A Travellerspoint blog

Nights buses, Soles, and finally making some ground South!!!

Mancora, Trujillo, Pisco

sunny 27 °C
View Map 2 - 18 Huacachina to Arequipa & Map 2 - 17 Vilcabamba to Ica on krystalmat's travel map.

Tuesday the 9th of December

Matts turn

After waving our goodbyes to Vilcabamba we hopped on a bus out of there and made our made to Loja for our night bus into Peru. There were 4 of us in total as a couple of Canadian girls wanted to do the same journey so we thought the more the better.

After a couple hours of roller coaster like driving we hit the border, exited the bus and walked our way from Ecuador to Peru. Was a really easy border crossing (surprising due to the relationship between the 2 Countries) and we were back on the bus within 30 minutes. You could really tell the difference almost immediately by the way the terrain change that we had changed destinations which was a but of a relief to us as we were able to get a few hours sleep. We arrived into Piura about 7am and headed onto another bus terminal for another 4 hour journey.

Finally we made it to our next destination, the relaxed beach town of Mancora. We decided that we had not got enough relaxation out of Vilcabamba so a few days on the beach was required. We arrived about lunchtime and headed to a recommended hostel (the loudest hostel in the world) dumped our stuff and made way for the beach for the rest of the day. Relaxed on the beach and watched the sinset then headed for some dinner before calling it a night.

Wednesday the 10th of December

After a nightclubs like sleep we made our way out of bed and ready for a big day! We found somewhere for breakfast before making our way to the beach where we spent the rest of our time on this sunner Wednesday the 10th of December. The onlt time we really stopped was for lunch when we sampled one of Peru´s speciality dishes Ceviche (raw fish with lime juice) which I enjoyed but Krystal due to the knowledge of what it was, was not that keen on the idea. Went for a walk along the beach, had some dinner, got a little drunk and went to sleep (in the nightclub) for a great days relaxing.

Thursday the 11th of December

Woke up this morning with much the same idea as the day before except for one minor change. I was the only one on the beach as Krystal turned from her natural colour to a red like shade due to the lack of protection and wishful thinking that her body would tan overnight. The problem is she forgot that prior to South America she had been living in London for a year where the chances of tanning are very few and far between! After a few more hours on the beach and created some birthday cards, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!!

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we collected our stuff from the hostel and made our way to the bus termianl for another night bus to Trujillo.

Friday the 12th of December

Another shitty nights sleep (well for me anyhow, Krystal is like a log) and we were in Trujillo about 6am. We found a place to stay pretty quickly and checked into our room at 7am. None of this 2pm crap like home it great! We caught a few hours sleep before heading out for a walk around town and a bus scout for our next leg South. After finding a decent price for our next days journey we booked on an afternoon tour that took us out of the city Trujillo and around some pretty interesting sites. First of all we stopped off a temple made out od mudbrick that was rediscovered in the 16th century (i think) as it was buried with sand and dust during the conflicts through times. Was pretty interesting and reminded us very much of the Middle East. After that we headed to a small musuem and then onto another site that had been buried in its past before being rediscovered call Chan Chan. This place was actually an entire city about 5km west of Trujillo built sometime in the 13th centruy AD. After the Inca conquered and region in the 15th century it was abandoned but was not looted until the Spanish entered in the years to come. This place was really cool and was amazing to see a complete city being dug up and the structures and methods used back 800 odd years ago.

From Chan Chan we headed to a little fishing village called Huanchaco. This tiny place is where the locals still practise the ancient methos of totora (reed) boats fishing and will surf out on their cigar shaped boards and bring back their catch of the day. It was a cool little town and a great place to relax for a couple of hours. From here we headed back to Trujillo to finish up our tour and head back to our hostel. We decided that chinese was on the menu tonight and Lonely Planet suggested a place only a couple of blocks from where we were so we headed on down there for a quick dinner. I thought this place should get a mention as when we entered we were taken to our table which was completely sealed off to anyone else in the place. Think of an emergency room in a hospital room and thats how every table was. You were completely sealed off from anyone. Very random. Food was ok though and we ate then headed back to our hotel and slept knowing another big bus day was ahead of us!

Saturday the 13th of Decmber

Up nice and early and onto another bus for our 10 hour journey to Lima. I can´t write anything more about this other than is was boring and all we looked at for 9 hours was flat desert beofre we thrilled with some pretty cool terrain for the last hour coming into Lima. Once in Lima we headed to another bus terminal and got on another bus for 4 hours to Pisco. Made it to Pisco about 12am and to our amazement there was a travel agent still open! We headed straight in and managed to book our next days tour to Islas Ballestas and Reserva Nacional De Paracas whichwas very handy indeed! Also got a free walk from the operater to our hostel and we crashed into bed about 1am knowing we had to be up in a few hours for our tour to begin!!!

