Taktshang / Tiger's Nest, BhutanTaktshang / Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

Taktshang – The Tigerโ€™s Nest monastery

We were already very much looking forward to the famous Tigerโ€™s Nest monastery โ€“ a highlight of the trip through the country for many visitors.

What is so special about Taktshang – that’s how the locals call this place? Well, first of all, it is a very picturesque place. A monastery nested on a super steep rock face in the Himalayan mountains. But why do humans build a monastery exactly there โ€“ at one of the most difficult places to build a structure? Sure, the view is extraordinary, but there are maybe other places with a nice view but easier access?

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Phunaka, BhutanPhunaka, Bhutan

Phunaka valley – hiking along a path our guide did not yet know

I open an eye. Twilight outside. Dawn is slowly giving changing the pitch black outside into a grayish. Getting lighter by the minute.

It’s early morning. My eyes are still adjusting after waking up. But the sounds outside reveal, we are at the country side. Forest close by.

I slept very well on the mattress on the floor in a farmhouse in the Phunaka valley. There is already some activity outside. Time to get up…

Breakfast on the “terrace”

Our guide Tenzin is already helping our host to setup the breakfast tables outside. A bit improvised, but what a view over the valley. Clouds slowly lifted while the sun is coming up.

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Gangtey valley, BhutanGangtey valley, Bhutan

Gangtey valley, farmhouses and a special walk to another festival

The city of Thimphu faded away behind us. We set off to explore the countryside of Bhutan.

Roads are always spectacular in this mountainous country. But today leads us above the Dolchua pass. 108 stupas in the front. The horizon dotted with several 7000+ meter high snow-capped mountains.

Arriving at the highest point of the road, we see the stupas. But where are the mountains?

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Quilotoa Loop, EcuadorQuilotoa Loop, Ecuador

Quilotoa Loop – remote country life and an extinct volcano

Quilo…what?

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!

Latacunga

“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*

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Cotopaxi, EcuadorCotopaxi, Ecuador

Hiking Cotopaxi up to 5000 meters altitude

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…

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