Category Archives: Ecuador

Off to the Market

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It was finally time to pull ourselves off the shitty couches at Vibes and start our journey up to Colombia. Radick was really set on going to Otavalo as its supposed to be one of the largest out-door markets in South America. This might be true but the markets are only big on Saturday. As we weren’t there on a Saturday the market was tiny and there wasn’t too much to do in the town. We found some really cheap accommodation at a “hotel” called Los Cascadas or the Waterfalls. This turned out to be more than just a name. I had this tiny room that felt like a cell. There was a single bed in there that touched 3 of the 4 walls and then just enough room for the door to open. In the morning I woke up to find that my room had flooded and all of my stuff was wet. Thankfully I had kept all of my electronics on the bedside table so they were safe.

Austin and I got pretty bored walking around the markets as there wasn’t much there and we didn’t really want to buy anything. Isabel was really annoying us so we decided since Radick had invited her he could deal with her and we left for the pub. That was pretty much all we did in Otavalo. Sit in a pub and drink for several hours and then went and got some pizza. I imagine the markets are pretty awesome on a Sat but there isn’t much else there on other days of the week.

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Up in the Clouds

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As there wasn’t much to do and see in Quito, Kirst and I thought we should go and check out the cloud forest Mindo. We didn’t have any accommodation booked for when we got there (like always) but met this crazy lady that had a place we could stay at the bus stop. The house actually wasn’t too bad and we had our own room and a nice bathroom but there were dogs everywhere. She was def a crazy dog lady. One night she fell asleep while cooking their dinner and almost set the house on fire. Thankfully she didn’t but the whole downstairs was full of smoke and the kitchen stunk!

There wasn’t really that much to do in Mindo. We decided to take a walk and see some waterfalls. The crazy lady from our “hostel” said it was pretty easy to hitch a ride up to the path to walk around. It was not easy to hitch a ride! I think all of 2 cars drove past us and were full. We ended up having to walk the whole way up there and by the time we go there were too tired to see all the waterfalls so just walked down to the first one and back. We did stop at a ziplining place on the way though that was good fun. Kirst and the other chick that was staying at our hostel had done it before but it was the first time I had ever done it. It was pretty fun and you really got some speed on the long ones. Kirst and the other girl (I feel really bad I can’t remember her name) got into all sorts of weir positions doing a superman and some upside down “butterfly” pose which was really just them doing a massive spready with the guys head between their legs….. (kinda pervy).

The one must do in Mindo is to go to the chocolate factory and do the chocolate tour and then buy a brownie! The chocolate tour was pretty interesting and you got to do a little taste testing at the end but the brownie there is AMAZING!! The butterfly garden is also pretty cool as they have 100s of varieties of butterflies and you get to see all sorts of cool cocoons. Other then that there wasn’t too much to do in Mindo so could prob just stay one night or even just do a day trip if you are really short on time.

Sending out some good Vibes!

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Pre Mindo:

The best thing about Ecuador is that it isn’t very big and it has everything! After a fairly short but eventful bus trip we arrived in Quito. Ok we didn’t know that it was eventful at the time but found out once we got to our hostel. Someone had attempted to rob me! During the bus trip I remember my bag sliding down to go under my seat but we weren’t going uphill. I thought this was kinda strange at the time but didn’t think much of it and just kicked it forward back under the seat in front of me where Pete was sitting. When we got to our hostel I saw that my bag had been cut open. They didn’t manage to take anything but I was pretty excited. You are always hearing how dangerous South America is but in my experience everyone that i know that got robbed happened sneakily on a bus. Only one of my friends was ever held up at knife point and that was probably because he was blind drunk and walking down these back streets in a really dodgy looking part of town. My Advice: Don’t take anything with you that you wouldn’t be ok with loosing, keep your valuables on you on buses and don’t wonder down dodgy back streets when you are to pissed to even stand.

 For our first day in Quito we thought we would go and check out the equator. There are 2 spots for the equator. The spot where they thought the equator was and a spot where the actual equator is. Apparently you can do all sorts of experiments here and I have heard mixed reviews about the place. I can’t give you my review as we never made it. A big group of us set out for the equator following a girl from the hostel that had been living in Quito for some time so pretty safe to assume she knew where she was going. After an hour or so on the bus we ended up pretty much back where we started and not at the equator. A few people jumped in taxis and headed off to the equator but Pete and I were over it. We decided we would try to find the teleferico and check out the view over Quito. After approximately 3 hours on public transport and some awesome spanish we made it! Just as we were getting off the bus it started to pour down! There was even hail! Pete and I hid out in some office we found waiting for the storm to pass and freezing our butts off as it was sunny when we left the hostel. Eventually the storm died down and we got to head up the teleferico. There wasn’t much of a view as the clouds were still hanging around but we were so impressed with ourselves for making it there we didn’t really care. We got a taxi home and found out it was only 5 mins away from our hostel…The next day Kirst and I headed off to the little town of Mindo.

