Monday morning we left our house fairly early with our host brother Luis to do a hike to a nearby waterfall. He led us out of town on a trail that was muddy and green and nearly overgrown by the dense jungle.
After about 15 minutes we reached the Mirador, a viewpoint with a gazebo where we could see all the surrounding mountains, even the tall and rocky Cotacachi in the distance with it´s peak pointy like a steeple, and down to the Rio de Santa Rosa at the bottom of the valley floor. Then we began our descent. The trail switchbacked down through the dense jungle, where we walked through grasses almost as tall as we are and tangles of branches and leaves that seemed to pack every spare inch of space. Luis was using his machete to chop plants out of our way, but because he is much shorter than us there were still many obstacles at our head height and I kept getting things caught in my hair! Luis continued to point out uses for various plants as we passed them throughout the hike: vines used for making furniture, grass used for hats, a tree with sap that takes the itch out of bug bites. And our favorite: leaves as big as us that are used as umbrellas and as tents for field workers.
When we got to the valley floor we walked up to an old bridge made out of thick metal wire and half-rotten wood planks. Luis explained that this bridge and this path were how people got across the river before there were roads in the area. As I listened I was looking around for the newer, safer bridge that we would cross. There was not one. This was our way across! Luis instructed us to watch where he put his feet as he crossed.
“I will do Pilates breathing,” I told Alex.
“At least if we fall it´s not that far down and the water is not moving very fast,” he replied.
“It would still hurt.”
After Luis was on the other side, it was my turn.
Next we went straight up the hill on the other side of the river. Here we were in taller, less dense forest that Luis kept calling “bosques limpia,” or clean forests. At the top the trail leveled out and, after a while, we passed the house of my Spanish teacher. While Luis visited with her husband I tried to figure out where the nearest road was and realized that she must walk at least an hour into to town to teach me every day.
Past my teacher´s house we reached the waterfall!