Finding the Inca trail

Finding the Inca trail

26 Kilometers from Alausi lies the small village of Achupallas. No buses so you have to rent a truck to get there. At 3300 meters it is a gateway to the Inca trail. They don’t get many visitors attested by the fact that there wasn’t a single hostal. I went for half a day and really felt like I was way off the beaten path. This country continues to amaze me. How glorious.

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Cloud Forest hostal

Cloud Forest hostel

Chuchligan is the heart of the hiking in the Quilotoa loop. You have 3 choices for accommodations in this bustling town of 80. For the budget minded there is the Cloud Forest. With over 40 rooms this is the place to meet the international set. 2 meals and a clean room with its own bathroom will set you back $15. A great game room includes 2 pool tables and another for ping-pong. Hammocks are everywhere. Funky vibe. I loved it. Stayed 2 nights and hiked from here.

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The overlooked city of Alausi

The overlooked city of Alausi

Most people visit Alausi to simply do the Nariz del Diablo train ride. By doing this only as a day trip one misses out on the beauty of this small Andean city. Several miradors offer stunning views. Crossing the Puente Negra is an exhilerating walk only for those not afraid of heights. Then again if you are afraid of heights what are you doing in the Andes?

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Not surviving the rim walk of the Quilotoa crater

 As some of you may know, I was hiking the Quilotoa area high up (13,000 feet) in the Andes mountains for a couple of weeks in Ecuador. My first day in the area was pretty scary. The wind blew so hard that it actually knocked me horizontal!
 
Had I been standing a foot more to the right, I would have fallen to my death.
 
I’d grown up in Chicago, also known as the Windy City, with 50 mph winds and had never experienced this before. Would I survive the Quilotoa crater rim hike, or would the strong winds blow me over the edge to my demise?
 
The Quilotoa crater lake is one of the most awesome sights I’ve ever seen: right up there with Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.  The lake is bright turquoise and surrounded by a very high rim of what was once an active volcano. After that fierce wind had knocked me on my ass, I decided to solicit the aid of a hired guide, an Andean man named Francisco. Surely he would know alternate paths in case of wind. The hike took six hours. Several times there were long stretches not suitable for those with fear of heights: put your foot off the narrow path and you fall to your death, as many have done. But I was so ecstatic that it wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined it to be that I couldn’t help but look down, with a death defying dopamine rush!   Francisco would admonish me, “Don’t look down! This is scary, even for me!” (And he’s been a guide since ’85.)
As the hike came to a close, I was so happy to still be alive, and in fact feel more alive than ever, that I decided to tip my Andean guide 33% (meaning ten bucks on top of the $30). But those strong Andean winds blew the ten dollar bill from my hands.
 
Destiny is the darndest thing.  As I ran after the flying money, I was struck to my death by a passing car. I’d survived the hike, and countless car-caused near-death experiences in Cuenca, only to be killed by a car in a town that can’t possibly have more than three cars total! (The village has a population of 150.)
 
When it’s your time, as they say, nothing can stop it. I’m reminded of the young teen in San Diego who survived cancer, only to be  killed by a shark.
 
It’s really glorious over here on the Other Side—though we don’t always have the best Internet connection. Fortunately the Andes weaned me from my email addiction since I was virtually unplugged for two weeks. The best thing is that all the mysteries of life and death have been revealed, such as who really killed JKF, Jon Bonet Ramsey, Nicole Simpson, etc.
 
 I was sizzling with curiosity over the question, “Had I not decided to tip the guide, would I still be alive?” So I enrolled in a class at Heaven U. called “Discourses on the Interconnection between Destiny and Free Will.”
 
I’ve already tried my hand at contacting some of you. Just learning how to do this email has taken me over a week.  My mom is supposed to teach me how to sprinkle angel dust. I’ve already made ghostly physical appearances to a few of you who live in Cuenca. (Bet you thought I was still alive; that’s how good I was!)
 
But I have to say it was all worthwhile—dying or should I say “dimension shifting” was worth it to have seen that great Quilotoa Lake! And to think, even most Ecuadorians have not seen it or even heard of it. My goal is to put that area on the gringo map. I had lived in Ecuador almost a year , but felt like I never really saw or experienced Ecuador till I was in that region. And it isn’t like I haven’t been exploring this glorious country.
 
So this is where I need your help. I was taking notes to write a book about it using my photographs. This unfinished business is keeping me from evolving to a higher spiritual level. So….. this is my urgent request: could I enlist any of you to finish my book…
serving as my “ghost writer”?
Love from Above,
Nate
Check out my photos at http://www.nateinecuador.com
 p.s. this is a work of fiction. I’m alive and flourishing in EcuadorImage
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Quilotoa crater

Quilotoa crater

Above 12000 feet this is one of the most majestic sights anywhere in the world. In the far distance you can barely see Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world.

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Quilotoa loop, Ecuador

Quilotoa loop, Ecuador

This is as amazing place. 10 hours from Cuenca at an average altitude of 10,500. The hiking is other worldly. Visited the villages of Tigua, Zumbahuara(great saturday market) Chulichgan, and Isinlivi. Walked from pueblo to pueblo, visited a cheese factory and strolled through the cloud forest and paramors. barely another sole in sight. more photos to follow

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Ricardo’s house party

Ricardo's house party

Twice a month my good friend Ricardo throws a house party featuring local music talent. Limited to 30 people this bimonthly event sells out in an hour. the cost is $5 which goes to the artist. everyone is encouraged to bring a bottle of wine or some food. Needless to say a great time is had by all!! This Sunday features the Musical Nomads, a couple from the States that have been in South America doing house parties for the last year

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Wine-tasting in Cuenca

Wine-tasting in Cuenca

Got my first photo gig filming a wine-tasting at the lovely Villa San Carlos in Cuenca. The wines came from Argentina and Chile. I believe a good night was had by all!

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Winetasting in Cuenca

Winetasting in Cuenca

I’m starting to get into the Cuencana society. Went last night to a very nice wine-tasting of Argentinian wines held at the Villa San Carlos. Not more than a handful of gringos in a room of about 200 people. Just the way I like it down here. Not only that but on was on assignment to photograph the event for the tourism board. The pretty cuencana was my boss.

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Just another free tour

Just another free tour

I participated in a tour that the fundacion municipal turismo Cuenco had yesterday. Started at 8:30 with a military bus picking us up. After a short talk by a retired colonel we then went to la Quinta Bolivar which is a home that Simon Bolivar once used that now houses a display of paintings of the churches of Cuenca. Then we were off to Giron to see the church and the military museum. I have done this ride several times and I believe it is one of the most beautiful in all of Ecuador and that is saying a lot! At the military museum they had a snack and local drink for us. All free.
The same tour will be May 18th and May 25th at the Parque Calderon starting at 8:30. Look for the olive green military bus.

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