A Travellerspoint blog

The Brazilian Coast

rain 20 °C

Ahhh.... finally we are in Brazil - the land of the Samba, Capoeira & Caprinha amongst other delights. It also has an extremely strong currency which makes it the most exp country in South America. The Real had gone up by at least 40% against the sterling in the last 4 years - 15% in the last 12 months alone!! No wonder so many backpackers avoid Brazil. It took us a few days to get used to the high prices.... but it is Brazil after all. The plan was to head down the Brazilian Coast upto Rio and then head inland to the Pantanal and Iguazu falls before heading into Argentina.

We landed in Belem which is abit of a dump, and then took a bus the next day for Sobral (24 hr journey). From Sobral we had to take a taxi to Jericoacoara which is a pretty little beach town. There was a lot made out about the place, but the beach wasn´t that great. We stayed there for 3 days and then made our way to Olinda. Olinda is a small town by the coast which is famed for its museums and holding one of the best carnivals in Brazil. We headed to Maracaipe beach after a couple of days at Olinda - this was a much smaller and quieter beach town - and the beach was fantastic. Spent 3 lovely days there before heading on to Salvador.

Salvador is in the Bahian state - this state is the Brazilian Africa. Imagem_029.jpgSalvador probably also hosts the best carnival in Brazil. The Rio carnival is famed for its glamour, but its in Salvador where they party hard. It seemed that everywhere people were just waiting for the carnival to begin. There were rehearsals going on everywhere in the streetsImagem_055.jpg, there seemed to be a party breaking out everywhere you go and people practicing capoeira Imagem_039.jpgin the evenings. Salvador is a great place to unwind in the mornings and party in the evenings. They had a celebration (Festival of Bonfin) one day - which is supposed to be the biggest celebration outside of the carnival, where there was a carnival like procession and we got a little taste of what it would be like in the Carnival. We also managed to go to a concert by one of the bands who would be playing at the carnival. Imagem_059.jpgImagem_088.jpg

After 4 days in Salvador we headed to Rio - took us 28 hours in the bus. We have been in Rio for nearly a week now and have only seen the sun yesterdayImagem_182.jpg.... its been cloudy and drizzly all week - just like London!!! We managed to catch a domestic football match at the famous Maracana - it looks much smaller than I imaginedImagem_135.jpg. Football matches in South America are great to watch just because of the supporters - all of them sing for the whole match - and sing even louder if they are winning. We went to a favela tour where they showed us the biggest slum in Rio, and Latin America (small compared to Kibera in Nairobi though) - and thankfully it was not as dangerous as the City of God slum... However, these slums are much more developed than the Kenyan ones, with most of the amenities available (sometimes scarce) and there was one building which had a rooftop pool!!Imagem_120.jpg Last night we went to see a Samba school rehearsal for the carnival. Carnival for these Samba schools is serious business - there is a competition every year for the best school. The one we went to has won it for 4 of the last 5 years. There were thousands of perople who paid to see these rehearsals. Pretty amazing stuff.

Tomorrow we are off to Campo Grande for the Pantanal.

Posted by AartiHemal 05:07 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Some good Indian food at last - and plenty of Rum!!

Guyana

21 °C

Happy New year everyone. We landed in Brazil yesterday after spending a wonderful 10 days in Guyana. Guyana marked the half way point in our travels, and also acted as abit of a breather from the travelling. We stayed at Aruna & Sato´s place. Aruna is a college friend, and her brother, Praveen who I also studied with and their parents (Uncle Erol and Auntie Shanti) had also come down from london - so effectively we were gate crashing on their family christmas party... made all the more special as it also was Sachin´s (Aruna & Sato´s gorgeous son) first christmas. Guyana is also the only country in our travels that I had visited before (But it was Aarti´s first time) I had gone there to attend Aruna & Sato´s wedding 6 years previously.

