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esfahani Quito - A travel report by Ralph
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Quito,  Ecuador - flag Ecuador -  Pichincha
5568 readers

esfahani's travel reports

Ecuador on a shoestring

  25 votes
Backpacking one of the andean countries can be exciting enough to spend a life time.
Please, follow me on my tour, through that fascinating country, scratching the surface of the jungle, the impressive mountains as well as the beautiful coast!

Most of the people arrive to Quito by plane, making their first experience with the high altitude.
Nearly 3000 meters / 9000 feet can be truly breathtaking!

My basic idea was, taking a spanish course there and travel - Quito is a really famous place for a language course, especially the private teacher is affordable, and they are experience to teach "gringos".
The owner of the school of my choice lives in germany and I found it thru an add in a travel magazine.

Avenida Amazonas is the center of the new city, lots of pubs, restaurants and bars around, and most of the hotels. During my stay, I lived with a family bit out, arranged from the school to practice the language...
Unesco declared the colonial center of the city a world cultural heritage site, but I got warnigs all the time, not to go there after dark, not to stay in a guesthouse there if I like to go out at night...
During the weekends we went to the village of Papallacta, and I really score it to one of my favourite places there - a two hours bus ride with spectacular views. the village is famous for his thermal spings and delicous trouts from the rivers there. Papallacta is nestled between to snowcaped mountains scratching the mark of 6000 m.

Favourite spots:
old city
old city
After two weeks school there, I really feel excited to travel around, to see the country!
Banos (very touristic spot) and Tena (jungle) were our first stations.
From Tena we started several tours down the river into the jungle.

By the way, Ecuador offers many interesting places to work voluntary, somewhere deep in the forests or villages teaching people, plenty of exciting jobs, mostly for food and bed, if you can stay at least a 3-4 weeks.

From Tena we return back to Quito, not on a direct bus, no we just started to walk, in between hitchhiking on giant trucks transporting the wood: really fun!

I forgot to count some places of interest in the capitol: Mitad del Mundo, a massive monument signing the equator line! - Virgen del Quito - may the best view in town! Nearby is a cemetery worth visit (I try to remember its name) - and may you like to climb the Pichincha Volcano very close to the city?!

What's really great:
at the San Francisco Monastery
at the San Francisco Monastery
Loja is our next destination on our way to a very remarkable place - I have read, that Vilcabamba is called the "valley of longevity" - a high number of the inhabitants are 100 years or even older! Scientists could not investigate the reason!
Wonderful place - horseback riding, relaxing ...

Cuenca: picturesque colonial cente, curches dating from the 16th / 17 th century.
Alausi is the place to ride a train to the "devils nose" one of the most famous ecuadorian sights. Unfortunally the train was out of service that time. The ride to Bucay takes 3-4 hours and the fare that time was about 10 USD for foreigners of course. The steep decent is exceptional (Alausi 2500m - Bucay 1000m altitude) - distance about 40 km!!!
Check the timetable before, the ride is the only attraction there!

Journey to the Jungle
Journey to the Jungle
On our way to Riobamba is a village called Guamote.

WOW ... easy to miss ... definitely plan a stop there if you can:
the Thursday-market is one of best (unspoiled) markets I ever seen, locals are coming from far in their traditional clothes - a heaven for passionate photographers!!!
Hey... did you ever tried a fried guinea pig?! Its one of the most typical specialities of the andean countries... and really delicious...

Next destination: the coast: Portoviejo, Manta, Puerto Lopez, Jipijapa ... banana plantations all the way, some are may a hundred kilometres long.
Jipijapa is the center of the panama hat industry.

Puerto Lopez a busy fishing village and a perfect place to start a whale watching tour - humpback whales are common when breeding.
During our tour some orcas attack the humpbacks hunting their babies.

Nearby, the Isla del la Plata, is compared with the Galapagos, about 40 km out in the sea. A legend says, that Sir Francis Drake buried some treasure here...

Monasterio de San Francisco de Quito
Monasterio de San Francisco de Quito
Around Puerto Lopez you can spend some time hiking or horseback riding in the forests or lonely beaches, where millions of crabs enjoy their life...

