I left off with the plane landing uneventfully.
Got my bag and headed out. I was running on some crazy energy. Basic immigration line and thankfully having been up front in the plane I got an early start on the line. That was quick too. Maybe because they all seemed so tired being up that early. Oh yeah. We landed like 30 minutes early at 0345 or something. After immigration it was off for my bags. It took a while for my checked bags to come. Intact and appearing to be unopened it was off to customs. Pretty fast there as well. I gave my form, put all my bags including hand bag on the scanner belt and picked them up. That was it. I left that area wondering if I’ll find my ride. You know. New country. I don’t speak the language well enough. I also don’t have a phone that I can use for calls and I also can’t find my info sheet of phone numbers that I need in case of problems. Well. No problems.
As soon as I left customs I saw a woman holding up a sign for the inn and my first name. The coincidence chance of it NOT being me was low so I nodded that it was me. She met me with another woman. I learned it was Patricia and Karla, mother and daughter respectively. Karla speaks some english and thankfully I know just enough spanish to answer their questions and learn their names. They had a cab waiting and we took off for the inn after loading my luggage. It was maybe about a 25-30 minute ride. From the basic info sheet I had gotten the impression that it would be far away and difficult to get to. My mistake and I may have planned things out just a little differently if I had known that. Fatigue and too many movies made me start wondering if everything was legit once we took a turn off the main road onto a road that needs new paving. I trusted in the force and just went with it. What am I going to do call someone? But I am feeling this awakening like I’m already needing to plan another trip but this time much more relaxed and open. That vision of renting a motorcycle or car and just start driving and seeing this continent. There’s just too much I haven’t seen in South America, which is actually everything since this is my first time.
We got to the inn and I met Robert, the owner. Seems I’m the first guest to arrive at that ungodly/unholy hour in the morning. I don’t want to break this streak of first times now. The room is nice. Each bed has laid out the towels and some soap. I still think the hand towel and face towel and some other towel are a marketing ploy. Just get one size of hand towel and your shower towel and be done with it. I had signed up for a triple but with only two guys we have a double. No biggie. The recommendation from Robert is to just use the bottled water. The local water is mostly safe but just like anywhere, you can get sick. I’ll still probably end up drinking some of it.
Well, I need some sleep so I’ll stop here for now.
p.s. I thought someone had left the light on outside but then I realized, it’s just the sun. I’m too lazy to get my face mask so I’ll just bury under the covers.
(Pause for sleep)
I woke up a few times but eventually got up around 10am. I wondered around first taking pictures. Lots of beautiful artwork, ceramics, and woodwork including this massive piece in the living room.
I met up with Robert as I was wondering around outside.
He took me for a tour of the place showing the pool, hot tub (empty right now), game room, the avocados (which will be ripe when we get back), lemons, etc. He’s from Brooklyn, has some tennis courts there, and is a tennis instructor. He and one of his brothers are here running this place and slowly continuing to improve it. Back in the house we went through the rooms again. The ceramic tiles are made in equador and are one of the things we will hopefully see. The posters and items are to try and show the diverse and regional sides of Ecuador, which is the size of colorado). The woodwork is also from Ecuador. That massive piece I saw before was carved from one tree. The large piece is supposed to represent the plight of the indigenous.
As I was still the only person here I was treated to breakfast outside and Robert joined me. Scrambled eggs, toast with butter and jam, this juice that tasted like pear with something else (although it reminds me of lychee as I’m typing this), water, cheese (which went great with the scrambled eggs), coffee (my ?5-6 day no coffee streak is broken now), and granola with peach yogurt.
We talked about what to do for the day and with others still to come we postponed the hot springs and the local canyon hike for now. For about $75-100 (price yet to be paid), he set me up with a cab driver to take me to the cablecar for a ride up the mountain in quito and then I would take myself on a hike. The drive was about an hour and we only stopped maybe 6 times to ask for directions on how to get there. At the Teleferico, which I think is starting around 9000 ft already, I bought a roundtrip ticket for $8.50. I don’t remember if I mentioned that the ecuadorian money is tied to the us dollar so the prices are in dollars. The small cablecar fits six and I was placed in a car of 5 to make it even. It took about 20 minutes to get to the top. By the way, I was already a little out of breath walking up the hill to the ticket booth. As the car finishes its trip up you START at 13,287 ft according to the sign. Unfortunately my altimeter was off by 100-200 ft and until I can check my GPS tagged photos with some topography, I’ll have to use the photos of my watch as an estimate. Still, making it to about 14,200 ft ain’t so bad.
