Friday, April 17, 2009

#7 - A hike worth doing...lots

Just to be clear. I've done a fair bit of exploring over the last couple of years on this little odyssey, but that is certainly not the case here in Korea. In fact, the furthest I've traveled in country is my daily hour commute to work. This is in part because of the fact I am in my once every three years 'nose-to-the-grindstone' mode where I am trying to save for what's next or pay off what was. In this case, it is both.
But it also has to do with the belief that again I might be in the nicest part of Korea anyways. A twenty minute walk to a beach, or a fifteen minute one to a mountain, not to mention a multitude of restaurants and entertainment options just out my door. But I have talked about this before. The reason I mention it now is because there are times in traveling there is no need to do anything else than enjoy something right around the corner, something you've done over and over again, and something you could do again and again. Which brings me to number seven on the list of things I've done over the last couple of years.

#7 - Hiking to Papallacta

To begin, Papallacta is pronounced 'papa-yacta' with the double-'l' sounding like a 'y' - kind of like tortilla (torti-ya). Got it? Good. Because this little village outside of Quito is a place I could visit time and again, and if you ever end up in Ecuador you have to go here.
By my count it was five times in my eight months in Ecuador that I visited this little slice of paradise. Which really isn't a whole lot, but when you consider everything I was trying to squeeze into our time there, to do something that much in such a relaively short period of time means it's got to be pretty special, and it was.
What made it so special?


But there is more! See this is a hike to a remote village high up in he Andean mountains - it is roughly situated at 13,000 ft. or about the same height at Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies....

....where you finish off with ecstatic cries to your god, usually reserved for the most private of places, as you dip your body into the physically and spiritually rejuvinating waters of the thermal springs.

OHHHH....god that is good!

You can of course take a bus from Quito almost directly to the village, but the true experience lies in the hike, where you get to traverse a trail that peaks at about 14,500 ft. before descending into the village where you get to drop your weary body into the hot springs after four hours of hiking. And sure the hot springs are more than enough reason to drag my sorry ass off the couch or away from the computer for a while, but it is the hike that makes this whole experience cathartic.

There are two nice things about this hike - obviously not including said hot springs - that make this something to do time and time again. First is the proximity to where we lived - it is roughly an hour bus ride to the drop off point from our loveable little barrio, Guapulo. Second, despite it's elevation, it is a relatively easy hike that even the most inexperienced hikers (or out of shape as the case was with me) can do. In fact, the hike is one of the first things visitors get to do after a few days in the city. Nothing says acclimatization like at stroll at 4000 metres.

I'm not sure there is anything more humbling or awe-inspiring than to be at the roof of the world and take in the expanse in which we find ourselves. It is not so hard to believe way up here, that this is a place the gods once roamed....

....or at least some really big animals!!

And then to be surrounded by mountain lakes walking around a new peak every so often, only to be blown away once again at the sights, is something I hope everyone gets to experience at least once in their lives. It makes you truly appreciate the gifts we have here on Earth and that they can be enjoyed at 4000 metres or at 1 metre, but that they just need to be enjoyed. Fully.

And so to be able to wake at a not too early hour on a Saturday morning, and some six wonder inducing hours later, find yourself soaking in hot springs with your friends, all in a similar appreciative mood, is truly a little taste of heaven here on Earth. And really there isn't anything else I can write to do justice to the experience....

1 comment:

  1. Ummm, Jon, in calling us "hot springs" are you referencing spring chickens? And, do you really think I look hot in that picture?