Published: July 29th 2012July 29th 2012
since our last post...
left cuenca for the long bus ride to riabamba.
as dorota was still feeling under the weather, we did not ride the rooftop train down the "devil´s nose".
we did however have the worst pizza we could find :)
riabamba seemed to be completely under construction and covered in dust, so we high-tailed it out of there, taking another bus ride to banos.
a few words about bus rides: long, loud chaotic music, dirty diapers, sick passengers, many indigenous people, with their awesome outfits, consisting of shawls, long skirts, high heels and fedora´s. strange, but wicked.
great little town, surrounded by mountains. a bit overfull of tourist-related tour companies and bike rentals, but nice nonetheless.
we rented some mountain bikes and rode down the mountain, stopping at the many waterfalls, riding several of the many cable cars, which criss-cross the canyons, and hiked through canopy, finally reaching the giant el diablo waterfall. we descended into the canopy, then climbed up to the falls, which are quite intense. dorota climbed the extra, tiny tunnel to get under the falls. i, carrying the backpack and helmets, declined. still amazing though. the cherry on top was mercedes, the empanada lady, who is developing quite the reputation. it was recommended that we find her, and was WELL worth it. light, flakey and frickin´delicous! she gave us a complimentary banana-chocolate empanada, which i may have telepathically manifested, as i was staring at the sign like a demented person. afterwards, we jumped into one of the many trucks waiting to give bikers a lift up the mountain. fabulous day!
we spent the evening trying to figure out how to set up tours to the volcanic, crater lake, quilatoa, and to climb the volcano, cotopaxi. about to spend quite a few bucks to hire a guide, we stopped for dinner, and chatted with our new friend, britany, who has been living in the area for three months. britany suggested that we didn´t need to spend a few hundred dollars to hire a guide, as we could take a bus and hike the trails on our own. since she is the one who wisely sent us to the empanada lady, we heeded her advise and split banos the next day.
we took another long bus to latacunga, which is a base for quilatoa and cotopaxi, and were quickly overwhelmed by the crowded, chaotic town center, which boasts pretty much NO familiar (to us) food. sometimes it´s exciting to try local food, but sometimes it´s a drag when you just want something familiar. anyway, every place we walked by had some sort of sign with photos of sandwiches, coffee, etc., though none of these places had any such item. in fact, every place just served soup and a meat dish. we entered a place, and while waiting for menus, were served what we termed sopa mysterio. with the bone of some sort of animal in the middle of the bowl. we ate it, but left before the next course made it (actually, we declined it).
the next morning, we walked to the chaotic bus terminal and jumped on a bus to quilatoa. turns out, we needn´t have jumped, as the bus then sat there for nearly two hours, waiting for additional passengers. finally we started to move, and 5 minutes later, stopped once again. then we moved! then we stopped, and on it went for 4 hours. by the way, it was a 2 hour trip, so.... UGH! at least 30 minutes of this was due to getting stopped by a landslide on the unpaved or barely paved mountain road. eventually we made it to quilatoa, with only a few hours to spare before having to catch a bus back to latacunga.
quilatoa is a crater lake at the top of a volcano, surrounded by mountain ridges, and quite spectacular. we did very little hiking, as will be evidenced by all of our photos being of similar angle, and went back up to catch a bus. BUT it turned out, the bus wouldn´t come that far, and we ended up hitching a ride in the back of a pickup truck in intense wind, and started the ride down to the next village. we passed a bus, which indicated to us that it would be heading to lotacunga and started to charge our pickup truck to get us to board. this was right out of a movie. bus speeding right up to us and trying to stop our helpful driver. so we stopped on the side of the road, jumped out, thanked our driver (who unlike everyone else, wanted no money), and jumped on the bus to speed back to latacunga. and then we stopped. and then we started. and then we stopped. 3 hours later, we were back in latacunga. again, searching for food. for the record, we REALLY did not like latacunga.
we decided to skip cotopaxi and get the heck out of that place. we woke up early, jumped a bus to quito (the capital of ecuador) and arrived intent on escaping the bus terminal and taxi scams, detailed in our rough guide. eventually made it here, in between old and new town quito. we´re staying at a nice little hostal, though the swiss owner, chain smokes all day and night, indoors, where the computers and food and sitting places are. very low ceilings, almost no ventilation and even his employees are gasping for air. those who know me, know i don´t dig it. aside from here, both peru and ecuador are largly non smoking, so.... cough, choke, cough.
anyway, we eventually got orientated (after some frustration), found food, and booked our trip to the amazon. FINALLY! we leave tonight on a 10 hour....gulp...overnight bus, get in tomorrow morning at around 7am, go straight onto a canoe and paddle up to our thatched hut in the jungle. we´ll detail our activities when we return, next friday. quite excited, though we´re both nervous about the bus ride. we could fly, which takes 30 minutes, but were unable to book a ticket there. maybe coming back... fingers crossed!
also, we met a great couple, rick and leigh, who retired to mexico 8 years ago, and are now in the process of moving to ecuador. got royally stiffed in the US during the crash and had many nice things to say about living in mexico. momski, we have their email so that you can ask them lots of questions. they will be expecting to hear from you. great folks! will expand on this some other time, perhaps.
ciao for now...