Sunday the 14th of December

Up at 6am feeling like we hadn´t really slept we checked out of the hostel and wandered back to the travel agent for our tour to begin. One thing we didn´t realise about Pisco was that in August 2007 an earthquake measuring officially 7.9 and unofficially 8.3 tore though this town! 80% of the place was destroyed and many lives were lost. You could really see the damage that it had caused to the city and also the amount of work that they had ahead of them to get back to where they were.

We headed out of town and drove about 30km South West to a small dock where we boarded a speed boat and began our journey on the Pacific. After 20 minutes or so we slowed to a putter and were amazed at the birdlife that was happening above our heads. 2 minutes later we were gob smacked by the number of birds that were both on ground and above ground and all over the bloody place. It was amazing! They call the Islas Ballestas the poor mans Galapagos but I can tell you it was fine for us. PLus the fact that this tour cost us $20 and Galapagos would have cost us $1800! You do the maths! I did a quick count and I reckon i got somewhere around the 950,000 mark before i gave up! Other than birdlife there was thousands of Sea Lion and Pengiuns all relaxing on the shores of this little gold mine they had come across.

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After many pics we headed back to shore and hopped back on the bus for our next stop to Reserva Nacional De Paracas. We were taken to a number of view points around the area and also shown where the earthquake had caused some serious environmental damage (cracks were gigantic) before stopping at a little fishing village for lunch and some more raw fish for your truly.

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From here we headed back to Pisca, picked up our gear and hopped on a bus for a quick 1 hour journey to Huacachina. This is our home for tonight where we plan to go sandboarding tomorrow on and massive sandunes that surround the place. They are 100´s of metres high its amazing! Also must mention that we went to a pizza place for dinner (trying all the local food) and on the manu they had a pizza for 100 soles! Thats 50AUD! You can buy a damn car for that overhere! Anyhow thats where we are at now. Sitting in the internet cafe, drinking a cervesa (beer) and typing this for all you guys back home.

Hope all if well and a big shout out to Kev (Dad) for his birthday in a couple days time!

Take care all

M and K
xx

Posted by krystalmat 18:01 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Paradise does exist!

Banos, Riobamba, Cuenca, Vilcabamba ECUADOR

semi-overcast 28 °C
View Map 2 - 16 Banos to Vilcabamba & Map 2 - 17 Vilcabamba to Ica on krystalmat's travel map.

- Krystal typing -

Tuesday the 2nd of December

Today was not the most exciting day of our trip, we woke up, did our laundry, got our blog up to date again and then grabbed a bus around lunch time 1 hour south to the place of the devil´s nose train Riobamba! Now for those of you back home, the devil´s nose train is famous because you actually get to sit on the train´s roof as it travels along an old train route that is no longer used - except for 3 times aweek when they load it with tourists to make some cash! We grabbed our tickets for the following day and then wandered about town before having some chinese (gave the "chicken internal organ soup " a miss) and called it a night, ready for our early get up the next morning.

Wednesday the 3rd of December

We were up at 5am, breakie at 5:30am and on the train of the roof just before 6am. The best thing we did was grab our tickets the day before, as the ticket office doesnt open til 6am and by that time all the seats on the roof of the two trains were taken - whick kind of defeats the purpose of taking the train!

Our train, which was a single cariage with its own engine took off first and we were away! Was quite a strange feeling riding on the roof, but wasn´t scary at all as the train moves pretty slow and there are metal bars to stop you falling off the edge. We travelled along for the next 2 and half hours taking in the beautiful scenery and trying not to freeze before we arrived at a stop to pick up some more travellers before taking off again to travel along the Devil´s nose! The devil´s nose itself is a mountain that rises out of a vallely and I guess kind of looks like a nose? We travellled down the nose zig zagging back and forth before reaching the end point at the bottom.

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We were meant to get off the roof and swap with the people inside the train, but not everyone wanted to get back on so we managed to score a lift back up the devil´s nose on the roof again. Once back at the last passanger stop we were greeted by about 30 of the travellers from the other train all egar to jump on our train. As it turns out the Devil´s nose train is notorious for cancellations, de-railings and break downs. The other train had broken down about 30 minutes into their journey and everyone had been bussed down to the last passenger stop - missing out of the 2 and half hour journey. We both agreed that that journey was much better than the Devil´s nose itself so we were quite lucky!

We caught a bus back up to the town of Riobamba and sat in a bar for the next 4 hours with a bristish/canadian couple we had just met. We ended up having dinner with them also before hitting the hay, tired from our early get up.

Thursday the 4th of December

Today was again not going to be the most exciting as we wanted to finally get some kilometres under our belt and head south to Cuenca. The bus trip was 6 hours long, the scenery was really nice but a 6 hour bus trip is a 6 hour bus trip!

The most eventful thing of the day was about 2 hours into our trip we stopped at a random town and about 10 woman were standing beside the road with a huge stack of really big baskets and crates. The ticket guy on the bus climbed over the seats in front of us and onto the roof to hoist all there luggage up. We started to hear these strange noises and soon realised all their baskets and crates were full of live guinea pig! Was pretty amusing to watch, but we felt a little sorry for them!

