Category Archives: Ecuador

Posts made in Ecuador!

Banos and an extra day in Quito

On Thursday Russ and I caught the bus to the small town of Banos, about 50km north west of Riobamba.  Banos is a pleasant place, its name translated into English is toilet!  It has lots of Thermal Baths due to its location in a volcanic valley (its been destroyed by Volcanoes/Earthquakes many times!)  – supposedly they are good for you.  We took advantage and spent a few hours relaxing in the pools, which were surprisingly hot!  Because the town is slightly lower at 1200m the weather was warmer and we were able to get our shorts out for the first time in a while – Russ wants to reduce his milkyness as seen here!

Russ outside Banos Church

The church is very nice, very big inside with lots of paintings of an angel looking down and protecting the town from disasters (obviously the angel had days off from time to time!).  In the evening we went to a lookout point in the mountains above the town, where we were told we might see glowing lava on the smoking Volcano Tungurahua which looms above the town.  Unfortunately we only saw a large ash cloud and the odd bolt of lightning caused by the atmospheric pressure up there.  Good view of the town below though.

Yesterday after another visit to the Thermal baths we caught the bus back to Quito.  Unfortunately it took longer than we thought and ended up rushing for our flight to Lima.  We arrive with about an hour and a half to spare but were told the flight was overbooked and we couldn’t fly!!!

Bad news at the airportÂ

After lots of time spent arguing (mainly from Russ –  I was told to be quiet ;)) we ended up staying last night in the Sheraton Hotel (which seems wrong – way to posh for this trip – the first time someone has carried my backpack for me!!) in Quito and will get the same flight tonight.  As compensation we have been given a night in a hotel with all our meals and US$170 in cash.  Its no big deal really, we had wanted two days in Lima to enable us to go and see the Nazca lines, but now we are going to use our compensation money to do the more expensive one day fly tour from Lima.  Of course we are  milking the all expenses paid thing…..here’s Russ enjoying room service late last night.

Enjoying the expenses!

This afternoon I think we are going to watch the Quito footy team play, should be interesting to soak up the atmosphere, then hopefully tonight it’s a sad goodbye to Ecuador.  I have had a great time here, many good memories!  Definitely an interesting place to visit, particularly of course the Galapagos.  Now the journey through Peru starts, Inca trail on Wednesday – can ´t wait!

Chimborazo

Today Russ, Ed, and I visited Equador’s highest peak, at 6310m, Volcano Chimborazo. It’s been a really fantastic, tiring, and long day! We were picked up from our hotel at 8am and driven up to 4800m to the first climbers’ refuge. On the way we stopped to look at a large canyon, a fighting bull farm, and a place where you could see layers of rock dating back many thousands of years. On the approach to Chimborazo it looks absolutely gargantuan!

Chimborazo

Most of the time the peak was covered by cloud, but the mountain was still pretty awe inspiring. Arriving at 4800m we found ourselves above the snow line, it was a bit nippy! We hiked 200m up to the second climbers refuge at 5000m – pretty high! On the way we passed many memorials to climbers who had died whilst attempting the summit – you have to be an experienced climber to go past the second refuge, its serious business from there. You can feel the effects of the altitude too, walking even a short way can be hard work and you feel out of breath easily, it took us about 30 mins to get up there. Russ was feeling it more than Ed and I, but he got through it and we made it to 5000m.

Shep, Russ, and Ed at 5000m

We had walkie talkies to communicate with our guide, Galo, who stayed at the first refuge to prepare our bikes – it was amusing playing with them “Rodger that”! We didn’t hang around at 5000m, it was cold and were advised not to stay there for long as the effects of altitude may be felt. On returning to the first refuge we got on our bikes and descended about 500m over 7km of dirt road. Visibility wasn’t great and the wind in our faces was chilly, but it was good fun! We were being careful as the road was rocky and bumpy and didn’t want any injuries!

