The Cloud Forest of Mindo

After working hard for two weeks in the Andes, we were rewarded by a free weekend to enjoy the cloud forest of Mindo. We travelled about half of the day, and arrived in the afternoon in the tiny but beautiful village of Mindo.

With its breathtaking settings surrounded by cloud forest on all sides, the small village of Mindo has become a backpackers favourite in Ecuador the latest years. It lives and breathes tourism, and it is conveniently located just off the main road between Quito and Esmeraldas.

Mindo is a paradise for birdwatchers, hikers and adventurers as there are loads of activities to do: butterfly farms, zip lines over the treetops, mountain-biking, tubing, orchid collections, and so on… Me and my group opted for a visit to the chocolate factory on Saturday, tubing on Sunday and a waterfall tour on Monday.

Mindo The Leap

Leap Team B in Mindo

Saturday 31/05/14: Chocolate Factory

Straight after our arrival in Mindo, we booked a tour to El Quetzal, the Chocolate Factory of Mindo. It has a wonderful laid-back coffee shop and the real reason to visit it is to try the locally famous brownie, the American owner’s proud specialty, according to Lonely Planet. And so we did!

We got a tour to see the whole chocolate making process, where they grew the cacao tree, how they roasted the beans, how they mixed the chocolate and so on. But the highlight of our tour was of course the tasting workshop, where we tried various types of chocolate (very pure and healthy) with sirops, herbs and spices. It was quite an experience, and the brownie was indeed unforgettably delicious!

Mindo Chocolate Factory

Brownies at El Quetzal

Saturday evening it was time to discover Mindo’s nightlife, and we ended up chilling in a treehouse bar zipping pinneaple daiquiris and other cocktails. It was a good night, hanging around as one big family team! 🙂

Sunday 01/06/14: Tubing

After quite an early breakfast, we had to postphone our tour of the day to the afternoon as it was raining. Not that it was a problem, because Sunday is usually a lazy day and nobody felt like moving. I wandered around in town, worked on the computer and in the afternoon the group went tubing. Tubing the rapids of Rio Mindo is a very popular activity, but can be also dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Therefor, it is always guided. Cost? $6. Not bad!

Mindo TubingTubing Activity

The evening was spend more relaxed and laid-back, having dinner at Biohostal and going to bed early for tomorrow’s trip.

Monday 02/06/14: Waterfall Tour

After an early breakfast we left for another tour, my favourite one in Mindo! The Tarabita, a unique hand-powered cable car, took us soaring across the lush river basin over the tick cloud forest to the Bosque Protector Mindo-Nambillo, where you can find lots of waterfalls along the hiking trail.

The perfectly safe wirte basked on steel cables glides 152m above the ground and, though certainly not for people who are afraid of heights, it is a superb way to get above the forest and enjoy incredible views!

Mindo TarabitaEnjoying the Tarabita views

Cascada Nambillo was the closest waterfall on our map and trail, and took us more or less 15 minutes walking to get there. It was a nice hike with impressive views along the way. In order to get to the waterfalls, we had to do a hell of a rock climb – which I was absolutely not planning to do – but took us to a magical place, where the boys found their paradise and encountered their inner Tarzans! 😛

They used the tubes, the water slide, the ropes, the rocks, the water, and everything else you can imagine to make some waterfall fun!

Mindo WaterfallsRock climbing at Cascada Nambillo

We headed back to Mindo town around lunch time, I bought bus tickets, made invoices, arranged a place for lunch and so on, and then we took the bus to Quito, where we arrived around dinner time. It was a nice and calm but still very enjoyable last weekend of our Leap program.

Next on schedule:

The Ruta del Sol, the last week of The Leap!

