Monthly Archives: August 2016

More Canyoning – Baños, Ecuador

I visited Baños when I was in Ecuador ~13 years ago and it was quite a sleepy little place where the main attraction was the Pailon del Diablo waterfall.

Whoa – culture shock when I stepped off the bus this time!   It has grown enormously and every shop is offering either food (of course), adventure tourism options or massages.   Given that it has become the adventure capital of Ecuador, I was certainly anticipating some changes – but not to the level that I encountered – it is staggeringly different to how I remember it!

I didn’t really have any plans for Baños, so looking at the offerings I decided that although I had a great time Canyoning in Mindo, it was way too short and I’d just gotten into the groove of it when it was all over.   So I decided to go again 🙂   I wanted to do the more intense canyoning trip offered by Imagine Ecuador (there are 2 types, most people choose to do the shorter one), but needed at least one other person to join as well.  Fortunately, 2 Swedish guys signed up later the same afternoon and we were on!

It is a 40 minute drive from Baños to Casahurco where we met up with the Swedes who had been rafting earlier that morning.   The guide was curious as to where I learned my spanish, and out of interest, I now always turn this question back on the person asking to see where they think I learned my spanish.   The last two times I’ve done this, they have both said “Ecuador” (the time before that – Chile).  My accent can’t be too bad then 🙂  Though I suspect it is more of an “international latin american accent” that is difficult to put a finger on,  similar to what my accent is now in English.

After lunch (still loving fried fish – mostly trout here in Ecuador), we changed into full-length wetsuits (mine was about 3 sizes too big for me), shoes, harnesses and helmets and headed out for some instruction and practice on level ground.

Canyoning Baños Ecuador

That done, it was off to tackle the canyon!    The reason I wanted to do this trip rather than the regular canyoning trip was that in addition to rappelling, you got to do other things as well like jumping and ziplining.  First up was basically a “trust fall” off a small waterfall.

Canyoning Baños Ecuador

This was quickly followed by a ~3m jump

 

Which was followed by a ~10m jump off a waterfall.    Given that I’d found jumping off a 5m edge into the Somoto Canyon in Nicaragua scary – this was positively terrifying, and I have to admit it took me some serious psyching up before I eventually did it.

But, I did do it 🙂  It was the sticky-out bit of rock just under where you jumped from that was really freaking me out!

 

Surprisingly, unlike the massive adrenaline rush I got in Nicaragua once I’d passed the point of no return, when I finally left the ledge here – I was reasonably calm … perhaps my brain had simply shut down and refused to acknowledge the craziness of what I’d just done 😉

There was lots of wading and boulder scrambling down the river as we moved from one waterfall to the next.

Canyoning Baños Ecuador

And even a short zipline off a waterfall, which was pretty cool!

From there it was more rappelling, a few small jumps, and boulder scrambling to the end.

Canyoning Baños Ecuador

All up, we were in the canyon for about 2 hours, and despite being absolutely freezing cold (it was a chilly day to begin with and being soaking wet wasn’t helping), it was an awesome time 🙂

 

Recommendation:  If you want to have a more rounded canyoning experience (and aren’t petrified of jumping off ~10m waterfalls) I’d go with this trip rather than the regular one.

Cost:  $65 per person ($50 per person for 4 or more).  Includes transport, lunch, all equipment, guides, photos/videos of the experience  (I didn’t take any of the photos/videos used here – thanks to Imagine Ecuador for providing!)

Time:  About 4-5 hours (2-3 hours in the canyon)

 

 

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The Devil’s Nose Train

After hiking the Ecuadorian Inca Trail, I got the guides to drop me off in Alausí on the way back to Riobamba so I could take the most famous train in Ecuador – La Nariz del Diablo or “Devil’s Nose”.    When they were constructing the railway from Quito (capital city) to Guayaquil (most important city) over a century ago, it was easy to do on the highland plateau and easy to do on the coastal plain, but how to connect the two?