Another 4 hours later we arrive in Cuenca, which is Ecuador´s 3rd largest city. We are not massive city fans but were both impressed with Ceunca, it was much nicer than Quito and felt a hell of a lot safer. It had at lot of colonial architecture which made the city look quite pretty. We wandered around for abit, up the river and around town before having a massive fead and heading back to our room to watch some english telly, yay!

Friday the 5th of December

Today was again going to be another day of heading south, which we were over due on doing since we had spent so much time in central Ecuador. We grabbed a bus headed for the town of Loha at about 11am and arrived 5 hours later. While on the bus we wittnessed an american getting robbed! Matt and I were sitting at the back of the bus as our luggage had been placed at the back underneath and from where we were seated we could keep a good eye on our stuff everytime we stopped. Anyway, from the back of the bus we could see these two dodgy blocks moving about changing seats every now and again. One of them was seated at the back of the bus with us, and the other moved up to be seated behind the american couple. He reached up and grabbed a back pack from the railing above. We were pretty suspesious of them so we were watching pretty intensively. He fiddled around, grabbed something, put it into his bum bag before putting the pack back up top and standing up to stop the bus to get off. His mate at the back stood up also, I guess to try and block the door way just incase someone had noticed what was going on. We stayed seated until they got off as we didnt want to risk getting hurt over someone´s stuff that who we didnt even know. Matt got up and quickly worded up the couple about what had happened. Turns out they only got an Ipod nicked so guess they were lucky it wasnt anything else!

We arrived in Loha mid arvo, waited around a little for a bus to Vilcabamba and arrived by dark. An american girl we had met while in Quito had raved about this town and a particular hostel so we decided thats where we were headed! It was pretty dark, we couldnt see much so headed straight to the hostel bar where we spent the next couple of hours.

Saturday the 6th of December

We woke feelings quite good suprisingly after the night at the bar, headed down to the main building and were absoultely gob smacked by what were saw. The view overlooking Vilcabamba was amazing, we were looking out into a valley with lush green mountains rising hundreds and hundreds of metres high 360 degrees around. We sat down for breakie in ore, it was beautiful.

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After that we headed over to the massage building, for our massages we had booked the night before. I should say this place we are staying at is more like a resort rather than a hostel, but priced as a hostel! Anyway we headed over for our 1 and half hour full body massage (18 bucks thank you!) which was heaven on a stick!

After feeling so relaxed our eyes were nearly rolling into the backs of our heads, we headed back to the terrace with the amazing view and sat and played cards for a few hours. Then headed back down to the bar area where we sat in hammeks and watched a movie in the open air.

It was a very relaxing day, but I´m pretty sure that is what Vilcabamba is all about. After dinner we were back down at the bar, played a few games of pool and table tennis and had a few drinks.

Sunday the 7th of December

This morning we decided we better actually see some of the surronding area and not just spend our whole day relaxing, so we set off on a 5 hour hike. We walked up a steady incline for the first 1 and a half which wasn´t too difficult before arriving at the peak of one of the mountains. From there we continued along a ridge linking two mountains together, and I can say this with out doubt, it was some of the best views I have ever seen!

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Our thoughts of Vilcabamba

After that it was pretty much down hilll from there, sounds quite easy but isnt actually when there is about 20 different paths and you don´t know which one to take! We had a map with us that had a little spill about the walk. The sheet said after reaching the highest point the main aim is to get down into the valley where there is a dried up river bed, and you pretty much follow that the whole way back to the road. So we took a path that looked like it led that one, but all of the sudden it turned into a dead end. So we ended up bush bashing our way to the river bed (we were quite lucky as we didnt think about snakes at the time). Once we got down there we had a 3m vertical section we needed to get down to get to the actual bed. There were rocks so we managed to climb done. And once there we could stress less, we were back on the main route!

While we were off the track it wasn´t too bad as Vilcabamba is low enough in altitude for a more jungle type vegetation but high enough to cut at a the bug factor!

We made it back to the resort all dirty with mud and cuts and scratches from our bush bashing, had a shower and then went to the main terrace to relax once again! I fell asleep in a hammek, think we may have to invest in one of these when we get back!

After some yummy dinner we were back at the bar again (you charge everything to your room and the bar man actually knows our room number off by heart thanks to Matt!). They owners set up a cool little bonfire and put on cheap rum and cola drinks, which Matt took full advantage of!

Monday the 8th of December

Woke up sad this morning as we are planning to leave tonight to get a night bus to Peru. The last couple of days have been great. For anyone coming to Ecuador Vilcabamba is a must!

