the movie night thrown in the teen center at the library
last week, which featured the Amazing Spider Man, fresh popped popcorn, and a
seemingly endless amount of Fanta orange soda. However, I would rather mention
the fact that I played Bananagrams in Spanish for the first time. Already
intimidated by my two new Spanish-speaking friends urging Jenni and I to play,
I was exceptionally proud that I could take ownership of at least eight words
by the third round of the game. (It doesn’t matter if Los Chillos is a name for something, it automatically implies
that el chillo is a thing as
couldn’t possibly force you to read story after story about our wonderful
weekend in Baños riding bikes, relaxing in day spas, and consuming an absurd
amount of delicious food. I would much rather help you imagine what it was like
for us on our initial bus ride of the weekend from Sangolqui to Tambillo, a
forty-minute trip. Picture a large plushy bus donned in decorative fringe and
curtains, with a bumper sticker declaring, “We brake for no one”. Now, remove the
bumper sticker and imagine the passenger capacity at double the suggested
number. Throw in a group full of gringos with overstuffed backpacks and duffle
bags, and you’ve got yourself a legitimate test of human strength and balance.
But really, if your triceps and forearms aren’t sore by the time you get off,
you’re doing it wrong. Throughout the course of the forty minutes we were
guaranteed no seat, at least a half dozen face-to-armpit encounters,
approximately four smashed toes, three awkward hand placements, and multiple
wafts of unexpected scents including, but not limited to, cologne, body odor,
street food, hair gel, or animal (questionably domesticated).
is nothing quite like finally getting a seat and being able to rest your
shoulders. After we were all able to sit down, we realized the unsolicited
workout we had received on our abdominals, as we had not been able to stop
laughing at the chain of events experienced during the first twenty minutes of
the ride. It was this enjoyable bus ride full of laughter and muscle
conditioning that started our weekend in Baños off on the right foot for some
much needed fun and relaxation.
Charlie on the weekend retreat to Baños!
Beautiful views like this all weekend long!
Charlie and his new friend.
Walking the bridge.
The "crew" soaking it in.
the lightly experienced Spanish speaker were to visit the touristy town we
traveled to this past weekend, I’m guessing they’d be slightly confused with
amount of adoration the people there had for bathrooms. In many souvenir shops
there were shirts on display that said, “ I heart bathrooms”. The shirts didn’t
really say that, actually, this town holds the wonderful name of Baños, which
translated in English means bathrooms. This wonderfully large town is almost
like an island, not being surrounded by ocean, but surrounded by high-scaling
cliffs and mountains on all sides. Illuminated radio towers and even a cross
are scattered across the mountain skyline, and at night, it appears as if there
is just a floating cross in the middle of the sky, which was quite a site to
is by far the most touristy place we’ve been so far as a group. I’m not saying
that as a bad thing though, because personally I had the most fun there out of
all of our weekend excursions. When we arrived, I thought I was in paradise.
The streets were livid with loud motor sport vehicles, like ATVs, dune buggies,
and dirt bikes. It’s as if all the extreme-sports mega bros decided to set up
shop here and make a business out of renting these fast and fun vehicles to
tourists willing to throw down some money. Sadly, we didn’t rent any of those,
but we did rent some mountain bikes. I ended up renting two because I had a
little too much fun popping wheelies and going on and off curbs on my first
bike, which consequently bent my wheel, quite a bit at that. I had only noticed
this 5 minutes after we started riding, so Pete rode back with me while I got a
new bike. There was something awesome about the following sequence and I just
loved it. Because we were both behind the main group, we decided to go as fast
as we could to catch up. Hopping on and off curbs and weaving through traffic
going (probably) 25-30 mph+ was just an amazing feeling; it was like I was in a
Red Bull commercial. After we exited the town, our ride was a straight shot down
a two-lane road with the occasional uphill struggle. Overall though, it was a
very easy ride, and me being the speed freak I am meant I was at the front of
pack when Pete and I caught up to the rest of the group.
view. Amazing is all I can say. I’ve taken pictures of almost every activity
I’ve been actively involved with, but while on the bike ride, I didn’t take a
single picture. I was so actively involved with going as fast as I could and
looking around that I didn’t even bother. Going down a mountain road surrounded
by sheer cliffs and the occasional waterfall and river, to me, is perfection.
