A Travellerspoint blog

Baños

Cycling from the Andes to the Amazon

sunny

Baños is a super touristy but nice town right under the active, smoke spewing Volcan Tungurahua.

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It keeps getting evacuated because the volcano looks like it might go all Vesuvius on their ass, but its safe at the moment so we spent a few nights in town. The town was nice with waterfalls all over the place and a pretty nice climate, one day we went up to this bridge with a good view of the town, where we found a bit of rope tied to the railings (im not lying- it was rope), and a guy stood there offering to tie us to the other end of the rope and chuck us off. Apparently its called bridging. No thankyou.
Anyway while in town we thought we´d hire a bike and ride downhill from the Andes to the jungle town of Puyo in the Amazon. The 60km journey took us all day, and actually featured a lot more uphill cycling than we had been anticipating, but it was worth it because of some awesome views of the Amazon basin on the way down.

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There were actually some pretty hairy drops as well on the way where you could see little crosses with gringo-sounding names on, but we were too sensible to go falling off any cliffs. Halfway through we got off our bikes for a short trek to see a big waterfall called the Paillon del Diablo, which was really impressive- despite having been to Iguazu! What was cool was that you could climb through some caves to get to a little area behind the waterfall.

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Which was nice and wet. When we arrived, knackered in Puyo, we had some food and some cold drinks with a guy who we knew from Iquitos and had bumped into along the way, then got the bus all the way back up the hill to Baños.

The next day we headed to Riobamba to do some train ride called the Nariz del Diablo, but apparently they stopped doing it because tourists kept sitting on the roof and getting their heads lopped off or something. Whatever, we werent fussed and made our way to Quito past loads of wicked looking volcanoes including Chimborazo (the highest point from the center of the earth) and Cotopaxi. Which is a Mars Volta song.

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Posted by St Martins 15:47 Archived in Ecuador Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Volcanoes and That

Latacunga and the Quilotoa loop

After a long journey from the coast up to the Andes, we arrived in Latacunga at 4 o clock in the morning, in the middle of the cold and rain. After searching for a hosel for ages (no-one likes to answer their doors at 4 in the morning) we found one and spent the day sleeping.

Not all fun and games on the road

Not all fun and games on the road

Next day we headed off to some indiginous villages around Latacunga and ended up at the Quilotoa crater; a big green lagoon in the middle of a volcanic crater. It looked really good, but the weather was drizzly and there were a lot of clouds obscuring the view, so we made plans to walk all the way round it the next day and went to sleep in a very cold bed (luckily our room had a wood burner in it, but it went out in the middle of the night) in a nearby hostel.
Early in the morning we got up to do the walk- the clouds had all gone and there were awesome views of the surrounding snow-capped volcanoes.

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We followed a sign that supposedly led to the trail around the rim, but after walking an hour and finding ourselves halfway down the crater in an abandoned field realized that the sign was a dirty liar, and we had clearly gone the wrong way.

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The hike back out of the crater was a killer, all uphill and the altitude made it hard work. When we got out of the crater we found the actual route around the crater but after an hour or so of walking had had enough, so spent a while dicking around taking silly photos and headed back to the trail head.

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We had planned to take a series of busses all the way around the Quilotoa circuit of indiginous villages, but figured we didnt have a lot of time, and we had seen the highlight (the volcano crater) so got a bus back to Latacunga where we headed straight on to Baños.

Posted by St Martins 14:46 Archived in Ecuador Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Puerto Lopez

Humpback whale watching!

Wow, what an amazing day! We headed to Puerto Lopez to see humback whales and boy did we see them. When we arrived at the town we checked in to a hostel which had the best mattress we´d slept on for 7 months and big fluffy pillows that didn´t smell of other peoples sweat (bonus!) and went looking for a good tour to ´Isla de la Plata´ which is where you can see whales and lots of cool birds. We booked with the hostel in the end as it had some really good reviews. We wandered round the town which is quite nice althought the beach is really quite dirty.... i think its because theres so many fishing boats which throw their rubbish into the water. We did see a big dead puffer fish on the beach and a weird dryed out eel. The next day we headed out on the boat to the island... its not guaranteed that you´ll see whales because they might not fancy coming out that day but within half an hour we saw two whales sailing along together which was amazing. The captain let us sit on the roof to watch them and for a few minutes we couldn´t see them then bam!! They were right in front of the boat! We saw a few more on the way to the island a bit further away.

