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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)

Cuenca with Dave

Montecristi (Panama) hat


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By 8.10 we were on the bus to Cuenca. The scenery on the way was as spectacular as ever and we arrived between 12 and 12.30.

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We walked from the bus station to Bauhouse Hostel (sic), passing some streetsellers with baskets of guinea pigs on the way.

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Dave had a snooze once we'd got there but I went out to the launderette to get some washing done... as soon as I arrived at the main square I noticed that a parade was going on with soldiers in ceremonial white and either black or navy blue uniforms. They were raising and occasionally twirling batons and some trumpeters played at one point. Drums were beating as well. I was really pleasantly surprised because as far as I was aware there was no festival or special occasion today.

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After taking some photos of the parade I went on to the launderette and got most of my clothes done. Once they were in the dryer I went back to the hostel for 40 minutes and then returned with Dave. I picked up my clothes and then we went to the same small traditional Panama (Montecristi) hat workshop where I bought Dad's hat for Christmas. Dave will be 30 in July and I wanted to get him a hat as an early birthday present from me, because we won't be in the same place on his actual birthday. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found that it was all locked and shuttered up! I'd thought it was open until 6pm on Saturdays. Instead, we went to a different place nearby and Dave tried a few on before settling on one.

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After I'd paid for it the guy put it in a cloth bag shaped like a hat.

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On the way back to the hostel to dump our stuff, I suddenly remembered about food for our long bus journey to Banos tomorrow and the fact that we would have to leave too early to get our free breakfast from the hostel, so we went on a quick bakery hunt. The ones I found didn't have what I was looking for but then we passed by a streetseller at the side of the pavement - mostly they sell fruit and vegetables, with the occasional basket of chickens or guinea pigs, but this one had a big basket filled with plastic bags of buns. There weren't any sweet ones so I bought a bag of about ten with cheese in the middle instead.

After dumping our stuff we headed out again. Dave brought his DSLR with him and between us we got a few photos of different parts of the historic centre.

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Then we had some dinner - I had a lovely dish of white fish chunks in white sauce and vegetables, with rice as a side, and Dave had 'churrasco', a large thin steak with two fried eggs, rice, avocado, chips and salad. Lovely. Then another few photos, now it was after dark, and back to the hostel to pack for tomorrow.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains market hostel dave andes ecuador procession cuenca unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Galápagos Islands: Santa Cruz (Indefatigable)

Guayaquil and the Galápagos Islands


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Edit from January 2019: Finch Bay appears to be called Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach) on Google Maps - maybe Finch Bay is the unofficial name.

Breakfast and then off to Guayaquil Airport. We had to get our bags checked and tagged at the Galápagos Biosecurity Control Inspection & Quarantine desk first and then move to another desk next door to pay $10 each for our Tourist Control Cards.

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We arrived at Baltra Island to hot breeze. The runway and terminal were both tiny, set in the midst of obviously volcanic rock, red earth and dry vegetation on every side.

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From the airport we we were driven in a LAN bus to the port, where we got on a ferry to the main island, Santa Cruz. Luggage went on the flat top of the boat whilst all the people went inside. We saw our first blue-footed boobies!

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On arrival we waited for a bus, only to be told by the taxi drivers that the buses have gone for the day. I didn't believe them, thinking they were only saying that to make us get an $18 taxi ride instead, so we hung around for a bit longer. Then a new ferryload of people arrived and I asked a tour guide if either of the two buses in the bar park were public ones - they had the same name as the local buses mentioned in our guidebook - but he said no. It turned out they had been commissioned for his tour group and we were not allowed on. So we thought "sod it" and just got a taxi to Puerto Ayora after all - we couldn't afford the time to hang around any longer.

At about two-ish we arrived at our hostel, the Galápagos Best Homestay. Dave's name was written on a welcome whiteboard on the outer wall! The owner was really friendly and our room had a kitchenette and free drinking water from a big container (like on the mainland, the tap water isn't safe to drink).

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Almost straight after checking in to our hostel we went out on our first excursion... a trip by water taxi to a small, curved, enclosed beach called Finch Bay. We walked through the town centre to get to the dock.

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We saw mangroves and a massive heron on the final short walk to the beach.

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Finch Bay has wonderful white sand.

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Then we hiked for 25 minutes to Las Grietas, a fissure in some rocks maybe about 10 metres wide - wide enough for people to swim in.

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It's filled with a mixture of seawater and natural fresh water that comes through the ground. It was wonderfully, deliciously cool, not to mention pretty clear - when snorkelling, I could see the ground about 40 feet below! I saw some small, well-camouflaged fish that stayed on underwater rocks, and a small shoal of much larger fish.

