Our latest (and possibly last) update from Ecuador from our Villa Maria team – thanks to Alysia and Debs for your inspired musings!
After a busy first weekend filled with hardcore hiking and shifty shamans, we were into our first full week of Spanish lessons, slowly improving but still a long way to go. Had a relaxing afternoon at the park before trying our hand at some salsa classes, some having more success than others. Visited a Belgian bar for the evening where Mad found a new drunken friend, who then fed us all Belgian chocolates and some potent alcohol he ‘just had to finish’.
In our free afternoons we’ve been exploring all Quito has to offer, from the contemporary art museum to the famous Basilica (much more impressive from the outside)…Our evening meals we have attempted have been suspect at best, with a four hour long pizza making session, unroasted veg and quinoa mush…It has left a lot to be desired for the exped phase, and we are very glad for Susanna’s daily specials at lunch (although an AMAZING chocolate melting cake must be mentioned, courtesy of Mad!).
Being a small group, as well as the sights around Quito we have managed to venture further out on weekdays to the hot springs, Mitad del Mundo and a teleferico cable car to see expansive views across Quito. Rowan aka Dad, our trusty leader, managed to organize a visit to the women’s prison to meet one of the British inmates – definitely an eye opening afternoon.
It has not been all work and no play however, with Ladies Night featuring as a highlight of the week, where free drinks and lots of dancing led to some interesting encounters, broken Ecuadorian hearts and midnight pizza cone feasts.
As well as the first weekend in Otavalo, we then spent a weekend at Mompiche beach. Having heard stories of bliss sunshine and nothing to do for 3 days, the expectations were high. Sadly the weather did not go to our advantage and it really did rain solid for 3 days, even flooding the town. However spirits were not dampened, as we managed to try a lot of the local food and drink, as well as experimenting with the surfboards – not quite pro yet…
The next weekend we set off to the cloud forest, staying with local families in a small ecotourism community called Yunguilla. The families were extremely welcoming (even making a cake for Debs’ 19th!), and we felt well sustained on Saturday morning, ready for the trek ahead. Along with our trusty guide, we encountered at least 60 orchids (each one HAD to be pointed out and photographed of course), as well as snakes and tarantulas – it is safe to say that Nina still has not quite recovered from the traumatic experience.
We stayed a night in Santa Lucia lodge before meeting our next guide Pancho the following day, a close friend of Quest with whom we have worked with on previous projects (see later photo) – after making our own sugar cane juice and trudging up rivers to waterfalls, we can confirm that our cloud forest experience was complete.
One last update – the legacy of the staff vs students football match has been maintained with a crushing defeat 10-8 to the Gringas – special mentions go to Nina’s fabulous flailing legs defense, Alysia’s goal keeping skills and Eva’s sacrificial stomach blocking, helping us to lift the trophy once again!
As our Quito adventure comes to a close, Villa Maria here we come!!
Alysia and Debs x