Saturday, January 05, 2008

Llapingachos in Papallacta...
The last leg of our holiday trip came after heading back from Cabanas tres rios. We had almost a two hour delay after setting out with our driver ~ we decided not to take the bus to Papallacta because the roads seemed a bit sketchy because it had been raining a lot. And sketchy they were ~ there was a mudslide that landed in the road. Our driver told us it was a small one but in that case we were worried what a big one would be like. So, we waited for the bulldozer to arrive and clear a path big enough for a single lane of traffic to pass through.

After that we made it pretty quickly in his truck ~ lots of muddy roads and small bridges along the way. We were happy to arrive and see our cute, hobbit-like cabin with lots of private hot thermal baths right outside.
We stayed in a cabin with a fireplace and here is a view from our little deck that looks out on a bunch of the private baths.

The baths are fed directly by the volcano and really are amazing. They have minerals that are great for your body and skin and are wonderfully hot. We spent a lot of time soaking.

We had about a 45 second view of the volcano Antisana ~ it's massive and beautiful and you can see it's snow capped peak in this picture. It's the only point on the equator where there is snow year round.

There are also great hikes right from the complex ~ all different levels and lengths. Papallacta is higher than Quito ~ over 10,000 feet so it's really beautiful.

We took one of the paths and it was like hiking thorough a magical forest filled with lichen, bromeliads and waterfalls.

We stayed two nights and Chris, Meredith and Michael enjoyed many llapangachos ~ a local specialty involving potato - cheese patties topped with a fried egg and hot sauce (aji).

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the thermal baths to head back to Quito.
New year's eve held the typical Qutio fun ~ burning masks and mannequins that represent the old year ~ although some look like anyone from George Bush to Spiderman. Right on our block families were dousing them with gasoline and lighting them on fire along with many, many fireworks.
And now it's back to work tomorrow!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

After our trip to Banos, we returned to Quito on the 24th. Meredith and I went to the grocery store to buy lots of food for Christmas eve and day and then we cooked and hung out. Chris made a delicious vegetable/chickpea bake for Christmas eve and for Christmas day I made homemade gnocchi with pesto sauce, Meredith made a tomato vodka sauce and Michael made some wonderful stuffed poblano peppers ~ it was a feast complete with homemade sesame cookies ~ batches with and without wheat flour.

Then we headed out again on the 26th (Meredith's birthday). We went to a very small town called Borja that had a hostal right outside it called Cabanas tres Rios (or Cabanas de Larry as the locals call it).

It's in the cloud forest and was mostly for kayakers since it's right on the river. We spent a relaxing few days taking long walks...

reading in and out of hammocks...

and playing dominoes and canasta.

Chris tried fishing on the river but it was super high and rough waters.

We had beautiful views of some of the farms and around us

and the gardens at the hostal were really beautiful and we saw a few different varieties of hummingbirds.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Feliz Ano!!!
Hard to believe we just spent our second holiday season in Quito. Last year with Susan and Tom visiting and this year Meredith and Michael. They just left on the morning of Jan. 2nd and we had lots of fun and travels while they were here.
We'll probably need to separate all the info and pictures into different posts ~otherwise it's too hard to manipulate all the photos and I'll try to save so that their in the right order.
We started out with a day in Quito ~ a trip to the artesan craft market, an amazing jewelry store and lunch downtown. The next day we headed to a town called Banos ~ a very cute town nestled in the mountains about 2 hours south of Quito.

We took a bus to get there ~ almost four hours but pretty comfortable and no one on the bus to threw up and the driver didn't stop for a 2 hour lunch break or anything like that (which seems to happen on most of our bus excursions). They played a Vin Diesel double feature on the bus ~ I can't remember the names but it's probably not that important anyway, they seemed to have similar plot lines.... they were dubbed in Spanish but who needs language to understand Vin Diesel movies???
Here are a couple of pictures taken out the window of the bus. The first one is the outskirts of Quito.

This next one is a little town we passed through before we reached Banos.

So, Banos is super cute and actually has a lot of vegetarian restaurants (more options for us than Quito). We started off at Cafe Hood ~ right off this park square ~ it's so popular that other people have opened up other restaurants called Cafe Good and Casa Hood ~ but we stuck with the original.
There was also a restaurant called Paisano's and we went there for dinner. We were the only four there and it was a small place that was also the cook's/owner's art studio. We ordered garlic soup, the Vegetarian Plate and the "Concierto Vegetariano" and had a few beers, inhaling the oil paint smell while we waited. The wife of the cook snuck out to the corner store to buy our beers while we waited. It must have taken at least 45 minutes and we were presented with an amazing array of vegetarian dishes that were so delicious and the whole thing probably cost about $15.00 ~ including beers. It was kind of a surreal experience. The cook talked to us for a while after the meal and told us about the time and love it took to cook vegetables as opposed to meat.
Here's a picture of Michael outside a bar/restaurant near our hostal. The town was pretty quiet since it was the day before christmas but this was a great place to have a drink and a snack.

We stayed at a really cute place on the edge of the small town called La Posada del Arte and it had a great rooftop terrace.

We hung out there at night and played canasta and dominoes. There was a great waterfall behind the hostal.


Banos means baths and there are a few public thermal baths in the town. They are fed directly by the volcano so we tried them out..... let me tell you, they are nothing compared to our later trip to Papallacta. The baths cost $2 in the evening but it was a weekend and they were super crowded and you felt like if you leaned back you were going to sit on a strange person's lap. So, we didn't stay there too long..
Meredith and Michael took a hike up the mountain and got some great views of the town (Chris and I took a nap and each got a massage ~ $17 for an hour massage).

Chris and I can't wait to go back ~ it's beautiful, very chill, super friendly and great veggie food.