In the end they decided to tackle what was known to locals as “the Condor’s Aerie” between Alausí and Sibambe – later renamed “The Devil’s Nose” due to the sheer difficulty of the task and the number of deaths that occurred in its construction.   Here, the train drops 500m in only 12km, enabled by a series of switchbacks that go down the mountain.

The carriages of the train are really nice and quaint and each car has its own guide who explains the history of this section of railway and what you can see out the windows on the journey down the mountain to Sibambe.

Devil's Nose Train - Ecuador

There are actually only 3 switchbacks on this journey of 30 minutes, so I was surprised about the hype around this trip.   My vague memories of catching the local train out of Cusco 15 years ago is that we were switchbacking forever climbing the mountain out of the city…

Devil's Nose Train - Ecuador

Switchback views

But anyway, once at the bottom, you stop for 10 minutes (more like 20 minutes) at a triangular junction for the best view of the Devil’s Nose that you’ve just descended, including the switchbacks.

Devil's Nose Train - Ecuador

The Devil’s Nose is the shadowed mountain in the background. You can just make out where the railway goes.

There is a man with a pony here (which most of the locals seem to want to get on to get a photo), the train attendants sit picturesquely in front of the train for photos, and there were a few supermodel shoots happening with the train as a backdrop as well.   Then it was onto Sibambe station where we stopped for another hour to visit the museum (tour in Spanish) and watch local dancing.

 

We ended up at Sibambe station for about 1.5 hours because there was something wrong with the engine, but once that was fixed it was a much faster (20 minutes) ride back up to Alausí station along the same route.

Devil's Nose Train - Ecuador

 

Recommendation:  To be honest, I’m not convinced it is worth the cost to do it, but perhaps that’s because I’ve done the aforementioned switchbacks out of Cusco…    If you do decide to do it, make sure you get a window seat on the right hand side of the train as it leaves Alausí.  I’d probably also take the 11am train rather than the 8am train for photography purposes, though there is the danger that clouds will roll in and obscure the views…

Cost:  $30

Time: 2 hours

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Hiking the Ecuadorian Inca Trail

I wanted to get some hiking in while I was in Ecuador and my first idea was to hike El Altar to see the 5 lagoons.   However, one of the biggest problems with travelling alone is that most excursions only happen with a minimum of 2 (or 4) people, and unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to do that trek with me.

So then I stumbled across the website of Julio Verne Travel who had a guaranteed departure listed for Ecuador’s Inca Trail, right at the time I was looking to do the hike.  So I signed up for that one instead 🙂

The hike is about 45km long and follows the remnants of the Inca royal road that linked Cusco in Peru to Quito in Ecuador.   It’s an interesting fact that it took the Incas several years to conquer Ecuador – such was the resistance of the Cañari people.   And when they did finally succeed, they were only in Ecuador for about 30 years before the Spanish rocked up and stole the show – so there is not the abundance of Inca sites that you find in Peru.

Ecuador Inca Trail

There ended up being 8 of us on the hike (Belgian family of 3, Belgian couple, solo French girl, solo German girl, me) + 2 guides + the support crew of 4 guys and 6 donkeys who carted all the tents and stuff for camping!

First up was the ~3 hour drive from Riobamba to Achupallas – the starting point for the trail.  We actually had to take the long way round due to a recent landslide that had blocked the regular route to the town.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

Massive landslide blocking the most direct route to Achupallas

Had a quick lunch of a felafel roll (very tasty!) sitting in a field with an indigenous family while waiting for the donkeys to be loaded, and then we headed off along the Inca road.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

This section right at the beginning was the only part that retained any trace of the walls that used to line the road.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

The first 1/2 day of hiking took us from Achupallas (3300m) up a long valley of paramo grasslands with spectacular views and the remnants of a couple of Inca buildings.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

Inca ruins in the photos in the second from bottom panel

We came across a few locals along the way, but mostly it was just a beautiful, and surprisingly easy (Pichincha was a million times more difficult – really!) walk in a remote region of Ecuador where you could become lost in your thoughts.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

The donkeys carrying all our camping gear overtook us about 1/3 of the way along the walk and the guys had started to set up camp before we arrived.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

Second from bottom panel – what a beautiful place for a campsite! You can just make out the tents around middle of the image in the bottom third.

