from weeks in the past…

2 May
It’s been a busy past couple of weeks.  May 7-15th my parents (my biological set) visited me and we had a week full of activities and exploring. The night that I dropped them off at the Quito airport, I headed back to Otavalo so Julio and I could leave for our adventure to Colombia early on Monday (May 16th). We returned to Otavalo on the 24th, and the next evening I was in River Falls, WI, USA.
Brief re-caps:
Week with Parents: (I copy/pasted the summary email my mom sent out to her friends… )
“I am writing a “blog” type email to give you a brief summary of our Ecuador trip.  Thank you to all of you, who in some way, made it possible for Dave and I to take this trip.  In a way, it was a trip of a lifetime, because we had Kelly there as our tour guide and interpreter.  This gave us a whole different experience than if we had gone with a tour group or through a tour guide.  The whole trip went smoothly.  I’ll give you a short itinerary of what we did:
Saturday, May 7th, 2011 – arrived in Quito, late, around 11:00 p.m.
Sunday – walked around “Old Town” Quito in the morning; took a cable car up to Pachincha area in the afternoon and hiked around for a few hours; met Kelly’s Quito family in the evening
Monday – visited Cimas, Kelly’s school in Quito and met the staff; visited the Botanical Gardens in Quito; had lunch at the Family’s restaurant; then took a 2 hour bus ride through the mountain range (for only  $2.00/person) to Otavalo
Tuesday – walked around Otavalo and visited the markets and bargained for a few things; learned the phrase “Quánto cuesta?”, which means “How much is this?”; met Kelly’s Otavalo family, and saw their  “chakras”, which is their farm plots, and then got fed by Luzmila, the Mom.  She’s a great cook, along with Abuela (“Grandma”).
Wednesday – met with Kelly’s Otavalo family and hiked to the sacred tree, El Lechero.  We took the “back route”, which was basically straight up – very challenging in the thin air for we sea dwellers; then hiked  to Parque Condor and saw the demonstration they put on.  It was fascinating.  Kelly was able to hold a Kestrel.  The condors are huge! Then we hiked to the waterfall, Cascada Peguche.  But we  stopped, en route, for a picnic lunch that Luzmila had packed and that Humberto hauled the whole time.  It included 2 different large pots of various beans and other preparations that Luzmilla had made,  complete with silverware, ceramic plates and a liter of homemade fruit juice.  It tasted wonderful.  The waterfall was impressive, to say the least.
Thursday – went to Cotacahi, a nearby town, which is known for their leather work.  Bargained some more for various items; visited the nearby lake, Laguna Cuicocha, which was also stunning.  We didn’t do  the 4 hour hike around the lake, but hiked for over 1 hour.  We had stunning views from there, because we were so high up.   Note, we also ate some fruit from a street vendor, and did not wash it first.   Returned back to Otavalo, and Tami attempted to attend a yoga class with Kelly, but had started to feel ill and ended up with a bad case of Gastritis.  We won’t go into details here.
Friday – we were originally going to travel and stay overnight at the Intag area, but because Tami was still recovering, we just hung around Otavalo for that day.
Saturday – visited several more nearby towns, including Ibarra (not too much there) and the nearby lake.  We thought we’d see a bull fight that was being advertised, but when we got to it, we told the taxi  driver to take us back to town.  There were about 5 people there and it was not the glamourous image you might imagine.  We then went to San Antonio, which is known for their wood working and saw  some beautiful wood carvings.  Note, we did not eat anymore unwashed fruit. We returned to Otavalo and enjoyed the building excitement of the city on the weekend.  There are always people in the  sidewalks, which are safe to walk around on at night.
Sunday – met Jose at 10:00 a.m. and he took us straight up to Laguna Mojanda, about 40 minutes outside of Otavalo.  He is also one of the cooks at the hotel we stayed at, and makes a fabulous brick oven  pizza!  The brick and stone road up there was mostly good, but had been washed out in spots due to the rainy season.  It was supposed to be a 2 hour “easy” hike around 2 of the 3 lakes up there, but  we were feeling good, so we thought we’d go see the 3rd lake.  Well, the hike ended up being 4 hours and quite challenging.  Plus, we encountered about every weather condition possible – beautiful  sunshine, fog, hail, rain with thunder and lightening.  When you’re up in the Andes, you never know what to expect with the weather, and we got it all in just 4 hours!”

