Posted by: glenswatman | October 1, 2009

200909-3-Ecuador

SATURDAY 26
SEPTEMBER –
At 7am we rendezvous with our shipmates for the ride to the
airport.  They have all enjoyed the last
3 days but agree the first 3 were the most interesting.    Our
flight leaves early and gets us back into Quito 1.30pm local time.  Pick up a taxi back to Juan’s arriving about
10-minutes before he returns from his round of golf.  We are happy to spend the afternoon sorting
our luggage and catching up on the Internet. 
We suggest taking Cynthia and Juan out for an evening meal but when he
comes back he tells us that we are all going to Cynthia’s for a fondue.  On the way we pick up his friend Carlos and
at Cynthia’s her friend Marie is there making it 6 of us.  The first fondue is cheese with bread, salami
slices, and apple and mushrooms to dip into it. 
For desert there is a delicious fondue with apple, strawberries and a
local fruit a bit like an orange coloured cherry tomato but tasting sweet.  Marie tells us she lived in London when she
first got married but had big problems. 
In Ecuador you can get married at 14 with your parents’ permission and
this she had done to a man aged 21.  When
she arrived in England complete with baby the social services intervened, split
them up and it took quite some time to get matters resolved.  It obviously didn’t deter her though as she
is returning this year but alone as she is now separated.  After eating we play the card game 40 taking
it in turns to be part of the foursome. 
It is a lovely evening and we are amazed how time flies.  Around 1pm Juan drops us at his apartment and
takes Carlos home before going back to spend the night with Cynthia.

QUITO 1, BELLAVISA, JUANS

 

SUNDAY 27
SEPTEMBER –
Juan said he would be back around 10am so Steve gets up
early to watch the Liverpool match that was taped for him last night.  By 11am Juan has not arrived and we realise
we may have to revise plans as we were hoping to connect with a bus further
south that only leaves once a day at noon. 
When Juan returns he is happy for us to stay another night and set out
early tomorrow.  We take a taxi, $5.50 to
La Floriana burial chambers.  Recently
discovered these are an ancient site in the hills above the airport.  Free admission to a small area with these
extremely deep round chambers where we see depictions of the 15 people that
would have been buried in each sat up in the foetal position.  Also in the chamber there would be pottery
and gold.  One of the chambers can be
explored by a camera that goes down on a lift and produces images on a
screen.  Our guide then takes us into the
museum to view the things they found in the chambers.  Unexpectedly very interesting.   We splash out on lunch, 2 bananas to have in
bread rolls at a total of 30c (18p).  A
taxi, $3.50, takes us to the Case del Cultura to visit the Bank Museum, $2
(£1.20). It begins with the history of the land then the people and culture and
includes lots of art so a bit of everything. 
Take the tram back to the supermarket near Juan’s and there they are
having a tasting day so we get sausages, meat, toffee stuff and ice cream to
round off our lunch.  Back for an
afternoon nap.   

QUITO 2, BELLAVISA, JUANS

 

