Ecuador, Day 12. Mindo to Papallacta.

We had our last breakfast at El Monte this morning and packed up to head out. Goodbyes all around, to the guests and to Tom and Other Matt. We took the cable seat ride across the river one more time, and said goodbye also to the old weathered horse that lives, oddly, right there by the side of the road. Fernando (Other Fernando) was already there, waiting to drive us back through Quito and on to Papallacta, our final destination.

Even having seen it before, the drive back was no less impressive. The mountains are clawed, with sharp valleys that cut through the slopes, and everywhere trees, tall and deep green, with broccoli heads. With clouds wrapping themselves around the peaks and spilling lazily down, the road twists through this, back and forth, along the mountain sides. All I could think, again, is how much better it would be ON MY MOTORCYCLE.

We made it through Quito and then stopped in Cumbaya (ha!) for lunch where I picked up a pair of “Ray-Bans” for $6. The restaurant where we ate was local, authentic, and had lots of character. Character like plastic table cloths advertising beer and an old TV turned up to full volume, completely distorted, with a staticy picture and people shouting in Spanish. Out back there was a playground that consisted of one rusty slide in an area that looked like a prison yard. The lemonade was pretty good though. Well, even that, not really.

On then and higher, up more twisting roads to almost 11,000 feet (3300m) where Papallacta is anchored on the mountainside. It’s bizarre to see fields of corn, cows and horses all on slopes of 45 degrees.

The paved road turned to dirt and a short while later we arrived at our destination, the Termas Papallacta Resort. It’s made up of a number of different areas, including the main reception and restaurant, the motel-styled cabins, the public hot spring pools, and the spa. The cabins also have their own private hot spring pools, available 24hrs, so we are all smiling.

We hit the public pools first, a spot apparently popular with the locals on weekends. There are a few large pools, quite deep, that are basically hot tubs so big you can do lengths in them. It’s nice, but a little odd to share that much heated, steaming water with 40 other people. We stayed until wrinkly, and headed back to the cabins. The walk is not short, the air was cold, and we were FREEZING. Doing that ridiculous hunched over shuffle that cold people do, we hurried until we were back to our rooms and the private heated pools right outside our front door. What’s better than that? I’ll tell you what. Nothing. Cold body, hot water, YES. We stayed there for another hour, and Oakley, 2nd son sent from the Gods, gave me a back massage and poured hot water from the pool over my back and neck.

The resort is quite remote so the restaurant here is by far the most convenient place to have meals. It’s nice though, and the staff are great. I noticed that the canned music is both cheesy and on a short, automated loop, so we’ll see how crazy that makes me.

End of day now, tired, light headed from the altitude, and thinking this corner in the mountains will be the perfect place to wrap up this trip. Bitter sweet.

(March 17, 2012.)

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