A Travellerspoint blog

Puerto Lopez

overcast 17 °C

After our experiences in Riobamba we decided to change our plans, have a break from the mountains and the bad weather and head to the coast. We decided to go to the small town of Puerto Lopez, about half way up the coast of Ecuador. Our first day here we went on a day trip to Isla del Plata. It took all morning to reach the island as on the way we stopped several times to see humpback whales. At this time of year a lot of whales migrate to the area for breeding. We saw a group of them that came really close to the boat and spent a while swimming around the area where we were. For a while we also were near a mother and a very young calf that were swimming together. Despite only being about 1 month old the calf was huge and incredible to watch as it was playing and kept jumping completely out of the water. When we arrived at the island we had lunch on the boat and sat watching turtles swimming around us. Then we went for a walk across the island where we saw many species of birds nesting, including blue footed boobies and albatrosses. The final part of the day was snorkelling at a coral reef by the island. This was another really good experience with so many different types of fish to see, and it has been something I have missed doing since I left Australia. We finished off a very good day with a good seafood dinner and bottle of wine on the beach. The only problem with the day was that it made me really want to go to the Galapagos, but at the moment that's just far to expensive for me. An excuse for another trip.

The following day we went to Agua Blanca, a small village a bit further up the coast, where we had a nice walk in the cloud forest and a swim in a natural pool which is apparently supposed to be very good for you, but it just stank of sulphur. The village itself was also very nice, with a small archaeology museum and local people selling crafts.

The next day we decided to go to the surfing town of Montanita. Unfortunately our bad luck with the weather in Ecuador continued. When we arrived the tide was out and there were no waves for surfing, but we were promised it would be better in the afternoon. After looking round the town we went to sit on the beach for a bit. Then it started raining, we tried to stay for a bit but soon gave up and went for lunch instead. In the afternoon the weather got worse and the waves didn´t look any better, so we gave up with our plans of surfing and went back to Puerto Lopez.

After a good few days at the coast we decided to head back in land and got the bus to Latacunga.

Posted by katiew 08:30 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Going blind in Riobamba

overcast

After an overnight bus to Riobamba we had a lazy day looking round the town, organising stuff for the next few days and catching up with things like doing the laundry. The following day we went to Banos a small toursity town about an hour away. It was a nice place to go for the day but that was long enough. It is in a valley by a river surrounded by waterfalls and overlooked by an active volcano which last erupted about 2 years ago. We went for a bit of a walk up to some viewpoints but unfortunately it was cloudy so we couldn´t actually see the volcano.

The following day we set off on a 2 day trip to climb a 5000m volcano near Riobamba. Unfortunately the weather still hadn´t improved and when we set off it was still overcast and we were yet to see what we were going to climb. The first day was just a walk to acclimatise, as we spent most of the day walking in the clouds, rain and sleet, it wasn´t great and by the time we reached the refugio where we were to spend the night we were all cold and soaked through to our underwear. We got up at 4am the following day and as it was only snowing a bit we decided to try and do the climb. But yet again the weather deteriorated and we spent all day in the clouds and snow. The climb itself wasn´t too difficult, mostly walking, with the top section being a bit steeper, and in the conditions we had it got quite difficult so we were relieved when we finally reached the top. Coming down the top section was as difficult as going up but once we had done that it was relatively easy going back to the refugio. Although the weather did improve slightly for the last hour of the walk, the volcano remained in the clouds so we never actually saw what we had climbed.

We had a relaxing evening in Riobamba with a nice dinner and bottle of wine followed by an early night, or so we thought. When I closed my eyes to sleep they started hurting a lot and this just got worse and worse. After about an hour I realised that I couldn´t even open my eyes anymore as they had swollen up so much. So I woke up Cathy who then realised her eyes were hurting, she went to speak to the guy who owned the hostel and he took us to hospital. Although I couldn´t see anything and didn´t have much of an idea what was going on, the hospital seemed well organised and we were soon diagnosed with snow blindness and given a prescription for eyedrops and much needed painkillers. After visiting many pharmacies we were able to go back to bed and actually got a bit of sleep.