We landed on Sunday morning and were picked up by Sato & Praveen - for the first time in 4 months, we saw people we knew before our travels... a great feeling. We didn´t do much during the day apart from driving round Georgetown which took all of 15 minutes and having a couple of beers at Archies - my favourite Rum Shop. Archies was also my first rum shop when I was in guyana previously. In the evening Aruna´s family was invited to a friend´s place for dinner (which was to be the first of many) and we tagged along. It was great to be finally eating some home cooked indian food. Ofcourse, this being Guyana everywhere you go there will be plenty of alcohol.

Christmas eve was spent sorting out some of the tours we would be going on during the week and our flights to Brazil. In the evening there was another invitation to someone´s place. And more food and rum!!! Christmas day was a traditional christmas affair with gifts being exchanged in the morning and Sato´s family joining us for Christmas lunch. And more rum!! There was a party to go to in the evening but everyone was too shattered to move after all the food and drinks. On Boxing day, Uncle Erol made a lovely duck curry for lunch and after we went out to one of the water parks they have in Guyana for a few hours and pretty much chilled out. It was quite nice not doing anything apart from chilling, drinking and eating - not having to think about where to go for the next meal, not having to move every few days and speaking in English.

We had booked a trip to go and see Kaiteur falls for the 27th. These are a spectacular single drop falls (the highest single drop falls in the world) and are 5 times higher than the Niagara falls. We were supposed to fly out to see the falls, and then have luch at a nearby resort and fly back. But firstly, the plane (a 12 seater) scheduled to fly us arrived back late at the airport due to bad weather conditions. SO the plane which was supposed to take off at 10.30, only took off at 12.00. Then instead of flying straight to Kaiteur, it stopped off at the resort we were supposed to have lunch to pick up a few passengers. And since it was drizzling, they all tried to get in at once (the entrance was at the rear) and the plane toppled back and ended up resting on the tail. The pilot had not told the passengers to go in slowly to prevent this from happenening, and they also have a tail rest so incase the plane topples back, the tail does not get damaged!! He did not put the rest on!!! So we ended up having lunch at the resort, and by the time engineers came to the resort to fix the tail, it was too late to fly to Kaiteur!! When we got back to Georgetown, we had no luck with booking another trip as most were fully booked. And we were booked onto another tour the next day so we would have to try with with other agencies - but it wasn´t looking too hopeful. And Kaiteur is really the highlight of Guyana.

We did a day trip up the essquibo river the next day which was an ok trip. We ended up back at the same resort we were the previous day for lunch. However, we also managed to sort out a Kaiteur falls trip for the 2nd of January with another agency with help from our tour guide that day.

The next couple of days were spent chilling out, going out at night, and eating lots and lots of food. On New Year´s Eve, we went to a formal party at Georgetown Club - this was an old colonial hangout for the British back in the day - now a social club. I also finally ate Labba in the evening before this party (at Archies ofcourse) For some reason, I didn´t get a chance to try out this Guyanese delicacy at my first visit, but did try it out this time and it was delicious. (Labba is a small rodent only found in Guyana) The party was great, and we got home after 5 in the morning. New years day was spent recovering mainly and we went to a dinner in the evening where they had vegetarian food only. Aarti loved it.

We did manage to get to Kaiteur falls on the 2nd and it was definitely worth it. I had already seen it at my previous visit but it was Aarti´s first time. The falls are so named, as an Indian chief called Kai canoed over the falls to his death as a sacrifice to the gods to end the fighting between rival tribes. The plane did a couple of circles round the falls to get a look at them from air, and then landed for a close up look. Its a beautiful sight and great to be up close to the falls to feel their power. We also went to another falls - Orunduik falls as part of the day tour. These are much smaller falls on the border on Brazil & Guyana and its possible to swim here. We got a great back massage sitting underneath the falls. We got back to Georgetown, there was another dinner (vegetarian dinner again) and that was the end of our trip as we were to fly out the next morning.