This included a dining tent – lit by a couple of candles “glued” to the top of a water bottle, and a cooking tent (the only warm place apart from inside your sleeping bag).  Camping at ~4000m is bloody freezing, but the cold does make the food taste very, very good!

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

Left: cooking tent – yes my camera was fogging up! Right: dining tent with our makeshift candle holder.

Day 2 saw us rise relatively early and again keep heading up hill to the highest part of the walk – Cuchilla de Tres Cruces – passing the Laguna de Tres Cruces along the way.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail - Laguna Tres Cruces

At the Cuchilla de Tres Cruces there was a large pile of rocks that reminded me of an ovoo in Mongolia but without the prayer flags and without the requirement to walk around it 3 times.  Raul (one of our guides) said a little prayer to the ancient people to protect us on our journey and grant each of us a wish, at which point we all added a rock to the pile along with our wish.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

From there it was hiking down over some very, very boggy ground in the valley of Quebrada Espíndola (they gave us gumboots to hike in during the second day), though every now and then the actual Inca trail would appear out of the bog to provide a little firmer footing.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

Inca trail making a reappearance in the bottom panels

By lunchtime, we had reached the next valley, which was again truly beautiful.

incatrail 8

The route then took us along this valley past Lago Culebrillas to another Inca ruin – Paradones (3,980m) – a resting place for Inca couriers.

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

Paradones in all its glorious surroundings in the bottom panel

We followed the lead of the Incas and stopped for a while here before heading further along the Inca road that was much more visible now than it had been to this point.  Here it was at its full width of ~7m.  We passed yet another lake – San Jose -before arriving at our second campsite at 3800m – smack bang in the middle of a swamp.  Hmmmmm….

Ecuadorian Inca Trail

Top and Middle panels: various views of the Inca Trail

Day 3: After another cold and very, very wet night we headed off for the last leg of our hike down to Ingapirca (“Inca Walls”) – the most important of the Ecuadorian Inca (and Cañari) ruins.   It didn’t take us long after leaving camp to enter back into civilization and the majority of this part of the hike was through farmland.   I definitely missed the remote beauty of the previous day and a half, and ended up walking this part in a total daydream about something completely different.

Arrived at Ingapirca after only a few hours, had some lunch, and then entered the ruins to discover more about the history of the Incas in this region and their relationship with the Cañaris who were here before them.   Basically, when the Incas conquered the Cañaris, they didn’t destroy their culture, but rather subsumed it as part of their own.   For example, they left many Cañari tombs and buildings intact while they went on to build their own structures on the same site.

Ingapirca - Ecuador

Top: Cañari tomb; Middle: mixture of Cañari and Inca construction, Bottom: Inca road with aqueduct leading to the Sun Temple

The most impressive of which is the Sun Temple, built in the classic mortarless, fitted-stones method of the Inca empire with trapezoidal niches.   It is believed that this was used for religious and/or ceremonial purposes.

Ingapirca - Sun Temple - Ecuador

 

Recommendation:  This is a really lovely hike through some remote parts of the Sangay National Park, and not difficult if you have done some hiking before and are acclimatized.   The most difficult part is dealing with the cold at night – so take plenty of layers!

Cost:  $330 per person ($360 if between 2 and 4 people) through Julio Verne Travel, which included everything.

Time: 3 days

 

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Quito’s Teleférico and Volcán Pichincha

One of the things I had been ummming and ahhhing about doing since arriving in Quito was going up the teleférico and climbing Volcán Pichincha.    What finally decided me was a) signing up to do the 3-day Ecuadorian Inca Trail hike (I figured some hiking preparation wouldn’t hurt) and b) an invitation from Charlotte.