From here we took the bus to the city with the beautiful name:
Santo Domingo de los Colorados, staying overnight in transit to the beaches of Atacames.
Locally known and an unexpected party life during the weekends it is really recommended to book a room in advance. Especially if you prefer a Hotel or guesthouse near the beach. (Dont walk too far in the night time and after some drinks...)

That time we stayed first in Muisne, about 25 km south, and if you believe or not: it got dark very early...
We had a really good time there and met lots of people from all over.

"Never touch tings you dont know!" - Its can burn like hell!!!!
Esmeraldas: Racetrack to Borbon is just a flat beach, were bus driver trying to impress foreign passengers by speeding up on their trucks with some wooden benches in the back. Its not so easy to reach the remote area of San Lorenzo, just a few kilometres off the border of Colombia.
Borbon a growing village, is just another station… sitting at the pier and waiting a boat to
Limones just in the middle of nowhere, mangroves all around, not accessible by vehicles.
After hours we give up and decide to hire our own canoe, offering seats to other passengers to share the cost. Just before sunset we arrived at the village. A very quite place: no cars at all on the island! Only after some minutes we realize the we got dropped out somewhere in Africa ???!!! Surprisingly the inhabitants at 100% are descendants of african slaves brought here by the Spanish.

hiking along the jungle roads
hiking along the jungle roads
There are just two very simple hotels in town but after a while some people knocked our door to invite us, showing around in town and going out to join one of the (daily) fiestas.

Next morning, still with an hangover, we got a early wakeup call: “a boat is leaving to San Lorenzo” – check out – buying some bread on the run to the pier … ufff: last minute!

San Lorenzo, is not a very remarkable place, I just remember an excellent seafood restaurant with giant crabs. Most of the people are starring to us: “never seen foreigners, or what” its really a uncomfortable feeling. The place its important for the timber industry, so lots of different peoples are around, its seams everybody is waiting for something, its may like a 150 years ago as the northamerican gold rush begun…

Next morning, still in the dark, I am already at the train station to buy our tickets to Ibarra, with approximately a 200-300 timber mens, to reach their place to work. The train service is often interrupted, sometimes for a couple of days. After 2 hours I am holding 2 tickets in my hands defending them even with my life if necessary…
The ride will take the whole day, leaving tomorrow! So still enough time to rest and eating at the seafood restaurant the menu up and down.
At the train: "oh my god! all this people want to go with??" - actually the train is called "autoferro" and it looks more a bus than a train. The rooftop is packed, not a single more would fit, same inside... at least the tickets have seat numbers on... with about 20 km an hour we are heading towards east, up to Ibarra at 2500 m above sea level.

Other recommendations:
The city Ibarra is build in a very well preserved colonial town. Nearby the village San Antonio de Ibarra, is a must to visit. Famous all over the country for the woodcarvers, and some of the artists are working worldwide, as Luis Potosi.
The village La Esperanza is a quite and cosy place and starting point to climb the volcano Imbabura (4600m).
Just 20 km south is Otavalo, our last station on our journey.

Published on Tuesday June 20th, 2006

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Wed, Feb 21 2007 - 03:29 PM rating by travler

I learned a lot from this report especially about thouching things.

Sun, Feb 04 2007 - 11:38 AM rating by marianne

Ralph, Glad you revised this journal as I must have missed it the first time. A great joy to read and lots of good info

Sun, Feb 04 2007 - 06:33 AM rating by davidx

An excellent report, even when judged by your usual high standards.

Thu, Jan 11 2007 - 12:33 PM rating by mrscanada

Ralph this was a very interesting and educational report.

Sat, Jul 08 2006 - 08:16 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Beautiful report! Muy bien Ralph!

Sat, Jun 24 2006 - 10:00 AM rating by st.vincent

Looks like a great adventure Ralph, a very interesting report and nice to read.

Wed, Jun 21 2006 - 09:53 AM rating by mistybleu

Ralph, a very interesting report, I would have loved to live through some of your experiences. I do hope you get to upload some pictures as indicated.

Well done

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