So, last weekend was eventful.
This year, Easter and Riobamba’s Independence Day fell on the same weekend, which meant lots of festivities, food, and excitement.
During Holy Week, it is tradition in Ecuador to make fanesca, a rich soup, specially prepared with a number of ingredients, including figleaf gourd, pumpkin, and twelve different kinds of beans and grains including chochos, habas, lentils, peas, corn and others, together with bacalao (salted cod) cooked in milk. It is also generally garnished with hard boiled eggs, fried plantains, herbs, parsley, and empanadas. Nora and I helped our host mom prepare some of it, and our host mom and sister had spent the previous afternoon and all of Friday morning in preparation. We made enough for each family member to eat 2 or 3 servings (and there are seven of us!) It was delicious, though quite filling, and we found ourselves sleepy and sluggish afterward. Nora and I rested for a while before meeting some friends for a walk.
The next morning our friend Abby came over to watch the first parade of the weekend. The parade was to celebrate Riobamba’s independence, and because we live in the center of the city, it passed right by our house. The family set up chairs on the balcony and outside on the sidewalk, and our host dad and brother had been collecting beer for the occasion all week. Some of the extended family came over a while later, and our friend Hugo joined us, as well. The parade lasted six hours! We sat in the warm sun and watched as dancers, drummers, professionals, and reinas (beauty queens) marched by, proudly representing their city. As the parade came to an end, our host mom put out sandwiches, potatoes, corn, and soda for everyone to enjoy. It was exciting to see the city come to life like that. It was a vibrant, joyful scene on every main road all weekend.
Later that afternoon, our host sister, Andrea, invited Nora and I to Macaji, where there was a big fair, with some of her friends. Macaji had artisan vendors, animals, a military display, lots of food, and a concert. We actually ran into a vendor we recognized from the fair in Ayampe, and she was sweet as ever. After catching up, she gave us her card and told us not to lose touch. I love how friendly Ecuadorians are. :)
On Sunday we finally went on the camping trip we had been planning for months. After breakfast with the family, my host mom gave us little soy pancakes she made to take on the road. Nora, our friend Miia, Hugo and I met at the bus station with all our bags and set out for Acantilado. To get there we take a bus headed to Guaranda and get off on the side of the road when we see the trail. It’s far from everything and very serene. I feel lucky that Hugo and Ale introduced this amazing place to us. We set up the tent and then unpacked the food to make lunch. Nora commented that food always tastes better when camping and I tend to agree.
The day was perfect, though a little chilly. We had everything we needed. Hugo had bought fresh fruit and vegetables from the market and lent us all sleeping bags. Nora brought fresh bread. We packed tea and mugs, and a large bottle of wine to split at night by the campfire.
Miia set out on a hike up the mountain, and Hugo, Nora, and I went to climb. The climb was a bit scarier for me this time. It was windy, and climbing in the wind makes me feel vulnerable, like I might fall, even though I know I’m in the harness.
Once we reached the plateau, though, it was all worth it. The views of the surrounding mountain and valley were gorgeous, and it was incredibly peaceful being out in the mountain, feeling so small, and disconnected from everything.
Hugo, Nora, and I on the plateau.
Nora and me.
The rock wall.
Up above the valley.
Taking in the view.
After repelling back down the rock, it started raining a little and got very cold. We hurried back to our campsite where Miia had put all our bags under the shelter of the tent, and we made some tea to warm up.
It was a lovely afternoon. We enjoyed each other’s company and conversation, with nowhere to be and nothing to do.
Enjoying some tea and being in nature.
Miia staying warm in the tent.
We decided to make the campfire to warm up, and before it got dark. Hugo went to look for some wood and came back carrying a tree… casual.
It took a while to get the fire going, but once we did we were all mesmerized. There is something magical about fires. Hugo and I made dinner and poured the wine, and the four of us sat around the fire, in the purest kind of happiness. We introduced Miia to s’mores and spent the evening happily drunk on chocolate, wine, conversation, and the beauty of Acantilado. We were lucky the clouds cleared for a while, revealing a a bright, starry sky.
It had been a wonderful day. Unfortunately, a little while later, my stomach began to hurt, and the pain grew throughout the night. I tried to breathe through it, and took some medicine. A few hours later, I was in tears and couldn’t move. I was embarrassed, and I didn’t want to ruin our trip. I tried to go to sleep, but it hurt to lie down. After a while, it became clear that we’d have to leave. My friends were amazing. Hugo ran up the mountain to get cell phone service and call for help. Miia and Nora tried to soothe me and rubbed my back. They packed up all our things and when Hugo got back he guided me through the dark back to the street, carrying me when it hurt too much to walk. Nora and Miia carried the bags back to the road with what appeared to be superhuman strength, and Hugo’s mom came in a taxi to take me to a clinic back in Riobamba.
Nora and Hugo took me to see the doctor. At this point it was 3am. No one had complained once. They were nothing but patient, helpful, and caring the entire time. I can’t imagine a better group to be stuck on a mountain with when you’re having incredible pain.
The doctor was not the best, to say the least. Though I was speaking to him in Spanish, he ignored me most of the time, and talked mostly to Hugo, when he wasn’t on his cell phone. The nurse gave me an IV, except she didn’t put it into my vein, and when I woke up a few hours later, my arm was heavy and swollen. Hugo found the doctor, who apologized for messing up my IV, and told me the swelling would go down over the next 3 days. My stomach was feeling better, and he told me I would be able to go home soon. “But what happened?” I asked. I wanted to see a specialist and get some answers. He told us we could wait until 9am to see if the doctor came, but since it was a holiday (Monday was a day off for Fiestas de Riobamba) he wasn’t sure if the doctor would be coming at all. Frustrated, I decided to leave. I went home, cleaned the smell of campfire and dirt off of me, and slept until mid-afternoon.
Though we had quite the adventure at the end of our camping trip, and it didn’t quite go as planned, I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful friends. They cared for me when I was pretty helpless, and comforted me through the whole ordeal.They are the definition of great friends.
Overall, it was quite a weekend, filled with a lot of craziness and love.