Having been done with all border crossing formalities (It took us about 2 hours because there were many Venezuelan refugees trying to reach the other side), we discovered a stunning sight: the cemetery of Tulcan. Everywhere, the bushes had been cut like characters and animals. An amazing view! One would not have thought that this is a cemetery…
Having said goodbye and farewell to Anika, my next stop was Ibarra where I stayed with a local family thanks to my friend Melanie who had been living here many years ago and connected me with her friends from back then. This was just the loveliest family in whole Ecuador! They showed me around, had me taste all kinds of traditional food, and were just the nicest people. Thank you so much for your hospitality – BESOS! :-*
Amilkar, another friend of Melanie, showed me the villages around Ibarra. We first went to Mira, had lunch, and then went on to Magdalena after having taken a look at the regional market. But this one was nothing compared to the Saturday market in Otavalo. At night, we went out with Ismael and Diego, two other friends, whom I also attended an Ecuadorian ceremony with the following weekend.
Amilkar had decided to accompany me for a couple of days, thus, off we went – to Mindo first. There, after lunch, we went along the Sanctuary of Waterfalls – visiting six of them in a row. What a great hike we experienced in this lush subtropical cloud forest – a unique eco-system in Ecuador that’s known worldwide for its biodiversity and birding experience.
In Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, we stayed at Giuliana’s house, a befriended tour guide of Amilkar. On Good Friday, we went into town for the Easter procession called “The Long Walk to Redemption”. It was an incredible event to watch – all those men in their purple capes (“cucuruchos”) and the women as “veronicas” representing the woman who wiped the face of Jesus with a cloth while he was carrying his cross. They walk the streets for hours completely barefoot, the cucuruchos carrying mammoth crosses (often crafted by themselves) on their back or dragging them. In the middle of the procession, it started raining – like every year as I was told. Nonetheless, we had some great sightseeing all around the city center, especially with all the churches being open on this public holiday.
The next day, we packed our stuff and went on to the next place worth visiting: Mitad del Mundo. That’s where the Equator line is located, that means 0’0’0’. It was quite amusing to stand with one foot on the Northern hemisphere and with the other one on the Southern hemisphere. And as there was also an open air regional museum, some experiments, a science exhibition and a planetarium, it was really interesting, too.
My next stop was Tena in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, also called “El Oriente”. I got there with the night bus and after having dropped my bags at hostel Zumag Sisa (strongly recommended: lovely owner, cool area to hang out at, clean beds), I went to Puerto Misahualli in order to walk right into the jungle. At the lagoon, I met two Ecuadorians who took me on a cruise with the canoe during which we saw many different kinds of birds, monkeys, and goannas. Afterwards, we went on a tour to the community Shiripuni and into the jungle to a giant tree with explanations of the plants and birds. What a great day!
The next morning, I went with a fellow German traveler by bus into the lush green surroundings of Tena. First, we went to the waterfall Las Latas where we took a swim in the clear, refreshing water after the hike. At noon, we went to Laguna Azul to have lunch and bath in all four of the basins. Another nice day in the jungle. 🙂
At night and in the morning, it was raining pretty hard and I decided to drive on to Puyo where I stayed in the bus because of the heavy rainfall…
I arrived in Baños in the evening where I met up with David, a Dutch guy whom I already knew from Uruguay, in the hostel Cordillera de los Andes (clean, cheap single rooms with a great rooftop terrace).
The next day, we went to the giant waterfall Pailon del Diablo having passed several other waterfalls on the way. This one was just amazing! The rocks had the appearance of a giant skull and the water rushed down in one huge single stream. There were two lookouts (one directly in the water, and one with a panoramic view) and several suspension bridges. What a great day with a super delicious lunch!
In the morning, we took the bus to the famous “Tree House at the End of the World” in order to do some hiking and enjoy the views. Well, that didn’t work out… It was completely cloudy and foggy. 🙁 Thus, we decided to go on to Riobamba. There, we did a stroll through the city center in awe of the colonial houses and churches, had our lunch, and headed back to the terminal to catch the bus to Ambato, where we were able to see some street parades. Our final stop for the day was Latacunga where we stayed in Latacunga Hostel (very nice and affordable rooms) using it as our gateway to Quilotoa.