So off we headed at 9:30am to join the queue at the teleférico.  This is an enclosed cable-car that whisks you from ~2,950 meters above sea level to 4,050 meters above sea level in about 10 minutes.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait very long (only about 1/2 hour), though waits of up to 2 hours are not unusual – best to get there early!

Quito teleférico

The teleférico delivers you to Cruz Loma – a wonderful viewpoint over Quito with a couple of cafes to keep you snacking.  If you are lucky – you can also see several of the large Volcanos near Quito – again, try to get there as early as possible to have the best chance of seeing them before the clouds roll in.  We were only semi-lucky.

Quito teleférico view

View over Quito from Cruz Loma. Volcanos starting to be lost in the clouds in the background.

Getting to this point satisfies the majority of visitors.  However, on the day we visited (Ecuadorian Independence holiday), there were not an insignificant number (most of them locals) who decided do the 3 hour climb to Rucu Pichincha.

Volcán Pichincha trek

Rucu Pichincha – that’s the path going up the right.

Now, normally when a hike is advertised as 3 hours, I can usually expect to make it in a faster time.   Not this one!  It took every minute of 3 hours to do it (even though I was semi-acclimatised) and, in the immortal words of Egg Chen in “Big Trouble in Little China” it “wasn’t easy”.

(yes, those that know me very well know this is one of my favourite movies and one of my favourite quotes from it 🙂 )

It is a seriously, seriously steep climb starting at 4,050m above sea level.   For the first couple of hours you struggle up a very obvious track, stopping every so often because you just have to take another photo of the gorgeous view (not because your heart is pounding out of your chest and you can’t breathe).

Volcán Pichincha trek

But then the fun really starts!   The path suddenly stops at a rock, which you have to climb (with a very steep drop off to the other side) in order to continue.

Volcán Pichincha trek

Where did the path go? The first rock obstacle to be overcome on the climb to Rucu Pichincha

This is where Charlotte had to turn back – her vertigo finally got the better of her – and I have to admit it was extremely tempting to forgo the rest of the pain and return with her.

But I decided I would regret it if I didn’t make the top (especially given that I had to be much fitter than many of the people I saw descending the mountain – ok admittedly some of them were in tears – really!), so onward and upward….

Volcán Pichincha trek

The path skirts the side of the volcano with a fairly steep drop-off – that’s Quito down in the valley.  These guys are actually descending as I’m ascending

If anything, it just got worse.   The path degraded into a track and then into nothing but a sandy 45-50 degree slope that you somehow had to get to the top of.   I could see where people were clambering on the rocks above me near the summit, and aimed for that general direction.

Volcán Pichincha trek

The 45-50 degree sand climb to the top, with Quito in the valley far below. These guys were descending as I was ascending

Finally made the top of the sand, and then climbed my way up through the rocks  (some signs would have been really helpful), and ultimately stood on top of Rucu Pichincha at 4,696 metres above sea level.

Volcán Pichincha summit

I have to admit, the views were absolutely spectacular!   And I was fortunate enough that the clouds stayed away until after I’d started descending so I could see clear across to Guagua Pichincha – the active part of the Volcano.

Volcán Pichincha summit views

Top: View towards Quito; Middle: view towards Guagua Pichincha; Bottom: view to the right of Guagua Pichincha

It’s quite cold and windy at almost 5,000m so stayed at the top for only about 20 minutes and then the fun began again – trying to get off the mountain without actually falling off!    Initially at least, this involved lots of bum-sliding to descend the rocks to arrive at the top of the sandy descent.

Volcán Pichincha trek - descent

Fortunately, the sandy descent was much more fun than the sandy ascent – you could essentially run down the sand freely without much fear of falling because the sand was quite deep 🙂  Then it was back along the narrow path, around the rock and then back down the wide path that cost so much energy going up.