Apart from the scenery, the town it known as the Valley of Longevity as it is not uncommon for the locals to live til 100, many to 120 and even up to 135 years of age! Many sciencists have come to study the diet and lifestyle of the locals to see if this is a factor on their ability to live so long but have not been able to prove why. Some claim that the locals have a tendency to exaggerate their age, and this is difficult to verify because of the lack of a proper birth certificates. Some other researches have said that the retinas of 100 year-old residents are often comparable with those of 45 year-old city-dwellers.

Others have said that since the town has it´s own spring there is extra minerals in the water that that are particularly healthy.

Anyway after some more relaxing in a hammek this arvo we will be saying our goodbyes to Ecuador and heading to Peru. Two weeks until we see my parents and monique!

Posted by krystalmat 09:07 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, we will sleep tonight

Ecuador - Banos, Tena

semi-overcast 26 °C
View Map 2 - 16 Banos to Vilcabamba & Map 2 - 15 Banos Jungle to Banos on krystalmat's travel map.

Wednesday the 26th of November

Matt online

We checked into a neat hostel that Sarah recommended to us (also in LP) last night, had a great shower (first one in 4 days really) and then hit the hay to refresh after the Quilotoa Loop. Woke up this morning feeling great and headed up to the rooftop of our hostel as they have a cafe/bar up there for guests to have breakfast and drinks at.

After a great feed we thought today should really be a catch up and sort out stuff day. So we emptied out the backpacks, filled up the laundry bags, and headed out in search for an internet cafe to update the blog (last entry that Krystal did). We managed to sit on the computer for about 3 hours as we had plenty of pics to back up, facebook photo´s we wanted to add plus other bits and pieces. Once our eyes turned square we left the cafe and went for a wonder around town.

Banos is a great little chill out place which is exactly what we were really after. Here you can really do any adventure activity that you wish. Rafting, quad bikes, dune buggies, bridge jumps, mountain biking, trekking, just to name a few of them. We locked in a mountain biking day for tomorrow to we could explore some of the surrounding scenery. Banos is situated about 2 hours South of Quito and is located nice and close to the highly active Volcan Tungaruhua. In 1999 the town was evacuated due to scientists putting the volcanoe on red alert. The town turned into a ghost like village until December 2000 when the local forced their way back into thier rightful homes after no sign of any eruption. In 2002 it was demoted to orange alert and tourism flocked back into the this great little town stuck in the bottom of the mountains.

Anyhow back to us. After our little city tour we headed back to the hostel and I went upstairs to have a beer in the sun and met a couple of guys who were orginally from Melbourne but now live in Canberra. Krystal joined us a little while later for some drinks and after a while we all headed out for some dinner in town and had a couple more beers before calling it a night.

Thursday the 27th of November.

Woke up ready and rearing to go for our nighty bike ride along the winding roads out of Banos! Had another great breakfast on the rooftop and then headed downstairs to pick up our bikes for the day. There is so much competition around here within the local and their tour companies it is so easy to get what you want quickly and cheap! Once we chose our bikes we were given our map and off we went. Ok I have to be honest and say that this bike ride really is not what I sound like I am talking it up to be. Its 22kms in total and 90% of it is downhill, so not really a Tour De France stage. There was one hairy moment though when you had to pass through a tunnel that was approx 400m in length and the only light in the one at the end of the tunnel. Oh and if a bus or truck or car comes up behind you! You try and stick to the edge of the road as much as possible but without having any idea where the edge is its all a little hairy. We managed to get through unscaved through and continued our journey enjoying the beautiful scenery on offer. Along the way we stopped 3-4 times and chained up the bikes for a walk into the mountains to view some waterfalls and so forth until reaching our final stop for some lunch. After lunch we went for a walk to the biggest waterfall and then had to hang around for a lift back to Banos. As you would gather the way back is UPhill so you just pay someone $1.50 and they will take you and your bike back to town.

Once we got back to Banos we dropped off the bikes and then changed into our boardies and head to the thermal springs for some relaxation. We were pre warned that the best time to go is 6pm as they close the springs for cleaning between 5 and 6 ) apparently in smells like urine so they give it a clean up which is handy to know. We hung around there for an hour or so and tested out the different baths and their temperatures which ranged from around 43 degrees to 20 degrees. Headed back, had a shower, grabbed some dinner and called it a night.

Friday the 28th of November

Due to our love of Ecuador we had to change our plans a little and cut out our Jungle trip in Peru that we had planned to do in December. Reason being was that it was going to take up a couple of weeks of our time and we really wanted to spend some more time in Ecuador than we had originally planned. So we decided that we would do our jungle tour here in Ecuador.

We got up and checked out of our hostel and headed to the bus terminal to see what time we could get ourselves to Tena. As we have now quickly realised you don´t have to wait too long to get where you want to on a bus as the competition is so competitive within the companies there is always a bus running within an hour of when you want to go. We hoppe don a 1pm bus and began our 4 hour journey into the Amazon Basin.

