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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 31 Aug 2006

Location: Latacunga, Ecuador

MapBack online after a peaceful few days up in the Central Sierra mountains staying at the Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilan. Bus journeys were interesting, but negociated successfully (apart from paying double the correct fare on the last leg). The local buses are amazing - all the luggage goes on the roof, including any livestock that you may have just bought at the market! Came back today by local trucks - didn´t fancy the 4 am bus (alright for Sue sitting in the front with the driver whilst Chris, also leaving the Black Sheep, and I roughed it in the back with the locals - one of whom had to hang on to the back because it was full).

We had a great time at the Inn, although we were in the top set of rooms that were 100 metres higher than the lodge - had to stop to catch breath half way up. On the first day we were exhausted after dancing with the local kids, I danced with the lead girl (6 years old) - I haven´t lost my fancy footwork even in hiking boots. Getting more used to the altitude now - I even had the energy to have a game of volleyball yesterday (Gringos 4, Ecuadorians 1 - which Sue attributes to the locals all being shorter than us). Wonderful view from our room and llamas, including a baby, in the field next to us - the baby wasn´t tethered and used to come and graze outside our room. Had fun feeding them with salt - Bonnie (more later) adopted an unusual twirling movement every time the llama approached her for the salt. She (Bonnie) was eventually tamed after being told by Sue that llamas were toothless and then getting bitten.

The lodge was run by Americans and full of Americans and Europeans - not so good for the Spanish but great for travel info and chat. Went on a couple of trips with Bonnie from Michigan, who has been everywhere - had great laughs. Got used to the composting toilets and enjoyed the veggie food, although felt like drunken Brits when we were the only people to have alcohol - fortunately the Dutch and French turned up to join us. Brave enough for both of us to try the zip-line without any alcohol - Sue even let go with her hands after being shown how to by a 12 year old - Bonnie was dismissive having been on longer, steeper, better zip-lines around the world.

The local hikes were great, although we got effortlessly lost on our first day on one of the easy hikes - a long debate on what constitutes a ´cluster´of houses followed by the wrong decision and a very steep walk down through someone´s property. Got to the bottom of the valley to find a tiny stream rather than a raging river and then were shouted at by a local old lady - so we beat a retreat (although not hasty as it was all uphill and she could easily have overtaken us if she had wanted to). Took a guide on our big hike to make sure we made it back before dark.

Had a day horse-riding up to the cloud forest - Bonnie rode the infamous Maria who was actually well behaved apart from a couple of attempts at biting our horses. Sue´s horse had a 3 month old foal, which came with us. The guide, Miguel, couldn´t believe how slow we were - but we didn´t have any sense of control over the horses, they did their own thing.

The next day we took a truck up to the Quilotoa volcano, a huge crater with a lake inside it. Despite Miguel, our guide again, saying that there wasn´t time, we decided to walk down to the water and back up again (1200 metres) then started the trek back to base. Scenery was magnificent - glad we had Miguel, especially when crossing the small landslip. We had just met another party of 2 Brits and 2 Germans who had turned back on the grounds that it was too dangerous, which was quite off-putting. Sue wasn´t too convinced about posing for a photo on the goat path.

Back in Latacunga now and off on a trip to another volcano, Cotopaxi, tomorrow - hope Bonnie is joining us if she survived the 4 am bus and the Saquisili market. Thanks to Cathy from Tasmania for the recommendation for the tour agency and the good price (although don´t mention that to the Dutch on the trip who have paid full price).