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When we arrived at the island we were given a route to walk round the island so that the birds weren´t being bothered everyday. We thought it was really good because the last year none of the chicks on the island survived, not just because of tourism but it may have been a part of it. The walk round the island was wicked we saw some ´Blue footed boobys´ which are really funny birds... they have big blue feet and are really clumsy onland and keep tripping over themselves.

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We also saw a little green snake too. You can see hammerhead sharks and manta rays (they come to the island to get cleaned by the little fishes) but it has to be a really clear day. After lunch on the boat we donned some goggles and went snorkelling on the reef of the island. It was really fun, the water was warm and there were some really colourful fish.. some of them were quite friendly and didnt mind us swimming right next to them. As i was getting back into the boat something stung me on the foot and arm so there may have even been some baby jelly fish there too!

Apparently the whales are more playful when the sea was rough, and for our return trip the sea was rough so we were hoping to see some getting their groove on. Things werent looking hopeful after not seeing any whales for the first 45 mins, but then we saw two whales doing some mental flips out of the water in the distance. Our captain took us in close for a good look and it was awesome, we got to see them splashing water at each other with their huge fins and then jumping right out of the water. Apparently the female chooses who she wants to mate with based on who can jump the highest or something, which I think is very funny. But yeah, loads whale fishes doing loads of awesome jumps and flips n shit, just like you see in blue planet and that. Check out the photos!

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Posted by St Martins 14:37 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Ecuador so far....

sunny

We made it in to Ecuador and after bumping around on the back of a truck for two hours, we reached our first stop, a lovely town called Vilcabamba. The town is right in the middle of ´the valley of longevity´, apparently famous for having tons of people that live over 100. We saw quite a few old people but most of them seemed to have been decaying foreigners who had settled down in the town in an attempt to stave off the inevitable. We stayed here for a few days enjoying the moderate climate and relaxing atmosphere but after a few day we decided to move on to a small town in the oriente (Ecuadors Amazonian section). We stayed in a sleepy town called Zamora for the night which had a nice river front but not much else and then set off on foot to the tropical section of Parque Nacional Podocarpus. The walk was a hot, dusty and sweaty affair but it was worth it once we reached the park which had some really nice trails (spider free!) through the jungle and to some nice waterfalls, and some crystal clear rivers which we had a swim in (despite them being freezing cold).

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We camped there for a night and got up early to go monkey spotting in the forest. We didnt see any monkeys, but we did see some birds unique to the park (with big long noses/beaks) and a load of animal tracks. In fact in the night, we heard some large animal attacking the bin in the campsite in an attempt to get the remains of our tuna salad dinner. After hiking halfway back and then riding the rest of the way in a nice American mans pickup, we caught a series of busses to our next stop, Cuenca.

Cuenca was a nice colonial town (which we have seen a lot of) with some old buildings and cathedrals.

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We had a stroll round the town and found an awesome museum about the ethnography of the country and all the indiginous cultures. Best bit by far was this section on the jungle that was decked out with fibreglass trees and stuff and had a collection of shrunken heads on display. Weird looking things, they look just like miniature human heads, which they are. Some of them even had little moustaches which were pretty funny.

After a bit more exploring (and checking out a hat museum where they make monticristi hats- known widely as panama hats), we had seen enough of colonial towns and so headed down to the coast.

We stopped for two nights in Ecuadors largest city Guayaquil, where we struggled to find a bus heading towards the center. When we did,we had to struggle onboard with great difficulty because of our wide packs, and then quickly zipped straight past where we had intended to get off- leaving us stranded in the middle of a dodgy neighborhood with no idea where we were. Eventually with the help of a lonely planet map, we found our way to a hotel, where we checked in and relaxed in front of some english television.

The next day we had a wander around Guayaquils recently restored seafront which was quite nice and came across our favourite plaza so far- which was alive with hundreds of curious iguanas, chilling in the trees and occasionally wandering over to sniff peoples toes.

