next adventure? corrida de torros, otherwise know as a bullfight. was an amazing experience, but i will never attend another in my life. there were thousands of people there, and it was an important night because they're trying to pass a bill to change the tradition/eliminate the bullfights in ecuador, which many people are upset about. so in a way it was a big protest too. they started the night with chicken fights, then they had a mini parade through the ring with dancers, men on horseback, and a man dressed up as a bull. pretty entertaining. then the real show started. we were only going to see three bulls, but of course 3 turned into 6, apparently you can gift bulls during these events so we had the pleasure of watching 3 extra die. i have to admit, the bullfighter was amazing. his movements and skill with the bull were incredible, fluid and graceful. until the end. a few of the people i was with actually got sick, not suprising though considering how gruesome the ending is. all in all, i'm glad i went, i appreciate the art, but it's not something i think i could do again.
next stop? the hot spring spas that are about 1.5 hours away from quito. i went with all my other michigan state friends, which was great since we don't really get a ton of time to spend together outside school. the hot springs are called papallacta, and we pretty much spent the whole day in hot springs, looking off into the mountains. got my first massage which was sooooooo incredible. and it was so cheap too! gotta love ecuador. next was a lovely late afternoon lunch where we got to enjoy traditional ecuadorian cuisine. aka: meat and carbs. we also celebrated the birthday of one of our girls, vicki, with a yummy chocolate cake. and let me tell you, it's hard to come across a REAL chocolate cake in this country. mom, i miss yours. :)
after we got back from the hot springs, the next weekend resulted in a trip to the beach. oh, wow. was i ready for that. we, nicolas, his family and his friend antono, went to salinas and were able to stay in the apartment of his aunt that overlooks the beach. not a bad set up. we flew into guayaquil and then took a 4 hour bus ride to salinas, but thankfully it didn't seem to long. the days pretty much consisted of a long walk along the beach in the morning, breakfast on the balcony overlooking the beach, playing at the beach all day, strolling along the beach at night where people were selling art and jewelry, and traveling to other beaches to explore. the beaches here are different. you have to pay for an umbrella/tent and chairs (not a big deal cuz it's cheap)... and it actually works out better because you don't have to worry about bringing your own stuff. people walk along the beach selling almost everything from hammocks to jewelry to sunglasses to hair braids. don't recommend getting hair braids and NOT applying sunblock to the top of your head. that's a mistake i won't make again. but let me tell you, fresh coconut juice while laying on the beach is one of the best combinations ever. almost in heaven. none of us were ready to leave on sunday, but sadly everyone had to rejoin reality in quito.
CARNAVAL! this is one of the holidays we enjoy here in quito. to be perfectly honest, i can't really remember what it celebrates, but all i know is it was amazing because i got to backpack the inca trail with my andinismo class for 5 days. we left quito and spent our first night in riobamba, which is quite the lovely little city that is sandwiched between a couple beautiful moutains. spent the evening exploring the city, eating in a delicious pizza place that played old school michael jackson music videos. then we were lucky enough that our university has a university in riobamba where we got to sleep for the night. up at the buttcrack of dawn to head out since we still had 2 hours of travelling until we could start backpacking. mini adventure was that 1 hour was spent with all of us standing in the back of a truck. great way to get some beautiful pictures though. arrived at our starting point and loaded up the burros (mules) that were going to carry our packs. so lucky, because little did we know how brutal the trek was going to be. so just loaded with essentials, we took off. uphill, uphill and some more uphill had everyone sucking air for the first couple hours, but the breathtaking view at the top made it all worth it... mountains, mountains and more mountains. as we progressed the weather started to turn a little foul, so we all had to pull out our raingear and hope our shoes didn't sink too far into the mud. luckily everyone on the trip was ok with getting a little dirty, so we all had fun with it. after 5 hours we finally made it to our camping spot where we spent the first hour getting our tents up, organizing, getting water, etc. then we played games, and enjoyed a nice HOT meal before everyone passed out after a long, tiring day. up again bright and early, with a mountain or two to summit by the end of the day. thankfully we were blessed with some sunshine the next morning, and although it was cold our spirits were lifted because of it. Little did we know the long day ahead of us.... 8 hours of hiking, two mountain summits, incan ruins and multiple breathtaking views later we arrived at our next campsite where we enjoyed an amazing sunset while eating pasta and drinking scalding hot tea. later that night we enjoyed tunes around a fire, as well as banana boats (bananas that you cut open, pour in chocolate sauce, wrap in tin foil and put in the fire). SO TASTY. after a good nights sleep, we were up and off for our last leg of the journey. thankfully this part was much easier, and we spent our journey to inga pirka in the back of trucks again. this time, however, we got to enjoy being nailed with water balloons, buckets of water, spuma and whatever else those ecuas could find. it's a tradition during carnaval to do this, and it acutally ended up being really fun. especially once we got to cuenca. cuenca was absolutely incredible. it's a very historic town, all the buildings have a different estilo and color, and there are ZERO high-rises. we spent the evening running away from buckets of water, buying some water balloons so we could defend ourselves, drinking canelazo along the river while live bands played in the plaza and eating ice cream. que rico! spent the last night swapping stories and in the morning we were up bright and early to head back to quito. after feezing cold, but necessary, showers, we endured a long 8 hour bus ride; brutal, but most of us spent it sleeping from the long journey. we did get to watch about 6 jean claude van dam movies which was fabulous... NOT. haha. luckily we had some ice cream to numb the pain. after i got back to quito, it was time to catch up on homework, and most of all, sleep! another amazing experience in ecuador.... keep em coming.