Location: Chugchilán

We woke up to warm oatmeal. Nervous and excited, we questioned the horse ride to come. The walk down the steep hill to the horses below felt like forever; however, the tour guide’s son quickly greeted us with a warm smile and handshake that melted our hearts and our nerves. We climbed onto the horses, feeling the unfamiliarity of being high off the comfortable ground. We journeyed forward and took heed of our guide’s words that the horses would soon start to gallop on the trail. And like that, the horses began to fly through the dusty trail up the mountain, our hands gripping tightly on the reins the whole way. After the endless gallop, the horses came to a slow and a feeling of exhilaration traveled through us while the horses once again took on a measured pace. We gained confidence in our abilities as the trip continued, feeling like one with the beautiful creatures taking us on this trek. It would be impossible to capture the extent of the beauty of the view surrounding us using words, but it is a view that is engrained in our minds forever. The endless hills and mountains filled our vision, cows grazing on lush grass and patchwork houses made by those who truly understand what it means to make something out of nothing. We dined on fine cheeses at the local cheese factory, pondering our lives as we witnessed the gratitude of an aging woman who we gave our special lunches. Full of delicious food, we reached the entrance of the cloud forest, stepping off our horses so our hike could begin. A lifetime worth of wisdom flowed from our tour guide’s mouth as he showed us plants that smelled like chocolate and told us ghost stories that gave life to the trees around us. We navigated our way through dense forestry, listening to the sounds of birds and rushing water nearby, and feeling lost in the beauty around us. That night, we were sore but content as ever, as we watched shooting stars twinkle brightly in the Ecuadorian sky.