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Entries about volcanoes

Mediterranean Turkey: Izmir

Cappadocia, Istanbul and Izmir


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Our shuttle to Kayseri airport was due to leave at 8 am; this was exactly the same time that breakfast was supposed to start. Luckily for us, the lovely owner of Star Cave Hotel kindly got some breakfast for us five minutes early!

The airport shuttle stopped at another hotel to pick up another couple. The journey to the airport was rushed; at one point the driver tried to run a red light but had to brake suddenly when he realised he wouldn't make it through if he carried on. The woman in the other couple started shouting and swearing at the driver, who said he was sorry but was in a big hurry because he was also delivering a passport urgently to someone who had forgotten it. The woman wouldn't let up about it, but by the time we arrived at the airport she had quietened down and even thanked him when she got off.

It was another sunny, clear day and throughout our shuttle journey we got a wonderful view of Mount Erciyes, which is an extinct volcano and the highest mountain in Cappadocia. Its peak looked covered in ice and snow.

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We were met by a 40 minute flight delay, but time passed quickly and then we were in the air, saying goodbye to Cappadocia. Our final destination of the day was Izmir, on the western coast, but we had to go via Istanbul. I was lucky enough to get a window seat, so I took lots of photos.

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The views were amazing, especially of the coastline of the Sea of Marmara as we got closer and closer to Istanbul. At one point before that, when we were still fairly near the centre of the country, I saw something strange - a huge area of whiteness, definitely not a cloud. It was quite far in the distance, but it looked like a massive white hole with water pouring inwards from every side - very surreal. I guessed it was probably a salt lake.

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Our 1hr 20 minute flight to Istanbul was followed by an hour's wait in transit and then another 1hr 20 minute flight to Izmir. Izmir is the 3rd biggest city in Turkey and lies on the coast of the Aegean Sea. It was formerly the fabled Greek city of Smyrna...

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We took a train from the airport to a station just round the corner from our hostel. Our room in this hostel - ('Shantihome') - did not have a lock; apparently it went against the philosophy of the owners to have locks on the doors... Oh well - we were only here for one night, so we just took our valuables out with us when we headed out for dinner and a walk-round.

We were in the leafy neighbourhood of Alcansak, next to the seafront - the sea being the Aegean Sea! Neither Dave nor I had been to this sea before. Izmir is apparently a proudly liberal city for Turkey, and I soon noticed a much higher proportion of women not wearing headscarves than we'd seen in Istanbul and Cappadocia. There appeared to be fewer mosques, too.The atmosphere did seem to have a Mediterranean tinge to it, with the liberality I mentioned before, the lemon tree we could see out of our window, the mussel stalls on the pavements in front of nearly every café and restaurant, and the palm trees.

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After Skopje and Ruse, in Macedonia and Bulgaria, it was lovely to see that Izmir has made a lot of their waterfront. It's beautiful, with a wide stretch of well-kept grass and walkways. There's no beach, but rather a very low brick wall laid with wooden planks for people to sit on. Although I think the tide was in, the sea was too low to be able to touch it when I sat with my legs over the edge.

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After walking around for a while we stopped in a pedestrian street parallel to the seafront for dinner at a café. I had a delicious type of kebab I'd never had before, which I think was local to Izmir; it had tomato sauce, yoghurt, parsley and either beef or lamb as well as flatbread. Dave had a mixed kebab which came with rice, salad and yoghurt. To finish, Dave had Turkish tea and I had my best Turkish coffee yet - all the ones I've had so far have been good, but this was the absolute best so far.

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Posted by 3Traveller 14:55 Archived in Turkey Tagged volcanoes hotel airport cappadocia turkey istanbul izmir hostel dave turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

Arrival in Quito after a long day of travelling

Catamayo and Quito


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The bus trip to Catamayo was simple. The bus dropped me off in the town so I took a taxi from there to the airport - only a two-minute journey.

Catamayo Airport is tiny - about the same size as the airport on Baltra Island in the Galápagos. After I'd checked in and got my boarding pass and was waiting for baggage x-ray and the departure lounge to open, a professional football team arrived and waited too. I didn't catch which team they were though.

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I was lucky enough to get a window seat, so although it was partly over a wing, I still managed to get a good view of Cotopaxi Volcano as approached Quito. At the beginning of the flight I read an article about Guayaquil in the TAME magazine which was so full of hyperbole I had to chuckle a little to myself. I am genuinely fond of Guayaquil but even I can see that it is not quite the same level as Quito and Cuenca regarding beauty and history! This July edition of the magazine was a celebration of the Independence of Guayaquil, a public holiday for the whole country on 23rd/24th July every year.

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I'm staying at Travellers' Inn, the same hostel where I've been on each of the three previous occasions I've been to Quito. The older guy here, the head of the family who own and run the hostel, asked me where my husband was! He must have remembered my ring arriving when I was here last month with Dave, though not the fact that it was an engagement ring not a wedding one. This chap was the one who helped me and Dave with information about how to get to Papallacta.

