Last weekend, the Ecuador Mannafolk learned a very important lesson: group retreats resemble two very important things - community development and Forest Gump chocolates. The former because the outcome is relatively uncertain and the latter because "you never know what you're going to get."
Shawn ("Chaaaawn" to most library children), our resident Social Chair, planned a wonderful 2-day group retreat in Riobamba, a small city nestled in the Andes about 4 hours south of Quito. We planned on leaving the house at 6:30am on Saturday (yes, this actually happened - shocking), arriving in Riobamba around lunchtime, taking a scenic hike to see the nearby Volcan Tungurahua and Chimborazo, and promptly going to bed. Sunday's plans included riding on the top of the famous train that traverses the Devil's Nose early in the morning, and heading back to Quito in time to catch the Super Bowl.
Now, remember, these were the plans... but alas, when we arrived in Riobamba it was raining. Take into consideration that Riobamba is fondly called "Friobamba" ("frio" = cold). Pues, all-day rain + cold does not equal a fun outdoor day. After a delicious lunch, the group walked around the market in the rain... then the boys went to take a quick nap (read: ~3 hours), while the girls continued to trudge around in the rain until we hit the jackpot: a gelato store in Riobamba. Of course, we indulged before heading to buy our train tickets for the next day. When we arrived at the train station, our savvy Spanish quickly allowed us to discover that the tickets were SOLD OUT until February 24th. Since we couldn't ditch work for 3 weeks to hang out in Riobamba until the train freed up, we had to sulk back to the hostel (still in the rain) and relay the news to the boys. None of us were thrilled, but we decided to make the best of it and planned for a hike the next morning before heading back to Conocoto.
Sunday morning, after a continental breakfast, we headed out to a small town called Pelileo by bus to start a hike to see the nearby (and currently smoking) Volcan Tungurahua. We found out that the walk was too long to actually hike, so we took a camioneta instead and got to take in the beautiful mountains from the bed of the truck. (Erik and Shawn also took in some water balloons, as Carnaval has officially started, which means any breathing human being is a target for being hit with various forms of water.) The views were beautiful, the group attitude was positive (despite the many changes in plans), and I think we all enjoyed getting out of Conocoto for the weekend.
And bonus points, we made it back in time to see the Super Bowl... 8 out of 10 of us were happy with the outcome. The New Orleans fans cried tears of joy, while the resident Hoosier just cried. But I guess you just can't argue with the underdog. :)
Here's to uncertainty, plan-changing, and annoying/funny Carnaval traditions (depending on who gets hit/does the hitting with water balloons/shaving cream),
PS. Thanks to Erik for sharing his pictures!
Chet and Jackie show their varying degrees of enthusiasm after being hit with shaving cream through the open bus window. Happy Carnaval?
The group (damp and cold) at dinner on Saturday night
Bibi. Cows. Camioneta ride through the Andes. I'd say she's in her element?
Group in front of a cloud-obscured Tungurahua
The boys take a loving man photo
A smoking Tungurahua
What the Devil's Nose train might have looked like had tickets not been sold out...
(picture from my Devil's Nose train experience last summer)