At about 8,360 feet above sea level, Otavalo, Ecuador is a town for the strong winded, literally. Kelsi and I arrived in Otavalo on Friday afternoon, after spending a bit of time in the capital city of Quito. After a three hour bus ride and a 20 minute taxi ride, we were not quite sure what to expect of the Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge.
Whatever our expectations were initially, they were quite quickly replaced with shock as we explored this gorgeous lodge where we would spend the next three days. I mean, first the smiling owner, Frank, greeted us at the front gates to the whole lodge. Along with him was Jose Maria, who would become our guide and master fire-builder for the duration of our stay.
As soon as we walked into the living room of our lodge we could hear the fireplace cracking and soft Andean Highland music on the stereo. Our kitchen was stocked with beverages, including Chilean red wine and purified water. Our bathroom was easily the size of my entire freshman dorm room. And then there was a guest room. In addition to our bedroom which had three beds in it...just in case we got bored with one? Basically we spent about the first 30 minutes exploring the lodge and wondering how we ended up in this magical place.
Nothing like a crackling fire to keep you warm!
Other side of our room. Note I am still taking pictures of the place while Kelsi has located the wine. We travel so well together.
Books, wine, and blankets - a good summary of our time spent indoors.
View from our front window looking down into the valley of Otavalo.
Awkward photo in front of our lodge.
The fabulous-ness continued with amazing three or four course (SO. MUCH. FOOD.) vegetarian meals for breakfast and dinner. As well as coffee and tea available all the time. Our meals were served in the main lodge by Paulina, Jose Maria's daugher, who was easily the most polite 8th grader I have met in my entire life.
One of the coolest things about Ali Shungu is that Frank and his wife Margaret created the Ali Shungu Foundation to assist and benefit the families of five small indigenous communities around Otavalo. Part of the proceeds from our stay will go to this foundation, which is doing great things in community, like starting up a computer center! Also, Frank and Margaret have been helping to send Paulina to one of the best school's in Otavalo, where she is fourth in her class. Pretty cool considering that her dad, Jose Maria, never attended a day of school in his life.
Looking up the path to the main lodge.
Flowers outside the lodge.
Garden Salad and the best fresh wheat bread of my entire life.
Stay tuned for more on Ecuador, including a post about the Otavalo Market (one of the largest in South America), horseback riding in the Andes, Quito, and a trip to Mitad del Mundo (the equator)!