Ecuador 8/31/2018 - 9/15/2018

Sunday, 9/9/2018 - Nangulvi Hot Springs in Intag, and a visit from Felipe and Maria Jose

We woke up early for our excursion to Intag. Breakfast was my favorite: crepes filled with fresh mora (blackberries) that we purchased in Otavalo yesterday, along with coffee and juice. The drive to Intag is mountainous, and Craig is susceptible to vertigo on the winding roads. He always takes a Bonine pill prior to the ride. Shina and Yupanqui tend to have problems with carsickness, so we gave them each one as well.

Hector picked us up at around 9 a.m. and we drove to Intag. The kids were in good spirits as we left the house. They played in the back of the van with their Peppa Pig playhouse and Yupanqui's Bobcat loader.

This was our third trip to the hot springs, but Aida had never come with us before. The kids started to feel a little nauseous, so we stopped at a rest area that had a lovely view of the surrounding mountains to get some fresh air. There was a small restaurant here and the family bought chicharrones. Craig and I were still full from breakfast, so we declined the offer of fried pork. (We also wondered if this would cause problems for kids' nauseous tummies).

We got back into the car and descended into the Intag valley. When we arrived in the town of Apuela, it was market day and the streets were clogged with cars and shoppers. After a short delay, we passed through town and saw the sign for Nangulvi hot springs in 7 kilometers to the left. But upon crossing the Apuela river, we turned right.

We weren't sure what we were doing. It was too early for lunch (and the family had just filled up on chicharrones), but Antonio indicated that we were scoping out a restaurant to return to after swimming.

We turned into the parking lot of the Victoria Ecolodge. It was a gorgeous property on the banks of the Apuela River boasting beautiful bamboo groves and many flowers and trees. There was a restaurant and a lodge, and an outdoor pinic area with barbecue. Swings and hammocks allowed for relaxation, and there were several fish ponds.

We were welcomed by Elizabeth, who gave us a tour of the property. It seemed as though it was newly purchased, and hadn't yet opened to the public. There were a few employees and maintenance workers around, but it didn't appear that the lodge or restaurant were yet operational.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the serenity of the location. The family cooled their feet in the fish ponds. Elizabeth demonstrated how an old industrial sugar cane press was operated.

Yupanqui and I swung on a wooden swing overlooking the river. We walked over to the banks of the river, where large river boulders provided a nice elevated perch from which to survey nature.

Rosa tried out a hammock and it was almost literally the first time that we had seen her relax. I almost wished we could leave her here in peaceful solitude while we wrangelled the kids over to the hot springs. Soon the kids wanted to get into the hammock, and they each took a turn. Shina was so comfy that we didn't think we'd be able to coax her out!

Elizabeth brought out glasses and a pitcher of brown juice. We assumed from its color that it was tamarind juice, but it turned out to be lemonade mixed with fresh sugarcane juice. It was delicious and refreshing.

Hector and Antonio were asking a lot of questions, no doubt so that they could recommend the place to tourists in the future. It was quite tranquil and seemed like it would be a nice place to spend a couple of days in nature, with Nangulvi hot springs not far away.

After touring the property and thanking Elizabeth for her warm hospitality, we continued on to Nangulvi hot springs. It had changed a bit since January; there is no longer a slide or rope swing. But it still has pools of various temperatures fed by thermal springs. "Piscina" is the Spanish word for pool, and we jokingly refer to it as "PiShina", since Shina loves the water so much. She was the first of the kids to venture out into the deep water with our assistance.

Aida didn't swim, but enjoyed watching and taking photos of the kids. Craig and I helped Shina, Sisa, and Yupanqui with some swimming skills, including helping them to float. As Yupanqui laid on his back in the water, I conjured the mind jars that we had made on Friday..."tranquilo" (calm). Yupanqui let out a big happy sigh as he settled into the warm water. It was adorable! Sisa's swimming skills are really coming along nicely. She dunks her head underwater confidently.

The water felt great. It had grown cloudier and cooler since we left the ecolodge, which was great for Craig and me. Otherwise we would have been fried in the midday son. Hot springs are always more pleasant in cooler weather anyway.

As the kids got a bit more tired, the family migrated to a small round pool where the water level was such that they could always stand up. Shina rode on Sisa's back as she swam. There was another little girl and her dad in this pool as well. They all swam in a counterclockwise direction to form a whirlpool, much as my friends and I had done in my round above-ground pool when I was a child.

We spent around two hours splashing and swimming in the various pools. Everyone had a great time. Yupanqui was very upset when it was time to leave.

On our way to the car, we walked down to the Apuela River. A bus load of locals, who had been swimming in the hot springs when we arrived, were now having a cookout on the riverside. An Indiana Jones-style suspension bridge spanned the river. The family wanted to cross the bridge for the fun of it. Not gonna looked a little sketchy, with some of the floor planks broken/missing.