Early in the morning, we arrived at the Quilotoa crater – a stunning view! We went all the way downhill to the lake and back up – competing with the horses – and then halfway around the crater in order to make it to Chugchilán for the night. On the way, we passed many stunning viewpoints, experienced sunshine, rain, and fog within just a couple of hours, and hiked through a stunning canyon. Finally having arrived at our destination, we stayed at El Vaquero where we were provided with hot tea, a nice room, delicious dinner and breakfast in between two long days of trekking. So the next day, we felt reinvigorated and went on – through canyons and across hills, over sticks and stones, along the river and across lawns and corn fields. Another 20+ km later, we arrived in Sigchos where we took the bus in direction of the Cotopaxi.
Near the Cotopaxi National Park, we stayed at Cuscungo Lodge where we were provided with a cozy chimney fire and hot tea before going to bed. The next morning, we went to the park without taking a tour and just went to the lagoon Limpiopungo with an Ecuadorian lady and her kids who gave us a ride. From there, we were able to take a walk in this incredible environment and take a look at the volcanoes Ruminahui and Cotopaxi whenever the clouds cleared a bit. Having been thinking about going up to the first glacier, we decided not to because of the thick fog up there. On the way back, we were lucky and bumped into a German family who gave us a ride back to Latacunga.
Having arrived in Portoviejo with a German family who was so kind to take me with them to the coast, I was a bit stuck when having been told that the last bus to Puerto Lopez had been cancelled. Thus, I jumped on a bus to Manta without further ado and stayed in an apartment there for the night (Tu casa en Manta). The next day, I walked along the harbor and had a nice lunch at the beach before finally going to Puerto Lopez with a short stopover in Montecristi where the Panama hat had been invented a long time ago (A fool who thought it came from Panama! 😉 ).
Having arrived in Puerto Lopez, I decided spontaniously to stay one night in Fragata Hostal which offered me a great deal on a single room. I spent the evening strolling across the town and along the beach. In the morning, I got on a bus to Machalilla National Park where I hiked the 5 km to Los Frailes Beach – the most beautiful beach in the whole country. Having spent the afternoon there, an Ecuadorian couple on their honeymoon offered me a ride to my next destination: Las Tunas Beach. There, I stayed in a really nice hostel directly at the beach. Viejamar had everything one desires for some relaxed days – nice rooms, a swimming pool, palm trees, loads of hammocks, and a delicious breakfast. Chill mode on! 🙂
Having taken a look at the small surfer village Ayampe, I decided to go on to Montañita for the night. This one night led to maaaany more in the world’s best hostel Mamacucha where I met great people. The following days consisted of extreme hammocking, chilling in the social area, great food, surfing lessons, and stunning sunsets at the beach.
Coming from the coast, I had decided to visit Cuenca – a gorgeous city in the higher Andes region. When I arrived there, it was raining – thus, I paid a visit to the Panama Hat Museum after lunch and was promptly discovered as a hat model by the owner himself. After a stroll to take a first glance at the city, I decided to stay in Hotel Wanderlust as the only guest at that time. In the morning, I got to know Débora from Portugal with whom I explored Cuenca the rest of the day. We took part in the free walking tour, stared in awe at the beautiful colonial houses and churches, ate lunch at the market where we met the cutest little girl named Samanta, strolled along the river, and visited the archeological museum surrounded by lamas and birds.
Early the next morning, I walked to the terminal in order to take the bus to El Cajas National Park. What a stunning landscape! 🙂 I did two hiking trails: one around the lagoon and and the other one up a mountain where I met some other people whom I completed the hike with before going back to Guayaquil…
That’s the city of which most travelers say that it’s not worth going or staying because there is nothing to see or do and it’s too dangerous. Thus, most people just use it as their gateway to the Galapagos Islands. Actually, it is pretty nice there. There are various places to go to such as the Malecon 2000, a boardwalk near the harbor, and the Santa Ana hill with its colorful old houses and the cute little lighthouse from where you have an amazing view over the city, especially during sunset. Thank you, Fabrice for showing me that your (temporary) hometown is not that bad! 😉
And there is also the Historic Park in the rich neighborhood of Samborondon where you can walk through tropical forest, watch typical animals and birds from this region, and get to know colonial style houses and traditions. This park is really worth a visit – no matter if you like Guayaquil or not. 😉
Furthermore, Fabrice took me with him to work at two cocoa and banana farms where he monitors the processes and makes sure everything is conform with the certification. It was great to see these plants and get to know how they are processed – partly organic.