…we had a good time, and the sun didn´t shine every day (but almost every day!)
Well it is finally the time to say goodbye to Ecuador, and my travelling companion and the unscheduled wandering that we´ve been doing the last few weeks.
Waterfall on Ruta de las Cascadas - no this isn´t the Devil´s Cauldron, it was too big to get a picture of!
Our last stop before returning to Quito last night was a town called Banos (named for the hot springs in the area), that reminded both of us a bit of Banff. Banos is right on the boundary between the mountains and the Jungle, so it has beautiful jagged mountains and volcanoes – sadly not active…- that are covered with lots of lush tropical vegitation and constantly changing weather. It is also the adventure travellers dream, as you can book almost any kind of adventure travel from bike riding to bridge jumping to 5 day trecks up a volcanoe or into the jungle. Brooke and I decided to start out easy and decided to rent bikes and check out the “route of the Waterfalls”. We were not disappointed, we got our share of adventure sharing the highway with Ecuador´s insane bus and truck drivers (this time I did get a helmet, but it was a rafting helmet and it was too big so I´m not sure it would have really helped but it´s better than nothing…)
The route led us along a canyon just outside of Banos, which had several really spectacular waterfalls. Our favorote was the massive “Devil´s Cauldron” which reminded us a bit of Niagara falls just because it was so powerful. We also got to hike/crawl throught a cave to stand under the falls. We got soaked but it was amazing (I was totally being a geo nerd, but Brooke says she doesn´t mind it).
The next day we decided to get really up close and personal with the waterfalls and did a canyoning tour. For those of you who like me had no idea what a canyoning tour is, it is repelling down 4 waterfalls (for a total of 75m). It was a bit scary walking backwards down wet slippery rocks while getting pelted with the waterfall, but also the best adventure tour either of us have ever done! Our guide also decided to be bit of a show off and RUN facing down -aka backwards- the 30m waterfall, so now I´m going to have to do it again so I can try that!
Fireworks over Quito
Last night we came back ot Quito and enjoyed a nice dinner on a rooftop restaurant in Quito´s colonial Old Town. As a nice farewell treat we got to see fireworks which was a nice addition to the beautiful skyline. Now it´s off to do some last minute shopping with Brooke and then head to the airport, and on to Buenos Aires.
Sulphur Lagoon/Natural Spa at Agua Blanca
It has been a while, internet access has been limited the last few days, and I just haven´t had the patience to sit and wait for really slow internet when there´s fun travel stuff to do. Since my last post Brooke and I enjoyed a few days in the beach town of Puerto Lopez, mostly in the Machillila National Park. We did a boat tour out to Isla del Plata the “Poor Man´s Galapagos” which was interesting but paled in comparison to the real thing, however on the way back we stopped to do some whale watching, and got to see 2 groups of humpback whales jumping, as close as 20 m from the boat (both Brooke and I are a little afraid of large sea creatures and we´re almost uncomfortable with how close they were – I mean the whales were almost as big as our boat and had really ugly looking faces!)
The next day – still no sun- we went to the land side of the park and hiked along the black sand beaches. Despite the clouds it was plenty warm and we both got some colour, so I think we´re actually lucky it was cloudy. Our final stop in Puerto Lopez was the archeological site Agua Blanca, which to be honest were kind of boring maybe because our guide was terrible, but the surprise bonus was the beautiful (albeit smelly) sulphur lagoon and mineral mud masks at the end of the tour. I don´t know if the mud facial actually did anything for my skin but it was pretty fun to get that muddy.
The next day we left for Guayaquil on a truly local bus, complete with a live chicken as hand luggage. It was definitely a bit of local culture, but I don´t know if I´ve ever been happier to get off a bus. Nedless to say we looked for the slightly higher end bus to Banos when we left the next morning!
Blue Footed Boobies at Isla del Plata
Well after a short 11 hour bus ride, Brooke and I made it out to the Coast yesterday. We planned to spend today relaxing on the beach, but the skies have been pretty grey today, so the beach time has been a bit limited. Nonetheless we have high hopes that the sun will come out for our whale watching and national park tour tomorrow, and will stay out so we can enjoy a few days of sun, and maybe even some kayaking or surfing (if we can find an instructor who speaks English).
Other than the beach, there doesn´t seem to be a lot going on in town (it´s a bit like showing up in Grand Bend in October), so there are no pictures today. I promise lots of wales next post!
Brooke and I have safely made it back to Quito after facing all kinds of terrifying creatures in the amazon (Anacondas, Pirahnas, Tarantulas and Camen!) – but to be perfectly honest, I think the bus ride was actually the most dangerous part of the tour! We spent 4 nights and 5 days at a lodge (aka open air huts and no hot water) in the Oriente Jungle (Ecuador´s portion of the Amazon).
- Catch of the Day! Red Bellied Pirahna
Our tour started with a 2 hour canoe ride into the lodge, where we saw al kinds of tropical birds – including 5 giant blue and yellow macaws, a toucan and a group of monkeys making the leap across the river – pretty amazing considering monkeys can´t swim! Our Guide – nicknamed The Bird – grew up in the jungle, and could imitate every bird we saw on the tour – so we saw a lot of tropical birds!
The second day we hiked through the jungle, and went fishing for Pirahnas. The rumours are true, bait for pirahnas is RED MEAT! Anyway we fished for a while, and it was starting to feel like we were feeding the fish rather than fishing since they kept stealing the bait before we could pull them in, but in the last 10 minutes I managed to snag the one in the picture to the left (which was the largest one of the 2 our group caught!)
The following day we were treated to a true rainforest downpour which lasted most of the day. We hiked throught the jungle to a local village where we saw coffee, banana and cocoa plantations, and got to prepare a tortillatype bread made from Yuca root. We then headed back out into the rain to visit a shaman- complete with the feather through his nose! – where he scared away Brookes evil spirits and gave her more energy – which she used to jump in a puddle and soak the rest of the group… (maybe there were some evil spirits left after all…)
Our fourth day was beautiful and sunny, and we finally got a chance to see pink dolphins. Unfortunately they weren´t in a jumping mood so we only got to see their fins, but I still think it counts. then we watched the sunset from the lake and got to dive off the bow of the boat into the (brown) lake water. We were short a motorized canoe, so we had to paddle back to the lodge from the lake, but it turns out that you see a lot more wilflife when you don´t have a motor running!
Sunset on Lago Grande - you´ll have to tilt your head the rotation isn´t working...
Tomorrow we´re heading to the coast to yet another National Park!
Swimming with a Sea Turtle
- Penguin! (And I´m lucky I cought him, they are REALLY fast!)
Sorry for being MIA for the last week but there wasn´t a lot of internet access on our yacht. For those of you who didnt know, my sister Brooke and I spent a week aboard a 16 passenger boat touring the Galapagos islands! It was definitely the once in a lifetime adventure that we were hoping for. We got to see all kinds of interesting birds, reptiles, fish and sea mammals, and since there are very few predators on the Islands they let you walk right up to them (or in some cases even try to chase you a little bit!) We got really lucky and saw pretty much everything, we even had a group of five dolphins put on a show in front of out boat one evening while we were sailing. My favorite was still the snorkling (I mean who doesn´t love sea lions, seals, penguins, turtles, rays and sharks, but I was also surpriesd how much I liked watching the birds – they´re just so different from anything else I´ve seen! Well Brook is starting to look a little bored with how long we´ve been here so I will leave it at that for now.