From about 4300m we detoured off the road and did some technical single track trails down the mountain, stopping regularly to take photos and admire the views. It was a great way to experience the size and scale of the mountain, and it was interesting to see the changes in atmosphere and vegetation as we descended. Here’s the three of us and Galo with the Mountain behind us.

Mountain Biking!Â

As we neared the base of the mountain we passed through villages and farmland. Probably the worst bit of the ride as we kept getting chased by dogs! I‘ve surprised myself several times on this trip, and I used to fear dogs quite a bit but they didn’t bother me too much today – even when they kept trying to bite us! The trick was to pass them at speed, although that wasn’t always possible due to the rocky road and lots of puddles! We had a lot of fun though!

I ´m off to bed now (Russ retired at 8!) – struggling to keep my eyes open! Tomorrow we want to have a more relaxing day, we are considering going to the town of Banos, about 50km from here, to relax in some thermal baths. I took loads of photos today, and I‘ve uploaded a few here.

Mitud Del Mundo and Riobamba

Yesterday morning Russ and I took the bus out to Mitud Del Mundo to see the Equator lines/monuments (plural as there are two sites!).  The first site we visited  was the site a French explorer claimed was the equator line around 200 years ago.  There’s a big monument there, and a small museum about native Ecuadorians.  This site was built around 30 years ago and is very touristy, lots of souvenir shops.  Here’s Russ at the monument.

Russ at the monument

We didn’t like this site much and quickly left to go to the second Equator site, located 250m away about 10 years ago by GPS technology (where I went before).  The museum is a lot more basic, but we enjoyed it much more.  You get to see experiments such as water tests, strength tests, and the egg balancing – which we both managed.  We also had a good guide who was a very knowledgeable and entertaining.  Here’s us at the real Equator line (I ´m in the Northern Hemisphere).

Shep and Russ on the Equator

After the museums we went up to Pululahua Volcano crater as it was close by and recommended by our guidebook as a great view.  We took a taxi up to the viewing point only for it to be covered by thick cloud meaning we could see nothing!  There was a lady up there selling postcards so we bourght one to see what the view should look like – very amusing!

Postcard Scene

On the way back we stopped off at one of the many game shops where you can play Pro Evolution soccer on the playstation – Russ is still rubbish!  We met up with a few other volunteers still in Quito for a nice meal last night, we were trying to stay off alcohol but it didn’t last long when we found out it was 2 for 1 on cocktails!

This morning Russ, Ed, and I caught a bus three hours south to the town of Riobamba.  Axel and Tobi also  caught the bus  with us but got off near Cotopaxi volcano, which they are climbing – another sad goodbye!  Our plan was to ride the  ´Devils Nose ´train tomorrow, but unfortunately it has been cancelled for maintenance so we are a bit gutted as we had been looking forward to it and had planned the next few days around it.  Oh well, instead we are going to do a day mountain biking on Chimborazo volcano tomorrow.  Its Ecuador’s highest volcano at approx. 6000m, we get took up to 4800m and bike most of the way back down to Riobamba at 2800m.  We can see the volcano from the town – throwing ash up into the sky!

Chimborazo Volcano

We have been assured all is ok though and its been doing it since July, it last erupted lava in 1999.  Will be a cool experience I hope!

The story of the whales we tried to save on Isabela last week has made the press, if you interested you can read about it here.

Back in Quito

I returned to a cold and wet Quito on Friday afternoon, I though I had returned to England! The Galapagos was a hot 35 degrees when we left and Quito was about 10 with lots of rain! I flew back with Lisa and Loren who are both fluent Spanish speakers so managed to get a cheap taxi.

In the evening I met up with a lot of people from the project who were in Quito for a curry. T’was great, Chicken Khari, Garlic Nan, and Rice – superb! We then went for a few drinks in the La Marisical area, know to the locals as ´Gringo Land ´ (Gringo is the Spanish word for foreigner). Its a busy area with plenty of hostels, bars, restaurants, and internet cafes.

