Getting Drunk and Lost Part 14 : Ecuador and Galapagos
Flying out of Peru made a pleasant change from the dredge of bus life and made even better after a quick stop in Guayaquil to sample the tropical weather.
Finally landing in Quito and soon we had to get on another bus to the old airport and then a taxi into the city centre. By this time we were getting tired and seriously bored.
Entering the Hostel in the south part of the city was definitely like walking into Faulty Towers.
Being treated by a water fountain that had no water, a group of guys behind the counter who looked like maintenance guys rather than hotel staff and rooms that all looked like all their fixtures and fittings needed replacing.
It was getting late and not the time of day to be mooching around a new city but when a quick walk for food turned into a hunt for anything edible we gave up and just went to bed.
The next day we did venture out to the main square “La Independence Plaza” which when the sun came out was beautiful.
Tropical trees and plants surrounded by yet again Spanish / European looking buildings.
We stayed around for lunch of a traditional ham and cheese sandwich including a ginger detox drink (carla’s choice) then walked a little more around the city.
Crowded was an understatement.
Getting peckish i opted for a mixed grill in a fast food place which we discovered on the way out maybe be classed as a little bit racist. “Menestras Del Negro” owned by KFC. Good food though.
Carla was still feeling delicate so we managed grab a quiet coffee and head back to Faulty towers for another early night.
The bus station (like the airport) was miles out of town, so at 7am another taxi was in order to get us out of dodge.
Some 10 minutes messing around and $1 cake/biscuit later we were heading south to a country town Banos.
The water place “Banos” is a little town almost carved into the mountain side.
Filled with waterfalls, hot springs a water powered town generator, you can understand why it has that name.
The hotel was meh but deserted so we headed out to explore and find food.
Trip advisor had massively let me down over the past couple of months but I gave it one last shot and this time it came up trumps.
Alto Caribo was painful to find but once we sat down it worth it.
Cheap and great food.
The next day we wanted to go and look around further afield.
The only way to get was by Chiva.
This is essentially an open truck that plays loud crap pop tunes and is full of kids. So obviously we fit right in.
Its about a 3/4 hours round trip and it stops of at all the waterfalls, zip lining places and finally at “Pailon del Diablo“ Cauldron of the Devil.
A spectacularly deep waterfall and several sketchy rope bridges which i was shit scared off.
We stopped off in town on our way back. for some pizza for lunch and yep you guessed it a couple of beers.
Then attempting to buy some food from the supermarket for a little home cooking turned into a fiasco because we needed a real passport (not a picture) to use our card. First world problems!!.
The next day and the weather not permitting play we basically started drinking early in a tiny kitchen i found on the top floor. Like i said the place was empty and we snuck into use it as our own private kitchen / living room.
By 3 in the afternoon we were quite drunk on rum and sprite and had made an attempt to job hunt, with very little success. We only ventured out for food and found an annoyingly good Falafel place. I say annoying because it wasn’t much to look at and the waiter was a bit of an arse so i was hoping it would be rubbish so i had some reason to get rowdy.
Early afternoon on sunday and with carla feeling a bit better. I dragged her up a hill.
Trekking through a sweaty bit of forest/jungle to reach the town peak.
Now even though we’d spend a lot of time walking, we both hit a wall after the top and vowed never to trek again.
The view of the town was beautiful.
Our last day and an early birthday present saw us opt for a spa day.
Renowned for its hot springs, we decided to splash out and because our hostel had yet again no hot water it was a massive relief to have a proper shower and get clean.
The weather outside looked familiar to back home so sprawled out in the aqua caliente we made the most of doing absolutely nothing.
Sadly 2 hours before getting another overnight bus to Montanita we heard about the tragedy back home in Manchester.
Safe to say we didn’t get much sleep hoping nobody was hurt.
Yet again another tough overnight bus journey that took us to Santa Eleana. Another early morning rush for a small town bus that then dropped us off at the surf capital of Ecuador – Montanita.
Our hostel was off the beaten path but worth the extra effort. As soon as you walk in the grounds you could feel the relax atmosphere.
Our room wasn’t ready until 2 so we ventured out for breakfast.
Cheap pancakes and coffee on “cocktail” road then a walk down to the beach, however at this time of day the party town was completely dead.
So we headed back for a cheeky early afternoon beer and dozed off in one of the many hammocks around.
This became one of the main activities here and it was awesome.
Before we realised it, then evening had rolled around and with dusk came the cockroaches!!
We were instantly under attack and panic from carla meant i became the number one assassin.
