An optional tour was offered today. Most of us opted for it. We traveled 1-½ hours out of town to Papallacta Hot Springs, crossing the Continental Divide. In this volcanic area hot springs bubbling out of the ground are pretty common and in Papallacta a restful day spa has been developed to allow the residents of Quito to come out for the day and unwind. But we had to earn our rest and relaxation. The bus took us to the top of a mountain flank and we spent two hours hiking back down to the spa, following a burbling spring. Our guide said that this area is lush with all manner of orchids, and this was true but disappointing nevertheless since you needed a microscope to see most of them. In the distance we could see the green pipeline which brings petroleum crude from the Amazon to the port of Guyaquil. Some oil is refined there, but Ecuador has to reimport most of the gas that is has exported as crude. Not a good deal.
On the steep green hillsides, cattle were grazing and we came across a group of llamas following their lead. Bulls are also raised here for the bullfight tradition Ecuador inherited from Spain. Quito used to have the largest, most popular bull ring in South America and the best matadors from Spain and Portugal would come over to perform. But animal rights activists have made some progress. They got a law passed which said that you could not kill the bull in front of people or drag it around the ring behind horses. Somehow this took the "fun" out of it and the European matadors stopped coming and the spectators have dwindled. Celso said that in twenty years bullfighting will truly be a thing of the past. Now they need to work on cockfighting.
The walk was a pleasure. All sorts of birds flitted about and we paused every so often to appreciate the wild flowers. Once we got to the spa, hiking clothes came off and swimming suits came on. There were many different pools at various temperatures. The one where the group gathered was 97º, too hot for me. When I complained, Celso suggested that I give the cold water pool a try. It was Lake-Michigan-in-May cold and I jumped out almost as soon as I got in. But it made the return to the hot one far more welcome. Finally I settled on 94º and sat back for a soak and to relish the mountain scenery all around. We had a delicious lunch of grilled trout. Refreshed and restored we are really to face the airport again too early tomorrow for the flight to the Galapagos. We've heard there will be no wifi there, but I did pretty well posting in the Amazon, so time will tell.