A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about cocktails

White-water rafting and some thermal baths

Baños and the River Pastaza


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

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.

2014-06-09-09h23m27.JPG2014-06-09-13h51m54.JPG2014-06-09-13h51m32.JPG2014-06-09-19h02m27.jpg2014-06-09-18h59m20.jpg

We had a good look round.

2014-06-09-12h22m22.JPG2014-06-09-12h30m40.JPG2014-06-09-12h44m06.JPG2014-06-09-12h46m07.JPG2014-06-09-12h45m30.JPG2014-06-09-12h18m45.JPG2014-06-09-12h39m07.JPG

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.

P6102577.JPG2014-06-10-11h49m21.JPGP6102573.JPGP6102589.JPG

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.

P6102732.JPGP6102669.JPGP6102765.JPGP6102611.JPGP6102638.JPGP6102622.JPG

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.

P6102709.JPG2014-06-10-12h45m12-12.JPG

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.

2014-06-10-15h03m54.JPG2014-06-10-15h17m33.JPG2014-06-10-15h08m11.JPG2014-06-10-15h20m40.JPG

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.

2014-06-10-15h37m00.JPG2014-06-10-15h35m36.JPG2014-06-10-15h37m29.JPG2014-06-10-16h28m04.JPG2014-06-10-15h38m52.JPG2014-06-10-16h19m44.JPG

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

2014-06-10-16h36m28.JPG2014-06-10-16h36m58.JPG

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.

2014-06-09-19h19m51.JPG2014-06-09-21h08m40.JPG

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


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

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.

2014-06-08-07h08m11.JPG2014-06-08-10h46m39.JPG2014-06-08-09h24m18.JPG2014-06-08-09h33m44.JPG2014-06-08-09h27m43.JPG

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.

2014-06-08-09h19m49.JPG

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!

2014-06-08-15h33m11.JPG2014-06-08-15h34m39.JPG

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

2014-06-08-15h53m02.JPG2014-06-08-15h55m04.JPG

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.

2014-06-08-19h21m22.JPG2014-06-08-18h26m50.JPG2014-06-08-17h52m00.JPG2014-06-08-17h51m09.JPG

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

2014-06-08-20h03m08.JPG2014-06-08-19h54m02.JPG2014-06-08-20h00m45.JPG

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)

Galápagos Islands: So much wonderful wildlife!

Islote Tintoreras, Puerto Villamil, Arnaldo Tupiza Chamaidan Giant Tortoise Centre and the Wall of Tears


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

This day was our first full day on Isabela Island (formerly known as Abermarle). The night before, at dinner, we'd been told to get ready to go out on our first excursion at 8.50am, so we went down for breakfast at 8. Bud and Gale, the lovely American couple I mentioned yesterday, were already there. Breakfast was lovely - I had black coffee with sugar and hot chocolate powder mixed in, two flattish oblong rolls (one with scrambled egg in and the other with cheese) and a bowl of deliciously sweet and juicy fresh pineapple chunks.

At 8.40, a bit earlier than we expected, we were taken to the port and then put on a panga (water taxi), with some other people from different hotels.

2014-06-04-12h32m46.JPG2014-06-04-09h02m31.JPG

I found a Galápagos sealion under a boat.

2014-06-04-08h59m30.JPG

This took us to Islote Tintoreras, very close to Isabela. This is very small, uninhabited by humans and lacking any trees apart from a mangrove along one side. Before we were taken ashore, however, our guide took us round the coastline for a bit. We saw a big male Gálapagos sea lion that had been driven away from the group (herd?) by a younger male and could no longer return, a couple of penguins - the only type that can live in such relatively hot conditions so close to the equator - and a blue-footed booby.

2014-06-04-09h10m48.JPG2014-06-04-16h25m45.JPG

We also came across a fisherman in his boat - pelicans and frigatebirds were flying above.

2014-06-04-09h34m10.JPG

Our guide knew the fisherman and asked what fish he had caught. In reply the guy held up two massively long fish, fish that our guide said were called wahoo. He said that he would be able to get between $100 - $150 for one if he sold it to a restaurant.

Then we landed and walked round the island, keep very closely to the trail. It was an amazing volcanic landscape, black rocks with white lichen on the points that stuck upwards.

2014-06-04-16h54m44.JPG2014-06-04-17h33m46.JPG2014-06-04-17h25m52.JPG2014-06-04-16h50m54.JPG2014-06-04-17h21m01.JPG

We saw lots of distinctively scarlet Sally Lightfoot crabs, black crabs, black marine iguanas and a couple more sea lions.

