So this past weekend was a lot of fun! Saturday we went to the Cascada de Peguche, a waterfall here in Otavalo that the indigenous people consider sacred. A big group of kids came, plus Paola, Margot and Nikki. Well, the truck driver who took us said we could easily hike to the Condor Park nearby, so after the waterfalls we headed off to the park. No exaggeration, it turns out to be a three hour uphill hike. We had like three bottles of water between 11 people and Dixie, and it was hard enough to walk ourselves but we also had to keep the kids going. Well, we finally made it and went to the park...which was not that impressive. It was a lot like the bird section of the zoo. Still it was fun and it was cool that we made it all the way to the top of this mountain even if it was a ridiculous hike. Then we went to lunch with the family at this amazing place. Paola and I both got Parrilladas which were like $10 each, but it was sooo much food and so delicious it was defintiely worth it. It was just an assortment of different meants with a plantain and some potatoes with amazing sauce on them. Paola´s had a half a cuy on it too, but since I´ve already tried it and I know I don´t eat much in one sitting, I went for the smaller one, which was still a beast. So Saturday night we came home exhausted and pretty much just showered, packed and went to bed.
Sunday we were supposed to get up at 6 to catch the 6:30 bus to Quito and then another bus to Mindo, but we both missed our alarms and woke up at 7. Mindo is this amazing place on the slopes of the Volcan Pichincha, where it´s low enough in altitude that it´s a subtropical climate and partly cloudforest, so everything is really beautiful and green and there are plants everywhere, and lots of cool animals. Well, it ended up working out though, because we were going to go pretty far south into Quito to catch this bus at 9am, but when we talked to the bus guys they told us they could drop us off just past La Mitad del Mundo and a bus could take us from there to the entrance to Mindo, on the side of the Panamerican, which is like their major highway. Well, from there we just grab a truck or taxi and they can take us the 7 kilometers into town, or we can hike. So we get there by like 12:30 and check into this absolutely gorgeous hotel next to the river, for $7 each. It was so ridiculous, the whole thing was made of bamboo and there were hammocks and amazing views and gardens, plus all kinds of things to do like volleyball courts, a futbol field, ping pong, pool, etc. We ended up not having time for any of that, but it was incredible how much our hotel offered. Well, the one thing they couldn´t do was call us a car to take us anywhere, so we were like oook lets hike all the way back to town and get a car from there. Well, we´re barely leaving our hotel when a truck drives by carrying a group of American girls, so we flag it down and ask if we can get a ride to the canopy. They say no, we do regatas and we´re on our way to do that now, so we hop in and go do regatas. Regatas are kind of like river rafting, except that it´s a bunch of inflatable tubes tied together and we all sit on them and hold on tight and our guides take us down the river. It was sooo much fun, I really hope I can upload pictures today because there are so many I want to post. So that was our first adventure, and since it was later in the day it was kind of cloudy and chilly and the river water was freeezing. After that we were like well, we want to do this canopy thing, so where do we go for that? So the same driver took us up there. I did something similar when I went to Chachimbiro, a canopy is just what they call a zipline here. Well, the one here was actually a hike with a series of ten ziplines, each one getting higher and higher. It was sooo much fun, we were so high above the forest and our guides taught us tricks like the superman (going down the zipline in a superman position), the butterfly (upside down), and the kangaroo (the guides on either side make the cable bounce as you go on it.) It was the coolest, funnest thing ever. By then we were worn out, so we went back to our hotel and collapsed in our hammocks for like two hours. Then we had to rush to get ready for dinner because our canopy guide had offered to show us a good place to eat. Well, we get to the park to meet, and we run into our guide from the regatas too, so all four of us end up going to dinner together. It was fun to have new friends to hang out with, and there was supposed to be a big party in the park afterwards because it was election day and whoever won would throw a party. Well, the party was pretty lame and we were tired so we just went home to sleep. This one adorable dog followed us all over the place for some reason, from the restaurant to the park, he would run by us and when we stopped he´d stop and lay down then get up and follow us when we moved. I wish so badly I could have kept him. The next day we went to the Cascada de Nambillo, which is the most popular waterfall in Mindo. It´s about a half hour hike from the start down to the waterfall, then you get to swim in the river. It was sooo nice, the water was super cold but the sun was out so it felt great. We had an awesome time and then had to rush all the way back to meet our driver, who was going to take us horseback riding. Well, the hike back up was ridiculous and we were going super fast, so by the time we got back we were hot and sweaty and it felt like we hadn´t even swam. Then our driver, Giovanni, tells us that the horse guide isn´t working today and because it´s such a small town that´s the only horse place. So we´re like crap what now, that was what we had planned. So since we´re all gross and the sun´s still out, we just ask him to take us somewhere where we can swim and he takes us to a pool where we spend the afternoon relaxing. Then we had to rush to catch our bus to Quito, then to Otavalo. We finally made it home by 8:30 or so, and pretty much just went straight to bed because we were super tired.
So I mentioned Election Day was Sunday, and things went really badly. Everyone from the government party, Lista 35, won, so there is a big fraud investigation going on. They´ve actually found proof that ballots were stashed in bathrooms or other places and not counted, plus there are some other things going on that Margot was explaining to me. For example, if you vote what the call en plancha, which means for one party to fill every position, your vote counts for one. If you vote for different candidates from different parties, your vote counts as 1/10 of a vote. How is that any sort of democracy? Well, no one has hope that things will change, even once the votes are recounted and even though there is enough proof that there has been fraud. With Correa, the same president, back in power, and 65% of the government being from his own party, it´s extremely likely that Ecuador will soon become a socialist country. It´s awful because things are bad enough as it is--I swear I´ve seen prices on things go up just since I´ve been here. It makes me really sad both to leave my community knowing that things are only going to go downhill, and also to think that with how things are going it will be a while before this country is OK for me to come back to. It´s hard to explain or even understand how much this country, or at least Azama, has become my second home. This weekend I know I´m going to do a looot of crying, sometimes on the bus to Otavalo I think about how early Monday morning I will be making this same trip under very different conditions and I get really sad. Saying goodbye to everyone will be really sad. Luckily, right after I will be heading to the Coca for my Amazon trip and then Atacames to hang out at the beach, so I will have exciting things going on to keep me from getting too depressed. And I do miss home a lot. As much as I have come to love Ecuador, there is truly no place like home and I can´t wait to see all you guys, eat some American food, and play with my pooch and kitties.
I´m uploading pictures right now and I think that it is finally going to work, so I am really excited for you guys to be able to see some of the cool things I´ve been up to! Today I´m in a hurry to get back to Azama because I have to go say bye to all the kids at the school there, take pictures with all the classes, and go finish painting the house. It seems ridiculous that I´m stil working on that but the color is so hard to find that even when I needed just one gallon, not even that much, it took me forever to find. But it´s almost done, there´s just a few blocks in the back and I want to paint the cement parts that they added to fill in gaps because otherwise there are these weird gray areas between the block and the roof and between the block and the window frames, and after how much work Jane and Brad put into the place I think it should be finished. Tomorrow I´ll be going to La Inmaculada and El Colegio Pedro Maldonado in San Rafael to take pictures with those classes and say my goodbyes, since Friday is El Dia Del Trabajador and there´s no school. Does anyone else think it´s ridiculous how many holidays there are? I swear we haven´t had a full week of school since before Holy Week. Anyway, I´m sure there will be a lot to tell after this weekend since it´s my last weekend here and there will be parties and fun things going on.