After a bumpy 4 hours ( about a quarter of the road is unpaved) we arrived into Tena, hopped off the bus and BAM! The humidity was unbelievable! It was amazing the difference between where we came from and where we are now. After collected our stuff and ourselves we headed to a hostel dropped off our stuff and went jungle tour hunting. While in Lagua Quilatoa an American couple gave us the name of the company they went with and were happy with so we found them to see what they had on offer. Their tour sounded good but the day still had some life left in it so we went to another 3-4 companies to see what else we could find. After a hour or two we returned to our original operator, haggled a little and got them to where we wanted. USD100 per person everything included for 3 days and 2 nights in the jungle. Also we new there was another 2 people doing the tour where as the others would only be us so the company would be good also.

Grabbed some dinner then got ourselves ready for the trip and hopped into bed ready for......well I don´t really know as I have never been in a jungle!

Saturday the 29th of November

Our tour begun at 9am so we headed over with our gear and met the other 2 people who we were sharing the Jungle with before getting into the back to a ute and heading out of town. The 2 others were an American mother, daughter team from California and they were good company and easy to get along with.

After 30 minutes or so in the ute we hopped out and headed into the Amazon with our local guide. As like most guides with one had very basic English but the younger of the other spoke Spanish so she helped us along the way when he had something important to say or show us. After walking for a while through the jungle we stopped at a lagoon which was a great swimming spot with waterfalls and deep clearish water that we could enjoy. We put on the shorts and then next thing I hear from our guide is ¨Snake¨! I look in the water and there right before my eyes is about a 1 metre long black water snake! It was trying to swim against the current but wasn´t strong enough and ended up sailing down a couple of waterfalls to the bottom of the River Napo. Now I am really concerned about what I have gotten myself into and think to myself harden up (as best I could, I hate the things) so in we all went for a great cool off and relaxing dip for an hour or so.

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Once satisfied we dried off and walked again through the jungle with our guide showing us numerous plants and flowers along the way and what importance they had in the jungle before arriving at the bank of a river that was flowing pretty quickly. We had to get across somehow and they only was was by rubber tube. We packed our daypacks (that included everything important to use, passports, cameras, cash, etc) into a plastic bag and flopped into a tube hoping we would not end up in the river! A few bumped and crashes later and we were across the other side and back on dry land. We walked another 45 minutes in the jungle before finally getting to our lodge and being granted with some lunch. They served us fresh fish caught straight from the river, rice and salad, which was great and set the standard for the entire time in our lodge. Basic utilities, basic food, but so tasty! After lunch one of the local Quichuan ladies gave us a lesson on how to make the bracelets they sell at the local markets. We all sat there and were given a different one each to make and I can safely say I sucked at it! She had to sit with me the entire time and help me through it until finally giving up on me and making it for me instead. I still stand to this day and say its a female thing to make bracelets!!!

After that we had some dinner played some cards then rugged up, sprayed up, and got into bed and listened to the storm that came thundering down.

Sunday the 30th of November

After a surprisingly good nights sleep out here and not to badly attacked by our insect friends we were up refreshed and ready for our next day in the Amazon. We had some breakfast which was scrambled salt with some eggs in it (seriously this was the saltiest thing I have ever tasted. Actually Mitto you made a risotto in London that was worse :) ) then headed out with our new guide for a days walking in the jungle to visit some waterfalls and so forth. For the next 8 hours (should have only been 5-6 but the older American lady was in all sorts) we wondered through the jungle and walked up rivers, over logs, up logs, down logs, uphill, downhill, until finally making it back to our lodge about 5pm! Our guide showed us again all different kinds or flora and fauna that ranged from medical remedies to tribal rituals etc etc. As you can see from our faces we were his guinea pigs!

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Once back we jumped in the river (our form of shower really) then repeated the process of the previous night with dinner cards and bed. While waiting for our dinner to be made we gave the Quichuan lady and her two little boys their first experience of Vegemite! I can tell you it was a once only experience for them!!!

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Monday the 1st of December

Its xmas this month!!! I thought I better write that cause I know how excited Krystal gets about Christmas. Didn´t have as much luck with our insect friends as the night before and we both woke up with some bites here and there but nothing to bad really. We packed up our gear and headed for some breakfast (this time eggs with a little bit of salt) before walking back into civilization and being picked up by a ute. We drove for around 30 minutes until we stopped off at the riverbank and hopped into a motorized canoe that would be our form or transport for the day. We drove along the river for 15 minutes or so until we stopped off at a small village that also had a local museum about old Quichuan ways of hunting and traditions. It was pretty interesting to see the things they would build and design to live with only the things on offer unlike the world today that is all about production. Also we were shown some lovely creatures (dead in jars) that the jungle two I will mention is a snake that will kill you in about 20 seconds if you get bitten and also a beatle that was the size of a computer mouse! Happy not to have bumped into either of there fellas. Got demolished by mozzies here (had ot happen really) before heading back out on the river to our next destination.

