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Dryanovo Gorge & Monastery

Dryanovo Gorge and Monastery


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It was around two o'clock by now so after lunch in Tryavna we headed straight off to the monastery. It is dramatically set in Dryanovo Gorge - apparently most of the monasteries in Bulgaria were deliberately built in geographically dramatic places. The monastery was quite small but extremely beautiful inside. Every church and cathedral I've been to in Bulgaria has had a stall selling beeswax candles and little religious trinkets and this one was no exception; I bought and lit a candle for Dad.

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In a separate building there was a museum that apparently contained stone age pottery and arrowheads and other things found in the Bacho Kiro cave nearby, but just as we walked up to it, a woman locked the door. It closes early during the winter. To the right of that, however, we saw a door and some steps leading down into a room selling sweets, preserved vegetables and a few handicrafts, so we went in. I saw a wooden bowl filled with colourfully painted, light, wooden eggs, so on an impulse I bought a couple. I imagine that at Easter time, painted eggs will be everywhere!

Then we walked across the river behind the monastery and up part of the mountain for five minutes until we got to Bacho Kiro cave.

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To get there we had to re-cross the river using a different bridge; it consisted of lots of little waterfalls almost joined together. As we crossed it, I noticed that part of it was frozen!

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The time was 15.45 by now and in the winter the cave closes at 16.00. We could see the entrance to the cave from the ticket booth, so 'F' asked the man if we could possibly just step inside the cave and look round the main bit for ten minutes. This was not possible, however! Oh well.

To make up for that, we continued climbing up the mountain for a bit until we reached the top of the gorge. The view, needless to say, was stunning.

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There was a beech wood at the top. We carried on walking for five minutes until we reached the river again, which, because we were further back in the gorge, was at a much higher up stage than where we'd crossed it before. It was filled with giant boulders.

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There was no bridge this high up but there were stepping stones, so we jumped across them and walked for a bit through the beech trees that continued on the other side. After a couple of minutes the trail petered out, so after making a pact to come back again in the spring or summer, this time for a whole day, we retraced our steps and drove back to VT.

Posted by 3Traveller 17:18 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged waterfalls mountains monastery dad bulgaria orthodox_church cave_system Comments (0)

Waterfalls

Hotnitsa


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Today I went on my first excursion outside of Veliko Tarnovo. The first part of it was a car boot sale! Not the kind of thing I expected to find in Bulgaria. It was in a field next to a farm; I saw sheep being herded into the field behind us and a harnessed (but not saddled) donkey nibbling on grass next to a stream. Most of the stalls were run by British expats, though there were one or two ones run by locals. The only thing I bought was a jar of homemade raspberry and apple jam, which I intend to have as soon as I've finished my current jar of delicious homemade raspberry and redcurrant jam!

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After we'd looked round the car boot sale, we walked for half an hour through the open countryside to an impressive set of waterfalls. There was a big pool in front of it and there were sets of wooden steps/ ladders up the side.

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We climbed these, looked out from above the waterfall (there was a lovely view) and explored the river leading up to the edge. There were several more ladders as well as small, wooden slat bridges taking us across the river and back again, past pools and smaller waterfalls. Once we came back to where we'd started from, at the foot of the big waterfall, most of us paddled for a while.

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It was a wonderfully sunny day and it was lovely to get out into the countryside for a while. Once we had driven past the hills and enscarpments that surround Veliko Tarnovo, the landscape was quite flat.

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:40 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged waterfalls bulgaria explorations Comments (0)

Mindo: Cloud forest, butterflies, waterfalls and ziplining

Mindo


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Sunday 20th July

Bus journey from Quito to Mindo. Mindo is a tiny village surrounded by mountains covered in cloud forest, which makes up one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth. This setting is certainly dramatic.

My hostel was very quiet. I'd booked a bed in a 2-bed dorm, which along with the other dorms was within the owner's house, but nobody else arrived to take the other bed. In fact I seemed to be the only person booked into a dorm the whole time I was there! This meant it was very quiet, peaceful and relaxing.

For dinner I had a whole steamed tilapia fish, learning through the process of ordering that the Spanish word for steamed is 'al vapor'... makes sense considering what the process of steaming is. I'd never come across steamed food on a menu in Ecuador before.

Monday 21st July

At breakfast I saw hummingbirds for the first time since Dave and I did the Inca Trail in Peru five years ago!