 

Post Mindo:

After our short little getaway we were back in Quito and to our surprise everyone was still there! Radick a polish guy that was supposed to be in Colombia, Austin an american guy that was supposed to be heading south towards Peru and Miguel (possibly the coolest person I have ever met) from Israel that was supposed to be heading back to his volunteer project, were all still sitting on the shitty couches at the back of the hostel. Kirsten was heading off to Galapagos so I had to recruit some people to cross the border with me. As I knew Radick was planning on heading that way I decided that we may aswell go together. He then invited this german chick that was working at the hostel who I really wasn’t a fan of. I then found out they were a bit of an item and I was going to be a third wheel on my own trip!! I wasn’t keen on this so decided Austin had to come! Thankfully after a few jam sessions (Miguel obviously playing all the music as none of us were very musically talented) and a lot of smoking and drinking Austin decided he couldn’t be away from us and had to change his plans and loop back up to Colombia, a country he had just flown over… I’m sure he would say “GREATEST decision he ever made!”

Its off to the Bathroom

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Ok we weren’t really off to the bathroom but a town called Banos (which translates to bathroom). We had picked up a fellow traveler named Joanna who had the worlds smallest bag! She was fluent in Spanish as her mum was from Spain so was a handy travel companion. We pretty much spent the whole day on the bus. We hadn’t booked any accommodation and wandered the streets trying to find a place. As it was Halloween everywhere was either booked up or really expensive. We eventually saw some other backpackers and they took us to their hostel where we were able to find a room. Apparently Halloween is huge in Ecuador and the town was packed. We headed out to party but were all so tired after our long day on the bus that we didn’t stay out for long.

The next day we hired bikes and rode downhill to see some waterfalls. It is supposed to be a really easy ride as it is all downhill but it was so windy you actually had to pedal to go down hill!! Joanna and I were dying. At one point Joanna missed a turn off and went through a tunnel that we were supposed to go around. She came out covered in mud and a bit shaken as it was pitch black and trucks and been flying past her. By the time we got to the second last waterfall we were over it. Kirst kept going and went and saw the last waterfall but Joanna and I just chilled and walked down the 100 stairs to the big waterfall called devils nose or something like that. It was a huge waterfall and was pretty cool as you could follow this path through a little tunnel thing and go under the waterfall. We got soaked but it was good fun!! Thankfully you don’t have to ride the bikes back. You get in a big truck/taxi thing that takes you back up to town.

Kirst Joanna and I decided we really wanted to go horse ridding. We got a little group together and headed off to hire some horses and go for a ride to another waterfall. The girls were fine on the horses as we had all ridden before but the guys, Stan and Phelim, had never ridden before and were hilarious on the horses! Stan was really struggling as he had a crazy horse! We ended up going back and swapping his horse as he was def going to fall off. Unfortunately there was something going on at the cemetary and we were unable to get to where we were originally going to go so we turned around and headed off to another waterfall (yes there are lots of waterfalls in Banos!). It was a really fun ride but by the end i was in so much pain I could hardly walk. We were supposed to go for another few hours but all of us except Joanna and another guy bailed as we couldn’t face getting back on the horses.

That night we headed off to the thermal pools which is what banos was famous for. We walked over expecting a nice relaxing evening floating around in some hot water. When we got there we realised this is not the experience we thought it was going to be. The place was PACKED!! We had to line up to get in. Then once in we had to get these very dorky swimming caps and put all of our things in a locker. We then had to squeeze into the hottest pool as this is the only one that really had any room in it… You really couldn’t spend too much time in there as it was SO hot and you felt like you were cooking. After a lot of bumping into half-naked people and slowly boiling ourselves we had had enough and decided to head home. I guess it was an experience….. Not sure if it was a good one or not.

