Friday, April 6, 2012

final lush out in Ecuador - hummingbirds, butterflies, hiking

Philipe and I at Lago Quilotoa - Crater lake near Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Beautiful hummingbird in Mindo
ecuador has really been lusciously green and rolling. many of the rural landscapes look like farmlands in europe - neat fields, different tones of soil depending on what stage of furrowing they are at, little farmhouses dotted about. but that's not what i'll really talk about.

this morning after a rather long, drawn out border crossing last night (will write more on that below) we (that too i'll explain later) finally have made it into colombia! for most of the trip colombia has been the golden egg at the end - people always rave about how beautiful it is, how genuinely friendly and welcolming the people are, and so it's nice to be finally here. indeed it is somehow again, even more westernised and has the same high standard of living as was ecuador. it's also a lot more expensive - especially transport. Ecuador you can roughly calculate US$1 per hour of bus travel, but here in colombia we have just paid US$17 for a 5 hour trip.

but back to ecuador. the first thing is that, I'm back with Philipe. we're still working out how we work together, but we've each done separately and together lots of thinking and feeling about what is important to us both. And that's each other. You know, I'm usually so good at running away, and even though we've had a couple of those, we always find our way back together. I've never tried so hard, and likewise been rewarded with what I'm discovering. Many of you know about Chris - we spent 6 wonderful years together sharing our lives, me growing up (though perhaps not enough), exploring the world together. I have such wonderful memories of our time together, still laugh when I think of things we said or did together, and will always treasure these things that I shared with him. with Philipe it is a different relationship and we are also building many memories together, and I guess I feel very lucky to feel such love again. I have no idea how I will deal with being apart for the 2 or so months I am in Nepal and India, and no doubt I will just gloss over and be distracted by what I am doing and seeing.

In Banos
Banos is situated in high jungle - so you get this beautiful misty clouds hovering over the town
So back to the distractions! Philipe and I met after I went up to Chimborazo, which, according to the calculations of my father, the base camp at 4800m is actually 4KM higher than the TOP OF EVEREST! I surprised him in a hot and oppressive Guayaquil, and then we jumped on the bus the next day to the town of Banos. Banos is lush - very touristic, but set in a beautiful valley at the foot of a smoking volcano, with hot springs and waterfalls to relax in after a multitude of adventure sports. Was also complete with a rather curt and negative Norwegian lady who owned a rather nice coffee shop there, who we wonder has managed to maintain the cafe for so many years!

Unfortunately though I got a cold, and that thwarted the canyoning and rafting that we had planned. With time running out, and me still with a hare brained idea that I wanted to climb Cotopaxi, a beautiful glacier topped crater volcano at 5800m, we headed up in to the mountains to start acclimitising and throwing off my cold. There is a beautiful series of walks near Cotopaxi around the town of Quilotoa, where there is a beautiful crater lake, and so we headed up there. I ended up not walking (after managing to lightly sprain my ankle running that morning), but were treated to a beautiful hostal called Mama Hilda where we decided to rest and recover from colds and long travel days for 2 nights.

View from Chugchillan in the Quilotoa Loop near Cotopaxi, Ecuador

My potato sack aisle seat ride:)
"God cannot physically be in all places at the same time, for this there are mothers"
Separated rubbish!!
A nice little town, beautiful hostal, a nice rest. But, as things go, I gave Philipe my cold, so after much deliberating and the serious bedrest that he needed after coming back down to the town we would have left for Cotopaxi, we decided not to climb. It's a real pity not to have done so, but with time running out, we decided to continue on instead of waiting to do the climb.


Hummingbirds and butterflies galore!

Next stop was another beautiful town called Mindo. It's in cloud forest, about 2 hours from the capital of Ecuador, Quito. The big attraction for Mindo are the birdlife. Up to 20 types of hummingbirds, as well as parrots, and Toucans!! We spent a lush morning just watching the busy activities of the buzzing hummingbirds, and after breakfast then headed off to see some butterflies. I then raced off to do ziplining, and then to canyon down some waterfalls, before meeting Philipe at about 5pm for a much needed pick me up of homemade chocolate at a local restaurant. What a day... I certainly got my fill of everything after a couple of mishaps due to illness!

Yesterday we headed for the border. We thought we were super good and started early and arrived there at 2pm, but due to the fact that I had entered Ecuador at a small border crossing, I was NOT in their system, and this caused many problems. After 1.5 hours waiting in the immigration line for starters, then came the 2 hour wait and 1 hour resolving of the issue of the exit stamp. I got a bit stroppy when they asked for me to pay and get some photocopying done so that they could enter me in the immigration system as being in Ecuador. Especially when they had a machine inside the office. I mean I got really stroppy! What was funny was when I went off to get it done (I couldn't argue my way around that at the time, but came back with very bad quality copies in retaliation) apparantly the supervisor had been around, and asked the other guys - what are these young people still doing here? when they replied about the photocopies - he said - why haven't you just copied them here in the office? (what I had pointed out to them earlier). Hah! but they got it done, and didn't even ask me for a little 'tip' for all the hard work they had to do to process my exit stamp.

But the upside? We met Dickie and Bubba - mother and son traveling and working around south america for the last 5 years who had shared my grief with the entry stamp. just such a great energy with them, and we spent the night in the border town together, then travelled to Popayan too the following day (complete with 4 hour breakdown) for the Easter processions.

And... I'm finally in my last stop... Colombia:)

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