Guyana was probably what we needed after 3 and a half months of travelling. We got spoilt by Aruna and her family, ate, drank and chilled out lots, met lots of wonderful people. Guyana is a pretty unique country - its bigger that England but only has a population of 750,000 people. The capital has about 350,000 people and everyone seems to know each other. We saw the President in his car the first day, saw a Minister of Local Government dancing away with a few girls in a club ( I found out in the next day´s papers that he had had a run in with his girlfriends cousin in a rum shop and had fired shots at him and knocked with the butt of his gun but the president and his party ignored the incident) met a presidential hopeful and had my picture taken with the Stanford 20-20 cup the Guyana had won the previous year (an official was casually transporting it to Barbados)Imagem_002.jpg. It was really hard to say bye to Guyana and we loved every minute of it!!

Posted by AartiHemal 07:50 Archived in Guyana Comments (1)

Just couldn't get enough of Colombia

Colombia, Venezuela & Trinidad

sunny 20 °C

Hola Amigos. Hope you all had a great christmas and gearing up for the New Year. Its been a long time since the last update - mainly due to laziness (which has overtaken the initial enthusiasm to write the blog) but also because we have been chilling out on the Caribbean coast.

After the last blog entry we headed up to Taganga (which was to become our base for the Colombian coast) where we would be going for a 6 day hike to discover the Lost City of the Tyronnas - or as they call it now, Ciudad Perdida. Taganga is a nice little sleepy fishing village close to the famous Tyronna National Park. We got there on Saturday lunchtime and spent the day sorting out our trip to Ciudad Perdida. We also bumped into a Dutch couple we met in Cali and had a few drinks with them in the evening. Sunday was spent chilling out, and listening to stories of people who had come back from the hike - and boy were they horror stories. All of them had been bitten by mosquitoes and sand flies - infact you were considered lucky if you came away with less than 50 bites.

Our trip started early on Monday - we were picked up by a mini van and driven 1 hour away from Taganga into Tyronna National Park. It would be a 6 day hike with 3 days spent getting to the lost city, and 3 days spent getting back, retracing our steps. There were 11 of us in the group - 2 Aussies, 4 Germans, 1 English, 1 Dutch, 1 Basque (he refused to be called Spanish) and us. From where the mini van dropped us, we were taken by motorbikes to our start point. We started the hike after lunch with the midday sun on our backs. The first day was a 5 hour hike with the first 3 hours uphill and then the remaining 2 hours downhill. It was a pretty ok day of hiking - but the heat and humidity made the hike difficult. There was also the issue that we would be walking with wet muddy shoes throughout the 6 day trek, as within the first hour we had to cross ankle deep or knee deep streams - we would be getting waist high river crossings on day 3 & 4. And walking through alot of mud due to the rains. We spent the first night at someone's house (they set up hammocks for us with mosquito nets) The food they gave us for dinner was good, but this was very different from the 'super organised' Inca Trail - in a way much more spontaneous and adventurous. The highlight of the first day came after about 3 hours walking where we came to a river and we all had a dip and ate some fresh fruits - much needed after walking in the heat.

The 2nd day was slightly easier as we started off early to avoid the mid day heat. Here the terrain was much rougher, with no obvious trek for alot of the way, and having to scramble over rocks etc... We got to our camp after a 4 hour walk and went off to cool off in a nearby river.

Day 3 was the best day of the hike - there wasn't much of a trail, and we had to follow the river to the foot of the steps which lead up to Ciudad Perdida. This meant crossing the river about 8 times and walking along sometimes dangerous precipice where one slip and you are a goner. We hiked for about 4 hours before we got to the steps which lead up to Ciudad Perdida. There are about 1200 steep and extremely small steps to climb up (The Tyronnas were very small people, thus the small steps). We finally managed to get to the top after a tough half an hour climb - we also met the military who are guarding the area on the way. In 2003, 9 tourists were kidnapped by guerillas at this same site - infact from the same hut that we would be sleeping in that night. The guide omitted to mention the latter information until the next morning....However, the guerillas have been driven up in the hills, and security is much better with no incidents since the kidnappings (and the tourists were returned unharmed after about 3 weeks.) However, as normal the British FO still has an alert for unnecessary travel which would have meant that our insurance was invalid... The city as first sight looked magical - it does not have the aura of Machu Pichu, but only 10% of the city has been excavated, and as the only way to get there is either by hiking or splashing out a load of money and coming in a helicopter, there were only 2 other people there and it felt great.

