A Travellerspoint blog

Baños

all seasons in one day

We arrived in Baños late morning (an hour ahead of schedule thanks to the local failed rally drivers who all seem to work as bus drivers in Ecuador). We dropped our bags - another nice hostel, this one even has electricity) and took a crazy drive on top of a bus around some very bendy roads and through some fairly small tunnels. We stopped off a few times to get our breath back, and just stare in awe at our surroundings.

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One of the stop offs was to take a kind of cable car type thing across the valley to hang over one of the waterfalls, I´m pretty sure the screaming set off the nearby volcano which promptly erupted (apprently it faces the other way so is not a danger to the town and if the ground shakes a bit we don´t need to worry)

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We then visteted yet another waterfall which thundered down into a vast echoy cauldren the water has carved out of the rock. A hairy clamber through some rock tunnels brings you out just feet from the fall. Incredible.

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Posted by lauraj 15:03 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Quito to La Paz

The beginning

sunny

I hooked up my tour group on Friday, there are 14 of us travelling together with our guide from Quito to La Paz. We had a meal together to get to know everyone, most of the group are Australian with one other English girl, a few Irish and one Dutch.

Saturday was a free day in Quito so I went with my good friends Vivian and Oscar to Quilotoa, an extinct volcanic crater which is now a stunning emerald lake. It was an amazing drive through some of the poorst parts of Ecuador, the landscape was a patchwork of cultivated squares on impossibly steep slopes, we wound our way through rural villages where women were scrubbing their washing in the streams and even the smallest children worked on the land and herded the llamas and sheep.

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The climb down into the crater took about an hour and we hired mules to take us back to the top, our mules were led by the most beautiful young girl named Alexandra. The lake was beautiful and changed colour every minute as we got closer and the sun came in and out of the clouds, depest blue one minute and emerald green the next.

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We left Quito behind early Sunday morning and I slowly remembered the affect of altitude on a hangover. Not good. It took most of the morning to get to our luxury jungle lodge (so much for the ´basic´accommodation we were expecting - long may this continue!) no electricity but hot showers and huge comfy beds. Each thatched lodge and the paths around the grounds were lit by oil lamps. We had time to drop our bags before going on a walk around the area and dropped in to a local community to see how they pan for gold in the river and make pottery to sell in Tena, the nearest big town. They prepared a drink made from yucca which is traditionally fermented with saliva but with sweet potato for the tourists. The next day was action packed, a jungle trek in the morning, eating lemon ants and getting really wet. It was really interesting and our guide was good fun, pointing out the halluciangenic root used by the shamens and making hats out of leaves. He also painted each of our faces with a red berry mush which I was really paraniod wouldn´t wash off but it did, to find out how read on...

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The next activity for the day was tubing, you basically sit in an inner tube and bomb down the river over the rapids hanging on for dear life while trying not to swallow the whole river. It was terrific fun and we all made it, crawling exhausted but exhilarated out of the water where we flopped on the beach and the guides served us our hot lunch (basic?!) Once we had recovered we took a boat ride down river to an animal rescue centre then headed back for more food just as the sun went down.

Next stop, Baños. We got the bus back to Tena and on to Baños, another stunning drive through the hugely diverse and spectacular landscape that is Ecuador.

Posted by lauraj 11:45 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

swimming with the fishes

sunny 31 °C

I've rediscovered my love for the water and have been snorkelling at every given opportunity, we can snorkel off a little jetty down by the harbour at a place called Concha de Perla for free or get one of the boat guys to take us out for a few hours for just $10. The first time we went to the Concha de Perla I nearly swallowed my snorkel when a sea lion jumped in to play. Since then I've swam with turtles, white tipped sharks, eagle rays and a multitude of weird and wonderful fish. The sea lions are the most fun though, you feel truly privilliaged that they choose to swim with you and it's clear they are just playing around and having fun. They blow bubbles at you and swim off a short way so you can follow, if you dive down a little and make a splash they swoop all around you just inches away, it's magical.

Can't wait to get some photos up, soon I promise!

Posted by lauraj 10:39 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

'work'

sunny

Work isn't really a hardship, the baby tortoises are too cute for words they sit easily in the palm of your hand and look just like scaled down versions of the truly enormous adults. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are feeding days, they are always hungry and the babies clamber all over each other to get to the food. Quite often they topple off, land on their backs and flounder around for a while waving their legs in the air until you have finished laughing and turn them over. The bigger ones just get in the way and try and knock your wheelbarrow over and stand on your feet which makes feeding a bit hazardous in flip flops. The other days we rake out the corrals, clean the water lagoons and generally maintain the centre, keeping the visitor centre tidy and trimming the hedges, that sort of thing. We have to be careful with the really little ones in case they drown so when filling the water lagoons we have to sit the littlest one in the middle to make sure it´s feet can touch the bottom. Yes really!

Most of the bigger tortoises are grumpy and either ignore you or hiss when you get close (the little ones hiss too but it's more cute than scary) but there is one who likes to be petted and comes looking for you, neck outstretched for a scratch. It's a little tricky as we're not supposed to have much contact with the beasties in front of the tourists but when she's nudging your leg she is hard to ignore!

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Posted by lauraj 10:36 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Island life

loving it loving it loving it

sunny

Arrived on Isabella, the island couldn't be any different if I was on the surface of the moon, it´s a barren and alien landscape, wild and intense and fiercely beautiful. The colour of the water takes my breath away every day and the beach is spectacular, purest golden sands stretching for miles sprinkled with sea lions, prehistoric looking marine iguanas and the occasional lesser spotted tourist.

My first day here I walked down to the beach and the minute my feet hit the warm sand I had a 'oh god I'm really here´moment´. I walked along smiling to myself with only a couple of pelicans and some crazy looking orange crabs for company.

I've been here two weeks now and have slipped too easily into lazy island life, our daily routine goes something like this,

7am breakfast
7.30am walk along the beach road to the tortoise breeding centre
8am (ish) start 'work'
10am break
11-12ish finish work and go for lunch
1ish hit the beach or go snorkelling
5.30 head out to the pier to the sea lion bar for sunset beer. Chill in hammock and watch the tide come in around the rocks
7pm dinner
8-9pm happy hour at bar de beto. best mojitoes in town!

not too shabby

Posted by lauraj 09:57 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

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