After our not so successful detour on taking a train ride through the Andes another bus equipped with some nice accessories brought us to our next destination. By the way, moving household here in Ecuador is also done a little different than in Europe. Can’t imagine? Well, when have you last time moved by bus? *smiley winking*
Nearly a month already passed since we started our round-the-world tour, with so many new impressions and positive daily challenges. We think this is a good time to refill energy levels and “invest” into our future. So what might be better than to relax a few days in the Valley of Longevity?
A no-brainer for us, so we arrived in Vilcabamba, had our first beer and made new friends.
And yes, we booked a wellness temple! The first day was – of course – at the pool!
Continue reading Vilcabamba – chilling out in the Valley of Longevity
Better “late than never” there is some nice experience to share with you from Ecuador…despite us already being some days in Peru by now: We took a train ride along Devils Nose.
Historically a master piece of engineering: The Trans-Andean Railway went from Guayaquil (at the coast) up until Quito (in the middle of the mountains) within Ecuador. Along the track in between both cities there are many of the highest peaks outside the Himalaya. These had to worked around or across to make this project a success.
Well, that’s all history by now. Today not much of Ecuadors’ pride remains. Various “El Nino” years with their torrential rains have damaged the tracks severely. And in the decades of streets and lorries to transport goods nobody saw a need for maintenance. All that remains somewhat functional for touristic reasons is a stretch between the cities Riobamba and Sibambe.
Our guidebook referred to this part nevertheless as a highlight to visit, as you pass along the famous Devils Nose. Sure as hell we also wanted to tip toe on the devils’ nose (6)
Riobamba but no train
There were already some discussions around fellow travelers, that the train currently is not operating. Rumors differed widely from “the track is simply in too bad of a condition” to “some tourists died when standing on the roof to take some pictures”. But nobody knew for sure.
Doesn’t scare us. But when reaching Riobambas train station it was confirmed, currently no train. And the substitute “ferrocaril” is sold out for the coming days. We didn’t understand what type of vehicle this replacement would be, they alternately talked about a “train” and a “bus on the tracks” *smiley surprised*
Thanks to insisting and Iris’ charm, working on the sales lady at the ticket office as well, we nevertheless got some tickets for the replacement vehicle from Alausi to Sibambe. Shorter and more expensive than expected, but at least covering somehow the Devils Nose *smiley smiling*
Continue reading Devils Nose – by train through the Andes
Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador
On the way to Banos, we passed the small town of Pelileo. Sorry this will be an “insider” as opener: There is no tourist sites here. Nothing like that, but then what’s special about it? @IC community of our readers: Pelileo is the home town of Victoria *smiley winking*
Banos itself is a very touristy city, both for Ecuadorian tourists and gringos. We took the first day easy to organize some things, e.g. doing our laundry and drink some fresh lemonade and juice…
In Banos, you can find everything. Pimped cars, good restaurants, and not so well maintained bridges… We were not sure if we should take it, but there were horse drops around. Horses are heavier than we are, so…to keep it short, we made it and the bridge didn’t break!
Continue reading Banos – backpacker hangout with some treats
Yes, believe it or not – this question occurs even if you talk to fellow travellers around in Ecuador. It’s obviously not the standard destination, even though it is listed as one of the places to see for Ecuador.
Why it is not that touristy as other places? Easy to explain, if you just reference to the appropriate Lonely Planet section about transportation starting “No busses go all around the loop…” and closing with “Don’t worry – everyone’s confused.”
But that simply couldn’t scare us off!
“Base camp” for the start was easily set up in Latacunga. Anything special about it…? No! It is an easy going town on the Panamericana – South Americas blood stream and everything but touristy.
And it was here, that I had one of the most funny conversations with local people so far: Imagine you enter a bakery and wanna buy some bread… For sure your Spanish is bad, but well enough – at least pointing at pieces – to show what you want and the lady in the bakery manages English well enough to make sure how much it costs. The usual question where you are from and your standard answer “Aleman” is followed by a surprised smile from the bakery lady… “Aleman, Frankfurt, train station” – and she obviously has been there before, because she can describe – or better point out with her hands – how the roof of the train station looks like *smiley smiling*
Continue reading Quilotoa Loop – remote country life and an extinct volcano
We made it up to the glacier at Cotopaxis northern side. Yes, indeed at the northern side. As we are in the southern hemisphere this is the easier one. The snow and ice only starts at about 5000 meters altitude. For making it up all the way to the top we would have needed much more solid climbing gear.
