I would like to start off this blog post with an apology for not posting it yesterday. I wasn’t done with all my adventures until around 9:00 PM and afterwards I was exhausted, and you’re about to find out why if you keep reading:
Seeing as how my luck is always so good, I woke up this morning with the early symptoms of a cold. The group I’ve been hanging out with in the hostel was going to go on a guided abseiling tour down some waterfalls near Baños as well as going on a guided ATV tour through the mountains in the area. Our group from the hostel is very diverse; in the group there are four Australians (Michelle, Nick, Mark, and Paul), two Germans (Ben and Lorenz), and me, the lonely American.
Due to my early cold symptoms I almost decided to sit this adventure out and told them to go ahead without me. Thankfully the fear of possibly missing out on something incredible made me go. And I was right. I would have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
We walked as a group to the tourism place where our guides would train us as to how to abseil properly down a canyon/waterfall without killing ourselves. We all put on wetsuits and shoes for abseiling; unfortunately, having size 15 feet in Ecuador means you will not be able to find shoes so I would have to use my own. After we got into our gear, we went to an artificial cliff wall where we would practice. The climb up the wall was dangerous enough as we had to climb up a makeshift metal ladder to get to the top before abseiling down to the bottom.
(Pictured Below: Me practicing my abseiling technique)
After we all got a bit of practice in, we hopped into the back of a truck and headed to the bottom of the mountain we would hike up to begin our excursion down the mountain. The hike up the mountain itself was difficult as it was an upward climb for about 20 minutes.
Once we finally reached our starting point it was time to go down the first waterfall (there would be five total). It wasn’t too bad but it was definitely harder for me considering I didn’t have the proper shoes so it was hard to get a grip on the slick canyon wall, especially with a ton of water falling down on me every second.
(Pictured Below: Me abseiling down the first waterfall)
After abseiling three more waterfalls we made it to the last one, which was really more like a water slide which the guides said was nicknamed “El Rompe Culo” which in English mean, “The Ass-Breaker.” They were right. I landed ass-first on some rocks when I reached the bottom and it really hurt.
(Pictured Below: Me after making it down “El Rompe Culo”)
(Pictured Below from left to right: Mark, Nick, Paul, Ben, myself, Lorenz, and Michelle after we all made it down the final waterfall)
After we made it to the bottom we were taken back into town where we would change and get some lunch before continuing on the ATV portion of our adventure. The majority of the group went to go get lunch at a vegetarian place because some of them are “cleansing” themselves in preparation to take “Ayahuasca.”
Ayahuasca is a type of brew which contains an extremely powerful hallucinogen called “Dimethyltryptamine” or more commonly known as DMT. Before taking Ayahuasca you are supposed to go without meat, sugar, sex, and a couple of other things about a week before hand for a better experience supposedly.
Paul and I however went on a quest to search for Mexican food but sadly the only restaurant we knew in town that had Mexican food was closed so instead we went to another restaurant next door that served more typical Ecuadorian food.
After lunch we all met back up at the tour guide place where we mounted our ATVs. Most of us were given manual-transmission ATVs but I was given one with an automatic-transmission which I think was for the best as most of everyone else was having trouble using the transmission on their ATVs.
(Pictured from front to back: Myself, Mark, Michelle, Ben, Paul, Nick, and Lorenz, on our ATVs ready to leave Baños)
The whole manual-transmission thing made it really hard leaving town and some of us got split off from the rest of the group as some people fell behind as they tried to get a handle on operating the clutch and shifting gears properly.
I got lost for a bit but finally made it up the mountain and met with the rest of the group where we had an amazing view of the Tungurahua volcano.
(Pictured Below from left to right: Nick, Ben, Michelle, Mark, Lorenz, Paul, and myself looking at the Tungurahua volcano from the top of a mountain)
We traveled through the mountains for about three and a half hours but it felt so much longer than that (which is a good thing). The trip was amazing. Our guide was awesome and knew exactly where to take us to see some incredible sights as well as have a lot of fun riding in our ATVs.
(Pictured Below: Me out in front of the rest of the group on my ATV)
The view from the top was unbelievable. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera out of fear of it falling out of my pockets as well as being told that the tour guide would be taking them from his truck along the way, and while they did do that, they didn’t take as many as I would of hoped for but there were a few gems in those pictures including a beautiful picture of the Tungurahua volcano peeking through the clouds.
After about three and a half hours of traveling through the mountains we made it back to Baños at around 7:00 PM. After making it back to the hostel and after taking a long shower I collapsed on my bed exhausted and fell asleep which is why I didn’t post this yesterday.
