Published: May 4th 2012May 4th 2012
Flew from Panama City to Quito. This time we stayed in the Centro Historical (Old Town) in a hostel called La Posada Colonial. We spent the afternoon wandering around the town checking out all the old buildings, there are so many churches! We then went to a cafe called La Vista Hermosa. There we had a very expensive hot chocolate and chicken empanada, it was worth it though as it had started raining and we were both freezing!
We got up and had breakfast at a café then walked along a street called ‘La Ronda’. The houses in the street have all been restored and there are posters on the wall telling you about the history and the people that lived there. It was a shame we didn’t go there the night before as there were lots of little restaurants that weren’t open in the daytime. The most stupid thing was that it was right at the bottom of the road near our hostel! We then got a taxi to the south bus terminal. It is quite far out of the city and would have taken ages to get there by bus. We then
got a bus to Banos (said like banana but I can’t find the accent thing on my keyboard!). The bus took around 4 hours to get there. Once we arrived we were slightly overwhelmed by how many hostels and hotels there were, literally dozens and dozens! We declined the one right next to the bus station as we didn’t fancy the bus noise but is was only $10 for the both of us bargain! Linz was feeling a bit pants and was getting grumpy trapesing up and down stairs with her heavy rucksack so Rich went off to check out a couple more. Ended up staying in one called Hostel Carolina for only $14, bargain! That afternoon we had a very late lunch at the restaurant of our hostel. Rich had a fillet mignon which was absolutely amazing for only $7! Linz was very jealous as she chose the healthy option of chickpea curry but Rich gave her some of his steak so she was happy! With full bellies we then went looking around the many agents in town to book some activities. We found one with the biggest Lassie dog I have ever seen called Bruce! We also saw
a rubbish truck going around town playing music like an ice cream van, weird. We booked some activities for the next day then wandered the town. There were some crazy people in fancy dress wandering around, not sure why, something to do with the end of Christmas? We found a great little tapas bar where we had a mojito each as they were on offer and a small snack of some very delicious dips and pita bread.
Today we went horse riding. Once again our ponies were boney and bone idle. The only way you could get them going was with a whip on the arse! We got taken by two children (they were both definitely under the age of 14). For the first two hours we were with another couple who had only booked a two hour ride. Rich got taken off his larger pony and was put on a tiny little one. His feet nearly touched the ground but it was a lot faster. We went up along a steep river valley and stopped when we got to a pool where there was natural spring water bubbling through. We tried some, it tasted
really fresh and it was even bubbly! On the way down Rich got put on a different pony again. I found out the horses names, Rich’s pony was called Pinto or Jackie Chan, mine was called Negro hombre or Michael Jackson! Rich’s liked to bite my pony every time I tried overtaking! We went back to the start so the other couple could finish. We then went to a waterfall called Cascada Chaman. This time we got to canter and gallop the horses a lot but they would only really go when the kiddy smacked them on the arse. Rich’s horse also kept veering to the side trying to attack my horse which was pretty funny! That afternoon, both of us walking like John Wayne, we grabbed a bit to eat in Café Hood, cheap and tasty. We then rented a buggy style car and spun off following the river. We were looking for some waterfalls but ended up going up this really steep hill. It was so steep that the buggy nearly didn’t make it! The waterfalls were good but it was pretty dicey taking the buggy back down as it was just sliding on the gravel on the
road. When we got back and told the guy where we had been he looked at us like we were mad and was worried that we had broken his engine, whoops! That evening we decided to treat ourselves and have a nice meal at a Swiss restaurant (Swiss food in Ecuador? Who would have thought!). The food was amazing, great steaks and vegetables, dauphinoise potatoes and rostis! Once again in was a third of the price of what you would pay back home.
