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Okay, we're back in Quito for the night, let's try this blog post again.
On Thursday morning we met up with Guillermo Valencia a local driver/guide recommended by our hotel. He did a great job of narrating the landscape of Quito - physical, political and otherwise - as he took us out toward Mindo. We stopped along the way to stand on the equator (Chris tried to balance an egg on a nail and failed, Kelly successfully verified that water swirls in different directions on different sides of the line, etc.), and to take in some stunning views of craters and volcanoes amid the lush jungles.
We drove into Mindo and right back out again to El Monte, the jungle lodge where we'd reserved a cabana for two nights. Between the beautiful spot we had right on the rushing Mindo river, the amazing home-cooked meals three times a day, the beautiful main open-air lodge, and the warm and friendly staff, we were in paradise (mosquitoes notwithstanding). We also had a chance to meet and dine with travelers from around the world, some of them on multi-month trips - it was quite fun (and okay, sometimes exhausting) to discuss politics, religion and economics with such a wide variety of global perspectives. It's amazing how fast you can become connected to fellow travelers, learning to trust and even depend on each other for parts of the journey.
It would have been easy to just shuffle between our beautiful cabin (view of the river from our bedroom seen to the right) and the meals, but we also took advantage of the many activities in the area - we visited a butterfly museum, ziplined around the treetops, took a dip in the river, went birdwatching at 6:30 AM (didn't see much - a Toucan, Kingfisher, and a few others), and a lovely tour through the jungle around the property (caterpillars, bananas, a Sickle-Winged Guan, spiders, armadillo holes and more) . El Monte is owned by Tom and Mariella, who have worked hard to create an experienced powered by renewable resources (mostly hydro and solar) and supported by an amazing staff of cooks, guides, and hospitality coordinators. We felt like we were among friends and well taken care of.
Today was mostly about saying good-bye to El Monte and surviving the 2 hour bus ride home. What would probably considered a 1-lane road in the US was treated as 3-lane road here, and what some people pay big bucks to experience at amusement parks in the US, we experienced for only $2.50/person on that bus. Wow.
Other things we've learned in the last few days:
- When you're going to bed in a hotel room, check that the television isn't set to turn on a blaring music video program at 5:30 AM.
- People from California know EVERYTHING
- Being able to launder your own "space underwear" (as Derric called it) doesn't do you much good if it can't dry properly.
- Don't take Dramamine unless you really mean it
- Taking a nature hike with a guide that doesn't speak English, when you don't speak much Spanish, is very fun and somewhat confusing.
We're back at Hostal de la Rabida tonight, and we found a nice local restaurant to hang out at for a bit as we observed some Quito night life - random camera shot to the right.
The quick escape from the city to the jungle and the lush setting there made time pass very slowly - Kelly and I have both remarked that we feel like we've been here for a long time already and really soaking things in, so it's amazing to think we've only done half of a week in our 2.5 week trip.
We're traveling well, though - taking time to make the transitions at a pace that lets us enjoy each experience, finding a good mix of "roughing it" and taking advantage of the amenities and rest offered to us, and taking care of each other as we experience the unexpected. Laughing and exploring together has been really wonderful.
Tomorrow morning, we're back to the airport to fly to the Galapagos and begin our 8-day tour of the islands. It's a rich itinerary, full of nature-watching, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking and more - Kelly is bursting with excitement about communing with the sea lions. It will also probably be without internet access 🙂 so more from us in about a week.
Thanks much for your comments, and thanks again for following along. Good night!