Met up with Charlotte at the cafe and celebrated with this fabulous reward 🙂  No, I didn’t eat all of it – turns out Charlotte loves fairy floss too!

Pichincha reward

Then it was an hour in the teleférico queue before coming back down to Earth in Quito.  Thank you to the silver fox who gave us a lift back to the Ecovía!

For those of you who have been following my volcano climbing exploits, I still can’t figure out whether this hike was tougher than the hike up Volcán Maderas on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua.  They were both really tough – but for different reasons 🙂

 

Recommendations if you want to hike to Rucu Pichincha:

  • try to take the teleférico as soon as it opens to have the best chance for great views
  • make sure you are reasonably fit and relatively well acclimatised if you want to enjoy any part of it.
  • think twice if you suffer from vertigo, as you will most likely only get 2/3 the way to the top

Cost:

  • Taxi= ~$5 from old Quito
  • Teleférico ticket = $8.50 (more if you want to bring a pet, bike, etc)
  • Trek to Rucu Pichincha = free (though costs a lot of effort!)

Time:

  • Teleférico = 10 minutes ascent, 10 minutes descent.   Depends on number of people how long you have to wait in line, but up to 2 hours is not uncommon
  • Trek to Rucu Pichincha = 3 hrs ascent, 2 hrs descent.
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Community Hostel – Quito

I’ve stayed in quite a few hostels this trip as they are usually cheap and are great places to meet people.    That being said, I’ve only written one blog post about my hostel experiences – expounding the virtues of the Casa Verde in Santa Ana, El Salvador – one of the best hostels in Latin America.

Here I’d like to give a shout-out to another:  Community Hostel – Quito, Ecuador.

I stayed in dorms (6-bed, 4-bed, 10-bed) here for a little over a week all up.  Nice and central to the old town (which is much more interesting than La Mariscal, or Gringolandia) and always packed with people (especially Australians for some reason).   Good amount of space in the dorms, under-bed lockers with plenty of room, good showers, nice social common areas, guest kitchen, and the real highlight – truly awesome breakfasts for $3.  Just look at that presentation!   And it tasted every bit as good!

Community Hostel breakfast - Quito

OK – yes, it is on top of the cost of the $10 dorm bed, but totally, totally worth it!  They also do evening meals for $5 – some of which are also amazing!

Only problem with Community Hostal is that it is very difficult to find a quiet spot if you want to have a Skype conversation. This can be quite frustrating if you are there for a while.

And a suggestion – they really should open up the rooftop terrace every day/night.  Not sure why they don’t?

Community Hostel is also the jumping off point for the Quito Free Walking Tour (highly recommended) and the Friday Night Street Food tour (unfortunately not as good as I had hoped), along with many others (they have their own travel agency).

 

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Basílica del Voto Nacional – Quito

One of my favourite memories from when I visited Quito 13 years ago was clambering all over the Basílica del Voto Nacional.   So much so that I decided to do it again this trip.

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

Exterior views of the Basílica – I really wish I’d remembered to bring my wide-angle lens!

In particular, I loved the scant regard to the OH&S laws that shut down most kinds of fun in Australia and other western countries, and I was keen to see whether it had changed.

One of my strongest memories was walking through the roof of the Basilica over the arches that make up the beautiful domed interior of the church.  Turns out that is still part of the experience, but they have widened the platform significantly, made it much more sturdy, and installed more heavy-duty handrails up to make sure you don’t fall off.

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

However, they haven’t/can’t do much to make the vertiginous ascent to the north tower very safe.   Seriously, if you suffer from vertigo – don’t even think of doing this!  And although they have signs saying that children under 5 are not permitted to climb, I saw at least 4 under-5s doing it while I was there!

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

Vertiginous views – looking up the ascent to the north tower (left), and looking down from the north tower (right).

Love the Basílica’s Condors – which are best seen from the north tower.

