Thanks to Jacob, Emily and Bella O for this masterpiece.
Once upon a time there was a tribe called Quest. Wednesday morning the tribe was surprised by a present for Tom’s birthday: Emily, Jacob, and Claire daringly carried out a traditional South American custom of cracked egg mixed with flour on the head at the breakfast table. While received well by the birthday boy, Emma, whose jumper incidentally took most of the egg, found the situation “less than funny.”
After lessons half of the tribe journeyed to the women’s prison in Quito. Organized through the British Embassy, the group that went to the prison met with Laura, a South African prisoner who is serving an 8 year sentence for attempted drug smuggling. The Questies were surprised by the quality of prison conditions including a plethora of activities for prisoners, quality food, educational opportunities, and karaoke.
Once darkness fell on Tom’s Birthday the Tribe enjoyed some Middle Eastern food at Aladdin’s, a local restaurant. Chicken wraps lined the girls’ stomachs before the girls flocked to happy hour at bungalow 6’s “ladies night” (although they failed to secure any free drinks for the gentlemen). Music varied extensively from Ke$ha, to the Saturdays, to Laura’s astoundingly accurate prediction that “the Spice Girls will be next.” The details of the evening remain locked in the memories of the Tribe (those who remember). What can be told is that the drinks were strong and Tom had a night to forget.
“Lessons” were a welcome source of 2 hours extra sleep the next morning. The Tribe spent the morning with their teachers in Parque Metropolitano sunbathing, playing and enjoying the panoramic views of the valley. Mother Nature was against the Tribe for the rest of the day as she rained and hailed on them as they walked to the museum of Guayamasin, an illustrious Ecuadorian painter and philosopher.
That night, food group had a fiasco finding take out Chinese food, and couldn’t get a satisfactory meal until the third restaurant and a 2 hour delay. Thank god for Joel and his impeccable Spanish, or else the food may have never come. The majority of the tribe stayed in and fittingly watched The Beach.
Friday brought the Tribe an early breakfast and lessons before taking public buses past Mitad del Mundo, where they met up a couple of pickup trucks that took them on a windy trip (past a number of landslides) into the mountains to a village called Yunguilla. A few of the locals took the Questies around the conservation project involving breeding and studying rare plants and using local milk and fruit to produce and sell jams and cheeses.
A heated game of football played between the British and the locals ensued, resulting in a severe British loss. Darkness fell on this quiet idyllic village in the clouds. Most of the Questies were split into pairs and hosted by local families in traditional housing. The families cooked Ecuadorian meals and talked with the pairs about life in the hills. After a few beers, the Tribe called it an early night to prepare for a treacherous early start to the trek the next morning.
The Tribe awoke to roosters calling and the sun peeking over the mountains before being served a traditional breakfast. Fuel for what was to come.
Rain Jackets at the ready, the Tribe loaded into another set of pickup trucks for a breathtaking drive through the mountainous cloud forest to reach the beginning of their epic journey. None could have predicted what was ahead.
A few kilometers of cliffside ascent soon led to various landslides and an extremely muddy trail. The Tribe was now in the cloud forest.
The Tribe soon separated into two groups; Bella steaming ahead with team 1A, Joel whining about being demoted to 1B – he won’t shut up about it, and Pedro sluggishly dragging team 2.
Three months of consistent rain set the stage for miles of knee deep mud along a precarious trail incessantly climbing and sliding down a monstrous mountain range. In this setting it was impossible for the group not to experience a quality fall every few minutes. Quote of the day was from Will claiming “you know you’re miserable when someone falls right in front of you and you don’t laugh.” Fall of the day awards were: Platinum- Emma’s record setting quantity of falls (at least one every two minutes), Gold- Beth’s reverse roly poly domino effect, Silver- Emily’s Hat Trick Fall and spectacular splits (resulting in permanent groin injury), and Bronze- Pedro’s corner turning fall resulting in a near roll off a cliff.
Whilst Team 2 was playing in the mud, Team 1 was pressing the pace, reaching Santa Lucia a full 2.5 hours before Team 2, enjoying showers, and a lazy hammock.
Being Jacob’s birthday, Team Entertainments decorated the dining hall with balloons and banners, while the Santa Lucian chefs created the best meal yet on the trip topped off with a huge chocolate birthday cake.
After dinner, the Questies were treated to traditional Ecuadorian music and spirits. Needless to say, the Tribe slept well.
After jumping into sopping wet, muddy clothes, and bug filled boots, the Tribe set off for the final leg of the journey. A relatively easy four hour trek through the forest and waterfalls, led to a quaint lunch setting on a bridge over a river of rapids. Jess, Jacob, Emily, Pedro, Julie, and Claire enjoyed a refreshing dip in a pool in the river. The sun came out of hiding for the first time since the group has arrived in Ecuador, and burned the shoulders of a few Questies.
At the end of the trek, the Tribe was greeted by some village children wielding numerous water balloons, much to Katie’s dismay.
A squished bus Journey home led to a comfort meal and a relaxing movie night to finish off the weekend.