Sunday, July 8, 2012

Las Montanas (Sabado)

Saturday morning we awoke, some of us from sleep, and some of us from valiant attempts. After a seventy cent breakfast from a local bakery, we all visited the outdoor market. They sold many of the same touristy souvenirs as the artisan market at Guayaquil, but seemed to have a greater emphasis on llama sweaters. This worked out great, because we, as a team, have a great emphasis on llama sweaters. 

We haggled and haggled and eventually went back to the hostel, some of us with long awaited llama sweaters. For lunch, I stopped at a hole in the wall place with a few of my teammates. This restaurant did not have a name, at least not in my range of visibility, nor did it have a menu. You just ordered right of the specials displayed in the window. There was one guy working there in that one room and he made me one much-needed quesadilla. 

With free soda in my belly (and soda nearly never ends up in my belly), I went with about half my team to ascend a nearby mountain. We started out on a street that wound upwards and, after crossing more busy roads than I generally prefer to cross, we quietly walked through an open fence and began off-roading on a small, dirt trail.

We walked and climbed through grass, eucalyptus trees, and overall just more green than I have seen in the last month. It was incredibly refreshing to be out of the city and in nature. As we got higher, we approached the great Naked Face for which Naked Face Mountain was named (in a sentiment quite similar to our Butt Cheek Park closer to home). 

Eventually, we reached the top and looked out over the city. I observed two things that I had been previously told but just then came to believe: 1. Cuenca is a very large city. 2. This city is located in a valley. We saw tons of red rooftops, mountains all around, and rain off in the distance while the sun beat down on us. Breathing embarrassingly heavy due to altitude, we sat to take in the view, then ventured over to one of the creepiest cemeteries I have ever visited.

Photos from

Ducking between barbed wire (the only casualty there was a brief struggle with Megan's hair), we found tons of crosses covered in kitchen tile, tomb stone, and stacked, catacomb-like structures. These stacked cubbies were the scariest, as most of them had been broken into a lay empty. Around the back of it, we saw a very dirty cloth that once held a deceased person and a baby casket lying on the ground open and empty. I love cemeteries. They are hopeful places to me.

Our descent was much easier than the way up, and on the way home, we walked along a stretch of a river. Near the river's edge, we all simultaneously saw a grand tree. No sooner had we all seen it than we were all in it. We all took a moment, in that tree, to bask in the simple facts that we were in a tree and that no one was instructing us to be otherwise. In that moment, I did not miss the malecon. 

We enjoyed delicious pizza for dinner and a quieter night at the hotel. We located the Southern Cross and stargazed until the smoking, turbaned alien cloud led all of his cloud friends to block our view of the stars. I then chatted with teammates and with some Europeans over live music until our new friends got drunk enough that I could not understand what they were saying, even though they had near perfect English.


Jenna B.

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