Banos Day 5 (Road to Puyo/Diablo Falls)

Today we got up around 930 and planned to bike ride to the neighboring town Puyo about 63kms away, was supposed to be a beautiful drive.

We went to the travel agency we have been using and rented bikes for $5 for the day and headed out of town. Me, Jose, and john came along. Jose wasn’t too thrilled that John and I got up so late because he’s one of those “morning people”

We headed out of town and first drove past a dam.

A little further down the road we saw the first canopy tower. Canopying is basically zip lining in a lying down position. Looked awesome, it looked like the people we were watching were flying.

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Once I saw it I immediately decided that I had to do it. It was $10 to go one way across the canyon and return in the gondola, or $15 to go both ways. Was no decision to be made for me I chose both ways. They geared me all up and I went to the top of the tower.

They put my feet up in a sling and sent me off

I’m not sure how fast it went, but the whole thing only took about 30-40 seconds. It wasn’t quite as cool as it looked, but beautiful views. The only part that really got my adrenaline pumping was at the end when you are flying 40 mph at a dirt pile, but there was a guy at the end there to stop me. I snapped some photos en route.
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Beautiful. Once the guy at the other end unhooked me, I had to hike a few minutes uphill to latch into the other cable.
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The 15 year old kid at this end strapped me up and sent me back on my way.

After this we hit the road again. There were tons of tunnels, bridges, waterfalls along the way. Beautiful.
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Along the way we met a Swiss kid and a Canadian. They told us of a place called Diablo (Devil’s) falls, so we tagged along.

I went to grab an empinada and mentioned to everyone that I was doing so, but when I came back no one was in sight. I figured that maybe they didn’t hear me and had headed down, so I started hiking down the trail.
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I think the trail was 1k long, so it only took about 20 minutes to get down (all downhill) until I reached the falls.
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Before entering the park there was a guy collecting an entry fee of $1.50. There were 3 levels to the falls.
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To gain access to the top of the falls, you had to crawl through a cave, ridiculous.
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This tunnel went on for about 50 feet then opened back up a little bit
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You had to climb up some stairs
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Then there was a platform
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The last stairway led to right behind the waterfall
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My friends weren’t there, so I back traced through everything again and started heading back to see if I could find them at the top of the trail maybe. I ran into Jose and apparently they had waited 20 mins for me before deciding to just head down. So I crawled back through the tunnel-path with them to the top.
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We hiked all back uphill to the road, and stopped at a stand to grab a fresh half carrot half orange juice for $1.
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We headed back out, and it started raining. Rain was spraying from the tires into our eyes, so we stopped around kilometer 23 out of the 60 we needed to go. I wanted to continue our ride to Puyo but no one else did so I wasn’t about to go on my own.
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We grabbed some lunch and a beer from a stand on the side of the road, and thats when we started to get uncomfortable and cold. We flagged down a bus and they threw our bikes underneath.
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We showered up a bit, napped, and went to a bar called Leprechaun. Main club in town. Jon was bitching that the 30 ounce beers here were “expensive” because they costed $3. Drank fairly heavily and got to sleep around 3.

Banos Day 4 (Mirador La Cruz Bellavista)

Woke up to a knock on my door today that I had a guest waiting for me in the lobby. Jose had arrived!

We caught up, and once again had oatmeal, bread with jam, and coffee for breakfast. It would be my last day with Andrea as she was taking off for Quito.

Jose had yet to see the town, so we walked around a bit. I really just planned on relaxing today since we had been non stop going since my arrival.

We strolled by the church in town and went inside to take some photos. Although we walk by it every day in the center of town I had not gotten around to actually checking it out.

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We went inside the church, which was in session since it was a Sunday. It was really weird because half the people in there were tourists taking photos and in the way, flashes etc, and the other half did not look too pleased and were actually attending the mass.

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After this, we kind of loosely were deciding what to do, and thought about doing the bike ride to the neighboring town Puyo. Picked up a bag of chopped sugarcane for a dollar, which you chew, was really tasty. In the end we decided to do the hike up to Mirador La Cruz Bellavista.

This was essentially a 45 minute semi-strenuous hike up to a cross that had a viewpoint of Banos.

To get here, we walked through the center of town on Ambato and the trail started at the end of the road on Maldonado.

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We started our hike up the trail.

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On our way there were some nice views

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Until we reached the top

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We hungout for a few minutes up here, which was cool because although we were up so high, we could see everything that was going on down in the city. We could hear music playing from the carnival, hear the sirens from the police car. It was like a sim-city. Gave a good overview of the city.

On the way back down the trail, it only took us about 20 minutes because we ran the whole way. We saw a vacant building so climbed through the barb wire to get some pictures. Real chill spot.

