16. Travel Story

Travel report 16, Ecuador and travelling.
Because my last travel report was only about the Galapagos, this report will also describe my experiences of my first week in Ecuador.
First I want to say that there´s (a lot) more to see and to do in Ecuador than I´ve seen and done in the last few weeks. But even I can´t do everything, especially because I still want to visit 4 countries more in only 3 and a halve month….
From hot beaches till cold mountains with snow and even (still) rainforest, Ecuador has it all, but after the rainforest and beaches in Central America, I stayed in Ecuador most of he time in the Andean area.
Before I tell my own story I want to tell you a story I read and heard here in Ecuador:
Next to the monument of the Equator was written a small story about fotosyntese. There was written that a plant or tree uses the energy of sunlight to transfer CO2 in food supplements to grow (the process that releases the O2 oxygen ). So the energy we get when we burn the wood, or much later coals, oil or even gas, is the same sun-energy the plant used to grow… This makes sense, woods that grows slower burns longer, only I don´t think that Greenpeace wants us to use this kind of sun-energy…
There was also something else written: “Our government wants to support nature and therefore we will try o plant, within the next 15 years, 75.000 h new forest, for the future of our children.”This would be a very good project, except for the fact that  on the other
side of the country this same government aloud some big American oil companies to cut centuries old rainforest to look for oil…First I though hat it was only because the government wanted to have more money. But after I also heard the story that the World Bank wants Ecuador to use its oil. The World Bank, who likes to support all kinds of
environmental projects, want Ecuador to use its oil from the rainforest to pay its debts? It sounds a little double to me, but I will be not surprised if it´s in the end again the money that more important…
As I first arrived in Ecuador, I had to watch out for kids throwing water balloons or using water pistols to make passer-bys wet, strange habit? O, it´s only for the carnaval, ok, I understand.
After Central America and the more Western Colombia, is the culture, landscape and even the temp. a little different than I was used the last 7 months. Nice to have some change J he other nice difference is that the bread and the busses in Ecuador are a lot better than in most countries in Central America.
After Ibarra and the woodcarving of San Antonio, I went to;
 Otavalo, known for its poncho market. I really wonder how long it will take before they´ve sold all those ponchos? They sell a lot and I don´t see that much people buying them?
Otavalo is a pleasant, small touristic town, but it still kept some of its own culture. The, mostly dry, mountain area invites you to make long hikes. To visit beautiful lakes or small villages where you can taste some of the local atmosphere, or even see some men or women weave their dresses or ponchos.
Cotacachi; From Otavalo you can also take a bus to the village called Cotacachi. I think that it looks like a smaller Otavalo, with the difference that´s known for selling lots of nice (cheap) leatherwork. I can recommend to have at least a look.
Close to the village, a the base of the Cotacachi Volcano and at an altitude of 3000m, there´s also a pretty lake with very blue water, that offers a nice walk around with great views of the lake, the volcano and the surrounding.
Quito, the second highest capital of the world (2850m) and also the second biggest city, after Guayaguil, in Ecuador. I´ve a little mixed feelings about this city. The old centre has some pretty looking streets and squares, surrounded by, most good conserved, old houses and buildings. This includes one of the biggest and from he outside, most beautiful, gothic decorated Basilicas I´ve ever seen. What makes it even more special is that they
started to build in 1926 and even now, it´s still not finished.
The new part of the centre is not ugly, but there´s also not much to see.  The touristic nightlife-zone I found A little to fake and not very invited to walk around at night. In total I think that it´s not a very bad city to visit, but don´t stay to long.
However Quito can be a good place to arrange tours (see the Galapagos) or to do a day-tour on your own. A tour to the Mitad del Mundo is one of these tours. The monument on the
Equator looks ok, but the most fun for me was to have the possibility to walk over a line with one foot in the North and the other in the South halve of the world. Unfortunately you´ve to pay for all the other (nice) attractions in the park (Also, later on I found out that the original equator lays about 300m aside, through the little park of Museo Inti Nan...)
Not far from the park there´s also a very big old, volcanic crater. While everything in the surrounding of the park and the crater is very dry and dusty, it seems that the crater attracts rain and therefore looks very green with lots of different small vegetation.
Not long after my visit to Mitad del Mundo, I went to the Galapagos, so the next par of my story describes about my experiences after.
At about an hour distance of Quito lays a very small and quiet villages called Amaguaña and an other 7km further there´s a park that´s even more quite, Reserva Forestal de (Volcano) Pasochoa. The park offers a good possibility to spot a lo of birds and you don´t even have to walk far away to see them. But for who likes to walk, the park also offers a nice hike that can go all the way up, through forest and grassland, the Pasochoa.
And if even this are not enough reasons for you to visit the park, perhaps I´ve one more;
The big dormitories and the good facilities around are situated in a peaceful nature surrounding and with very less visitors and cold nights, it can also be a romantic location destination… I would only recommend to bring at least a sleeping bag and maybe even your own air-matras.
