Very Special Reunion: Tuesday was a very special day–it marked the reunion of Team Ecuador! Shawna and Chad flew in from Phoenix, and Meg and Alex flew in from Denver to meet me, John, Joe, and Lori. Victor came to fetch us at the hotel and we were ready to hit the road. We fit nicely in Victor’s passenger van. Alex, Shawna, and Chad are all fluent in Spanish so they helped Victor translate! It worked great.
Quick Note on Planning: About five months before our trip we started planning our trip to mainland Ecuador. We met as a group of eight (with Alex and Meg on conference call) and prioritized activities. We considered driving for overnights to each of our top three desired locations (Mindo, Cotapaxi, and Quilotoa) but in the end decided to stay at one hotel in Quito and do these as three day trips. This meant we spent a lot of time in Victor’s van. I think it worked out just fine in the end, though if I had it to do over I might combine the Cotopaxi-Quilotoa and do one overnight away from Quito, keeping our hotel rooms so we didn’t have to pack and unpack.
Equator Museum: It’s easy to find videos of folks enjoying the many experiments proving that life is strange at the equator. It was even more fun to see them in real life! We watched water flow straight down the drain, we balanced an egg on its end, and we walked the equator line where gravity works differently! There were several pretty cheesy parts of this tour, like the guinea pigs who are meant to squeal if you are a bad person and the shrunken heads. But our guide here was young and cheerful and handsome so who could complain?
Butterfly Museum: This was a cute and fun stop. I enjoyed seeing the hummingbirds, and seeing the area where the butterflies start their lives. There was a gorgeous collection of tropical flowers. We took way too many pictures of butterflies until the geese tried to kill me.
Chocolate Tour: Our guide was really friendly and so knowledgeable. I enjoyed talking with him about US immigration policies. He also answered every single question I had about the history of the automation of the chocolate industry and the use of GM seeds for Cocoa plants. His presentation was a crowd pleaser, even though we all got eaten alive by mosquitos in the Cocoa fields.
Lunch at El Quetzal: The trout here was sublime.
Nambilla Cascadas Hike: The highlight here was the tram that whisked us across a massive hilly and tree-lined gorge to the start of the hike. From there, the trail was lush and green and opened up to several beautiful pools and waterfalls. I wish we had more time here.
Dinner at Cafe San Blas: By the time we returned to the hotel we were pretty tired! It was nice to be staying in a quiet, safe neighborhood. We took a stroll to Cafe San Blas, where we sat at the counter and watched as the matronly owner ruled over her restaurant with military precision! I could have watched her all night long, making sure orders were handled correctly, complaining when a group of three American tourists spread out over a table for six, and wordlessly dropping our items at our table with confidence. We loved it!