Papallacta Mountain Range: Una Nueva Elevación

Despite what my Facebook photos may imply, I am not as outdoorsy a person as it may appear. However, I am all for new experiences and well I’m in Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, so while I’m here I plan on taking advantage of this.

Peace. Love. Papallacta.

During my third weekend here, I took a day trip to the Papallacta (papa-yak-ta) Mountain range, followed by a trip to the nearby baños termales (thermal baths). This was not one of the trips my friends and I organized, it was organized by an unofficial University liaison. I thoroughly enjoyed not having to do any planning, even though I have found myself becoming a bit of an Ecuadorian travel agent. First, things first, let’s talk about the elevation, man oh man was it steep, at our highest point we were at about 14,000ft, which, I felt, with a nice throbbing headache. At this point my body was still acclimating to the higher elevation of Quito, about 9,350ft, if I were to do this climb now I think my body would be better prepared.

The path was simple and clear, but the wind was whipping through us, and it was a lot colder than most of us expected. Luckily, I dressed in layers, and packed some additional as well. Just for reference, I wore a tank top, an athletic turtleneck long sleeve, an athletic high-neck half zip, and my rain jacket. One the bottom, I had on thick athletic leggings, my rain boots, and was equipped with some lightly lined gloves, and a beanie (as shown on my featured photo). The higher we got the more the intense the wind was, and it took about an hour and a half for us to ascend. The day was rather clear and the views were incredible, that is until we got to the very top, then it was cloudy, hence the name cloud forest, where we only got brief glimpses of the beautiful landscape.


Lago de Papallaca
Lago de Papallaca
Papallacta Waterfall
Papallacta Waterfall


Thankfully, the descent down was a lot easier, and much faster then our climb up. It was very apparent we were ‘ones with nature’ , because our guide, Pancho, told us “la tierra es nuestro cuarto de baño”, and yes we used it as such (sorry if that’s tmi). When we finished, we drove for a bit to another location, where the trail was a lot shorter, taking us about thirty minutes to see a waterfall, which was reminiscent of a fairy tale. We stopped in a small town to get lunch, I ordered la trucha (trout), which was delicious, and then we were on our way to soak our aching bodies in the thermal baths. There were several baths of varying degrees, and we worked our way up to the hotter ones, than regressed to the moderate temperature, and even took quick dips into the colder water- they say it’s good for the bodies circulation.

La trucha
La trucha

All in all, Papallacta, was fun, beautiful, and challenging, I would highly recommend it to anyway who happened to find themselves in Ecuador, especially if you are close to Quito.

The bad days….

This is the first of many of my Ecuador blogs, and I just wanted to start by saying sorry some of these posts will be out of order. I haven’t been diligent about getting my posts up on time, so I am going to focus on improving, in this area.

Well let’s not delay any further and get into the meat of this blog post dealing with the bad days, more specifically the bad, and/or difficult days you many experience while abroad. I would just like to start off by stating that while I am a sentimental person, I am not one who tends to get homesick. This does not mean that I don’t love my family or the people in my life, but I can deal with being on my own fairly well, and I accredit this to the fact that I am an only child. I am simply mentioning this, because for me the bad days aren’t necessarily about missing particular people in my life, so if you’re looking for a blog about how to deal with homesickness this is not the proper post.

For me, the bad days are when you question why you even decided to study abroad for a whole semester, when you feel like you’re missing out at home; when you think you may haven chosen the wrong country, or when your language skills are making you want to pull your hair and scream (I haven’t done it yet, but it’s been considered). To begin, I am currently in Quito, Ecuador a Spanish speaking country, and while I have been taking Spanish for a while and have intermediate communication skills, boy can it be difficult sometimes. It’s hard when you are speaking another language, and it’s obvious it’s not your native tongue, it’s hard when people don’t want to work with you and write you off as some incompetent Gringa, because you cannot fully express yourself, and it’s hard when you aren’t progressing at the level you want to. I’m a Type A, sometime-y perfectionist, and I am especially impatient with myself– I’ll be the first to admit, I enjoy knowing things, more than I do the process of learning.

The thing about studying abroad is that you don’t have full control, you can plan your trip and set your goals, and these are all great things to do, but at the end of the day your environment and your experiences are often, going to be out of your control. I’m continuously learning and growing here, and I am learning to breath and let it be. It’s a lot easier to focus on everything that is going wrong, to discourage yourself, however it is much more rewarding, to remind yourself of the progress you have made, and to reflect on everything you have learned. Sure it’s frustrating when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone, and you aren’t fully understanding what they are trying to communicate with you, but in these times I try and remind myself “hey, you just took two new buses and navigated yourself to a museum in a part of town you had never been to before”, these reminders can be helpful and much needed.

There is no clear cut method to overcoming the bad days, because everyone is different, and processes their emotions differently. Personally, I have found it beneficial to allow myself to feel my frustrations, and then move on, get out of the house and try something new. I’ll go get my nails done, walk to the farmacia and order medicine (in Spanish, may I add), or try out a new restaurant. The important thing is to keep moving, keep trying and experiencing new things, and don’t let yourself mope and be discouraged. Remember, studying abroad is fun, adventurous, and rewarding, but it is also filled with hurdles, complications, and miscommunications, if studying abroad was easy, if it was comfortable more students would be willing to give it a try. Pat yourself on the back and keep it moving, because you did it, you took the leap of faith and challenged yourself, and with time you will become so much better because of it.

Embrace the bad days, the lonely days, the sad days, because it makes the GREAT ones so much better!


Wondering About Next Year

I was wondering what to write about in these next few posts, but I figured writing about my possibles decisions could help me make a decision. So I will be the first person in my family to ever study abroad and I honestly know nothing about it. I do not know the process, I do not know what papers I need to get or how I am going to pay for any extra fees because I am paying my way through college. I am looking into either the University of Reading or Hertfordshire for my semester abroad. Both are super close to London — about a twenty minute train ride away — and I have always wanted to visit London so both are great choices. I know a few people that have studied in Hertfordshire, but there are more pre-equated classes in Reading. Both are wonderful choices — it honestly just depends on what the adviser tells me when I get back to university. At least I am beginning to narrow down my choices — this way I can start to focus on the smaller, more important things, like visas and accommodation fees. :/