Ecuador: 4/30 – 5/6

Tena >>> Banos >>> Latacunga

4/30 – White Water Rafting with 8th Graders
5/1 – Explore Baños
5/2 – Tree Swing at Casa de Arbol
5/3 – Ruta de las Cascades: Most impressive waterfall & most delicious empanadas of entire trip!
5/4 – Rest day in Latacunga
5/5 – Rest day in Latacunga
5/6 – Rest day in Latacunga and finally got the blog up to date!

4/30
White Water Rafting with 8th Graders
+ It was time for our main event of Tena (and the main reason everyone comes here), to go white water rafting! So after an early-ish rise and quick breakfast, our shuttle picked us up from our hostel and drove us about 40 minutes to the starting point of the rafting trip.
+ We were the only passengers here so far and while waiting for the others, we walked on the impressively long hanging suspension bridge over the river. Although it was only about 4 feet wide, it was the main road for motorbikes to pass on, which only barely managed to squeeze by us on the bridge at the same time.
+ Eventually a large bus showed up and about 35 8th graders, along with 10 chaperones or so piled off. Uh oh, what did we sign ourselves up for?! After grabbing our life jackets, splash guards, helmets, and paddles we listened to the safety briefing while also watching the kids act up with each other. Oh, 8th grade. You seem like so long ago and yet not so long ago at the same time. Liz commented about how embarrassing they were acting and how she never did that, until Corey reminded her of one of the things she and her friends used to say in 8th grade and she sighed realizing she had been just as lame.
+ After dividing up into boats (and different groups actually fighting over us, the “Cool Kids”, sweet!) we started down the river. Our group consisted of us, 2 chaperones, 4 kids, and the river guide Tim, who was actually the owner of the whole company. It proved to be a great group as we had a really fun time going down the river.
+ Only 1 hour in, we reached a beach area where everyone stopped and ate lunch and played games. Lunch was all you can eat (Corey’s favorite, regardless of the food) make it yourself burritos, and it even included chocolate cake and pineapple!
+ One of the games involved everyone scooting on their butts in a caterpillar line racing to the finish, which Corey’s group won. The other involved everyone forming a giant circle with the paddles and moving left or right (depending on the guide’s whistle blow) and grabbing the next paddle. It was very entertaining to watch people run until each other and drop the paddles. More and more people got out and eventually Liz won! Way to go Liz!
+ Back on the water we continued for a few more hours until we reached the lodge the group was staying at and dropped them off. Along the way we had a ton of fun doing things like swimming in the river (in calmer spots), Surfing down the rapids (everyone standing on the sides of the raft and huddling up against each other for support), pirating other rafts and throwing people into the water, and riding cowboy style on the very front of the boat! It was a ton of fun and we were laughing almost the whole time with our group.
+ After we dropped them off, we continued with just the guides and boats another 10 km or so to the take out point. We were lucky because the rafting trip is normally only 25 km, but we got to go about 38 km! Although the rapids weren’t the most extreme we’d ever done, the jungle/mountain scenery of eastern Ecuador was still gorgeous and it was probably the most fun rafting trip we’d ever taken. We’re happy the big group had been there, otherwise the trip probably would’ve been a lot more boring!
+ At the take out point while the guides were loading everything up, we walked around the small town of Misahuallí and watched Capuchin monkeys playing in the park. Then we rode back to town with everyone, and we even had a free beer on the way. Overall it was a great full day excursion and we enjoyed getting to know the group and guides.
+ Someone was selling these very large (and still very alive) grubs out of a pot. They were wiggling all around and reminded us of something out of Lion King. One of the guides bought some to take home for a snack later. He said they are delicious!
+ After showering and changing at the hostel, we caught a cab to a restaurant we’d been recommended called Rio y Fuego. It had delicious Asian food which was a nice, different meal than we had been eating lately.
+ Before going back to the hostel, we walked around town and checked out the park too. In the park, they had a big tall tower they’d built recently which provided a great overlook over the city.
+ Then we stopped at a ice cream shop called Nice Cream. We got some delicious desserts for really cheap, including some sort of chocolate shell covering too! Yummy!
+ Then it was back to the hostel to relax in the room, watch some random movies on our cable TV, and rest our tired paddling muscles!

5/1
Explore Baños
+ Today we were leaving Tena, but before leaving the hostel, we lounged around in hammocks for a while doing stuff on our phones and tablet. We also ate our leftover pizza from earlier, which was still just as delicious.
+ Then we walked through town to the bus station and caught a bus towards our next destination of Baños, a famous adventure town in Ecuador. The bus ride was only about 3 hours, and passed a lot of amazing mountainous overlooks as well as many different waterfalls. The tunnels were literally carved out of the mountain! The walls of the tunnel were raw rock with water still seeping through! Our seats were the very front ones on the bus so we had great views the whole time.
+ Once we reached Baños, we grabbed our bags and found our way to our hostel. Then we dropped everything off in our room (which had 2 beds again, our 3rd hostel in a row with multiple beds in our room!) and headed out to walk around town.
+ From the rooftop of our hostel we had a great view of a waterfall just outside town that was a few hundred feet tall! And right next to it was a seemingly closed children’s theme park called “Dino’s World” with humongous dinosaur statues! How funny!
+ Walking around town, we passed a ton of empty tour agencies, restaurants and hostels. This was definitely their slow season! (Plus the earthquake a few weeks earlier most definitely had a negative tourism effect).
+ We ended up at the only brewery in town, called Stray Dog. This place had really funny dog decor everywhere and a decent selection of beers and food. Although the food was good, the beer (and service) were probably the weirdest we’d ever had in a brewery. Definitely not our favorite.
+ On the walk back to the hostel, we made a quick stop at the supermarket to grab some much needed items and found out everyone was shutting down early (and not selling alcohol) for some reason today.
+ At our hostel, we lounged in the rooftop hammocks for a while booking things for our next destination and watching some Parks and Recreation. Eventually we moved to our room and listened to the rain as we fell asleep.

