well we made it back to the US, safe and sound! it's been a few days, but we figured we'd update about the last leg of the trip before it all slips our mind.. so here goes:
we got up for our last day in banos, and spent some time wandering the shops and markets, acquiring gifts for ourselves and for some people back home. we then headed over to the bus station and got ourselves on the next bus headed for quito. it amazes me how nice the busses in ecuador are. we weren't even on anything special, but it was equipped with a flat panel TV that picked up signal as we were driving and were actually able to watch the Columbian hostage situation unfold on the news as we travelled. It also had a bathroom and large, plush seats. On top of that, our 4 hour bus journey cost only $3.50. Something to think about here when a trip on the greyhound from DC to roanoke runs about $80.. and is about the same distance (and the ecuadorian busses are MUCH nicer).
cost and luxury aside, riding on ecuadorian busses can also be a pain. the drivers crawl through each tiny little town, looking to pick up additional passengers. but its not just a simple drive through the center, it's driving in circles around the town for EVER. And sometimes, they just stop for no reason. Our bus started and stopped several times at the start of an onramp to the Pana (pan american highway..main road that runs through the country). Then, finally, we started driving on to the on ramp, only to stop on it completely for atleast 20 minutes.. with cars rushing around us. of course, we were given no explanations or told if the bus was broken. however, after spending enough time in ecuador, we knew to just accept this (after all, our driver to cotopaxi pulled over for half an hour on the way back to the hostal to feed his cows). i would almost bet that someone boarded the bus, paid in a $10 and they had to walk over to the bank or a store to get change. but the worst part of all of this is that they make up for the time between cities. despite amazing scenery, sometimes its best to not look out the window.. that way you don't see the near misses every minute.. because ecuadorian bus drivers tend to drive recklessly.. the yellow line only seems to be a suggestion, and driving towards oncoming traffic is all part of the fun. but our bus didn't crash so we chalked it up to another experience.
our bus journey started at the mouth of the amazon, with clouds, mist, and green. then we travelled through the heart of the andes, going north along the route of the volcanoes, admiring the landscape and observing the indigineous communities along the way. we also got a front row seat to two individuals in traditional andean clothes, helping one HUGE pig mount another huge pig on the side of the road. interesting. once we got past cotopaxi, the urban sprawl of quito was everywhere. we started getting nervous for our first experience with the quito bus station (which is not known for being the best place).
As with everything on this trip, the unknown was always scarier than the known. the bus pulled up infront of the station, next to a row of taxis, and we literally hopped off the bus, and got in a cab. it was not the scary, bag-slashing, mugging place we had heard stories about. (although i'm sure if we'd had to go INSIDE the terminal, it would be a different story). Our cab zipped us to the hostel through a part of old town we hadn't been to.. and like that we were home again.
Secret Garden has come to feel like home to us in Quito. There's always a lot of anxiety returning to Quito- the fast pace, the security issues, the usual rain, the smog, so we always breathed a sign of relief when we were safely back at the hostel, admiring the view from our little perch.
A few hours later we were surprised when 4 of the volunteers from the islands showed up at our hostel! we got to enjoy dinner and drinks with them and had a great time catching up. the next morning we headed off to the airport. for some reason it only cost us $3.20 for the 20 something minute cab ride... we'd been paying on average $8 or so before to get btw the airport and hostal. who knows. we were told it generally costs $7 or $8 depending on the time of day, so don't think it was the gringo tax.
our flight left close to on time, but we learned our flight would be making a stop in Guayquil, which is in SW ecuador before heading up to costa rica. it wasn't a big deal, but was a pain to have to add a 4th leg onto the long journey home. By the time we got to el salvador, it had started storming. by the time we took off from the salv-DC leg, it was raining and lightening. The first 40 minutes of the flight were really scary. it was really bumpy, and there was lightening flashing all around the plane. probably the scariest flight i've ever been on. i even closed the plane window because seeing the weather made the bumps and drops that much scarier.
we landed in dulles around 2am.. and the baggage carousel broke. so all the luggage had to be pulled out by hand and took about an hour. we didn't make it home until after 3am. but it was just a minor inconvenice. we had an amazing trip, and thanks to everyone who sent us messages, took time to read this, prayed for us, and everything else!
we can't say enough how much we loved our time in ecuador- and would encourage anyone thinking of going to do it. the mainland is so diverse and beautiful, and the galapagos are amazing.. theres no way you'd be dissapointed. and if you stumbled across this blog on an internet search and have any questions about ecuador in general, or particularly Jatun Sacha (whcih if you're considering doing, we can't recommend it enough), feel free to shoot us a PM and we'd be happy to answer any.
so i guess that's it for now. until the next trip...
mindy and ryan
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