We spent Monday morning packing and tidying up our apartment in Cuenca before walking into town for one last tasty vegetarian lunch there. We then caught a shuttle bus to Vilcabamba, our next destination, and shared the bumpy ride with three older couples and enjoyed some lovely conversation. We arrived at our accommodation after dark, and went to eat dinner almost immediately, and to bed soon after, sleeping deeply.
Since we only had two nights in Vilcamamba, I urged Zab up early on Tuesday to do a hike in the surrounding area first thing, ending up in the town itself and having lunch in a lovely organic juice bar filled to the brim with expats. In the afternoon, we came back to our accommodation with a German-Swiss couple we’d befriended in town and I joined a free yoga class, then Zab and I both had massages before German-style dinner with our new friends.
Wednesday turned out to be a very social day again, after breakfasting with Sebastian and Dora then lunching in town with Rudolf and Kornelia who we’d met on the bus from Cuenca and taking a taxi out to the house of Norie and Richard, yet another couple from that bus who lived in a gorgeous bit of land where they grow coffee, bananas, avocados and many other fruits, many without trying. We were given a sample of their homegrown and ground coffee, serenaded with Japanese flute music and given the chance to play on Norie’s bliss chair, a piece of furniture of her own design. Before sunset, Zab and I went back to Vilcabamba and caught a bus to Loja where we checked into our soulless city-centre hotel for the night.
We were up, showered, breakfasted and on our way to the airport at Catamayo by 7am on Thursday, and though still rather tired, we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. We then caught our flight to Quito, hung out in a café in the airport a bit then took a taxi and bus combination to arrive in Otavalo, our last destination in Ecuador. We spent the afternoon recovering from the journey and ate Mexican food for dinner.
Once again, I urged Zab up in the morning on Friday to come with me to Laguna Cuicocha, a crater lake, where I mostly hiked around it while he sat in the restaurant and read his book. Back in Otavalo, we spent the afternoon working and then did a little bit of shopping for things to take back to Europe with us before packing.
The Saturday markets are what we’d really come to Otavalo for, and so we were up and indulging in some conscious consumerism straight after breakfast. We ended up buying paintings, hats, scarves and a few other things, all as gifts. We then put the final touches to our packing and left to catch a bus, which turned into three more in order to get to the airport for a fraction of the cost of a taxi, but not much more time. We then worked in Quito airport before boarding our flight to Bogota and then our connection to Madrid. We were served the same dinner twice.
After less sleep than we would’ve liked, but more than we expected on the plane, we flew in over Portugal and eventually landed in Madrid airport on Sunday, where immigration was surprisingly speedy. Saying “soy europeo” (I’m European) when presenting our passports seemed to be the magic words to speed us through with barely a glance. We were given two still valid public transport day passes by a friendly Spanish couple just arriving at the airport as we were leaving and taking the metro directly from the airport to our hotel felt like such a luxury compared to negotiating a series of buses or paying through the nose for a taxi. It being free didn’t hurt, either. After a nap, we went out for obligatory Madrileño churros con chocolate and were surprised at things we’d missed from Europe like drinkable tap water and double glazing.