We explored the magical city on Day 4 and started to make our way back the same way we came up. By Day 6, we were exhausted with 6 days of trekking in wet shoes and covered in millions of mossie and sand fly bites.

We got back to Taganga in the evening (Saturday), had dinner and headed out to Santa Marta, a nearby town for a few drinks in a club with our group and also to celebrate Aarti's birthday the next day and the Dutch girl's which was on Friday. However, we didn't last long and were home by 1.30 which is extremely early by Colombian standards.

Sunday was Aarti's birthday and a rest day recovering from the hike. We went to a nearby resort for dinner based on someone's recommendation which was not as good as we had hoped.

On Monday, we made our way to Cartagena (the jewel on the Colombian coast) Cartagena is a lovely city, with a great old town. We met up with the Dutch couple again and also with the Aussies and Dutch girl from our hike. Tuesday was spent exploring the old town, which has been blocked off with an inner and outer wall.

We decided to head for Playa Blanca on Wednesday. Playa Blanca is an island 40 min away from Cartagena by speedboat. Its very quiet with very few people choosing to stay there - most go there on a day trip as part of an island hopping tour, which means they are only on the island for a couple of hours in the afternoons at the most. Why more people dont decide to stay there is a complete mystery to us. It has white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, calm sea, nice warm waters, hardly anyone about, you stay on the beach and plenty of decent seafood. And its cheap too. Just about the perfect place to chill out for a few days. We spent 4 days there and stayed at a lovely couple's place - the first 2 nights on a hammock and the 3rd night in a cabanna. They also have a few people selling wares and foods in the day, and we got into a routine with having fruits for breakfast provided by a fruit lady, shrimps for me at lunch, some local sweets in the afternoon and dinner provided by our hosts. Even Aarti was quite pleased with the food as she got lentils and rice cooked similarly to how we make it at home. I made do with fish and lobsters.... delicious!!

We got back to Cartagena and after spending a night there headed back to Taganga where we decided to go to the more famous beach at Tyronna national park. Everyone had talked it up (they probably had not visited Playa Blanca) and we couldn't give it a miss. Never have I worked so hard to get to a beach - it was a 2 hour ride in a bus from Santa Marta, and then a 2 hour hike to the beach - not extremely streneous but nevertheless energy sapping. After all that effort, I was expecting to find something similar to a perfect beach. What we got was cold and pretty rough waters, crappy beach, only one place to stay with hammocks touching one another. and hardly any privacy. Needless to say. we were out the next day. Got back to Taganga - again, and then made our way down to Bucarramanga. We went to a small town called San Gill which is the adventure capital of Colombia with all kinds of adventure activities like white water rafting, para gliding etc... I took advantage of that and went white water rafting the next morning - it was pretty good but I did it at an easy level with the rapids at grade 2+. Would definitely like to try out stronger rapids next time round.

We headed to Cucuta which is on the Colombian-Venezuelan border where we spent a day before making our way to Caracas. After we left Ecuador we had just over 5 weeks to see Colombia and Venezuela, but the more time we spent in Colombia the less time we had in Venezuela until we decided to just go straight to Caracas to catch our flight to Trinidad. Travelling in Venezuela is abit of a problem as their black market for dollars is twice the official rate (curtesy of Chavez) - thus the need to carry dollars with you into Venezuela.

The 2 days we spent in Caracas were ok. Caracas is a massive city with 24 hr traffic jams - no doubt helped by the cheap fuel. We did some shopping for our stay in Guyana where we would be going to a formal New Year's Eve party (or Old years night as they call it there) and that was about it really.

The flight to Trinidad was eventful as when we got to the airport we realised that there was some problem with the airlines. Passengers due to fly to Miami the previous night had not flown due to airline issues. After a couple of hours we found out that they were in financial trouble and did not have any fuel, as they had not paid the fuel company - quite ironic to be out of fuel in oil country. Anyways, after a 6 hour delay, they put us onto a plane from another airlines and we reached Trinidad safely. The reason for going to Trinidad was that you can only get to Guyana through Trinidad. It was a pleasant 3 days we spent in Trinidad, with us finally getting some indian food with roti and curries.

