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White-water rafting and some thermal baths

Baños and the River Pastaza


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Monday 9/6/14

This was a quiet day... breakfast, several games of pool, then a look round town. I showed Dave the traditional taffee-pullers on our way to the Basilica, our first destination.

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We had a good look round.

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Then we booked a white water rafting session for the next morning and a ziplining session for Wednesday afternoon at a travel & tour agent and had a delicious lunch at a restaurant - a vegetarian pizza and a tuna fillet in a shrimp sauce (we both had half of each one). Then we went to an internet café and gave our nearest & dearest our happy news by Google Video Chat and by phone! After a while Dave went back to the hostel and I stayed online for an hour or so. In the evening the hostel gave every guest who wanted it a free dinner of pesto pasta, so we had that. We finished the day with some more games of pool and several games of whist and 10-card rummy.

Tuesday 10/6/14

Although it was raining this morning, we still had a brilliant time rafting on the River Pastaza! Aside from our guide Patricio and us, there were four Americans. Before we got on the river Patricio gave us a talk about and demonstration of instructions, safety strategies, what to do if we or someone else fell in, etc. He gave us our sitting positions as well; Dave and the only other guy at the front, the rest of us in rows of two behind. I was sitting directly behind Dave. Patricio sat at the back.

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As soon as we got to the riverbank and saw how incredibly fast the water was running (it had rained a lot overnight and the night before that) one of the Americans, who had been acting nervously on the minibus on the way to the river, had a moment of panic - she stepped away from the raft and said she didn't want to do it any more - but was persuaded back by her friend to give it a go. Patricio said that there was a potential stopping point halfway along if she wanted to be dropped off there.

Due to the swollen nature of the river part of it was no longer accessible to us, but the section we did go on was still long. The scenery was beautiful - it was a lot like the River Napo, with large, round stones on the banks instead of mud and beyond that a selection of rainforest and other lush greenery on every side stretching into the distance. Photos were taken throughout by the safety kayaker, who amazed us with his skill manoeuvering his kayak around through the rapids.

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After a while Patricio asked me if I would like to sit on the 'prow' of the raft facing out, sitting on the edge with my feet in the water whilst holding onto the rope that ran round the side of the raft as hard as I could with both hands. I jumped at the chance and it was very exciting, especially considering that when waves crashed over us head-on I took the full force of them.

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I managed not to fall in the river at any point, luckily. After ten minutes or so one of the other girls wanted a go, so we exchanged places and I took her paddle. Once she'd finished her go nobody else wanted to take her place so I did so for a second turn. The nervous American had chosen not to get dropped off halfway along, by the way, because she said she was enjoying it more than she thought she would. The whole experience was really exciting and we would both definitely do it again like a shot!

On the way back we stopped at a tiny village called Rio Negro and were given some lunch - grilled fish, rice, salad and some massive slices of watermelon - before returning to Baños. It was about half past two by the time we got back.

Back at the hostel we stayed only for a chocolate brownie (Dave), a crumbly blueberry slice (me), a drink each and a game of pool before going out on another excursion - this time only round the corner from the hostel to the open air hot thermal baths.

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The sun had come out by now. We had a great time soaking ourselves in the two hot pools that were available during the day (there were three others, including one extremely hot and two cold, but apparently they are only accessible in the evening session). It was quite surreal in an extremely good way.

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On our way back to the hostel we saw these not-quite-ripe clementine and tomatilla (tree tomato) bushes.

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Dinner was free once more at the hostel - risotto this time. It was good but we were still hungry afterwards so we paid for a chocolate brownie to share and a Cuban Libre cocktail each. To top the night off we played some pool, rummy and whist before going to bed.

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Posted by 3Traveller 08:15 Archived in Ecuador Tagged basilica hostel dave cocktails banos andes ecuador white_water_rafting ecuadorian_cuisine river_trip thermal_baths Comments (0)

Arrival in Baños

Cuenca and Baños


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No time to wait for our free breakfast in Cuenca this morning because we had a marathon journey to Baños ahead of us. The first leg, from Cuenca to Ambato, started at 8.10am and took just under seven hours; the scenery was even more spectacular this time than it was yesterday.

