We were delighted to have Courtney with us for some additional fun to keep the 2008 New Years party going. We visited Papallacta, the natural hot springs resort about an hour from Quito for some much needed R&R on New Years day. The next day, we drove to the National Park called Lagunas de Papallacta which I heard were very beautiful and offer up some nice trout fishing. We headed down the road which I had assumed would be taking us downhill following the waterfalls to the lagoons. Surprisingly, the road went straight up the mountains. Its not hard to feel lost when driving around the back country of Ecuador as the only landmarks are the mountains (which are everywhere) and you dont see much of anything else until you arrive at your destination.
When we finally made it to the park office we were still concerned with the prospect of having to do a lot of uphill walking, again assuming that we would be hiking down to the lagoons. Wrong once more as the trails headed further up the mountain. After about a half hour walk we found the first of many high mountain lakes (the lagunas) which were beautiful. Apparently, many more were waiting for us further up the mountain, but we decided to save that for another day. Another benefit of heading up the mountains was that we able to get a peak at the mountain Antisana which sits in between Papallacta and Quito and is normally covered in clouds.
During the rest of the week, we all went to Arasha Resort to spend some quality time with nature in the rain forest. Lucky us, we found rain! It actually turned out to be a lot of fun. We learned how to make chocolate directly from the cocoa plant, took a nighttime torch walk in the forest to seem some bioluminescent fungus and meet some frogs. We also spent some QT in the resorts large, heated pool. On the way home we stopped by the Tucanopy tarabitas, a series of long (+1,500 feet) zip lines in a forest preserve near Mindo. It was amazing. We also stopped by the large center of the world monument for a group photo straddling the northern and southern hemispheres. We didnt have a picture of all 5 of us there yet, so it was nice to finally get one. On our last day with Courtney, we tooled around Cotopaxi National Park. We were hoping to get a photo of the mountain, but we didnt get a clear view that day. However, we did get a glimpse of Mount Tungurahua erupting in the distance -- about 50 miles away. Theres a pick of the cloud below. More to come about Tungurahua in future posts. Quito is a safe distance from this now active volcano. At 80 miles south of us, the most we would expect to see from a major eruption would be some ash. Well certainly let you know if we do!
Jumping (Again) Atop Pichincha
The Girls in the Papallacta Natural Hot Springs
Synchronized Water Splashing - Don't Ask
C&M During Our Hike Around Papallacta
The Lagunas of Papallacta
Mount Antizana in the Background
A Closer View
Ethan and Meghan Swimming Up River at Arasha
By a Small Waterfall
Fun at the Pool - "1..2..3..FLIP!"
During the Torche Lit Hike
Awww...Look at the Cute Little Frog we Found!
Courtney and the Chocolate Factory
Ethan at the Tucanopy Zip Line
There He Goes!
The Fam at the Center of the World Monument
Off in the Distance, an Eruption Cloud from Tungurahua!
Some Video Clips - Click Twice to Play