When I woke up this morning, my cold was even worse than it was yesterday. I am planning on going back to Guayaquil today at 1:00 PM but I’m thinking about staying another night in the hopes of feeling better tomorrow. I also don’t really wanna travel by bus for nearly six hours while sick.
I’ll hopefully post by the end of tonight depending on if I get back to Guayaquil tonight at a reasonable time or if I just stay here in Baños until tomorrow.
I’ll keep you updated.
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Panoramic picture of the city of Baños as seen from the mountain I went on top of on my ATV today.
Before starting on what I did today, I’ll give you all a small recap of what happened last night after my last blog post was published:
All of the people at the hostel went to a bar in town called “Leprechaun.” I drank a little too much but it was a good time with everyone there before. After the bar closed at around 2:00AM a group of eight of us walked to a small pizza place near the bar where we ordered a family size pizza and coke for $10. I didn’t get to bed until about 3:30 AM so I was exhausted when I woke up at 8:30 in the morning today.
After I woke up, I once again went to go get breakfast however today, much to my surprise, they had eggs! After eating breakfast I headed out with Michelle, Paul, and a couple of new guys that came to stay at the hostel yesterday. The group was planning on going to hike up the mountain. I had other plans however.
I had been wanting to rent an ATV for the longest time to take up the mountain so while the group headed toward the mountain, I headed to a place that rents ATVs and got this red, automatic ATV at 3 hours for $40.
(Pictured Below: The ATV I rented in Baños)
Once I got out of Baños on my ATV, I took a road up the mountain right next to Baños. Half way up the mountain there was a little panoramic watching station that overlooks the entire town of Baños.
(Pictured Below: Panoramic picture of the town of Baños as seen from a nearby mountain)
I went up as high as I could on the mountain before the terrain became too poor to drive over due to overnight rain. As I was coming back down the mountain, I ran into the group I had originally set out with in the morning. Right as I ran into them, a gentleman who lived in the area on the mountain was on the road. When we asked him if there was little cafe or anything in the area, he invited us into his home for some freshly made tea.
(Pictured Below: A gentleman pouring us tea after inviting us into his house on the mountain)
Some of us mentioned how weird (for lack of a better word) it was that we randomly entered a man’s home just because he offered tea and joked how this is how movies like “Hostel” and “The Human Centipede” start. In the end the man was just a kind, hospitable old man who brought us into his home and gave us tea and plantain chips. It was a lovely experience.
We left the man’s house and I once again split off from the group as I headed down the mountain on my ATV. I drove back into town to return my ATV and walked back to the hostel. On the walk back I did a little sight seeing through the small town and took a few pictures.
(Pictured Below: The Basilica in Baños as I walked through town)
Once I finally made it back to the hostel I took a nice long shower to get rid of all the mud I had gotten on my legs and arms during my trek up the mountain. After showering I took about a 3 hour nap. Once I had woken up I went to the common area with some of the people I’ve been hanging out with. We had pizza for dinner and we hooked up my laptop to the TV and streamed “Dredd" from my external hard drive.
Tomorrow we are going canyoning and ATVing but as a group this time so I may be able to enjoy it more.
Tomorrow will probably be my last full day in Baños. After that I may go to Cuenca or I may head back to Guayaquil.
Let’s see where the wind takes me.
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Today was an incredible day in Baños. The day started when I woke up at 8:30 to have breakfast with the other young people from the hostel. Breakfast was on the house (as I mentioned yesterday) and was a simple continental breakfast with oatmeal, fresh baked bread, and homemade jam.
After breakfast the Backpackers crew headed into town to rent bikes to go sightseeing. Renting bikes cost us $7 per bike for the entire day.
(Pictured Below: The Backpackers crew with all of our bikes)
We headed down the main highway towards Rio Verde through the mountains where there are a bunch of waterfalls. On the way we saw a zip-line that would take you over a valley and a waterfall and I thought, “Hey, I’ve never been zip-lining, why not make my first time awesome?” So I decided to go for it.
(Pictured Below: Me giving the big “thumbs up” showing that I’m ready to go)
(Pictured Below: Superman pose ready to launch)
(Pictured Below: Spreading my wings)
After one of the most amazing experiences of my life, we continued trekking down the main highway towards Rio Verde and we stopped to hike down a valley to go to a waterfall. The hike down wasn’t too hard and we had to cross a hanging bridge over a raging river.