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We strolled through the market in town

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A little while later we got dinner with Kristal & Rich. They are heading South tomorrow to Cuenca. We talked about how close you get to people that you haven’t even known that long when down here, a certain type of bonding that you don’t experience except when traveling. Although we only have known eachother for a week we have gone through a lot of experiences together. And the amount of time we spent together in 1 week would probably take months in our everyday lives in the states. Things are just so much slower down here, we get to spend much more time together, never having to rush off and go anywhere. Every meal we have together is at least 1-2 hours.

Right now we are all watching Ted which I have seen 3x since I got here.

It’s funny, all the movies down here are rip-offs crappy quality that I guess you can buy for a dollar. But the people down here really wouldn’t be able to afford paying the $20 we pay for a DVD at home. Jose was talking to one of the shop workers and the minimum salary here is $350/month. So we really are rich compared to these people, no way they could afford to come out to our “gringo” restaurants paying $10 a meal.

Tomorrow we have plans to do the 60 kilometer bike ride to Puyo. This is supposed to be an awesome road, with tunnels going along the mountainside. There is zip lining etc along the way that we plan on doing. Once we get to Puyo we will catch a bus home.

Banos Day 3 (Canyoning)

Today we got up around 930 or so and had our hostel breakfast again of oatmeal, banana, and bread with jelly.

Jeremy and I headed into town to meet in front of the main church in town with Rich and Kristal. We went to a travel agency recommended by our hostel, MTS travel and rented a few ATVs. It was actually not raining today, the sun even came out for a little while! The guy wanted $20 for each for an hour, and I said if we rent 3 can we have for $17 each, he said no, then told us we could have them for $15 each.. Not very good bargaining on his end but we accepted.

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The plan was to head up to the volcano, but we couldn’t find the trail and just ended up buzzing around the city and found some off road trails to take. Good time.

After that, we went back to MTS travel to book our canyoning tour. Canyoning is basically repelling down waterfalls. We booked the tour to Rio Blanco, and again the guy failed at bargaining. He wanted $25 each, we asked for $22, then he said $20.

We went to the hostel to grab Jeremy and grabbed a $2.50 lunch. Was actually pretty good, so I am probably going to continue to get meals at this place.

Rio Blanco had 5 waterfalls, and I guess was better than the other popular location. We headed back to MTS and geared up.

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This place was recommended because I guess they were the only ones that give you some training before you leave. They had a climbing tower that we could practice repelling on.

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We jumped in the back of the pick up and drove out about 20 minutes from town.

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The drive brought us through a tunnel on the way to the neighboring town Puyo, where I think I might bike ride to tomorrow.

Once at our destination our guide kept telling us it was a 1 hour hike. We were not prepared for this as we were in wet suits and Rich had a sprained ankle that was bothering him. Turns out it was only about a 20 minute hike and he was just messing with us.

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There were to be 5 waterfalls. It was really awesome. The first one was pretty small, but still got your adrenaline going none the less.

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The third waterfall was one of the scariest things I have done, more nerve racking than skydiving or bungee jumping. It was probably about 60 feet high and we had to jump down while actually in the waterfall, and it was a tough entrance as well. And slippery.

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A couple of the waterfalls we slid down. Overall an amazing experience and a great rush.

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On the way back, there was a car off the road in a ditch.
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At the same time, there was also randomly a stalled buggy on the side of the road. So all 8 or so of us somehow managed to push this car out of this gutter, then the people in the buggy jumped in the back of the truck with us. Honestly, I have no fucking idea what happened, it was so random and happened so quickly. The car had no damage on it whatsoever. Made zero sense, it was literally sideways in a gutter. And then the buggy thing.. I don’t know. The whole thing was so weird.
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We were already soaking wet so headed to the hot springs. Apparently the “hot” hot spring opens at 6 pm, so we were just in time. The “hot” hot spring was over 110 degrees, it was the hottest water I have been in, soo hot. Kept having to switch from the hot spring back to the cold one.

Rich and Krista came to hang at our hostel tonight for a BBQ and some drinking. Saturday night so we are going out. Maybe zip lining tomorrow or biking, well see.

Anyway, today was amazing. I love this place.

Banos Day 2 (Tungurahua)

Got up about 915 today as we had plans to meet to go on the horse tour to see the active volcano Tungurahua.

Apparently Banos has been on “Orange” alert which means that the volcano could erupt at any time. It was erupting about 10 days ago they said but has been quiet since.

Little did I know apparently it is rainy season here, and just rains.. all the time. Kinda sucks. So we kind of waited around for the weather to clear up but then decided it wasn’t going to, so we booked the tour. It was a 2 hour tour and since we had a big group we paid $17 each. Me, Richard, Kristal, and my 2 new friends, Jonathan and Andrea (From Seattle and Switzerland), as well as a girl named Kristal came on the tour.