Oh my god… Time flies when you’re having fun!!!

x x x

Julie

An Adventurous Week in Ecuador – Riobamba

10 May 2014 – 17 May 2014

The Adventure Week AKA Ruta de los Volcanes

The Leap promised its Leapers an “a week of adventure and expedition, taking the famous “Ruta de los Volcanes” (Volcanic Route), biking to waterfalls, white-water raft, climb Chimborazo volcano and kayak over Quilotoa crater lake”, but it was much more than that, exceeding all of our expectations. It was a crazy week, finally getting EVERYONE out of their comfort zone, with loads of unforgettable memories, and loads of work for me as a leader! Here follows a great story, enjoy the ride! (Part 3)

Adventure Week Chimborazo Cycling

RIOBAMBA

In the afternoon we left Baños for Riobamba, where I had to go to the hospital with some of my group straight after lunch. I ended up spending the whole afternoon in the emergency room and got back to the hostel to meet my other Leapers to have diner again. So I didn’t do anything special regarding sightseeing in the city, but it didn’t matter because I had been there before in March already.

Now, Riobamba means ‘river’ and ‘valley’ in Spanish and Kichwa, reffering to the topography of the area. On Saturdays there is a great indigenous market, but we were there during week days, and had other (read: more adventurous) plans!

Thanks to Riobamba’s proximity to the Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest peak, there are a lot of options to do excursions. We left on the next morning to do a one-day mountain-biking trip, where we did a downhill descent from the refuge of Chimborazo!

Adventure Week chimborazo

Road from Riobamba to Chimborazo

The CHIMBORAZO DOWNHILL day tour was awesome! We got to enjoy the beauty of Ecuador’s highest mountain in an active way and hiked from the first refuge to the second, reaching an altitude of 5000m. Well, to be honest, I did not make the second refuge due to altitude sickness. I had a terrible headache as if my brains were going to explode and my heart beat was so fast that I thought I would die. I did not feel sick at all, but I was worried enough to decide to go back to 4800m (first refuge). There I enjoyed a Coca Tea, which has medicinal effects for altitude sickness. And did I already mention it was freeeeezing cooooollddd up there!

Adventure Week Refuge 4800m

Drinking Coca Tea at 4800m

The distance between the Carrel refuge (4800m) and the Whymper refuge (5000m) was only 1 kilometer, but because of the thin air at this altitude, everyone had to walk slowly and it took almost an hour before they were back to have a hot coca-tea.

We prepared ourselves and our mountain bikes for descending from 4800m to the lower hut, where we had no visibility at all. That first part of 8 km on a dirt road was crazy! I decided to take it slowly and easy because it was very hard to control your bike having that much speech without being to see 5 m in front of you, passing to a lot of corners and bumps in the road. It was super cold and I passed some people who went to fast and crashed!

Adventure Week Downhill Ride

Start of the downhill ride from 4800m

After that first part on the dirt road, we checked our bikes and continued descending from 4800m to 2900 m altitude, over a distance of 37 km on an asphalted road. It definetely sounds harder then it was, because downhill means no need to put loads of effort in your biking as your bike takes you.

Adventure Week mountain bike

Me descending the Chimborazo

I had the feeling I was flying over the landscape, fast as I went. At certain moments I went so fast that I passed cars and it felt like 75 km/hour (which isn’t of course). After +/- 2 hours we arrived at San Juan village, where we met the staff at the church. It was pretty cool, because we were followed by the guides and supported by vehicles all the time. Like real cyclers, felt like ‘Tour de France’ but in Ecuador. 😛

Anyway, here’s a movie of our CHIMBORAZO DOWNHILL adventure, made by our travel agency guides:

The next day it was time to head back to Quito, spend some nights there and go to the next and last community to do some more volunteering in the Andes.

But that last weekend in Quito turned out to be at least as adventurous as the Adventure Week itself, because while we went out for someones Birthday dinner and a cocktail in the Irish Pub in the Mariscal, we got followed by strange people that tried to be “our friends”, but turned out to have other plans as they didn’t stop following us. I had to stop the police to make the situation come to an end, but the police did not do anything, and before we were able to ran away from them, they got us again and started to beat me up because I stopped the police for them… Horrible story and had to run for my life to a taxi while they were hitting on the car!