(Pictued Below: The Backpackers crew at the bottom of a valley in front of a waterfall)
Hiking further along the trail down the valley, we got to the river where we all sat and relaxed for a little while before beginning the hike back up the mountain. Ben, the other American in the group, tried his hand at fishing in the river but the current was too strong and the water was too rapid for there to really be any fish. Also he didn’t have any bait.
(Pictured Below: Me standing on a rock by the river
After going back up the mountain, we headed down towards Rio Verde once more. Our final destination was Machay, a small town a little bit past Rio Verde. The bike ride was becoming more and more grueling as we rode through the mountains and the uphill portions were becoming more and more exhausting.
We finally made it to Machay where we began another hike down a very steep valley. At the bottom there was a huge waterfall that you could go swim near, which is exactly what most of the people in the group did. I didn’t take a bathing suit so I chose not to. I regret not going in with just my shorts.
(Pictured Below: The rest of the Backpackers group swimming beneath the waterfall)
After everyone hoped out of the river, we went back up the valley. This was extremely exhausting as we were already all really tired and the climb back up was really steep and really long. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. When we finally made it to the top we were all way too tired to ride back to Baños so we flagged down a truck who was willing to take us all back to Baños.
(Pictured Below from left to right: Sam, Annabel, and Ben in the back of the truck taking us back to Baños)
We got back to Baños and were all starving since none of us had eaten since breakfast seven hours earlier, so we went to a small market where we could eat a late lunch for $2.50 a person. I still can’t get over how cheap everything is here. I had llapingachos (a fried potato cake with cheese in the middle) with chorizo and a fried egg).
(Pictured Below: My late lunch)
After all our sightseeing had completed we had biked for about 20 kilometers (roughly 12 miles), hiked up and down mountains for about 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles), and I went zip-lining for the first time in my life.
Today was amazing. Tomorrow I’m planning on renting an ATV and going up the mountains, although my plans may change because the group that was already here at the hostel (myself included) were invited to tag along with their activities.
Stay tuned tomorrow as I let you know what I end up doing.
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I woke up this morning at 6:00 AM to get to the Quitumbe bus station in southern Quito to catch a bus to Baños. I left my uncle’s apartment at about 7:30 and finally made it to Quitumbe at around 9:20. Yeah. Traffic is that bad and Quitumbe is that far from my uncle’s house.
(Pictured Below: Quitumbe bus station in Quito)
I went into the station to look for a bus to Baños and found one that departed at 9:50 AM. I bought my ticket for $3.50 and some snacks and headed to the bus. I still can’t get over how cheap bus travel is here. As a general rule of thumb, a bus ticket costs you about $1 per hour of travel as my 10 hour trip from Guayaquil to Quito cost $10 and the 3.5 hour trip to Quito to Baños cost $3.50.
(Pictured Below: My bus to Baños)
The bus I took to to Baños wasn’t nearly as nice as the one that took me from Guayaquil to Quito. It didn’t have a bathroom, the seats weren’t as comfortable and it just felt much more cramped overall.
The mountains and valleys on the route from Quito to Baños offered an incredible view. Combined with the music from my iPod the trip seemed to be passing really quickly.
(Pictured Below: Some of the scenery that could be seen from my seat on the bus)
(Pictured Below: Me rocking out to “Toxicity” by System of a Down)
When we made it to Ambato (a small town about an hour from Baños) the bus started to suffer some mechanical difficulties but thankfully we were close to another bus operated by the same company and transferred the passengers from my bus onto that one.
Thankfully this little hiccup only delayed us by about 30 minutes. We made it to Baños at around 2:00 PM where I caught a taxi to my hostel called, “Great Hostels Backpackers Los Pinos” (long name, I know). The reception was inside the common area and I was immediately impressed.
(Pictured Below: The common room at “Los Pinos”)
The manager showed me around the the hostel and then gave me some information about tourist locations around town. Afterwards, the manager took me to my room. I rented myself a private room with a full-sized bed. I am completely amazed by this place; there is wi-fi around the whole compound, each room comes with a private bathroom, and breakfast is complimentary 7-days a week on top of complimentary dinner Monday - Wednesday.
(Pictured Below: My room at “Los Pinos”)
After resting in my room for a little while, I went back to the common room. While the common room was empty when I first arrived, the common room finally had some people in it and more people slowly began trickling in. As of writing this blog post there are a few Australians, a couple of Brits, an Irish guy, and a few Americans and Canadians and everyone here is about the same age (early to mid-twenties).
At 6:00 PM, almost everyone at the hostel (myself included) went to “Termas La Virgen” (Virgin Mary Thermal Springs).
(Pictured Below: The group walking to the springs from the hostel)
We got to the springs and bathed for about an hour. The water was so incredibly hot.