MONDAY 28
SEPTEMBER –
We are just about ready to leave when Couchsurfer Ian turns
up.  He stayed with Juan before going on
a jungle trip and is back for an overnighter – we tell him the bed is still
warm!  Juan just takes this all on board;
he is a brilliant host and really laid back. 
Taking a taxi to the southern bus station our driver tells us there is a
problem with his brakes and he must put us into another car.  Now Quito is not the kind of place you want
to be driving without brakes, too many hills and crazy drivers.  We swap into a regular yellow cab and a few
junctions further on he has the car behind flashing and tooting him, turns out
he has left the spare keys in the boot. 
Anyway we arrive safely at the very modern bus station, buy our tickets
and board the coach to Latacunga, $1.90 (£1.20).  The bus leaves at 8.30am but before we have
even left the station we have had half a dozen vendors through selling hot and
cold food and drinks.  At almost all the
stops en route more vendors hop on board and often end up staying on until the
next stop.  Steve points out the bag
belonging to the lady sat behind me, don’t know what is in it but it keeps
moving.  We make rapid progress along the
Pan Am highway and get dropped off in the town area of Latacunga.  It is freezing cold so we rug up then walk
over the bridge to the main bus station. 
This time there are lots of men approaching you asking where you are going?  We figure that in addition to the standard
buses with ticket offices there are many others going to the same places and
the touts are all trying to get you on theirs. 
However there is only 1 bus a day to Quilotoa so we have no choice.  Englishman James was on our bus from Quito, he
had planned a day north to some hot springs but that bus wasn’t running so he
decided to go south instead.  The
Quilotoa bus leaves at 11.30am, $3 (£1.80) and begins a very steep ascent up
into the Andes.  Lots of locals hop on
and off making progress very slow.  As we
get higher up we can see the amazing farming with some incredibly sloping
fields of crops.  There are lots of llamas
around as well as the usual cattle and some huge pigs that the local lads try
to ride.  Entering Quilotoa tourists have
to pay $2 (£1.60).  The bus stops by the
first hostel but it is not great and the guy wants $20 pp.  We get back on and tell the driver where we
want to go and end up at the top of the hill by the lookout.  Here there are quite a few more hostels, all
very basic and run by the indigenous people. 
Finally at Hostel Pacha Mama we find everything we need, double bed,
wood burning stove, bathroom with hot water and all fairly new and nicely
decorated.  $10 (£6) pp includes evening
meal and breakfast so a good deal.  There
is only one bus a day out of Quilotoa and it is the one we came on which
returns at 2pm.  James wants to hike down
to the lake so has to arrange a private car to leave.  We set out to walk part way around the rim of
Lago Quilotoa, a very attractive crater lake. 
The full walk takes over 4-hours so we are too late to do it but no
matter as I find that with lots of ups and downs I am struggling to
breathe.  We are at an altitude of 3800m,
the air is thin, and it is extremely windy and very cold.  Return for a late afternoon nap before the
7pm evening meal.  They already have the
wood burner going in the dining area and we ask if they can light the one in
our room and they say they will after supper. 
The two young girls who showed us the room are cousins Blanca aged 16
and Marie 17.  They are very short (as
are most Ecuadorians) so it was hard to tell their age.  All the women and girls here wear the
traditional costume of a felt pork pie hat, lots of colourful shawls, and below
knee length velour skirt with patterns, woollen knee socks and low clumpy heel
shoes.  The all have long dark hair with
the pony tail covered in fabric and their rosy cheeks must be from all the
wind.  Our meal is a nice hot soup with
potatoes and a few bits of carrot and pepper followed by rice, chicken and
chilled vegetables (that part was not so nice). 
We ask about the fire in our room and they say they are out of wood but
will put an electric fire in.  There’s a
slight problem there as there is no socket in our room.  They check the other rooms to find one with a
socket.  Meanwhile they tell us to wait
in our room.  About ½ hour later nothing
is happening so we go back to the dining room and find them huddled round their
fire.  They can’t find the electric
fire.  Explain that we really need a fire
in our room as my asthma is bad.  Next
thing we know they are chopping up wood, bring us a pile of logs and have our
room warm and cosy in no time at all.  Luckily
we have about 50 heavy wool blankets on the bed as the wood doesn’t last
long.  The wind howls all night long and
lots of things rattle around outside.

LAKE QUILOTOA

HOSTAL PACHA MAMA $10PP

 

