This Saturday, four of us from the office went to a suburb of Quito about 45 minutes by bus, Sangolqui, to meet up with one of our other coworkers who lives with her boyfriend's family there. We met up with the two of them as well as two of our other Ecuadorian friends, at a giant multi-colored statue of corn (chocro in Kichwa) at the center of the town. From there, the eight of us hopped into a pick-up truck that took us up through hills and through the little pueblo of Loreto to the entrance closest to the largest waterfall. Four of us rode in the cab of the truck, and four of us rode in the bed of the truck (I was in the cab). The bed of the truck looked pretty bumpy. At one point, the truck drove over a wooden bridge - this bridge was made of planks of wood placed across one another. I thought that the truck would fall through, but apparently the wood is holding up....so far.
We hiked in a little ways and found ourselves at the top of the waterfall. You could go all the way up to the edge. There usually is a small pool at the top that you can swim in and then dry yourself on the rocks. However, the water levels were pretty low so we just climbed around on the rocks. There were some yellow arrows that I think were painted on there to direct hikers. The area seemed to be popular among local people.
We then went back to the trail and hiked down to the bottom of the waterfall. We had brought our swimsuits but when I put my foot in the water and could not feel my ankle any more, we decided against swimming and stuck to the hiking. The waterfall was beautiful though. After spending some time at the base of the main falls, we decided to hike more through the woods to reach other falls that we could see from a distance.
Along the hike through the forest trail, we crossed a small wooden bridge over a little river and saw a cow with tags on its ears standing by the side of the river. We had no idea how the poor cow got there, because there were no farms nearby and the trail is pretty heavily wooded, even for people, that for a cow to navigate a narrow, steep trail seems impossible. I went up to the cow, but it turned away and walked a little bit down the river to eat a tree. Poor cow - I hope it finds its way home.
We did not spend too much time at the other waterfalls, as they were much smaller, but it was cool to see them naturally in the forest. We hiked back to the entrance where we started (it was much more difficult because now we were going uphill the entire time). We managed to find another pickup truck that could take us to Loreto where we could catch a bus for $0.25 to Sangolqui. The four people who had ridden in the truck bed first were adamant about riding in the cab this time, so we switched groups. It was actually a lot of fun to ride in the bed. Pretty dusty, but fun, and definitely a 100% Ecuadorian experience.