(Pictured Below: A waterfall that can be seen from the thermal springs)
After a while it made me pretty light headed and we all headed back to the hostel since dinner was being served at 8:00 and we all wanted to shower before eating. We were all served spaghetti bolognese for dinner in the common room and it was really good.
After dinner we all stayed in the common room where I’m currently writing this from. Some of us played cards while others played pool and now we are all watching The Dark Knight Rises.
it was a pretty good day in Baños considering I didn’t get here until 2:00 PM. Tomorrow another one of the Americans (Ben) and I are going to rent ATVs and go up the mountains and down the valleys. ATV rentals are only about $10 an hour and you can usually haggle that down if you are going to rent it for a long time.
Let’s hope tomorrow is a good day!
Today was the day of the big FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Argentina and Ecuador here in Quito.
This game is huge. Ecuador’s national team is in contention to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and this winning this game would really help the team’s chances of qualifying. Due to the nature of this game, the tickets which had gone on sale back in December and sold out almost immediately.
One of my reasons on coming to Quito first on my trip around Ecuador was that my uncle told me that I would be able to find tickets as there are always scalpers who sell tickets before home games.
So today, the day of the big game, Gabriel and I woke up at 7:00 AM to get to the stadium by 8:30 where we were going to meet with Debbie who also wanted to buy tickets for herself, Elena, and Deanna.
(Pictured Below: Me wearing my Ecuador Soccer jersey and my Ecuadorian Soccer team jester hat)
The traffic on the way to the stadium was absolutely hell. We left my uncle’s house at about 7:30 AM and didn’t get to the stadium about 8:45. A trip that usually takes 30 minutes took 75.
Once we got there we found out that due to extreme price gouging by the scalpers (general seating tickets that have a face value of $18 were being sold for $100 per ticket), the police were banning ticket scalping and they were arresting the ones who were over-charging. Gabriel and I searched for HOURS to see if we could find any for all of us but there were none.
Disheartened, we tried to find a place where we could all watch the game. We first took a taxi and went to a place called “Sports Planet.” Sports Planet is a chain of sports bars/restaurants in Ecuador. If you’ve ever been to a Buffalo Wild Wings in the United States, it’s pretty much the same thing. When we got to Sports Planet we were told that the place was all reserved a week in advance.
Thinking quickly we took a cab back towards the Quicentro mall which is across from the stadium where there is a TGI Fridays. We got to Fridays at about 1 PM and there was plenty of room. We were lucky to get there at that time because shortly thereafter people got the same idea and the place filled up really quickly.
(Pictured Below: Me sitting at TGI Fridays waiting for the game to start)
Elena and Deanna met us at the TGI Fridays at around 3:00 PM, just in time for the 4:00 PM kickoff. At the Fridays we were also joined by Gabriel’s friend and girlfriend.
While we were really disappointed we weren’t able to get to go into the actual stadium, we tried to look on the bright side and used the money we would have otherwise spent on the tickets on a lot of food and a lot of beer.
(Pictured Below from left to right: Gabriel’s friend, Deanna, Elena, Nicole (Gabriel’s girlfriend), Gabriel, and myself at the TGI Fridays in the Quicentro shopping mall)
The game was so much fun to watch. Argentina got a quick goal off of a penalty five minutes into the first half. Everyone of us watching was terrified due to the fact that last time Ecuador played Argentina back in June 2012, Argentina destroyed Ecuador 4-0.
Thankfully this penalty only proved to be a momentary lapse in play from the Ecuadorian side as the team went full steam ahead the rest of the game. Ecuador scored a goal in the 15th minute of the first half tying the game up at 1-1. The rest of the game was dominated by Ecuador but mental errors kept the team from scoring anymore and the game ended as a 1-1 draw.
(Pictured Below: Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito after the game)
After the game we made sure Elena and Deanna got into a cab so they could get back to their hotel. We briefly said goodbye thinking we would go back out to party later that evening. Unfortunately we decided that it wasn’t safe to go out tonight after a game as the crime rate usually goes up. Sadly this meant that this was the last time we would see Elena and Deanna and we didn’t even get to say goodbye properly. They are leaving for Cuenca tomorrow where I may end up in a week or two so maybe we’ll run in to each other again.
After making sure Elena and Deanna got a cab, Gabriel and I went to a pizza place my uncle always goes to after home games where I had a very good personal pizza with ham and chicken. Here in Ecuador, pizza is eaten with a fork and a knife which I had not remembered so it was awkward when I started eating with my hands.