Saturday was a quite a lazy day, a few of us went to a local market in the morning that sold lots of tack to the tourists. In the afternoon we had hoped to watch the Israel v England game but everywhere was showing Ireland v Wales instead! So we ended up walking round a shopping centre instead 🙁

Late in the afternoon I caught a bus to the airport to meet Russ. His flight was delayed thirty minutes so I waited in the observation lounge where there were lots and lots of Ecuadorians waiting too. When the plane landed a big cheer went up! Then everyone crowded into the arrivals hall where lots of emotional greetings (they love kissing and hugging here!) were exchanged, there were so many people waiting it was crazy – I didn’t realise Russ was that popular! After a long wait Russ finally appeared, well I think its Russ – its hard to tell under all that hair! After dropping his bags off we headed out for our first beer together for 5 months!

Shep and Russ back together!

It’s great to see him again, he makes my tan look good! I introduced him to a few of my friends from Jatun Sacha and we ended up going to a few bars around Gringo Land. Yesterday morning a Russ, Stefan, Ed, and I went up the Teleferiqo, a cable car that takes you to the top of Pichincha Volcano – 4100m above sea level! Quito is at 2800m so the view overlooking the city is really good, it’s definitely one of the best cityscapes I‘ve ever seen. We didn’t feel the altitude much either, which is good news for the Inca trail.

View overlooking Quito

After lunch we walked across to the Old Town, which as the name suggests is the historical part of town. There’s a massive 19th century cathedral, a nice piece of architecture, the spire of which you can climb. It’s pretty high and there are a few dodgy ladders to climb. Russ bless him was feeling a bit of vertigo for the second time that day – he conquered the fear though. Here’s a photo of us at the top, with the spires and symbol of Quito, the virgin Mary slaying a dragon in the background.

At the Cathedral

Last night after a nice Mongolian meal I said goodbye to Lisa and Stefan, who were flying back to Germany. Pretty sad as they have been two really good friends over the past month. Deffo hope to see them again.

I’ve uploaded a load of photos of both Galapagos and Quito in the Ecuador gallery here.

Today we are going to arrange some tours for the next few days in Ecuador and visit the Mitud Del Mundo (centre of the world), which is the Equator line. Unfortunately we don’t have too long in Ecuador as we fly to Peru on Friday but we’ll make the most of time we have by heading out on some day trips to nearby places.

My last few days in the Galapagos

On Wednesday I left the Jatun Satcha for the last time. It was sad to leave, mainly because there were a few of us leaving and the girls were getting a bit upset! Me and Stefan (a German friend who was leaving too) sat in the back of the taxi pickup whilst all the girls cried, hugged, and kissed – glad to be unemotional blokes! It was a good time to leave, a lot of the other volunteers who I have been working with for the past month have recently left – new people came but with only a few days left I didn’t get to know them too well.

My last day of work I spent digging (for a change!) a new planting bed. It was a good job to finish on – it will be used by future volunteers and will be there for a while. As many friends had left my last few days were a little strange. I was ready to leave, I’d had enough of the work and the mosquitoes/fruit flies. The people make the project, and I have been very lucky to of spent the majority of the last month with some really cool people – including some Germans!!!

Special mentions for:

Ed – from Norwich, England – he went to Uni in Sheffield so we had a lot in common and he is also on a round the world trip (going the opposite way to me) so had much to talk about – good English sense of humour too!

Stefan E – from Berlin, Germany – when I first met him I though he was crazy, getting to know him confirmed my suspicions! Really good fun to be around, plenty of English/German banter, much comedy when he pulled Monica the Ecuadorian cook at the station, and spent most of the four day trip being ill (I did feel sorry for him really!). Hope to visit him in Berlin.

Greg – originally from St Helens, England – now living in Geneva, Switzerland. A mere youngster at the age of 20, constantly giving me grief about my age – “what was it like in your generation?” and Spanish speaking ability, which has improved as a result. A good larf though, talked about Football a lot!

Pippa and David – from Wales – they started the project on the same day as me and we shared a room for our first few days – threes a crowd when theres a couple though and I think they appreciated me moving out at the earliest opportunity. They provided the responsible touch sometimes required at the project and were good fun to be around too.

