Category Archives: Ecuador

Trapped

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Yesterday we API Call Errorbiked down API Call ErrorCotopaxi. Despite a bit of rain – including some sleet while we were at the top of our ride, just shy of 15,000 feet, it was a lot of fun with API Call Errorextraordinary API Call Errorscenery and would have made an outstanding end to our trip.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. We arrived back in Quito and got to the airport with plenty of time to spare…around 4:00, a good 3 hours before our flight was scheduled to depart. It was raining, which had never really occurred to me as a problem and I enjoyed watching the planes take off streaming water behind.

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The Inaccessible Andes

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After Baños, we were ready for a quieter place. Cities and towns of all sizes here are very noisy. So we headed off on what the guidebooks describe as the Quilotoa loop, basically just a series of API Call Errormountain roads roughly making a circle through some fairly remote regions. Our destination, API Call ErrorChigchulán, was only about 80km away from Baños as the crow flies, but required about 6 hours by bus, not counting the 30 minute delay while they added branches to shore up the mudslide so it could be driven over.

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Horses, Volcanoes and Kitsch in Baños

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We´ve been in API Call ErrorBaños for a couple of days, and have spent some of that time resting in the very nice room we found – it overlooks a lovely garden, and has plenty of hot water! Baños hasn’t quite been the town that I expected it to be – instead of being a sleepy tourist town in a quiet and beautiful mountain setting, it is a noisy, trafficy town in a API Call Errorbeautiful mountain setting. Many of the tourists here appear to be Ecuadorian – we had heard that it´s a popular weekend destination for ‘Quiteños’, and it most certainly appears to be. There are odd theme-park style trains running around the town in the evening, complete with loud theme-park music. Lots of motorbikes, quads, and dune buggies, which do look like a lot of fun, but are quite noisy. I´m kind of thinking it’s like the Ecuadorian Disneyland (it even has weird API Call ErrorDisney character heads on top of the garbage cans). It’s an interesting town, to be sure, but not the serene town I was for some odd reason expecting.

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Mad Dash to Cuenca

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When we’d booked our flights to the Galapagos, we’d arranged to fly back into Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. While it sounds like there is a lovely riverfront promenade and some neat historical districts, Guayaquil itself wasn’t really the attraction, just where the flight lands. Mostly, we’d heard great things about Cuenca, which is a good 12 hour bus ride from Quito, but only a mere 3-1/2 from Guayaquil. Theoretically.

When we’d booked them, we’d intended to spend a night in Guayaquil and then head up into the Andes the next day, but having just had a one night stay on San Cristobal, we weren’t really up for another night of just unpacking our bags so that we could pack again. We decided that though it would make for a long day, we’d head straight through to Cuenca.

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Swimming with the Sharks, amongst other things

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Our past few days on a boat have been fantastic. The scenery and animals have been fantastic, as has been the food and the snorkelling.

Day 1

Our schedule worked out well, since the boat had gone to the Darwin centre in the morning, something we’d already done, and in the afternoon the API Call ErrorSanta Cruz highlands were on the schedule. The main attraction was the API Call Errortortoise API Call Errorsanctuary, basically just some private property that has ideal conditions and lots of food for the tortoises, but with open access to the national park. Our guide talked about how the tortoises had been decimated during the 18th and 19th centuries, when they were a popular food supply for pirates. Since the API Call Errortortoises can live for up to a year without eating, they can be a fresh source of meat when a ship doesn’t have many ports it can safely stop in for resupply. It’s estimated that about 300,000 tortoises were taken or killed during this period, and since they have such long lives – 150-200 years or so – recovering the population is a slow process.

Also on tap was a walk through a lava tube – basically just a cave, though interesting in that it was almost as perfectly regular, more like a subway tunnel than a cave.

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Dancing in the sand and sea

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We arrived in the Galapagos on Tuedsay morning, and have been having a great time. The first night we stayed in a not so nice motel type place, but have since moved to a very nice hotel, complete with air conditioning and hot water – aren’t we spoiled!

We were planning on travelling over to Isabela island, but decided against it for less travel time, and more bumming around time. It was a good decision.

The first day we pretty much walked around town, got a feel for the place, watched the local wildlife – API Call Errorpelicans, API Call Errorsea lions, API Call Errormarine iguanas, crabs, etc. We took a walk over to the Charles Darwin research station, which was nice, but crowded with tour groups (one of which I’m sure we’ll be a part of on Friday). We got to walk through a couple of enclosures with the giant tortoises, and got some really nice pictures (as above). The better photos will come once we’ve returned home, as the files from the Canon are very large, and cumbersome to upload, and we’re not sure that these computers can handle raw image files. Unfortunately, there were a couple of tour groups at the centre that were not really obeying the ‘don’t get too close to the animals’ rule, and were getting right up close and personal to one tortoise in particular so they could all have their pictures taken.

