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Published: August 5th 2008
Typical Andean image
Don´t need to download lots of these photos because it was a common scene throughout the Andes
Hello friends and family...it´s been quite some time since I´ve sat a this computer on this blog site, and lots have happened.
First, a little bad news. I had taken photos of our first two weeks in southern Ecuador, and accidently deleted them, so sorry, not only for you all, but for Robin and I. Luckily we met up with a great cruising couple, named Terry and Tammy of s/v Secret o´Life, also anchored in Bahia Caraquez. I am using, with his consent some of his photos of places we both had visited. So mucho gracias to them both for their compaionship and many exquisite photos.
We first headed back into the mountains to a town called Latacunga, south of Quito. We had hoped to get a more direct bus to Latacunga, but it was a bust, and pretty much headed on the same big highway (two lanes that are paved) towards Quito. About an hour from Quito we changed buses head¡ng to Ambato. Latacunga was before Ambato, so just had to remind the driver and his assistant to let us off in Latacunga. As it turned out, he almost forgot, and dropped us off at some corner, nondescript,
Typical Andean city
Small and large cities appear throughout the mountain valleys here in Ecuador
meaning not at a terminal. We hailed a cab and headed to a hotel recommended by other viajeros (travelers). We decided to do this Quitoloa loop through the Andes. I bought myself some man shoes (wide toe boot for my angry left foot), Robin bought a sweatshirt (forgot it on the boat), and we headed out on a smallish bus. The countryside was gorgeous, and never get tired of the greenery.
We finally (5-6 hours later) to our hotel called Cloud Forest Hostel. The next day we took a truck ride up to Laguna Quilotoa (google this for photos as I lost all mine). It is a huge crater lake at about 10,000 feet. Very cold, cold, but very, very beautiful. We hung out there for a few hours and hiked down towards the lake for a while, then expecting our ride back to the hotel, we hung out waiting for him. Then when he arrived he said we could hang another hour or so, so we hiked around the rim a little. We would have hiked to the bottom of the lake, but didn´t think we had enought time, oh, well. It still was quite awesome there, and
Thanks Terry for the photo, pretty impressive
were glad we traveled there. The next day we headed around the loop of mountains back to Latacunga. From Latacunga we headed south to a town called Banos.
When I was in Ecuador, this was a very touristy place, Banos, but I had never visited there, so this was the time. It has some natural warm springs from the surrounding mountains, and they have built pools for the local Ecuadorian vacationer, and viajeros too. It was a road that headed down toward the oriente (Amazon basin area), so it was more temperate, and very lush with plants. We really liked the area, a little youngish for us oldsters as far as travelers there, but it was a nice spot to hang for a while. Unfortunately, it started to drizzle and rain each evening and durring the day. There are some nice hikes around just outside of town, but it was going to be pretty muddy, so we just went to the pools and soaked for an hour or so. After another night of rain, we decided to head south to Cuenca and hope for better weather.
Cuenca is a very old colonial town, that is very cosmopolitan and
Colorful fruit market
Nice change from all the greenery outside of the city.
upbeat. We really like it a lot. We stayed there for 5 days. Two of those days we took an excurison on a two day trek/hike to the Cajas National Park outside of Cuenca. This is where I´m really upset for losing my photos...The first day we went with a group of viajeros for a 3 hour hike in the park with guides, then lunch, then another shorter hike. After that we headed to a hacienda (just Robin and I) with a guide named Gustavo, for an overnight stay, and horse-backriding the second day. Our guide was unbelievably nice, knowledgeable and just a great companion for us. He was the ¨naturalist cowboy¨. We got to know his story, his family, more about the history of that area and the people. It was a fantastic day two of our trek there. We have his e- mail and intend to keep in touch with him. I´m just sorry I don´t have all those ¨horsey ¨photos to show. We were pretty sore the next day. Poor Robin really got a bad bum. I tried to tell him to stand in his stirups when the horse trotted or cantered. Ahh, the experience of it
South American Eagle
Great photo Terry, thanks again. Seen in a small aviary behind the museum in Cuenca.
After Cuenca we headed south again to a small town called Vilcabamba. This town has been known to have the oldest living humans (along with a town in the Himalayas). I remember reading an article about it in the National Geographic many, many years ago. Have always wanted to visit, and in the last 20 years or so, there has been a great influx of tourism there and some great outside of town hotels. We reached Vilcabamba late in the evening, and took a taxi from the small downtown area to this nice place we read about. Got there and they were full! Yikes...so we headed back into town and stayed there for a few days. While we were there we ran into our traveling buddies, Tammy and Terry. They were staying at the nice place we couldn´t get into. They had made reservations..hmmm. Sometimes it´s hard to make reservations when you don´t have a hard schedule. If we like a place we stay a few days or more. Oh, well, live and learn,,,again and again.