After another 20 minutes on the water we stopped off at a small animal shelter / zoo that held animals that have been taken from the wild by poachers or people in general and was run by volunteers. This place was really cool and one of the volunteers took us around the site and showed us all kinds of animals that should belong in the wild but for one reason or another need to be taught the way of living again. The animals we saw included numerous monkeys, toucans, parrots, turtles, rodents, and some others that don´t come to mind. Was really great to see this place and the set up is fantastic as these creatures would not survive if not for this place and its volunteers.

We hopped back in the canoe and stopped off for some lunch on the river bank before getting back in one more time for our trip back to where we begun. From here we took a local bus back to Tena and finishing up our jungle experience. We waved our goodbyes and headed straight to the bus terminal to catch the next available back to Banos. Got the 6pm bus, arrived back at 9:30, grabbed a hostel and hit the hay.

Planning on being here only one day and will then head to Riobamba to get the Devils Nose train hopfully on Wednesday morning.

Bye for now! See you soon Sharon, Ted and Mon

M and K

xx

Posted by krystalmat 06:33 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

A land in the clouds

Latacunga, Zumbahua, Laguna Quilotoa, Chugchilan, Sigchos, Latacunga, Banos ECUADOR

overcast 24 °C
View Map 2 - 15 Banos Jungle to Banos & Map 2 - 14 Latacunga to Banos on krystalmat's travel map.

- Krystal Typing -

Hi ppls, just so you know, we´ve updated photos and maps for our last few entries if you want to scroll down and check them out.

Saturday the 22nd of November

After pumping out 11 hours sleep I managed to knock my head cold on the head! We were up early ready to go! We booked a private cheap hostel room for the three of us to dump all our luggage in so that we could travel lightly over the next couple of days while doing the Quilotoa Loop.

For those of you back home, Lonely Planet describes the loop as an unpaved road that begins and ends in Latacunga, and supposively winds through some of the most spectacular high Andean scenery in Ecuador.

We jumped on a local bus headed for our first destination, Zumbahua. Two hours later we were there, having seen some beautfil scenery on the way and having been driven on some pretty dodgy roads! The town itself was quite small, population of say 2000 people? It was nested in a valley with awesome huge green mountains rising 360 degrees around it. Most of the mountains looked like bits of patch work, they use such steep slops for crops. We headed into the main part of town, and luckily for us it was market day. We managed to get an awesome hostel, awesome for one reason only, it had a balcony that over looked the market, other than that it was pretty basic, but it was a bed!

After wandering through the market, we soon realised that this is pretty much their way of shopping. They don´t have normal shops let alone any supremarkets, they get everything they need from the market on market day. It was pretty interesting to wander around, it was like stepping back in time a little, at one end you had the cafe part I suppose, a meat section, fruit and veg and clothing section.

One thing we´ve noticed is as you head out into the country, out of the big cities, the people dress more traditionally, like they have for the past 50 years or so.

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After wandering around there wasn´t much else to do so we headed back to our hostel for some people watching from our balcony. It was a pretty good afternoon just sitting and watching them, we had some drinks and played some cards aswell. We got a chance to take some really good photos aswell. We watched until the market ended, it was pretty entertaining! When it was all over they swept the rubbish up into little piles and set them alight!

I don´t think I´ve ever seen so many kids before in my life! I read that by 2028 they are predicting the population of Ecuador to double! Kids everywhere!

Sunday the 23rd of November

While we were eating breakie a pick up truck drove past asking did we want a lift to Laguna Quilotoa, which was our next destination. Perfect we thought, saves us waiting around for hours for the once a day bus. Standing in the back of the ute/truck for the next 45 minutes was great. We drove through unbelieveable scenery, the green patch work mountains went on forever.

We arrived in Laguna Quilotoa nice and early, managed to get a place to stay with a local family who run hostal type accomodation that includes dinner and breakfast since the town had pretty much nothing to offer besides th laguna.

The reason for our visit to Laguna Quilotoa (also what the loop is named after), was solely to see the lake that sits within an old volcanic crater. The view over this lake was breath taking, we were impressed! The lake was formed about 800 years ago when the volcano collapsed after a huge eruption.

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We heard that the was a path that runs around the lake that you can follow, so we decided to do that. It wasn´t until we were half way down to the water that we realised we were actually on a path down to the lake! We didn´t mind though as it was good to have views from down low aswell. We stopped for awhile, dipped our fingers in the water before heading back up to the top. Was such a hard slog to get back up the top!

We sat at the top, made some tuna rolls before deciding we´d find the right path around the lake. We found out that the path actually runs along the cliff tops of the old volcanco, but we decided to give it ago anyway, even though it was 1:30 in the afternoon.

The walk started out really easy, it was a wide, flattish path, views of the crater lake on one side, and on the other views down into a valley before more green patch work mountains rose into the clouds. We thought how easy and good is this!? Little did we know!

