We are making use of a long weekend to take a road trip. We’ll post more about it in a few days, but just getting to our first destination is worth describing.
As Ecuador’s capital, Quito can feel quite modern, but other parts of the country are still rural and difficult to access. One such area is the nooks and crannies of the Andes to the south of Quito. Our drive today veered off the Pan American Highway (a major artery
through the wide valley formed by the eastern and western peaks of the Andes). For a few hours we followed twisting roads up and down steep hillsides. Pavement gave way to cobblestone gave way to dirt. We followed the road for another hour, through thick fog – we were so high, more than 10,000 feet, that we were in the clouds – to reach Chugchilan, a tiny, poor town that seems from another age. The road we followed is carved right into the side of the mountain; to our left, the hill dropped steeply down, and to the right it rose almost straight up. In many places the road has actually been damaged by mudslides. Farming is the only way to subsist out here, and along the way we had to stop several times to let some creature or other cross the road: Dogs, pigs, sheep, a small flock of turkeys, and two runaway donkeys, their harnesses trailing behind them as they trotted up the road.