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After some scrambled eggs, pineapple juice, melon slices, toast, jam and coffee I looked round the little orchid garden attached to the hostel, but it evidently wasn't the right time of year to see them because not very many were in flower. It was still nice to wander round though.

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After that I booked a ziplining trip for the afternoon and walked to a butterfly farm. It was very hot and sunny and I soon left paved roads behind; as I walked along the whitish dirt road in the middle of lush greenery, with the sun beating down on my head, I got a sudden image in my head of the cover of my copy of 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning', which shows the back of Laurie Lee as he walks by himself along a road in the middle of nowhere in Spain.

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At the butterfly farm I saw some bright shiny silver jewel-like chrysalises that are designed to look like water drops, a butterfly in the process of breaking out of a normal-coloured chrysalis, and lots of brightly coloured butterflies! I especially liked the ones that were grey, brown and black on one side of their wings but then electric blue on the other side when they opened them. There were bowls of overripe bananas around, food for the butterflies, and when I dipped my finger in the juice, butterflies would then land on it.

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My afternoon ziplining trip was an exhiliarating experience, zipping between beautiful valleys and mountains within the cloud forest. There were ten lines. I was put with two small groups of Germans and one of Ecuadorians. We saw two toucans in the branches of a tree at one point - I was so happy! I love toucans and I hadn't seen any since Dave and I saw some in Brazil on the same trip five years ago that I just mentioned above.

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On the way back I started walking but was then given a lift the rest of the way by a group of girls who'd been in my group. It had clouded over by the time the ziplining had begun, and just as they dropped me off at the end of my road it started pouring with rain.

A couple of hours later, when I went out for dinner, the rain had stopped. I went to a café known for its brownies, though I didn't have room for one after I'd had my main. They didn't actually have any hot main dishes left by that time, only salads and sandwiches, so I had a really thick tuna sandwich with a side of yuca chips and a chocolate milkshake. I made a mental note to come back the next day for lunch.

Tuesday 22nd July

First thing this morning I went on a cable car over a forested gorge to a protected forest, where there was a long walking trail leading to and past six different waterfalls. I was one of the first people there so I had a lovely peaceful walk with nobody else around for the majority of the time. It was very sunny again this morning.

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It took a couple of hours to do the main walk, which went past five of the waterfalls. Then there was a shorter, separate path to the sixth waterfall, which was also the biggest. I swam in the pool and river beneath it - the water was so refreshing and cool - very very welcome considering how hot and sweaty I was after my long hike! The current was very strong so when I tried to swim to the waterfall itself to get underneath it, I couldn't because the current pushed me back so hard. I was trying to swim forwards but ended up just swimming on the spot.

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I wanted to stay in there for hours but eventually dragged myself out, got changed and hiked back to the cable car station. Then I walked the 4 km back to the hostel (I'd got a taxi on the way there in the morning). It was all downhill but because I was already tired from the long hike, I arrived pretty exhausted.

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It was about 3pm when I arrived back, so as soon as I'd dumped my stuff I went straight back out again for some lunch at the same café I'd been to for dinner the night before. This time I went for the soup of the day (cream of broccoli and asparagus), a chocolate milkshake, Fanta and one of their famous chocolate brownies. I was stuffed by the time I finished.

I then went back to the hostel for a bit before going to an internet café for a couple of hours. I wasn't particularly hungry for dinner because of how late I'd had lunch, so I left dinner as late as I could and then only had a plate of chips.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls mountains birds spanish hostel butterflies ecuador mindo ziplining hummingbirds explorations toucans ecuadorian_cuisine freshwater_swimming 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)

Carnival in the Amazon: waterfalls and caves

Puerto Misahuallí, Cascada de Latas, Jumandy cave system, Tena and Baños


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The first excursion we went on today was to a waterfall trail in the forest a short taxi ride from Puerto Misahuallí. We'd packed up our stuff and left it at the Reception hut before we went, because we had to check out by 12pm, when we knew we'd be at the waterfalls.

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The trail followed a river, passing some smaller waterfalls before reaching the biggest one at the end. There were several swimming holes on the way but despite the humidity we saved ourselves for the one at the end in front of the big waterfall. It took at least 45 minutes to get there. Twice we had to wade through the river rather perilously but luckily nobody fell in! They were at sections where it was more like a stream than a river, but the water was still very fast-running. We'd borrowed wellies from our accommodation so we didn't get wet.

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Once we arrived at the big waterfall we got into the pool in front of it as quickly as possible. The water was lovely, cool and refreshing.