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We stopped at Finch Bay on the way back and I had another swim - Dave had got changed already so didn't get back into his wet stuff. The beach was sandy and instead of having rocky headlands on each side, it was flanked with mangroves. The sea was clearly very salty because I could float on my back without having to breath in at all.

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We stopped at a small supermarket on our way back and bought some dinner - a type of Ecuadorian sausage I've had before that is a lot like a frankfurter but shorter and much fatter, an onion, some mayonnaise and some rolls. We cooked half of the sausages for dinner and saved the others for breakfast tomorrow morning.

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Posted by 3Traveller 15:46 Archived in Ecuador Tagged birds coast beach airport hostel ferry dave ecuador galapagos_islands guayaquil explorations blue_footed_boobies unesco_world_heritage_site freshwater_swimming Comments (0)

Seduced by the Ecuadorian coast

Olón, La Entrada and Guayaquil


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I've felt it before, I felt it today and I'm sure I will feel it again before I leave Ecuador in July. I'm talking about the irresistibly seductive call of the coast. I can totally see why people come here and never leave; the sunshine, the casualness of life, the amazing seafood, the waves, the remains of ancient cultures... cocktails and nightlife if you want it, isolation and peace if you want it... Beaches aren't what Ecuador is known for, but in my opinion they are very underrated.

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Today we went to where SD's friend is living at the moment, a house a little further up the road from Olón. What a fantastic location - walk through his back garden and out of the gate and you are on the beach.

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The sun was beating down as nearly all of us got in the sea.

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After a lovely, long, refreshing swim, I did a bit of beachcombing; the tide was quite far in, but amongst the row of rocks at the edge of the sand, I saw several pieces of quartz and colourful pebbles.

After drying off by the pool, we walked along the beach to a tiny village called La Entrada. As I mentioned, the tide was in, so several times we had to scramble along rocks because the sand had disappeared. After ten to fifteen minutes we reached some steps from the beach up to the village. We walked along a back path, past fishing nets laid out in the sun, to the village centre. Blue fishing boats were pulled up on the sand.

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There were two outdoor restaurants, so we sat down at one and had a late lunch; in my case, shrimp soup with pasta in it and a plate of fish, rice and salad.

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After walking back to the house near Olón to pick up our stuff, we managed to flag down a bus going directly to Guayaquil. The journey was about two and a half hours long and we arrived just as it was starting to get dark.

Photos of Hostal Bambino in Olón plus the views from the dorm balcony:

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Posted by 3Traveller 12:19 Archived in Ecuador Tagged coast beach hostel ecuador explorations ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Los Frailes Beach

Montañita, Olón and Los Frailes Beach


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After breakfast in Montañita we took a bus 2 kilometres up the road to Olón. Olón is even smaller and laid-back than Montañita, which has become busier and busier in the last couple of years. We walked into 'Hostal Bambino' on the seafront, a colourful building with an unfinished top floor - something very common in Ecuador - and got hold of rooms for $10 a night.

Then we stocked up on some snacks and took a bus to Los Frailes, a famous beach in Machalilla National Park, about 40 minutes up the coast from Olón. Ever since I came to Ecuador people have raved about Los Frailes to me, so I was particularly keen to visit it this weekend.

One of the others had been here before, when it was sunny, and said that the water was really blue and clear and and he saw lots of fish while snorkelling. Unfortunately it was cloudy today and for some reason the sea was very green and not all that clear. It didn't look like pollution, though; maybe it was algae? Anyway, despite this I could still see why people recommended the beach to me. It has an air of isolation, because to get there you have to walk or get a tuk-tuk from the main road down a 2km dirt path.

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The beach sweeps round very nicely, with hills in the background and some bright green plants growing through the sand along the edge of the sand.

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I had a nice swim with some of the others, some snacks for lunch and a walk along the beach with 'S', and lastly did some writing in the sand.

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I set myself a challenge of swimming to the rocks at the foot of the headland, some distance away - it took some time but I got there in the end. On the walk we saw one or two tiny lizards and crabs.

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We also came across a little grove of poisonous trees, which according to the sign next to them, had toxic leaves and fruit.

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After spending a good couple of hours at Los Frailes we took tuktuks back to the main road and flagged down a bus to Olón. There we had dinner and a few games of pool with a friend of 'SD' at the bar/ restaurant and ended the evening with a sit down, drink and a chat on the beach after dark.

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Posted by 3Traveller 11:05 Archived in Ecuador Tagged lizards coast beach hostel ecuador montanita explorations los_frailes_beach machalilla_national_park Comments (0)

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