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Whether 5 or 20 people come to a Super-Learning / Spanish seminar it’s still a close group. When there are 20 you have more people to share experiences with and outside of the classes as we eat the delicious meals or have a tea break we almost play musical chairs as we all move from one table to another on the outside patio at El Meson getting to know each other. When there are just 5 of us as there was during this last seminar we all get to know each other real well and as Mick commented, it goes beyond classmates and we start to form friendships.

This last class was a lot of fun for everyone …

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Happy Lunchtime – photo courtesy Jim Humphreys

and in fact one couple were returning to retake the course as they had so much enjoyed the course the previous summer. We visited Chachimbiro hot springs only to discover that where we normally go and experience tranquillity had been over-run by 3 busloads of Quito schoolchildren on a school outing. Ecuador has such variety that we were able to find another private hot spring just down the road and take a hot soak whilst looking out at amazing views of the Andes.

Another day we went out to Otavalo and enjoyed practising new found phrases with the local indigenous traders in the famous market. As we sat for lunch in a comfortable café with a 3rd floor view over the entire market and ate first rate food at third rate prices one guest commented that this was not at all how she had envisioned Ecuador to be .. “it’s so traditional yet not at all run down like some places I’ve seen – and most of all it’s clean!”.

From there Mick and Juliana left, Mick to travel the coast of Ecuador, and more guests arrived to take part on the Mystical Andes Property tour. What a hectic 10 days we had! At last count we saw 23 properties in 3 days and I feared I had exhausted everyone after the first day but nope; they were all up early and raring to go on day 2 and day 3 too. Here’s a few property photos;

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What a marvellous view! photo courtesy Jim Humphreys

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Country Villa on 3 acres! photo courtesy Jim Humphreys

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Fierce Guards (at the gate of the property below) photo courtesy Jim Humphreys

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Villa with a private chapel on one acre.

And then on to the Shaman Mingo or is that mingle? I ask that because in 3 days we visited and had ceremonies with 6 Yachaks, as shamans are known in the Andes. We visited small communities, travelled by boat across the sacred Cuicocha Crater Lake for an offering with a Taita Yachak who then performed a ritual bathing ceremony for all of us who were willing.

As he poured the chill lake waters over us and concluded we were encouraged to swim in the lake. I must say I detest the cold; must be something to do with living in wet damp England so much of my life, but I managed a quick dive under the surface and then an even quicker thrash back to the shore. How I ever jumped into the Bering Sea all those years back I just don’t know.

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Me and Yachak Jose Maria Montalvo performing a ritual cleansing bath.

One special occurrence worthy of a mention is that after one Yachak, who diagnosed by examining our urine samples in a candle flame, had diagnosed CO, he decided that CO had restricted circulation so he gave a neck massage using a special combination of medicinal oils. To the surprise of all and not least CO himself, his vision improved and sharpened afterwards. “I can see all the leaves on the trees” he happily reported. I must go there myself!

Apart from the tours and seminars a kind of communal hysteria overtook everyone – but in the nicest way. I know Gary has written in his newsletter and this blog of the cheap medical costs down in Ecuador but I really didn’t expect everyone to go nuts!

We must have had 6 or 7 people go to the dentist. CO had numerous fillings done, a cleaning and an entire new upper denture for $390 total price and was very happy with the fit. MG went to the dermatologist and had two moles removed from her face – she was very happy with the sutures.

Most surprising was that BP suddenly went AWOL from the first day of the property tour and underwent general anaesthetic to have a swollen vein removed from the whole length of his leg (when are you going to share with us about that!!) and then was in action immediately the next day – total cost including hospital bed, surgeon and medicines $1,500. I should point out you can probably have these procedures done much cheaper in Ecuador but these are the prices of the best physicians and dentists in northern Ecuador.

Finally, some sewn up, some with property contracts in hand, and all with a smile on their faces it was time to return back to Quito and return to the Land of the Eagle to the north.

Oh – forgot to mention that once again we saw the condors soar above us at Cuicocha. As I said, “..it’s almost as if the Yachak is calling them”, and as GP wryly observed “.. not almost Steve, he is!”.