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Off the Beaten Path

Joanne 2007-01-18
When traveling there are definitely the list of "must see" places, for example; you don't go to Italy and skip the Colosseum, or to Egypt without seeing the great pyramids because there might be a crowd. For us, there is a balance of the must sees and staying away from the "tourist traps". While an experience is not lessened in its authenticity just because many travelers visit a particular place, we feel traveling off the beaten path gives us the opportunity to experience an overall richer cultural experience.

Finding your way off the beaten path can prove to be a challenge at times.

When meeting other travelers more often than not they have taken the most traveled routes.

While our South American guide book offers suggestions to places less visited, it is also the same guide book that we see time and time again, in the hands of other travelers, hanging out of backpacks, in bookstores...

The richest cultural experiences for us thus far, have been entirely as a result of the incredible Latin American warm and welcoming hospitality.

Paul and I befriended the married couple who own our favorite Internet cafe in Quito, Pizza@net on the corner of Calama and 6 de Diciembre. For us the warm greetings we receive from Leonardo and Natalia each time we arrive makes us feel at home and warms our hearts. However, the welcoming did not stop there; we were invited to spend a weekend with them and their family in their hometown of Pintag, a small village of 15000 people 45 minutes southeast of Quito.

We can definitely see where Natalia and Leonardo get their hospitality from; their entire family welcomed us with hugs and kisses as if we had known each other for years, even though we had just met for the first time.

Not having family of our own nearby, being adopted into a family even for a weekend gives us a sense of belonging and makes us appreciate our own families even more than before.

Natalia's father Manuel, gave us a tour of Pintag, the place in which he was born and as he stated, where he will die. We learned of its rich history dating back to the time of the Inca´s, all the while getting a feel for living in a small village where Manuel seemed to know everyone we passed.

The following day we got the privilege of experiencing raw untouched nature in an ecological reserve which houses the majestic Antisana mountain. Normally there are no tourists who visit Antisana as there is a greater desire to preserve its natural wildlife than have it change drastically, as is the fate for all heavily visited tourist sites.

We were only permitted to enter because a friend of Manuel's is the administrator of the reserve, and did him a favor and guided us through its back country.

Photo: Approach to Antisana (2007/01/14 10:25)
Photo: Antisana countryside (2007/01/14 10:26)
Photo: Wild horses (2007/01/14 09:16)
Photo: Llamas (2007/01/14 09:42)
Photo: Climbing to the glacier (2007/01/14 11:09)
Photo: Joanne high on altitude (2007/01/14 12:10)
Photo: PoJo on the glacier (2007/01/14 11:42)
Photo: Antisana (2007/01/14 12:14)

Want more photos? See the whole Antisana photo set on flickr or see it as a slideshow

Being able to explore uncharted territory, we got to see a rare sight of beautiful strong unsaddled wild horses roaming freely, breathtaking!

We entered the reserve and started climbing in a 4x4 truck. Our first off-roading experience for both Paul and I! Not knowing the limits of what a 4x4 can handle, I kept thinking the terrain would leave us no choice but to get out and walk, but the truck forged on. Eventually it met its match, and we did make our way on foot to the base of Antisana's glacier.

It was amazing to have so many of our senses tantalized at once. Our eyes feasting on the incredible contrast of colors and epic scenery, drinking the sparkling blue fresh cold water as it ran down the glacier, smelling the brisk clean mountain air, all in perfect silence. Ahhh!

While Pintag may not show up in many traveling guidebooks, for us it has definitely become a "must see" should we ever return to Quito.