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Life Outside the City

Atahualpa, Ecuador

Last weekend I had a few outdoor adventures, and time spent outside of the city. I live for these moments. As many things as Quito has to offer, I don't think I'm quite this metropolitan. I love to be elsewhere.

So Saturday a group of friends and I went to TeleferiQo (the cable cars that bring you up Pichincha on the western side of the city) and from there we hiked Rucu Pichincha.

If I thought the weather varied a lot in Quito, it was even crazier here. When we first arrived on top of the mountain, we had to put on a few layers, but as we started hiking (with signs everywhere not to run--the air is a lot thinner so it's harder to get used to and do physical activity; you've got to be careful) it grew warmer. Though it was a cloudy day, since we were even closer to the sky as usual, it got hot. Eventually it cooled down again, and by the time we returned to the path to the cabinas to descend to the city again, it was beginning to hail and rain.

The hike was a lot of fun. I love being outdoors and seeing new things. The speed at which the clouds move up there was incredible and surprising. I took quite a few photos, so check out the complete selection on my webshots page. It's so strange though, because if many of the photos, I could see much clearer than my camera could capture!

On Sunday my housemate Megan and I visited the village of Atahualpa with Megan's Spanish teacher (who is also our friend), Christina. About two hours north of Quito, we left super early in the morning...I woke up at 4:47am to get ready to go--up before the sun. We arrived around 9am to Christina's family home, had a snack (including queso fresco Christina's mom María had made the day before from their cows) and toured their land and met some of the animals. Christina's mother, father and brother live and work their farm. They have 7 cows, 1 horse, dozens of hens, chicks and roosters, a handful of rabbits, a dozen or so guinea pigs, some other birds, a few dogs and puppies!!, and a cat. It's a busy place. They also grow 2 types of corn--one for the animals, and one for them.

Then we went out to explore the town. Every moment I was amazed by the beauty of this village. Natural beauty energizes me.

With greenery everywhere, trees, mountains, a river...pretty much everything I could ask for. We were walking toward the river when a pickup truck going in our direction offered us a ride--this is a primary mode of transport in town. If a truck is going in your direction, you just hop in the bed and hold on tight. We took a roundabout route to the river so we were able to tour most of the higher parts of town. It was so beautiful I wished I could sprout a third arm to take pictures while my other two were busy holding on, keeping myself in the truck. At times we stopped to pick up other passengers and it got pretty cozy back there.

Eventually we ended our joy ride and hiked down to the river, then descended the slippery, muddy rock face to get to the riverbed. Christina and Megan were adventurous enough to brave crossing the river, jumping from rock to rock, but I chose to take the high road--crossing the rotting fallen log bridge that lay across the river while documenting their progress. Christina was sure footed, but Megan fell a few times, ending up with drenched boots. She was a trooper though!

We arrived back at home in time for lunch: soup (with freshly slaughtered chicken on the side to accomodate my vegetarian habit--how sweet!), rice and broccoli salad. Yum. We also had fresh apple cider. Delish.

The reason we went home with Christina this weekend was because it was the beginning of their town's patron saint/virgin celebration. During lunch, the fireworks started going off to tell the townspeople the beginning of the fesitivities were nearing. The band had already begun to play and the procession in progress by the time we got there, but we joined in the parade of dance performers, band members, and virgen memorial carriers down to the town church and park.

Along the way, we said hello to each person we came across and greeted multiple uncles and cousins we ran into along the way. We then attended mass, to celebrate the virgen and officially begin the celebratory month. Afterwards there were dance performances by different classes in the local school, each performing a different traditional dance. It was great to see.

I loved this small town life! It was also great because Megan and I were to only gringas in sight for most of the day. A few others live there, apparently volunteering to support tourism (but they're not doing too great so far since we're the only non-locals they've seen since they arrived).

After the dances and music commenced, we met some of Christina's other family--her sister Anita and Christina's nieces, one of whom performed in one of the dances. After jovial conversation in the park, Christina, her niece Irma, Megan and I went to the cemetary to visit the grave of Christina's brother who died as a child. Unfortunately, the gate was locked. Instead, we climbed over the walls and went on with our business. Cemetaries in Ecuador are a little different from ones I've visited in the States. In this cemetary there was the traditional structure in which the remains are protected and each grave has a memorial window to give respect and honor to the deceased, sometimes with photographs or knickknacks, flowers or sweets. Things to remember the dead. Since el día de los difuntos wasn't long ago, most of the graves were freshly visited and decorated, though they may always be so, I'm not sure. There were also graves more similar to graves in the states, with the deceased buried in the ground with some sort of headstone. This cemetary also had a maze of carved hedges. It was beautiful and I enjoyed visiting it. By the time we left, others had entered the cemetary as well and we were able to borrow a key to let ourselves out, rather than hoist ourselves over the 6 ft walls again.

We spent a bit more time in the town center, playing fooseball in the street, eating ice cream, and socializing before the bus ride back to Quito. I had so much fun in this village, I didn't want to leave at all. All of Christina's family was so sweet and welcoming. The culture in this village was amazing. Everyone was friendly and interested in us and wanting to learn more about us. This is the Ecuadorian culture I was expecting all along, and I finally found it. Warm, welcoming, loving.

permalink written by  Theresa on November 14, 2008 from Atahualpa, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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