Later turned out that a friend of mine was robbed that very same night in the same area, by the same people. Guess we were lucky, and Thank God the hostal had some ice to put on my beaten up face… I have a good guardian angel ! ❤

Adventure Week Alpaca

Vicuñas (look-a-like llamas) in the Chimborazo Reserve

From Julie with Love

xxx

An Adventurous Week in Ecuador – Quilotoa

10 May 2014 – 17 May 2014

The Adventure Week AKA Ruta de los Volcanes

The Leap promised its Leapers an “a week of adventure and expedition, taking the famous “Ruta de los Volcanes” (Volcanic Route), biking to waterfalls, white-water raft, climb Chimborazo volcano and kayak over Quilotoa crater lake”, but it was much more than that, exceeding all of our expectations. It was a crazy week, finally getting EVERYONE out of their comfort zone, with loads of unforgettable memories, and loads of work for me as a leader! Here follows a great story, enjoy the ride!

Adventure Week Quilotoa The Leap Group

LAGUNA DE QUILOTOA

After having breakfast in Quito and giving my group an orientation about this week, we left by private bus to Quilotoa. It was a horrible temparature shock going straight from the warm Galapagos Islands to the cold Laguna de Quilotoa. I felt quite calm, although I knew I could expect a crazy week when it came to organizing, leading, transporting, arranging meals and making many many invoices in hotels, travel agencies and restaurants. But I was more ready then ever before and started to feel more and more comfortable with my job and the group.

The Quilotoa Loop is a bumpy, ring-shaped road that travels from the Panamericana far into the backcountry of Cotopaxi province. Along the way tourists encounter colorful indigenous markets, a crystal-blue lake that the locals believe has no bottom (!!!), and ancient trails that meander in the shadow of snowcapped volcanoes. The isolated location brought us in contact with Kichwa-speaking indigenous people and some lamas.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

After paying a 2$ entrance fee to Quilotoa, it was not hard to find our hostel as there were only a handful in town. We had a typical lunch, warmed up near the fire place where we met other travellers and watched how the clouds got ticker and ticker, until we could not see the end of the road anymore and finally watched how it started to rain. We felt quite stuck in the building, went to our room and collected wood for the fires at night. It got colder and colder, so freezing I had never felt before!

I went souvenir shopping in my raincoat with the girls as real fashionistas, we bought some drinks and food to keep us warm and strong, and spend the night making fire and more fire until we finally had de-frozen our fingers and toes, played “never have I ever” (my all-time favourite game!) and finally got to sleep. Some alone, some together… To keep each other “warm”?!

Well yeah, it was a lovely evening even though I was really disappointed in the fact that we did not managed to hike down the lake because of the weather. We agreed on having breakfast at 6h30 in order to leave for the hike early in the morning at 7h30 because usually it does not rain in the mornings.

And oh yeah, I woke up and the sky was bright blue and clear. We were very lucky and because there were no clouds, the reflection of the sun showed all kinds of colours of blue and green. We enjoyed the lookout on the top where we had stunning views of the mirror-green lake about 400m below and the snowcapped peaks of the Cotopaxi volcano in the distance.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

When you ask the locals how deep it is, they always say it has no bottom at all, they said in the Lonely Planet. So I did the test and asked some locals. Some could not even reply to my Spanish, because they only spoke Kichwa, and does who did speak Spanish confirmed: no bottom. Well, geologists say 250m…

After an hour going down, we rented kayaks to see more of the lakes surroundings. The alkaline lake water is not potable, and I assume it is too cold for swimming, even though it was clearly warmer near the lake then in the village during the day.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

With an altitude of 3914m, it is really hard to hike around the volcanic-crater lake of Laguna Quilotoa. You have no air in your longs, and it literally feels as if you had just smoked a package of cigarettes in 5 minutes. Impossible to walk back up, was what I said after giving it a try for 30 meters. I stopped a local, and continued by horse (or was it a donkey?!)

Adventure Week Quilotoa

I felt really sorry for my ‘animal’ which did not only suffer itself from the hike up carrying my weight, but apart from that he had some serious diarrhea and stopped every once in a while, refusing to walk further. Pobrecito,  I will never do that again but I have to admit it was way easier and enjoyable to get up like this.