And so, on the 23rd we flew out from Trinidad to get to Georgetown, Guyana. This is the only place in my trip that I have visited, but it will be Aarti's first time. We are going to be spending time with my college friend, Aruna and her family for christmas. But that will be updated later.

Posted by AartiHemal 15:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Colombians - Friendliest people on Earth?

sunny 25 °C

We have been in Colombia for 2 weeks now and its been the best so far. Everyone is extremely friendly, and want to go out of their way to help you, give you directions etc.... Not one bus journey goes without you striking up a conversation with the locals - and they especially seem conscious of their image abroad and want to dispel that notion. Plus its getting to their summertime and the weather has been hot that probably helps to put a better perspective on life.

We got into Cali on Friday at around midnight after a pretty long bus journey from Quito and were shattered.

Cali is famous for 2 things - the people love to party 7 days a week and it has the best looking women in Colombia (albeit alot of them being surgically enhanced/altered). Apparently alot of people come from overseas to take advantage of the cheaper surgical doctors in Cali.

Saturday was spent chilling out and looking around town. And since it was Saturday evening, and since Cali is a party town, we decided to head out to the clubs in the evening. There was a group of people going out from the hostel - we started off at a pub on Avenue Sexta which is where everyone starts off, and then headed to the Juanchito district where all the clubs are concentrated. It is a great experience and the vibe at the massive salsa clubs is completely different to any other clubs we have been to. And the Colombians really love to party. On the way home, there was an accident on the road leading to the clubs, and so taxis were scarce - so we managed to fit in 8 people plus the driver in a small taxi (the size of a 206). That was abit of an experience - half of us had heads hanging out of the car....

There was a local football match on Sunday featuring Cali & Manizales (a coffee region town) which a few of us at the hostel decided to go watch. It was the last match of the season before the playoffs started (similar to Major League Soccer in the States) and Cali were already out of the playoffs and so the authorities decided not to charge people for the match. There was a typical party last match of season atmosphere - and in a pretty uneventful match Cali won 1-0.

We went to the Cali zoo on Monday which is reputedly one of the best South America has to offer. Didn´t do much else and decided to leave Cali for Salento the next day.

We reached Salento around 4pm and met a couple of English travellers in the main plaza who directed us to where they were staying. The hostel - Plantation House was a great choice with a very friendly English owner who despite spending over 3 years in Colombia still speaks Spanish in a very heavy English accent and is from Harrow too!. In the evening the people from the hostel headed out to town to play a local game called Tejo - its a game which also involves gunpowder!! There is a wooden square box of 12 inches squared filled with clay, and the object is to throw your metal puck onto the box from a distance of 10 metres and making it stick. There is a circle in the middle of the box, and the puck closest to the circle gets 1 point, or if it lands in the middle of the circle you get 6 points. However, on 2 sides of the circle there is some gun powder and if your puck lands on the gunpowder - there is an explosion and you get 3 points!! It was a pretty fun game, and towards the end - a few of us moved on to the experts section where you throw the puck over a distance of 30 metres onto a slightly larger box. Pretty good fun, especially when you hit the gun powder.imagenes_038.jpg

The next day I went horse riding around Valle de Cocora and Aarti went walking. The Valle de Cocora is beautiful, covered with tall wax palm trees. - Aarti decided not to go on the horse after the painful experience the last time around - a good thing to as the horses were less peaceful than the last time round. I even fell off my horse once - but no damage done!! imagenes_055.jpg

We visited 2 coffee farms the next day - 2 very diffferent farms. 1 was a small scale farm, while the other was a much bigger version with machinery etc... Both very interesting and different.

