Medellin Day 1 (Arvi Park)

We stayed in an area called Poblado in Medellin. According to our guide book, this was an exclusive area for the wealthy that later on the city expanded and it became part of the city. However it still remains a wealthy area.

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The first night we stayed at a hostel in a different area, but they only had one night available so we had to move. This hostel was pretty nice, huge.. could hold up to 100 people. It had a pool, basketball court, etc. Although when we were there there didn’t seem to be too many people around.

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Medellin was a much more touristic city than Cali. There were plenty of other travelers and hostels around, and plenty of tours/activities to do. Although we only stayed 2 days and 3 nights, we kind of wished we had just skipped Cali and stayed in Medellin. The city was surprisingly nice and safe, I read it is the safest big city in Colombia.

The first day we took the metro to an area called Santo Domingo. The metro system is very new and modern.

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It costs $3000 pesos to get anywhere along the line, one way. Included in the metro is a gondola system that gets to areas up in the hilly part of the city, where Santo Domingo is. So the gondola in itself is kind of a tourist attraction, and very inexpensive.

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As we later learned in our Pablo Escobar tour, most of the area below the gondola was the housing that Pablo gave to the poor during hiss existence.

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Along the metro, we kept getting awful stenches. Finally it clicked to me that it must be garbage, since when I did the tour of the slums in Brazil, it had the same exact stench. Although the metro was very modern, it ran through very poor areas of the city so I am sure that is where the smell came from.

Santo Domingo was one of those areas.

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The gondola went up even higher, but that section was shut down when we were there. We got off at an area called Arvi Park. Here there was a small park and a little overview of the city.

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This was the only area we went to that I felt like I had to keep my eyes open and be a little careful, but we weren’t there for very long.

On the way back, home, we decided we would stop and check out the aquarium/science museum, but it turned out it was closed.

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We headed back to our hostel, and drank at the hostel that night.

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I still wasn’t feeling quite right, my last recovering day from my sickness. Went to bed fairly early.

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Cali

We took am 8 hr bus from Pasto to Cali. Busses are relatively very expensive here, costed us about $23 for the 8 hr ride. In Ecuador they usually run about $1/hr.

I woke up feeling a little queasy, and was worried about the bus ride as most of the busses here don’t have bathrooms.

As it turns out the worrying was plenty justified.

I couldn’t think of a worst place to be sick than a hot, cramped bus on windy mountain road. Thank god the bus stopped fairly frequently. There was a bathroom on the bus that I managed to only use once and I don’t think anyone appreciated it. Outside of that, the drive was very beautiful through the mountains.
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Although we were advised not to take night busses at all in Colombia, a guy from Alaska we met on the bus told us just the stretch between the cities of Popoyan and Pasto was bad to take at night.

We arrive in Cali and the city was much nicer that we had anticipated.

Our hostel was pretty boring; there was only us 4 and a couple other guys there.
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We were mostly there for the nightlife because we heard it was great. However with no one else in our hostel (and it didn’t look promising at other hostels either) we only had ourselves to go out with. We had heard there just really weren’t many tourists in Cali.

There was a clear division of classes in Cali; the first club we went out to had a $50,000 peso (25 USD) cover to get in. We didn’t go in but a couple other guys from the hostel did and they said everyone was ritzy and stuck up.

So we headed to a couple other locations which were much more reasonably priced, and finally ended up in an area called Menga. This place was pretty cool but we still felt out of place.

The next day we headed to the Cali zoo as we heard it was really good and weren’t sure what else to do.
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We headed downtown to grab some lunch; busy area.
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Started to rain
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We spent the remainder of the day just killing time and hanging out; it was very hot and humid here and if we had known of something to do we weren’t very motivated.
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We were staying in San Antonio area which was also a wealthy area. Since it was walking distance we went out here a couple times to eat and go to the bars here, which were a little expensive but not ridiculous (~$3 for a beer).
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We walked a little bit around San Antonio and looked around
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The next day we went to see the big Jesus in overlooking the city (Cristo). It was an easy 12000 peso cab ride all the way to the top.
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We hiked down from the monument a little ways and there were some really nice views.
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We tried to go out again in San Antonio on Saturday night but we just weren’t feeling it. Instead we headed back played some poker.