2014-06-04-16h58m31.JPG2014-06-04-17h02m55.JPG2014-06-04-17h50m08.JPG2014-06-04-17h03m12.JPG2014-06-04-17h48m07.JPG2014-06-04-17h51m45.JPG2014-06-04-17h28m01.JPG2014-06-04-17h03m52.JPG2014-06-04-20h59m47.jpg2014-06-04-20h59m58.jpg

One of these sea lions appeared in a pool between the mangrove and the rocks where we stood. It swam up and down and bellowed in order to let other sea lions in the area know that it was there.

2014-06-04-17h49m13.JPG

We also saw a 'nursery' for baby iguanas, where the adults were on the left side of the path and all the babies were on the right side, right next to the sea. The reason why the babies were there was because there were loads of cracks in the rocks on that side that acted as extra protection. Our guide stopped soon afterwards and showed us an empty, rubbery iguana eggshell.

Just after we passed the pool with the sea lion in it we stopped by a crevice in the rocks which was filled with very clear, still water and had some white-tip sharks lying on the bottom.

2014-06-04-18h04m02.JPG2014-06-04-18h01m51.JPG

Last of all on land, we stopped at the mangrove and our guide told us a little bit about them. One or two leaves on each branch were yellow, apparently due to the way that they 'sacrifice' themselves by absorbing all the salt in the seawater. This way the other leaves survive for longer and stay green.

After this we went snorkelling with giant turtles!! The panga took us to an even smaller island round the corner from Islote Tintoreras - actually on reflection it may just have been part of Isabela island - and we got out onto the rocks with only our swimming stuff and flipflops on, plus snorkels if we'd brought any. If you hadn't then it didn't matter because there was a big bag of snorkels, masks and fins for communal use. There were about 8-10 of us including our guide. After leaving our flipflops on the rocks we got in...

We saw lots of tropical fish, especially lots of black ones with a yellow tail and a white stripe down their body. We also saw lots of small, green, spiny sea anemones, a couple of very big, fat, brownish starfish and last but not least... the turtles! They were huge. They stayed lying on the sea floor, apart from a couple who swam along for a bit. The sight of them was amazing. I'd always wanted to snorkel with turtles! Dave really loved them as well. There wasn't much coral - apart from white sand, there were lots of flat rocks covered in green algae, which was where the tropical fish fed from. It was such a fantastic experience to float over these rocks and see all the fish close up, especially when the rocks were close to the surface, then see bigger, silvery fish swimming near the seabed once the rocks finished. As soon as I got out of the water I saw a large marine iguana swim past.

After this we went back to Puerto Villamil, the main town on Isabela, for lunch. We had it at a different hotel, one that overlooked a small reedy lake. Soup first, then lightly breadcrumbed fresh shrimps, rice, salad and creamy mashed potato for the main, with chopped banana & chocolate syrup for pudding.

After lunch we went on another excursion, this time with several stops at different places. Ricardo was with us, along with a naturalist guide called Miguel. Stop one was at the giant tortoise breeding centre; this was fascinating, as I expected, because I've always wanted to see these creatures in the flesh. We saw a mixture of adults, juveniles and babies, all in separate pens.

2014-06-04-21h27m44.JPG2014-06-04-21h22m48.JPG2014-06-04-20h32m34.jpg2014-06-04-20h15m49.jpg2014-06-04-20h41m45.jpg2014-06-04-20h22m19.jpg2014-06-04-20h30m00.jpg2014-06-04-20h30m17.jpg2014-06-04-20h31m56.jpg

They had different types of giants; ones that come from different parts of Isabela, including some from the slope of Cerro Azul Volcano which are unique in the Galápagos for having flat, squashed-looking shells.

2014-06-04-20h25m20.jpg2014-06-04-20h41m08.jpg2014-06-04-20h40m48.jpg

Stop two was a short walk through cacti and mangrove to a small, black rocky beach where we saw lots of blue-footed boobies.

2014-06-04-21h04m38.jpg2014-06-04-21h06m00.jpg2014-06-04-21h04m45.jpg2014-06-04-21h02m20.jpg

Stop three was at a fantastic lookout point. On the way there we saw two giant tortoises in the wild, which I was pleased about - I had hoped I would see at least one in the wild as well as the ones at the breeding centre.

2014-06-04-21h41m04.JPG

From the lookout point we could see a lot of the western side of the island as well as some of the eastern and the sea with some of the other islands in it. Miguel showed us lots of trees nearby that he said the locals burn as incense in churches and in their homes and export to the mainland.

2014-06-04-15h26m39.JPG

Stop four was a sobering visit to the Wall of Tears (in Spanish, El Muro de las Lágrimas), a wall built by prisoners from a penal colony on the island between 1945 and 1959. Miguel told us that this entirely pointless task was set because the government wanted to kill the prisoners but couldn't because the families back on the mainland would complain, so they had to find a task for them to do instead. Many prisoners died during its construction and there was a lot of cruelty, hence the name since given to it since.

