Published: May 29th 2009May 25th 2009
From my hotel in the New Town
Well after Colombia, it was another very early flight into Quito. Before arriving, almost every person I had spoken to had a bad word to say about Quito, and only for one reason. Crime. They had either been mugged or pickpocketed, and in one case, ended buying their stolen camera from a store the following day! But for me, I loved the city straight away. I can't tell you exactly why, but it just seems really laid back and there is so much to do. I suppose it could also be the lack of oxygen to my brain due to the altitude. Either way, I like it.
After I had checked in and dumped my stuff, I went and explored a bit of the New Town and got things ready for when my tour starts in a couple of days. The following day was similar, except I explored the Old Town, which was very cool. I also found a place that did a fantastic pork roll and I got given free ice cream. Maybe another reason why I like the city.
The next morning was the start of the tour and I met the rest of the group who
Looking South from the Old Town
all were pretty cool, though I was surprised that they were almost all Brits! But there was one other Kiwi - a 72 year old grandmother! We breed them tough in New Zealand. Anyway, after we had collected the hungover stragglers, we headed north to the centre of the world. It was a little cheesy, but we did get to learn a bit about the indigenous tribes in the area. And after the obligatory photos on the '0' line, we headed further north to Otavalo.
Otavalo is a small town with only one thing worth visiting - the markets. I had a bit of a look around and ending up getting a couple of things, including a very cool locally made man bag.
After this, we headed south east to Tena, where me and several others signed up for white water rafting. I ummed and ahhed over whether to do it, but in the end, it was fantastic! It was fairly tough, but by the end we were doing tricks like rodeo riding the rapids and building a human pyramid on the back of our upturned raft as he headed down the river!
Next up was one
Over the Old Town
of the things I was most looking forward to - heading into the Amazon jungle. I expected hammocks and tents but we stayed at a lodge owned by an American guy who concentrates his efforts on saving animals and teaching locals that dynamite fishing is bad. The other 'host' is a young woolly monkey called Mona, who was very cute, and had no problem stealing your drinks - alcoholic or not!
After a chilled out evening, the following morning, we headed along to Amazoonico, a refuge for animals who have been orphaned by hunters, or recovered by customs officials as they are smuggled over the border. I actually found this a bit boring despite seeing some cool animals. To be honest, I just wanted to see an anaconda gliding past me on the river, rather than sitting doing nothing in a cage! In the afternoon, we were taken a few kilometres up stream and dropped off with rubber tyres and gently floated back down to our accommodation. Bliss.
The next morning was our jungle walk, which definitely lived up to my expectations. We saw and tried the fruit from cacao and coffee trees, and saw one of the
The Centre of the World
Me at the 0 degree line!
more dangerous snakes of the jungle - when one of the guys on tour almost trod on it! When we returned to the lodge, there was an Amazonian Boa Constrictor there (only 30cm), but we witnessed it eating a bat! A disturbing, but interesting process.
That was our last act in the jungle, then it was to Rio Verde near Banos, where we had our first experience of camping. I was lucky number 13 on the trip and got a tent to myself, which I was very grateful for and got some of the best nights sleep of the tour! I signed up for canyoning the next day, which turned out to be fun, but nowhere near the adrenaline rush of the rafting. Over the next couple of days, I did a couple of treks to random waterfalls in the area, and one in particular was pretty spectacular, Pailon del Diablo, and it was made even better as you could crawl around and in behind the waterfall. Needless to say I got fairly wet.
We signed off our time in Banos, and Ecuador really, with a BBQ, which was much needed as unlike Argentina down the road, meat
The Egg Master!
I successfully balanced an egg on a nail head, which apparently is a feat on the equator because of opposing forces. I even got a certificate.
is harder to come by here. Then the next day, after a morning in Banos, we were on the road all afternoon before we stopped off on the side of the road to camp for the night. We were up at about 2,500m in the spine of the Andes so it was a chilly night.
The following day was another long, but scenic driving day and it was just after lunch that we finally got to the border and headed into the 2nd country of the tour. Peru, where our first stop is the white sand and blue water beach of Punta Sal. Time to top up the tan again!
There are more photos below