Woke up, whole body was in pain from horse riding. Felt stiff as an old boot! In the morning we went white water rafting. It was just us and a load of very young Chileans and Argies. So after donning our wetsuit, buoyancy aid and helmet attire we listened to the briefing (all in Spanish) and tried to understand the safety points. Linz at this point was s******g herself. We then carried the raft to the water, did a few practises on the sand and off we went. We both ended up on the front as one girl was wingeing about her boyfriend wanting to be next to her (I think it
was just her personally) so Linz reluctantly ended up in the front as well. The river was between grade 2-3+. The strong parts were pretty scary (for Linz) and also trying to remember the Spanish instructions. We got a lot of waves in our faces, hit a rock, and nearly fell out a couple of times. We were going down the river with two other boats and the people all knew each other so there was a lot of splashing a pulling people in to the river. We also played a game where we had to run around the edge of the raft trying not to fall in. It was great fun and Linz even managed to enjoy herself in the end! By this point it was now raining so after getting changed we went to get lunch. On the way we both had really dodgy tummies (not sure if it was the melon juice at breakfast or swallowing the river water) but it was so bad that we had to stop on the road and run into some kind of quarry to release the demons. I have to say it was a very low point, s******g on the side
of the road. The place where we were getting food was really full so the food took ages. We then got back to Banos at about 3.30 and then got kitted up and went canyoning at the Chaman waterfalls. Canyoning is where you abseil down waterfalls. The first was fairly small, the second we went down on our backs and the third was a massive drop, it was exhilarating! Linz did some screaming as per usual! We finished off the evening by having a good soak in the thermal baths called Piscina de la Virgen. They are outside and you can just relax in the pools looking at the waterfall beside them. They were boiling! We had to keep running under the cold water waterfall showers just to make it bearable. The baths were also packed! There were even kiddies with armbands on in there!
Today we had a bit of a lie in as Linz has had a cold for a couple of days. After a cheap breakfast we went for a hike up to the Mirador de la Virgen del Agua Santa. It was a pretty steep climb up about 650 steps. At
the viewpoint is a statue, nothing special, a bit crumbly with a bit of graffiti on. From here we hiked up to the viewpoint of the Volcano. Here we got slightly lost and ended up trekking through fields. Finally after 3 ½ hours of walking and due to Rich’s persistence we found a road and a little way up we found a tree house looking at the volcano and valley. At the tree house we met an American hippy guy called Ned who was playing his guitar and didn’t even realise the volcano was there until Rich pointed it out. To be fair it had been covered in clouds and the clouds parted for just long enough to sneak a peek at the snow covered cap with smoke coming out of the top. We climbed up to the tree house to look at the view and then had a go on the swing next to it. The swing was amazing as it felt like you were swinging over the valley. I then got attacked by a cow that seemed very territorial about the swing. It literally walked in front of the swing whilst I was swinging. I had to jump
off and leg it as it was trying to bulldoze me over with its horns! Rich also tried making friends with it but it tried head butting him as well! After eating a bit of homemade granola of Ned’s we headed back down to Banos via another viewpoint. We got back into town at around 5.30ish with very sore legs. We then treated ourselves to a full body massage and facial, 80min of heaven for only $25!
Today we hired a buggy again as we wanted to see the Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron). Our buggy was pretty dodgy, thought it was going to break down the whole time. We stopped first of all at another waterfall that you can zipline towards. That would be pretty scary as it is really high and far! Then we stopped at another place where there were two waterfalls. We got a rickety cable car down to the river, walked across a bridge to look at the waterfalls. You can also get a cable car all the way across the canyon but we didn’t have time to do the lot. We then got to Rio Verde which is where
the Devil’s Cauldron is. First of all we ended up in this wired hippy garden where the Canadian hippy dude told us a lot of information about the views of the waterfall. When we had got so far and also realised the edge we were on could probably fall off at any time (the safety features were just some bamboo fencing) we started thinking we were in the wrong place! It got to the stage where Linz felt like she was in the Labyrinth as we took a different path that ended up in the same place and she also started thinking the guy was just a figment of her imagination so we decided to leave. Rich did manage to find the guy (he was actually real) and came to the conclusion that he was a nutcase who liked building pathways. We then found the actual entrance and walked the 1km path down to the waterfall. The waterfall was huge and you could crawl through a tunnel type path to get really close to the water and actually get under some of it. We got absolutely soaking! It is called the Devil’s Cauldron as the waterfall drops into a massive
