PART THIRTEEN: STRANDED ON TELEFORIQO, MOUNT COTOPAXI AND THE BREAD LADY WITH A CROWN OF STARS
Hola! mi amigos
The time has come for me to be saying my final 'Adios' to the Jatun Sacha reserve and my adventures here in the rainforest after 6 eventful weeks of living in this utopia of the Amazon (and thank you for still reading them)
It is the month of Christmas and I plan to leave Ecuador within the next few days so I finally spread my wings and forced myself to leave the magic of the rainforest a changed person. Saying a pain stakingly goodbye to my piglet, from the reserve I decided to go to the school again with the other volunteers one last time, but we´d forgotten the teacher had told us the school would be closed that day so of course we were met by an empty classroom. Oh well - nice end to my time in the Amazon. Adam, another volunteer was heading back to Quito also and managed to hail down a bus for us to jump on taking us out of the jungle. Slipping through the pretty cramped bus with our backpacks, I was met by this little voice below me saying ´Buenas Dias´and it was this little boy wearing a Santa Claus hat - how cute! We endured the cramped conditions in the bus to Tena for an hour and once squeezing off it, wandered around the markets buying a shoulder bag and belts all by myself (so proud) until we bought a $6 ticket in the dusty bus terminal from a guy screaming 'Quitoooo!!!!!!' ushering us on to a ´Flota Pelileo´bus. The piece of paper reading 'Quito' on the windscreen was always a comfort to see before I started choking on a piece of chocolate Adam gave me haha!. We headed back to the high altitude of Quito, Ecuadors capital city which lies nearly 3,000 metres above sea level so going from the jungle is pretty tough with the altitude. Anyway, the buses from the Amazon head through the cloud forest (so you literally driving throught the clouds) and the Andean Mountains. It was funny, coz on the bus they actually put on a film that had sound and funny enough it was my childhood hero Indiana Jones in Spanish.
I reached back to the Mountains of Quito a very speedy (they drive buses sooooo fast here) 5 hours later after sitting next to lady who openly was breast feeding her baby as it kept kicking me with its little feet. I immediately started having withdrawal symptons of the jungle, surrounded by the chugging buses, dirty streets and cluttered housing, I longed for the peace of mind of the Amazon. Rita had kindly agreed to house Adam and I at her apartment again so we caught a taxi in the late afternoon before it got dark. Heading towards the East of the city to Rita´s apartment I looked behind me and saw we had arrived at the right time as a mammoth storm was chasing us back into the centre and of course the seat belts don´t work......welcome back to Quito. Rita was happy to have me back and welcomed Adam into her home. The first night back in the city, we had a women wrapped up in Andean clothes seating out on the pavement right outside my window wailing and crying and then lying helplessly in the road, it makes me really sad when I can´t do anything about that, she was pretty sad and kept us up most of the night......
The next morning, seeing as I missed out last time - I wanted to go up Teleforiqo, a multi million dollar sky tram that takes passengers on a 2.5 km ride up the flanks of Volcan Pinchincha to the top of Cruz Loma which was the picturesque view that you could behold on top of Rita's balcony. Adam agreed to go with me and we hailed down a $4 taxi to the base of the tram which is really steep! (well it is on the side of a mountain) but people live and work on that incline so I reckon they are pretty fit walking around there everyday. When you actually get into the cable car after a 100 year wait, it takes nearly an hour to reach the top but looking out you can see how stretched out the city of Quito is as it lies in the valley. When you eventually get to the top you´re at 4,100 metres and your breathing gets a little bit tougher but you just have to acclimitize to that altitude, but the view was sooooo cool .....
but the adventure of it happened coming down........
Well, we got in the cable car which took a century to come around for us to get in to again - Adam and I jumped in with two japanese men and an ecuadorian man who was speaking to them in English who looked like their escort or tour guide or something, sat talking on his blue tooth mobile. At the last moment, an ecuadorian lady came scurrying in to catch the last tram going down - oh how lucky she was. We started to descend and the view of Quito and the bottom drew closer.......we must have been about 20 metres from the end when we heard a strange noise and the momentum of the cable car came to a stop.....
the power had gone.....and we were stuck only 20 metres from the end noooooo!!!!!
The cable car in front of us had just made it off so I guess god wanted us to marvel at the view a little longer of the disembarkment point - at least being stuck at the top you had a nice view. We sat in silence for a while and the Ecuadorian guy sneezed a couple of times and broke the silence by suggesting to the Japanese man sitting in the middle that he knew a really nice Peruvian restaurant that they should go eat at - then the Japanese man translated to the other Japanese man who translated it back with ´No´and then he translated back as ´No´ to the ecuadorian guide - it was so funny to watch!. The ecuadorian lady on the other hand provided us with some musical entertainment by playing this really funny ecuadorian music from her mobile phone to fill the silence.......
After waiting 30 minutes rocking silently in the cable car with still the same view of the disembarkment point just 20 metres away, the power was not coming back on and it was then decided we would have to be rescued via ladder! ha!
Having been living in the tropic humidity of the Amazon, I decided to get myself on a really good trekking tour up the second highest active volcano in Ecuador near Latacunga - Cotopaxi which means ´Neck of the Moon´ because the moon can be seen just above the peak. Cotopaxi stands at a snowcapped 5,897 metres surrounded by paramo (Andean Grassland that looks like those 80's troll toys). The guide took us to 4,500 metres in a truck up the volcano and kitted out in Andean clothing, we slowly hiked up Cotopaxi - the air was the freshest I have ever breathed in my life! but your breathing becomes a lot harder due to the extreme altitude. The view of the park is a very baron due to the volcanic rock and dirt everwhere (the volcano had been know to erupt in the past) our aim was to hike 300 metres to the refuge base where it starts to get more cold and icy. The strangest thing for me looking across the volcano was to see a group of school children literally crawling up the side, must have been a school trip or really harsh punishment!
