We have just returned from a magical walk through the cloud forest above Papallacta. Antisana (the volcano) appears through the clouds behind us as we scramble along a rushing stream. Moss covers the trees, which are dotted with bromeliads and bamboo is everywhere. The clouds are descending to cover the mountains ahead of us and on either side. Maya decides to be a river nymph and fashions a bow and arrow out of grasses and sticks and creates her own language to communicate with us. She has an uncanny ability to spot hummingbirds in the trees. We can hear their calls, but only our nymph can see them. It gets colder as the sun sets and the mist thickens. Antisana disappears on our way down and we are eager to plunge into the hot springs. We have a massage booked for each of us at 8 PM and plan to float off to sleep afterward.
We are so far from Quito, not just a several miles and hours away, but the altitude is higher and this fantasyland we are in is so very calming and tranquil. It is exactly what we all needed.
The drive from Quito to Papallacta is spectacular. We leave the city in the direction of Cumbaya and Tumbaco, on the road to Pifo, after which we start to climb up the side of the Andes. There is agriculture for a few miles, with fields at almost 90 degree angles. I have no idea what can be cultivated on such steep slopes. As we ascend higher and higher, the vegetation changes, the trees disappear and more and more paramo peeks out. The clouds appear and cloak the tops of the mountains until we reach the pass at over 13,000 feet, and then we float down through the mist for a couple of thousand feet until we reach a lake and the small town of Papallacta on the left of the highway. The Termas are further up from the town.
The best part of the hotel is that the hot springs are right outside our room door, so we can simply change into our swimsuits and walk out a few steps to the pools, which are either intensely hot, comfortable or cold. Maya is the only one who dared plunge into the cold pool repeatedly. Debra and I were perfectly content to stay warm and toasty. Maya was a nymph, so we drank water through leaf cups and she presented us with flower arrangements and nymph stories.
We are relaxed and content after our massages, ready for sleep and eager for another massage tomorrow!