We made plans and booked flights for the rest of the trip; $175 multi city flight from Medellin to Cartagena, then a leg from Cartagena to Bogota where Jose and I fly home from and Chris and Jeremy head back to Guayaquil from.

We are catching a day bus from Cali to Medellin which is another 8 hours and $48000 pesos. However this bus has AC and wifi, is way more comfortable and the road seems to be fairly straight so an easy ride.

Medellin is more touristic and there should be more fun and travelers there.

We were going to stop at a national park (Reserva Natural de Yotoco) between Cali and Medellin but after booking the flight we just don’t have enough time.

Tulcan, Ecuador/Ipiales, Colombia border crossing rental cars in Ecuador

We left Misahualli by taking a bus to the neighboring small city Tena, then taking a 6 hour bus ride back to Quito. The bus ride was pretty miserable, stopping every few minutes to pick up passengers and waiting in city traffic.
When we got back to Quito we met up with Jose in the hostel. He updated us that he had been robbed (again..) as he was robbed when I met him last year in Buenos Aires. Bad luck I guess?

Apparently he was with a girl in the hostel going to see a city monument and 4 guys with knives jumped them. They made away with Jose’s sunglasses and the girl’s ipad and camera.

We really didn’t do much as we had been doing stuff non stop between the jungle and Banos. It felt good to just chill out.

The next day we started looking into our trip to Colombia. We picked up another guy named Chris from Switzerland staying in our hostel so we are now rolling in a group of 4. Works well for taxis etc.

We were careful with our plans to Colombia as we had heard a lot about it. Some girls I met from the peace core said that they won’t allow the peace core to enter Colombia for safety reasons. They told us they heard about a bus that got robbed and made everyone strip naked on the side of the road. They said that we shouldn’t take any busses at all in Colombia.

I had heard from a couple other people that if you take busses, only to take day busses. We started looking into rental cars but Jeremy had trouble finding places to rent as most of the major rental chains don’t operate in Colombia and we are not allowed to take a car from Ecuador over the border.

We ended up deciding to take a day bus just over the border.

So we woke up early this morning and jumped on a bus to Tulcan, the border city in Ecuador. The bus ride was $5 and 5 hours.

As soon as we arrived in Tulcan there were guys outside our bus asking if we needed to exchange currency. We were a little apprehensive about exchanging money with these guys on the street but we didn’t really have a choice since we had no Colombian Pesos on us, so we exchanged $20. The exchange rate is 1800:1 USD so everything costs thousands of Pesos.
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Once in Tulcan, we had to catch a cab to immigrations ($3 about 20 minutes from Tulcan)
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The border crossing was surprisingly easy and un-sketchy. First we had to enter the Ecuadorian immigrations to get an exit stamp rental cars.
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There were many other gringos in there, and we waited in line about 30 mins
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After exiting this building, we walked about 2 minutes across a bridge into Colombia
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We had to enter the Colombia immigrations to get our entry stamp and visa
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Once over the border we fumbled around for a bit and jumped in a taxi to the border town on the Colombian side, Ipiales, about 10 minutes.
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Ipiales wasn’t too sketch, the cab dropped us at the bus station. Here we were able to withdraw from an ATM and found out about busses for tomorrow. However, we didn’t want to stay in Ipiales and opted to instead head 1.5 hour North to the next larger city, Pasto rental.
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We jumped on a small shuttle van/bus which was 6000 pesos per person or around $3 each.

The ride was beautiful, I couldn’t really catch good photos from the van but very scenic. We were all in high spirits, excited, and in a good mood, despite the long day of traveling.
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Pasto is a pretty run down city, and I think we all felt fairly uncomfortable.
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When we arrived it was just starting to get dark and a policeman told us not to go outside at night. So we walked just around the corner from the bus station and were surprise to find a very nice hotel for $70,000 pesos or around 35 a night with 4 beds. Hot shower and cable!
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We just hung in tonight got some local cheap food at the place right next door.
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We did some planning. What we plan to do is catch an 8 hour bus bright and early tomorrow morning to Cali. Cali is supposed to be a really sketchy city so we don’t think we will spend much time here. From Cali we will head North to Medellin spend a few days there and fly to Cartagena on the Carribean coast. From there we will fly to Bogota where Jose and my flight home is from, and Chris and Jeremy will fly back to Quito.