Reaching the refuge base at 4,800 metres, we stopped to eat and throw snowballs off the side until a few of us opted to go up to 5,000 metres to see the glacier (right up to the snowcapped bit) which was AMAZING - I looked up to the peak and could see tiny figures of mountaineers heading to the summit and the active crater at the top. At 5,000 metres you´re pretty much in the clouds so its a crazy experience, its probably the highest I have been on top of the world I´ve ever been - its awesome. Coming back down is a hell of a lot more fun - you pretty much have to slide! how often do you get to slide down a volcano?!?! Reaching the 4,500 mark again, we could feel a storm was a brewing but that didn´t stop the second half of our tour which was to bike down to the lake on mountain bikes! now that was intense! especially when you´re riding down with lightning bolts all around you! Having survived Cotopaxi and proud of myself that I didn't come off my mountain bike over the rough terrain- we drove to a sweet little farmhouse in the Andes called ´PapaGayo´ where they gave us chocolate cake and made the discovery of a hole under a tree where the farm dog lived with all her puppies running out of the hole! awwwww how much of a better day could I have had!
Adam left to fly back to the USA a few days before me so an Australian guy called Nathan moved in to Rita's spare room so we´ve been out and about around town. There´s this really cool church on a high hill on the north eastern side of the old town in Quito called La Basilica, its really gothic and instead of gargoyles, there are iguanas, reptiles and monkeys on the side of the church. You pay $2 to scale the spiral staircase and over a rickety wooden plank and ladders to the top of the clock towers - pretty cool.
Nathan and I then decided to head to the south of town to the 'Little Bread Loaf' hill 'Él Panecillo´ which also translates into 'The Bagel' where stands a huge statue of La Virgen de Quito a lady with a crown of stars, eagles wings and a chained dragon looking down over her kingdom of Quito down in the valley. We had to get a taxi up there as its right in the south of the city where the working class are so it isn´t exactly the safest part of town. It´s cool when you get to the top, you can go to the top of the statue for the views across Quito and the mountains - and there were even some some really sweet Llamas up there too munching on the grass
The only problem was getting down........we started to walk a little down the hill back to town when we came across a pack of dogs lying on the side of the road.....we nearly passed them until they got up, started barking angrily and started chasing us back up the hill!!! we were absoulutely petrified! we couldn´t walk down the stairs down the hill after that or even if we did it wasn´t safe due to muggings and hold ups so were practically stuck on the top of the hill with the statue! Well what safer company than the religious statue herself.
Luckily, the statues charm paid off and our guardian angel returned, finally managing to flag down this car with a guy and his little boy riding with him and kindly giving us a ride down back into town phew!!! see not all the people in Quito are bad! Getting back into town we went for a nosy around a crafts market looking for a Panama hat for Nathan which are a very popular style of hat here in Ecuador. The markets are huge and we were caught up in a group of people on their banjos and ladies bringing bread and this soup thing in a cup to all the vendors. One of the ladies actually offered us a cup and muttered something we couldn´t understand so we took the cup and took a sip....it was DISGUSTING..... I don´t know what it was but it tasted like thick nicotene, but being polite we had to smile and be like mmmmmmmmm ha! then quickly dashed away to give it to someone else! haha!
Well, the sun is slowly setting on my time here in Ecuador and I am due to be on a plane soon back to Atlanta for a 12 hour stopover and then homeward bound to London where my new acquired Spanish will seize to exist. It's probably been one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life which has been unforgettable - will make a great story hey!
So....do you want to buy an acre of the rainforest?
After my experience in the most biodiverse utopia on planet earth, I made a donation to the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve and bought an acre of the Ecuadorian Rainforest to contribute to the ongoing battle to preserve and protect this most endangered landscape on the planet.
One acre is the same size as 16 tennis courts or one football pitch! - and contains up to 86 different species of tree, with the amphibians, birds, insects and mammals that depend on them.
Here's a number of ways you can do it..
With The Rainforest Foundation UK 'Protect An Acre' scheme - you can buy an acre for just £25 to last a lifetime! extras include a certificate, photo card and information about your acre
With UK based The World Land Trust patroned by Sir David Attenborough you can buy 1/4 acre for £25, 1/2 acre for £50 or a full one acre of £100 in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico
is a Registered Charity in the UK where you can buy one acre in Sri Lanka, Panama, Costa Rica and all over South America for £50
WWF Sky Rainforest Rescue offers you to sponsor an acre from just £3 a month of buy one for £36.
Cool Earth lets you buy 1/2 acre in the Ashaninka region of the Peruvian Amazon for £30 and 1/2 acre in the Awacachi Corridor of the Ecuadorean rainforest for £50. You also get an online account where you can view your plot.
It costs just $15 (12 Euro/£9.50) to purchase and protect an acre with Conservation International to save this threatened habitat and its wildlife from destruction.
Check them out. You'd be amazed what you can do to help.
Now off to soak up my last moments in South America....adios mi amigos....see you again sometime
Mucho Gracias por leer! (Thank You very much for reading)