Some of my group members took the challenge and hiked all the way up, arriving sweaty and tired, while I was already chilling up there for half an hour. Because of that, we were a little bit late for our private transfer to Baños, but it was definetely worth the delay and we had been so lucky with the weather after all.

If you ever plan on going to Ecuador, make sure you do not skip Quilotoa. Truly recommendable and one of the most beautiful places in the whole country, in my opinion.

Adventure Week quilotoa

Then it was time to head further to Baños, another 4 hours by bus away. Everybody slept as a baby during the transfer, preparing for “the thrill town” of Ecuador!! And every now and then I opened my eyes to enjoy the amazing views along the road. The Andes is fascinating!

Adventure Week the andes road

NEXT POST / STOP: BAÑOS

Hasta pronto,

Julie

Riobamba, La Nariz del Diablo & La Llama

Saturday it was about time for my first weekend trip, with colleague Michel – Dutch guy, who is also an intern at Yanapuma – and Max, German guy – and English teacher volunteer who I’ve never seen before the trip. We doubted between going to the coast to catch some sun and visit Isla de la Plata or to go for culture & adventure at Riobamba and La Nariz del Diablo. And as the title of this blog post says, you know what it became…

Zaterdag was het dan eindelijk zover, tijd voor een eerste weekend uitstap met collega Michel – Nederlander die ook stage loopt bij Yanapuma – en Max, Duitser die vrijwillig Engelse lessen geeft in Quito en wie ik nooit eerder voor de trip had gezien. We twijfelden even of we naar de kust zouden gaan om wat zonnestralen op te vangen en Isla de la Plata te bezoeken, of dat we naar cultuur en avontuur op zoek zouden gaan in Riobamba en La Nariz del Diablo. En zoals de titel van deze blogpost al verklapte, weet je wat het is geworden…

The Travel Team

Travel Companions: Michel, Me and Max

So Saturday morning I left with a small bag for one night to Riobamba. I was going to meet the boys in Parque El Ejido to catch a one hour bus to the terminal of Quitumbe where we would take the bus to Riobamba. I decided again to let go of my fears and took the public transportation with my camera and stuff. And thanks to God that went well!

4 hours later, around noon, we arrived in Riobamba. On our way we enjoyed spectacular views over the Cotopaxi volcano and other beautiful landscapes, as we were driving along the Panamericana highway. And as always I also slept good on that bus… 😛

Dus vertrok ik zaterdagochtend met een kleine tas voor één nacht richting Riobamba. Ik zou the jongens in het Ejido park ontmometen om daar een één uur durende busrit richting de busterminal van Quitumbe te nemen. Daar zouden we de bus richting Riobamba nemen. Ik besloot opnieuw om mijn angsten te overwinnen en maakte gebruik van het openbare vervoer, ondanks dat ik mijn camera bij had. En God, dat ging even lekker!

4 uur later, rond de middag, kwamen we aan in Riobamba. Onderweg genoten we van spectaculaire uitzichten over de Cotopaxi en andere prachtige landschappen, terwijl we over de Panamericana autosnelweg reden. En naar goede gewoonte deed ik ook een aardig dutje op die bus… 😛

Riobamba & Nariz del Diablo 046 !!!

We booked a cheap hostel for $13 a person but as they did not provide us the expected room, we bargained until we paid just $11. The Ecuadorian way! Overall, we had not to complain about this place, except that the WiFi signal was poor and there came more water from the shower on the floor than over my body… The Ecuadorian way too?!

We started of with a walk through the small city of Riobamba, where we were happy to find the Saturday markets. One market was full of artesian products, and the other with fresh vegetables, fruits and meat.

We boekten een goedkoop hostel voor $13 per persoon maar gezien ze niet over de gereserveerde kamer beschikten, brachten we de prijs tot $11. Op z’n Ecuadoriaans! Over het algemeen hadden we niet te klagen over deze plek, afgezien van het slechte WiFi signaal en het feit dat er meer water uit dan in de douche liep… Ook op z’n Ecuadoriaans?!

