During the past few weeks, every bit of warmth may have been diverted from the States and sent to Ecuador.  We thank you!  And so did our last group of paddlers that reluctantly returned home to shovel snow after a memorable week of paddling.
 

Participating in our final trip (which earned the reputation of “the boys�? trip), was a great group that included veterans Daryl and Kevin (Kevin alone has now enjoyed nineteen ERA trips with us over the years).   Daryl, Jon and Todd all opted to skip the cititour and head to Otavalo on the first day of the trip. Otavalo is home to one of the largest indigenous markets in Ecuador. On Saturday mornings, the early risers can participate in the animal sales–where pigs, sheep, goats and cows are sold and/or traded amoung the indigenous.  Then the market opens.  Stall after stall of brightly colored hand-crafted items are open for business. Weavings, blankets, alpaca sweaters, carved items–it is a dream of a place to take care of your gift list!!  Bargaining is a must–although it can be difficult with a language barrier, and especially for americans who are not so good at mano-to-mano bargaining!

 

Then was the beginning of the paddling part of  “the boys trip;�? the week starting off  spectacularly with a show-off performance by Antisana.  Arriving at the top of the pass heading into the Oriente, Antisana Volcano was sitting there in all its snow-capped glory. While spottings of Antisana the past few weeks have become standard, seeing it at the top of the pass had been non-existent. It was a fitting welcome to the Quijos Valley!
 

From Antisana it was all downhill, all week.  With blue skies and low water, we were able to paddle all the classic creek runs.  And while the runs were not as padded out as on other trips, the drops were steeper and moves much more technical.
 

This week was designated as the week to donate school supplies. On arriving at the village, Todd—our trip´s resident doctor, was called upon to take a look at a few ailing children. It was a nice touch on his part to take time out of a paddling vacation and do some doctoring.
 

We always hate to save the best for last during a week of paddling because of the chance of water levels going up too much.  But we saved the Cheesehouse Run for last with the boys because the weather seemed to be going no where but good (although we did have ten minutes of hail during an isolated thunderstorm—most likely the first hail in the Quijos Valley in twenty years).   We finished up the week with a soak at Pappallacta and a good Italian dinner.
 

While some of the boys had to head home on Saturday, Jon stayed an extra day to check out the Cotopaxi bike trip, a bike route that descends from the snow line of Cotopaxi Volcano downhill several thousand feet. About that time, Matt and Fernanda returned from their week at the Galapagos Islands.  Their trip was deemed “more than wonderful.�? And if there had been time, a display of the blue-footed bobbies would have been in order from the Galapagos gang!
 

With the last of our winter kayakers now home shoveling snow (okay, not Daryl who is tucked away in the Islands), it leaves us only a few days to finish up things here and head home ourselves. Which means there is still time for a last-minute adventure!