Yesterday we went east to Quilotoa, a crater lake. Along the way we made a few stops and got to see much more of the beautiful Ecuadorian landscape. The rural lifestyle was very familiar to me. Grass covered homes dug into the ground, open spring wells and fields dug by hand were a welcome site. There is a simplicity and pride in hard work that is evident in the rural settings of a country. Life is hard in these rural areas but people are happy and successful in their own ways.
We stopped at a local market where all foods imaginable, tables of used clothes, pirated phones and all plastic objects needed for a home, were displayed for sale. It was wonderful to walk through an aspect of life I know so well. I only wish I knew enough Spanish to greet the vendors and engage them in light market talk. It was thrilling to stand with Jen and her roommate Kaycee as they bartered their way into the ownership of a cell phone. How much better is it to have a cell phone you bought in a rural market than from some legitimate store in the capital city? This way not only do you have a cool story to tell about your cell phone but you are also helping out the local economy!
Also while we were at the market I bought 2 empanadas from a street vendor. The man's toothless grin as he wrapped the empanadas in a ripped piece of paper made me feel utterly content and happy to be part of a beautiful moment of shared humanity. He had a good to sell, I had a hunger to satisfy. Both were proud of the partnership.
The trip was a good 3 - 4 hour drive from Quito, this time thankfully in a van. We reached one of the highest points in Ecuador and I had the biggest headache from being car sick and having altitude sickness. Not the most pleasant moment of the day. On our drive we passed traditional villages, open earth from earthquakes and lots of llamas, alpacas and sheep. Ecuador is a beautiful country!
We got to Quilotoa and climbed up a hill to look out over a beautiful lake carved into edged hills created by a volcanic eruption several miles away that triggered an earthquake thousands of years ago. The water was strikingly blue. The hills surrounding the lake were steep and we decided to hike down them to get to the lake. What an intense decision that turned out to be! The path alternated between being loose rock and thick sand. Many passages were narrow where we encountered a woman walking her sheep back up the cliffs, another woman bringing her mules down (to later take us back up) and other hikers. Once we reached the bottom we were content to sit on the shore of the volcanic lake and marvel at it's beauty. It was a beautiful place to rest.
Before starting our hike down the crater, we had to order mules to take us back up if we didn't want to hike up. The thought of riding mules up a crater in Ecuador was too great an appeal for us to turn it down. This turned out to be a great decision since the hike down was so intense.
When we were ready to head back up two little boys saddled a mule and called me the "small one" to ride the first mule. This mule turned out to be an old lady mule with a heart problem, I swear! It was breathless as we climbed the steep cliffs and I could feel her heart beating uncontrollably beneath my legs. The saddle was also a problem for me. It was genuine leather but hard hard hard! There were moments I was in serious pain and thought hiking up would have been less painful. As I saw a few brainless hikers making the trek up I realized this wasn't true. The mule, even one with a heart problem, was by far the smartest choice.
Quilotoa was a fun trip. We have a bit of down time today as Jen has to get some work done. I did the babies morning feeding and now am heading out to explore more of Quito with Kaycee. Then, tomorrow Jen and I are off for another adventure! Galapagos here we come!