Jonathan, Andrea, and I had breakfast at the hostel, consisting of Croissants with home made jelly, oatmeal, and a banana.

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We headed downtown to a gringo restaurant called Casa Hood. We booked the tour and walked 5 mins with the guide over to where the horses were kept.

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We rode about 10 mins through the city the started our accent up the mountain. Of course it was raining the whole time and we got absolutely soaked.

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There were some nice views, considering the rain, and our final destination was a river crossing. Although it was a volcano tour, there was no hope in actually seeing the volcano.

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I had a real good time on the horses, I think we all did. The guide had them running for a bit, I have never been on a horse where they actually run. Good time.

When the tour was over, we were all thoroughly soaked and uncomfortable. Dana, Richard, and Kristal headed back to their hostel and Jonathan headed back to the hostel. I was already soaked, so I figured I may as well go straight to the hot springs. which were located directly under a waterfall. Andrea tagged along. Entry was $2.

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The springs are fed from the volcano and were luke warm-ish. Apparently the locals think that all the minerals in the water have some spiritual healing power. We hung out there for an hour or so.

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After that, I was starving so grabbed some food from the vendors right there. Pretty sure I ate some guinea pig, maybe some cat or dog, no fucking idea, but it definitely was not beef. I think I also got ripped off got paid the gringo price of $5.50 for a 6 ounce coke and roadkill with rice and corn that I am pretty sure had previously been sampled by a bug. The meal actually didn’t taste too bad though.

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When we got back to the hostel and dried off a bit, we headed back to Casa Hood. We had some coffee and they play movies there so we watched the Big Lebowski.

Pizza at the hostel for $1/slice so hitting that up. Plans to go canyoning tomorrow (repelling down waterfalls)

Banos Day 1 (Quito to Banos)

When we got back to the hostel last night, we just chilled out. The bartender that was working there decided to just up and leave and take a ship down the amazon to brazil or something crazy, so I asked the owner of the hostel if I could bartend. And bartend I did.

Was a good time.. a bunch of people went to a club which I guess was a good time but I missed out on that train since I was bartending, talked to/met bunch of random people.

Got up around 10 or 11, packed up my shit and checked out with Kristal & Richard. Walked down the road to grab my laundry that was washed, dried and folded for $1. We grabbed some pancakes for breakfast and asked our hostel to grab us a cab to the bus station Quitumbe. From where we were staying in “Gringo Land” (Mariscal) the cab costed us $15 and took around 30-40 minutes. The bus driver drove like a total maniac.

We were initially going to take the metro which I guess goes directly to the station, but it was so crowded and we had all of our gear so decided it more wise to just grab a cab.

The bus station was surprisingly nice and first-world-ish. I have been to some pretty sketchy bus stations in South America so this was a relief.
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It was very easy to find our bus as well to Banos, as each window said its destination. The window attendants of course argued over who was going to get a ticket, but besides that it was really easy. What a breeze.
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The bus costed us $3.50 each, and was to be about 3 and a half hours, we grabbed it from terminal 28.

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Although we were told it was “todo directo” (non stop) we were constantly stopping to pick up random people.
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The bus ride was interesting, between picking up the random people trying to sell us shit on the bus to picking up the other random people that would come on the bus and just ramble some nonsense, seems every bus we go on we have some sort of rambler come on for some reason.

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When we got closer to Banos, the roads started getting a little windier, as Banos is located in a valley. I was hoping the weather would be nicer since our elevation dropped from 2850 meters in Quito down to 1800 meters in Banos, but unfortunately it was just as cold. Wishing the sun would come out but I am told it is always cold and rainy here. Same as Quito, it ranges from about 55-65 degrees every day. When the sun was out in Quito it was actually pretty nice, but no sun here in Banos.

Banos was not what I was expecting, I was expecting a smaller, nicer town. However, its kind of a shit hole I noticed as we arrived at the bus station.
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I opted to stay at a different hostel than Krista & Richard because although my hostel (Hostel Backpackers) was more expensive ($10 vs $7), it seemed to be a more sociable hostel based on reviews I read. Krista and Richard are staying at Princess something-or-others, which is on the other side of the city, about a 7 minute walk away. The hostel is pretty much motel-style, with all private rooms, no dorms, nice place. So I figured that if I wanted to do something they didn’t, I might have trouble finding a companion.

My hostel was located at the end of the main road in the town, Ambato. I had to walk down a dark alley to access it. I am told this city is really safe as I guess if you are caught stealing, rape, etc, the cops don’t take care of you, the citizens of the town take it into their own hands..
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Within the town itself, there is a waterfall which has hot spring beneath it. Since we got in late this afternoon we didn’t really do too much exploring yet.
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I grabbed some dinner? with Krista & Richard, where and old couple came in and played us some music. Food was actually very good, for once. Getting sick of all the salty, disgusting food.