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

A safer and less frightening option is to climb the clock tower.  They were repainting the stairwell while I was there, and the fumes of paint-stripper and new paint, as well as climbing a not insignificant number stairs at altitude made for more than a little light-headedness!

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

One of the great things about climbing the Basilica is the amazing view you get over Quito.

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

Views of Quito from the north tower (left) looking towards Old Town, and from the Clock Tower (right) looking towards north Quito

However, you don’t have to brave the tower climbs to get the views.  The good news is that you can get a great view over the Old Town from the safety of the second story of the Basilica.

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

From where you can also admire the incredible stained glass windows

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

And the gorgeous interior (to actually go inside it is another entrance fee).

Basílica del Voto Nacional - Quito - Ecuador

 

 

Recommendation:  Don’t climb the north tower if you have vertigo!  You may not want to get too close to the edges in the clock tower either…   Take your time – there are lots of stairs – and remember you are at altitude!

Cost:  $2 to explore the upper reaches of the Basilica.  If you want to go into the main part of the church, it is another $2, which you have to purchase around the side of the cathedral.

Time:  1-1.5 hours to explore.

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Canyoning / Waterfall Rappelling – Mindo

After hiking the waterfalls in the morning, Jenny, Maic, Thalles and I then doubled up and went canyoning in the afternoon.    We decided to do the canyoning trip that included 3 waterfalls, rather than the one that just included a single, larger waterfall.   My thinking was that the first decent would get us used to the idea and then we could enjoy the other two.

However, there was an obstacle to overcome first.   The rope bridge!  The instructions were to make sure you stepped at the “nodes” where the ropes met the main single cable spanning the river.   No worries!

canyoning Mindo Ecuador

Thalles went first and tried to freak us out by wobbling all over the place – particularly over the middle of the river where the potential for damage was highest.   Jenny then proceeded to make it look easy, I like to believe that I followed after Jenny’s lead, and Maic – well he was a little more steady than Thalles 😉

Once we’d all finally managed to make it across, it was time to suit up with harnesses, helmets and a glove.

canyoning Mindo Ecuador

Ready to go at the top of the 1st cascada

After hiking up a pretty steep hill for less than 10 minutes, we arrived at the first descent.  Short instructions in spanish followed, each of us was hooked in one by one, and then it was time to descend.

Turns out the hardest part was actually getting over the lip of the first descent!  But my thinking played out and although the first descent was a little tentative, the 2nd and 3rd decents were a lot of fun.  And very wet!

canyoning Mindo Ecuador

Me descending the 2nd cascada

Was all over too quickly really – would have loved to do the much larger waterfall straight afterwards.

canyoning Mindo Ecuador

 

Cost:

  • Taxi = $4 shared between all passengers
  • Canyoning = $15 each

Time:  It’s actually a pretty quick excursion.  About 2 hours all up.

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Santuario de Cascadas – Mindo

Mindo is a small chilled-out town in the middle of a high-biodiversity cloud forest about an hour and a half north-west of Quito.  There are lots of things to do there, but because I was feeling like some down-time, I only managed to do two things in 3 days.  I could easily have stayed a few more!

One of the things that made the list was the Santuario de Cascadas, which I visited with Jenny, Maic, Nadav and Thalles.   After bouncing along in the back of a pickup “taxi” for 10 minutes or so, to access the waterfalls we had to take a 530m long Tarabita ride (cable-car ride) across the valley to the trail head.

Santuario de Cascadas - Tarabita - Mindo - Ecuador

If you suffer from vertigo – probably best to close your eyes and not think about the fact that you are more than 150m above the ground!

 

We decided to hike the 6-waterfall path (there is a separate path that goes up to a single large waterfall), which takes about an hour each way.  First up – Cascada Nambillo – which is only 15 minutes from the Tarabata but down quite a steep path.

Santuario de Cascadas - Mindo - Ecuador

Once we had retraced our steps to the main path, it was a really lovely walk to the other 5 waterfalls.

