Ecuador 2004

   After a wonderful visit in 2003 we returned to Ecuador to see Graciela and Maritza, and to also meet with our 3rd exchange student from Ecuador, Omar, who coincidentally is also from Guranda. Our son John also joined up with us. During this trip we stayed for a short while with Graciela’s parents then stayed with Graciela and Rodrigo at Rodrigo’s mother’s very large house. Graciela’s older brother was getting married so the civil part of the wedding was held at the parent’s house. This was great except that my first attempt at mountain climbing was to start very early the morning after the wedding and party.
   That next morning I left with Edison Ona, a local professional climber, for Iliniza North, a 16,500 foot volcano south of Quito. We made it as far as a large boulder on the slope of a glacial moraine at around 14,500 feet. Altitude, bad weather, and a sore knee had us turn back. Next climb was on Cotopaxi, 19,300 feet, with my son John the following week, also with Edison. For that climb, which would have involved traversing ice as well as snow we planned for some practice on the glacier. We made it as far as the Refugio at 17,700 feet where my knee said ‘no mas!’. John and I spent the night at the refugio and then hiked back down in some thick cloud cover. It was during the descent that a line of female police officers on a training weekend were on their way to the Refugio. Made for an interesting picture to say the least.
   Sue, John, and I with Maritza and her older sister Maria drove from Quito to the town of Banos where we stayed for the night. Banos is known for thermal springs and hot mud baths all heated from the very nearby and very active volcano Tungurahua. That night we partied on a mountaintop where we could watch the volcano for eruptions. Next day after a hot mud bath we drove north and west to Guaranda where we stayed with Maritza’s family in Guaranda, a mountain town and the capital of Chimborazo Province. The town is on the flanks of Chimborazo, a 20,700 foot snow-capped volcano. We visited with Omar’s family – interesting because he was in Lee’s Summit staying with neighbors until Sue and I returned. While there we drove into the mountains to the small town of Salinas noted for its chocolate and cheese. Needless to say we stocked up on both! Returning to Quito John headed back to his home in Chicago but not before taking him to Otavalo for a shopping experience.
   After John left Rodrigo, Graciela, Sue and I drove west to the other side of the Andes into the ‘cloud forest’ where we stayed a small lodge in the town of Mindo. While there we hike (slogged rather) through mud to get to an incredible swimming place in a small river deep in a narrow valley. In Mindo we also visited some butterfly and hummingbird farms.

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