I arrived late in the afternoon so I didn't do anything apart from rest a bit before going out for some dinner. I went to a tiny French crépe restaurant down the road, because I fancied something a bit different to normal. I had a ratatouille and chicken crépe and a chocolate milkshake. Then I realised I was still hungry so I stopped at a bakery/café on the way back and bought a chocolate bun.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:10 Archived in Ecuador Tagged volcanoes airport hostel quito andes ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi National Park and Quito


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A trek up part of Cotopaxi Volcano today. It was organised by our hostel and although absolutely exhausting, it was well worth it.

A minibus took us and three others to a parking area already up part of the mountain. We'd stopped at the entrance to the National Park; at the café I bought a cup of coca tea because I was starting to feel unwell due to altitude sickness. It helped a bit, thank goodness.

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The first part of the trek was OK, if tiring. It had a steep incline but wasn't all that long. The ground was a very fine gravel, so our feet sank into it. When we reached the top of this first part we turned and saw wonderful views over the rest of the National Park. The glacier above us was beautiful and awe-inspiring.

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Dave stayed at this part, but I decided to carry on to the base lodge that was in the process of being built. I'd had to stop for the loo, because I was absolutely desperate, so the others in the group had already gone ahead of us. That second part of the trek was very difficult - in terms of sheer muscular exhaustion it was on par with the last hour of our trek up Ben Nevis in 2011. This was the view of the second part;

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It didn't look all that far at the start, but that was misleading! I was struggling quite badly with altitude sickness by now - no nausea, luckily, just feeling quite lightheaded and off balance. My chest was hurting where I injured my rib in February last year and the back of my head hurt where it joins onto my neck. One of the guides was with me and she let me sit down and rest on rocks whenever I needed to, which helped. There were several moments where I considered turning back, but a voice in my head pushed me on. At one point a load of donkeys passed by me coming from the opposite direction.

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And despite being physically one of the hardest things I've ever done, it was absolutely worth it. As soon as I reached the lodge I had my photo taken next to the signpost that said I was at 4864 metres altitude, then tottered over to a seat amongst the masonry at the front of the half-built lodge where two workers were busy working. It felt amazing to be so high up.

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I had a enormously satisfying rest for five to ten minutes, along with a drink, before descending. The descent took about five minutes, making a mockery of how long it had taken me to get up there... a fast walk turned into a jog and then I was pushed by the slope into a run. Dave was watching from the bottom of this section, so he took a few photos of me coming down.

Then, after another little rest, we descended the first section together, at a walk. It was just us two along with the guide that had been with me on the second section. The others had carried on higher than the base lodge, to the edge of the glacier itself - this was an optional extra activity as part of the excursion - but Dave and I gave this a miss. By now I was starting to feel dizzy and sleepy and a headache was developing.

The three of us sat in the minibus waiting for the others to return. I started off in the front passenger seat but then I felt so bad I needed to lie down, so I moved to lying across the back seats and Dave took my seat at the front. The guide gave me an inflatable neck/head rest which helped make me more comfortable.

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Thankfully, once the others had arrived back and we descended to the plains of the National Park, I started feeling much better. We stopped at a beautiful lake for a bit and then to a small café where we were given free cheese rolls and we could buy other things if we wanted to.

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I wasn't hungry at all so I didn't have my roll, but I did get myself a hot chocolate and some Coke. Dave bought some coca boiled sweets, which we ate on the rest of our return journey.

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We stopped again at the entrance/exit to the National Park. There was a TV playing the England vs. Italy World Cup group match - Italy were winning 1-0. It was just after half time. Just as we drew up to the hostel later on, the match finished. England had lost and were out of the World Cup.

As soon as we got back from Cotopaxi National Park I went to bed. I was feeling lightheaded and dizzy again and started throwing up. I had about four or five bouts of it. At around 6.30pm my engagement ring was delivered! - I couldn't get out of bed so Dave collected it from reception. It was just as beautiful as I expected.

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I didn't have any dinner but Dave went out and had a similar mixed grill to the one he had at the Argentinian grillhouse a couple of days earlier.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:55 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains lakes football volcanoes hostel dave quito andes ecuador explorations ecuadorian_cuisine cotopaxi_national_park Comments (0)

Snakes, exotic plants and a stunning city view

Quito and Pichincha Volcano


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In the morning, almost first thing after breakfast, we did something I've wanted to do for many years... we went on the Teleférico, the cable cars, up Pichincha Volcano!

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We went up to 4100 metres altitude. The view you get over Quito from up there is jaw-dropping.

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I was incredibly happy up there; I'd been wanting to come to this particular place for years!

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Once we got back to the hostel, though, and we'd nipped out to a nearby café for a quick lunch and come back again, I started feeling sad about the fact that it was Father's Day yet I was unable to see Dad. We went back out again soon after, though, so I cheered up, especially when I knew it was a place Dad would have enjoyed visiting. This was Quito's botanical garden, set within Parque La Carolina.

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Special mention goes to the rose garden - although the peak of the season was clearly over, enough flowers remained to create a lovely sight - the big orchid house, the koi carp pool, the collection of bonsai trees, the carnivorous plant house and some other individuals such as an arabica coffee bush, a vanilla plant and a couple of young quinine and jacaranda trees. The extremely relaxing atmosphere and beautiful setting were also great pleasures.