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On our way into the centre of town we passed some restaurants with whole roast pigs hung up outside. The one in this picture is just out of sight.

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Instead of Ambato bus terminal we were dropped off at the side of a road on the outskirts of the city instead, something I was momentarily slightly concerned about. Dave got a nosebleed just then as well. Luckily it stopped after a minute and then I noticed Baños buses passing by so I knew we were in the right place. We had to cross the road but only two minutes later the right bus came and we got on with no problems.

The Ambato - Baños leg took one hour. At one point we passed through Pelileo, a small town full of jeans shops - many of the shop signs had an apostrophe where there should not have been any ('Pelileo Jean's' instead of 'Jeans'), something I point out because this type of English mistake is actually so rare here. I see it much more often in the UK!

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The scenery continued to be fantastic right until we got to Baños.

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We arrived at Baños bus terminal at 4.10pm. Since then we've spent our time playing free games of pool and having a couple of cocktails at the hostel, going out for dinner at a restaurant (we had half each of both a shrimp ceviche and a Pizza Continental; I also had a blackberry yoghurt shake and Dave had a Coke and some iced tea) and looking inside the Basilica briefly just as the last service of the day ended.

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We also took some photos of the Basilica from the other side of the main square.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:39 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains basilica hostel buses dave cocktails banos andes ceviche ecuador cuenca ecuadorian_cuisine ambato Comments (0)

Carnival, Day 4: Return through the Andes

Baños and Guayaquil

Edit from January 2019: Our hostel was called Great Hostel, or Great Hostels Backpackers Los Pinos. I thought it just as great as its name! Only given 76% on Hostelbookers, but if the place anything like how it was five years ago, it's worth a lot higher than that and I definitely recommend it.

We didn't do much this morning apart from have a bit of a lie in, pack, check out and move into the reception/internet/TV/bar area with our stuff. We also said goodbye to the hostel dogs.

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Inside the common area 'M' and I had a couple of games of pool on the free pool table before having some food at the bar with two of the others. I had pasta bolognese, the first time I've had bolognese sauce in Ecuador.

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After lunch I set off for the bus terminal to get back to Guayaquil, taking some more photos of town on the way. I got one of the basilica, one of a park and one of the taffy-makers doing their thing.

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The others had bought their tickets in advance - I hadn't bought mine then as well because I thought I was going to go back via the little town of Guaranda and the others were going direct. Plus their tickets were for 5 pm and I needed an earlier bus. I didn't actually go back via Guaranda because I realised I wouldn't have time, plus I would have had to change buses at Ambato and I didn't want a repeat of the hassle I'd had yesterday evening.

At the bus terminal I took the opportunity to try some sugar cane sticks and juice! I had the juice as soon as I bought it but saved the sticks for the journey.

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At the terminal there are lots of little ticket offices run by different companies (it's the same at the bus terminal of every other place I've been to in Ecuador) so I bought a ticket to Guayaquil from pretty much the first I came to. My bus left at 2.30 pm and the journey was rather uneventful apart from the spectacular scenery we passed...

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...and a Carnival water-throwing incident. Two or three men were waiting by the side of the road with buckets of water and as we passed by them they threw the water as hard as they could - luckily this happened on the opposite side to me so I didn't get wet. One of the windows was open on that side so the girls sitting in the seats next to it got soaked! They seemed to take it in good part, though.

We arrived at Guayaquil bus station between 8.30 and 9 pm. After waiting unsuccessfully for quite a while for the right bus to Alborada Sexta, I admitted defeat, realised that they had most probably stopped running for the night and took a taxi instead.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:56 Archived in Ecuador Tagged basilica hostel buses carnival banos andes ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

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