Misahualli Day 3-4-5 (Amazon Jungle Trip)

We signed up for 3 day/2 night jungle tour through a travel agency in Misahualli. It just so happened to be the agency our hostel in Banos recommended.

Jose decided that he didn’t want to do the jungle tour so he headed out with Katie and Cali back to Quito. It was a good plan since he likes cities and had not yet been to Quito, and I had already spent 3 days there.

So it was just me and Jeremy. We negotiated the rate from $45 a day to $40 a day, or $120 total for the trip.

They supplied us with all the food we needed and boots. It was very muddy so we definitely needed the boots.

We started out the first day with 3 guides, a Swiss couple, Jeremy and I. The swiss couple were only on a day trip so one of the guides was for them.
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The trip was surprisingly very well planned. We started out with a 20 minute ride in the back of a pick up to the trail entry. We hiked 3 hours and the main guide Javier stopped along the way to show us all sorts of plants
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Trees (rubber tree)
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and insects. They let an ant clip onto Jeremys ear
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This was a giant worm hole
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Termite nest
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After the 3 hour hike, we stopped for a half hour break and had a simple lunch by a stream
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After lunch we continued our hike and saw some funky funguses
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And more insects
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We went slightly out of the way to stop to see a giant 700 year old tree
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After crossing a bamboo bridge
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We arrived in the village where we were greeted by curious children
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At this point one of the guides and the Swiss couple took off in a canoe to head back to town. We were about 15kms into the jungle.
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We continued on about 15 more minutes until we finally reached our camp.
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Our camp was a simple shack with a generator for the lights and the kitchen.
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It was outfitted to fit 20 or so people but it was only the two guides, Jeremy and I. We were exhausted all day; it was so hot and humid it drained us. After a delicious spaghetti dinner we headed straight to bed. The rooms were not screened in so we had individual screens over our beds.
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We really needed the nets, the bugs were incredibly bad. I had 100% deet bug spray and thought I was prepared. It turned out the only way to get away from them was to either be in the river down the hill from our site
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or in our screened in bed. Long sleeves helped but they still bit my neck. Plus it was just so hot to wear long sleeves. The locals aren’t bothered by the sand files, they have thick skin that is used to them they can’t bite through. The mosquitoes came out at dawn and dusk to add to the bites.

We went to bed no later than 10 and slept at least 11 hours. Exhausted.

The next day, we went for a swim while the guides cooked breakfast. We went for a short 1 hr hike to a mirador where we could have an overlook of the city.
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On the trail, Javier showed us some more medicinal plants, herbs, insects, and fruit.
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Javier demonstrated the weaving of the palm tree branches that the locals use for their roofs. Last 10 years!
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After the hike, we were completely drained again from the heat, so we napped..
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After lunch we went tubing. We hiked back up through the village

and took a canoe across the river. We jumped in for a 45 minute ride down stream. It was beautiful.
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So lush and green and relaxing. After napping once again, we had dinner.

After dinner, we headed out for a night hike. We would sit silently with our lights out and wait to see if any animals came by. None did. He would turn on the flashlight and show us tiny nocturnal spiders and other insects. Just sitting there in the dark was amazing with all the noises of diversity. The sky was so bright with stars.

We did run across a baby bird that couldn’t fly but not too much else.
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Our final day was pretty laid back. The idea was we were to visit with the village people. They showed us around their village including the community building
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The classrooms
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and we met the kids. Absolutely adorable. Javier gave us some animal crackers to give to the children as they formed a line.
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They had them sing a song to us, and we in turn sang back “the wheels on the bus go round and round” and “this is the song that never ends”
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We couldn’t help but laugh about how rough they played; one kid grabbed rock in his hand and slammed it over his friends head. Later on the same kid threw a rock at another kid. Violent!
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After playing with them for a little while, we went back across the river to their house.

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We met up with the rest of the family and also gave them animal crackers. It was clearly a treat for all of them. We gave some to a drunk guy and he hogged the rest of the bag.
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We packed all our things up and Javier quickly tried to show us how to pan for gold (but did not find any)
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We were initially going to take a canoe back to town, but our second guide randomly left on the second day. He said he had some sort of meeting and Javier was not to pleased about it. It was also tough for Jeremy and I because the other guide spoke english and did a lot of translating for us.