The town of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz (the main island), has a very nice small town feel to it, despite all the tourism (ie, gift shops and overpriced tourist restaurants). The people have been very friendly and welcoming, and have been humouring us with our broken and minimal Spanish. Though we are improving. Today is our last full day on Santa Cruz, and we’ve finally figured out where all the local restaurants are hidden – sort of on a side street a few blocks away from the main strip. We had a set lunch there today, including pop, for $8, which is less than what one main dish costs at most of the restaurants on the main strip. And it was quite good.

Yesterday, we switched hotels and signed up for a snorkel trip. About 20 minutes or so out by motorboat, to a small island, and along the way we watched marine iguanas swimming in the bay, and saw a couple of blue footed boobies along the rocks. The snorkeling was really nice, once I got over my water panic (tends to happen with me every time I try diving or snorkeling – it takes a few minutes to convince my mind that I CAN actually breath under water). We saw many colourful fish, including a large school of them that swam all around us – what a neat experience. The second stop we made was near a small cove – we swam around the rock outcropping, then got out and climbed over some rocks (not easy in bare feet!), and back into the cove, where we swam near sharks and tortoises! We missed the tortoises, though our guide borrowed the underwater camera (thanks Beth!!), and hopefully we’ll get a picture. We did see the sharks, and I must say, that’s a bit of a freaky experience. They were about 1 to 1.5 meters in length – not huge, but not exactly small either.

The last stop was at another part of Santa Cruz, where we hiked a bit to see some sea lions, and many marine iguanas, sunning themselves on rocks. We got to see what the inside of a large cactus looks like, and I regret that we didn’t have the camera to take a picture – the inside looks a bit like a beehive, except instead of individual cells, the cells are formed by long ligaments that touch in intervals all the way up the stock. Very fibrous.

All in all, sunburn aside, it was a very fulfilling day. The water was fairly warm, and wildlife amazing, and the excercise felt good. The air is clean and fresh, and we’ve been taking a very relaxing pace. And the air conditioned room has done us worlds of good!

Thus far, coming here has been a great experience. There’s all sorts of amazing animals around. Today we took a walk to the API Call Errorbeach, an hour long slog which was great fun going out at 8:30, when the sun was still low in the sky. There were API Call Errorchirping birds that will come right up to you (I later had trouble with one at the beach that wanted to API Call Errorland on my foot – not the most comfortable experience). They even seem to be happy to pose for pictures. At the first beach along the path (you can’t swim there, due to currents), there were probably 30 or so API Call Errormarine iguanas hanging out sunning themselves. They’re really strange creatures to watch, as they kind of waddle to get around. The iguanas at that beach were probably the most active we’ve seen, since most seem to prefer just to stick to their rocks and sun themselves ’til the tide comes in. The walk back at noon was not nearly as fun, as the sun was overhead in full force – we were happy to get back to our A/C and shower.

We’re off on our cruise tomorrow. We’ll see how well it goes…we’re a little concerned we might end up with a tour group with whom we have absolutely nothing in common – a lot of the cruises seem to be filled with people who freak out when they get asked a question they don’t know the answer to. Either way, though, it’ll be a great chance to see some of the other islands.

Adventures in a New City

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We awoke today to pouring rain. Pouring.

The rain stopped around 10, about the time we stepped off the most sardine-packed tram I have ever ridden in my life. But that’s part of the adventure. We wandered around Mariscal Sucre, also known by some as Gringoland, or the tourist district. Travel agencies abound! We were in search of one, though one in particular that had been recommended. We did inquire at the travel agency located in the hostel, but didn’t think the offered deals were really great.

We ended up at the Galasam travel agency, where we booked our Galapagos cruise – 4 days on a first class boat, for $700 USD each. That was a much better deal than others we’d seen, albeit a day shorter than we were hoping for. I think she said regular price for this was $1300. She offered us 8 days, which would have been great, for $2200 each – and that was the last minute deal. Ouch.

So we leave for the Galapagos first thing tomorrow morning, will spend a couple of nights on our own on a couple of the islands (there are local boat ferries between some), then hop on the cruise on Friday morning. Yay! We’ll also get one extra night on the island of San Cristobal at the end, and fly out from there.

We’ve also changed our plan a little bit, in that instead of flying back to Quito afterward, we will instead fly to Guayaquil, then maybe make our way over to Cuenca, which we initially thought we wouldn’t have time for. From there we’ll head north, making our way slowly back to Quito. There is the possibility of a brief jungle excursion, but we haven’t figured that out yet.

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Getting there is half the fun?

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We have successfully arrived in API Call ErrorQuito, but the getting here was quite a stressful ordeal. Winter flying is rarely a pleasant experience, and yesterday was no exception. We had a very early flight from Edmonton, so wakeup was at 4am. That means I had to operate on 4 hours of sleep, since we had a symphony concert the night before, followed by me being a bit too wound up to go straight to sleep.

The delays began early. Boarding started as expected, but the lineup quickly stopped moving – the people at the front of line were being stopped at the plane end of the tunnel. The gate people then told everyone to sit back down, boarding was delayed, as the de-icing fluid was frozen…a more concentrated batch of anti-freeze had to be whipped up before we could get underway. That was only about 15 minutes, and then we boarded the flight, still enough time left to get going on time.

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