As you can tell from the photo their are quite a few peaks to be climbed! The path got quite narrow and hard to find sometimes. As time passed the clouds started to set in and our view on either side of the path disappeared! After a few hours it started to get dark and we started to get quite concerned! We were abosultely wrecked but had to push on without stopping so that we made it back before sun set.

Well, the had set and we were still going! but we could see the finish hut in the distance. It was dusk by the time we made it back, and within 5 minutes it was pitch dark. We were very lucky! We´d underestimated how hard and long the hike would be. Hardest thing the both of us have ever done!

As we past the hut we walked past a sign that said the bottom of the lake was 2800m about sea level, the highest peak was 3800m, and the hike was 12km long! We´d been walking for 8 hours in total, and had gone down 1km and back up again, not to mention all the peaks in between!

We got back to our hostel and we were wrecked! Matt didn´t make it out for dinner and instead was talking to the white telephone, think the altitude got to him a little - or maybe I´m just fitter! :P

Looking back though, we´re glad we did it as it had some amazing views.

Monday the 24th of November

Suprisingly we woke up feeling pretty good! Had our home made breakie before heading off to the next town. Again the once a day bus wasn´t until the afternoon so we decided to start walking. An hour in and another pick up truck drove past asking did we want a lift (not a bad way for them to make a couple of extra dollars). We jumped in the back of the ute/truck again and made it to Chugchilan.

We relaxed in the hammecks and had some lunch before heading out to check out the cloud forest, which literally is a forest in the clouds. We walked for about 2 hours and just started to enter it as a pack of dogs came running up the path chasing us! They werent the nicest looking, and we decided that they could keep their rabies, so we turned around and slowly walked away hoping they´d stop!

Another 2 hours later we were back at the hostel as drowned rats! We just relaxed and played cards before having dinner and calling it a night.

Tuesday the 25th of November

Now to get to the next town is abit of a pain in the butt, the only bus leaves at 3am in the morning! We´d head you could hitch a ride with the daily milk truck at a nicer hour of about 9am so we decided to give that ago. While waiting for the truck the two cutest kids stopped to have a chat with us, although we couldn´t understand the majority of what they were saying!

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The milk truck arrived, and to our suprise it was a ute/truck again with two big barrels of milk. People stand at the side of the road and either sell their milk to the truck or buy milk from the truck. A guy on top with us just uses a jug to pour the milk into their own pots and containers. Was quite an experience driving along the rural farm roads towards the next town. Quite a few locals also jump on to get into town aswell. At one stage we had 11 adults (including us), 2 kids, 2 barrels of milk, 1 gas cylinder and about a dozen crates on top with us! plus 2 guys in the front!!! and again the scenery was awesome!

We made it to Sigchos, and had to hang around for a few hours for the once a day bus back to Latacunga. Weren´t as lucky today as the only pick up truck that offered to drive us wanted to charge 40 dollars! So we hung around, watching the school kids play soccer until the bus arrived. Once back in Latacunga we grabbed the rest of our luggage and said our good byes to Sarah, we plan to catch up with her in Rio for carnival though.

We jumped on a bus, for the first time by ourselves, our spanish is improving! We even managed to change over busses half way as their was no direct bus to Banos. We arrived in Banos at about 8pm, it was lateish but we were glad we were able to get all the travelling done in one day.

Posted by krystalmat 07:59 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Volcanoes, altitude, and Meriendas

Quito, Latacunga - Ecuador

overcast 15 °C

Tuesday the 18th of November

Matt typing

After getting ourselves sorted with our blog we headed out into the new town area of Quito. Quito as a city as two main areas, one being the new Town, and the other being the old town. After wondering around and quickly realising that we really should have learnt some more Spanish we headed into the National Musuem (Museo del Banco Central) and got some history on Ecuador as a Country and looked at some pretty cool pottery and art. Once satisfied with our history lesson we wondered around the streets some more before the skies opened and it poured down! Within 5 minutes the streets were flooded and within another 10 it was all over. We thankfully found a nice little cafe to cover ourselves from it. Once safe we wondered back to the hostel to relax a little before heading out for a drink. We sat down at a little bar and within 2 minutes an English lady approached us and asked us if we would mind if two of her students who were learning English could sit with us to practise. We were all for it as we also needed the practise the other way round so the four of us sat together and chatted away for an hour or so bofore finishing up. One of the guys gave us his details as he wanted to show us around his home town in a couple of days time (will discuss it later). From there we headed out for some dinner then Krystal headed back to the hostel and I went out for a few drinks with some of the people form our hostel.

Wednesday the 19th of November

With the new town complete we decided today was going to be set aside for the Old Town. We had some breaky at the hostel then wondered through the New Town before we made it into the OT. You could really get a sense of change within the two places and I think I enjoyed the Old Town a lot more right from the beginning. Our first stop was the Basilica were we climbed the clock tower for some awesome views of both the regions of the city. Getting to the top of this was quite the adventure as the church itself is actually unfinished. First you had to walk across a wooded bridge inside the roof of the church before climbing up 3 steep steep ladders before finally reaching your final destination! The effort was worth it as yuou really got to see the actual size of this place.