We told Javier we still wanted to take the canoe, and we weren’t sure why but he made us pay $20 to rent it from the family. It was well worth it as we had a nice relaxing hour and a half ride back.
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But of course, after a little while we decided it was down river and Javier could handle the steering so we napped 🙂
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Emerging back to civilization definitely felt weird. It had seemed much longer than 3 days. We jumped in the back of a pickup and made our way the rest of the way to Mishualli.

Overall it was an amazing experience. Although at times the bugs were so bad I couldn’t wait to get back, in the end the bug bites will be gone and I will still have great memories.

If I were to do it again, I would definitely take the trip from Lago Igrio. It is deeper in the jungle where there are piranhas and more wildlife. I was disappointed we didn’t really see any animals, and we had to wait until the villager’s dogs stopped barking at night to hear the wildlife. The locals were also always buzzing up and down the river on motorboats so I felt we could have had a better jungle experience.

Misahualli day 2

The monkeys in this town are awesome. We woke up and headed to the main square and played with the monkeys for a good hour or two.

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They just run around and let you pet them or whatever. They crawl all over you. so awesome!

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The problem is, they take everything in sight. One crawled into my lap

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A few seconds later, another one snatched my sunglasses off my head from behind and ran away with it. He had them for a good 10 minutes and kept bending them, chewing on them, even tried putting them on. Hilarious.

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When I tried to get them, yelling at the monkey, another monkey behind me was in on it, he kept slapping me in the side of the head from behind and hissing at me

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We tried bribing him with a banana, but he still kept the glasses. Eventually one of the locals tossed him and egg and they immediately dropped my glasses (bent out of shape and both the lenses fell out).

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It was our theory that the monkeys must be trained so they steal things, because they know as a reward they will get an egg.

So hilarious. They were cheap glasses so I really didn’t care that much. But after that I really watched my shit. He actually got a hold of my glasses later in the day but Jose yelled at me so I grabbed them before he got them.

A couple of them had babies riding on their back. So ridiculously cute.

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We walked along the river and went swimming most of the afternoon.

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We had to go to Tena to go to the ATM and get some lunch.

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At night, we played basketball and soccer with some locals.

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Played some more with the monkeys

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We went out to dinner, took like 2 hours to get our food. We booked a 2 night 3 day trip to the jungle. Jose decided he doesn’t want to go so he is heading back to Quito with our Colorado friends we met on the bus, Cali and Katie. So only Jeremy and I are going. It was supposed to be $35 a night but since Jose wasn’t going it is $40 a night. Our last hostel recommended this place.

Should be interesting.. pretty excited. We will be doing a 5 hour hike tomorrow then staying in a local village. Next day more hiking and river rafting. I think at one point we take a boat. Battery dying, will touch base in few days!

Banos day 7/Misahualli day 1 (puenting)

Today we had plans to finally head out of Banos. We wanted to go on a jungle trip and were told that the trips based out of Banos weren’t as good. So we planned to head 4 hours North to a little town called Misahualli which is supposedly filled with monkeys. But first I wanted to do a couple more things around Banos. We had to wait for Jeremy because he was coming and he had his last paragliding lesson today. So first we headed over to the waterfall by the hot springs, because I hadn’t really gotten a good picture and wanted to climb up a path by them.

We climbed a little bit up the path then decided it wasn’t worth climbing up, was too slippery.

Jeremy got back early from his lesson because he got rained out, so we headed over to the bridge in town to go “puenting” I had no idea what this was. We showed up and there were a few guys standing on the side of the bridge with some climbing ropes.

This was it?? Seriously?? Soo sketch. I pretty much was about to back out, trying to decide if it was worth the risk or not. We didn’t see anyone else do it, and I had no idea how it worked. Jeremy talked me into it, so we harnessed up. I was shitting myself at this point and was seriously considering not doing it. We climbed up onto two platforms on the side of the bridge.

This was insane. I figured out at this point how it worked though, that the rope was attached to the other side of the bridge, so when you jumped off you would swing under the bridge to the other side. At first I thought that we were literally just jumping off the bridge and somehow these climbing ropes were going to stop us? Like bungee jumping with climbing ropes. Anyhow, I had slightly more confidence in their set up but I was still shitting myself. I am pretty sure that climbing ropes are supposed to be replaced after 1-2 falls or something, and I am sure these had thousands on them.