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I floated on my back for a while and the view of the overhanging vegetation and rocks reminded me of the overhanging cathedral wall and vegetation at the Grand Hotel pool in Guayaquil. After a while I swam through the waterfall and stood up behind it. The force of the water drumming on my head and shoulders was tremendous.

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To get out, we retraced our steps; on the way I saw a couple of giant black & electric blue butterflies but they evaded all my attempt to photograph them.

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When we left the waterfalls we caught a taxi truck; it already had passengers in the front and back seats so we climbed into the open air back section. It reminded me of the only other time I've sat out on the back of a truck, in Koh Tao in Thailand.

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Once the taxi truck had dropped us off in Misahuallí town centre we had to run the gauntlet of foam again. I walked tactically so avoided most of it, but others weren't so lucky. They didn't stop at foam either, as 'E' found out with the yellow paint that got thrown on her...

As soon as we arrived back we only had time to give back the wellies we'd borrowed and pick up our bags before we got another taxi truck to our next destination... the Jumandy cave system. This entrance to the site has turned into a local tourism hub with restaurants and an open air swimming pool using riverwater, so before we entered the caves themselves we had some late lunch at one of the restaurants. I had an old favourite, seco de pollo, and a blackberry milkshake. A man with a wooden leg stumped past our table while we were eating - only the second time I've seen a person with a wooden leg in real life, rather than metal or fibreglass (whatever is usually used in the UK).

The caves excursion was exciting. Our guide was an indigenous local doing a job that apparently generations of his family had done before him. He said that when the Spaniards first arrived centuries ago, the Jumandy people hid in these caves for five months to escape them. He spoke only Spanish but luckily the others translated for me.

There was a river running through a lot of the cave system so we had to wade a lot.

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Right near the beginning there was a section where we had to wade up to our middles. Just beyond that was a short section where a line had been strung across and the water was too deep to touch the bottom so we had to pull ourselves across using the line instead. The others had given their valuables to the guide to carry across in a bag, but my camera was too big to fit. I had however cunningly put it in a plastic bag in advance, to keep it dry, so all I needed to do was tie a knot in it and zip the whole thing in my handbag. I ended up hanging my handbag round my neck and then pulling myself up and along to raise the bag up as much as I could. Only one corner of the bag got wet and the plastic bag didn't get wet at all. That was a very adrenalin-filled and exciting 20 seconds! It was like an exercise at the gym but with most of my body submersed in water and with the knowledge that if my grip on the rope broke then my camera might get soaked.

We had been warned beforehand that we would get very wet on the cave trip, so in our group we were all wearing our bikinis underneath our clothes and I was wearing my board shorts instead of trousers.We'd kept all these on after swimming at the waterfalls earlier.

Later on in the tour we had to squeeze through some very narrow sections of tunnel; we also passed by some stalagmites and stalactites.

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Near the end we came across a waterfall with a small pool in front of it - the guide said the water in it is considered lucky - whether true or not, it certainly was refreshing! It was wonderful. It felt slightly surreal to be swimming around in my clothes underground.

Instead of retracing our steps, we exited the caves at a different location. After stepping out into open air we had to climb up a steep slope of rocks before following a path round through some countryside back to the complex. It was now raining. We returned the wellies we'd hired, picked up our bags and some of us got changed; I didn't change because the the facilties had wet floors and were really dark and didn't have anywhere to hang anything up. We were also in a rush. I just wrung out my top and shorts and hoped I'd dry out naturally on the bus back to Baños.

It was past 6pm by the time we left and our tickets from Tena had been booked for a particular time so we had no time to lose. We flagged down a taxi to take us to Tena as quickly as possible. We had bought tickets in advance for a particular time. We arrived at Tena bus terminal just in time thank goodness. On our way out of town we passed by a large dusty volleyball court in the town centre; a game was being played under floodlights. It seemed to be the focal point of local activity in the town.

We arrived at Baños quite late but as we walked from the bus terminal to our hostel we saw that Carnival foam celebrations were still in full swing... once we had checked in and rested a little some of the others went out for a drink and dance, but one or two of us were knackered so we just went to bed. The ceiling of our dorm was painted like a sunrise, a nice touch I thought. I did however have a bowl of chicken pasta at the hostel's bar before I went to bed.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls hostel carnival banos ecuador explorations tena ecuadorian_cuisine misahualli freshwater_swimming cave_system Comments (0)

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