Ecuador is truly a beautiful country. I have said it before, but I love the diversity of places to visit. Last weekend I was at the beach, today I was in snow. Three other friends and I visited the volcano Cotopaxi. Our guide led our hike through a windy path, to an altitude of over 16,000 feet. Our guide does the hike four to five times a week, and left us in the dust as we struggled to breathe as we continued to scale up the volcano. There is a refuge where we sat and rested for a bit, and then we continued up to a glacier. My host mom told me about Cotopaxi before going, and described the national park as something you stand, looking out in awe of the unique beauty you see, and she was absolutely correct. We were in the clouds for part of the time, with incredible views. There is the snow covered peak, and it is possible to visit with a few days and some beforehand training. It was clear on our ascent, and as we went down it began hailing turn to snowing. My time in Ecuador is quickly disappearing. Although I am wiped from the hike, it was cold, and I got a little dirty, it was completely worth spending my energy and Sunday for sights that left me in complete wonder.
I would really love to tell you about probably one of the best days of my life that happened during my Galápagos trip. The last day on our cruise was just extraordinary, and continues to make me smile when I think about it now. In the afternoon we took a panga boat near ChampionIsland to snorkel. The water reflected a beautiful blue and the sunlight shone through, making the water clear and easy to see what was below. We followed a current down the side of the island, and it seriously looked something out of Finding Nemo. There were colorful sea stars, schools and schools of brightly colored fish varying from little Mullets to large Parrotfish, penguins, and sea lions. The sea lions were so friendly it was difficult to keep the GalapagosNational Park requirement of six feet away. The marine life was absolutely phenomenal! After the best snorkeling I have ever done, my snorkeling group returned to our boat and we began to near our ship. As we approached the ship, two of my friends who had already returned yelled down to the panga “Lindsay! There are whales!” In order for you to appreciate how great this is you must first understand that I really, really love whales. I think they are such magnificent mammals and love how big and beautiful the different types are. In the Galápagos right now it is not whale season, and I knew that coming in; however, I was really hoping that a few did not get the migration memo, and I made sure to check the water periodically during the cruise. During the cruise they also said there was a channel where whales could be, only encouraging my search, and my friends teasing me for constantly watching the water (which was beautiful, and I would have done anyways). With that being said, I thought my friends were joking when they called down to the boat, but then our boat driver turned our boat and started towards where they were indicating from the deck. Our guide did not believe me when shouted as enthusiastic as a child on Christmas morning: “they’re Orcas!” but after watching them follow along the coast of the island of Floreana, they continued to demonstrate their beautiful white and black Orca markings. I still cannot believe how blessed I was to be on the panga at the right time to be able to go and see the whales up close. Not that I needed ANYTHING else to make the day any better, but my last day was so memorable. Later in the afternoon, a pod of dolphins graced us with their presence by passing the ship. At night, I finished packing early and went up to the deck and watched a shark come check out the lit area from the ship’s light, and as if I was writing the end of my day myself, a shooting star ended the day as we were stargazing.
I am trying really hard not to write just about my weekend trips, but I have been really blessed to be able to travel around the country with the exception of just one weekend since I have been here. Ecuador is so diverse with the Oriente (jungle/Amazon) the Sierra (where Quito is, most volcanoes and the Andes are), the Coast (beach…obviously) and it’s all in one country, accessible by a cheap bus in a few hours, with hostels available for eight dollars a night. This weekend, I was able to see the Coast in a small hippy town called Canoa. From first glance the beach looks no different than one in California, but there were a few lovely and surprising exceptions. The water was the most, perfect temperature of water I have ever been in, if you really wanted to swim for the whole day, I am pretty sure it would be possible. What was the most memorable part of Canoa were the sunsets, the water had receded far back into low tide, where there was just enough water over the sand to reflect a glistening portrait of the sky. The sky was completely clear at the horizon, and I had the privilege to stand amazed as the full sun slowly escaped into the ocean.
In the Cuyabeno Jungle I:
May have seen an anaconda
Watched a tarantula stare down from the roof of the dining room every night
Fished for and touched a piranha, then later went swimming
Spotted caiman in the water
Frequently checked my hair as I saw a grand assortment of spiders covering the landscape (that were actually quite beautiful) on a night hike
Realized that while I was told I was staying in a hotel, the accurate description would be camping with a roof
Attempted to take pictures of different types of monkeys as climbed through the trees above us
Napped in a hammock
Woke up early to see colorful and large tropical birds begin their day
Stayed up late watching the southern hemisphere constellations
And the fireflies sparkle, on the edge of the river
This weekend I went on a trip with the Spanish school to Banos de Agua Santa. It is a smaller town, a four hour bus ride from the center of Quito, surrounded by beautiful mountains and waterfalls.