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UNESCO World Heritage Site: Pamukkale and Ancient Hierapolis

Pamukkale, Ancient Hierapolis and Selçuk


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Day trip today to the dazzling white hot spring terraces of Pamukkale and the ancient site of Hierapolis.

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It turned out to be one of the busiest days of the year - a feast day for the end of Ramadan, all historic and tourist sites in the country were free entry for Turkish nationals. The place was packed, but I was still very glad we'd come. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason, after all - it is both spectacular, otherworldly and historically significant. I remembered seeing pictures of the terraces somewhere years and years ago (in childhood or teenage years), without knowing where they were or what they were called, and being transfixed. I imagined what a wonderful thing it would be to visit such a magical place.... it was only recently, when I was in Bulgaria and reading about Turkey, that I came across pictures of Pamukkale again and things clicked into place... here was my magical landscape again; this time a reality to visit!

We walked round Hierapolis first, a very open site with fantastic views of the landscape reaching up to mountains in the distance. Hierapolis was an ancient city within the Classical region of Phrygia. There were remarkably few people here considering the huge amounts around the mineral terraces next door. Very peaceful and pleasant, highlights being a restored theatre and the Nymphaeum Temple.

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The terraces themselves - well, what can I say! The stretches of white calcium carbonate reminded me (and surely most other people) of a glacier; the pools of light turquoise water, filled from hot springs and clouded with minerals, were a sight to behold. So surreal! First of all we walked around, looking at all the terraces people aren't allowed to touch...

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...before moving along to the ones which people are allowed to paddle and bathe in. I wished I had a swimming costume available so I could bathe, but as neither Dave nor I had any swimming stuff with us, we made do with a paddle. I saw one guy walk out of a pool with white mineral silt spread all over his face, chest and arms. Not a bad place to give yourself a facepack!

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It was an exceedingly hot day and by the time we had to leave the terraces we had finished the drinks we'd brought with us. We were so thirsty that although the drinks at the stands outside the exit were expensive, I had no choice but to buy a couple there.

Back in Selçuk in the evening, we had another delicious dinner next to the Roman aqueduct. We returned to the restaurant we'd eaten at the day before yesterday - the owner recognised us from before and was really friendly. While we ate we watched the storks on the aqueduct and noted all the cats and kittens that were wandering around the tables. One table near us had six or seven of them!

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After dinner we walked around the base of the aqueduct, hoping to get a photo of one or more of the storks taking flight from the nests on top, but with no luck. We also admired the view of the Basilica of St John on the hill on the other side of town.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:38 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey dave storks selcuk pamukkale natural_wonder hierapolis roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site thermal_baths extreme_weather Comments (0)

Thermal baths and a landslide at Papallacta

Quito and Papallacta


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Update from October 2019: 'Achiote' is still open and apparently doing well!

Today was taken up with a day trip to the thermal baths just outside the tiny village of Papallacta, about two hours east of Quito.

Our hostel owner told us that the quickest way for us to catch a bus to Papallacta was to get a taxi to the Cumbayá neighbourhood of Quito and then flag down a bus from there, so that's what we did. The bus cost $2.50 each. I had an aisle seat right at the back; on my left was a fellow passenger and on my right was a curtain covering what I assumed was a surface with a load of soft storage items of some kind on it. About halfway through the one and a half/ two hour journey the curtain suddenly moved as someone inside turned over! I assumed that it was an off-shift bus employee getting some sleep.

We were dropped off at the side of the main road and walked about 2.5 km up the hill through and then just beyond Papallacta.

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Once we arrived it was past 12.30 so we went straight to the restaurant and had some lunch first before we got changed and into the first pool we came across.

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Although sunny in Quito, it was almost completely overcast in Papallacta and was quite chilly, so the moment when I first sank into the first hot pool was absolutely heavenly. There were loads of pools; four or five hot main ones (including one that was extremely hot - you couldn't stay in too long, though it was wonderful to be in for five minutes at a time!), a couple of little freezing cold plunge pools and some small, hot footpools. Nearly all of them had a tiny waterfall on one side. All the mountains surrounding us had peaks covered in cloud.

