Our final morning, day 5 of this exciting expedition rose bright and beautiful, yet bitter sweet because it was the last day of our road trip. On the way back to Quito we'll stop in Tulipe to tour the ancient ceremonial site left by the Yumbo civilization; followed by a visit to the actual equator.
After breakfast, Angel, the local tour guide working with Septimo joined us for a hike around the reserve. The dense forest was a visual feast and filled with natural remedies. Like the little nut or would you call it a pod...(?) that comes in very handy if you've been bitten by a snake. If bitten, you can squeeze and rub this on the bite giving yourself a couple more hours to get to a hospital and not die! Another example Daniel and Angel pointed out was a tree, the Croton Lechleri more commonly known as Sangre de Drago...Dragon's Blood! This tree has thick, red sap that when you cut into the bark will slowly seep out, dripping like blood. I've included a photo in the album to show the gash in the tree and another photo where Angel demonstrated how to use it. Very good for insect bites to relieve the itching and swelling or if you are cut...use it as a liquid bandage to stop the bleeding.
While we saw mucho vegetation, many shades of green, massive plants and flowers that we Norte Americanos might have in our homes as house plants; we didn't see much in the way of wildlife. Angel brought along a machete for protection, just in case we came across a puma or some other wild creature...but none were to be found. Daniel says it's because the animals are more afraid of us than we are of them. I agree, yet suspect it might have been all the noise five people make while hiking through the forest. What I found to be a humorous and interesting connection yet difference between Michigan and Ecaudor was that Carmen (our guide from Cotopaxi), Daniel and Angel all made sure to point out the tracks left by the beautiful though elusive white tailed deer!
I often hung back from the group as we hiked, letting them get quite a bit ahead of me so that I would have that sense of being alone in the wild. I would stand quietly; looking around, listening to whatever sound I might hear and simply BE in the middle of it all. Until of course I heard a strong yet low grunting noise. The sound was somewhere behind and a little below me. My imagination took over and I very calmly yet swiftly caught up to the men who would protect me from wild boars...putting an end to my alone time. Despite the lack of animal life and since we were traveling in the dry season; which meant the waterfalls and streams throughout the hike were less than sensational...my sons and I were in awe just to be there!
After the two hour hike, walking up/down, over and around steep inclines and ravines we return to Septimo to shower away the natural moisture inspired by our efforts. I commented to my kids, as I packed away the first aid supplies I brought along (pain, itch, sunburn relief, bandages, tape, large wrap) how great it was that we hadn't needed to use any of it! Looking back...I wish I hadn't mentioned that.
The drive to Tulipe only took a couple of hours as we passed through more villages, experiencing the real life of Ecuador; cows and donkeys tied up to graze along the narrow road ways, kids walking to or from school and passing truckloads of people using those unofficial taxi rides to get from one place to another. Simply being in the middle of everyday life, just as I hoped we would be. Visiting Tulipe was yet another way Adventure Life did an amazing job of designing our personal tour. I truly would have loved being able to see the ancient Inca ruins found in the southern part of Ecuador; just as I would have loved to tour the Galapagos or the Amazon. Unfortunately, until I win a lottery...I had to choose just a few places to visit and was thrilled to learn we would be visiting the sacred ceremonial site of the Yumbo, a pre-Inca civilization. I was very pleased that some sort of ancient ruins would be part of this adventure.
The museum and ancient piscinas (pools) have only been open to the public for a little over 10yrs. The tour begins with replicas of the Yumbo people; sharing information about how the piscinas were used in ceremonies celebrating the season or various stages in life and how they are astrologically aligned. It's fascinating how people knew those things back then! As we walked through the sites I was stuck by the differences between the ancient and modern structures that coexist in Tulipe today. For me, I was particularly passionate about the area in-between four of the piscinas. This location is believed to be the center of the earth; the source of good energy and mystical powers. While standing on that spot I symbolically take in that mystical and positive energy.
Positive energy boost aside a most unfortunate experience lay ahead of me. As I was climbing down a small embankment to get a better picture of the waterfall my unstable knee popped out, then back into place...Ouch! Sometimes it's only a minor annoyance when it happens and other times it's a major disruption. This was a bad one, yet I still took my photo and managed to climb up from the river to walk toward the final and most sacred piscina of all. What I couldn't do was walk any further. Thank goodness that was the end of the Tulipe tour and I could just wait there as Daniel drove the SUV to me; where I was able to wrap my knee and take some ibuprofen! We still had a little way yet to travel and visit the actual equator 00 00 00. While I wasn't able to go on the equator tour or do the experiments...I did manage to hobble over for a photo opportunity to show that I was there! Andy and Dennis did make the tour and told me it was very cool!
The road trip was now officially over and it's time to head back to Quito. This Adventure Life, personalized, only for us, exactly what I wanted road trip had come full circle and we are back where we started...in the crazy busy rush hour traffic of Quito. Eventually Daniel makes his way to our friends house where we will continue our Ecuador adventure with them. Before he drove away to start a new career; Dennis, Andy and I all take a few moments to share our gratitude and say goodbye. Gracias Daniel por todo y nuestra mejores deseos para su nueva carrera. Thank you Adventure Life (Erin, Betty and Laura)for putting it all together!