Archive | March, 2013

Ayampe

27 Mar

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We made it to Ayampe two days ago after a long day of travel from Banos and found ourselves an awesome hostel called Spondylus – a massive house / hostel owned by a German  guy and his Ecuadorian girlfriend about 100 meters from the beach. Yesterday the boys surfed and I “surfed” – we’ll be doing much the same today, tomorrow and the day after that and then heading down to Peru towards the end of the week. Other than that, not much to report (unless, of course, I actually managed to catch a wave and then you’ll hear about it).

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3,2,1 BUNGEE!

25 Mar

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We’ve just had yet another brilliant day. First thing this morning we rented some ATV buggies (or boogies, as the locals call them) and took off on “La Ruta de Las Cascadas” – The Waterfall Route. At 150cc, the little ATV’s didn’t go too fast, but made enough noise to make up for the lack of speed. We struggled up the hills and flew down the hills as fast as possibly while keeping one eye on the wobbling left wheel.

The first waterfall we came across had (yet another) zipline running from a viewpoint, across the top of the waterfall and over to the other side. We all decided to have a go, but as they strapped us in we realised that their version of safety harness was wrapping the rope around the piece of metal that sat on the line and then putting our feet through another rope at the back. No safety clip. Reassuring.

After safely making it to one side and back again, we took off on our little boogies / death traps to another waterfall, El Pailon De Diablo, about a 15 minute drive further up the road (well, about half an hours drive if the navigator doesn’t actually know where to stop… ahem). We hiked down the mountain for about 10 minutes or so and had an amazing view of the huge waterfall. I’m not sure if the fall was running a lot heavier because of all the recent rain, or if its always like that, but it was extremely impressive either way. We were able to walk / crawl right up and behind the fall with the thousands of liters of water rushing down a meter in front of us.

After making our way back into town (me driving, Nem giving “helpful pointers”) we skipped the guinea pig lunch in preference of some more Italian and then headed out to a bridge on the end of town to do some bungee jumping… as if we hadn’t risked our lives enough today already. Pete was first up and jumped on the count of one like a pro, having done a huge 135 meter jump in NZ before. Liam was next and jumped straight away as well, having sufficiently psyched himself up watching Pete. Both of them came walking back up the hill with big grins on their faces.

I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to jump thanks to a combination of 75% fear, 25% stomach bug – the last thing I wanted to do was literally sh*t myself. There was no chance I was going to get out of it once the boys had jumped and come back up with the adrenaline pumping. I harnesses up but wasn’t quite as confident as Nem and Pete – once I was up, over the fence and the dude had counted to three I took a look down and decided I would maybe take a moment and sit back down. After the very nice and patient dude assured me that jumping was “so safe”, I stood back up again and half jumped, half fell forward off the ledge.

Because of the way I fell I bent almost half over when I swung around – I didn’t feel it but apparently as soon as I swung back up I let out a blood-curdling  scream that scared Liam half to death because he thought I’d broken my back or something. I was actually just screaming because I was swinging around in the air however many meters above a raging river suspended by only a rope. It was amazing fun though and I’m glad I’m such a sucker to peer pressure.

Tomorrow we’re off on a 6am bus back down to the coast where we’ll spend another week or so before making our way into Peru. Only nine-ish weeks until I’m off to Bali so will be hot footing it through Peru and Bolivia. Time flies.

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Muchas aventuras

24 Mar

We’ve had a few days of awesome adventures here in Banos. After managing finally to pull our hungover-selves out of bed a few days back we headed out in the afternoon for some canyoning, which was fun, amazing and freaking FREEZING. We started out by driving about 15 or so minutes out of town and then hiking for half an hour up a mountain (not so much fun wearing full length wetsuits, jackets, harnesses and helmets).

After reaching our starting spot in the middle of the forest, we had a 5 minute safety introduction (lean back, don’t panic) and abseiled our way down our first waterfall, about 10 meters down in the middle of the falling water. We abseiled down about 5 or 6 waterfalls in an amazing setting, the tallest of which was about 20 meters. We were surrounded by rock walls covered in green moss with waterfalls pouring down everywhere. Our guide was amazing – fun, friendly, and great at his job. He followed us down after we’d each made it down safely and on one wall he literally ran face first down the rock face. He gave us the team name “Los Chuchaki’s” (The Hungovers) and would shout out LOS CHUCKAKI’S!!! after each waterfall. Such a fun afternoon.

