As we arrived at the airport in Quito, Ecuador, a sign above us read “Bienvenidos a Quito, Ecuador: Latitude 00° 00′ 00” “. We were on the equator. So cool. Cooler than cool actually, it was freezing. Apparently at 10,000 feet it doesn’t matter what your latitude, its all about altitude. For the first time on our trip, out came the warm weather gear. Quito, as any good South American city does, has an “Old town” which was our first visit. We spent our first day wandering it’s streets, but honestly, after the spectacular old towns of Panama City and Cartagena, Quito’s was a big disappointment for us. In fact the city as a whole left a lot to be desired. There was very little colonial beauty, every old church tried to charge us significant sums of money just to look inside, the people were not very friendly, etc. As a disclaimer I must say that this was just our personal opinion but we knew in four hours it wasn’t the place for us. We left after one night instead of the three we had planned having heard about some hot springs up in the mountains in the town of Papallacta that sounded amazing. Bright and early the next morning we jumped a bus and headed that way. Winding through the cloud covered and frigid northern Andes we knew we were in for a treat. When the bus driver dropped us off essentially in the middle of nowhere though we stared at each other shivering (and smiling of course), questioning the quick decision we had made. Thankfully we noticed a small roadside restaurant nearby and got directions to the actual town (which was actually another 4km down a side road). There is one hostal in the town of Papallacta, one hotel and one resort. We opted for the hotel (Hosteria Pampallacta Termales) as it had it’s own collection of hot spring mineral pools and grottos throughout the property, spectacularly located in a valley amid giant green mountains. It was a wonderful almost magical place. One day became two, then three as we spent our mornings soaking in hot pools surrounded by clouds, our days hiking through the mountain valley past rivers, fields of wildflowers and roving packs of alpacas, and our nights soaking in the warm water and cool air again under the stars. After the urban frenzies of Bogota and Quito it was a great and necessary reboot. While we were there we met the only other person staying at the hotel who would become our new friend, Eddie who happens to also be from the Bay Area. The three of us hatched a hairbrained plan to head to the surfer beach town of Montanita for Carnaval as that is where Ecuadorians gather to celebrate the epic latin american holiday. A bus, a cross country flight, multiple more buses and we arrived in party central weary from travels but ready for some revelry. The next 5 days were spent dancing in sand floored nightclubs, dancing in the streets and dancing on the beach. Ecuadorians celebrate Carnaval by spraying multi colored foam at each other so we armed ourselves with cans of the weird stuff and painted the town…well… a variety of colors. After our fifth day, having made many new friends from around the world and celebrating heartily, an exhausted Laura and I said goodbye to crazytown and made our way north to a small tranquil beach near the town of Las Tunas to relax for a few days. After several lazy days on the beach we made our way all the way back north to Quito to fly out to Lima, Peru. We had skipped essentially all of the big sights of Ecuador to enjoy one week of Carnaval celebration and beach relaxation but you know what, it was worth it. Those warm beach days would be the last such days for a while, the mountains of Peru were coming.
I can’t wait to see the photos from Papallacta and Montanita! Sounds like a tremendous week!
I tend to hold my breath when reading your epistles.
Breathing again, I’m thinking Carnaval was the right choice without a doubt.