Hola! Despite the efforts of the Ecuadorian government to keep us out, we landed safely in Quito on Saturday evening after almost 24 hours of travel.
We took the redeye on Friday night to Dallas, then another flight to Miami for a long layover, where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Little Havana with our friends Pat and Marsha. They took us on a tour of the city, cruising down South Beach and stopping for a drink before getting back on the plane. It was great to see Pat before we left because she is the first woman who showed me that I could travel, work, and live as I wanted with the right attitude and planning. It only seemed appropriate that she was there for our final stop on our journey outside the country. I owe her a lot. Thanks, Pat.
The plane from Miami was a little bit late leaving, and I was surprised that it was completely full. After the political unrest, I assumed there would be several cancelled trips. I heard plenty of English as well as Spanish being spoken on the plane, and at immigration there were over a dozen US students in line with us. It made me proud that so many people carried on as usual once the airport reopened instead of letting fear keep them back home.
On the plane we sat next to an attorney for the Ecuadorian government who happened to be in Miami on business when the coup broke out. He reassured us that things were okay, and he gave us a lot of information on travel around Ecuador. In fact, we’ve not yet met anyone from Ecuador who wasn’t proud of their country, willing to give us recommendations, or even kindly help with our Spanish if we were making a good effort.
We were greeted at the airport by Patricio, the taxi driver we arranged for through the eco-lodge. It took just over an hour to climb the winding mountain roads up to Casa Mojanda. The roads were really terrific until we got to Otavalo, and then there were more cobblestones and ruts. Thankfully the eco-lodge is just a couple of miles from Otavalo.
Even in the dark, we were completely mesmerized by Casa Mojanda. The houses and cottages are made of rammed earth with thick white walls, exposed beam ceilings, tile floors, and lots of big windows to showcase the view. After a quick tour and a greeting from Catherine and Fernando, the administrators, we fell into the deepest sleep we’ve had in months.
In the daylight the next morning, we were first greeted by two llamas snacking on grass outside the kitchen window. We promptly named them Debb and Pat after our friends who are planning to get goats and name them after us. Turnabout is fair play, you know. Each morning Debb and Pat have been grazing outside our window, and in the evening they go back to their pen with another female and a baby who was born on September 30 (the coup day). They have named the baby llama “Rafe” after President Rafael Correa.
The view out of each window in the house is spectacular: volcanos, rolling green hills, farmland, grazing cows and horses, and gorgeous plants and trees. Even the buildings here are beautiful. We are staying in one of two private homes at the lodge, and we are surrounded by cottages, a dining room, a library, a yurt for shamanic rituals, and a wood-fired hot tub outdoors with a view of the volcano Nevado Cotacachi.
The dining room serves 3 meals a day, and we’ve enjoyed some of the most delicious food we’ve ever tasted. Many ingredients come from Casa Mojanda’s own garden, and most meals are vegetarian. We’ve decided to have breakfast there every day and to cook our own lunch and dinner to keep our $100/day budget intact (meals range from $8 to $14 each, so it can add up quickly), but I could easily be tempted to eat every meal there.
We’re sleeping more than usual, and we attribute that to the altitude adjustment. We are at 9500 feet, which is a pretty step climb from our normal life near sea level. We both took acetazolamide to combat altitude sickness. The side effects were miserable for me, and I wish I had not taken it. Warren seemed to do just fine. Use it at your own risk; otherwise, just plan to go slowly for a few days as your lungs adjust to the much thinner air.
It will probably take us a few tries to find a good groove on writing posts on the road. We want to share with you the interesting places we go, but we also want to continue talking about living life on your own terms, developing healthy relationships, and all the personal growth topics we’ve scratched the surface on over the last two years. Please be patient with us as we try to weave this all together.
In short (she says at the end of a long-winded post), we are at Casa Mojanda in Otavalo, Ecuador loving the people, the scenery, the food, and most of all the feeling that we have taken a turn in our lives that will change them forever.
(Click here if you can’t see the video below.)