Monday, 12 January 2009

Quito, Banos and Riobamba

We spent a few days in Quito visiting various places recommended to us (thanks Sal, love the Magic Bean Cafe!). We did plenty of walking around the older and newer parts of the city. However we did go against her advice to visit the Mitad Del Mundo museum that marks the Equator, although it´s about 200 metres off the real line!It was a pretty bad museum but has to be done for the photos! We also visited a better museum next door that is apparently on the actual equator and randomly bumped into some friends from our Galapagos trip (Ed, Lynne and Andrew!). Here we had some demonstrations of water running out of a bowl both clockwise and anti-clockwise depending which side of the equator the bowl was placed.Our friends kindly gave us a lift back into Quito and we stopped on the way back to go up in a cable car that climbs up to the top of a mountain giving amazing views of the city.They also very kindly took pity on us as we were having credit card issues and took us out for a meal in the evening (thank you so so much!).

We then left Quito and travelled down to Banos. The Foreign Office website actually advises against all travel to Banos due to the fact of very active volcano that sits next door to it, however this had the benefit of making accommodation pretty cheap! From here we hired a little buggy and had a hair raising drive down the Ruta de Cascadas (Road of Waterfalls, yes our spanish is coming along nicely....)) to visit the Pailon del Diablo, an impressive, massive waterfall!The journey was made slightly more hair raising when Jo attempted a 3 point turn in the end of a tunnel on a bend, after this she was relegated to passenger/navigator duties, but this didn´t make for any more of a safe journey as she made repeated efforts to grab the steering wheel and plenty of shouting about my flawless driving.....(Jo is daring me to make some comparison with her Mum here, but I´ll refrain...) We could actually climb (following an impromptu bit of caving!) up so we could stand behind the water as it came thundering past which was amazing.

We also decided to do our rafting wedding gift (thanks to Dan and Cecilia!) here on the Rio Pastaza as opposed to Tena as we probably won´t be visiting there. It was the first time that either of us had done it and it was excellent! The rapids were grade III-IV although this doesn´t mean a great deal to us, it was pretty hairy though! We managed to make it to the bottom intact anyway which is the main thing!

We also did a night trip up to try and see the volcano from the other side of the valley, however we didn´t see it for long as some thick clouds rolled in! We visited some thermal springs too where you can alternate between standing underneath a freezing waterfall and lounging in a 45 degree pool!

After a few more days relaxing (well as relaxed as you can be next to a volcano!) in Banos we left to do the Devil´s Nose train ride from Riobamba. Riobamba wasn´t particularly nice and we stayed in what we rated as the worst hostel yet, however there was a dancing parade that passed under our window so it wasn´t all bad.Unfortunately the train that makes the precarious journey clinging to cliff edges was broken so we had to get another bus further down the line to a place called Aloisi. From here we could take a funny little one carriage tourist train down the most scenic part of the route, made more fun by the fact that you can sit on the roof!

Next came decision time, either to continue south to Cuenca or to re-route to the coast. We´d decided that we´d done plenty of altitude city tours and more beach time was in order so the coast won. We´re now back in Montanita and are going to continue heading north up the coast. Then we fly into Colombia which wasn´t part of our original semi-plan but we keep hearing how excellent it is so we thought we better try it out.

Missing you all.

Lots of love,

Jo and Al x x

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