Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Black Sheep Inn

This past weekend I had an amazing 4 day trip to the mountains, specifically to an eco-lodge called the Black Sheep Inn. Eco-lodges are basically super environmentally friendly getaways. BSI had special no-water toilets, efficient heating systems, vegetarian food made from locally grown products, and tons more. It was ranked as one of the 50 best eco-lodges in the world by Nat Geo, and it only costs $29/night. 

We (me, Greg, Emily, Sarah, and Pat, who had just flown in from the states) headed out early Friday morning. We caught our bus at this huge bus terminal in southern Quito. As far as I can tell, the buses in Ecuador are used for everything and anything. On our first bus there were three boxes of chicks (as in, baby chickens) aboard. It was a bit of a culture shock to see live animals on a passenger bus. The first bus took us to Latacunga, which is really just a transfer station and not much of a city. But we got some food on the streets - bread, sausage, and "chochos" (an Ecuadorian white bean). Then we found this little grassy area by a river running through the city and sat down to eat. 

Lunchtime scenery

There were some city workers there who were cutting grass, but not in any way you'd see in the states. They used machetes to hand cut the grass and then put it into large grain sacks which they carried on their backs to dump out. 

From Latacunga we caught the bus that took us all the way to Chugchilan, the rural town where BSI is. Despite all the English that was spoken this weekend, owing to the fact that we're all American, there was no forgetting that I was still in South America. Vendors of all sorts of things - kebabs, nuts, popsicles, gum, you name it - would walk up and down the bus aisle trying to sell things to passengers. It's actually not a bad deal... as long as you avoid anything that could have been sitting out in the sun the goodies actually make for good (and cheap - usually 50 cents a pop) snacks. As we rode along toward more and more rural Ecuador I got to see, for the first time, the Andes Mtns. The landscape wasn't rolling hills or anything like I've seen in the states. It was more like interlaced hills and ridges, kind of like fingers that fit between each other while holding hands, and almost looked like something Gaudi - the famous architect from Barcelona - would have designed. The tops of the hills and mountains were lined with skinny trees that sat darkly against the cloudy sky. The road we were taking was literally along the cliff edges, and yet there was somehow still room for schoolchildren to be walking to or from school. The uniforms identified them as belonging to one school or another (or one grade or another?) and looked a bit like American track suits. It makes sense, though, because they seem to walk very long distances from home to school. Once you get into the mountains, all you see is farmland. The farms are grown on incredible slopes... There is almost no flat land to be found. I was excited to see that all the animals are grass-fed and allowed to lounge outdoors as they please (though they are kept in within a certain radius by a rope). There were all sorts of animals to be seen, from llamas to donkeys to pigs. There were also tons of dogs and puppies around, and they all seem to be of a similar breed - something like a small golden retriever. Some of the buildings along the road were painted with voting signs/information, such as "Vote for ___" and the date of the vote. 

View from the bus. Pinch me. 

When we finally arrived to BSI, we took a look at the place and all its amenities. There was a yoga room, a gym with workout devices made from simple materials (ie, pipes and plaster), a zipline, a sauna/"hot tub" (disclaimer: not actually very hot), and a frisbee golf course. In fact, THE HIGHEST frisbee golf course in THE WORLD. So, naturally, we played a round. It was the first game of FG I've ever played, and probably will be the coolest ever. We had an insane view of the sunset over the andes as we wove the discs between trees, farms, fields, errthing. I didn't exactly kill it, but I kept it respectable yo. 

How can you concentrate on FG with this 
staring you in the face?

After that intensity we had our first dinner, communal style. Every night they had a soup, a main dish, and a dessert = nummy (yummy + nom). With some nice food babies we hit the sauna for a, dare I say it, dangerously long time and I might have had a spiritual awakening in there. But, in reality, the sauna was totally awesome. After that, it was time to hit the sack and prepare for our epic horseback adventure the following day (to be continued... dun dun dun).

The Bunkhouse where the cool kids at.

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