We startten even later met een wandelingetje door het kleine stadje Riobamba, waar we tot grote vreugde de zaterdagmarkt terugvonden. Er was één markt vol met ambachtelijke producten, en een andere met verse groenten, fruit en vlees.

Local market in Riobamba on Saturday

I can’t get used to seeing Cuy (guinea pig)… It’s a typical Andean meal, but I’m not really a fan of it!

Ik kan alleen maar niet wennen aan het zien van Cuy (cavia)… Het is een typische maaltijd uit de Andes, maar ik ben niet meteen fan!

Cuy Ecuadorian specialty

We also had the chance to see a lot of indigenous people in this town.

We zagen ook heel wat inheemse mensen in dit stadje.

Indiginous people

And we enjoyed a $0.25 icecream on one of the beautiful plazas in town. Couldn’t taste better, and sunny weather!

In the late afternoon we had seen about the whole town and decided to turn back to the hostel as it just started to rain out of nowhere. Yes, this is also typically Ecuadorian: sun and rain are unpredictable and you can easily experience the 4 seasons in one day: freezing at night (winter), sunny in the morning (spring), hot around noon (summer) and rainy cloudy afternoons (autumn). That’s one of the reasons why should always wear clothes in layers and take as well your sunglasses as your umbrella! “Una locura” = craziness, regarding locals…

En we genoten van een ijsje dat slechts $0.25 kostte op het centrale plein. Kon niet beter smaken, en wat een zonnig weertje!

In de late namiddag hadden we heel het centrum wel gezien en besloten we om terug te keren naar het hostel. Het begon ook plots te regenen. Tsjah, dit is ook typisch aan Ecuador: zon en regen zijn onvoorspelbaar en je kan makkelijk 4 seizoenen in één dag ervaren: vriestemperaturen in de nacht (winter), zonnig in de ochtend (lente), heet rond de middag (zomer) en bewolkt in de namiddag (herfst). Dat is één van de redenen waarom je hier altijd kledij in laagjes moet dragen, en dat je zowel je zonnebril als je paraplu moet meenemen op uitstapjes. “Una locura” = gekte, zoals de mensen hier zeggen…

Walking through Riobamba

We decided to play some silly card games in the hostel until it stopped raining, and even watched the most stupid tv programs on a small retarded television, but no… It didn’t stopped raining for that evening, and so we headed around the corner and spoiled ourselves with some delicious pizza and a cup of Sangria before heading to bed. The next day we had to wake up in 4 o’clock in order to get the bus at 5AM to Alausi, where our main goal of this weekend trip was waiting for us… La Nariz del Diablo!

Around 7 in the morning we arrived at the small village of Alausi, another 2 hours more southwards from Riobamba. Here we could find the train station to La Nariz del Diablo. Luckily we bought out tickets ($25 a person) in advance, because places are quickly sold out at the station as many touroperators include this trainride in their itineraries.

We besloten dan maar om wat eenvoudige kaartspelletjes te spelen in het hostel tot het zou stoppen met regenen, en we keken zelfs naar de meest belachelijke tv serie ooit, maar nee… Het stopte maar niet met regenen die avond, en dus besloten we om snel het hoekje om te lopen om onszelf te verwennen met een heerlijke pizza en een glaasje Sangria voor we naar bed gingen. De volgende dag moesten we om 4 uur al opstaan om de bus van 5 uur richting Alausi te kunnen halen, daar wachtte het doel van onze weekend trip op ons… La Nariz del Diablo!

Rond 7 uur ‘s ochtends kwamen we vervolgens aan in Alausi, nog eens 2 uur zuidelijker van Riobamba. Hier vonden we het treinstation naar La Nariz del Diablo. Gelukkig kochten we onze tickets ($25 per persoon) op voorhand, want de plaatsen waren al snel uitverkocht omdat vele touroperators dit treinritje in programma door Ecuador verwerken.

Alausi town

As our train departed at 8AM, we had still plenty of time to enjoy the Sunday market in town and grabbed some breakfast at the station for $2,50 (including cheese sandwich, eggs, coffee and fresh juice). Not bad!