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After eventually leaving there, we carried on within the park to the Vivarium, which holds several types of reptile and amphibian, all native to Ecuador.

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We saw an anaconda, some boas, an extremely venomous coral snake, a tree snake, two baby caimen, a green tree frog, some baby turtles, a green iguana and one or two other things. It was very scientifically done and it was fascinating to see them so close up.

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We stopped at a shopping centre on the way back to the hostel and Dave was surprised by the sight of a Radioshack shop... he then had the bright idea of getting an SD card reader there to solve our problem of being unable to look at or save to USB the photos he'd taken since the Galapagos on his camera. So he bought one and then we moved on to a supermarket, where I showed Dave various tropical fruits and bought a big bottle of guanábana drinking yoghurt.

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:46 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains turtles volcanoes dad roses snakes botanical_gardens dave quito andes ecuador Comments (0)

Galápagos Islands: Volcano trek, snorkelling and a proposal!

Sierra Negra & Chico Volcanoes and Puerto Villamil


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Breakfast was at 7 today and after that finished we all had to make our sandwiches for lunch - a packed lunch we'd be eating at our trekking destination, the craters of Volcanoes Sierra Negro & Chico! Tuna mayo or cheese with tomato or cucumber slices, plus apples if you wanted them.

At 7.45 we set off with Miguel, the same naturalist guide we had yesterday. We drove for about 20 - 30 minutes before we reached the start of the trek. As well as us, Bud & Gale, there were the two German girls, three Australian girls and a Chilean couple. We began the trek in a light drizzle; I had guessed this might happen so I was in my bikini under my main clothes. This consisted of a rather peculiar-looking combination of a strappy top, board shorts (because I didn't want to get my only pair of trousers muddy), hiking boots and Dave's wide-brimmed hat from Portugal.

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We walked for about an hour before we reached our first lookout point. I was really glad I only had a sleeveless top on because the others soon got boiling hot and had to take off their jackets/jumpers.

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Unfortunately it was too misty for us to see anything of the crater (we were trekking along the rim, with vegetation on both sides of the path) but we hoped that it would have cleared a bit by the time we got to the next one. An hour later, when we reached it, a lot of the mist was still there but then it cleared a little, just enough to see a little bit of the black lava opposite us.

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Then we began our descent along the side of Sierra Negra and Chico (I'm still not sure where one ends and the other begins). Miguel showed us one of many camomile bushes and we also saw an orange land iguana on a rock.

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After a while the vegetation changed to a surface that looked moonlike... lots of both old and new(ish) lava flows of different colours, lava vents where the lava comes out in eruptions, sinkholes, cacti.

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The views were stunning in a rather surreal manner. Eventually we reached a lookout point where we ate our sandwiches; this was the end of the trail. We got an even more spectacular view from here, over the western side of Isabela Island, the sea and other islands. (The photos really don't do it justice.)

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On the way back at first there was still a very fine drizzle, but then it stopped and once or twice the sun came out briefly. We still couldn't see anything at the first lookout point we came across; however, a little bit further on the clouds parted a bit so we managed to get a good view of the black lava of the crater meeting the bright green vegetation of the rim, even though we couldn't see the whole crater. I was really glad I'd seen what we did.

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A bit later it started raining again, harder than before, and this time it did not stop. Our fronts got soaked.

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The others had set off back after lunch a bit earlier than us so Dave and I were the last of our group to arrive back at the truck, though then it turned out that Bud and Gale had got a bit lost on their way back and only actually arrived at the truck two minutes before us. The sun came out on our drive back to Puerto Villamil.

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We had an hour's free time to rest and then we went on our last excursion; a snorkelling trip in the harbour at Puerto Villamil. The aim of this was to snorkel with sea lions, but unfortunately they didn't play ball with us and appear, apart from one which appeared for about a minute right at the very start. Also unfortunately, because we were in the harbour (they weren't allowed to take us beyond the boats apparently) the water visibility was very poor. However, there were still lots of tropical fish around which were great to see, especially when they came right up very close to the surface and we could float only a few centimetres over them.

Once back at the hotel we had hot showers and then rested for a couple of hours until dinner. Dinner was a lovely thick creamy yellow vegetable soup as a starter, a delicious tuna steak with vegetable sauce, yellow rice with maize mixed in and some chopped lettuce and tomato for the main and fruit with condensed milk for pudding. After dinner Dave and I had a chilled glass bottle of Coke each whilst playing 10-card rummy and some whist for half an hour in the hotel courtyard.

After we finished playing cards we went back to our hotel room... Dave had another shower and then proposed to me!!! - as I sat in bed, having just started to copy photos from today onto my laptop. I accepted, of course! We're going to look for an engagement ring for me when we're in Quito for the last week of our holiday. I'm so happy!

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Posted by 3Traveller 01:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged coast volcanoes hotel dave iguanas ecuador sealions galapagos_islands unesco_world_heritage_site tropical_fish Comments (0)

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