Off to Chugchilán.....
A new adventure beginning today! Got up very early to head off to Chugchulan via Latacunga (don´t you love these names!). We got a taxi to the bus terminal (Terminal Terrestre) and it was hilarious - we get out of the taxi at a roundabout (´cos that´s where all the buses to Latacunga stop rather than in the actual terminal- for some strange reason?). About 10 guys ran up to us shouting "Latacunga, Latacunga, Latacunga" all at once. Then they started pulling us and our backpacks to their individual buses... no harm is meant or done to you, its just so funny how they are all going to the same place at the same time, and want you on their bus. Bear in mind that many of the bus trips are incredibly cheap (this one was 2 hours to Latacunga and cost us $1!)so the wee men want as many folks on their bus as possible!
The bus trip to the "Central Highlands" region of Eucador was "muy bonita", on the Panamericana(highway) through the incredibly scenic central Andean valley. We snaked past (and i do mean snaked) 9 of the 10 highest peaks in Ecuador (quite a few of them active volcanos) and lots of tiny wee indigenous villages. It is in this region that you will find Chimborazo and Cotopaxi which i mentioned earlier. These mountains are usually covered in snow and look so impressive as you pass them on your travels - cant imagine how impressive it must feel when you have climbed to the top!
So we get to Latacunga, but dont stay long as we are looking for the bus to Chugchulan! Apparantly there are only 2 buses a day, one at 11:30 and one at 12noon. The folks at the Black Sheep Inn where we are staying, said, "take the 11:30am bus as it goes on the northern route which is really pretty and it drops you off at the bottom of the hill and that´s where yoú´ll see our driveway". We thought - great! Dominique specifically asked our very smiley conductor about this (every bus has a driver and conductor. You dont pay when you get on, they come around some time after the bus leaves and collect the money and its their job to shout from the front door, the name of the place the bus is going again and again and again. It´s wild!). Our guy said "Yes, this is the bus,that´s the route.. absolutely no problem". Hmmnn... so of course the bus takes the southern route, it doesnt leave till 12noon (the bus right next to us is the one that goes at 11:30 - with a ton of live chickens loaded onto the roof!) and of course, it doesnt drop us off at the driveway as we thought!
Four wobbly hours later (you should see the roads this bus took - amazing driving i have to say!) we arrive at Chugchulan! On our journey, we saw amazing sights, the landscape is very green but also quite desolate in places. The people on the bus are all indigenous people who live in the campos, and bring their produce to the big town (Latacunga) to sell and also to buy other interesting things, e.g. 2 massive steel doors that a man dropped off at the bus station and the driver and conductor then had to drag off the roof of the bus (where they managed to stay for the duration of the trip somehow!) to deliver to a woman and her 5 children who lived in a tiny wee house on the main road. The funny thing was, the driver didnt know the address, so we had to keep stopping and asking folks along the way .." do you know the house of..." .
This area is very different than where i have been so far. The highlands of Eucador are where the majority of the indigenous people live and work, and they work incredibly hard! People have very little here in terms of material goods, yet they seem to have so much more in other ways- they are all incredibly smiley, everyone knows every one in these communities, life is rugged and simple, and the people are proud and do seem happy (dont get me wrong, im sure they would be a wee bit happier with a few creature comforts but that´s just me putting my "western world" hat on i suppose...) The buildings are either cement block with aluminium roofs or round houses with thatched roofs, many without windows. The people themselves look quite different than the "mixto" (technical Ecuadorian term for the mixed people of the cities ie a mix of indigenous and other races). They seem almost Mongolian or Siberian with very red cheeks, dark oval eyes, and black black hair, plaited and tied with beautiful colorful ribbons.
Therefore, it was a bit strange after seeing all of that to go to the Black Sheep Inn - recommended by so many people and so many travel books. Don´t get me wrong - it is beautiful and incredible and very tranquil but you do feel a wee bit guilty that you are sitting enjoying the amazing views and incredible countryside and people very close to you in the wee villages work so hard and have much less ...
All that said and done, the Black Sheep Inn is amazing. It is one of the top ten eco-lodges in the world, yes the world! It has the most non-smelly and quite beautiful compost toilets i have ever visited - and no noise cos no flush. Sounds gross but its amazing, you just scoop a big pile of wood shavings after you, and all is good - seriously its quite incredible! AND the toilets double up as green houses with beautiful flowers growing in them (check out the view from the top bathroom!)
This is a very relaxing place to be, lots of hammocks, day hikes, and many interesting people to talk to. The couple who run it are from Massachusetts and Illinois and they are all about perma-culture...but enough about that!
Our new found friends here were Peg and Barbara from Chicago, 2 lovely Finnish ladies, a couple from Quito who had brought their friend, the Uruguyian ambassador to Ecuador (unfortunately a tad pompous so we didnt talk to him too much!).
We are in the loft for the first night (very comfy and rustic, but a few too many moths and stuff for my liking) and get our own room tomorrow for the rest of our stay...bye for now!