Ecuador, Day 14. Pappallacta to Quito.

I got up early this morning to shoot the view from the Cruz Glorioso, a tall cross at the top of a hill that overlooks the resort and the town of Pappallacta, down in the valley. The Antisana Volcano can also be seen, but it was overcast and the low clouds meant there were no photos to be had. Instead, I sat at the cross and simply took in the nearby scenery, the sounds, the moment. It was almost meditative, and I became completely present, watching and absorbing the details of the things around me. There are some feelings that just can’t be captured in a photo.

After breakfast I returned to same hilltop with Fawn and the boys, but before long the 3 of them headed back to the room. I decided I would go on, continuing along the path that passes the cross and heads uphill. A great decision as it was one of the best hikes of the trip. Up into the hills there is a fast moving river that rushes through the jungle. The path, narrow and often overgrown, goes up one side and down the other, sometimes crossing over with rickety bridges. Spanish signs accented the path, likely telling me to “Go No Farther!” but I couldn’t tell. Photo ops along the way, with cool epiphytes and enthusiastic vines hanging everywhere. A great hike and nice time alone.

Each day the sky has started clear, with clouds gathering around the treed mountain tops mid-morning. Then, over the course of the day, the clouds descend, first blanketing the trees and then rolling slowly down the hillsides until they reach into the resort itself. It’s like the clouds are keeping time, part of an enormous natural clock.

It’s our last day here, so we packed up and went for an early lunch. Remember the music at the restaurant that I mentioned? After just 3 days we all want to stick forks in our ears. There’s only so many times you can take the muzak version of My Heart Will Go On. That number is 0.

Fernando showed up at 1 to pick us up and we all piled into the van to head back along those twisty mountain roads to Quito. He was a little bouncy on the gas and I wasn’t sure if we’d make it without one of us throwing up, but a well timed stop for drinks got us through.

We made it into Quito, arriving at the JW Marriott by 3:30. This ended up being a culture shock I wasn’t expecting. What a big, expensive, decadent line of hotels. In fact, I had some genuine trouble with the English-only signs, the rich white people, the huge outdoor heated pool, the big gym, the steam room, the sauna. So did I boycott the excessiveness in a hotel that ultimately fuels the American economy and not the local Ecuador people? Puh-lease.

I headed for the gym right away (Fawn and the boys went swimming in the rain). I was surprised the altitude didn’t affect me while working out. Well, I got light headed once or twice, and feeling like I’m just a little bit drunk all the time is now the norm. It’ll be disappointing to lose that when we go home. Or perhaps just more expensive to maintain.

Into the eucalyptus steam room and then a shower, complete with dual massage shower heads. Yes, yes, I know.

Back in the room, I was able to get online and finally download the emails I had been missing over the past two weeks. There were about 150 total (reasonable), and ignoring work emails as best I could, I sorted through the rest. I was disappointed to see that the world had got along fine without me.

End of the day now. Beer, food, and very, very tired. Next, the promise of a 3am wake up call…!

(March 19, 2012.)


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