day one-bike ride on the slopes of Pichincha Volcano, from quito we first met the rest of the group which included a group of five (Sara, Kelly, Christie, Tobin and Rob, all from the east coast except for Christie), Sarah and Josh. Josh was only spending three days with us and then he was off to explore the rest of ecuador including two volcano summits at over 20 thousand feet. So, it turns out I was in the dumpy hotel and the others were in this 100 or so year old colonial house, it was very cool and seem to have much better food. So, we all piled into the bus and headed up the mountain to the start of the bike ride down the volcano. We left the city and road up the mountain passing mostly small farms until we arrived at an elevation of nearly 11000 ft, give or take (quito is a 9000 already). There we unloaded the bikes and took lots of pictures of a very large pig eating grass by the side of the parking lot (yum pork). The bikes were okay, at least they had a front suspension and some had disc brakes (mine had regular brakes, so i chose not to use them much). For the next two hours or so, we basically coasted down the mountain through incredible dense rain/cloud type of forest on a fairly untraveled dirt road. The first stop was at a town called Nono, a very small town consisting of a school a few houses a couple of places to eat and a market. After this town, we hit the first 1 km hillclimb, not very long but at 9000 feet it was good enough to hurt most of the riders except for Sara who is just a freakazod (she ran a marathon yesterday, so this was her cool down)(also, this is why the group of five were in ecuador, sara is attempting to run a marathon on each continent and this is her 6th, so she gave her group a choice of locations and this is the reason for being in ecuador). Sara also has the award for crashing on the bike ride and the first to draw blood and paint her skin nice tones of black and blue (she got up and then finished the ride without further event...a trooper). So down we kept going till lunch which was in the bottom of beautiful canyon on the edge of stream with captured fish ponds which we were treated to fresh caught fish for lunch. (trout is a big thing here, even though it was only introduced in the 1950's, trout was not welcomed on our dining tables by the end of the trip). Then after lunch and more downhill we reached the climb to the hotel Bellavista, a 6km (3.6 mile) uphill all the way. Well we started out and by kilo 1, two of the riders decided hiking was better and they let the van (always following behind) carry the bikes up the hill but kept on walking. The next victims to hiking were Sarah and myself at about 3 km (not the runner sara, she was probably already at the top drinking mai tais, and yes i am out of shape but give me a break it was at 8000 feet or so). anyway it was a great hike lots of flowers to shoot pictures of (there are lots of pictures of flowers and birds on this trip), almost at the top I was saved by a blackberry bush with ripe blackberries that gave the sugar boost to get to the top and then after what seemed like hours and many more than 6 km, we arrived at bellavista. (a swiss family robinson type of place in the cloud forest). So this is were we spend the next two nights, it is mostly a place to watch hummingbirds, hundreds of hummingbirds, i have pics with 8 birds in the pic at one time. also it was a great place to hike with my new found buddy phil who was taking a break between high school (in cleveland) and college in humbolt, this guy knew everything about birds, it was scary. he was the one of the guides and he led me on a day hike and a stunning night hike plus a hike when we just sat and watched hummingbirds for two hours (it was raining really hard). my portion of the hotel was quite interesting, it was five floors in the shape of a hexagon, the two bottom floors being the dining areas, then the third floor guest rooms, really small but useful and then up a vertical shaft to the top two floors for communal type of living, very neat. Things of note, on the morning of departure, the Pichincha Volcano made itself visible and on sunday night it became snow capped, very pretty from the jungle and very unexpected, the snow level was near my stopping point on the hike the day before in quito.