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Chugchilan

Hiking at 3700m

sunny 24 °C

Arrived early afternoon from Rio Verda at Chugchilan, located on the Quilotoa Loop where we stay for 2 nights. On the drive here we got to take our first ride in the roof top seats whilst we were widing through the mountain side ducking under low electrical cables, good fun (forgot to take the camera but will take next time).

Tomorrow we trek for 4-6 hours to Lake Quilotoa which is a volcanic crater located at 3800 meters, luckily all downhill at this altitude.

So after I read the above paragraph and being a few days now since doing the hike, it wasn't as easy as it sounds. Hiking at 3700m is quite taxing it seems. Once we arrived at Quilotoa we decided to take the extra option to hike down to the lake before commencing the actual planned hike, going down was fine, but damn coming up was hard, an 1.5 hr trip turned out to be a 2.5hr trip. But as I keep telling myself its good exercise for Inca Trail in a couple weeks. At the lakes edge we didnt want to take a kayak/raft to the other side and begin the hike from the other side rather then walk back up to where we just came from but we were told it would take an hour to do this, 2 people to a kayak, one has to paddle back to pick up the next, you do the math. So we decided it would be quicker to just walk back up, or so we thought.

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And the fun didnt stop there, after arriving back on the rim of the volcanoes we set of on the "Rim" walk which turned out to be less of a rim walk and more of a walk up and down the side of the volcano, which initially I thought was how it was meant to be then we realized our "local" guide (a German guy who has been living there for 3 mths) was lost. Which again would be too bad but when you take into account that we had to walk back up the volcano to get back on course it was a killer on the legs and lungs, then we got lost again and with more threatening uphill walking ahead to retrace our steps we decided that we would make our own way down the trail towards the nearest road. This road as it turns out was the place we wanted to be anyway, so after 2 hrs of being lost we were back on track. We did eventually make it back to the hostel just as the sun was setting at 6.30pm (thats 8hrs of walking for those counting). So our original 4 hr walk had doubled in time...good exercise indeed.

Dinner and straight to bed after this day and another drive tomorrow to a big town.

Posted by Tony's Travels 18:38 Archived in Ecuador Tagged quilotoa Comments (0)

Rio Verde (Banos)

sunny 21 °C

Left early next day to make the next leg of the trip to Rio Verda (15km from Banos) and were greeted in Coca with the sight of the truck which no one thought we would see again. After leaving the truck in the middle of the road the guides managed to drive the truck with no clutch back to the nearest town and had a new gearbox put in and some new electrics (due to the burning and melting), it appears the bolt in the clutch sump had sheered off causing the fluid to leak over everything hence the catch fire. Fun times.

Arrived after a very long drive of 13hrs to a little camp ground outside Rio Verda, put our tents up at 1am and crashed. We originally had 3 nights here but due to loosing one night to mechanical issues we have lost a night here to get back on schedule.

We decided on a trip to Banos was in order and the options to get there were local bus for 50cents or just jump in some random dudes car, so we jumped in some random dudes car, well ute, and drove into Banos. It is pretty fun to sit in the tray of a ute driving through tunnels dug into the hillside whilst observing the scenery. We decided to pay the driver our 50cents saved from the bus fare since it was worth it.

Banos is an interesting little town with a couple old churches dominating the town and is located at the base of an active volcano. We did inquire about hiking up it but it turns out to be a 2 day trek and the Refugio at the top was destroyed in the eruption in 2006 and locals say we cant go there anyway as its too dangerous. So we ended up hiking up a hill (part of the Volcano) to a lookout named Bellavista with views over the town only to find not only a lookout but a shop serving beer and icecream. No coke though, the shop owner has some sort of protest against coke which disappointed me no end.

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Walked around Banos for a bit bought some Taffy (like rock candy/toffee) which the town is famous for, enjoyed all the marching bands playing throughout the place which we think was some festival for the Virgin Mary of Holy Water (or similar). Also watched one of the girls jump of a bridge and do a bridge swing which was pretty game of her considering the high winds and dodgy looking setup. That's about all we had time for and some much needed laundry.

Posted by Tony's Travels 16:40 Archived in Ecuador Tagged rio verde banos Comments (0)

Day 1

Quito to Sani Lodge (Amazon)

sunny 30 °C

First day of the official part of my trip started with pre trip meeting at 6pm the night before where we were told that due to some road closures we had to leave early...2am early...so straight to bed and 3 hrs sleep later was packed and ready to go, however the truck was not. Some apparently minor mechanical issues delayed the start and were eventually decided not to be serious enough to fix before we left.

So about 1-2 hrs later whilst climbing and winding through the Andes in the dead of night went to downshift a gear and...nothing, which lead to the truck stopping before rolling back down the Andes. An hour and halfish of investigative work later a air bubble in the clutch fluid was determined to be the culprit, so this was "fixed" and off we went again.

