This summer some of our most favorite people in the entire world came to visit us for the first time! The trip started off dramatically with a change in travel plans for voucher points, followed by a missed flight and airport pick ups 12 hours apart. The first day we headed to Nate's soccer game, followed by some travel recovery time. Later that night we sat around our table and shared Thai Peanut Noodle Soup while I soaked in the sight of us feeding them for a night, after years of our meals always being around their table in Chicago.

We really did hit the ground running and headed on a two-night whirlwind trip to Baños and Misahuallí. We headed out early and ate crumbling croissants in the 15 passenger van as Nate navigated a hair pin uphill turn to get onto the highway. We then settled in for typical passionate conversation, every once in a while exclaiming the blessing of a 15 passenger van where the kids could all be two rows behind us and therefore a bit muted in volume as they played their own games. We talked about joy and the part that vulnerability plays in experiencing it and we talked about living open-heartedly. We finished the conversation as we rolled into the parking lot at the Swing at the end of the World as it began to drizzle. We dawned our rain jackets and after the initial disappointment at the lack of a view we embraced the rain and the exhiliration of a good, long swing out into the mist. Emily declared it one of her trip highlights. We experienced all the swings and the zipline before heading into Baños where we ate chocolate and cheese empanadas for lunch, tried sugar cane and taffy and toured the town from a trolley caterpillar. That caterpillar turned out to be the ride of our life and we sang songs as we careened around the curves. Best $.50 spent ever. We let the kids play at a local park before eating hot sandwiches for dinner at Honey. We took our weary, wet selves back to our Airbnb, tucked the kids in and played a few rounds of CodeNames before calling it a night.

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The next morning we set off for Pailon del Diablo. I appreciated experiecing it without 30+ student to herd along but noticed my stress level sky rocketing as the kids ran ahead and we realized every possible hole to fall through or dangerous element that looked inviting to climb. The power of the waterfall is immense and we gazed at it for some time before heading back. We headed back to our trusty van and set out for Misahuallí. Along the way we stopped at a roadside almuerzo place and ate soup with bolones and choclo, whole fish and lentils. You couldn't have told me this, but that almuerzo place ended up being several people's highlight of the day! 

 

We pulled into our hostal, Paisano, and unpacked before heading to our second waterfall of the day, Latas. We hiked for about 35 minutes while exclaiming over the genius of watershoes, before dipping into the crips, mountain water. We swam thru the falls and delighted in the beauty of it. Hiking back down was a site to behold as the mud was thick from rain and we slipped and slid (mostly the adults) and couldn't stop laughing at the good spills that we took. We grabbed showers before sitting down to a dinner at the hostal that ended with maracuya (passionfruit) mousse. It was so well received and we were equal parts sad (because we coulnd't eat it) and impressed that Edie ate something that was made with fruit. After dinner we headed on a night canoe ride and there is just NO WAY to describe all the dynamics on the boat. We had the sweetest guide who owns the property. We had two children scared out of their minds and begging to get off the boat in loud voices, all while the guide asked us to remain completely silent. We had two children excited to touch the fish, running from side to side and almost tipping the boat. We had some adult frustration and some adult giggles and a lot of parenting moments. But it was MAGIC. Despite all this it was serene and beautiful under the stars with the sound of the oars hitting the water. We saw a boa about to eat a bird, an owl, tarantulaas, a ginormous (some were convinced it as a megaladon) fish, and we had a fish with teeth so fierce it can bite a whole finger off in one chomp land inside our boat. Our fearless guide chuckled and then whacked the fish to death with an oar ... with no warning to our children. And then we headed home, tucked our tired kids in and had the guys go grab ice cream before some more Code Names.

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In the morning we packed back up, but only after eating more maracuya mousse with our breakfast, and headed to the Jumandy Caves where we walked our rocks through water and crawled and squeezed our bodies around stalactites and spiders while hearing about the indigenous who first used the cave. We dipped in the 8 meter hole and then climbed back out, going down the water slide a few times before changing and continuing our journey. We thought we were headed home from there but those plans were thwarted. We encountered one landslide and so we settled on the only lunch spot available 20 minutes back, where it started to rain and I slipped in moss and cut my toe wide open. When the slide cleared we got back on the road but 45 minutes later encountered a bigger slide. Predictions said it wouldn't be cleared today and possibly not tomorrow. Stress levels rose as Nate called to find someone to run his practice he'd planned to be at that night. We decided to not risk being stuck for a few more days depending on the slide and so we headed back the way we'd come ... the LONG way around. Back through all the ground we'd covered. Night fell and we discussed how far we might make it. (Nights on the winding, single lane roads are nothing like the US lighted freeways). Then we started hearing a sound we didn't like and a car signalled us and we learned we also had a flat tire. A flight tire on a rusty van that has no single owner. We searched high and low for parts to access the spare tire. It was like a puzzle to find them all. The guys put all the effort possible into getting the bolts off the tire. We had several men stop to help with no success. Finally we had a bus driver pull over (unheard of) and he was able to get the bolt off. Each step of the way the guys would update us and we'd pray and those prayers were answered. We lamented being unprepared parents with NO snacks in the vehicle and we let them use all of our media devices possible. It was dark and cold and wet and everyone was hungry. We agreed we weren't going to make it back to Baños so Tena became our goal. We rolled into town and stopped at the first open hotel we could find. We booked two rooms for $8/adult. It wasn't glamorous in the least but they were beds and we put the kids to bed with no dinner. Eric and Nate headed to find food while we stayed in the lobby and I stressed about getting our phones robbed. It was an early night with a chair propped against the door and sleep was the only goal because we had a long day ahead of us. I couldn't have been more thankful to have flexible friends with good attitudes as we navigated our adventure/disaster.

The next day was a long day of driving with lots of chips consumed as we didn't even want to stop to eat. We again gave all the technology available to the kids and cheered as we pulled into our driveway that night!! While not exactly what we'd planned it certainly was a trip full of memories and togetherness that we will laugh about for years to come!

 

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