A Travellerspoint blog

Ecuador

Ecuador - a delightful surprise

After such a wonderful time in the Galapagos, we returned to mainland Ecuador. We began with a trip to Banos. We had heard a lot about Banos in the guide books. It's famed for its hot thermal baths, volcano, a place to do adventure sports and for just being an overall really cool place to chill out a. It wasn't wrong. It is a really relaxing spot to chill for a few days and there is no shortage of things to do. We only had 3 days there so we decided on a bit of rafting which I really enjoyed. The guides were good craic and there were enough rapids to keep a bit of excitement in it. We didn't have much of a chance to do much else but just chill out and start to stock up on homecoming presents. We stayed in a really nice hostel called La casa de molina blanca which felt a bit like a home from home. I was very sad to leave Banos. It would be a great place to return to with a group of friends.

Onward from Banos we began our journey in search of an eco-lodge called 'The Black Sheep Inn', Chugchilan We had heard other travelers mention about how good it was and we felt like we needed a bit of rest and recuperation so it sounded like the spot to do it. The only thing about it is that from Banos it takes about 7 hours to get there, 3 of which are pretty uncomfortable on a bumpy road. Albeit that journey seemed short enough to us at that stage. The nice thing about the lodge is that when you do arrive there you are right up beside the famous Laguna Quilotoa. This area is very beautiful and many travelers do what is known as the Quilotoa loop, trekking from village to village. I have to say that this eco-lodge was one of the nicest places we stayed in our months of travelling. It is an all inclusive accommodation and they only serve vegetarian food which is yummy and plentiful. They also have a really nice yoga studio which we were both really grateful for. The other great thing about it is that you can do numerous treks from there. We just done one short trek as were tired and Ger had a bit of a stomach bug. It was a beautiful trek though. It really is a stunning area of Ecuador. Here are a few pics.

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Our last stop in Ecuador was the capital, Quito. We spent two days here before catching our flight to Bogota. We both really enjoyed Quito despite it being a little bit ruined for us by people telling us how previously how likely we were to be robbed. We weren't robbed and found the city to be as safe as other cities once you take the usual precautions. Its a very beautiful city consisting of a stunning old town and then a newer town. Its is big but easy enough to walk around in the central town. There is lots to see in a couple of days and some good spots to eat out. I would particularly recommend 'Jimmys' stall in the central market for some of the best fish I have had in my life.

I was sad flying out of Quito and leaving Ecuador. Its a fabulous country. Its really diverse and its small enough to get around and experience it all. We didn't have enough time to do the Jungle but its meant to be great too. The people in Ecuador were noticeably friendlier than in Peru and Bolivia and the transport was frequent and cheap. If you want a 3 week trip to South America, I would highly recommend Ecuador as the country to visit.

Dodging Mosquito Status: After the Galapagos, they weren't too bad where we were as we began to ascend in altitude again. Something tells me they would be ready and waiting in the Jungle had we ventured there!!!!

Posted by ofenelon 23:57 Archived in Ecuador Tagged sheep banos ecuador 'black inn' Comments (0)

My Travel Dream Come True - The Galapagos Islands

After a horrendous journey to Guayaquil in Ecuador (26 hours, numerous buses, closed border etc) we booked into our hotel and quickly began to book our flights to the Galapagos the following day. It may seem very last minute and indeed it was but the flight prices don’t change much so we decided to wait until we were sure we were going. The flights to the Galapagos are not cheap. They are about $900 for two and you have to pay a $100 dollar tax when you arrive in the airport on the other side. We were hoping to use our frequent flyer points with LAN to get cheaper flights but after 3 hours in their office, trying to book through a faulty LAN points system we only got one for cheaper and paid full price for the other. LAN flights are usually ok but their frequent flyer system is beyond ridiculous it is so inefficient. Between the journey and the ordeal over the flights, I sat in the LAN office in tears wondering if I’d ever get to my dream destination of the Galapagos. Thankfully we got our flights the next morning and I don’t think I was ever so relieved.

We finished watching our David Attenborough ‘Galapagos’ series on the plane over - which is really brilliant - and we were super excited when the plane landed. As soon as the plane door opened, I felt like a child waiting for Santa in anticipation of what we would see. I wasn’t’ disappointed.

The Galapagos is made up of a series of islands, four of which are inhabited, but most are not. Tourists who visit can wither take a cruise or island hop themselves. The advantages of the cruise is that if you pay enough money you get to places that you couldn’t visit otherwise. The disadvantage is that it is really expensive. We tried for a last minute deal but it was still expensive so we decided to travel around ourselves and see what happened. The are lots of day trips to other islands that you can do so you can still see some of the uninhabited Islands too. While these are expensive, most of them are really worth the money.

So what is so special about the Galapagos? Well in part the volcanic nature of the islands but most people visit for the spectacular wildlife. The wildlife is completely unique to other parts of the world. One of the reasons being is that creatures here don’t have many predators so they have evolved differently then their mainland relations. For that same reason, they are very tame. Even the birds don’t fly away on approaching them. The islands may be stunningly beautiful but they are made up of volcanic rock and are harsh environments to live in so the much of the wildlife had adapted to suit its environment. This is one of the reasons why Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ uses the Galapagos finches to demonstrate natural selection. Darwin noticed that the finches had different beak sizes depending on which island in the Galapagos they came from. It is also very obvious with the giant tortoises. Their shells are noticeably different as you move from island to island.

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Trying to spot the different creatures is what makes this place so special. When you first sight a marine iguana, it is something to behold and the same can be said for most of the creatures. I had seen the mating dance of the blue footed boobies in documentaries but actually seen it in the wild was amazing. Birds with ‘blue feet’, its class.

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Aside from what you see on land there is so much to see in the water too and this is another major attraction for the Galapagos. The snorkeling here is spectacular. In one snorkelling trip, we saw manta rays, sharks, giant sea turtles, sea lions etc. Diving here is also very special although you need to be quite experienced for some of the more interesting dive sites such as Gordon Rocks where you can spot hammerhead sharks. The most spectacular diving takes place near the uninhabited islands of Wolf and Darwin but these are very far out and you need to go with a liveaboard dive boat for maybe 7 days and its not cheap, as you can imagine. Here is a link to one of the videos we took snorkelling

I could probably write about the Galapagos for days on end. It is an expensive trip what with flights, taxes, accommodation and trips/cruises but it is worth every penny. It is unique and every day is exciting there. You get to see so much interesting wildlife and it also great fun snorkeling when the sea lions come to play with you. They are super playful and curious. Ger in particular had a soft spot for the sea lions!!! Here are just a few pics to give an idea of what you might see there.

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My best advice for anyone interested in going or finding out more about the Galapagos is to watch the recent David Attenborough documentaries (produced by Sky) on it. They are brilliant and are an excellent guide to it. It was my ulitmate travel dream to visit there and I’m so glad we did. I really hope to return but might have to save a few pennies first.

Dodging Mosquito Status: There is nothing that unique about the mossies here. They are the same biting nuisances as ever. Unfortunately they were quite plentiful especially on Santa Cruz. Maybe over time, they will evolve not to bite tourists!!!

Posted by ofenelon 16:25 Archived in Ecuador Tagged galapagos Comments (0)

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