We made our way to Bogota the next day - Bogota ´s weather is colder due to the higher altitude. Spent 3 days in Bogota, visiting a pretty impressive cathedral carved out of a salt mine, and took a train up a viewpoint and came down by cablecar. Otherwise it was quite uneventful and decided to make our way up to Medellin which is the 2´nd biggest city and has better climate. Medellin used to be the centre of the drugs war but has cleaned up its image and is now pretty safe.

We´re heading off for the Caribbean Coast tonight and we can´t wait!

Posted by AartiHemal 06:03 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Sad to be leaving Ecuador - but can´t wait for Colombia !!

Phew - its been a pretty busy last 2+ weeks. We left Guyaquill on Saturday for Riobamba. There is this great train journey which originally went from Quito to Guyaquill, but due to floods and El Nino, most of the tracks have been destroyed. However, the most spectacular part is called the Nazir el Diablo (the devil´s nose) and that is still intact so now it just runs as a tourist train for the spectacular views - and you can sit on top of the train.

The train starts from Riobamba and goes to Alausi with the devil´s nose on the way. However, when we got to Riobamba, they said that the train now only runs along the small path which has the devil´s nose. So we took a bus the next day to Alausi, got the ticket for the 2 hr train ride which goes all the way down the valley and then back up and got some more bad news. Apparently, a couple of Japanese tourists were killed a few months previously while standing on top of the train (probably taking pictures) and so now they don´t let people sit on top of the train. So after an hour´s wait, the train started its journey. But almost immediately, it ground to a halt. A freight train in front of us got derailed - apparently that is quite a common feature. Ecuador_BC_007.jpgIt took over 2 hours to get the freight train back on track and it was already 1.00pm by now. We started from Riobamba at 7 in the morning, and were still waiting for the train ride. So again the train started and this time there were no problems. Although the scenery is great, sitting inside the train just doesn´t seem to be worth it as we have seen such scenery on the bus rides. It is a big disappointment, and when the train started back on its way up the valley, it got derailed 3 more times. Thankfully, they managed to put it back up pretty quickly but it was 4pm by the time we finished the ride. We then took a bus and headed for Cuenca - Ecuador´s 3´rd largest city. We got to Cuenca at 10.30pm and after a quick dinner, went straight to bed.

Cuenca is probably the most beautiful city in Ecuador. Its got narrow cobblestone streets and whitewashed red-tiled buildings, beautiful plazas and big domed churches. We spent Monday just walking about town and visited a Panama hat making factory. Now, a fact that people may not know is - Ecuador is where the Panama hat originates from - or more specifically, Montechristi!! The only reason they are called Panama hats is because when the Spanish came to South America, they began shipping the hats back via Panama.

We did a hike around the Loja national park the following day which was quite beautiful and tiring. Ecuador_031.jpgThe hike took 6+ hours and it was through bushes and there was no trail. However we did have a guide. On Wednesday, we went to see some waterfalls Ecuador_068.jpgnear Cuenca and chilled out for the rest of the day.

We made our way to Vilcabamba the next day. This is a small tranquil village set in mountainous surroundings. It is also famous for being called the ´Valley of longevity.´ Inhabitants supposedly live to be 100 years old here, and some as old as 120 years. I could understand why when we got to Vilcabamba. We booked in at a hotel-spa (most places were hotel-spas) situated out of the town centre. It was really peaceful and relaxing. They also provided us with nice big organic breakfasts and dinners and there was a constant supply of thei water with some 20 herbs which were supposed to be good for your body. Well it tasted nice anyhow.

The next day we tried to get up to this mountain which provide great views of the region. However, it was over 35 degrees and an hour into the hike we gave up and made our way back down - it was the hottest day of the year by far. We booked a horse riding trip for the next day which the person there said was a pretty easy day out. Obviously it wasn´t. We spent the first 3 hours getting to the Las Palmas nature reserve. That was the first time eaither of us had done horse riding, and you soon get used to the horse and start enjoying the ride. Once we got there, we did a 2 hour hike down to a waterfall and back again. It was a pretty tough hike, and there was no trail and the gradients going up and down were sometimes very steep - it involved using ropes a couple of times or the strong tree branches to pull yourself up. So much for the easy day out. And then it was a 3 hr horse ride back to Vilcabamba. Needless to say our bodies were shattered after the long day. Ecuador_081.jpg

We had a well deserved massage the next day and chilled out - frankly neither of us could be asked to do much and we decided to enjoy the spa instead.

