I think it must be well over two weeks since we bumbled into La Esperanza- I've lost track and Dan has no idea. For anyone travelling between Ecuador and Colombia, this is a perfect spot to relax before or after dealing with the border crossing. Probably the best way to explain this tiny, slightly dilapidated town's hold on us is to show you it's setting...
^ That white mountain there in the distance is Cayambe.
Last week sometime we were lucky enough to attend the Festival of Light (a rough translation of the local Quechua equivalent). Despite being uninvited, twice the size of almost everyone there and unable to communicate with anything more than grins and a couple of Spanish pleasantries, we were made to feel welcome with smiles and a massive cup of stew. I think I made a bit of a faux pas by starting to slurp it down like a hungry dog, as several people manically mimed that a spoon was on its way, but I hope they were at least happy that I appreciated the gift. Other than that and watching a man who'd obviously consumed a lot of magic mushrooms over his lifetime dance with a dog, the biggest spectacle of the night was undoubtedly the fireworks.
Alongside the bangers were these beautiful flaming trees and an incredible, rotating structure, which transformed from a series of catherine wheels into the enormous flower you can see to the right of the photo above.
Safety was, as expected, a little lax and these children sitting next to the inferno made me nervous.
One energetic morning, Dan decided that we should have a go at climbing this:
This was not the way we should have gone. ->
It lead us down into a canyon, through a river and towards an hour and a half lost in thorn bushes.
Once we'd finally escaped the vegetation, and after thirty minutes blissful stroll towards the mountain's foot, it was time to decide how to actually get up there.
Again, this was not the way we should have chosen (you can see the canyon at the bottom there too)...
Three-quarters of the way up we stumbled across this track, which helpfully ran all the way up and back down again; even to a bridge across the canyon. It took roughly five hours to get up the
mountain (we didn't even reach the top) and less than two to walk back.
I don't think you could beat the view though.
Later there was another fiesta. From what we can gather it was a sort of harvest festival, giving thanks to the sun and the earth for our food and playing music to celebrate. We were running the bar, which was a bit of a challenge in Spanish, but it helped us to learn and we made a whole group of friends. One moment there would just be ten people drinking and before we knew it a whole group of musicians and their entourage would enter, filling the house with their songs and dancing. Thankfully it isn't as complicated as Salsa, more of a slow, exaggerated jog, with occasional arm waving, which is easy to join in with. The quantities of puntas (an illegal, home-made spirit made with sugarcane) left some party-goers a little worse for wear, but at least they were talking a little slower!
The extravagant masks below are traditional in this area of Ecuador...
One of the friends we made through the fiesta was Jorge, an artist who invited us home to his studio. He uses oils, watercolours, embroidery and even marzipan to create some unique pieces and his family sell bags (in the front left hand corner) in Quito at the weekends. Each one takes several days to finish, so we daren't ask how much they cost, but they all have their own beautiful design and are hand-stitched to perfection.
Jorge showed us his favourite spot, the colourful fields behind the village, which we somehow would never have discovered alone. Lacking a common language, our common interests in art and music have meant that Dan and I have little trouble communicating with him, even if we have to resort to gestures at times.
So why are we still here? It might be that we're just too lazy to leave, but after two weeks we still haven't done half of what La Esperanza has to offer and I can't see us moving on any time soon.
If you want to visit La Esperanza, you should definitely stay at Casa Aida.