En omdat onze trein pas om 8 uur vertrok, hadden we nog ruim de tijd om de zondagse markt te verkennen en om te genieten van een heerlijk ontbijtje t.w.v. $2.50 (broodje kaas, eitje, koffie en vers fruitsap inbegrepen). Niet slecht!

Alausi station

Then it was time for boarding… But oh, wait. Let me tell you what exactly is this Nariz del Diablo… Well, La Nariz del Diablo (also called Devil’s Nose in English), is the “MOST DIFFICULT TRAIN IN THE WORLD” and is one of Ecuador’s most famous attractions. The railroad was originally built to connect to Andes with the coast, and the route goes up and down steep slopes, along river valleys and has to negotiate a wall of rock called Nariz del Diablo.

Dan was het tijd om in te stappen… Maar oh, wacht. Laat me even vertellen wat die Nariz del Diablo nu eigenlijk is… Wel, La Nariz del Diablo (ook wel Duivelsneus genoemd), is de ‘MEEST GEVAARLIJKE TREIN TER WERELD’ en is één van Ecuador’s meest populaire attracties. De spoorweg was oorspronkelijk gebouwd om de Andes met de kust te verbinden, en de route gaat op en neer doorheen diepe ravijnen, rivier valleien en gaat dwars door een grote rots, genaamd: Nariz del Diablo.

The most dangerous train ride in the world

People used to be able to choose to sit inside or ride the roof for a better view, but you can imagine how dangerous this was. And yes, eventually some people died so that now it is no longer allowed.

But the real reason why this train is called the most difficult train in the world is because many people died building it, and when you take the ride you understand why. The terrain is precarious. At times the train is so close to the side of a mountain that if you stick your hand outside the train car, you’ll lose it!

Mensen konden vroeger kiezen om binnen of op het dak te zitten voor een beter uitzicht, maar je kan je voorstellen hoe gevaarlijk dat was. En ja, uiteindelijk zijn er doden gevallen (letterlijk!) en is het nu niet meer toegestaan.

Maar de echte reden waarom deze trein de moeilijkste trein ter wereld wordt genoemd, is omdat er zoveel mensen stierven tijdens de constructie ervan. Wanneer je de treinrit neemt, begrijp je waarom. Het terrein is woest en soms komt de trein zo dicht bij de bergen dat als je je hand zou uitsteken, je je hand kwijt zou zijn!

Nariz del Diablo

A round trip train ride from Alausi is only 2,5 hours but we had plenty of time to enjoy all the beautiful scenery because the train goes only 12 km / hour.

Een heen- en terugreis vanaf Alausi duurt slechts 2 uur en half, maar we hadden wel ruim de tijd om al dat moois te aanschouwen want de trein rijdt slechts 12  km per uur.

Riobamba & Nariz del Diablo 220

The tour includes a short stop in front of the famous mountain, where of course everybody wants his pictures with the Devil’s Nose in the background. And so did we!

Bij de tour hoort ook een korte stop vlak voor de beroemde berg, waar iedereen natuurlijk een foto wilde met de Duivelsneus op de achtergrond. En zo wij ook!

Me in front of the Devil's Nose

The tour also includes a 50 minute stop in the town of Sibambe for lunch. Here we could see some indigenous people demonstrating an authentic Ecuadorian dance. You can imagine that this was quite touristic, but it was really nice done and so we could enjoy it to the fullest!

Bovendien was er een stop van 50 minuten in Sibambe om te lunchen. Hier zagen we inheemse mensen aan het dansen. Dit was vrij toeristisch, maar wel leuk gedaan en dus eens leuk om te zien!

Typical Ecuadorian Dancers

The highlight of my trip however were the llamas… This was my first encounter with them and I felt excited like a small little child. Of course, I also needed a picture with them but as you can see I was over-happy and enjoyed it too much.

Het hoogtepunt van mijn trip waren echter de lama’s… Dit was mijn allereerste ontmoeting met hen en ik was zo blij als een klein kind. Natuurlijk moest ik ook even op de foto, maar ik was over-enthousiast en had het zoals je kon zien wel even te goed naar mijn zin.

