The trip to Ecuador was unexpected. Mainly because I went with absolutely no expectations. At certain times during the semester I forgot I was even going and only then was I reminded by going to Ecuador class every week. It was like every time I remembered it would be a little surprise that would brighten my day. But even then with no clear expectations I knew the opportunity was one that I would never forget and that I would think about everyday afterwards. I fell for Ecuador during my week; I fell for the people, the beauty, and the culture of an amazingly interesting country.
On Sunday January 4th, we set off for our adventure first stopping in Houston, Texas and then arriving in Quito, Ecuador at 1AM in the morning. My passport was stamped, luggage had arrived successfully, and so it was time to discover a new continent. We drove an hour outside of Quito to stay one night at Hacienda Pachamama, where I would meet some of the most amazing and inspiring people, Chiri, Xavier, and Marco. We were welcomed at 3AM with smiles, delicious tea, and little cookies while Chiri explained our week long hunt for the treasure of the Pachamama. The last thing I wanted to do was go to bed, I wanted to explore, look around the beautiful hacienda, and take it all in. We woke up the next morning, Monday, to a view filled with abundant beauty. The hacienda was covered with vibrant green and views of the mountains and volcanos. Inside we had our first group breakfast and then made cheese empanadas. Our time at Pachamama was short, but it was an influential experience for us to carry and reflect on for the rest of our trip.
After breakfast we drove to Quilotoa volcano, and on the way we crashed a parade through the mountains celebrating the three kings holiday. Since being in Ecuador this was our first opportunity to experience the culture first hand. We were invited into the parade with open arms by people we have never met. I took this time to study the people whom I was surrounded by, I observed their clothing, how they were taking shots of some alcohol while happily walking, and of course the routines of the celebration. It was an a crazy opportunity to have been involved in a cultural celebration, it definitely kicked off my week and made me want to see more.
When we finally arrived at the volcano we had a small snack of corn and fava beans with Aji, an Ecuadoran sauce. The hike down was a breeze, enjoying the view of the massive lake which formed in the crater of the volcano. However, the hike back up was not so easy. With Quilotoa being at 12,841 feet the elevation was definitely a challenge for completing the hike. Very slowly we made the hike back up, at times I did feel light-headed, thirsty, and tired. It felt as if I was taking a long run, but actually I was only slowly hiking upwards. I finally made it back to the top where we had our first Ecuadoran dinner. By completing Quilotoa on the first day, it gave me the strength to complete the whole week. Each day I faced obstacles and challenges, but I knew I could do anything after the volcano.