In the morning I could half open one eye and had a bit of limited blured vision. Luckily Cathy wasn´t quite so bad and could still see relatively well, so we were able to go and get breakfast etc. I then spent most of the day blindfolded and by the evening I was a lot better, I could open both eyes and see enough to get by without too many problems. A couple of days later everything is about back to normal again and we have continued with our travels having learnt an important lesson about wearing sunglassses even when its not sunny.

Posted by katiew 14:44 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

On to Ecuador

semi-overcast

We got a bus early in the morning from Mancora to Aguas Verde, the border town. At the previous stop, a women had got on and said that she was coming with us to help us cross the border and that this was part of the service included in the price of the bus tickets. As we didn´t have to pay any extra we agreed although we didn´t think it was necessary having managed to cross a lot of borders previously with no problems. Anyway, we got our Peruvian exit stamps then were put in a mototaxi for a few kms. Then we had to walk for about 10 minutes through the town until we finally crossed a bridge and ended up in Ecuador. Here we were forced to go to the tourist information where we were given a lot of useless information and told to wait for something, but we didn´t understand what. Next we were put in a taxi with a policeman and taken out of town to a place quite a distance from the actual border, where we finally got our Ecuadorian entrance stamps. We weren´t able to work out whether we needed the police escort for our safety or because they thought we were going to try and escape into Ecuador without getting our passports stamped. Then the policemen escorted us back into town and came with us to a bus station where we were met again by the women from the 1st bus who gave us the tickets for the next bus. That has to be the strangest border crossing I have done and afterwards we understood why they thought we needed help with it.

We arrived in Cuenca later that evening. The city seemed a really nice place, a lot wealthier than places in Peru, modern cars, clean well maintained streets and parks and the average houses looked a lot nicer. But despite all this for some reason no where in the city seemed to have water between 8am and 8pm. To start this didn´t seem to be much of a problem until in the middle of the day we tried to find a toilet. They were all just closed because of the lack of the water. Luckily we found that our hostel still let you use the toilet and `provided buckets of water for flushing. We spent our first day exploring the city, went to a nice art museum and doing various organizational jobs that we had to get done. The next day we went out to the Cajas National Park for a days walking. The scenery and probably more importantly the weather, really reminded us of home and all the hiking we have done in Scotland. Despite the low cloud and drizzle we had a really good. In the evening we caught the bus a bit further north to Riobamaba.

Posted by katiew 15:20 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

North Peru

sunny 23 °C

I spent my last few days in Peru visiting a few places in the far north. I spent 2 days in Chiclayo, a big city but it doesn´t have much for tourists. I went on a tour which visited an archaeological site and a couple of museums about pre-Incan tombs found in the area. There aren´t many foreign tourists in this part of Peru, and I was the only non-Peruvian on the tour. For everyone else the highlight of the tour seemed to be when we drove past the house where Miss World 1988 grew up, but I found the museums more interesting. The following day I went a couple of hours further north to Piura, mainly just because I had a spare day before meeting up with Cathy, my friend from home. There wasn´t much to do in the city so I went to a nearby village which apparently has the biggest craft market in Northern Peru. And yes it was big, but practically everyone was selling the same things and most of them were wooden spoons, so I wasn´t too impressed by that.

My next stop was Mancora, a very nice little town on the beach a few hours from the border with Ecuador. Here I met up with Cathy and we spent the following day catching up on the beach, before spending the next day travelling to Ecuador.