(Pictured Below: My personal pizza)
After pizza, we went home where I am now resting after a very long day, typing this blog post, packing, and getting ready for my trip to Baños tomorrow morning.
This trip to Quito has been nothing short of magnificent. I saw amazing things that I have either never seen before or haven’t seen in nearly a decade, I made new friends, and made some wonderful memories. I hope I do more of all of this in Baños.
This is going to be a long post because I did a lot.
At 9:00 AM my cousin Gabriel and I left my uncle’s house to head to the downtown are of Quito where we would board one of those double-decker tour buses that you can hop on and off throughout the city:
Before boarding the bus my cousin and I met a small group of Americans from Chicago: Elena, Deanna, and Elena’s mom Debbie. They were all really cool people and we decided to stick together as we toured around the city and my cousin who lives in Quito would be our unofficial tour guide.
The first place we all stopped it was at the “Basilica del Voto Nacional.” This place was massive and an incredible place to visit.
(Pictured Below from left to right: My cousin Gabriel, Elena, Deanna, and myself)
Once inside, we were able to climb up the towers of the basilica. This climb was exhausting and terrifying.
After you go up several flights of stairs, you get to this very unsafe looking bridge that you have to cross:
As you can tell by the look on my face, I was not looking forward to crossing that bridge:
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the rest of the way up consisted of numerous, narrow and very steep stairs that were really more like ladders than anything.
(Pictured Below: Me climbing one of these ladders)
The steepness of the ladders combined with the thin atmosphere in Quito due to it’s elevation (10,000 feet above sea level), made the climb up the tower exhausting, but in the end when we made it to the top it was well worth it. The view was breathtaking.
(Pictured Below: The view from one of the towers in the basilica)
(Pictured Below from left to right: Myself, Gabriel, Elena, and Deanna after conquering the climb up one of the towers in the basilica)
After the we came down from the first tower, we decided to journey up the clock tower of the basilica. The trek up this tower was much easier since the entirety of the way up consisted of normal stair cases as well as spiral staircases, however the steps on the spiral staircases were extremely narrow which became a problem on the way down with someone who wears size 15 shoes like I do.
We left the basilica at around 12:30 and we were all starving as none of us had eaten breakfast that morning so we found a nice little steak house whose name escapes me at the moment at “La Plaza de Independencia” (Independence Plaza) where I had an amazing filet mignon for $14.
(Pictured Below from left to right: Elena, Deanna, Debbie, Gabriel, and myself eating lunch)
After we finished lunch we walked around Independence Plaza and went to another church known as La Iglesia de la Compañia. Compañia is a Jesuit church that is the pinnacle of Catholic extravagance with gold-leaf lining the walls and massive statues and a huge dome. Unfortunately taking photos or video was prohibited so I couldn’t take any pictures inside, however I was able to take this picture in front of it:
After we left Compañia, we hopped back on the bus and headed to a place called El Panecillo. El Panecillo is a large hill of volcanic origin about 200 meters tall. You can see the entire city in full panoramic view from up there. There is also a large statue of Madonna at the top of it. The statue is hollow and made entirely out of aluminum. It’s like a religious Statue of Liberty. I was able to get some incredible pictures from up there:
(Pictured Below: 45-meter tall statue of La Madonna)
(Pictured Below: Panoramic shot of the city of Quito from El Panecillo)
(Pictured Below from left to right: Elena, Gabriel, Deanna, and myself with the city of Quito behind us)
After El Panecillo we got back on the tour bus and headed home. When we got off back at the main stop we went into the mall with the girls to buy Deanna a new SD card for her camera. At the mall we agreed to all go to the soccer match tomorrow which will be awesome!
We did have some bad news today. Ticket scalpers weren’t being allowed to sell tickets today because they were trying to gouge the prices way too high so the police made them disperse so we haven’t gotten tickets to the game yet, so my cousin Gabriel and I will be meeting the girls at the stadium at 8:00 AM to try again…I’m going to be sooooo heart broken if we can’t get tickets but I’m sure we’ll find some.We will be meeting them in front of the stadium at 8:00 AM tomorrow to scalp tickets for all five of us.
After the game we will be going to La Plaza Foch which is a very popular area with bars and night clubs.
At the end of the day once we got home, we made homemade pizza which was phenomenal.
If we manage to get tickets tomorrow (which I think we should be able to do), then tomorrow is going to be an amazing day. I can’t wait to be surrounded by thousands of die-hard soccer fans. South Americans go hard when it comes to soccer (or futbol).
Wish me luck on getting the tickets, y’all!
I’ll make sure to let y’all know how it goes.