We made our way up to Banos the following day where they have natural thermal baths but not much else. Its also a good place to arrange hikes to the jungle, rafting etc... But we were running out of time (yeah - 8 months is definitely not enough) and then headed up to Quito.

Quito is a very old and grand city. We stayed in the old town for the first 2 days and then moved to Mariscal (the touristy area) for the remainder of our stay. The old town is really interesting with its huge churches, plazas, museums etc... We did a walking tour through old town on the first day. In the evening, encouraged by reports that there were indian restaurants in Mariscal, went in search of one. We saw 3 and decided to go to Bombay Palace. It is a pakistani owned restaurant and the food was average. However, after going without Indian food for 2 months, we didn´t really care. It was quite satisfying.

We went up the Teleferico (Quito´s newest and modern tourist attraction) the next morning. Its a multi million dollar sky trap which takes people up a mountain for some views of Quito. They also have an amusement park at the base. The views were ok as you can rarely get a clear day in Quito.

We headed for the famous Otavalo market the next day which is a couple of hours from Quito. Its a huge market, and on Saturdays spills itself on the sidestreets. We went to the Mitad el Mundo (centre of the world) on Sunday which is where the equator crosses and where the Ecuatorians believe to be the centre of the world. It was a very touristy place as you would expect but there was a great museum nearby which explained the geographical significace of the equator and gave some water and energy demonstrations of the gravitational forces on the equator and on either side of it. There was also this balancing an egg on the head of a nail where I was the only one who successfully managed to do it in our group - and I got a certificate for my efforts!! Ecuador_140.jpgThey also showed how people lived centuries ago in their huts, showed us how their ancestors would shrink people´s heads when they died (a pretty gruesome exhibition) and how they hunted - by blowing on poisoned needles through hollow pipes. We had a go at that and i managed to hit the target at 20 metres. Their ancestors would be doing it over 60 metres!!

We had tried to book a tour to do the Quilotoa loop as its a pretty remote place with very few busses servicing the route and thus making it easier to do a 3 day tour. However, the tour agent screwed us up and said that he was busy on the day before the tour, so we decided to do it by ourselves instead. We also met up with a Californian couple who were doing the same thing over thorn tree. It was a 6 hr bus ride from Quito, and we got to Chugchilan in the afternoon. As it rains every afternoon there, we rested for the evening, and organised a taxi (a pickup with benches really) to the Quilotoa logoon for the next day. The lagoon gives out a brilliant emerald colour and is the highlight of the area. Ecuador_BC_090.jpgWe hiked down to the lagoon and came back up in the morning (abit tough as we were doing it a 4000M above sea level) We made our way back to Chugchilan and spent the afternoon relaxing as it was raining. We had to catch the 5 AM bus the next day back to Quito which was quite an interesting experience - thats the bus the locals catch to get to work, and we had sheep and pigs on top of the bus!!

We spent the evening relaxing in Quito and today we have just chilled out, done laundry and updating the blog.

Tomorrow its onto Colombia and we have an 18 hour bus journey to look forward to - starting at 5 am. Great way to spend Diwali.

Ecuador was a great experience - it packs alot of diversity for a small country. Its also a place which has thousands of busses. Every town has a terminal terrestre (kind of like an airport) which is the base for all bus companies. All you have to do is get there, find out on the LCD display which company has the next bus going to your destination and book it. Brilliant!! No need to book ahead or plan your next stop. And at the start of every bus journey, there will be a salesman or a conman pitching to sell a product or asking for money. The snacks vendors bring to sell on the busses are very tasty too. Sad to be leaving Ecuador but looking forward to Colombia - everyone we have met or heard from have said what a great place it is. And I am not only talking about the drugs...or the women!! ;-)

Posted by AartiHemal 08:58 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

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