From the Basilica we headed to another church (La Compania de Jesus) that had some 7 tonnes of gold inside it! Was pretty cool to walk around and see the difference from a lot of the churches that I had seen through Europe. Continued walking around the old town and visited the Ipiales street market before slowelt making our way back to our Hostel which is in the NT of Quito. On the way back we thought it would be a good idea to have an early dinner as tonight at the hostel we are at they have free Rum and coke night! Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night the hostel puts 12 litres of Rum and Coke on the table for all the guests. So we had to make sure we were back in time for that which starts around 7pm. We found a little restruant that serves a Ecuadorian meal called Meriendas- Its a set meals that starts with a bowl of soup then a plate of rice, beans, and either chicken of meat. Usually costs around 2 dollars for the lot. So with a full belly we headed back and enjoyed the drinks of offer, played some cards, chatted to some others and headed to bed pretty full of free Rum.

Thursday the 20th of November

An early wake up this morning and due to the evening before it was also a slow one! We were up and checked out of the hostel by 7:30am as we had to get back to the cafe where we met the two guys learning their English. One of them was kind enough to offer to pick us up and take us for some sight seeing. It worked well for him as he drops his daughter into Quito for school each morning plus he also got to practise his English on us so a win win I guess. We headed out or Quito and our first stop was at the Rululahua with is a massive ancient volcanic crater which is now used for locals to farm and live. The views were awesome and and landscape was something I have never seen before. The mountains around the place are 1000´s and 1000´s of metres high and you could feel it while walking in the breaths that you take. From there we headed to a tiny city called Mitad Del Mundo (middle of the world) where there is a monument right on the middle of the Equator. So you can stand on the Northern and the Southern at the same time and have a tourist photo.

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There is a rumour that they actually got it wrong 100´s of years ago and technology and GPS has proven that it is actually a couple hundred metres East. I say let them have their fame and keep that quiet!!! From there Juan Carlos (the nicest guy I have ever met) took us to Rumicucho which is an ancient Inca site beofre driving us back to Quito and taking us personally to the bus station, helping us with our tickets and waving us goodbye. Seriously this guy was a champion and if all things go well for him and his family he will be living in Australia in a couple of years when we can return the favour to him.

So we hopped onto a bus out of Quito and South to a town called Latacunga where we planned to base ourselves for a few days to do some hiking and so forth. Once we found a place to stay we headed into town to arrnge some tours and meet another Australian girl who is travelling by herself doing the same thing. The three of us arranged a tour for the next day (more people less the price which is great!) to Volcan Catopaxi. Once done we all headed for another Meriendas before having an early night and some catch up sleep!

Friday the 21st of November

Up nice and early and into our jeep at 8am for our trip out to Volcan Catopaxi. We headed out of town and into the National Park. Our guide had no English but thankfully Sarah (who we met last night) speaks pretty good Spanish so she was a great help!! Once we got into the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi we slowely made our way towards Volcan Catopaxi but beofre we could get there we were in a traffic jam with 300 odd Llamas trying to be herded up. These animals are brilliant and held no danger at all.

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They are funny looking things and are very timid and scared of everything around them. We watched for about 30 minutes as their owners tried to get them through a fence before finally giving up and knocking part of the fence down to help them out a little. From there we stopped for a walk around one of the lakes inside the NP beofre finally driving to 4500 metres above sealevel to last vehicle point of the volcanoe.

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From there we had toi walk another 300 metres which I can tell you is not as easy of it sounds. Thats not 300 metres in total thats 300 metres up!! With only a couple of days under our belt our climitization to the altitude is still very poor and we wheezed our way to the refuge. We ate our lunch at the top and enjoyed some awesome views both up at the summit and also across the NP above and through the clouds. We then hiked another 200 metres up and hit the 5000m mark! To make it to the top you need to have full equipment, experience, and fitness. We had none of the above! The summit stands at an impressive 5887 metres above sea level and is the second highest volcanoe in Ecuador. Volcan Chimborazo is the highest in Ecuador standing at 6137m (i think) which we will hopefully see in a few more days. From there we enjoyed our decline back to the jeep and headed back to Latacunga and finshed up our tour about 6pm. The three of us have decided to stick together for the next 4 days and we are going on the Quilotoa Loop which takes you through some great highlands, an impressive volcanic lake that you can walk around and then finally back to Latacunga. We are starting that tomorrow morning. Once we sorted out that (which we are doing ourselves not with a tour as it will be a 3rd the price) Sarah and I headed out for a bite to eat (Krystal not feeling 100% stayed in) and I am now up to date with the blog again!!!

I will put some pics up ASAP as this computer wont let me!

take care all

M and K

Posted by krystalmat 17:16 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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