We thought that it probably wasn't a good idea for wobbly Craig to try to cross this thing, so we stayed on the shore and took photos. Aida, Rosa, and the kids walked across and then came straight back, shrieking with fear and delight as the bridge swayed back and forth. Locals who were on the bridge at the same time were taking delight in tormenting them by shaking the bridge a little more.

We wanted to make sure to buy some of our favorite locally grown organic coffee while we were in Intag. So we stopped in to the Rio Intag Cafe (a strange combination restaurant/house/police station) and bought 10 pounds of whole bean coffee. That should last until we return in January! We had eaten lunnch at Rio Intag Cafe before, but the kitchen was closed for the day.

Antonio asked if we needed to eat lunch, or if we wanted to just have some snacks and go straight home. It was now coming up on 3 o'clock, and we were expecting visitors some time after 4. The kids seemed tired, so we all opted to just go straight home rather than initiate a restaurant visit. They bought some potato chips that we all shared (they eat them with mayo and ketchup), and we headed back to Morochos. Rosa, Antonio, Aida, and the kids all slept along the way.

We arrived back home at around 4:30 p.m. Shortly thereafter, our dear friends Felipe and Maria Jose arrived for a visit with their two adorable daughters. They had gone to the zoo today and stopped by to visit on their way home.

We have a long history of friendship with Felipe and Maria Jose. We first met Felipe in the Galapagos in 2008, when his cousin Sebastian was our guide. In 2010, Felipe was our guide for the epic trip through Ecuador during which we first met the family and were asked to be Sisa's godparents. We met his lovely wife Maria Jose when the two of them came to celebrate Sisa's baptism in 2011.

The last time we saw Maria Jose was in 2013, when they came to the house for Yupanqui's baptism. Craig was in the throes of his first full-blown MS attack, and they had arrived like angels from heaven just in time to help us navigate the language barrier at the hospital.

We had last seen Felipe in 2016, when he took tourists for a hike at Lago Cuicocha, and the group stopped in at the house for lunch.

They are very dear friends whom we don't get to see nearly often enough. In 2013, they had told us that they were expecting their first baby. Then two years later, their second. We have been dying to meet their daughters ever since.

When they arrived this afternoon, both girls were asleep in the back seat. We chatted in the driveway until they woke up. Julia, the spitting image of Maria Jose with straight brown hair and light eyes, is four years old, and Martina, with curly dark hair and wide dark eyes, is two. Having just woken up, they were a bit slow to warm up, as is to be expected.

Rosa offered us coffee and we headed into the kitchen. I brought El Señor Chipikins over to the girls and he naturally broke the ice with them. I asked the girls what animals they saw at the zoo. Martina told me that she saw an owl that was sleeping.

Rosa had bought a package of ground Rio Intag coffee in Apuela. This was the first time we had seen her use her French press (a gift from a tourist years ago) to brew actual coffee. Usually it is consscripted into service as a caraffe for boiling water to make instant coffee.

Felipe, who isn't normally a coffee drinker, was singing the praises of the coffee. We felt vindicated for the 10 bags we had purchased earlier. We had bread along with our coffee.

We chatted about all of the kids and what has been going on in each other's lives. It was so great to see them. When you are in a mode of struggling to communicate in broken Spanish for days at a time, it's amazing how comforting it is to be able to speak English. It was nice to be able to take a break from the effort of comprehension.

Felipe and Maria Jose couldn't believe how much Sisa, Yupanqui, and Shina had grown since they last saw them. It was even shocking to us, and we had seen them earlier this year. The girls settled in and went to play outside. Martina loves animals, and she was enjoying the neighborhood pets and livestock.

Time passed quickly and before we knew it, it was seven o'clock. That took Felipe and Maria Jose by surprise, and the visit drew to a close. They have an almost 2 hour drive home, and Julia has school tomorrow. We are so happy that we were able to see them again and that we finally got to meet their two daughters! We are very grateful for their visit.

By dinner time, everyone was exhausted after our day of adventures and social calls. We had soup, chicken, rice, and lentils. Tomorrow is a school/work day, so we all turned in early tonight.

Victoria Ecolodge

Nangulvi Hot Springs
Yupanqui is ready for a day of adventure

Yupanqui is ready for a day of adventure

Aida at the scenic rest area

Aida at the scenic rest area

Swinging at Victoria Ecolodge

Swinging at Victoria Ecolodge

Touring the beautiful Victoria Ecolodge property

Touring the beautiful Victoria Ecolodge property

Nangulvi hot springs

Nangulvi hot springs

Fun at the hot springs

Fun at the hot springs

Suspension bridge over the Apuela River

Suspension bridge over the Apuela River

Maria Jose, Craig, and Felipe

Maria Jose, Craig, and Felipe

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