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.

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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.

Quito Day 1 (TeleferiQo)

Slept pretty bad last night, everyone in my room started shuffling around early. On top of that the room was so bright, and I forgot about all the car alarms that randomly go off every morning.

So I decided I would just get up, went downstairs had some breakfast and met up with the Mass girls I had met the previous night. We caught a cab to teleferiQo, which is essentially a gondola that brings you up to a peak where you can overlook the city.
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There were some really nice views, and helped to get an overall impression of the city.
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Didn’t do too much after that, came back and napped, chatted with some people, went out and got some really shitty food.

Messaged Jose who I am supposed to meet up with, because I don’t want to do too much fun stuff before he comes but then I don’t know when hes coming.

Walked around the center of town a bit..
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Apparently it is tradition in Quito to make manequins and burn them on new years, supposed to symbolize burning your old self and starting over new I guess? Anyhow there were a million of these manequins around town for the festivies tonight.
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This is the one at our hostel:
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Then there were randomly guys that would cross dress and stop traffic to ask for money all around the city, no idea what was up with this..
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We went to the supermarket and I brought some random fruit that I have yet to try
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Quito day 0 (Arrival)

Arrived in Quito safe and sound, made it to my hostel. Kind of a piece of shit but whatever. Flight was 12 hrs with a 3 hr layover so was not too fun. Met a girl on the plane that is in the peace core so was comforting to know someone in the country.

Taxi driver was waiting with a sign for me and he brought me over to the hostel, about 20 min $15 ride from airport.
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Brushed up on my spanish with the driver. Immediately got settled in and hung out at the bar with about 10 other people, small place.

One group from NY, one from mass, kid from new Zealand, girl from england, girl from Argentina and another girl from Chile.

Everyone was really friendly. City seems nice. Plans to go out with the girls from MA in the am in the city. Lots of partying tomorrow night.

Everyone is still partying but I’m calling it a night, 330am.

Overall everything went very well was not sketched out at all at any point, people to hangout with, winning!