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After a day in Guayaquil, we headed off again, to a town called Montanita, popular with surfers and hippies that make jewellery where we spent a day and a bit chilling on the nice beach and drinking cheap caiparinias and beer. Our peace only interrupted in the middle of one night by the hostel owner going mental at her boyfriend in the room next door.

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Posted by St Martins 15:00 Archived in Ecuador Tagged shopping Comments (0)

The Amazon

Lagunas and the jungle

all seasons in one day

After a few days heading to Lagunas on a packed out boat with lots of screaming kids, we headed off into the town to find somewhere to stay, where we were quickly accosted by a guy who had a tour company and wanted to take us into the jungle. It was quite late at this point, so we didnt really want to make any rash decisions, but he was a nice chap and was going to let us stay in his house for free and cook us breakfast so we agreed. The next day he took us to some party in town that he had organized, with some more free food and lots of loud music. It was quite fun, although we desperately needed a shower after 3 days on a boat and we were getting bitten to pieces by mosquitoes, so we headed back and checked into a hostel for a comfy night with showers and actual porcelain toilets (apparently it was very nice for Sadie to have a sit-down-wee for the first time in ages).

Jungle explorers!!

Jungle explorers!!

The next morning we were off. After an extremely bumpy mototaxi ride we arrived at the park entrance where we paid the admin fee and got put on a little canoe with our two guides (one per person), and paddled down little rivers into the jungle. It was really cool, the rivers were really thin so it was a good opportunity to see wildlife like monkeys and birds, especially when it started to pour with rain and all the parrots went nuts looking for some shelter.

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The first day we saw a ton of sloths, which was amazing cause they move so slow that theyre really hard to see. Our guides had such good eyes for seeing stuff it was insane.

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After a day on a boat and a good dose of rain we arrived at a little campamento, which was a little hut on stilts, with some beds in it. We had our dinner there (bread and jam, nice), but quickly had to retire to bed and our mosquito net, as we were quite literally getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

The next day we had a breakfast of freshly speared river fish and bannana chips (amazonian version of the full english), making up for the crap dinner and got on the canoe to paddle our way deeper into the jungle. On the way to our second campsite we saw tons of cool stuff such as a little squirrel type animal that wears its tail as a hat! Stylish. We even saw an anaconda which was awesome, because theyre supposed to be dead rare. It was only a baby but it was really cool coloured, so our guide picked him up and let us have a touch. It shat on me.

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There was no rain the second day which meant it was roasting hot, so I managed to get sun stroke and had to have my first South American puke in the bushes, after which I felt a lot better, and we were able to go for a little walk in the jungle. It was really cool walking around, the forest was really cool and had some huge trees. At one point our guide found a tree with supposedly medicinal properties, so promptly hacked a bit of bark off in attempt to cure my stomach. When we got back to camp, our guide boiled up the bark into some rank tasting tea which I drank all of, despite the fact that I was feeling better, and the tea was making me feel shit again. We had some more fish and chips after watching a flock of brightly coloured toucans flying round the camp, until the sun set, when we headed off to do some night fishing.

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Spear fishing was not as easy as our guide had made it look, and I was pants. Sadie was pants too, but she managed to throw the spear so hard that it scared the shit out of some poor fish who jumped out of the water only to land in our boat and end up on our breakfast plates anyway. On the way back, we spotted a little baby alligator, which our guide once again managed to catch for a little touch-up. In fact, our lady guide actually started to rub its privates to calm it down. Weird.

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The next two days were spent making our way back to Lagunas, and so were like the first two days in reverse. Including the rain. We saw some more cool stuff though like red macaws, capuchin monkeys, marine iguanas and more sloths.

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So, had a great time in the jungle, could have done with a lot less mosquitoes (we counted 100 bites on Sadies legs alone), but thats how it is I guess. In fact all of Peru has been great- took us a whole month longer than planned because there was so much to do! Next up, a 4 day journey out of the jungle to Ecuador, via boats, busses, cars and trucks.

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Posted by St Martins 12:03 Archived in Peru Tagged boating Comments (0)

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