Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventure A'Plenty

I'm a big fan of my friend Jill's blog.  She and her family are currently living in Japan and she is documenting all the family adventures they are experiencing during their time in Asia.  She recently wrote that she hasn't been blogging for awhile because things are starting to feel normal for her in Japan, there is the "been there, done that" feeling about the things she comes across on a day to day basis.  I know exactly what she is talking about...I'm starting to feel that way about Ecuador.  It isn't that I don't know I am having the experience of the lifetime, it is just that the experience is starting to feel like normal life.  That is, until this past weekend.

This last weekend, which marked the first break in 9 weeks of school (crazy, right?  No one is supposed to spend that much time with 6th and 7th graders in one pop), Dave and I had one of those Ecuador adventures that makes us hardly believe we are lucky enough to live this life. 

Thursday, almost as soon as the last bell of the day rang, Dave and I threw some things in a bag and headed to the airport.  After waiting for over an hour for our delayed flight, we finally arrived in Quito to begin our mountain biking extravaganza.

We booked a two-day mountain biking trip along a couple of Ecuador's more famous volcanoes, Chimborazo and Cotopaxi.  Even though the trip was completely downhill riding and really no hard work was put into the rides, you want to know what my favorite thing to say right now is?  

"Yeah, I've been mountain biking in the Andes."  

The Andes people!!  That is awesome.  And never going to get old.

Dave and I, along with our awesome guide Mo and fellow bikers Francesca and Martin, began our biking adventure early Friday morning.  We drove to the first base of Cotopaxi with Mo giving us some history of the area as we made our way up the dirt road.  The landscape was beautiful, and reminded me a bit of Southern Idaho, with it's desert feel, lava rocks, and sparse grasses.  We even came across a field of wild horses as we made our way through the valley at the base of Cotopaxi.  It was also the first single track we have seen in months, as in 15 months.  Dave and I were in heaven.

After our four hours of biking, we loaded up the bikes and headed to the small town bordering Chimborazo for the night.  On the way, our guide made a stop in one of Ecuador's small towns.  Now, one of the greatest characteristics of this country is the fact that there are many villages that specialize in just one thing.  All the shops and businesses seem to be centered around one commercial item.  There is a village that sells all leather products, one that sells wood carvings, one that specializes in the wonderful bizcoche treats.  And then there is the village our guide took us to this weekend, one that specializes in ice cream.  Possibly the best ice cream I have ever had.  

It is a four-flavor party in the mouth. Sweet leche, ontop of mora, followed by naranjilla, and rounded out by taxo.  De-to-the-licious.

After a semi-good night's sleep, our group headed to Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest summit.  Our biking adventure started at the first refuge, right after the four of us climbed to the second refuge of the volcano.  It was beautiful, cold, snowy, and a wonderful way to spend the morning.
Our hike ended right as the rest of the Ecuadorian tourists showed up.  We quickly suited up and began the bike ride down to the entrance of the Chimborazo National Park.  Unfortunately, clouds had settled around the base of the mountain and we had to ride in a thick fog.  It was also freezing (a sensation I don't often feel here in Ecuador) and my gloves and bike began to frost up as I rode down the mountain.  I thought for sure that my fingers were going to fall off and all I was thinking was, "how am I going to teach Language Arts  if I don't have my fingers?"

Can you see the frost built up on my gloves?  Trust me, it was there.

After we warmed up, and the feeling once again returned to our limbs, we began the last stage of our biking extravaganza.  We rode for over twenty kilometers through the most beautiful landscape I have yet seen in Ecuador.  It was a lush, green, canyon road boardered by a twisting river.  We passed through tiny villages, had lunch alongside the river with an Ecuadorian shepherd watching over his huge flock of sheep, saw a rodeo, and heard a small village band practicing for an up-coming festival.  We also met a fellow biker, a little more hard-core because he biked up and then down the twisting road.  

By the time we reached our stopping point, we were all exhilerated, worn-out, and definitely ready for more ice cream!

And yes, this is a statue the town has erected as a monument to their ice cream.  Awesome.