swirling pool of water and people say you can make out the Devil on the rocks, can’t say I could see it. After a steep hike back up we began the drive back and along the way noticed that loads of people has stopped in their cars on the roadside and were looking over the edge into the canyon. We stopped to find out what was going on. What had happened was a learner driver and teacher had veered off the road and fallen down a 100m steep bank and had landed in the river. The car was smashed to smithereens, it was a pretty horrific site. A rescue team had made their way down but I’m not sure how they were going to pull the people or the car out as it was in fast flowing water and there was no way of getting a vehicle down there to tow it out. I’m not sure if the people survived but I would say it was unlikely looking at the carnage. No one could really understand what had happened as it was on a straight bit of road with a big kerb to go up and a grass verge before
the edge. Not nice. When we got back to Banos we headed to the bus station to get a bus to Riobamba. We just missed the bus by 5min and the next bus wasn’t until 5. It wasn’t too bad as it gave us time to grab a sandwich or sanduche. Our bus was a bit late but it was a nice bus so we didn’t mind. Our plan was to get to Rio Bamba (2 hours) then from there get to Alausi (2 ½ hours) ready to get the train ride in the morning, El Nariz del Diablo (Nose of the Devil) seems to be a bit of a theme here? What I thought was going to be a normal road was actually a volcanic ash road with steep edges and tight bends. We had been travelling for about 30min when the bus stopped. Rich said he thought he could see a river across the road. The bus reversed, then turned around and started heading back the way we had come. I thought it was strange that there was a river, as there was no rain and I remember thinking all the river beds we had come across were
dry? After a few minutes we stopped again. There was now a fast flowing black ash river stopping us from continuing our journey. It had even created a black waterfall and there were huge rocks and pieces of trees being taken with it. We had to wait there for a couple of hours for the water to subside. Even when the flow had lessened, it had cut a steep gorge through the road so the bus driver and crew had to dig and level off the gorge so the bus could get back over. Finally we managed to get across and after a couple of hours arrived in Riobamba. It was now pretty late and the bus station had closed so we had to stay in Riobamba for the night. Finished off the evening with a hot chocolate with cheese (yes they put cheese in it, strange but quite nice!).
Early start, rushed to get taxis to station just in time for bus to Alausi, to get the train down the devils nose! Nice views of Chimborazo the highest mountain in Ecuador (due to the oval shape of the earth its also the furthest point from
the centre of the planet, so technically speaking higher than Everest?) Any drove by, Rich was pissed off we had no more time especially 4 days to summit and return. Got to Alausi and rode the train down El nariz del diablo (devil’s nose), it was pretty cool but not worth $20 each! Train zig zags down a beautiful gorge 1000m in 30mins.
After that we got straight on to Cuenca, supposed to take 4-5hours but got there in 3, nice. Found digs and went out into town. Cuenca is actually a really nice city complete with cools bars and olde style buildings, good vibe and friendly people. Ate a fancy Italian meal and went to Inca bar, live music by the river.
Up early to explore the city by day light. Went to the Panama hat museum to see how the hats are made. Each one is woven by hand by villagers then is sent to a factory where it gets heat pressed into shape and the bands get sewn on. The hats vary in price depending on how fine and close the weave is. The closer and finer it is the better the hat
keeps its shape when it is rolled. The most expensive hat is $1000 and took four months to weave! Tried on some hats but didn’t want to part with too much cash for one. We then went to the craft markets where Linz bought a load of things including a supposedly ‘alpaca’ shawl which she now thinks isn’t alpaca but acrylic after doing a burn test on the fibres. (Sad textile’s teacher!) It still looks pretty good though! We then walked to a museum where there was a really good exhibition on all the different indigenous types of people in Ecuador and their different cultures and costumes. The highlight was seeing a load of shrunken heads. This was once practised by the tribes in the Amazon but it is now illegal to kill and shrink human heads but they still do it to sloths (poor sloths). Had a massive burger in a place called The Inca Bar and got on a night bus for Mancora, Peru. Bus was pretty crappy, no air con and quite squashed.
Unfortunately we lost a load of our waterfall and horse riding photos from Ecuador as our computer broke.
There are more photos below