Friday, December 20th, around 8pm: You know that scene in the Hangover when Bradley Cooper’s character bursts out of his school as the bell rings and hops in the car to Vegas? That feeling of freedom is exactly how I felt at this time. Although I stuck around town for a few days before traveling, I did nothing but relax, make Christmas cookies and eggnog, and gather with friends. Homemade eggnog was a huge success, although after actually laboring and mixing the ingredients, I am slightly disgusted. The same goes with the amount of butter I used for the Xmas cookies – good thing that only happens once a year. I also had an interesting (terrifying) experience with my oven. Apparently it hadn’t been used in awhile, or maybe it was because the gas tank had recently been switched, but when I lit the oven, a giant gas cloud exploded in my face and through the kitchen over to the glass window, which proceeded to implode and send glass shards flying into the sink. I realize now that this was probably quite dangerous, but am somewhat reassured (and further confused) because I learned that this also happened to my friend at her apartment here in Quito. Better luck next time.
(Some of my EF coworkers and their families at our Holiday Potluck)
Monday, December 23rd, sunrise: Hopped in a taxi to head to Quitumbe, Quito’s southern bus terminal, to board my 9 hour bus ride to Cuenca! Although sickeningly windy and long, the ride was actually quite scenic and entertaining. We passed a snowcapped volcano (whose name I should probably know), mountain villages, lots of sheep, goats, pigs, cows and horses, and I’m sure plenty more but I fell asleep to stop the ensuing nausea. In Cuenca, I arrived to El Cafecito, perhaps one of my favorite hostels all-time. The staff was friendly, the rooms were clean, the beds were comfy, the courtyard was beautiful and there was plenty of hammock and yoga space in the backyard.
(What better spot to read, work on my Portuguese with Duolingo, and Skype with family?)
Throughout the next couple of days, me and my three hostel friends, Ric, Stephen, and Thinh, a Vietnamese from Minnesota travelling in Ecuador toured around Cuenca as much as we could due to holiday closures. Ric and I enjoyed a one-of-a-kind baby Jesus festival, which is actually called El Pase del Niño Viajero. Lots of babies dressed as angels, female Santas, roasted pig heads decorated on sticks, dancing, and singing.
Some highlights of Cuenca included: the river walk, el Puente Roto, Colombian almuerzos, accidentally stumbling upon a Goth museum with Stephen and going to Christmas mass where I perhaps thankfully only understood the word paz (peace). Who knows what else they were preaching!
Three-fourths of our Christmas dinner clan. My meal was a vegetarian curry – nontraditional but delicious nonetheless.
After a relaxing few days in Cuenca, I headed to Riobamba in hopes to ride some of the Andean Rails, either Nariz del Diablo or Sendero de los Ancestros. I usually plan ahead when I travel, but I didn’t think a reservation would be necessary for these and was sadly disappointed. The trains were full for a week! It was probably because they were recently remodeled and still a novelty for both national and international tourists, especially during the holiday break. Well, I’m sure Riobamba attracts some people but it did absolutely nothing for me so I was happy to leave a couple of days early.
…and onto the next adventure I went: Baños!