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It was raining, so I walked back to my hostel and we parted ways. We are planning on taking a horse ride up to the active volcano nearby tomorrow, I guess it costs like $18. This place is going to be so fun, I just wish the weather was nicer. We are also going to rent some buggies for $10 an hour and race around the city. Really excited.

Hungout with an Argentinian girl staying in my room until she left to meet some friends for dinner. In the lounge now, having a beer, gonna chat it up with these Colombian guys.

Quito Day 3 (Mitad del Mundo)

I finally got a good nights sleep, went to sleep around 1 and was able to sleep through the sun shining directly in my eyes and the multiple car alarms going off all morning.

Had the usual hostel breakfast of corn flakes toast and banana, then had to wait for Krista and Rich to wake up.

Our plan was to head to Refugio de vida Silvestre, which is a wild life refuge that has an untouched part of the Andes, but we decided against it since it was tricky to get there and none of us are great in Spanish.

Instead we opted to head to a popular tourist destination called Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), which is the equator line.

To get there we had to catch one of the metro lines which was about a 15 minute walk from our hostel. We took the blue line North to Ofelia bus station, which was about a half an hour drive.

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From here, we caught another bus, Mitad del Mundo, that brought us directly to the small tourist town, about another 45 minutes. Then entry fee here was $2.
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There was randomly a museum in the park that we went to, and there was some crazy ass scary looking bugs
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There were a couple llamas there..
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The bus ride itself was interesting, as it brought us through a bunch of small towns and really allowed us to really see Quito. We went through many small towns, and saw everything from fenced in wealthy areas and poor small towns.
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On the way home on the bus, there was some sketchy ass kid that was definitely eyeing down our stuff, which put us a little on edge.

Quito day 2 (Old Town/Las Basilica del Vota)

Last night was fun. We started drinking in the hostel around 6 playing games and what not. It started to get blurry when the bartender asked me to watch the bar for ten mins while he went outside to have a smoke and that I could drink all I wanted while I was tending.

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One of the guys in the hostel bought a mannequin for $15 and we brought it outside, tore it up and burned it. I guess it is tradition to do that and jump over the fire. We didn’t make it to the main party which I guess is in a sketchy part of the city, they call this area “Gringo Land”.

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After the burning we went to a club, and somehow I ended up offering to pay cover for our entire group, we were mostly the only ones in there. Stayed out til 3 or 430 or so, then on the way back we were locked out and I ended up breaking into our hostel by climbing over a 10 ft stone wall with glass shards on top then 3 ft of barb wire. Soo.. yea, some poor decisions were made.

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Today everyone slept until like 2pm, then I met up with a couple of my friends and we went to a historic place in the city called old town. We caught a $.25 bus about a 20 minute ride into the city.

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We intended to talk around a planned route but instead ended up just waking to the coolest looking church, called La Basilica Del Voto. I honestly wasn’t very excited about the historical district, but this place completely changed my mind. An amazing piece of architecture.

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It was a hike up a steep hill for a ways to get access, as it was perched at the top of a hill

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Entrance was $2 for foreigners or $1 for Ecuadorians. Inside, there were crazy colored glass and lots of marble

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To access the top, they had a sketchy stairway that would never be allowed in the US

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After this, there was an even sketchier steep access to get to the top tower, the couple I was with were afraid to go up so they stayed down

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Once in the tower there were some pretty awesome views of the city and the rest of the church

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The level of detail was so crazy. It took over 100 years to build. We saw areas that had been damaged, but I could imagine that it must take constant maintenance due to the level of detail in everything.

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The food here is disgusting, I am getting pretty sick of it. So salty. And drinking tons of soda since we can’t drink the water here. And we have been eating in all the touristy places out of convenience so you pay 2x what you would anywhere else, like $12 a meal instead of like 6. “Gringo Land” didn’t seem sketchy at all until we went out tonight, weren’t as many cops around and it got a little sketchy, crack head came into subway while we were eating.

Back at the hostel, booked the next leg of my trip. I am heading over to Banos about 3 hrs away where they have tons of outdoor adventure like white water rafting, mountain biking, waterfalls, hot springs, active volcano etc. Very excited for this stop. Touched base with Jose he is going to meet me in Banos in about 5 days so I will just chill out there until he comes. For now, I am tagging along with the LA couple I met, since they are also going to Banos. Its always nice to travel with someone if given the opportunity. I am staying at a different hostel than them in Banos however, since a different one seemed more solo-traveler-friendly.