Ecuador to Peru border crossing
It was a public holiday in Ecuador (un feriado) for some reason or another; no one seemed to know why...
We left Guayaquil by bus just after 2pm & arrived at the border at exactly 6pm. After an hour in the first line we were through the Ecuador side, but then had to exit and line up again to get back into the same room to enter Peru!
Many people were complaining about how there's always a problem at the Peruvian border, it always takes aaages. The public holiday was not helping us today.
All the while people were queue jumping in other lines which always creates a bit too much excitement & the police presence tripled within minutes.
We finally got back on the bus at about 8:30pm & we had our fingers crossed that this delay wouldn't stop us from making it through to Huaraz the following night.
We were served dinner on the bus; the bus stopped along the way to pick up the premade meals. It wasn't too bad. I slept from 12:30am to 7:30am.
9 August 2016
Rancho Primicias - Reserva de Tortugas Gigantes
Giant tortoises are the best!
We went to Rancho Primicias, rather than El Chato (apparently the lava tunnel is bigger) & we weren't disappointed!
The tunnel was pretty cool, simply because lava once flowed there, otherwise it just looked like any other tunnel. There was one section where we were literally had to army roll.
The tortoises though, were incredible. They are so prehistoric. They are out of this world, unreal almost. They breath loudly as they walk and it almost sounds like electronics inside. It really amazes me that they can lift those enormous shells & walk around.
Some of them tuck their legs and head in when they see you, & others are pretty chill. Some were half submerged in muddy water making bubbles from under their shell which was quite amusing. It's funny to watch them eat, their beaks are quite inefficient at eating grass.
It cost $3 entry & $15 each for the return taxi - well worth the trip!
7 August 2016
Los Tuneles tour, Isla Isabela, Galápagos - part 3
Boobies are awesome!
These blue footed wonders are so kookie! Their little waddle is adorable & they are a little clumsy.
We got to watch the boys trying to win over the girls, mothers feeding new babies and sibling rivalry.
It was the best! Even Tim has a new appreciation for birds ;)
Los Tuneles tour, Isla Isabela, Galápagos - part 2
These are collapsed lava tunnels. The colour and the texture of the lava rocks is awesome & the contrast with the blue-grean ocean is stunning.
The water was clear enough to see sea turtles cruising around, there were sea lions relaxing in a cave and blue footed boobies feeding their brand new babies. There are also two types of mangrove here, the red and the white.
Being lava, the landscape was quite dry, especially in winter, but somehow the cacti survive! Incredible!
Santa Cruz to Isabela
We booked a 2 day, 2 night all inclusive trip to Isla Isabela. It was $220 for transfers, accom & 2 tours but no meals.
The boat over took about 2 hours & we had a record number of vomiters - 6 out of 18 or so. It was a real domino effect. Luckily Tim & I were immune.
The water when we arrived to Isabela was crystal clear! And as soon as we got off the boat we saw sea lions swimming. A sign of good things to come!
Within minutes we had seen a sea lion swagger up the beach & take over a bench seat to have a nap, a tiny baby sea lion as well as a whole hoard of marine iguanas sunning themselves on the footpath.
We couldn't wait to get in the water and sea these guys in action!
6 August 2016
Las Grietas, Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos
Our first taste of Galápagos & an indication of the freezing water to come.
Las Grietas (cracks) is a volcanic rock formation; basically a giant crack in the earth that the locals love to swim in. It's salt water, but is diluted a lot with fresh water runoff. It was a nice swimming hole, but the only animals that we saw were parrot fish.
It was an 80c panga (water taxi) ride & 20min walk to the spot and back.
It was cool to experience, but it was a short stop on our itinerary. The water was quite, quite fresh, but the sun was out so it wasn't cold enough to need a wetsuit.
There was also a salt plant along the walking trail where a lone man was making pile after pile of salt. Poor dude, all alone in the hot sun with no music...
4 August 2016
After a last hurrah in Montañita, we caught the 10am bus back to Guayaquil feeling a little worse for wear.
Manso Boutique Hostel wasn't particularly inviting. Definitely not worth the $24 each. The staff were really uninterested.
It seems that everyone from Guayaquil is having a bad day most of the time. We were in a nice, safe area though, so no complaints.
We had Julia's gourmet sandwiches for lunch & Subway for dinner. I had el plato which was only $3 & it came with a baked potato. Tim's sandwich was $4. Bargain! Our Subway meal cost $15 with no drinks! Ouch!
After wandering for an hour we found a supermarket to get supplies for Galápagos. $30 later we had most things on the list.
It cost $4 each way from the bus terminal to the centre then back to the airport.
2 August 2016
Los Frailes Beach
After countless cloudy days in Montañita, it was sunny for our day trip to the beautiful beach of Los Frailes.
The day started with an extremely bumpy 1hr bus ride that dropped us off in the middle of what felt like hell. Hot sun, gravel roads and dead trees for days, the only green was the occasional cacti. The other notable things - there were heaps of lizards and little red crabs.
We visited a couple of beaches and stunning coastline before heading up to the mirador for lunch - crackers, vegemite, tuna, avo & tomato -yum! I also saw a whale letting off some steam!
After lunch we walked down to the beach and found the only shady spot, changed into our swimmers & cooled off in the ocean. The water was clear, reasonably calm & so refreshing.
We dried off in the sun & took a tuk tuk back to the main road. The bus back was so much more pleasant than before, we were even able to have a nap.