Posted by katiew 15:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Trekking to Kuelap

Better than the Inca trail?

semi-overcast 20 °C

After a day and a night on buses I arrived at Chachapoyas at about 5am so spent the rest of the day enjoying doing not a lot. Chachapoyas is only a small town and there isn´t really much to do in the actual town itself, but there a lot of pre-Incan ruins to see in the surrounding cloud forest. So I arranged a 4 day trip starting the next day. THe first day we mainly spent in a taxi. We did have a stop off at a burial site where the bodies were buried in a cliff to void flooding and they placed wooden figures at the entrances to the caves containing the bodies. From there the road was just a muddy track, I think the taxi driver was soon regretting agreeing to the job as after getting stuck a few times his car was covered in mud both inside and out. When we left the taxi (with doubts that he would ever make it back up the road without anyone to push) we had a short walk to our 1st nights accommodation in the Valle de Belen. We were staying in a house in the middle of the valley 3hours walk from the closest village. It was an amazing place, so quiet and relaxing with just us and a lot of cows. In the evening we had a fire outside and sat looking at the stars and finding out more about the area from the guy from the village who was staying to look after the cows.

The 2nd day was the main day of trekking. Initially we had to cross the river in the valley and then we followed a pre-Incan path up the other side of the valley to the top. Then we started descending into the next valley and the scenery just completely changed as we entered the cloud forest, which was also surprisingly cloudy after the clear skies on the other side of the hill. After stopping for lunch we reached an area of ruins where a pre-Incan village of more than 3000 round houses made of stone. The government is spending a lot of money excavating at Kuelap, a similar site nearby, so no work has been done at this place, so it was really interesting to see the place in its wild state where the forest has just taken over. Anywhere where you just walked a short way from the main path into the forest you could find more buildings. The area the site covers is huge and in the dense forest difficult to access, so there must still be a lot there which remains undiscovered. The rest of the afternoon was sent walking down through the forest to the village of Congon. As we got closer to the village we saw areas of the forest being burnt and cleared, according to our guide this is illegal, and done because they want more space for coffee plantations.

We stayed in a really nice house in the village and had a nice evening there. We had a good dinner and finally found some half decent coffee in South America. But then we were sat on the balcony watching the owners sort, process and dry coffee beans, so it shouldn´t have been so surprising. In the evening we went to the village shop which also just seemed to be a general meeting place for everyone and had the only TV in the village. Here we tried the local alcohol, some kind of sugar cane rum, as with all the locally made alcoholic drinks I have tried on this tip, it was disgusting but you have to drink it anyway. We also spent a long time playing a game that is popular here that involves throwing metal discs at a board with various different holes in it, worth different values, obviously without much success on my part.

The following day was a long day of horse riding. We set off at 7am, riding up the valley through spectacular scenery. My horse took a bit of getting used to, but after fighting off all the other horses it made it to the front of the group and then calmed down. It was a really steep climb out of the valley on a muddy track that must have been very difficult for the horses. We arrived at the top and went for a walk through the forest to another area of unexcavated houses and a viewpoint looking back over the valley. We had lunch here, at the only house for miles around. Then we had another few hours of difficult horse riding before reaching the top of the pass. Here we left the horses and had a nice 3 hour walk down to the village of Choctamal where we stayed the night.

The following day we went to see the pre-Incan fortress at Kuelap. In a way it has been likened to Macchu Pichu as it is situated at the top of a hill overlooking al the surrounding valleys and is a large complex of houses, temples and other buildings. In some ways I found it more impressive than Macchu Pichu We spent a long time being shown around the site. It was nice to have seen similar unexcavated sites in the previous few days to see what a difference the archaeologists make. Even though only a small part of the site has been restored, the rest of it looked very different from what we had seen before. It was also interesting to see how the site and buildings had been modified first when the Incas took over the area and then later when the Spanish arrived. We ended spending nearly 5 hours there before driving back to Chachapoyas late in the afternoon.

Unfortunatly when we arrived back at the hotel we found that our luggage and things that had apparently been left in the safe had been gone through and some things had been taken, although most of it was of little value. Its a long story and I have written too much already but by about 2am, most of our missing belongings had been returned and a temporary member of staff had been taken to the police, so things turned out OK in the end.

Posted by katiew 11:35 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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