After our breakfast of omelette, fresh fruit and cereal we left the hostel. It was quite sad saying good bye to the owners baby Aldo, and their little dog Pilli. However, we knew we would return in just over a week’s time. The female proprietor had put a baseball hat on Pilli which was hilarious. The real adventure to the cloud forest had begun. The coach took us along the edge of the city, and then up over the top of the mountains, down into the cloud forest. The journey had stunning views as we got to see the whole of the city laid out over the valley floor. Seeing the shanty towns was a bit upsetting, as no one should live in those sorts of conditions.
The road clung to the walls of valleys on both sides of the mountains. In Ecuador they drive on the right hand side of the road. Our bus driver, Javier, took over quite a few cars and lorries on blind bends, where you couldn’t possibly see if there was traffic in the oncoming lane. With the precipice below, all we could do was cheer him on and hope that we didn’t end up in a collision. He tested our nerve once by overtaking 3 lorries on a sharp bend, but luckily he got round without accident, earning him the nickname of ‘Stig’. ‘Stig’ is a reference to ‘The Stig’, a racing driver on the UK driving programme called Top Gear. We also got our first view of the Cotopaxi volcano.
The guys topped up on Gatorade at a petrol station, which I found was similar to Powerade. I hadn’t seen it before in England, until coming back from Ecuador, when it started to be seen in supermarkets. Personally, I think I prefer it to Powerade.
Passing through one village we saw a football tournament, with each side having a ‘Miss America’ style girl mascot. We didn’t see England, but cheered at both Chelsea and Manchester. They really seemed to love it.
The coach dropped us at the bottom of a hill. We had arrived at La Hesperia, or rather at the bottom of the hill up to La Hesperia. La Hesperia is a Biological Reserve, situated in the Rio Toachi-Chiriboga IBA (Important Bird Area, declared by Bird Life International and Conservation International) and it is part of two important bioregions: The Tropical Andes and the Choco Darien – Western Ecuador, considered within the top five biodiversity hotspots on earth.
There was a sign saying to leave our big bags there and someone would come pick them up. So after leaving our bags we started the 30 minute walk up a very steep hill to La Hesperia. This may not sound that bad, but we were at altitude, so even though the distance was not that great, it took us a while to reach there. The road zigzagged for a while, and then was flat at the time. The humidity was certainly noticeable! By the time we reached the top we were all exhausted.
Once we had been shown to the guest house, we had lunch. Lunch was served outside, under a shelter. We were then showed around the vegetable garden, where there were papayas and pineapples growing. (Up until then I hadn’t realised pineapples grew from the ground). Then we visited the farm where there were goats, chickens and cows (one of which mooed like a sheep).
The guys were delighted to be shown the football pitch. There was also medicinal garden, which was really interesting with lima limón (lemon lime), coconut, coffee and cocoa plants. One of the owners, Alexandra, told us to go and look at the ‘Medicinal Log Book’ and ‘Places to go’ information sheet. The ‘Places to go’ information sheet proved to be hilarious. Extracts included: ‘Walk to the bottom of the hill, and wait for 20-30 minutes. Catch the bus, for a cost of 1, 50 to 2, 50 dollars. Go to the Quito Men’s Prison. Ask for Lenny Estrella. He is a very nice drug smuggler who has been in prison for 8-9 years. He is very bored. Take him presents such as….. ‘
La Hesperia has two boxer dogs called Benito and Xica. Whilst relaxing after our tour the guys decided to play with their Superman Frisbee, but they managed to eat this when one of them failed to catch it. Then they went for their football.
After a nice dinner we played a game called Mafia. In this game, Mafia kill normal villagers, and there is a Doctor who can heal and therefore save someone from the Mafia. The Mafia themselves are among the villagers, and the villagers must try to figure out who they are. At bed time, most of the girls put their mosquito nets up. I couldn’t be bothered so I just draped it over my face. This got annoying though so I threw it off, but no bugs bit me.
Next time: The first full day of work at La Hesperia.