2014-06-04-23h00m46.JPG2014-06-04-15h48m24.JPG2014-06-04-21h47m53.jpg

Our penultimate stop was at a lava tunnel, formed naturally from a volcanic eruption. There was a hole down into it and water at the bottom.

2014-06-04-22h20m27.jpg

Our last stop was a walk along the beach at Puerto Villamil.

2014-06-04-14h46m54.JPG2014-06-04-16h41m54.JPG

Miguel showed us a tiny white crab which he said people from the Galápagos cook in bulk and eat as a snack like popcorn when they sit down to watch films. At the end of the beach Miguel left us to go back to his family - Ricardo had left a bit earlier - and Bud, Gale, Dave and I went back along the beach a bit until we got to an outdoors bar, where we had a couple of drinks. I ordered Dave and I two daiquiris for $6 and a fruit milkshake.

2014-06-04-17h10m11.JPG2014-06-04-17h13m20.JPG

We were joined by a group of Australians; almost straight after we'd all ordered, two of them and I played a game of volleyball against two local guys and a Chilean girl from the hostel to which the bar was attached. When it ended none of us had any idea of which team had actually won, but it was very good fun nonetheless.

2014-06-04-23h21m30.jpg

As well as a volleyball net, the bar had a very long, stretchy piece of material set a metre from the ground between two posts; Ricardo reappeared and with other locals he walked along it like a stretchy, bouncy tightrope - he told us later that is a growing pastime in the Galápagos. Once the volleyball had finished I watched them take turns on it, but neither Dave or I were tempted to have a go ourselves! Bud then ordered two Cuba Libres but only wanted one of them (two for the price of one) so I bought one off him. By now the place was crowded and the sun had gone down. The atmosphere of the whole place was very convivial.

2014-06-04-18h29m46.JPG

After another half an hour or so the bar staff lit a small bonfire, but before it could get going properly Bud, Gale, Dave and I had to go back to our hotel for dinner. Soup, chicken, rice, salad and a delicious chocolate brownie-like pudding with nuts in and a meringue topping drizzled with chocolate sauce.

After dinner we were too tired to do anything apart from load our photos from today onto my laptop and Dave's USB pen and then go to sleep.

Posted by 3Traveller 00:21 Archived in Ecuador Tagged birds night turtles pelicans coast beach hotel dave penguins cocktails iguanas ecuador sealions galapagos_islands blue_footed_boobies frigatebirds unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine sally_lightfoot_crabs white_tip_sharks giant_tortoises tropical_fish Comments (0)

Visitors: Malecón, Las Peñas, Cerro Santa Ana and salsa

Guayaquil

Yesterday I only saw Emma, Kate, Mark and Andrew in the morning when I met them at the language school and took them to the bus terminal. They were going to Playas for the afternoon. It turned out that the night before, after they got back to their hostel after taking part in the first part of my lesson, they went swimming in the hostel's pool; on getting out of the pool Kate put her foot through the filter cover by accident, cutting and bruising her foot quite badly.

Today, while I was teaching in the morning the others looked round the Malecón, complete with botanic garden and the Museum of Anthropology & Contemporary Art. As soon as work finished at 1 o'clock I caught a bus into the city centre to meet them for lunch. I was held up considerably in traffic but we eventually managed to meet up. I wanted to take them to the restaurant E and I went to about a month and a half ago that sells delicious 'Encocado' (fish or shrimps in a creamy coconut sauce with rice), but unfortunately I couldn't find it, so we went somewhere else instead for lunch - the place on the Malecón that Mum and I went to in February. Kate, Emma and I all had sea bass which had been lightly breadcrumbed then grilled, which was amazing. I'm pretty sure it was the best breadcrumbed fish I've ever had!

Suitably refreshed, we headed over to Las Peñas to have a good nose around.

IMG_0913.JPGIMG_0916.JPG10295780_991934904350_5303134053396367730_n.jpgIMG_0914.JPG

We popped into a little art gallery and also saw at least two artists at work in their studios.

IMG_0917.JPGIMG_0918.JPG

We then took the side way up Cerro Santa Ana, the same way I'd taken Mum in February. We met this amazing dog on the way;

IMG_0921.JPG

Once at the terrace at the top we went up the lighthouse and had a look inside the chapel.

IMG_0931.JPGIMG_0940.JPGIMG_0926.JPG

After that the others went back to have a lie down and a swim in the pool. Later on we met up with 'E' at a nearby restaurant for dinner. The others were slightly shocked to find a security guard armed with a shotgun outside, but 'E' and I are used to it so we didn't bat any eyelids. Once inside, Emma and Kate had a lovely surprise because they saw Encocado on the menu! I was craving steak so I had that instead; it was delicious.