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We did rounds of the pools for over two and a half hours before finally dragging ourselves out, getting changed and walking briskly down the hill in order to flag down a bus to Quito. We managed it in the end, but not without some drama - from halfway down the hill we noticed that the main road, which was at a right angle to the smaller road we were on, was completely filled with an immoveable traffic jam stretching round and out of sight! For a moment we were really worried that we were now stranded, because we saw that the road was blocked off for vehicles going in the direction for Quito...

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Once we reached the bottom, we walked round the corner and saw what had happened - a landslide! Luckily it was a relatively minor one and no vehicles had been caught by it. A digging machine was already in action moving piles of mud and stones out of the road. It cleared one lane's worth of stuff out of the way, watched by us and lots of other onlookers, and then traffic was allowed to move.

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As luck would have it, the second vehicle in the Quito-bound queue was a bus, so we hopped on it with relief. Within five minutes of us getting on, it was dark outside.

Instead of staying on the bus until it arrived at Quitumbe bus terminal in Quito, which would have meant a 40-minute taxi journey from there to the hostel, we got off the bus early at Cumbayá and took a taxi from there instead. This saved us a lot of time. Once we arrived back at the hostel we rested for a bit before going out for dinner. We ate at an Ecuadorian restaurant called 'Achiote'; Dave had a chicken grill with rice, I had fat juicy shrimps in garlic sauce, yuca chips and a salad of chopped cucumber, celery, tomato, pineapple, sliced boiled egg and pale corn.

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I really recommend this restaurant - the food was great and the service was really friendly as well.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:04 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains airport hostel buses dave quito andes ecuador papallacta landslide explorations ecuadorian_cuisine thermal_baths Comments (0)

Ziplining during the day, thermal baths at night...

Baños


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A quiet and very relaxing morning today. First of all we wandered round town doing some shopping and looking at the sugar cane stalls and the men slinging and pulling around long piles of toffee-like mixture (taffy) from hooks at the side of shop doorways.

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While Dave was in a handicraft shop I suddenly thought of lighting a candle for Dad in the Basilica, so that's what I did.

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Then we moved on to one of several massage parlours lined up on the other side of the main square and had amazing hour-long full body massages for only $20 each.

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We left the place afterwards completely relaxed and ambled over to the Central Market where we had some lunch at a stall.

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Dave had seco de pollo, which he loved, and I had a delicious llapingacho, which is a plate of fried cheese & mashed potato cakes, a fried egg, fried slices of chorizo sausage, rice, chopped beetroot, shredded lettuce and a big chunk of avocado.

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At 12 we went on our next excursion... ziplining! The setting of this was spectacular, set in forested mountains close to Baños.

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On at least two occasions we ziplined from one side of a valley to the other. There were a total of six lines with a bit of hiking to get from each one to the next.

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On three of them we sat in the normal position, on two we got to lie in a 'Superman' position and on one we ziplined hanging upside down.

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It was all fantastic. Just to top it all off, as we returned from the final zipline to the where we'd been given the equipment at the start, we passed a house with four incredibly cute puppies who came up to us to say hello. I think they were Golden Retrievers.

After dinner and a game or two or pool we went back to the hot thermal baths to try out their evening session, which runs from 6-9.30pm. It was busier and more touristy than when we went during daylight - on that occasion we were the only tourists there. This time four out of five of the pools were open. We did several rounds of going in the hot one, then the bigger cold one, then the extremely hot one downstairs then the small circular cold one next to it and then back again to the hot one upstairs.

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After eventually leaving the baths we explored the waterfall area next door before going back to the hostel.

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We shared an amazing pizza there before going to bed tired but extremely happy.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:30 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls market basilica hostel dad dave banos ecuador ziplining explorations ecuadorian_cuisine freshwater_swimming thermal_baths Comments (0)

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)

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