Monday, June 27, 2011

Back tracking to Banos for some white water rafting

This is one of the few times we have back tracked on our trip because of first visit was so uneventful (had the runs) that we wanted to return to see and do more. First was finding a rafting tour again we got a good deal or we think we did. Most tour operators where asking $30 but we asked another small operator and quoted us $25 we asked for a discount and she drop the price to $22/pp that include lunch. Next morning we arrived expecting it to be late but to our surprise it was on time. We had to pick up a few more people on the way to the launch. When we arrived they suited us up and gave a quick lesson and some safety tips. When we carried the boat to the river the insects were just killing us could wait to get in the water and moving. When we started it was fun off the start class 3 to 4 rapids I couldn't stop smiling while racing down the river while Ji, in the back seem scared but she told me she was having fun. In total the ride on the river for about 1.5hr without flipping so a good day. Overall I would recommend to anyone and don't forget to ask for a discount you never know.

Another day we got in some hiking time up to the virgin statue on hillside as you climb up the stairs you get great views of Banos and every step the views seem to change. On our first visit to Banos we found the food average but this time around a local recommend a restaurant that we loved it was a BBQ place not in the guide books about 2 block directly behind the main church we went twice during the 3 days Dulce Carbon was the name.

Banos from the top

easy stuff just bring some water and a hat

pure cane juice yummy
best restaurant in Banos hands down

Seafood, whale watching, and a run in with the polica all down the coast of Ecuador

Its been awhile since we've been on the beach but after 3 months of mostly mountain climate it was a welcome change. That was my reason to see the coast but for Jieun, it was all about the seafood. We made our first stop in Canoa, a tinny town with dirt roads, full of hostels, restaurants and bars. After an hour of looking for a place to stay we bumped into a young French couple we meet in Panama and they had been camping on the beach for free. We decided to do the same but in the van. We had a beach front view, palm tree shade in the mornings and breezy nights. We only spent 2 nights enjoying the free camp, cheap seafood and beer, it was time to move on and plus we really needed a shower.

cute fishing village
morning jog who am I kidding!

end of a long day enjoying a cold one
Manta, is Ecuador's largest port city with a long malecon lined with buildings, seafood stalls, fish markets and boat makers. Funny thing that happen on our second day, we got stopped by the immigration police. They asked us for ID and we told them we had them at the hotel, they put our bikes in the back of the truck and gave us ride back to the hotel to show them. During the ride they joked with us about Jacky Chan and after we showed our documents they released us and told us to carry a copy of our passports. After that experience we packed our things and headed south to Puerto Lopez, a small town but this town had the national park of isla de la Plata, some refer to it as the poor mans Galapagos island.

we asked a guy he told us would cost about 200k and take 6 months

shark fin anyone
shrimps galore and cheap
Ji, getting into trouble again see our bikes in the back
We arrived into Puerto Lopez late afternoon and stopped on the beach front for a drink. Just as we sat down a guy was trying to sell us a tour of isla de la Plata and whale watching. Usually we just say no to these sales guys but we already knew we wanted to go. First he told us it cost $40/pp and said they already had 8 people going and he could drop the price to $35/pp so we told him we would find him again after our drinks. 10 minutes later he came back and offered $32/pp so we jump on it "be ready a 9 am tomorrow" he told us. Next morning we arrived 10 minutes early and surprise the other group was running late and we waited two full hours before getting on the boat. The boat ride was bumpy but Ji, took some meds well advance and had no problems. When we arrived we saw a few other boats docked. Now all groups must be accompanied by a guide on the island and we were given a option of one trail hike, 1st and easy 1.5hr hike and you can see the red foot booby or 2nd an harder 2hr hike and you could see the blue foot booby. We all agreed to take the later and were the only group doing this hike so we had the whole trail to ourselves, with the birds of course. At the start of our hike we were instantly greeted by a pair of blue foot booby, they had no fear of us, seemed to be calling us wanting our attention and posing for pictures. As we continued on we saw more blue foots and 30mins in we saw Nazca boobys. It was really interesting how segregated the birds were, they only stayed with their own type it was like they had there own boarders. Later on the guide stopped and told everyone to be quite and we saw a large wave albatros, it seem to be protecting an egg and the guide told us it was a treat that we got to see one because they are hard to spot. After the hike we all got back on the boat for lunch and later boated out to a snorkel spot just off the island, the water was clean enough but it was a cloudy day so not much light, everyone on the boat took a dip in the water and 30 minutes later we headed back with hopes of seeing the whales. As we started our return the boat stops and long behold the whales surfaced for us and even swam towards us and in the distance another whale jumps into the air, it was site I won't soon forget the size of these amazing animals. The tour was good overall, saw and did everything they promised but would have been perfect if they let us see the entire island.

the blue foot boobys its almost like someone painted their feet

Isla de la Plata
nazca booby looks the same as the blue just different color yellow feet

large albatros protecting its egg
Next would be Selinas to visit Paul and Rachel who we shared a container with were planning to get married and invited us. They had recently purchased a building with 4 apartments, 1 penthouse unit just 2 blocks from the beach so we stayed with them. We spent 5 days in Selinas but unfortunately we could see their wedding because of some red tap problems but we wish them both good luck and happiness for the future. We are heading back to Banos to do some white water rafting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A taste of the jungle in Misahualli

Misahualli, is a small village just at the tip of the jungle, tourist and Ecuadorians all come here to get a taste of the amazon. The villagers all know this and are eager to capitalize on this fact by offering boat tours, bringing in monkeys, snakes,building a museum and natives offering tours and shows in the nearby communities. I don't know how authentic it all is, but its a fun place to visit. We hired a boat for $40 to take us along the Napo river to the museum and a native community lucky for us a Ecuadorian mother and daughter were interested in the same tour so we shared the boat and split the cost we saved $20.

Museum cost $2.50 each to enter and included a guided tour, showing all the plants used for different ailments, tools and traps the natives used to catch animals it was neat to see. After was the community and we're greeted by the chief telling us everything would cost $1, show, tour, shop I mean everything was funny. We only saw the traditional show with the village girls dancing and 4 guys playing music.

That was the extent of our jungle experience and now were tired of the mountains and will head to coast for some sun and seafood.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2 flat tires in 2 days Quilotoa loop to Banos

While driving on a scenic but rocky road from Cotopaxi to Chucchilan, I felt the Sienna not responding on turns and got out to check the tires and long behold the driver front tire was flat. Lucky for me no side wall damage yet, and the sun was still up. Had to give the old spare tire some use and lucky it came out just fine (thanks Gus for servicing the cable) 20 minutes later in some light rain we're back on the road about 10kms to the next town where we spent the night and got the tire repaired. Just down the road from the hostel for $5 patch inside the tire looked like a stone had punctured the tire.

first flat tire of our trip
manual labor not tire machine here boys
Next morning we headed for lake Quilotoa one of Ecuador's most photographed sites. We picked up 3 Swiss from the hostel, it was only a 24km drive but it took almost 2 hours because this stretch was horrible at one point of the road had so much mud that I thought we would have to turn around but luck for everyone I managed to maneuver pass with everyone outside watching and fearing the Sienna would slide down the muddy cliff.

amazing emerald green color from the lake

donkey ride back up the hill priceless

When we arrived to lake Quilotoa, one easily see why its so popular because of its beauty and size. The hike down was very steep and you see the local natives working all around planting bushes, relaxing and talking amongst themselves. After an hour we arrived at the bottom and expecting 4 donkeys waiting to take us back up because we had arranged this beforehand at the top with the locals. 30 minutes late a little man came down hill with 1 donkey, 1 horse and 1 kinda hybrid of a donkey and horse which i got to ride. Ji got the donkey and the Swiss girl got the horse while her boyfriend Andy, was shit out of lucky and had to walk up, we paid $8 each to hire the animals and guide. The animals where ok, not really trained and the guides had no change as usual.

We drop off the Swiss trio in Latacunga, lucky for me the rest of the way was paved. 3 hours later Ji and I arrived in Banos the adventure town of Ecuador and as I was doing a U-turn to get back to the hostel I hit the curb and instantly knew I had blow out another tire got out and sure enough but this time the passenger front tire. Talk about luck in almost 10 months though USA, Mexico and Central America nothing but in these last 2 days something hit the fan. This time it cost me $12 to fix, because of the side wall patch was huge and cost more, not sure if it would pass safety in Canada but it looks ok and holding pressure keep you posted.

Banos famous waterfalls and natural pools

at the doctors, had some stomach problems but got the clean bill of heath