After we'd had dinner, we set off via taxis to a karaoke bar in Las Peñas that I've been to before. Kate and Emma were desperate to try the famous 'Alexander' cocktail I'd told them about (which in Ecuador is made from brandy, creme de cacao, condensed milk and crushed ice), so they and I had ones.

IMG_0950.JPG

I had intended for us to join my colleagues at a nearby bar for a drink or two before we carried on to the Captain Morgan, but as it turned out we didn't have time. We didn't want to be late for Captain Morgan!

The walk down the Malecon to where the boat was moored was very atmospheric in the dark, with the La Rotonda Monument and the Moorish Tower both lit up.

IMG_0956.JPG

After buying our tickets and waiting a while, we were allowed up the gangplank. A short while after the ship started to sail, a couple of guys with pirate hats came over and insisted on us posing for photos - he took photos with our cameras for us and if we'd wanted to we could have bought an official photograph from him for $5, but we chose not to.

IMG_0970.JPGIMG_0958.JPGIMG_0965.JPG

A lot of the music they played was salsa and merengue - and luckily for the rest of us, 'E' gave us an impromptu lesson in both! It was really, really good fun.

10339662_991936580990_4921130659891666096_n.jpg

We came back in to land at about 2 am. E rang for two taxis for us, one for me and her and one for the others.

Posted by 3Traveller 06:21 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art night museum hostel buses sisters salsa botanical_gardens cocktails ecuador guayaquil explorations cerro_santa_ana las_peñas malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine river_trip river_guayas Comments (0)

Carnival, Day 3: Bus frustrations and a night out in Baños

Ambato and Baños


View Teaching and Travelling Abroad on 3Traveller's travel map.

After leaving the main square in Ambato I realised that time was getting on and I really needed to get on the bus back to Baños before it got dark. It turned out there are three bus terminals in Ambato and the one I needed to go to was not on the Ambato map in my guidebook. Luckily I quickly found a local bus which said it went to the right terminal... it went back to the roundabout where I'd arrived originally, so I got off there, but I couldn't find the terminal anywhere. I walked around for ages looking. How I wished I had a smartphone!

Never mind, I thought, I'll just get on a Baños - bound bus going in the opposite direction to the one that dropped me off earlier; however this thought turned out to be futile. I stood around for a really long time, feeling increasingly apprehensive because it had got dark quickly and the area didn't look the safest, and stressed because none of the Baños buses would stop for me! There was only one every 20 minutes or so. In the end I gave up and flagged down an official-looking taxi. It cost $20 for the hour's journey to Baños but by that point I didn't care, I just wanted to get back!

Once I finally arrived back I had only twenty minutes or so before we went on our night out. We went to an Irish bar called 'Leprechaun' that had a large courtyard with a bonfire in a stone container in the middle. Every now and then the waitresses would go up and throw pieces of wood onto it to keep it going. Some of us had some food; I had chunks of juicy, tasty medium-cooked steak, grilled slices of red, green and yellow pepper, baby potatoes, some barbecue sauce (which I passed on to someone else) and mayonnaise with drizzles of tomato sauce on it.

IMG_0748.JPG

After a while we went inside to the dancefloor and apart from a trip upstairs at one point to have a sit-down and get some fresh air on the balcony, we danced almost nonstop for about three hours until the place closed. Although the place was an Irish bar and had quite a few foreign tourists in it, there also seemed to be a lot of locals or local tourists. The DJ only spoke Spanish and although several Western songs I mostly didn't recognise were played for the first hour after we arrived, then the music changed to salsa. All the Ecuadorians around me started dancing specific salsa steps. Luckily there were others who were dancing in a general way apart from me, so I didn't feel too shown up at not knowing how to dance salsa... ;-) Then after a while the music changed again and 'E' leaned forward and told me it was merengue.

The only drink I bought was a Pisco Sour and very appropriate it felt too, for the contrasting flavours of lime juice, pisco and sugar combined with the Latin music and the flashing coloured lights dappling the darkened dancefloor to create quite a heady, energised atmosphere and a thrill that I recognised from the atmosphere at the nightclub in Montañita I went to last June after the Queen's birthday party hosted for expats by the British Consulate.

IMG_0753.JPG

We did flag a bit by the end and I had to sit down for a while because my feet had started to hurt. After all the Latin music, the last couple of pieces before the place closed were Western. We left at either two or three a.m. and walked back to the hostel.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties hostel buses carnival salsa cocktails banos andes ecuador ambato Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 14) Previous « Page 1 [2] 3 » Next