The next day Kirsten headed off white water rafting. In hindsight I should have gone but I really couldn’t be bothered at the time and wanted to have a lazy day at the hostel. I really didn’t get up to much that day but was nice having a day of nothing. Kirsten made friends with a group of Ausie guys that were really funny and they all decided to do this bridge jump swing thing. You jumped off the side of the bridge with a harness around your waist and then swung under the bridge. It looked awesome but way to scary for me! Of course Kirsten did it and made it look so easy and wasn’t even scared. The boys also nailed the jump but didn’t look quite as calm as Kirst did.

On our last day we headed up to the edge of the world swing at Casa Del Arbol. The boys had hired 4 wheel motorbikes but Kirst and I couldn’t justify spending the money on them as we had one as kids and used to drive them all the time so we just got a taxi up there. The swing is pretty cool and you do get some really good photos here. Almost everyone that has been to Banos has a picture of them on the swing as their profile pic at some stage. Kirst had read somewhere (I don’t know where she kept finding all these hikes) that there was a path you could follow back down to town. It wasn’t a hard walk but it was hard to find the path! I think we got a bit lost at the start but eventually we found some kind of path and just followed that back to town. That night Pete Kirst and I jumped on a bus to the capital Quito.

Its Evolution time!!!

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Ever since I had heard about Darwin and the Galapagos Islands I wanted to go! A lot of people I had met on the way had skipped the islands as they thought it was too expensive but you can do it on the cheap and it is definitely worth going! I booked a 1 way ticket with Tame from Guayaquil that cost US$195. Not super cheap but not ridiculous either. You then have to pay US$100 National park fee which I think is a little extreme but apparently goes towards conservation but still expensive. Thankfully I met a cool french guy on the bus called Guillaume (took me forever to learn!) who also didn’t have any accommodation booked or knew what he wanted to do. We thankfully found a cheap room that was US$20 a night for 2 beds and a shared bathroom called Los Amigos. It was a really nice room central and cheap!
We then set off to find a cheap cruise. I was pretty set on doing a liveaboard dive trip but they were all fully booked and ridiculously expensive. I soon gave up on the idea of finding a dive trip and just settled for a cruise that we were going to see the most on. After walking around to a few places we found an awesome travel agent, Jorge, that planned out our whole time on the island. We booked a 5 night 4 day (as we got on the boat at night and left early in the morning) cruise on the Aida Maria for US$950. It was an awesome boat and the food and staff were amazing! We also got Jorge to throw in a go pro and some wetsuits (I would def recommend the wetsuits as the water was pretty cold). We also booked in some day dive trips seeing as we couldn’t get onto a liveaboard and wanted to check out some of the underwater life.
The next day we were off on our first dive trip. We were heading out to North Seymour as Guillaume didn’t have too much experience diving and hadn’t experienced diving in currents. The dive really wasn’t that exciting… We saw a few reef sharks a turtle and that was about it. I was pretty disappointed but i guess you can’t predict what is going to be there. The next day we headed up see the giant tortoises. They were amazing!! You got to get pretty close to them and really see how big they were. Apparently they never stop growing. That night we were off on our cruise. The boat was way flashier then I thought it was going to be. I was in a cabin with a girl from Belgium named Katia who was awesome! We had an awesome dinner and met everyone on our boat. Most people were young who had bought the last-minute deal but there was an older Swiss couple that had booked their trip way in advance and I’m sure paid a lot more than any of us had. They were nice enough but didn’t really socialize with us throughout the trip. Everyone went to bed pretty early that night as it was going to be a bit of a rough crossing to Isabella island and no one wanted to be sick.
We woke up nice and early at Isabela island. After an awesome breakfast we headed to the island to go and see the Wall of Tears. This was built when the island was used to host convicts. As there wasn’t much to do the Convicts were forced to carry rocks from far away to build the wall in the middle of no where. I don’t think there was any purpose to the wall as you could easily climb it and it wasn’t containing anything…. After checking out the wall we headed back to the harbour and went snorkeling. It was so much fun. We saw some penguins and a huge turtle but the best part was the seals! They are so inquisitive and playful and would come up so close to you. After lunch we went to the Tortoise breeding center. Almost all the tortoises are bred in captivity. When wild tortoises lay their eggs rangers go and dig them up and bring them back to the center and they are kept there for the first few years of their lives. We got to see a baby tortoise that had just hatched a few days ago and it was so small!! It was the cutest thing ever and hard to believe could grow to be as big as the adult ones.
The next day we were on the west coast of Isabella at Punta Moreno. We landed on a lava field that didn’t have too many plants except a random cactus here and there. After a bit of walking around we arrived at a lake that had a bunch of flamingos feeding in it. They were pretty far away but was still cool to see them. That afternoon we did some more snorkeling and saw a bunch of penguins swimming around. They are so cool to see underwater and they go by so fast!
On our third day we were at Tagus Cove which used to be a favourite spot for pirates and whalers and there are hundreds of names carved into the rocks there from as far back as the 1800s. We were then off to Punta Espinoza where we saw thousands of marina iguanas, loads of seals and some flightless Cormorants. While cruising to our next destination we saw a huge school of dolphins that were doing massive flips out of the water and even saw some whales!
Our final full day on the cruise was spent snorkeling and seeing even more seals! The seals were my favorite and it was breeding season so there were baby seals everywhere! They were sooooo cute and took so many photos of them!! Not as many as Heiko though. He was a German guy on our cruise that was like the paparazzi! He would take 100 photos of each bird, seal and iguana we saw!!
 The last day was a short one. We were at North Seymour Island to see all the birds. I was pretty excited as we go to see the Frigate birds with their puffed up red chests. They were so cool and you could get really close to them as the weren’t scared of us at all. It was then back to the mainland to drop everyone off at the airport. There were quite a few of us staying for a few more days so we all headed back to Los Amigos for another night. That night we went to bbq street (not sure if that is what it is called) and got Lobsters for dinner! It was my first lobster and it was amazing! The best part was it was only $15!!
The next day Guillaume, Heiko and I were off diving again. We were off to Gordon rock which is famous for its crazy currents and schools of hammer-head sharks! It was an insanely rough trip out there. 3 out of the 8 people on the boat were sick. Both of the dives we did sucked. We didn’t see anything except a few fish and a sting ray. The second dive was the worst as the visibility was nothing and we literally had to pull ourselves along rocks and the current was pretty strong and I think we maybe saw 1 fish. The sucky thing about diving in the Galapagos is its expensive ($130-$150) and if you don’t see the amazing big schools of fish and sharks there really isn’t much to see. We were pretty unlucky with our dives as most people i talked to, did see the big schools of hammer heads.
 Our final few days were spent on San Cristobal island. The boat ride over there was awful!! The boat was slapping down so hard on waves for 2 hours and jarred everything in your body. We finally arrived and found Katia who had found a nice cheap hostel which I think was called Louis House or something like that which was about $10 a night. We spent all of our time here just lying on the smelly beach with the seals working on our tans. After an awesome time on Galapagos it was time to head back to the mainland! I found a cheapish flight with Avianca ($152.50) back to Guayaquil to meet up with Kirsten.