Yesterday morning we went white water rafting. We headed about half an hours drive outside of Banos and set ourselves up next to a very brown, very fast-running river. After our safety instructions (don’t lose your $40 paddle) and waiting an hour for our other guide to show up (legend with very valid excuse), we jumped into our rafts and set off down the river. Within about 50 meters we saw something floating down the river right next to our raft… turns out it was a dead dog – apparently the rivers are really high at the moment and sweep away anything in their path. At one point as we went over a rapid the dog was at risk of getting thrown into the raft… if that had of happened I can guarantee that I would have thrown myself out of the raft. The river was running so fast that the rafting only lasted about 45 minutes and we managed to make it down with only two people falling overboard – not Pete, Nem or I, I’m proud to say.

Still filled with energy, after rafting we decided to head to another zip lining place just outside of town. This place, Puntzan, has 6 ziplines that go through the tree canopy, over rivers and past waterfalls. The shortest zipline is 150 meters and the longest is 550 meters and about 70 meters up in the air. If that wasn’t enough, they encourage you to do the ziplines upside down, superman style or butterfly (upside down and arms out) – you really put a lot of faith in the harnesses. The setting was absolutely beautiful- the sun had come out and you could see the mountains covered in cloud in the background on each zipline.

Today we’re off for another day of adventures- hiring little ATV buggies to head up the mountains and check out the waterfalls, eating guinea pig for lunch – a local delicacy – and then heading off to bungee jump 100 meters off a bridge (and hoping that we don’t see the guinea pig again in the process).

I don’t have any photos of any of our latest adventures as we don’t have a waterproof camera. So here’s some pictures of other people doing them – you’ll have to use your imagination. You can also see a video of the zip lining here.

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Born zippy

22 Mar

We made it to Banos from Quito after a very shite bus ride – someone sat behind us and managed to get into Nem’s bag and took his brand new camera and laptop. No good at all, especially considering he’s already had just about everything stolen already, bar his surfboards (touch wood). Despite that it was really nice to arrive in Banos, a very cute little town surrounded by beautiful green mountains, their tops covered in clouds and waterfalls running down them.

Yesterday we went zip lining at a place called San Martin, flying at over 100km an hour head first across a river and through a rock crevice. Actually not as scary as it sounds, except just before you come to the end when you’re flying at speed towards a rock face just before the safety catch saves you.

After the first zipline we walked across a very bouncy suspension bridge about 50 meters above a raging river and then climbed a “ladder” (steel poles sticking out of the rock) for about 20 meters vertically up the rock face. We finished up with another zipline back over the river to safety. Lots of fun.

This morning we were supposed to go bike riding but party rocked a bit too hard last night, so are skipping the bike riding and heading out this afternoon for Canyoning- absailing down waterfalls and jumping off rocks into freezing cold pools of water. Tomorrow we’re off to do some white water rafting and seeing if we can get ourselves psyched enough to bungee jump.

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Journey to the center of the earth-ish

19 Mar

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Yesterday we left the Galapagos and made it safe and sound to huge, rainy Quito. We’re staying in a nice enough part of town, close to quite a few bars and restaurants. We were keen for a few drinks after keeping out heads down in Galapagos, though there didn’t seem to be much happening on a rainy Monday night.

Today we made out way to the equator, about 40 minutes drive from the city. It turns out there are two equator lines in Ecuador – one about 250 meters from the other. The first one was in a theme park type “city” with a big monument where the equator is supposed to lie… not a lot to do there but take a photo and apparently its not the GPS equator but the line that some dude decided however many years ago was it.

We headed to the other museum that has the actual GPS 0 latitude equator line where we walked on the line, saw a shrunken head, attempted to balance an egg on a nail, watched water go down a drain –  nothing too exciting but filled a few hours in Quito where there’s nothing much else to do.

