So besides moving from Hostel Revolution to an apartment last week, I've spent the last two weekend out of town on some pretty crazy, if entirely planned, adventures.
First, some other students at my Spanish school arranged a day tour to Cotopaxi, the 2nd highest volcano in Ecuador--19,347 ft. The great thing was that it was a bicycle tour. They drove us up higher than 15,000 feet, where there were snow drifts and it was extremely windy and just above freezing, and we rode down the mountain and across miles of national park. As we approached the mountain, the weather looked terrible. I didn't think we'd be able to see 20 feet in front of us, much less the peak of the volcano, but as we got around the west side, it cleared up, and though I needed every layer of clothing I'd brought with me to South America, it was a spectacular and fun ride. We saw wild horses, wide open "páramo" (sort of a cross between desert and tundra), and even a condor.
Then this weekend, the school led a trip to Mindo, on the other side of Volcan Pichincha, which is at lower elevation in the cloud forest. We took a hike to a waterfall where the idea was to jump off a 40-foot cliff, but it was drizzling by the time we got there, so I skipped that thrill. The next day, some of us went on the "canopy tour," which consisted of riding 10 zip lines through the forest, and over the tree tops. On some, you could go with one of the guides so you could do it upsidedown, or belly-down like Superman. I flew like Superman 150 feet above the ground on the last and longest line which was a quarter mile long from one side of the valley to the other. As if that weren't enough, we also went white water tubing before lunch, and of course, since this is South America, we had to ride standing in the railed back of a pickup truck. There wasn't quite enough room, so I stood on the bumper. On top of all that, the town was having its festival, so there was night-time dancing in the streets, and afternoon horse races through the center of town.
Click the photos to see some of the best images from each trip. Of course, there are even more pics on my flickr.