We went through tunnels and bumpy side roads and even through a tiny waterfall,
all of which were awesome. Then we proceeded to make a pit stop and zip lined across
a massive gorge with a raging (not really) river at the bottom. It was very
high up though, and the Ecuadorian ingenuity, which was used to harness us in
and ride across the cable, also made it all the more exciting and nerve
downhill trek on bikes took us to the Paílon del Diablo, a gorgeous waterfall
that we hiked to and got to climb around. All of us ended up getting soaked,
but luckily Kristina had her waterproof phone case and was able to take some
good pictures of us all. What I didn’t understand was why some Ecuadorians
decided to wear high heels and clothes that, well, I wouldn’t want to get wet,
but hey, maybe going to waterfalls is an extravagant outing for them.
following morning we rode horses up a beaten path to a volcanic water hole. We
got to taste the water, which was very odd because it was like it was very
carbonated, almost like seltzer. The horses though, what a ride. Even though
they were trained to only respond to Ecuadorian whistles, they were still
pretty fun. My trusty steed, Michael Jackson, was neck-in-neck with Jefferson’s
race horse (ha) Whiskey. I’m convinced Vlad’s horse was constantly pissed at
something, because it bit Polly and some of the other horses. We didn’t manage
to break into a full gallop, but we did do some trotting, which was still fun.
was a real good time, my favorite in Ecuador. It’s a great town with a great
sense of personality, and a ton of things to do if you’re an outdoorsy person.
It was my last weekend in Ecuador, and the most fun. I will definitely miss
Kristina on their trip to the edge of the glacier on Cotopaxi:
I didn’t think I could stand the constant bumpy road one minute longer. I had a crick in my neck and I swore it felt like it had been three hours since we were graced with paved roads. There was the nine of us, plus an extra straggler from Canada heading towards The Secret Garden, a supposedly really nice hostel in the middle of nowhere. When we finally arrived, our travel weary selves were given warm mugs of mulled wine and served lunch before the hostel volunteers offered to take us off on a waterfall trek. It was really beautiful and a nice change after being stuck in various buses and vans for most of the day. The volunteer mentioned gave us wellies to borrow and led up mostly through mud and up stream over rocks until we arrived at a series of waterfalls and few us brave trekkers decided to take our boots and jump down into the dark pool of freezing water. Now that was an experience. We were definitely awake after that. That night, after a delicious home cooked meal and time around the fire, talking with other visitors about their travels, we slept like rocks before we rose bright and early and attempted to climb Cotopaxi.
The next day it was around 10:30 and here was sleet on my sunglasses, I was very confused. I swear it had been sunny a minute ago. I had made it to the refuge on the side of Cotopaxi, one of the largest active volcanoes in Ecuador, along with my fellow volunteers. We hurried into the barely warmer enclosure to eat our banana cake and drink our hot chocolate that we bought off the guides. We had just completed the first half of our climb through a very steep continuous incline of dirty volcanic ash, but we were still determined to make it to the glacier at 5,000 meters, which was at least another 45 minutes through the hail and snow. Finally after a couple of inhalers were used and a bunch of us used the bathroom outside in the terrible weather, we put our gloves and hats back on and followed behind the guide in a single file line like a row of confused baby ducks. Eventually we lost feeling in our toes and fingers, had nice piles of volcanic ash in our shoes, but our energy was still going strong. I don’t think anything could have caused us not to be excited about making it to the glacier at the point, even when we were warned that there was an electric storm and that we should probably hunker down for a couple of minutes. The guides allowed us to frolic around the glacier for a little while, creating photo ops and scaling down the crevasses while others attempted to sled downwards on their jackets and make snow angels. We were on top of the world and very proud of ourselves. I know that as a young adult that has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for years, that this was an accomplishment for me. RA is something that will always be there, attempting to stop me from doing all the things I want to with the pain and swelling in my joints and the threat of decomposition of the my cartilage in the back of my mind. One day I will be older and weaker, probably with a few fake joints and a ton of gross medication, but I will be able to look back on my climb of Cotopaxi and know that at one point I was adventurous.