There are so many errands I needed to run before going to Cotopaxi and the jungle - laundry, buy a headlamp, buy bug spray, get out money.... But it is difficult in Ecuador because there's no big REI to go to and half of the ATMs don't work because there is no money. When you want to buy something, you have to find a random person on the street who happens to be selling the things you need. So I headed out this morning and did my best to describe bug spray without knowing the words. It was an interesting game of charades. I ended up finding bug lotion, and left my laundry with the hostel to deal with. The headlamp and money were both a fail. None of the ATMs had money to dispense except for one, and there was a ten person line. Fortunately the bus driver stopped at an ATM on the way to Cotopaxi so I could get money out. That is one of the nice things about taking a combi vs. a real bus! This combi was specifically for people traveling to Secret Garden Cotopaxi, and we had to pick it up from the other Secret Garden in Quito (for $5). After seeing the other hostel I was meant to stay at, I was particularly happy that I ended up at Community. Secret Garden was OK, but it seemed old and a bit smelly.
The Secret Garden in Cotopaxi is amazing. After a hour of windy stone roads, you pull up to a lodge in the middle of nowhere. There are farms surrounding the lodge on all sides. The lodge itself is aptly named, with beautiful gardens everywhere. Upon arriving, we were each handed vino caliente, and ten minutes later, fed a lunch of lentils and rice. Soon after lunch there was a scheduled hike, but it started raining, so I opted for the morning hike tomorrow instead. While everyone else hiked, I laid in the hammock and hung out by the fireplace with the baby calf, Camilla, that the lodge keeps as a house pet. Here's the story of the cow that thinks she is a dog... While the guide at the lodge was on a hike, he found her being attacked by condors, with no family around. He carried her on his back all the way back to the lodge. She was only 2 weeks old. Now she is 6 weeks. Since being at the lodge, she hasn't been around other cows, just dogs. She'll sit around the fire, or lay her head on your lap to be petted. It is amazing. The calf comes and goes inside the main house as she likes.
I also headed to the hot tub, which is in a glass enclosed structure overlooking the mountains. The tub is surrounded by long-stem candlesticks in wine bottle holders, exotic plants, and there is even an iPod hookup for music. It was quite the relaxing scene.
I shared my room with Kim (Boston/NH) who I met at Community, and an older man who is traveling on his own from Oakland. The room lacks electricity, but has a great fireplace that is maintained by the staff here. The other housing options are a more expensive private cabana, or a tent! The tent is under a wooden rain shelter, and inside, there is a mattress. Definitely a glamping experience. I opted out of the tent since it is a little chilly at this altitude, especially with the rain, and there is no fire nearby. If it was summer, that would have been my first choice for sure!
The one problem with staying at a secluded lodge is that if the other people at the lodge are annoying, you are kind of trapped. Unfortunately, we were stuck with a couple of very loud, very opinionated young Americans who had a knack for dropping all of the glamorous places they have been to "casually" into conversation.
Finished reading David and Goliath and started on The Circle by David Eggers. Already read half of it... It is that good.