First Month Down

To start this week’s post, here is a picture that is just a small glimpse into my exciting week

I have been in Ecuador for a little over a month now!  Finally, this week I started actually working.  I have a student that wants private lessons, so we met 4 times this week for 1 hour each time.  We decided to meet at a coffee shop, which is the Ecuadorian version of Starbucks, around Parque Carolina.  I absolutely love looking out of the corner of my eye and seeing the park with the mountains in the background.  I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing the mountains.  After the private lessons, I walk about 40 minutes to the Spanish School for my daily lessons.  Luis is my teacher and we pretty much just laugh for 2 hours, while learning Spanish of course.  One of the great things about the Spanish School is that there is always coffee, tea, water, and bread available.  During breaks, my friends and I will catch up while drinking coffee and eating bread.  I have eaten so much bread over the past few weeks- it’s becoming a problem.

Monday was a pretty boring basic day at the school.  However, on Tuesdays and Thursdays the school offers free salsa classes for an hour.  I decided to give this a try since everyone goes.  I’m very surprised to say that I absolutely loved it!  I really don’t enjoy dancing, but salsa is so much fun- I think it’s because I get to spin constantly.  Then, on Wednesday the activity was going to the park to play soccer.    A few of us got tired of playing so we left and of course got a drink since it was ladies night.

After salsa class on Thursday, 3 of my girl friends and I went to dinner at El Ventanal because it was one of the girl’s last night in Ecuador. El Ventanal is a restaurant near the Old Historic City and sits up on a hill so you have beautiful views of the city.  We were given canelazo, which is a traditional spiced cinnamon rum drink as we took in the views from the upstairs patio.

Friday was once again a normal day.  After my Spanish class, some of us went out for a drink.  However, we all went home early since we all were about to have a very exciting weekend!  This weekend the Spanish school had a trip to Lake Quilotoa and Cotopaxi.  Lake Quilotoa might be one the the prettiest places I have ever seen.  It is a lake that is in the crater of a volcano.   You drive to the top and see this view.

After taking way too many pictures at the top, we started our hike down to the lake.  It was about 300m from the top to the lake.  After probably an hour, we finally ended up at the lake.  Part of our trip including kayaking in the lake, so we did that for about 10 minutes.  My Norwegian friend Maria and I kayaked our way from the shore and decided to relax and let the current take us where ever it wanted to.  Then we would turn the kayak around to face the sun when it emerged from the clouds.  Once we were done kayaking, Maria and I decided to go into the lake.  We were told that it was cold, and our guide told us it was 6 degrees celsius- but like the typical American I am, I have absolutely no idea what that really means.  Out of our group of 17, we were the only 2 people to go into the water.  So we stripped down to our bathing suits and ran into the water.  The water actually wasn’t as cold as I was expecting, but I didn’t stay in long enough to really test it out.  Both of us were expecting to walk gradually into the water, but as soon as the water reached our mid-shins, the ground dropped and we fell in.  That was a shock!

Now, I can cross essentially doing the polar plunge off of my bucket list.  Once we dried off, it was time to hike back up.  I ended up taking a horse/mule up because my leg was hurting.  Then, the group went to the hostel that we were staying at for the night.  Besides the fact that the workers kept turning off the water, the hostel was pretty fun.  There was a room with pool tables, ping pong table, and foosball.  We all stayed there for most of the night until everyone was so tired that we almost passed out.  There wasn’t heat in the rooms, but all of the beds were layered with alpaca blankets so most of us were actually hot during the night.

Sunday was an early morning because we had to drive to Cotopaxi for our hike,  Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in Ecuador.  I know most people think a volcano on the Equator must be hot- this is not the case at all.  It might be on the Equator, but it is very high up.

As you can see, there is snow at the top of the mountain!  We drove up to about 4500m and layered up in every piece of clothing that we brought so we could start our hike.  You start the hike in the clouds and the wind basically assaults your entire body.  It was difficult just to stand up let alone hike up a volcano.  When we reached about 4800m, there was a little cafe where you could stop and by coffee or rest.  Most of the group decided to keep going up to 5000m, which is where the glacier starts.  This part of the hike was difficult because of the wind and the cold.  I was lucky that I found some great clothing to keep me warm, but since you are in the clouds there is “rain” being blown into you at a very high velocity- and that’s not a fun feeling.  However, it was worth it as soon as we saw the glacier.  I have never been to 5000m except in an airplane, and it might be one of the neatest things I have ever done.  I am so proud of the group and of myself for battling the altitude and the elements and making it to that point.

This was one of the most amazing weekends I have ever had.  The weekend started with jumping into a lake in a volcano and ended hiking up another volcano to a glacier!  I am exhausted just from thinking about this past week and it might take a while to fully recover from everything that Ecuador has to offer.

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