After successfully flagging down a taxi from Moraspungo to go to San Luis de Pambil, we arrived at our in-country contact leader’s house for a delicious, healthful dinner. We then spent a few hours chatting, catching up on our week’s escapades, and briefly resting before embarking on our 5 ½ hour, insane ranchera ride. To enlighten y’all on the virtues of the Ecuadorian ranchera, it’s an open-air trolley that creaks when it hits the myriad bumps in the road and has a constant stream of loud music blaring from the speakers. Oh, did we mention that we left at 1 in the morning? The lights were on all night, and as we rose in altitude, it got progressively colder. We were shivering by the time we arrived in Salinas! Needless to say, it was an exciting ride, although not exactly conducive to sleep.
Upon arrival in Salinas at 7am, a comfortable 29 degrees Fahrenheit, we found our hotel and crashed for an hour and a half. At 8:30am, we ate breakfast and then headed out with our exceedingly friendly guide, Byron. We visited cheese, soy, and chocolate factories, sampled a good amount of their products, played games in the grass, and even walked to the salt mine the town is named for. After such a morning of activity, we headed back to the hotel for lunch. We didn’t stop there, even with our lack of sleep, keeping up our adventurous drive as we mosied our way up a steep cow pasture to find a bit of shade. We reached the large cross at the top of Salinas, a definite landmark, and we were able to see quite view of the city below. From there we purchased and tasted endless amounts of cheese, yogurt, and chocolate, and were eventually picked up to head even higher up in altitude to view a fantastic sunset far above the clouds.
After fighting high grasses and pine trees to get back to our taxi, we drove back to Salinas and ate pizza! We then walked back to the hotel and immediately went to bed.
We spent the following morning going to a wool shop and purchasing local, hand-made sweaters, hats and scarves, visiting a soccer and volleyball ball-making factory, and enjoying the incredible Salinas landscapes and people.
We are now headed back to our homestay communities for a short, 3-day workweek, and then off again to Cuenca for our mid-program break!