Saturday, July 10, 2010

Avenue of the Volcanoes

Maya as Cowboy!

Last Blast!!!!There were so many choices as to how to best appreciate our last weekend in Ecuador. I had thought of Guayaquil, a city which I have always enjoyed, but have not entirely explored. I had never been to Loja, far in the south, nor to the valley of Vilcabamba where people regularly live more than a hundred years. The beach always beckons, and this time we were advised to travel to Esmeraldas in the north where the sun tends to shine at this time of year. Finally I decided that we had not seen the mountains in several weeks, and I believe I will miss the Avenue of the Volcanoes most of all when we leave.

I had made arrangements for Fidel to come to the house at 9 to start painting, but of course this is Ecuador, and he did not show up until closer to 11, but that gave me a chance to get the apartment ready for him and for Maya and I to visit Corfu for breakfast. There is very little in my refrigerator and I have made a concerted effort not to shop for much, and I have been too successful so there is nothing to eat in the house!Loving the Countryside

I had packed two small backpacks with lots of warm clothes. I had called Hosteria Papagayo, which is near Machachi, about an hour south of Quito, where I arranged to arrive in the early afternoon for a horsebackride (Maya's request for her last weekend in Ecuador) and a daylong trip to Laguna Quilotoa on Sunday. I knew that I needed to catch a bus from Quitumbe, the 'Terminal Terrestre' in the south of Quito, but I had no idea how far it was. We caught a taxi to get to the Trole stop, and our taxiste was kind enough to advise us where to catch the Trole and which one to get on. At the El Ejido stop, the number 5 Trole goes more directly to the bus station ( but not that directly, there were more than twenty stops!) It felt like forever and it did in fact take longer than an hour to get to the very modern, clean and efficient bus terminal. We truly passed through all of Quito and ended at the very southern tip. It was easy to find the boleteria and buy our tickets. We walked to a line of standing buses, each competing for our attention. They all had the same destinations (Latacunga, Ambato, Salcedo) so it was confusing to know which one to choose, someone shouting out for customers for each one. I went from one to another., finally settled on one of them. I was reassured when I asked the driver about stopping 2 kilometers past the Peaje at Machachi, and he immediately mentioned Papagayo. We left almost immediately and it took less than an hour to get to our destination. It was thrilling to see the mountains all around us, topped with snow after the past rainy cold days. The sky was blue and the hills were green and lush. When we disembarked however, it began to rain and the 800 metres to the hosteria were messy. The sky blackened and we arrived just before the downpour.

The hosteria is a 200 year old hacienda once owned by the family of the wife of Mariscal Sucre, had been abandoned for a time, and passed through several owners before becoming the base for 'Gulliver Travel', which specializes in organizing climbs to Cotopaxi. Corazon, the Ilinizas and more. The place was full of very serious climbers, with all sorts of gear and several exhausted travelers curled up on the couches. When I climbed to the Cotopaxi Refugio and glacier with Deborah and Mel, we had stopped at the Papagayo for chocolate cake on our way home, so I was familiar with the place. It is comfortable and relaxed, a step up from a hostel, but not quite a hotel.

Psychotropic Flower

Our room was big with a fireplace (necessary as it got colder). Our horses were ready to go, so we missed lunch, and we snacked on 'Spitzbuben' that we picked up at Cyrano's. Alan, dressed in llama chaps and looking very much the cowboy, was waiting for us. The skies cleared momentarily, so we crossed our fingers and mounted 'Caramelo' and 'Joseph' and left the Papgayo. For a few minutes, the mountains were visible, the Ilinizas full of snow, Corazon clear in the distance, Guagua and Rucu Pichincha dusted with snow. Cotopaxi was invisible. I did not think to photograph anything, it was simply too beautiful and breathtaking for those moments, and then the clouds descended and gradually all the mountains disappeared and the rain began. We walked and then cantered for a while, but had to slow down and slog through the big puddles of water. Three yellow labs joined us along the way. At one point we passed a reservoir and one of the puppies fell in and could not climb out because plastic sheeting covered the sides. Alan had to rescue the dog; it would have drowned if not pulled out, since there was no way for it to successfully get out of the water. We continued to a big field where ordinarily all the mountains are visible; Cotopaxi, the Pichinchas, Corazon Ruminahui, and more. We had to be satisfied with just imagining their presence, and even covered with clouds, their power was palpable.

Rescuing the Dog

High Amongst the Mountains

No View of Mountains

Our ride back in the rain was tolerable, but I was looking forward to a fire, and unfortunately we were told that we could not have a fire until 6 PM. I got into the shower, which I could hardly feel because I was so cold, and there was only a choice between very hot and very cold. I chose hot but I am not sure I could tell if it was hot or cold. Once showered and changed, we were offered a most amazing and luscious chocolate cake with tea. I remembered it from our Cotopaxi trip.

Tromping in the Mud

On Our Walk

We were much happier when the fire was blazing in our room and we could dry our clothes and warm up next to the flames. I left the fire going half the night, but it felt good to have a window open with fresh air too. We snuggled in our double bed to stay warm and I could not keep my eyes open past 10!

Riding in the Rain

No Visible Mountains

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