Day dos (2) began with another nom-licious meal - some muesli, bangin' eggs, and fresh juice with a base of tomate de arbol (this is a tomato-like fruit that can be used in everything from hot sauce to jam to juice). Then we set out on a horse-back adventure up higher into the mountains above the cloud forest. My horse was Estrella (meaning star... all the horses were named after astronomical features) and she was essentially the Khaleesi of the horses: a very sure-footed lady who liked to lead and would rarely let another horse out-gallop her. Sol, Pat's horse, was the alpha male and he and Estrella essentially led the pack. Ok, horse hierarchy aside, we set out from the town and took the roads up and up into the mountains. The horses much preferred walking on grass which was conveniently located on the very edge of the road/cliff so I had to trust the desire of the horses to not go tumbling off the side.
The views were really stunning, as I'd gotten used to in the mtns, and we had a good bit of fun hyah!ing and vamos!ing the horses so they would gallop a bit. Like I said, I really didn't have to do anything because Estrella was dead-set on staying in front of the other horses. Most of the time I just told her how pretty and important she was.
Yea, Estrella had a mohawk. Be jealous.
Also, sick POV shot, no?
At our first stop there was a cheese-making factory, which was essentially just a big room with some guys pouring cheese curds into a big bucket. From what I gathered, the little cheese pieces get squished into a bigger block of mozzarella. They let us try some young and aged cheese, and the aged was much much better. They both had a really squeaky feel to them, but the aged had more salt/flavor.
So from there we rode a bit farther, and had a bit of a horse pile up. Well what actually happened was that Sol kinda slid Pat off because he didn't like the other horses tryna pass him. But all was well. We stopped at this gorgeous little grassy hill - it was one of those places you think no one has ever found before (well, obvs not true in this case, but here's to dreaming) and had a beautiful view over the cloud forest. The CF occurs at certain elevations where the clouds sit low, below the hilltops and when you look down from above it's just a blanket of white. There was a wild horse on one of the peaks across from us, so that was rad.
Wild horse, nuff said.
From there we walked to a small waterfall and Greg, the adventure-instigator, was in for a "swim" in 0.6 seconds. He convinced us all to join in and then climb the tiny waterfall to the second pool area. Climbing a waterfall: check. Humbertos (sp?), our really awesome nature-man/guide, took pics but didn't get in due to being commando (we found this claim debatable). After the 'fall, we once again mounted our steeds and rode back into town. It was probably my favorite single activity at BSI.
The next day we hit up Quilotoa, an inactive volcano-turned lake, for a hike. We hiked the entire rim of the crater, with magnificent views of the lake, and it took about 5 hours. The distance was somewhere north of 10 miles, and with all the ups and downs we did it was probably more like 13. It seems that people in Ecuador constantly live on the edge (literally), because the trail was edge-tastic. There was this adorable dog that walked with us the ENTIRE way around the crater. I gave him some popcorn so hopefully he thinks it was worth it. By the end of the hike I was basically lifting my legs with my arms to keep going - nothing like a huge hike at 12,000 ft! But it felt so good afterward to relax and read back at BSI.
Also, props to BSI for serving us some bomb pancakes with, get this, cinnamon syrup.
Mind = blown.
In the early afternoon we made our way back to Quito and gathered at Dave's place for an epic Game of Thrones finale watching party. No spoilers, I promise. Fun fact: Dave's a huge GoT nerd, and for his recent birthday he had his friend make an iron throne cake that was actually edible.
I gotta say, it's gonna be hard to top this trip, but there's plenty of time and plenty of places yet to explore. Over and out.