It started with sun and a lot of uphill. Basically all of it was uphill. I kept stopping for photos, panoramics, and GPS tagged photos so I can place them all on the map correctly. I hope the tags will also allow me to get the elevation off of them as well once I know where on the mountain I was. I also had a google tracks map running until the phone battery died. I had an external battery that was supposed to be used to keep it charged, but it only works when you remember to bring the charging cable as well.
Basically everybody passed me on my trek up. I made a few pauses to contemplate if I should continue. The clouds would move in and out and the temperature was dropping enough for me to see my breath. I had my barefoot running shoes with socks on, jeans (which I almost didn’t bring), a short sleeve fast drying shirt and my north face zip up sweater. I also had my sometimes itchy lambswool and nylon gap hat and thin glover liner gloves. They all were just perfect though. I could feel myself sweating but never felt I was too cold. Or I was delirious from the hypoxia and didn’t know any better.
At some point I was barely moving 20 steps before I had to stop and take a breath. That was my 14,060ft picture which Robert thinks is closer to 16,000 ft. (After checking the GPS photos my altimeter was only off by about 100 ft which makes the final elevation 14,166.7ft. Plus with the sun going away and the clouds moving in I felt I had pushed my safety to the limit having made a noob mistake of leaving my flashlight in my other bag (something that is now fixed). As soon as I started coming back down it was like a burst of energy was coming through me. Probably just my body getting more of the oxygen it was wanting and spurring me on to keep getting even more. More pictures on the way back including some night photos of quito. Took the ride back down, this time joining a family of 4. Thankfully my spanish is just good enough that I was able to tell the wife to try taking the pictures through the small open vent window instead of through the dirty plastic frame around us. I hope her pictures came out well.
At the bottom as soon as I got out I went to the nescafe that robert recommended and bought one masa/cheese meal for myself and one cheese empanada for staff. Apparently the cab driver was a little nervous and as soon as I came down some more to find him, someone else was there telling me that he’s been looking for me. I understand. It was getting pretty late. I was also feeling pretty tired since I was working on that early morning broken sleep. The ride back took a bit longer. There was a lot more traffic than we encountered on the way up. People did stop at the lights and otherwise it was like real traffic everywhere else I’ve seen it.
This is one of those times where I wish my spanish was a lot better. I think I could have just arranged this half-day trip by myself for cheaper and taking either a cab also or just public transportation. I also could have just walked around near the inn just to soak in the culture but I would have missed the hike. Decisions, decisions. But if you’re spanish is up to par, you can decide for yourself.
I got back and took a shower as best as I could. The hot water only lasted a few minutes. Just enough for me to get all soapy to rinse in the cold water. It was good training (and that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself) for the hot springs that has multiple temperatures and a cold dip area as well. It still wasn’t as cold as the spring in the highlands of scotland. That was enough to shock me into forgetting to swim back to the surface for air. Dinner was great. Just Robert and me. His brother was occupied. A really awesome vegetable soup to start. And the main plate was sweet plantains, french fries (home made), beef, rice and a salad. Robert is going to start wondering if I’m eating enough. I’ve just retrained myself to eat a lot slower now and I’m filling up way faster now as well, even without the water and juice that were there. We talked about tennis, eye vision correction and what is going on with the trip. One person is already not making it with pipes broken at home. Another arriving tonight has an injured foot. I suggested the hot springs instead of the hike if her foot isn’t ready for it. Because of the one person not making it, Robert has chosen to move people around little when they get here and us two gents now have our own rooms, where I’m sitting right now actually typing this up. Internet is a no go for now and there should be some when we get to the island. If not Robert thinks it should be up and running by the time we get back from the Galapagos.
As I write this, I hear the dogs barking and the sound of rolling wheels. I think the next person is here.
(Pause to go visit and probably pick this up tomorrow so I can work on photos.)
They went to bed. I’ll read a little and then off to bed myself. Breakfast at 8am.