ECUADOR, mi amor.

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Ecuador, I fell in love as soon as I saw the mountains. We’d been in the desert of Peru for a while and on the way to the border you could feel the change inside. I was sick and every time I looked out the window the landscape was morphing. From yellows and greys to green and blue. The roads began winding and ascending towards the sky. Little waterfalls on the side of the road, which meant never a problem for our failing radiator.

We crossed the _______ border early and didn’t arrive to Cuenca until late. The truck was struggling in the twisting mountains and everyone was disgruntled arriving to the hostel, particularly me, finding myself in a fight with another person in the hostel over the music volume. I’ve been at worse.

With the radiator or engine blow, we spend longer than intended in Cuenca, the stunning colonial UNESCO city, and we find ourselves liking it more each day. Panama hats, beers, lunch, markets, strolling, all the things us gringos do in cities like this and so we make the decision to go to Baños, in desperate need of adrenaline and nature.
It’s a chaotic bus ride, as it always is, and we arrive in great time in the centre of town, there’s not much really. We grab market lunch and hop another bus to Rio Verde, five tunnels away. It’s Jurassic Park all over, to our left is rock wall, green and flowing, to our right, canyons and mountains leading onwards. We didn’t notice the volcano on our first day.
We get to pequeño paraiso, it’s a campsite of my dreams. A cool common area, pool, endless hammocks, volleyball court, massive garden trails leading to different little houses and a view of the canyons. My paradise.
Sue is a Brazilian, though she doesn’t look it with pale skin and red hair, and her husband, Jim (I think) is an Australian. They own the place and have never been happier. They met in Africa where she was travelling and he was working. Both are so well-travelled, they became my new idols.
Their dogs Sasha (though we named her Bowie for her eyes) and Pi____ became our best friends.
Brownies and barbecue dinner on them, it’s celebrations every night from then.

We fall so in love in with Baños we decide to stay a week. There’s so much to do and a desire to just sit and witness nature at it’s most wonderful. How can the world have so much sadness when a place like this exists?
Day time canyoning in the falls, not far from our campsite, freezing cold water and a wet ride back in the ute only adds to adrenaline. Everyday we end up eating at the empanada lady’s cafe in Rio Verde. Banana y mora, my new favourite empanada. We hike to waterfalls and climb in caves, go for cheap massages, read in hammocks, cook dinners, tell secrets, play cards and King’s Cup, drink and enjoy the sun.
We hike up to the volcano lookout. My god, everybody needs to see this. The town is like a small puddle in the valley, shadowed by Volcano Tungaguara, so massive in comparison. There’s land and towns on the lower part of the mountain, but the top is all burnt out (too dangerous to hike according to Sue) and and some parts show signs of landslide. She never stops smoking and in the distant clouds we see the other volcanoes, snowcapped Cotopaxi and is that Cotocachi too?
We start walking back down but eventually everyone hops a ride in the back of a friendly local’s ute.

Overnight in Coca
4 days in the Amazon, el Oriente
two days hiking with local guides, boat rides, pirahna fishing, bird/animal spotting
Back to Coca
QUITO – final fiesta with group in Mariscal
Otavalo in Rose cottage, overlooking the volcanoes Cotacachi, Imbabura
Back to Quito for a flight to Bogota

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