22 July 2016
Workaway Montañita Spanish School
I volunteered for 2 wks at in Montañita helping the school with their social media. I stayed at Montañita Cabañas with the rest of the students & took classes in my free time. The Cabañas was a sweet place to stay, especially for free, although it was pretty noisy most nights. I also got a lot out of my classes. 2hrs/day with Paul in week 2 was perfect.
Things to remember:
-Interns Thommy & Justin
-The view from the rooftop terrace
-Spotting whales from the terrace
-Iguanas by the river
-Cena del mundo
-BBQ games night
-Jorge salsa & surf teacher
19 July 2016
Iguana Alley, Montañita
These guys hang out at the bridge every day sunning themselves and eating food scraps.
By 5pm every afternoon, they've returned back home. I don't know where they all sleep!?
17 July 2016
Olon - the next beach
I didn't step foot on this beach, but I visited the mirador that looks over it many times.
This is where the Spanish school students go for surf classes.
Thommy also went over there for bonfires on the beach...
Next time I visit I want to surf here and have a fire for sure.
I spent 3 wks in this tiny surf town, it was nice to be back on the coast again after the cool high altitude ares of Ecuador.
The pacific coastline here is made up of long sandy beaches that go on forever. Montañita is a surf hot spot as well as a party town. With cocktail alley, breakfast alley, ceviche corner and cheap yet delicious burger stand at every turn, all your bases are covered.
You can buy anything off the beach - lamp shades, pizza cones, beers, hash brownies, normal brownies, mirrors, ice cream, bracelets, beaded bikinis, coke, weed... Whatever you need...
The low season is quite different to the madness of high season but Friday & Saturday nights here still get pretty loco!
Every single day was overcast except maybe 3 while I was there. Brilliant sunsets were far and few between...
14 July 2016
Bus to Quilotoa
From Baños our bus dropped us on the highway outside of Latacunga. No warning, no nothing. We scrambled to put laptops, books and phones away and jumped off the bus. A taxi driver had us in his sights and we paid $5 to get to the main bus terminal. The terminal left a lot to be desired, but all things considered, I was impressed with the cleanliness of the toilets; no seats, but they were clean...
We had an hour to kill before the bus, so we ate our take away sandwiches from Baños. They weren't anywhere near as delicious as the first time after being squished in my bag.
The bus to Quilotoa was only a few hours, but the views were pretty incredible.
When we arrived in Quilotoa, again we were dropped on the side of the road with little warning. We got off the bus and we were hit instantly with a wall of ice cold air. Brrrr...
8 July 2016
Parque Nacional Cotopaxi mountain bike tour
On our forth day at Secret Garden Cotopaxi we went mountain biking and trout fishing but there were also a few hidden extras. This $30 tour was included in our package deal at the hostel.
In the jeep our guide Marco gave us a history lesson on the surrounding volcanoes. All in Spanish & all of which he would later quiz us on later.
We stopped off at a giant bolder, the largest of many that came hurtling out of Cotopaxi during the last eruption. It's enormous! It's almost impossible to climb without a boost up.
The ride itself started out quite hard. It was freezing, blowing a gale & we were riding into wind. The views of Cotopaxi close up made it all worthwhile. The rest of the ride was mostly down hill on a bumpy & gravel road. It was fun but after a few near misses I decided to take it easy.
When we finished, it was off to catch lunch at the local trout farm. Tim & I didn't manage to catch our own, but lunch was still delicious!
6 July 2016
Milo the dalmatian
This dalmatian lives at Secret Garden Cotopaxi. He along with Mash, the sausage dog, leads the Pasochoa Volcano hike most days. It isn't for the faint hearted!
These guys nap all afternoon after hoofing it up through all sorts of terrain. Increible!
Secret Garden Cotopaxi Volcán Pasochoa Hike 2
From the top we could just make out Quito. The back side of volcano was an impressive steep cliff and condors & other birds were dancing in the updraft.
The clouds had started to come in, but we still had an incredible 360degree view.
Lunch was a delicious salad sandwich, mint tea & banana cake. We enjoyed the view, took a few too many pics then headed for home.
The trek down was slippery and treacherous on the knees. But nothing compared to the cloud forest on the way up.
We got back in good time, but not before Tim rolled his ankle about 20mins before home. Nothing serious tho!
Secret Garden Cotopaxi Volcán Pasochoa Hike 1
Walking up through farmland & forests, across the ridge, down an old road, wading through waist-high straw-like grass full of unexpected puddles, jumping across a river, crawling through mud in the cloud forest and scrambling up rocks, we made it to the top in 3hrs. It was a tough hike, but views just got better & better!
Halfway through the hike we were overtaken by two of the volunteers running the entire loop at a cracking pace.
Our guide Shane, born in Ireland but also a Queenslander at heart, was a champ! After an hour he hiked back down with a girl who'd had a big night before rejoining us again. Plus he carried all the food & extra water & was all round just a good guy.
We were also joined by another Aussie couple, a young Irish lad, a Dutchman living in Ecuador who worked for the UN & two dogs - a dachshund, Mash & a dalmatian, Milo - all in all, a really great group!
I was & still am amazed at the stamina & agility of Mash!
5 July 2016
Secret Garden Cotopaxi Waterfall hike
After orientation and lunch, it's time for the first hike- the waterfall. It's a nice intro to the area and a great way to make friends with the new arrivals.
The walk in was easy. Tramping through the river with gumboots and climbing the river walls was fun.
The waterfall itself was nice, but too cold for me to swim. The two Irish in the group braved the water.
As soon as we arrived it started raining, then it started hailing...
By the time we got back, we were completely drench all the way to the bone.
A warm shower and the wood fire in our cabaña was perfect to warm up and dry off.