Tomorrow we head our of here early and down to Banos for some adventures where it’s hopefully going to be a little warmer and less rainy (though I don’t like our chances).

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San Cristobal cont…

17 Mar

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A few fairly chilled out days in San Cristobal the last two days thanks to intermittent heavy rain. Yesterday we rented some snorkels and headed out to a bay called Las Tijeretas, legging it out there at one point when the rain stopped and making our way back in a downfall. The snorkeling wasn’t all that exciting… a lot of American students and only one turtle and one sea lion swimming past – it’s amazing how quickly you get used to amazing sights.

Today we headed up to El Junco, a lake that’s formed in the crater of a volcano, and made it back into town just as the rain set in again. After a nice nap and few beers, the rain cleared up and we made it out to the beach for a few hours (along with the rest of the families on the island) before the sun started to set.

Tomorrow’s our last day here in the Galapagos before we fly out to Quito on Monday morning. We’ve had an amazing time here but are looking forward to getting back over to mainland Ecuador for a few days in the capital before we head to a town called Banos for a load of activities like white water rafting, bungee jumping, ziplining, rappelling down waterfalls and mountain bike riding.

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San Cristobal so far

15 Mar

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We arrived in San Cristobal a few days ago via two very smooth boat rides (thankfully for me). The first thing you notice here is that there are sea lions EVERYWHERE. On the pontoon where you get off the boat, on the pier, on the sidewalks, on the boardwalk that has probably never seen a human foot as the sea lions claimed it on completion. The smell is not all that pleasant as they bake in the sun and poop wherever they want… especially, it seems, where I tend to walk. Last night when we were eating dinner we saw a huge sea lion just taking an evening stroll down the sidewalk next to the restaurant.

The day after we arrived we headed out to a beach called La Loberia where there is supposed to be a “sea lion refuge”, but we actually only saw one lone lion – we assume that’s because they much prefer to hang out in town on the boardwalk and watch all of the humans go by. We did, however, have a snorkel and see loads of very cute sea turtles who stare at you as much as you stare at them. Liam got some surf in as well before the rain started coming down and we headed back for a lazy afternoon.

Yesterday I had yet another “best day ever”. Pete and I headed out to dive at Kicker Rock – a huge rock formation sticking out of the middle of the ocean not too far from the main port. The first dive was great – lots of fish, white tip sharks, octopus, turtles, and apparently some hammerheads went by but I was looking elsewhere (as I tend to do). It was one of the toughest dives I’ve done yet as the water was absolutely freezing in parts and the current was super strong. At some points you would be kicking your hardest but still going backwards and then the current would change and you would fly forwards at pace. Some times the swell would be so strong that I’d get knocked sideways or backwards into a nice sharp rocks.

The setting where we dove against the rock was  amazing. All you can see is the rock on your left going up as far as you can see and down and down until the ocean swallows it into black. On your right there were just thousands of fish and the odd school of sharks or turtle swimming by and then nothing but bright blue ocean. At our deepest you couldn’t see the surface of the water, so you would look up and only see bright blue and then the shadow of a shark swimming across the top of you that looked like it was in the sky surrounded by thousands of fish.

After lunch we did our second dive which has been the coolest dive I’ve done to date. We still didn’t see any hammerheads, but we had a sea lion come and befriend us at the start of the dive and hang around for about 15 minutes, leaving us every couple of minutes to go and grab some air. It was the most playful sea lion I’ve seen yet, probably because he was in his own domain, playing with our air bubbles, doing backflips just above our heads, swimming along side us to take a look. He seemed to really like Pete, who actually manage to stroke his belly as he swam past.

We also had a really funny moment where we were coming around a corner just as a turtle was coming the other way. It saw us coming and it was like you could actually see us register on the turtles face. It was like “Oh shit, they’ve seen me!!!” and it turned around and swam off into the blue as quickly as possible like a little kid that has just been scared. There was 3 or so turtles as we came around the corner, one which was definitely not as scared as the last who came to within a foot of Pete to check him out. I swear they are just as inquisitive as us. All in all a very cool dive.

 

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