We did some nice hikes out of Vilcabamba for the day. then on the third day we decided to go through
Cajas National Park
The national park outside of Cuenca where we trekked for two days.
the back door into Peru with Terry and Tammy. We did it once, and I´m glad, but will probably not do it again. It was rough, muddy, and many times very uncomfortable and sometimes scary too.
We left Vilcabamba in the morning, a drizzly day, but headed through some gorgeous jungle type mountains. Lots of mud, narrow roads, but we were just simply enjoying the scenery. One of the videos is of this part of our trip. You could smell the chorophyl in the air, so dense was the moisture from the air and the plants.
We arrived in a little border town called Zumba. Pretty nondescript to say the least. Many times during our trip through the back door, I kept thinking how lucky we are to have born and raised where we were. This life is so much harder than ours. Felt very much the fat, lazy americana. Probably why we work out so much at gyms in the states. No gyms here...
From Zumba we stayed the night. We definitely stood out, as I don´t think they get too many white people in that area. We got a hotel room, lousy bed..yuk! Ate downstairs
Inca Ruins in Cuenca
Ruins in the city of Cuenca behind a great anthropological museum,
at the only seemingly decent resturant, then crashed somewhat for the next days adventures on an open bus/truck ride called a ranchera.
The next morning we headed to the infamous border crossing with Peru. After a couple hours , more or less, the truck/bus stops and collects the money from the passengers...yes! there were others like us crossing over..only we were the only estranjeros (strangers). Then he started up the truck and drove maybe 50ft. then stopped again and told us to get out. Strange, I thought. but we got out, got our bags and started walking. About 100 yards down the road we see a huge mountain of dirt- Terry had seen the dirt-slide from up above as we were decending, but the rest of us hadn´t seen it. As we approached, we were told we had to climb up and over this hill of dirt!!! I wish someone would have gotten a photos of the our expressions. We were quite taken aback, or maybe shocked would be a better word. I had my large pack on my back, and the smaller one in front. I watched Robin climb up with his duffle, and I figuredm gotta do
Need to dry your clothes?
Very typical way women dry their clothes down here
what you gotta do, so I headed for the hill. Terry was already up, Tammy too, with the help of a Ecuadorian at the top. I tried to climb, but it was too heavy in the front, and the backpack was pushing me down. It was really quite absurb to think I could climb that hill...did I tell you it was soft dirt, newly piled there? As you stepped into it, you foot would sink and slip back a little. I made it about halfway, then Robin grabbed my little pack, and I heaved myself up the hill. Whew! Wow! Glad to have made it...but no, the fun wasn´t over yet...in fact it was just beginning...
As we came down the back side of the hill, there was a road we had to follow to the border crossing, immigration, etc. This road was perhaps the muddiest yet! I was so afraid I would tumble over with all my packs on and get totally muddy. I was following Robin and at one point, as he lifted up his foot, the shoe stayed in the mud, and his foot landed in the mud. He had to put down his duffle and
Hiking in Vilcabamba
The town is down below Robin. quite an arduous trek, pretty much straight up. Don´t use much switch backs donw here..ugg!
physically grab his shoe, put it on, then continue the walk. I laughed, but not too hard, as I was trying to keep my balance, It was a desperate act...
Well, we finally got out of the mud; boots, pants were nicely covered a deep shade of mud! We checked out and crossed the bridge, and did the immigration proceedure in Peru. There were some 4 x 4 toyota wagons waiting for travelers, like ourselves. These taxis would carry us to San Ignacio a few hours away. After a bathroom break, we climbed into a taxi to go (three in the back, normal sitting, and one in front).. BUT NOOOO! We had to take another woman and her small child. They rode in the front, and the four of us grown adults squished in the bac. It was a cheek wrenching trip. Robin and Terry on the outside, and Tammy and I cozy in the middle. Poor Terry hit his head a few times and got the ¨bump¨by the end of the ride. We laughed about the situation, but after that, we just paid the difference so we didn´t have to share a ride again like that. This part
Lush road to Peru
As we decended it was wetter and greener.
of the trip was dirt, and again lots of mud. Good driver and with his four wheel drive, we made it through fine, albeit uncomfortable.