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Few hours later, daylight now, we came to a sudden halt, again on the steep upward incline on a blind corner, due to some not to worrying smoke coming out of the engine into the cabin and the slight minor issue of flames under the cab <insert truck evacuation here and enter small dose of fire extinguisher.

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4 hours later and numerous time wasting games by the side of the road and a local bus was summoned to pick us up for the remaining journey to the Amazon in Coca, leaving our guides behind to sort it out.

Due to the minor mechanical issues we missed our boat ride down the Napo River to the Eco Lodge, so we found a hostel for the night in Coca and got the boat the next morning to Sani Lodge.

The next 3 nights were spent in the Lodge taking canoe trips around the area for hikes with local guides to see lots of birdlife and insects, which is a tad boring for me since I want to see big stuff, however did get to see some monkeys sticking their heads out of a tree hollow which were pretty cool. Climbed a big tree to an observation area about 30 odd meters up and saw more birds. Searched for the elusive Cayman and fished for piranha. I am hoping my part of my trip further along to the Brazilian Amazon will be more interesting, wildlife wise.

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We also visited a school in the local community where we got to taste some local delicacies (see photos). It could explain a few stomach upsets experienced the next day by some people. We were also observed by the school kids who gathered around wanting to eat our food scraps from lunch which was kind of sad. But they have built a medical centre as well as providing a school for the Sani people which extends into high school which is rare in these parts.

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Posted by Tony's Travels 16:32 Archived in Ecuador Tagged lodge amazon sani Comments (0)

Quito and Surrounds

City Tour and Bellavista EcoLodge

sunny 14 °C

First full day in Quito went out to explore the city and first went to the Plaza Grande o de La Independencia looking for the information centre, which was surprisingly lacking information, sold a lot of tourist stuff though, so ended up walking around the square until we saw a long line for some building so jumped into that queue and it turned out to by one for the Presidential Palace so we got to have a tour in there.

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Apparently they had one President who was self proclaimed as being crazy, and no surprise, but he was from Saudi, check out the moustache in photo, wonder who he wanted to be.

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There was a small protest int the square in the afternoon of farmers who didnt like all the taxes imposed on them, but its was very quite and not much action happening.

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We then went over to check out the Basilica del Voto Nacional, there are a few churches to check out here if that's your thing. Bit of a weirdly built church, has lots of original construction, plus cheap renovations and some dodgy renovations, but I did get to climb to the top up many many steps, so good exercise for later hikes in my trip, but bloody exhausting, lack of fitness plus altitude not a good combo.

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After this we got lunch at some vegetarian place for $2, I know Im not vegetarian I hear you say, but went with the rest of the group who seem to all be vegos of some degree. Food wasn't to my liking but was only $2.

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After this we went and checked out some other churches, Santo Domingo and La Compania (no photos allowed here :( ).

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And that was pretty much for the day, back to hotel for dinner and early morning trip into the forest.

The next day went out on a day trip to Bellavista Eco Lodge which is 2 hours drive from Quito and in the hills surrounded by forests, both old and new. This is a place for Bird Watchers, Ecuador apparently has lot, so we were greeted by quite a few hummingbirds at the entrance. Then off for 3 hours hike through the hills, up and down (more exercise that I thought I my die), walked trough a small river up some rocks on dodgy ladders and ropes, which was fun to end with a waterfall. The camera got an exercise on this trip trying to catch the hummingbirds in action.

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This was a long exhausting day but back to the hotel again in the arvo and for tomorrow will be a quite day with trip to the Centre of the World (Equator Line) which I will post some pics later on here once I get back.

Posted by Tony's Travels 05:15 Archived in Ecuador Tagged lodge bellavista quito eco Comments (1)

Step Three - Ecuador

semi-overcast 13 °C

Finally arrived in Quito tonight checked into my small, slightly dodgy but cheap hotel in great area with locals working the corner across the road, doing some good business from what I see, I think they thought they hit the jackpot when I rocked up in a bus and park in front of them.

So you want to know my LAN review? Well it is a surprisingly good airline, modern aircraft, with some slick interior design, and attractive stewardesses. Only downside was my tv system wasn't working in my seat and unfortunately there were no other seats to escape to like last time, but from playing with it it was quite good as well. I think they could top Qantas on my airline scale.

I must say I found it a bit strange that Miami airport was full of Spanish speaking people, like there were no native English speakers in sight which is just weird considering it is still the USA, I know Miami has large Spanish population but that was just weird, the flight was all in Spanish too, its handy that Coke is still coke in all languages :)

Off to check out Quito tomorrow to get my feet wet in this Spanish culture.

Posted by Tony's Travels 20:29 Archived in Ecuador Tagged quito lan Comments (0)

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