Don’t Post stuff from Ecuador!!!

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After another crappy night bus and a border crossing that consisted of a lot of waiting in lines, we arrived in the party town of Montanita. It was a beautiful day, which is rare in Montanita (most of the time it is overcast with light misty rain), so we spent the day lying on the beach working on our tans and eating Ceviche! They had the best Ceviche on the beach in Montanita! As it was mid-week there weren’t to many people in town and not all that much going on. We were staying at a pretty cool hostel called Iguana Backpackers, that was US$7 a night but unfortunately it was the loudest place ever. It sounded like we were sleeping under a herd of elephants!! If you stay in the hostel try to stay on the top floor or bring some earplugs as the middle floor is so loud! it does have good showers though which is rare in South America.

The one thing I wanted to and eventually managed to achieve in Montanita was to send a package home with some of the things I had bought in Peru and Bolivia. My bag was so incredibly full and I had thrown away as much stuff as I could. It was getting difficult moving around as I was carrying so many bags so it was time to try to offload some stuff and post it home. I really didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was. The Montanita post office is not the most reliable and I would not recommend it!! It wasn’t open most of the time even though it said on the door it should be open so I spent a lot of time walking back and forward between the hostel and the post office. I finally got there on a day that it was open and the guy working there had no idea how the post system worked or how much it would cost. He told me one price and then when it came time to posting it he realised it wasn’t that price and was around double the price he said. In the end he had no idea what he was doing so I had to wait for this other guy that normally works there to come in and help. I should have taken all these difficulties as a sign that I shouldn’t post stuff from here but I just really didn’t want to carry it with me any longer! The New guy seemed to have a bit more of an idea on what was going on so that gave me some faith! It ended up costing me something like US$70 and to this day (about 7 months) still hasn’t arrived…..