In San Ignacio, we caught another little colectivo ( a toyota van sitting 14) No busses in that region. This was another squished ride with a chicken and a small puppy. We finally reached a town called Jaen. It´s pronounced Hain. It was a real strange town, pretty run down, the hotel we stayed out was just OK. Only for one night. Wouldn´t want to hang there for too long, not my type of place to visit. Many of the back road towns were like that. Unless of course you are learning spanish, live there...There is NO ONE like us there.
The next morning we took a taxi to Bagua Grande, then caught another taxi to finally do the last leg to Chachapoyas (our final destination for at least a couple days) Our taxi driver,, again a 4 x 4 toyota wagon. Just the four of us, and it was comfortable. Our driver, Juan, was really a good guy. pointed out stuff to us, and told us about that area, where he lived.
Day hike no.2
Walked up a long river valley looking for waterfalls, but didn´t find any. Stopped for lunch.
It was a pretty good trip. Some pavement and some dirt, then we started to climb into the mountains again, and it was beautiful. We were exactly in the oriente meaning the Amazon jungle, but the elevation was low enough that it was warm during the day time.
We reached Chachapoyas in the afternoon. After a little checking around got a hotel room off the plaza. It was a good feeling to actually reach a place we liked, and wanted to be at for a couple days. Chachapoyas is in the Andes about 8,000 ft more or less. We headed out the next day to the ruins of Kuelap. As you see in the photos, it was pretty amazing. Went with a tour group of about 10 of us, and our guide was a really nice guy. It was all in spanish, which was real good for us.
After Chachapoyas, we took an unbelievable bus ride to Celendin. We had to get up at 3am (yeah, that´s right, 3:00 am) and catch a smallish bus, carrying about 30 people. Our bags went atop, along with some bus helpers. As we are dozing off the some type of sleep,
Waiting to leave for Border
Ranchero trucks, open, cool and right on target with the backdoor experience
we hear this strange sound, and the bus stops. Ít´s about 4:30am. We had gotten a flat tire! The guys who ran this bus were very good about taking care of the problem quickly and efficiently. Off we go again, but then a few hours later in a little town, we stop for about an hour to fix the tire and put them back on (two back tires per side, with the outside one larger then the inner one...interesting, huh?)
Finally we head out again. We had to climb over some 14,000 ft. mountains, then drop down about 8,000 ft to the valley floor, then head back up again to cross over the mountains. That´s why this part of the trip took all day from 3 am. The road was one lane, with sheer drop offs along the side of the cliffs. We did have a good bus driver, but it´s not the road I want to travel every again. Tried not to look down, but the scenery was so impressive, I couldn´t keep my eyes off the view. Robin tended to doze off and on next to me.
Well, we got through that road, and arrived in
Made it to the first cross
Time to hike is definitely in the mornings, started to drizzle as we reached the first cross
Celendin. Celendin was having a huge rodeo celebration and the rooms were twice the normal price. We found a room, and wanted to stay to watch the bull fights the next day, but the rooms were ridiculously expensive, so we just stayed the night and took a bus the next day to the larger town called Cajamarca. We stayed in Cajamarca for a couple days, rested and visited the town. Had a lot of colonial buildings from the spanish. Robin and I took a little cultural tour of these buidlings. This is the town where the Inca King, Atahaulpa (sp?) was held, and room had to be filled with gold for his release. The spanish got the gold, and killed the Inca KIng anyhow.. Reminded me of the churches in Europe, on a smaller scale.
We left Cajamarca for the coast. Long bus ride, but pretty uneventful, good roads.. yeah! paved with room to pass.. yeah!
Arrived in Trujillo, then jumped to another bus to Chimbote. From Chimbote we would spend a night, then catch a bus to the Andes again to the town of Huarez. The bus ride was pretty impressive, and again a little scarry at
Reminded me of the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Vilcabamba, Ecuador
certain parts. Upon reaching Huarez we located a good hotel and settled in. Huarez is a trekking mecca, for mountain climbers who want to reach up into the snow capped peaks here. It is truly an impressive area in Peru. We are planning a few hikes in the next couple days, resting in between. Got some cocoa leaves to help heave me up those trails. After our stay here we´ll be heading to the capital, Lima, for a few days, then back into the mountains towards Cuzco and Machu Pichu.
All our love to our friends and family. looking forward to visiting with some of you all when we return for a visit, last week in October, and a week plue in November in SD, then heading north to visit with Robin´s family. Take care, keep smiling, and get in a good laugh each day. Love, Robin & Jean
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