Baños, is a friendly big touristic village, situated along the Pastaza river, in a green valley, not far from the, still smoking, Volcano Tungurahua. This Volcano became very active and almost erupted in the year 2000, but now it seems calm.
The surrounding of Baños is again good to hike, for example up the mountain beside Baños. This hike can bring you to he small village of Rutun, not very special, but it can also give you greet views of the surrounding and the Volcano, if it´s not to cloudy…
Baños is known for its hot(warm) nature baths, fed by the Volcano. Almost as known is the 60km bicycle-tour o the village Puyo. This ride drives you along the Pastaza river, mostly down through the green and rocky mountain valley (canyon), with at the end a little river delta all the way to the beginning of he rainforest at Puyo. Also during his ride, don´t go to
fast, you will see a lot of waterfalls.
Next day I decided to look at the route from a different angle, I went rafting on the last part of the river. Although the guide, his explanation and the practice were less good than the
one in Honduras, the river was more wild and so more fun to ride on. A real class III, next time I want to try a class IV…
For everyone who now thinks that riding a bicycle fast, mostly downhill on a wet road, or rafting on a wild river, are the most dangerous things I did this last weeks, they´ve never heard of the famous and notorious train ride between Riobamba and Sibambe. This ride includes a steep track along the Nariz del Diablo (noose of he Devil).
Riobamba, is a lot bigger city than I expected and it also provided an unexpected good view of the Tungurahua Volcano and the snow tops of the mountains of the Sangay Park. However, my only reason to come here was to do the train ride. This ride is not only known for its great view or Nariz del Diablo, but also for the possibility to pay for a “seat” on the rooftop.
The total ride will normally  take about 6 hours, but while we were enjoying the great views of the mountains, farmer landscapes and sometimes even almost landscapes that can come from an old American Western movie, our wagon suddenly started to shake a lot, to stop, leaning a little to the left!? Because of the worse condition of the rails, on a sharp curve, our
wagon was run of the rails!“Wait for about 20 min.”, said the guard, “and than we will go further.” I thought he made a joke or just said something, but after a little more than
20 min. the train was really riding again! With the bad rail conditions it happened more often, so they were already used to it…. Perhaps this sounds not so dangerous to you yet, but imagine that the train the last part of the track sometimes rides not further away than halve a metre from a deep and steep canon dept… The ride on Nariz de Diablo.
Cuenca, the 3e biggest city of Ecuador. But if you walk through the (old) centre of the city, you don´t really have the feeling that´s so big. The nice square, pleasant streets, river through the city and is friendly atmosphere makes I a nice city to visit.
Cajas; in the highlands at no further than an hour away from Cuenca and at an average altitude of more than 3000m, lies a beautiful park, Cajas. It´s a little wild, mountain surrounding, covered with lots of ice cold lakes, grasslands, small forest with trees full of moss. Most of the time covered by mist or even fog, it´s a mysterious park hat invites to make really long hikes!
From Cuenca I went to the town Huaquillas to cross from there the border with Peru. The “borderline” turns out to be in the middle of he town, while the exit and entrance offices are about 2 km before and 2 km after the town. The border formalities went again very easy, but I can recommend everyone, especially when you travel alone, no to walk the last part from the bus stop through a busy market, to the immigration office of Peru and change your
money between. I felt not very comfortable and save, so took, directly after I changed my money, a taxi to the office. But when I later arrived in the small town of Tumbes, a little further from the border, I discovered that they faked me with the changing of my money. I felt very stupid! It was an expensive lesson and I´m happy to give it for free to you: Don´t believe anyone, take a taxi from the bus stop to the office and change your money or get your money from the ATM in Tumbes. Even the exchange rate is better….
Trujillo, my first real destination in Peru. You can call it a break to avoid a bus ride of 20 hours or to learn a little more about the culture of Peru.
Trujillo is a hot city, situated in what looks like a desert. I don´t like the city and perhaps par of the reason is its busy traffic. Luckily the remaining of the Chimu culture (AD 1000- 1470) were better than I expected. I expected to see not much more than a few sand hills and old stone walls. But Chan Chan, the old capital of the Chimu and especially one of the
big palaces in this city and the Huaca Arco Iris temple a little further, where still impressive to see. You could see some decorations of fishes, nets and birds and I felt almost in Egypt.
Huaraz; It was a little strange, but nice change to get in the evening in the bus to leave from the desert and to wake up next morning in a town from, where you could see the snow covered mountaintops of the Cordelia Blanca mountain area, Huaraz. Don´t ask me why, but my first impression was that it looks a little like a winter sport town, without snow…
It´s now Friday afternoon 12-3-2004 as I´m writing this story and think that´s already enough for now.
But when I wanted to put it on the internet it seems they don´t have Hotmail in the town? So that´s the reason why I send it a little later after a hike of 4 days J
A personal note a the end of my story, about travelling on my own: During the last 8 months I never regret hat I went travelling alone and I never felt really homesick, but I did discovered that I can travel longer without good food than without good company. Perhaps my friends are right, perhaps I do need a girlfriend, but will travelling with only one person not be boring in the end……?

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