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Now Jeremy was the one that didn’t want to go, he was ready to back out. I was the one that was ready to go. So after a couple minutes we decided we would jump at the same time, and he counted 1..2..3.. jump! And jump we did..

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Soo scary. Only lasted a few seconds obviously then there was a guy at the bottom with a rope. He would keep tossing it to us until we grabbed it and he towed us in.

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Anyway, this was up there in the most crazy things I have done. More scary than bungee jumping and sky diving, at least you know those things are safe.

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After that, we headed to the bus station. We bought a $4 bus to Tena, but were instructed to have them first drop us off at a bridge just before Tena. We got dropped off, crossed the bridge, then caught another bus to Misahualli. This was about 45 mins further.

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This was a small town, it was already dark when we got here so we walked down to the river. We met a couple girls from Colorado on the bus. We grabbed dinner with them then we challenged some locals to a game called Ecuaball? Basically volleyball with a soccer ball. There was money on the game so we paid $15 to play against them and lost miserably, but it was a good time.

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Apparently all the monkeys are asleep, so tomorrow we are excited to see them, we were told you have to watch your stuff because all the monkeys try to steal your things. We also planned very poorly and are all out of money so have to catch a bus to Tena tomorrow to find an ATM, probably an hour or an hour and a half each way. We will check out the city while we are there and try to book our Amazon jungle excursion, 2 nights 3 days.

Banos day 6/Misahualli day 1 (puenting)

Today we had plans to finally head out of Banos. We wanted to go on a jungle trip and were told that the trips based out of Banos weren’t as good. So we planned to head 4 hours North to a little town called Misahualli which is supposedly filled with monkeys. But first I wanted to do a couple more things around Banos. We had to wait for Jeremy because he was coming and he had his last paragliding lesson today. So first we headed over to the waterfall by the hot springs, because I hadn’t really gotten a good picture and wanted to climb up a path by them.

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We climbed a little bit up the path then decided it wasn’t worth climbing up, was too slippery.

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Jeremy got back early from his lesson because he got rained out, so we headed over to the bridge in town to go “puenting” I had no idea what this was. We showed up and there were a few guys standing on the side of the bridge with some climbing ropes.

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This was it?? Seriously?? Soo sketch. I pretty much was about to back out, trying to decide if it was worth the risk or not. We didn’t see anyone else do it, and I had no idea how it worked. Jeremy talked me into it, so we harnessed up. I was shitting myself at this point and was seriously considering not doing it. We climbed up onto two platforms on the side of the bridge.

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This was insane. I figured out at this point how it worked though, that the rope was attached to the other side of the bridge, so when you jumped off you would swing under the bridge to the other side. At first I thought that we were literally just jumping off the bridge and somehow these climbing ropes were going to stop us? Like bungee jumping with climbing ropes. Anyhow, I had slightly more confidence in their set up but I was still shitting myself. I am pretty sure that climbing ropes are supposed to be replaced after 1-2 falls or something, and I am sure these had thousands on them.

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Now Jeremy was the one that didn’t want to go, he was ready to back out. I was the one that was ready to go. So after a couple minutes we decided we would jump at the same time, and he counted 1..2..3.. jump! And jump we did..

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Soo scary. Only lasted a few seconds obviously then there was a guy at the bottom with a rope. He would keep tossing it to us until we grabbed it and he towed us in.

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Anyway, this was up there in the most crazy things I have done. More scary than bungee jumping and sky diving, at least you know those things are safe.

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After that, we headed to the bus station. We bought a $4 bus to Tena, but were instructed to have them first drop us off at a bridge just before Tena. We got dropped off, crossed the bridge, then caught another bus to Misahualli. This was about 45 mins further.

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This was a small town, it was already dark when we got here so we walked down to the river. We met a couple girls from Colorado on the bus. We grabbed dinner with them then we challenged some locals to a game called Ecuaball? Basically volleyball with a soccer ball. There was money on the game so we paid $15 to play against them and lost miserably, but it was a good time.

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Apparently all the monkeys are asleep, so tomorrow we are excited to see them, we were told you have to watch your stuff because all the monkeys try to steal your things. We also planned very poorly and are all out of money so have to catch a bus to Tena tomorrow to find an ATM, probably an hour or an hour and a half each way. We will check out the city while we are there and try to book our Amazon jungle excursion, 2 nights 3 days.