Another week in South America!
We finished our ten days in Bahia with daily seashell collecting, workouts on the beach, watching beautiful sunsets, playing soccer with the locals and lots of market trips. We hiked up to the top of La Cruz, a huge white cross on the side of the mountain, overlooking Bahia's busy city center and the bay filled with fishing boats. We visited a 114-year-old, giant Galapagos tortoise named Miguelito who resides in a banana-tree lined playground in the courtyard of the local escuela fiscal de Bahia. He trotted over to us and ate a banana right out of my hand... which thrilled the boys!
We made fresh ceviche from market shrimp and ate it with green plantain chips. We visited the very modern Museo de Archeologico (one of the biggest and best museums in Ecuador) and learned about the native Incans. We sipped fancy coffee (all of $1.75) at the local and very cool Coco Bongo, a favorite among international backpackers. We spooned boiling hot (literally, the soup was bubbling in its clay cauldron) viche, a local specialty that combines peanuts, black eyed peas, corn on the cob and shrimp, into our mouths. Then we cooled them off with a silky coconut flan, best eaten while watching the sun go down over the beach.
We had an amazing time in Bahia, but it was time to move on.
Soccer with the locals
Out to dinner
Morning hike to La Cruz
Feeding Miguelito bananas
Exploring the museum
Coffee at Coco Bongo
We boarded a night bus ("ejecutivo" this time) around 10:00 p.m. and spent the night, reclined and in air conditioning all the way to Quito. Let's be honest, it wasn't the best eight hours of sleep I've ever had, but the boys slept soundly, and we arrived in Quito at 6:00 a.m. At approximately 6:10 a.m., we were running for the Cotacachi bus, which apparently left two minutes previously, but that the ticket counter lady assured us was still at the terminal. It was. We boarded with every bag and family member intact, and set off through the beautiful mountains to Cotacachi.
La Reina busline
We arrived and were promptly deposited on the side of the highway, about five miles from the actual town of Cotacachi. Nowhere near the promised "terminal de autobus." We rallied and asked the smiling Andean natives, bedecked with gold necklaces and colorful head scarves, where we could find a taxi to the town centre. A bit of a miscommunication sent us up and over the highway bridge following a cattle herd (seriously, they were leading cattle over the bridge!), but ultimately ending up in a taxi and on our way to the town square, where we were to meet our landlady.
While waiting at the lovely park, some locals befriended the boys, apparently falling in love with their blond hair and insisted on taking pictures. Michael was wary but Jack (of course, our little social butterfly) hammed it up. We enjoyed our new friends and the park until our hostess, Maria, arrived. Elegant and gracious, she drove our weary bodies and heavy backpacks the two blocks to the townhouse, Jardines de Pichavi.
Been here less than 5 minutes and already making friends.
Beautiful does not describe this place. We are tucked away behind a quaint gate to the busy street, about two blocks from the square. We walked along a cobblestone path, lined with enormous avocado trees to a literal secret garden. Our complex has nine private townhouses, all situated to face the abundant flowering fruit trees of the garden and the mountains and volcano Cotacachi beyond. The town house, mostly all expats, most of whom are grandparents who have retired here. We are trying to the keep the excited squeals down out of respect, but our neighbors smile and wave to the boys daily.
Every morning, we enjoy coffee on the chilly porch (after my wife stays snuggled under the wool alpaca blankets while I get the coffee going), and let the boys loose among the trees to find fresh fruit to accompany breakfast. They come running back, arms laden with clementines, wild plums, lemons and a small, sour mystery fruit that we haven't identified yet. They always bring their mom a few native flowers that she has zero hopes of ever identifying.
The temperatures are perfect, low 50s all night, and the daily highs are in the mid-70s. It's partly cloudy most of the time -- the clouds just add to the mystique of the looming volcano and the sun warms everything up. But make sure and bring sunscreen -- we are right on the equator so the sun is very, very strong. The breeze and temperatures keep all the bugs away, so we keep the windows and doors open most of the day. We are within walking distance of everything you need -- the outdoor market for fresh fruit and vegetables, the "super mercado" for dried goods, the Americano market for jam, wine and even Nutella, the cathedral, where we went to mass yesterday, and the bus station for a few touristy things coming up. The locals are incredibly friendly and the native Andeans are so unique and plentiful in the small craft market, where they sell their blankets and woven baskets. There is a feeling of comfort and welcome here that is unlike anything we've experienced.
Strolling around Cotacachi
Running along the path to our house
Back from the market
Playing at the market
In our Sunday best for church
The altar inside Cotacachi Cathedral
A view of the square
A boy and his favorite snack
*Apparently, our freshly ground peanut butter at the market was a specialty to Bahia. Peanut butter is nowhere to be found here (at a reasonable price) and Nutella is everywhere. Nutella it is! And, someone was a bit excited to see it*
We have a lot on our agenda, between investment hunting, real estate tours, visits to the local world renowned indigenous markets and the famous leather district, nearby museums and nature adventuring such as visits to an endangered bird park, waterfalls, volcano crater lakes, hot springs and much more! We have 18 days here and can't wait to fill them with more adventures! Stay tuned at our blog, www.dclandromomania.blogspot.com, and remember to check out our instagram hashtag, #dclandromomania.