TUESDAY 29 SEPTEMBER
We both manage a reasonable amount of sleep.  Breakfast at 7.30am is fruit followed by a
small plate of scrambled egg with tomatoes and a couple of bread rolls.  We’ve pre booked the “camionetta” (truck) that
James used yesterday and for $5 (£3) he will take us to the village of Zumbagua
where we he says there is a bus every ½ hour to Latacunga.  We are the first ones in so get to sit in the
cab whereas the pickups en route have to suffer on the wooden floor in the
back.  Arriving at 8.30am it turns out
the next bus is not until 10am.  A
camionetta leaves at 9am for Latacunga, $2 (£1.60) so we join the poor souls in
the back.  It is unbelievably cold and
misty and we huddle together.  There is a
small bench behind the cab and 4 men sit there whilst the women sit on the
floor.  The initial 9 of us swells to 13
until we have to turn people away.  For
over 1 ½ hours we bounce along, me with someone’s bags on my feet and a baby’s
head resting on my knee.  We must be
mad!  In Latacunga we are delighted to find
a very comfortable coach for Ambato, $1 (60p), don’t care how long it takes at
least we have a nice reclining seat.  On
coaches in South America they say that if you are lucky you get one with music
playing, if not you get the DVD, not sure what we are but they have both going
simultaneously!    A quick change in Ambato to the Banos bus, $1
(60p) arriving in Banos early afternoon. 
It is a very inviting town, lots of accommodation at all levels, quiet,
friendly and plenty to do in the area. 
We are almost spoilt for choice on rooms having been offered a basic one
for $6 pp and a luxury American style room at $26 plus all point in between.  Settle at Hotel Casa Blanca with a nice
double and single bedded room at $10 (£6) pp including breakfast.  Steve is happy to watch some football on TV
whilst I use the free Internet.  It is
raining in the afternoon so we have to do something to fill the time!  In the evening we enjoy a stroll around town,
check out the large church with pictures depicting the Virgin Mary saving the
town from the volcanic eruptions.  Café
Good has 2 large beers for $1.80 before 7pm and we slip in just in time.  They have an interesting menu and as there is
an English movie on at 7.30pm we decide to eat there as well.  Steve orders the filet mignon at $6 (£4.20)
and again gets cold vegetables, reading the menu we now realise that where it
says accompanied by salad vegetables this is their take on it.  The movie “Blood Diamond” is difficult to
hear and I keep nodding off so we head back to the hotel.  I left some laundry earlier on, at $1 a kilo,
and am very surprised to find it all washed, dried and neatly folded – reckon I
will only be doing undies by hand from now on.

BANOS, HOTEL CASA BLANCA

$10 PPPN Inc breakfast

 

WEDNESDAY 30
SEPTEMBER –
The hotel breakfast is very good, fruit, bread with
marmalade or cheese, 1 egg cooked to your liking, a glass of fresh fruit juice
and tea or coffee.  We book onto a
waterfalls tour, $5 (£3) but at the last minute Danny opposite has to off load
us to another tour.  You go off in the
“chivas” an open back truck with bench seats running across so a step up from
yesterdays rides.  The road to Puyo takes
us past the hydro electric dam and then many waterfalls.  The road goes through many rock tunnels and there
is a scenic detour past more waterfalls. 
At the bridge there is the Ecuadorian take on bungee jumping.  For $10 (£6) you jump off one bridge fastened
to the bridge opposite and pretty much just swing until they lower you down to
the river.  At Cascada Manto de la Novia
there is an optional $1 (60p) cable car trip across the river to get closer to
the falls.  It looks really dodgy and is
powered by a lorry engine.  A man sits
looking out at the cable and engaging gears, clutch and brake to control the
car.  I pay up and get into the swinging
car to take the plunge and have to laugh at the other end where a lady is
waiting to check your ticket to make sure you have paid – now considering we
have just come across on the cable car and are still sat in it you would think
that was a foregone conclusion.   We stop
at a number of other pretty falls and the last one is Cascades de Machay.  You pay $1 (60p) and then walk down a long
and steep track through the cloud forest past tiny falls to finally reach a big
narrow waterfall at the bottom.  Climbing
back out is a bit more of a challenge, don’t know whether it is my asthma, the
altitude, humidity or general lack of fitness but I find it quite hard
going.  Steve doesn’t have to confess to
any problems as he tells me to go ahead at my pace and he will follow!  It is a most enjoyable 3-hour trip and much
easier than trying to do it alone.  Late
afternoon we set out to get ourselves a massage.  On the way we see a procession with children
at the front with banners and flowers. 
We are busy snapping away when we see the coffin being carried along
behind so quickly put the camera away. 
It was a bit misleading as many people in the procession looked happy
and were laughing.  There are lots of
massage places down the road that leads to the baths.  The expensive places tell you that the
cheaper ones use unqualified staff which may be true but we have had a
recommendation.  Steve opts for the
Chinese massage, $15 (£9) hour and I have the Ayuverda $17 (£11.50) one.  Mine is a mixture of a relaxing massage and
some deeper work whilst Steve’s is quite intense.  We really enjoy it and will have them again
if the price is right.  Round off the
evening at the pizza place opposite our hotel splashing out on their special of
an individual 4 slice pizza and coke at $1.50 (£1). 

BANOS 2, HOTEL CASA BLANCA

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