We got in the taxi at the airport headed to Loja. We started going up and up and up. The taxi going around sharp curves climbing a mounting. Sometimes going pretty fast for a winding, narrow road up the mountain, passing other cars, trucks, buses when able or slowing significantly when stuck behind them. As we climbed the landscape changed. Moving into the countryside. Views of small homes with chickens, cows, laundry hanging out to dry. At one point we had to stop in the road to let the cows slowly amble across the road. Views of mountains behind mountains behind mountains. The clouds so puffy and alive against the blue sky. I remember thinking, catch this moment.
I was feeling slightly nauseous and tying not to let “that” overshadow “this”. Nearing the end of our year long adventure I started to get a little lax during our week in Quito. We are in South America, the closet to home we have been all year. How bad could it be to brush my teeth with water from the faucet? I was sampling lots of exotic local fruits, eating and trying local juices. Well, now the day we are traveling to Loja my body is reminding me that we are in South America. The same precautions we took extreme care to follow and stay mindful of in Asia should apply here as well. Don’t drink the water, don’t brush your teeth with tap water, be careful about the water when eating out, ice cubes, juices that might have been made with tap water. Water, what an incredibly important and precious commodity that I used to take for granted. Not anymore, not after a year of bottled water and using a water purifier … all…the…..time. (And then there was the water use restrictions in Cape Town.) Bad water can really make you sick. After a week of feeling bad and then better and then really bad again, 2 rounds of antibiotics (which you can get from a pharmacist and don’t have to see a doctor), lots of rest, and super careful attention to food and water….finally, my body is properly functioning again.
So back to that cab ride, I was trying to stay focused on the beauty and let the views distract what my physical body was doing to impact my emotional state. We got to the top of the mountain, where we could see wind turbines, 11 of them that frame the mountain top. Then we headed down the other side of the mountain, for the city of Loja. Loja is know as the music and cultural capital of Ecuador. It sits at an elevation of 2,060 meters (6,758 feet) with a population of about 181,000. We made it to our airbnb apartment, were warmly welcomed by the host family, and settled in.
As I mentioned the first week was spent with full attention to the physical body, healing, and resting. I really had no other choice. It wasn’t until I was feeling better that we were able to really enjoy Loja. Again, another reminder for me of how my experiences are shaped by so many factors and health often overshadowing it all. We are saying on the southern edge of town, near a river with walking tails on both sides and in both directions.
We can walk to the grocery store and into town along the river or can go in the other direction to more remote areas. Even though this is a pretty sizable city there is abundant nature to explore. Trials that introduce you to various birds, cows, horses, dogs (tons of wild and pet dogs here), bamboo, gardens, and lots of other planets and flowers, particularly noticeable to me are the cala lilies and eucalyptus. I don’t think I have ever seen them growing wild. Often my sense of smell identifies them before my sense of sight.
The trails also include people of all ages meandering or running for exercise. Our walks include frequent brief exchanges; buenos días, buenas tardes, hola, cómo estás, bien y tú. A very pleasant and enjoyable experience. Where eucalyptus and cala lilies grow wild, a slow pace and a relaxed feeling.