Perfecting the art of shoe throwing and toilet tissue grabbing.
We caved in and left them to export our belongings while we grabbed dinner.
An hour waiting for our order at “Mr Taco” was worth it. Either that or we were starving. Maybe it was all the killings.
We braved the room again, murdered a few more pests and coward under the mosquito netting.
The next morning was surprisingly pleasant.
A stroll to the local “shop” a concrete hut with some fresh produce in it.
Then a lazy late breakfast of eggs and fresh avocado, then watching Man u on the communal TV.
Pure bliss, until the peace was broken by a giant dinosaur!!
No joke this native Iguana was massive and came out of know where to steal some poor backpackers ham and cheese sandwich.
According to the owners he is the alpha and hunts around the hostel every morning for breakfast.
We hid behind the couch and watched as he scurried off with his prize.
After that things settled down and we ended up staying on for the entire week.
It was that relaxing.
We hung around on the hammocks most days drinking beer, playing FIFA, drinking cocktails, eating fresh avocados and barely venturing out.
When we did go out it was to the beach with 2 sets of backpacking couples or to a little pizza place at the bottom of the road. Amazing and cheap pizza’s – you can’t really go wrong.
We did try a local “set menu” which was lush and really cheap and one night we got hammered at the hostel on an all you can drink night.
When we had finally had our fill, we said our goodbye’s and realised after 9 months this had been our first real backpackers experience. Amazing week but the best was yet to come.
But first – yep another over night bus ride.
We arrived back in Quito with a bump, arriving at Quitumbe bus terminal at 4.30am. It was weird, creepy and freezing cold and after a quick coffee we decided to get a taxi to the Hilton asap. It’s pretty standard practice throughout South America for taxi drivers to harangue you as soon as you get off the bus and we’d eventually got used to it. So when a guy asked we followed him out as usual but then, not like usual, we ended up walking over a dual carriageway and down a side street to an unmarked car. Now I’m not saying we didn’t get the odd dodgy taxi before this but it was the last day we were surviving alone and there were options this time. Ignoring him shouting at us and jogging alongside we turned heel and went straight back to the bus station. As I said we were going to the Hilton which isn’t exactly our usual standard of accommodation. Before we left we booked an all-in Galapagos trip and this was where we were staying overnight before our flight. On arrival you’d think we were the only people who had ever got there early and the definitely wrinkled their nose at the sight and smell of us! We told them we just wanted a coffee and they pointed us in the direction their cafe. We eventually got a coffee but declined the $26 breakfast. Instead we opted for what would become a staple in Quito- McDonalds. We basically counted down the minutes until we could check in and have a bath. Finally it was there and one of the best baths I’ve ever had! We decided to continue the theme of the day and ate what felt like the entire contents of the KFC menu. There ensued a junk food induced coma and had to rush to meet everyone would be going to the Galapagos with.
The next day we were up at the crack of dawn and tried to eat some of the quite eclectic breakfast options at 3.30. Loaded in the minibus we headed to the airport and I was mega excited. We flew into Baltra, one of the uninhabited Galápagos Islands and made our way to Santa Cruz Island where we were staying for the first night. In the minibus on the way I saw a road sign saying to look out for Tortoises. Heaven! Again we were immediately indulged with the wonder of the islands when we went for lunch in the town and spotted three sealions sunning themselves at a pier. They were snoring away and it was stunning to see wild creatures so close. Les had seen a fish market on David Attenborough’s programme and we went to see it and it was hilarious. Sealions, pelicans and the odd Iguana competing for scraps. After that we all went to Tortuga bay. It was the most amazing beach and was pretty much deserted. While on the beach we saw a baby Iguana being picked up and dropped repeatedly by 2 massive birds. A couple of tourists were throwing things at the birds but it’s just not ok to interfere with nature on the Galapagos. On the walk back we spotted loads of birds including Hummingbirds and the famous Darwin Finches. Back at the hotel we all jumped in the pool for a beer. Dinner was fresh fish outside in a food market followed by a few cocktails. Bliss.
