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Published: March 25th 2016
Our next stop after the Quilatoa loop was the backpacker hangout of Banos.
Unfortunately, the weather has not been kind to us in Ecuador, and that was no-more true than in Banos. A town that's famous for its spectacular views of an active volcano that looms over the town, a view that we were never able to see (although we were able to hear it's rumblings and growlings). We spent our time there trying to make the most of the weather when it cleared and getting wet when it didn't. A trip to the hot baths (banos is spanish for baths) where we wallowed in outside pools as it rained and a return to white water rafting, for Chris anyway, as it doesn't matter if it rains or not if you think you're about to drown.
It was a second birthday on the road, and Chris turned 31 cycling down a long and beautiful road passed waterfalls (including the devil´s Cauldron) and we were fortunate to get a morning of clear weather for it.
Moving on South to Riobamba a more work a day city we spent a day on Ecuadors train system. The railways seem only to
have been revived as tourist trips and although the famous Devils nose train ride from Alausi to Sibambe over dramatic swichbacks in the track was pretty, the hour spent at rainy Sibambe station with not much to do but watch the wet llama was less inspiring.
We didn´t really have any expectations for Cuenca but it turned out to be the nicest towns we´d visited in Ecuador, with pretty architecture, nice galleries and museums and a lovely central plaza with 2 huge cathedrals overlooking it. We had 3 days there before heading back to Quito and expected to spend at least some of that time there kicking our heels and watching the rain (which did come) but the town was so pleasant that wasn´t an issue at all. Also we were able to go to the beautiful Caja national park a few hours outside the town. Most of the park is over 4000m and walking around you´d believe you were somewhere in the far north of Scotland, it´s all barren peaks, bare rock, peaty earth and still pools but with the occational llama sighting to remind you that you are in Ecuador after all.
After Cuenca Chris and
I had to hot foot it (or 10 hour bus it) back to Quito to meet my parents. We spent a tiring day talking to lots of travel agencies to find a good deal for a Galapagos boat tour and finally agreed on one in time to get the bus out to Quito airport. Unfortunately the Quito buses are a lot less efficient than airports and 2 hours after setting out we found mum and dad who had been waiting in the arrivals department for some time. Luckily neither of them seem too bothered by the altitude so we spent the first day finalising tickets for the Galapagos and visiting the botanical gardens which showed a really good range of the Ecuadorian landscapes. The only issue was a near miss with the pick pockets on the Quito public transport which lead to a long walk back and dad loosing a pair of cheap reading glasses but I am very glad to say nothing worse. The next day we looked around the old town and had an amazing fish lunch in the local food market.
Next up an early moring start, arriving at the airport in time to complete the
extra paperwork and bag checks required for the Galapagos. Then on to the Guantanamera for the next seven nights. Its hard to know what to say about the Galapagos but we all loved it and we had a great group of people on our boat which added to the fun of the week. I´ll let mum and dad give some more details.
Eve. So many new experiences, and now I´ve even been let loose on Chris and Alice´s blog. Chris and Alice had done a lot of sorting for us, so it was a case of working out the payments, a hefty 8% credit card fee being a disincentive to paying that way but didnt want to carry masses of cash. Anyway, all was sorted and we had good chance to see a capital city quite unlike one we´d ever been to. Chris and Alice found us fascinating foods to try, plenty of fish and soups.
And so to the Galapogos. I was unsure beforehand whether it really was worth a lot of money, though far less than if we´d tried to arrange it beforehand. From the moment we arrived, i was simply stunned. The wildlife is just
there, many times we had to find a way round iguanas, sealions and the infamous boobies. There were 16 of us on our boat and they were a very friendly, international group, some backpacking round South America, some on extended holidays and some only away for a short holiday. We had a great Galapogosian guide who was very knowledgable. The programme was pretty full on, with island visits a couple of times a day and usually a couple of snorkelling opportunities. Chris and I couldn´t get the hang of snorkelling so sometimes we were able to swim and sometimes we were pleased to have an hour to breathe! Chris H took our underwater camera with him and came back with amazing shots of swimming with sharks, penguins and sealions as well as beautiful fish. Often we were able to see colourful fish from the boat. I was surprised by how much each island had its own unique flora and fauna. Island visits didn´t get repetitive. Chris H had looked carefully to see which itinerary would be the most varied. Landings were sometimes a challenge, many were wet landings, could be very wet if stepping out of the tender at the
During Mum and dads visit Quito has been the main base so once again we returned for the night before heading to Lago Agrio for Cuyabeno national park in the Amazon basin. The trip to Jamu lodge started with 2 hours on a bus then a transfer to a motor powered canoe seating 12 people. The lodge itself was pretty fancy and we spent a lovely couple of days taking canoe rides along the river, visiting a local Siona village which our guide lived and grew up in, hiking in both day light and at night. We saw alot more wildlife than we had hoped for including sloths, 6 types of monkeys and river dolphins.
Chris P: Like the Galapagos, the Cuyabeno region was totally different to anything we are familiar with. Whether climate, flora and fauna or whatever, there was just so much new to see and learn. Pedro, our guide, was brilliant and he and our boatman spotted things, showed them to us and told us all about them. Anacondas, boas and other constricting snakes, river dolphins, black, squirrel, capuchin and black marmoset monkeys all came into view at different times, as well as
an impossibly large number of different birds.
We felt a bit unsure about visiting the village Pedro came from to meet the Shaman and to see how yucca bread is cooked, being concerned about perhaps treating the local people in an inappropriate way, but they soon put us at ease and made us feel welcome. Eve was ´cured´ by the Shaman, Chris H also had a ´treatment´.
The river Cuayabeno was impressive in itself, being in full flood after the recent start of the rainy season. Large areas of forest were flooded 2 to 3m under water, meaning that we in our boats, and the wildlife, had a far larger area to roam around than would have been the case only a couple of weeks before. This had its good and bad points, meaning that travel was easier, for instance, but making it harder to find the river dolphins.
So now we are all back in Quito once again having a day to reaccustom ourselves to the altitude before we head off to Cotopaxi with fingers crossed that the clouds part and we get to see at least some views of the volcano.
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