Just back from the sea-level after visiting Galapagos we didn’t even think about it. The air is noticeable thinner at above 3000 meters and you need some time to acclimatize. Additionally the day we ascended it was very windy, making it a cold and gray scenery, except…
But let’s take a step at a time.
The bus from Quito to Latacunga dropped us at the right junction in the middle of nowhere. Luckily Thorsten managed to spot two park rangers on their way home and they agreed to give us a lift to our remote accommodation. In exchange for what is worth about two beers they drove us about 2 kilometers on a very bad gravel road.
At our nice lodge for exploring the Cotopaxi region, we immediately found some new friends.
For the first day we explored the surroundings by mountain bike. Most roads unpaved gravel, many paths with potholes, a constant up and down, some ways literally leading into nowhere…
Continue reading Hiking Cotopaxi up to 5000 meters altitude
We are leaving the boat after 5 packed days. So many impressions of the landscape, the wild animals above and below water.
Our heads are still circling around what we had the chance to see on the Galapagos islands. And we might still need a few days more to fully grasp, what made it so special to us. We just arrived on island of Santa Cruz. There is a small village and it does not belong to the National Park area. We stay another 2 nights here, walking to nearby beaches and looking at the local market. The first time on this trip we have the freedom to just while away a day.
Walking to a local coffee place, we pass by the really small fish market of the town. 6 stalls in a small U-shape directly at the waterfront. More or less stone tables, painted in blue. Locals debating about the prices for the catch of the day.
Behind some stalls on the walls sit a few pelicans. They keep a close eye on the scenery. Sometimes even make an attempt to jump over to the fish tables. But get chased away quickly by the local sellers.
While everybody focuses on the Pelicans, it happens…
Continue reading Galapagos – two more nights in nature’s paradise and what to take away
Sometimes it’s hard to put experiences into words. Galapagos put’s up this challenge. And it’s not about finding the “right” words, but to find words at all.
We are no biologists. Otherwise we would have cared more for the details. The differences Darwin discovered between some birds on the various islands. Tiny differences in their wings and bill.
We pay more attention to the broader scale…
How different wild animals react when being well protected. Not running, swimming or flying away. No fear. But rather curiosity. Unfortunately they can’t talk. Or at least we can’t understand them.
From their looks we read questions “What are you?”, “Why are you here?”. And sometimes even commands to “Play with me!”.
I jump into the water for snorkeling. Ice cold, thanks to the Humboldt stream.
Continue reading Galapagos – sea lions, blue-footed boobies, flamingos and much more wildlife up close
We already had a good feeling when sealing our last minute deal to Galapagos. We booked a luxury upper deck cabin on a small high quality boat. A 1st class nature guide is promised too. And the best: All that at a bargain price *smiley cool*
Are you flexible too and can wait a few days? Perfect. Get left-over or cancellation places on cruises. Just shop around some outfits in Quito and ask for cruises leaving the next days.
And it only gets better with every minute we spend on this “detour” from the mainland. Or to be honest, it gets better “most of the time” for Iris…
Continue reading Galapagos – visiting Darwin’s laboratory
We got used to the altitude in the Andes. For the first days, you feel much older up here at 4000+ meters.
Despite our lack of Spanish, we organized a luxury low-budget trip to Galapagos. A long-term dream of us about to come true.
Still pumped with energy to explore. No vacation time to waste. Only much later we will realize the value of just living into the day. From time to time floating around, letting things happen.
But for now: How to fill the 2 day gap until Galapagos?
I saw some interesting pictures by fellow travelers. As food-lover I am anxious. Now I need to convince Thorsten to explore one of the biggest farmers markets in the region…
Continue reading Otavalo – Early Birds on the Indian Market
Yes, we finally made it to Ecuador *smiley smiling*
On 2850 meters above sea level, Quito is already quite high. The altitude makes you feel old(er) when walking around or taking the stairs. The later one you will do a lot in Quito, as the city stretches well into the hills around.
We opted to stay in a nice double room in a hostel nearby the Old Town*. From there many sights are in walk-able distance and we immediately started to make use of this.
Spanish influence and language
Exploring the colonial center, you feel the strong Spanish influence. It is still present today in buildings, habits of people and of course the language.
Oh, talking about “language”: We now realize that not really learning at least some basic Spanish* before visiting Ecuador was not the best idea. You can make your way around using gestures and some English words. But we definitely put learning a proper level of Spanish on our list *smiley worried*
After strolling through the old colonial Quito we climbed even higher to earn our evening beer. Walking a lot of stairs in thin air and reveals breathtaking views over Quito after sunset…
Continue reading Up and down in Quito