Me and the Llama

As we had 50 minutes in Sibambe, I had plenty of time to get to know the llama. And I decided to do a small interview with Mrs Llama. (I suppose it was a girl because she was so beautiful hihihi) 😛 :

Tijdens die 50 minuten in Sibambe had ik ruim de tijd om de lama beter te leren kennen. En ik besloot een klein gesprekje met mevrouw Lama te voeren. Helaas sprak de lama enkel Engels vandaar geen vertaling voor dit stukje… 😉

1)      Do you think I could ever keep you as a pet?

Yes, I am loving and cute, and I have many uses. I require less cost yearly than dogs, and am wonderful companion. 

2)      I’ve heard that llamas like to spit. Is that true? Why do you do that?

Yes, it is true. Llamas spit as a way of disciplining young or low ranked llamas in the herd or when they are angry or irritated. Female llamas spit so as to maintain order among the other herd members or when a male llama attempts to mate with her yet she is pregnant.

3)      Are you lazy or do you just look really like that?

Yes, I can be quite lazy sometimes. But if I have to, I can reach a top speed of about 40 miles per hour when running in a wide open area. However, I would only do it if I am trying to escape a predator in the wild. 

4)      If I would ask you kindly, would you give milk?

Yes, but milking me is more difficult then milking a cow or a goat.

5)      Are you strong, like a donkey?

Of course! I am very hardy and strong and can carry loads of stuff. I could also be your perfect hiking companion.

6)      What is your favourite meal?

I love to eat grain and hay, legumes, and vegetables.

7)      Would you ever bite me or use violence?

Some llamas like to chew on you, but we won’t hurt you because we only have teeth on the bottom of our mouth.

8)      If you ever fall in love, how many babies would you like to have?

Oh, I love to love because I am a herd animal. You will need at least two pets. Llama young are called crias, and I would like to have only one cria at a time.

9)      How often do you go to the hairdresser?

Whenever I feel like having to much fiber! (Llama hair is commonly called ‘fiber’.) Did you know my fiber is prized by hand spinners, knitters, weavers and crafters for its softness and warmth?!

10)   What is your preferred climate: hot and humid, or chilly and windy?

I’m used to live in the Andes mountains. However, the climate of a llama may vary. We can live up in the Mountains, on rocky cliffs, but also in ranches, open land plains, and even zoos.

The Llama

Buenos dias, Llama. Mucho gusto…

And before I knew it my 50 minutes were over, and I had to get back on the train.

As I took more than enough pictures during the first part of the ride, I took some time for meditation while I enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

And of course I thought about home, about how much I wished that I could share these beautiful moments with all of the precious people in my heart. I love you and I miss you!

En voor ik het wist, waren die 50 minuten alweer voorbij gevlogen, en moesten we weer terug op de trein.

Aangezien ik al meer dan genoeg foto’s had genomen op de heenrit, besloot ik om even tijd te nemen om te genieten van het mooie landschap dat voorbij gleed.

En natuurlijk dacht ik ook aan thuis, aan hoe hard ik wenste dat ik dit kon delen met al mijn dierbaren. Ik hou van jullie en ik mis jullie enorm!

Meditation Time

Around 10.30AM we were back in Alausi, but as we were awake from 4AM it felt like a long day already. We could use the 5 hours on the bus back to Quito for some serious power nap, and after another bus hour in the giant city of Quito, I finally reached home. Tired but accomplished.

Rond 10u30 waren we weer terug in Alausi, maar omdat we al van 4 uur wakker waren, voelde het aan als een lange dag. We konden de 5 uur slaap op de bus richting Quito dus goed gebruiken, en na nog eens een uur op de bus in de grootstad Quito, was ik eindelijk thuis. Moe maar voldaan.

Ecuador is a wonderful country!

Ecuador is een prachtig land!

P.S.: Michel, my ‘compañero’ made a lovely movie of this trip, which I am happy to share with you:

P.S. Michel, mijn metgezel maakte een leuk filmpje van dit reisje, dat ik graag met jullie deel: