Travel - Ecuador
Updated : Photos of Ecuador
So I left very early in the morning in Mancora. Got a two hour minibus with some locals to Tumbes, then a bus to Guayaquil for 8 hours, broke a $100 note at McDonalds because no one else would accept it and got myself another 8 hour bus to Banos. So even though I've been on buses for longer and more consecutively, this one was kind of rough as it was all during the day and I was exhausted when I arrived in Banos at 11pm. Fortunately I read up on a hostel a little bit outside the town, El Recreo, where they tend to give you a room to yourself which turned out to be true. There was no breakfast but wifi was good, had a kitchen and free laundry all for $7.
The next day I did my usual wander around the town itself. Pretty nice touristy area. The nice thing about Banos is you've got a lot of options really. There are a lot of treks and cycling trips to do around the area but you can also zipline, do water rafting and canyoning so you can see why it's a good place to stop off. The only major thing I did that day was head to the hot baths which were really nice if a bit too busy even though that was expected. It's also always really nice when it rains heavy while you're in the hot baths.
The following day I decided to trek up to the swing known as the end of the world. It took me about two and a half hours to get up there. It's hilarious as the route is like going through one ditch to another and you'll probably get lost at some stage. I went around in a loop so that I went to Cristobal when going up and the statue of Mary on the way down so that was pretty nice to have a different path to trek around. The area the swing is in costs $1 to get into and it's actually really nice. There are a few swings and things in here along with a cafe if you're hungry or thirsty. You've got all the time in the world to check out the treehouse and main swing too which is nice. The only pity for me is that the Volcano was covered by cloud so I didn't get to see it while I was up there. The swing itself is pretty cool to go on, if you're afraid of heights it might not be for you but I don't think it's too bad.
The following day I rented a bike for $5 and cycled 60km to Puyo. It's mostly downhill but there are parts that do go uphill so it's not all easy, I actually found it a bit more difficult than I'd expected. I'd recommend going pretty early as it gives you more time just to take your time as there are a bunch of really cool waterfalls to go to and chill out at. I found that I rushed it a bit and missed a few as I left a little later but I still really enjoyed the cycle. There was also a really awesome (while expensive) ice cream place just outside Puyo to the right. Worth going into.
I spent my final day treking the opposite side of Banos where you can make your way all the way up to the Antenna to get another really great view of the Volcano. This time I was a lot luckier as I got some really nice shots of it with clouds surrounding it. And I actually liked this trip, while it's mostly on road, you go across some cool old fashioned bridges and just ones which are 4 pipes to make it across to a place so that was cool and it was really nice and quiet. I didn't meet a single tourist, just locals. That one did take about 6 hours or so in total.
I was tempted to do canyoning or rafting but again I didn't really want to agitate the injury I had too much so I left it. Hoping I'll still get to do something like that at some stage.
After Banos I made my way to Latacunga, dropped my bags in Tiana Hostel and got a bus to Sigchos so that I could start the Quilotoa Loop for tomorrow. The trek took me 4 days in total really but I did spend an extra day to go out to the crater so I spent 4 nights also.
I was pretty fortunate to be on the same bus as an American with fantastic Spanish. Just a little side story, this guy was from Iowa and also swore by the taco pizza. There was even some takeaway store that you just had to get a taco pizza any time you went there. Anyway he was really nice and with each day, we added more to the trekking group as we all would generally stay in the same hostels.
I don't want to really detail too much about the trek itself as I think it's just a really cool trek to do and the achievement of getting to the crater makes it worth it. You'll go through different terrain, meet lots of locals, lots of school children, the clouds will roll in at around 1pm everyday so you'll be surrounded in complete fog at times and it's a really wonderful experience.
On top of that the hostels are generally of a really high standard. We're talking $15-18 for a bed, dinner and breakfast and they were all really good. Lluma Llama in Isinlovi, Cloud Forest in Chugchilin and I can't remember where we stayed in Quilotoa itself but there were a lot of options and it was good too. If you're going during low season, do not book in advance, it'll only cost you more and you might not even get dinner included.
When we actually got to the crater itself, it was covered in fog so it was really cool looking but at the same time it gave us an excuse to head back the following day to the highest point at 3900 meters to really take it all in and it's genuinely really beautiful. Also, you can kayak or just swim in the lagoon.
My one massive warning is that when you do get to the crater and walk towards the town you might meet a local who'll say you're going the wrong way and will guide you the right way. I just ignored the guy as I thought the area we were in looked scalable so I trekked/crawled my way up to where the correct path was apparently but my friends turned back and it was clear this guy was actually just looking for money. So he's only there to scam people. That was the only instance of that really, the vast majority of people we met were unbelievably kind and helpful.
To get back to Latacunga, we got a taxi to Zumbahua and from there buses leave very regularly back to Latacunga and all for about $2-3 in total.
I haven't posted on Latacunga as really it was just a point to get somewhere else on both occasions. After the loop, I stuck with a few to do Cotopaxi in a day. At first I was interested to stay in the Secret Gardens hostel as I'd heard really good things but in the end I felt like a day was enough after talking to some people.
So we got a bus going towards Quito and got dropped off at this spot on the motorway where there are some pickup trucks waiting to give you a tour of the Volcano. We paid $15 each for it and split into two groups of four as there were three other people there. The nice thing about this was two of us were able to go on the back of the pickup truck, just something small but I liked being out in the open as we made our way there.
You can do some mountain biking down the volcano after but it didn't actually look too interesting to me so I left it. It does look pretty fun if you haven't done any before though.
The volcano summit is at 5900 meters but we could only go as high as 4800 meters. I actually don't even think you can currently reach the peak due to activity last year. Either way it wasn't too difficult but the altitude will have an effect for sure. Visibility was pretty mixed really. At times you had a decent view but most times the place was covered in cloud. Eventually you'll get to a shelter where you can add a fancy stamp to your passport and enjoy some hot chocolate!
Afterwards, going down is a hell of a lot easier and the guide will take you to a lake. This takes roughly 50 minutes to walk around and has a lot of birdlife. It was pretty nice, kind of reminded me of what you'd expect in the Scottish highlands. Lastly the driver will take you to a museum. Funnily enough, we decided to eat something first as we were starving and when we finished the guy who was at the museum just decided to head off and close it. It seemed pretty small anyway so it wasn't a big deal. Afterwards the driver dropped us back where he originally picked us up and we just flagged down the next bus to Quito.
If you've more time and would like to relax I probably would recommend the hostel but I was happy to just spend the day out there.
Billy last edited by
I've actually been to Ecuador twice. I really enjoyed my time there and am happy to read about your adventures. I actually took quite the opposite route; I flew into Quito and travelled through the mountains to Santo Domingo where I spent most of the time before traveling around and eventually flying out of Guayaquil. I really love the people there and I hope you have wonderful experiences as well.
@Billy That's awesome. Ya it's fantastic here. Really enjoying my time.
Just to start off, I've updated the OP with the photos I took
I hadn't heard particularly good things about Quito and I can see why. There are some parts that are a bit dangerous to be around, a bit dirty. There was a street I passed every day where the prostitutes worked but these things tend to be in most huge major cities and Quito is one of those places. This is apparent instantly as the place has at least two major bus stations.
But I generally liked Quito, I didn't do a huge amount here in terms of touristy things. The main attraction I did was the walking tour which was really good. Obviously I got to see the major points of interests, got some history on the city and tips for what to do here now. I did mean to climb to the top of the (I think) Franciscan church as I've heard you get a great view of the city but I wasn't overly interested in anything else as I'd just had my fill of walking around from the previous few days worth of treks.
The most enjoyable things I did here all revolved around eating! There is a central market where you can get meals for $2.50 or so and they're really good, especially after adding some of the salsa sauce. Solid juices there too and wonderful old ladies who give you extra stuff when you buy things at there fruit stand the few days you're there. Also very near to the market is this brewery which does some really good beers and a really good burger. The name might have just been the Brewery. Either way it was good.
I don't really have much else to say, Quito is huge, I stayed in Sunshine and the other thing I did was book my trip to the Amazon from here with community hostel. I think they're all much of the same though, just different lodges.
Billy last edited by
@tokeeffe9 I got a lot of the same vibes from Quito. It's really worth finding a good vantage point so you can see the city sprawling amidst the mountains. You took some really great pictures! Makes me nostalgic.
The Amazon - Cuyabeno River - Dolphin Lodge
So I went for four days and three nights and it cost $260. This didn't include the transport from Quito to Nueva Loja which is roughly a 7 hour bus journey and it ain't a particularly nice one whether you go with a private bus or public bus. I went public as it was cheaper and I thought I'd have a better chance of sleeping on it but the bus was insanely hot and ya... I don't usually do that well on nightbuses anyway. After that, just get a taxi to the meeting spot and wait there for the rest of the transport.
So due to that I was seriously struggling on the first day of the tour as I was absolutely shattered. So every so often I kind of struggled to stay awake as we made our way on the boat to the lodges. Still, we did get to see some cool wildlife. Birds, monkeys, snakes and turtles. So I was already loving it but when we did get to the hostel and ate something, we were given the opportunity to rest before going to the lagoon that evening to watch the sunset and spot pink dolphins possibly. Unfortunately for me I was hard out. I fell asleep and there was no waking me so I missed all of that on the first day. The good news is we got to go out two more times so it wasn't a big deal!
So really the second day was the proper start of the tour. There was four of us in total so it was a pretty small group and our guide didn't have the best english but we didn't mind that too much as it gave us an excuse to improve our Spanish a small bit. First thing we did on the second day was get a boat out to do a day hiking trip. So this can be a totally mixed experience really as it all depends on what you see. So we were a bit unlucky that we didn't see much wildlife. Lots of insects, some frogs and a squirrel but it was still cool. Ate some ants that tasted like lemon, swung on roots like Tarzan, and had to traverse through swamps so it was still really cool.
But it was the second part of the day that was unforgettable for me. We went back to the lagoon to watch the sunset again which was amazing. The lagoon was so warm and nice to swim in. You could see the sunset on one side and the moon on the other, lightning in the distance. It was all just really beautiful. So we were out there for about an hour just swimming around the place. Then we got back on the boat, dried ourselves off and went searching for kaimen in the night. Spotting the kaimen in itself was a fun challenge but it was those times that you got up close that you were able to see them hunting or just staying perfectly still. It was just such a cool experience.
The whole of the third day was spent with a community in the Amazon and we joined up with another group of people who arrived the previous day so there was 16 of us now. Again we still got to see cool things just making our way over. More of the same along with sloths, an anaconda, lizards, tarantulas, a toucan. At the community, we got to pull out yuca plants, grate them and make bread out of them. Then we got ourselves a nice history lesson before the shaman appeared to talk to us and do some rituals. He did some healing and spiritual ones. I was picked out for having low spiritual energy, I'm not sure if he fixed that or just verified it! :) Either way it was fun to watch and understand the lives of these people. That night we went on a night trek where we got to see some more dangerous creatures up close. Mostly spiders and snakes but it's amazing how close you'll get to them. One annoying thing about that (which goes for everything here really but in particular there), loads of mosquitos. Make sure you're covered up and have repellent as you're going to need it for sure.
The final day we got up very early to do some bird and monkey watching so we got to see a lot more activity at a different time which was cool. After that we had our breakfast and back on our way to civilisation. It's been a while since then so I'm probably missing out on some details but I do want to emphasise how amazing the experience was I just loved it, loved being surrounded by all the greenery and noises that come with that. So highly recommending it to everyone!