Santuario de Cascadas - Mindo - Ecuador

In order of access, the waterfalls were: Cascada Ondinas, Cascada Guarumos (which has the deepest swimming pool), Cascada Colibries, Cascada Madre, and Cascada de los Maderos.

Santuario de Cascadas - Mindo - Ecuador

Top left to bottom right: Cascada Ondinas, Cascada Guarumos, Cascada Colibries, Cascada Madre, Cascada de los Maderos

The walk is not terribly difficult or strenuous, and although the waterfalls are not particularly big (you have most likely seen more impressive elsewhere), it makes for a really nice excursion of a few hours.

And its even better when shared with some awesome new friends!

Santuario de Cascadas - Mindo - Ecuador

Cost:
  • Taxi = $6 shared between passengers
  • Tarabita/entrace = $5 each

Time:  Depends on how fast you walk and how long you stay at each waterfall.  We took about 4.5 hours all up including taxi ride + tarabita + hike + swim.

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Great ideas – Ecuador – Nutrition Labels

Another great idea from Ecuador — easy to understand Nutrition Labels!    These are labels for Coke Zero and Ecuadorian Chocolate.

nutrition labels - ecuador

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Ciclopaseo – Quito – Ecuador

Another of the awesome initiatives in Quito is the Ciclopaseo.   Basically, the city shuts down 30km of one of its main North-South arteries (Avenida Amazonas) to traffic each Sunday between 8am and 2pm (Quito is a long, narrow city oriented North-South), to encourage everyone to get out on their bikes.

ciclopaseo - Quito - Ecuador

And its incredible how many people take advantage of the opportunity!  By some counts – an average of 30,000 people each weekend, most of them families and “normal” people (as opposed to lycra-clad speed demons, though there are a few of them as well).  This is even more incredible when you consider that Quito is at 2,800 metres above sea level and the city is surrounded by massive volcanos and mountains.

ciclopaseo - Quito - Ecuador

On my second Sunday in Quito I decided to join Charlotte and at least do a couple of hours of cycling.   First task – rent a bike at one of the stations around the route.  Definitely not the most comfortable seat, and I was missing a gear or two, but a great way to enable everyone with this activity – including travellers 🙂

ciclopaseo - Quito - Ecuador

To rent a bike, you have to leave your actual passport with them (daunting prospect), but this is to ensure that you don’t make off with the bike!   Of course this means that you have to return the bike to the same stand, so if you are going to cycle the whole route, it is a 60km round trip.  Get an early start!

But to help you on your journey, there are large numbers of ciclopaseo and other stands set up where you can get help with your bike, refill your water, buy some food or fresh orange juice, or buy some cycling gear 🙂

ciclopaseo - Quito - Ecuador

We started at the corner of Parque Carolina and cycled south (Charlotte had gone north last weekend).  Unfortunately I had to turn around after about 45 minutes (I had to get my laundry done before I headed off trekking), and was surprised to find that those daunting-feeling hills that we cruised down weren’t actually that bad to cycle back up!   I ended up continuing on past where we’d hired the bikes to take a quick look at part of the northern sector as well, but definitely preferred the south to the north.

Also – you don’t have to cycle!  I saw joggers, walkers, roller bladers and skate boarders out and about taking advantage of there not being any traffic.

ciclopaseo - Quito - Ecuador

In the end, according to one set of maps I found, I cycled about 1/2 the route. I couldn’t believe how flat it was given that there are very steep and very tall hills everywhere you look in Quito.  It’s a very well planned route – so if you are in Quito on a Sunday, and regardless of how fit you are – jump on a bike and explore parts of Quito you would not otherwise see!

 

Cost:  If you need to hire a bike, it costs $3/hour or $12 for the whole day.  That’s the only cost though.

Time: Depends on how keen you are.  I did 2 hours.  You have from 8am to 2pm without traffic.

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