This isn’t my first time in Ecuador, but I’m certainly seeing it with new eyes. Almost exactly two years ago I spent about two and a half weeks travelling through Ecuador before heading to Buenos Aires to begin my semester abroad, and my experiences in this beautiful country were so wonderful that they compelled me to move my life here for the next year.
I feel so lucky to now be able to experience this beautiful nation in such a deeper way than I did as a tourist. Not only am I becoming a part of a community here, but I have the opportunity to delve beyond the guidebook recommendations and really explore. If there is anything that I feel blessed with now its time. Time to reflect on and experience the things in front of me rather than snapping my pictures and moving on to the next must-see.
Time blessed me yesterday with a day off from work, so we took an hour-long ride in the back of a friend’s pickup truck deeper into the countryside of the province. We sought out the hiking trail to a waterfall named Condor Machay, hidden somewhere in the forest near Cotopaxi National Park. Only about an hour and a half outside of Quito, Condor Machay is truly off the beaten path; we bounced up and down in the back of the truck as we flew through the mountains and pastures. Asphalt soon disappeared into worn and misshapen paver stones and then into dirt paths. When we finally arrived at the starting point of the hike, we plunged into the forest and twisted and turned by the river for an hour until we finally came to a clearing, the power and majesty of the waterfall spread out before us.
The hike itself was a delight, but I was slapped in the face by the beauty of its conclusion at this wonder of nature. In the middle of nowhere was this hidden gem, this unrelenting surge of power and beauty that defies words and guidebook explanations. No guidebook tells of Condor Machay, no guidebook recommends jumping in the back of a pickup truck with ten friends and a dog and off-roading to a hidden hiking path. There’s still a lot of tourist attractions I look forward to visiting, but I am so thankful that this year means going deeper with Ecuador.