Tim, from Melbourne Australia – a music teacher back home – often heard playing the guitar or drums. The usual Aussie good natured bloke! We enjoyed mimicking each others accent, I gave him lots of stick for the Aussies love of putting beetroot on everything – he ate my share at the project! Played in goal for the English (commonwealth) team in England v Germany games. Hope to visit him in Melbourne someday.

Stefan, from Constance, Germany. Much quieter than the other Stefan, but no less fun. Worked hard at the project and was always a good source of conversation. He found it hard to understand me most of the time at first – he’s now versed in English slang!

Axel and Toby, from Germany. I roomed with Toby for most of my stay at the project. Both good lads, Toby bit of a ladies man – but he ´s stalking technique was often surprisingly successful. Axel is a semi pro footy player and it showed – in our England v Germany footy matches they beat us every time 🙁

Victoria, from Melbourne, Australia. She’s 26 but often seemed more like my Mum. She patched up my foot when I cut it kicking a tree stump! A good laugh, very popular at the project (they all cried when she left) – particularly partial to Rum, Tequila and vodka! Maybe see her in England when she’s there in the summer.

Roy from Israel, has lots of hair and is generally quiet. At first I wasn’t sure about him, but when you get to know him you realise he has a good sense of humour and is a keen conservationist. Watching England v Israel with him on Saturday in Quito – should be fun!

Lisa from Germany, she wasn’t on the project but we met her every weekend in the town. She came on both the day trip and the four day tour so we got to know her well. Good fun, doesn’t look or act at all German. Fully fluent in Spanish she’s been teaching me some local lingo. Hopefully see her in Berlin too.

Emily and Lydia from England. They left the project a week or so ago but were good fun to be around. Conversation usually involved gossip and they were keen party goers! Maybe catch up with them back home.
Dan, from Aberdeen Scotland. Always seen drinking beer in his spare time (he ´d do anything if you bought him a beer!) – keeping up the Scottish tradition! Suffered much Scottish banter being the lone Scot, but took in good jest. Crazy dancing!

I’ve probably forgotten someone – everyone at the project was really cool. The work and the mosquitoes would get very tiresome if in bad company. Hopefully I will be able to keep in touch with some people. Its strange spending a month with complete strangers that you get to know really well and become good friends with – then you leave and may never see them again, quite sad. Throughout my trip I have exchanged email addresses with many people and have only kept in touch with a few – but having spent so long with most of these people hopefully we will all keep in touch. There is talk of a reunion in Berlin, and I may meet up with a few of them in other parts of South America, which would be cool.

So yep am sad to leave the project as I will miss all these people, but they have all left now anyway so its time to move on. I ´m really excited to be pulling the backpack back on and to explore more of South America. When i started the project I was tiring of doing the sightseeing thing, now I feel refreshed and ready to get back to it.
On Wednesday a few of us took a taxi across the Island to the beach of Porto Chino. Probably the best beach on the island for chilling out and relaxing as it has a sand beach allowing easy access to the sea, its a great place to spend an afternoon.

Yesterday quiet Stefan and I hired a sea kayak and paddled through the harbour to some nice bays where we saw plenty of sea lions (swimming around us playfully)m boobies and frigates. It was hard work in the strong currents but a nice way to spend my last afternoon on the Island. We also saw a large statue of Charles Darwin that is erected on a cliff in the middle of now where. Here’s a photo of me and my old mate Charley having a British moment together!

Charley and I

I fly back to Quito today, where we are having a reunion this evening and going for a curry – can’t wait, hope they have Chicken Tikka Masalla, have been craving a curry for the last month!

The Galapagos Islands themselves have been awesome. They are truly a remarkable and I would recommend anyone to visit. The wildlife is unlike anything I have seen before and its abundance is overwhelming at times – where else does swimming with sea lions become part of everyday life! The work I have done is only a fraction of what is required to assist in the conservation of the Islands. I am pleased to have played a small part in the conservation effort and to of contributed towards achieving the projects goal. An amazing experience!