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Cruising Independence
  • Writer's pictureRick D.

Exploring Ecuador – Part Two, Oct 23rd – Oct 31st

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

We took our Ecuador Hop Bus from Quito, through Quiotoa, to the City of Banos, a wonderful and picturesque place nestled in a valley between mountains with waterfalls and hot springs. We met a great couple from CA, Lesley and Sunny Schumaker and took in the thermal spas and myriad of restaurants in town. Exploring Banos and the surrounding area was looking like fun!

We started off with an Ecuador Hop excursion to a zipline over the river, a cable car ride, and a trip to Pailon del Diablo, a 90 meter beautiful waterfall where we could climb right down to the base – extremely spectacular and photogenic! After we returned from the waterfall, another excursion bus took us to the top of the mountain overlooking Banos, where there were huge swings that arced out over the cliff above the town below. We opted out of the swing, preferring to be dropped off at the Luna Vulcan Spa Hotel. Though the room rates were way over our budget, for $20.00 you could get a thick terry robe and access to the thermal hot tubs that overlooked the town… amazing view with a glass of wine – we were spoiled rotten! The clifftop restaurant was affordable and equally wonderful.

Our next excursion was with a private guide to the Puyo rain forest at the top of the Amazon. We started out at the wildlife refuge, Yana Cocho and saw rescued monkeys and anteaters and met the dedicated crew of volunteers. (The baby monkeys were adorable) Next up was a dugout canoe ride down the Rio Pollo past the rural communities in the jungle. We stopped at one small village of the Wayuri family. We were met by indigenous natives in tribal clothing and learned of their lifestyle, how to use a blow dart tube, met their cute pet monkey and watched them make some incredible beadwork. Candy even had her face painted in the latest tribal design! We then set off on a hike to a waterfall hidden deep in the jungle, where we braved the freezing cold water to take a (very) quick dip. On the way back to Banos we stopped at a family Cacao farm and learned how to make chocolate from raw beans. What an amazing day!!

The following day was white water rafting down the Rio Pastada. After a night of steady rain, the river was rougher than usual. As the eldest folks on the bus, we felt the younger folks were chuckling at our interest in rafting. Wetsuits, helmets, a quick safety brief and we were screaming down the river with our tillerman howling in glee as we plunged over a rock and got drenched. The other raft on the tour flipped over dumping 8 in the water. Our raft went into recovery mode and our offshore rescue training kicked in. One young girl (with streaked hair and multiple nose rings) later hugged Candy and said “I just knew that you would save me!!”after she was hauled up out of the white water and unceremoniously dumped into the bottom of the raft. Ultimately it was a great adventure, once they were returned to their own raft.

We rushed back to Banos and barely made our next Ecuador Hop Bus to Cuenca, Ecuador where a trip to Devils Nose aboard an old fashion train with wooden cars awaited. It was a three hour drive from Cuenca to Alalusi to meet the train. The town was filled with outdoor markets and indigenous Ecuadorians in colorful traditional outfits. The train trip to the lower valley required about 6 switchbacks where the train reversed directions. At the bottom was a village from the 1800’s where we were entertained by traditional dancing, music and a small museum. On the way back to Cuenca we stopped at the only Inca ruins in Ecuador, Ingapirca. We saw the temple of the sun and foundations of building and houses. One was where virgins, taken from local villages lived, making vestments and “helping” with rituals and animal sacrifices. We experienced roast pig skin (castata) on the way home (similar to Australian Crackle) and finally arrived in Cuenca just in time for dinner.

We toured the beautiful cathedral and had dinner at a great restaurant named “Don Colon”. It turns out that the owner previously lived in Norwalk, CT and worked at the Steamboat Restaurant and aboard the dinner boat “The President” in Greenwich. Very small world!!

We toured museums and churches, sampled the local food, hiked a lagoon in a volcano in the Cajas National Park and joined our next Ecuador Hop bus at 11:00 PM for the overnight trip to Guayaquil. We arrived at 3 am and checked into a hotel for a few hours of sleep and a shower. Then it was back to the bus terminal to board our bus to Lima Peru.

Luckily throughout the Ecuador trip Candy kept a daily diary, as the pace of the adventure almost made us dizzy!! We truly enjoyed Ecuador and the wonderful people we met on our way.

Next…. Off to Peru, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu and hiking the Inca Trail!

Quiotoa Lagoon - inside a volcano!

Cablecar ride & trek to the base of Palion del Diablo waterfall

Zipline survivors!
Exploring with Lesley and Sunny Schumaker

Overlooking Banos

Banos by day and the Lina Vulcan Hot Springs by Night

Yana Cocho animal refuge

Rio Pollo canoe trip

Wayuri family village and an adorable baby monkey

Blow Dart practice

Devil's Nose Train Ride

Traditional dancing and music in the Devil's Nose village
Making chocolate from roasted cacao beans.
Cuy (Guinea Pig) on a spit - a local delicacy!

Our first Inca ruins in Ecuador, Ingapirca.

Government building in Cuenca, Ecuador
Hiking the Caja National Park in Ecuador
Traffic jam on the main highway as the sheep head home for the evening!

Casada Hola Vida waterfall deep in the jungle

Dinner and wine with Don Calon, Cuenca, Ecuador

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