After a brief trip back to the beloved Taganaga house, Andy and I headed to Cali. We spent less than 12 hours in Cali (sleeping for 3), where we coincidentally ran into Johan, a swedish guy Andy had met previously in Venezuela. Johan is a chef (although he did make us some bad eggs full of burned hair...) and he is hilarious.
On the bus ride from Cali to Quito, we watched as the landscape changed to one of rural Andean topography and culture. We had arrived in the Ecuadorian sierra. We had a short stay in Quito where we met up with Mary O´Donnell, and went to a racous party of pure debauchery.
Next we went to Mindo for a day of hiking, swimming, and playing in the cloud forest. O´ lindo Mindo! I would like to have a farm there someday.
After saying goodbye to Johan and Mary, I headed to Cotacachi with Andy and Luis to visit our host families from 2 1/2 years ago. We showed up unnanounced, and were greeted with such warmth and graciousness. It was wonderful to be back if for only a couple days! I spent the time shelling beans and catching up with Mamita Ester and her grandkids, buying seeds and planting beds of vegetables in Andy´s and my family´s gardens, cutting Alfalfa for the pigs, and not a whole lot more.
After Cotacachi, Luis and I headed to Baños. Baños is Luis´ hometown, so going there with him was especially enjoyable. It was my first visit there, and I hope it won´t be the last! i fell in love with Baños immediately; it is quite possibly my favorite city in Ecuador. It is a small city located at the base of the very active Tungurahua volcano. It´s somewhat precarious existence is also in my opinion one of its charming qualities. As one enters Baños, surrounded by remains of lava flows (less than 1 year old), towering Andean mountain peaks, and magnificent flowing waterfalls, one has a humbling sense of being completely insignificant and at the will of mother nature´s path. Luis and I rented bicycles and coasted down the mountain 20 km to Pailon del Diablo waterfall, which is said to be one of the ten most magnificent waterfalls in the world. (Sounds like quite a subjective measure to me, but I wouldn´t argue otherwise!)
The next morning we spent in one of Baños´ many thermal baths before returning to Quito. I said goodbye to Luis and am now awaiting a night bus that will bring me to the coast of Ecuador. Montañita here I come!