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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Trekking into the Crater

ECUADOR | Tuesday, 6 November 2007 | Views [959]

We froze last night, despite having 6 wool blankets on our bed and having worn wool long johns, socks, hat and gloves to bed.  It reminds us of Nepal here; beautiful mountain villages, gorgeous farming communities full of rugged, weathered locals working their butts off to grow enough food to feed their families, pay for fuel and water to live by, and selling their animals and produce in the bigger town markets that happen once a week.  

After a hearty breakfast consisting of a stale bread roll and a couple bites of fruit and nescafe, we head out in our "taxi" which is really just a truck used to haul animals and produce.  They "pimp" out our ride with wooden benches against the truck sides so we don't need to stand for the entire 1.5 hour ride.  Good thing we all brought warm clothes, hats, gloves and raincoats.  We're a far cry from the locals who do this trip farther than we're going, every day.  The women wearing long wool skirts, socks and heeled black shoes all standing up, piled into the back of these trucks.  The drive and views are spectacular.  We're not quite sure how the busses survive the drive out here.  The roads are not paved and a good portion of them are in a state of disrepair.  We hold our breath around every sharp corner the truck takes, praying the truck doesn't pitch us out, or roll down the sheer drop off cliffs staggering below us.  Looking out at the landscape, large canyons and gorges cut through the mountainsides and tiny sheep farms cling to the slopes below and above us.  At a point in our drive we're high above the clouds, it's stunning.  The wind picks up, the temperature drops, and we're now at 4,000M, approaching the extinct Quilotoa crater.  Only a couple of brick homes are up in this area.  It's a hard life for people living at this altitude.  It's cold, and the land is barren aside from the occasional cactus or century plant.  The locals are dressed in heavy, colorful ponchos and the women are right next to the men hauling bricks for a new building.

We approach the edge of the crater, a steep volcanic rock cliff, and peer down to the most  amazing emerald green lake.  We can see the rings of white sulfur concentrate around the base of the crater.  It's a majestic site, hard to imagine something this beautiful exists all the way up here.  This scenery is all these locals know, beauty surrounds their poverty stricken existence.  But they are happy.  I hang out with a little "mule" boy on our trek down the crater- who treks this route multiple times daily, hoping to score a customer wanting a ride back up the crater on his mule.  He's excited to speak with me, and we speak in Spanglish.  I ask a question in Spanish and he responds in English.  His dream is to learn English.  I actually write down some phrases for him to use with customers... as well as for him to use with "girlfriends" on the only piece of writing paper - toilet paper - that I have on me.  Our driver also makes the trek down with us. He easily could have stayed up top and enjoyed spending time with his buddy that owns the local crater-top restaurant, but we think he finds it more entertaining to listen to us gasp for air at 4,000 meters, and swap stories in Spanish.  By the time we make it back up top, the sky has turned dark, and it's starting to drizzle.  We pile in the back of the truck like cattle, picking up a French guy along the way.  He's also on a One World RTW ticket, but only 4 continents.  For the first time, we're actually traveling further and longer than someone from Europe!  

We now know what it must feel like, as animals being carted around on trucks in these areas... for the next hour we endure rain, cold and wind, bumping around in the back of the truck on the washboard roads.  We pass our time with more adventurous travel stories.  Apparently in France, once you're been employed for six years, and at least three years with your current employer, you have the right to take off up to one year unpaid leave with a guarantee of a job at the same level and pay when you return.  Our French friend also shares with us the unique child education system that France has set up, such that if you take off for a year overseas, you can "school" your child on the road; the program provides lesson plans, homework and materials that get sent to you on the road, your child completes the lessons and homework and gets a grade for the year.  France seems to be pretty evolved along the lines of work and life balance... not only do they have a nice sabbatical system set up, but the 35 hours work week also allows the French to have a life as well... all that and earning a salary in Euros!

Back at the ranch, we find ourselves without water again at Mama Hilda's, and some gringo she's sent over to us to translate (she doesn't have patience to deal with our slow Spanish), tells us the same old story, just wait another hour, there will be water. I tell him "thanks, but after two days of no working toilet or shower, we've lost the faith."  "Vaya, senora," Mama Hilda sneers at me, sealing our confidence in our decision to leave.  We walk next door to the more rustic, basic, and ever so cheap "Cloud Forest" hostel and are given a warm welcome, hot pot of freshly made chocolate milk, and a piping hot shower, all for half of what we paid at Mama Hilda's.  We enjoy a great relaxed dinner with a slew of new travel buddies.  We are also treated to a show by local young girls who do the hostal circuit dancing each evening.  The girls all ranged in age from seven to nine, and were the cutest, carrying out their traditional dance routine in local wear.  Several of them walked over an hour in their flimsy sandals and colorful, glittery outfits for their nights work.  I can't imagine how cold their walk must be at night, as we're freezing under 6 wool blankets in bed here!

Tags: Adventures

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