Written on: Friday August 22nd, 2008
A journal entry from: Trails in 2008
This walk is said to be one of the highlights of Ecuador, so we set off with a small backpack for a 3 day walking adventure. Transport was a little tricky, with lots of different buses, vans and milk trucks to navigate (and miss) but the scenery was great, and there were lots of Andean villagers to gawk at.On a bus from a bigger city into the smaller villages, a woman opposite us had two chickens in a plastic basket. She was fast asleep and oblivious to the basket sliding over the aisle to us with every corner. Al would discreetly slide it back over under her legs, but it kept coming back. In the end we just took responsibility for them until her destination. It was late afternoon when we arrived in a tiny town of about 10 dusty shack-shops lining the road. We needed to get to the next town on the edge of the national park, and a Ute (as us kiwis call them), was waiting to pile on the people for the 14km journey. I would have been happy to pay $8 the driver asked for except for the fact a tourist had just told me to pay no more than 50 cents each! Maybe he was just having a joke at my expense, but my pride could not allow me to pay a now outrageous $8! Also aware it was getting dark and not sure if another ute would come, we bargained him down to $3 with much curiosity from our fellow passengers.
The volcanic crater lake was a great sight, it was a little overcast though and full sunlight is better to really appreciate the colour of the water. A kid of about 8 was riding his llama up the hill, following his dad. They were taking a few sheep to the other side of the mountain for grazing. He insisted we were lost and that he could guide us out for a few dollars. We insisted we were not lost (or were we?!) and it took about 20 minutes to shake him off. In the next town we approached, little kids playing in the field could smell a gringo from 200 metres and came running across with their hands out. This is a tricky one, but my take on it is that its not really helping them when us tourists dole out money, or give them sweets. Hard sometimes, but we smile and have a bit of a joke around with them and then head on our way, daggers in our back no doubt! I would not have objected to giving them some "I Love Windpower" bages of course, but I had left them in Quito!
The Andean people along this walk were noticebly less friendly than their counterparts on the Colombian border, particularly the women – most not responding to our friendly smiles and hellos as we walked past them (probably cause they were taunted by gringos with windpower badges as children).We joined an English couple for a series of bus rides back to Cuzco. The first was on a particularly windy and bumpy road, and the incident of the kid who power-chucked on the conductors lower trouser leg was treated by the mother, kid and conductor almost like it was just a cough. We grabbed the 2 nearest kids and faced them away from us!