Week in Colombia:

Lunes, 16/5: Left at 4:00am to catch a bus to the border town of Tulcán. Taxi to the border. Went through Ecuadorian and Colombian customs. Taxi to the bus station in Ipiales. Bus to Pasto- Popayan- Cali. After two hours of waiting in the bus station, we took our last bus to Armenia, then a taxi to the house of couch-surfing friend Juanita (who had left keys with the guard so we could enter her house at 4:30am on Tuesday without disturbing anyone). It was, almost literally twenty-four hours in buses through all kinds of countryside and road conditions, occasionally interrupted by security checks from Colombian police and military officials.

Martes, 17/5: Ate my first arepa for breakfast, along with a wonderful cup of Colombian coffee. Juanita walked us around the town and helped us get our bearings. I tried a typically Colombian fruit called chataduro, served with honey… it tasted like dry, poorly prepared yucca and Julio and Juanita were amused by the face I made as I gave it a “second-try bite” (to no avail). Armenia is a city of 200.000 in a hot climate and the three of us were all sweating and wanting to change our shirts to something with less fabric by the time we returned from our stroll. Juanita had to go to work, but gave us instructions of how to get to a coffee plantation and foundation to preserve the coffee culture called Recuca. We were dropped off at the end of a banana tree-lined dirt road and we walked for a kilometer until we saw the well-kept orange-trimmed building indicating home-base for Recuca. We learned about coffee culture and how the coffee berries were traditionally harvested and processed. I had the best cup of coffee I think I will ever have.

Miércoles,  18/5: Went to a small mountain village called Salento and explored. We took a Willyx to Valle de Cocora to hike for a few hours. When we got back to Armenia, we made a fantastic dinner of pasta with shrimp and a cream sauce, salad with balsamic and olive oil, and a white wine. It was very well received.

Jueves, 19/5: Left Armenia to head to a coastal town where a bunch of rivers meet and flow into the ocean… and then we slept through our bus stop. So we changed plans and went to Cali, the salsa capital of the world, instead. We met up with a group of couch-surfers celebrating birthdays at a salsa club called Tin Tin Deo that evening. Surprisingly, we held our own and were able to dance without embarassing ourselves… but WOW! there were some fantastic dancers!!

Viernes, 20/5: Went to the Zoológico de Cali, a modern art museum (which wasn’t spectacular), and hung out at a bar to drink a few beers before the dancing started.

Sábado, 21/5: Managed to wake up very early to catch a bus to Popayan which would then take us to San Augustin. Spent the majority of the day on the bus- half of those hours we bumped along a dirt road, occasionally stopping for security checkpoints or slowing down to pass army tanks. Arrived in San Augustin around 3:30pm, found a hotel, met up with couch-surfing friend Steven to get to know the town a bit better. Had a crazy night of dancing.

Domingo, 22/5: Spent the day in a Jeep touring rocks carved by the ancient civilization of San Augustin and seeing the beautiful natural landmarks in the area. I have so many pictures of stones now. Because it was raining in the evening, we stayed in and painted with a plant called Achote (which the Ecuadorian Tsachila indigenous population uses to dye their hair).

Lunes, 23/5: Went to El Parque Arqueológico de San Augustin. Had a great morning walking around and taking pictures despite the heat. We caught a bus around 3pm for Popayan and started our return trip to Otavalo.

Martes 24/5: Made it to Otavalo at 10:30am… after a long night on the most uncomfortable bus I’ve ever had the chance to experience. Showered and felt like a new person. Picked up chinese food and watched the news. Went to bed early.

Miercoles 25/5: Julio drove me to the airport. I had finally controlled my tears when my Otavaleño family called me to wish me safe travels. I spent the rest of the day in airports and planes. Woke Emily up around 11pm when the dogs and I jumped on her.

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(apologies for the unorganized mess of photos… ask if you have specific questions 🙂

Mucho amor… sending from stateside now,

la kelly

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