After an earlier start than necessary because I forgot to reset the clock on my iPad we went to the Darwin centre to learn about the breeding programmes and coo over baby Tortoises. Some were absolutely tiny, about the size of my palm! After walking around seeing all of the live Tortoises we were taken off to meet a dead one. Lonesome George to be exact, who some of you may have heard of. He was the last of his species and died around 5 years ago after breeding attempts proved unsuccessful. Whilst it was interesting to hear the story it was completely weird staring at a stuffed dead tortoise behind a glass case. Worse when every now and again the panel at the back went up, exposing his dead form to the Tortoises outside. It was 2 days before my birthday and I was determined to get a tshirt. So despite being shouted at a lot by the guide, I ducked into a shop and emerged victorious. After a wait for a new couple to join us we got a speedboat over to the boat where we would be spending the next few days. After our first lunch and some introductions we were back on dry land, visiting a tortoise ranch. Although officially it doesn’t keep the Tortoises as they belong to the Galapagos, it provides great conditions so the big guys want to live there. It was the most incredibly couple of hours and I really didn’t want to leave. They are just the funniest thing and despite the name of giant tortoise I was taken aback by how big some of them were. Back on the boat we ended up staying quite late talking to Jeremy and Lynn, a Canadian and New Zealander/South African who were hilarious.
The next day was my birthday and it was way too rocky and noisy to sleep past 5. So I decided to get up and watch the sunrise. The sunrise itself wasn’t much, with a few beautiful exceptions but it was magical to be at the top of the boat surrounded by ocean and with only 6 hunting birds for company. I was a bit scared of them tbh. After that my birthday just got better and better. We went for a walk on an island called Plaza Sur and as we got off the speedboat we were surrounded by playful sealions. After watching them for ages we walking a path, seeing wild birds including a pelican and many types of iguanas. When we got back onto the boat despite it being only 10.30 it seemed legit to have some birthday beers. In the afternoon we went snorkelling and I FINALLY saw a massive sea turtle. Birthday goal achieved. The sea was full of sting rays and fish and it was so much fun but absolutely knackering. After that we went to Santa Fe beach and most of the beach was taken up by beautiful but stinky sealions. You can watch them for hours but this wasn’t possibly today as they were stinking the place out as they didn’t want us around. After dinner that night they had got me a birthday cake and we finished off the evening on the top deck with some rum we’d snuck on board. Definitely a birthday I’m never going to forget.
The next day we went to San Cristobal to see a highlight of the Galapagos: the blue footed boobies. They were brilliant with their crazy mating dance and incredibly fluffy chicks. There were nests everywhere and we even got the bonus of seeing red footed boo bird as well. That afternoon was one of the best parts of our entire trip. We went snorkelling and ended up swimming with sealions. Simply amazing. We were told not to go too close but clearly they didn’t have the same message! They loved swimming right at you and then at the last minute swimming away. Terrifying when some of the larger ones did it! Then it was all too soon the last night on the boat :-(
In the morning we packed up and got a little boat to mainland San Cristobal. This is the most built up island and has the interpretation centre which explains the history of the islands. Interestingly a lot of it is pretty grim, like virtual prison camps. It’s a pretty hostile place to survive, contrary to the perceived idea of it being lush and green and full of wildlife. After that we all flew back to Quito. I was sad too, but we were also looking forward to getting back. We had planned to have a leaving meal with everyone but we ended up having a quick pre-dinner
burger at McDonalds with Jeremy. The second dinner was lovely as everyone on the trip was so friendly. Then we went back to the Hilton for our last night and had the best sleep ever! Bliss.
So to our last full day of travelling. After trying to make the most of the weird Hilton breakfast we went to check out the last few sites in Quito before we left. We ended up going with a German couple called Alex and Amelia and a Canadian couple Gerry and Gwen. First stop was the historical site of 00 latitude. It’s also a museum all about how the local tribes used to live, including some real shrunken heads… and instructions on how to create them! After that we went to the actual centre of the earth as defined by GPS. After that we all went to the Teleferico which is a cable car going from 2800 at the bottom to 4000 at the top. However once we got tickets and queued it kept breaking down. After the usual South American response of 5 minutes we finally got on after 40 minutes and I was a bit apprehensive. That turned into full on fear as we headed up and I tried not to look down. I’m informed it was gorgeous. The views at the top were stunning but it was freezing and we both felt terrible due to the altitude. So we headed back and then onto the next hostel. Much as we tried we couldn’t justify staying in the Hilton for our last night. As was becoming typical the taxi driver abandoned us about half way after going the wrong way and getting himself completely lost. Not the nicest part of the city we quickly found it. For our last dinner we went to McDonalds again with Lynn and Jeremy. It was Lynn’s first for 20 years and I don’t think she was very impressed! We then had leaving drinks back at the Hilton which Amelia and Alex came too. After a very fun night and a sketchy walk home we were back up at 3.30 getting a taxi to the airport and back to reality. What an amazing 9 months, 15 countries and countless adventures. Feeling broken, broke and elated we faced the long haul back to the U.K.