I´m currently in Baños, Ecuador traveling with Xan, my friend from college. Last week I initially arrived in Bogota, Colombia for a couple of days. Even though my flight arrived at 4am, I had no problems safely finding a taxi to the hostel. Amazingly, the first person I met the next morning was a fellow Washington & Lee alumnus, Eric, whom I had not met before. He has been living in Colombia and teaching English for several months. Also, I met up with Carlos, a native of Colombia who was a good friend in the Philippines (we had the same host family there). Arriving in Ecuador, Xan and I had lunch with two other W&L alumni, Veronica and Francisco in Quito. Francisco was the leader of my freshman hiking trip almost 7 years ago and currently works for the UN, and Veronica invited us to visit her family´s farm in northern Ecuador over the weekend. This has been the highlight of the trip so far, as we had the opportunity to explore the countryside on horseback and try delicious food. One interesting plant Veronica´s family grows is ¨tomate de arbol¨ or Solanum betaceum, which has a delightful sweet juice despite its botanical similarity to the tomato with which most North Americans are familiar. We also visited the Lago Cuicocha, which is a volcanic crater lake similar to Taal in the Philippines. The ¨cui¨ is a Guinea Pig, which is often eaten by Andean peoples, so we gave it a try. Our next adventure was climbing the Rucu Pichincha peak (15,400 ft, the tallest mountain I´ve ever climbed. The tallest mountain in the contiguous US states is less than 15,000 ft.). It had a steep, exposed section near the summit but luckily we made it without any missteps. The climb reminded me a lot of Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. We were tired after the climb but hopped on a bus nevertheless to Baños, where we are relaxing and enjoying some hot springs for a few days. Overall, my impression of Ecuador is that the roads and particularly the bus station are in surprisingly good condition, and Quito is less polluted and much colder than I expected. Another surprise in both Bogota and Quito was that there are few two-stroke engines (motorcycle-tricycle) on the roads, and the open air markets are less conspicuous than in Manila. I have another week in Ecuador before returning to Colombia, so I will try to post another update, and some pictures, before then.

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