5/2
Casa de Arbol
+ We were both petty comfortable in our bed and with few plans today, we chose to sleep in and relax.
+ Eventually we had brunch downstairs of the cereal we had bought the night before from the supermarket. Liz had cornflakes and Corey had chocolate cornflakes!
+ Then we waited outside our hostel until we caught a bus 30 minutes up the mountain to a place called Casa del Arbol. This place was situated on the top of the mountain on a cliff and had a famous swing that you could take a picture that looked like you were swinging into oblivion (because you practically were!). It also had a couple other fun things to take pictures on and admire the overlook. Unfortunately our view only lasted a few minutes before so much fog rolled in that we couldn’t see much.
+ After the ride back down the mountain, we went to a restaurant we’d read about called Casa Hood. It was a nice place that one of our favorite travel bloggers had fallen in love with and recommended. Our dinner was good, but nothing outstanding. After we finished our beer and coffee, we headed back to the hostel.
+ Liz had stuff to do on the tablet so she hung out in the room while Corey went to the local hot springs.
+ The springs were more of a collection of 3 pools of varying temperatures than natural springs. And they were very crowded with locals (only 1 other gringo!). Plus they required everyone to have a shower cap which made for a funny scene. Although the pan flute music was soothing, Corey didn’t stay long.
+ Back at the hostel, we watched Game of Thrones and Parks and Recreation on the tablet for a while before bed.

5/3
Ruta de las Cascades:
Most impressive waterfall and the most delicious empanadas of the entire trip!
+ Packed up and checked out of our room, then put our backpacks into storage at the hostel.
+ Ate the rest of our breakfast cereal! Liz especially liked it because it reminded her of being at home. Corey just liked it because he likes chocolate milk.
+ Went to a tour company and rented bikes to do the “Ruta de las Cascadas” (Route of the Waterfalls). It is a 23 km bike ride (mostly downhill) which follows along a river and passes a whole bunch of waterfalls!
+ Along the way we had a lot of awe-inspiring views of the mountains and countryside and we stopped often to photograph the most impressive ones.
+ Around km 20, we passed through a quaint, mostly deserted town called Rio Verde. From here, we started a hike to a waterfall called Devil’s Cauldron.
+ We hiked for about 15 minutes downhill on a normal path until we came to a restaurant where we had to pay $1.50 to continue to the falls. From here the trail became much more adventurous. We turned the corner and could hear the roar of the falls. And suddenly this huge waterfall came into view!
+ It was much bigger and more powerful than either of us had expected! We both agreed this was definitely the most impressive waterfall we had seen throughout all of Central and South America.
+ We quickly saw that the path did not end at this first overlook, although it looked like it did. It continued underneath a giant overhang of rocks in a tunnel that you had to practically crawl through! After about 30 yards of that, it opened up again even closer to the falls! We had seen people coming back completely soaked so we put on our rain jackets to prepare. We were glad we did because from this view point we got completely soaked! But the path still wasn’t over, it continued straight up a very small opening (which we could barely squeeze through – Ecuadorian people are much smaller than us!) and then we were able to go behind the falls!
+ It was from that area where we were finally able to comprehend the power of the falls and how many millions of gallons of water were pouring over the rocks just feet from our faces and yet we weren’t drowning!
+ We both admired the waterfall for a while longer before we retraced our steps back away from the falls to a hanging bridge below where we let our drenched clothes drip dry for a while and admired the rainbow in the mist from the falls.
+ Then we hiked back up to the restaurant at the beginning of the trail and Liz had some ice cream while Corey sampled some new craft beer.
+ Afterwards it was onwards with the bike trail for about another 6 km before we decided to turn around and catch a bus back to town. While the path did continue another 34 km to a larger town called Puyo, we had completed the most impressive part of the trail and this is where 99% of people turned around. Plus on the way back to the pick up point, Corey’s bike broke so it proved to be the best decision.
+ After the bus arrived back in town, we returned the bikes, got our backpacks from the hostel, then walked a few blocks to the bus station. While Liz waited on the bus, Corey grabbed food from a nearby empanada stand.
+ Although we had eaten empanadas many times on this trip (including in Armenia when Corey got food poisoning), we never had any nearly as delicious as these. We ate a Carne/queso one, a pizza one, and a chocolate one and they left us yearning for more! Sadly the bus was leaving so we couldn’t get anymore. But at least now we know how empanadas are supposed to taste!
+ The bus ride to our next destination of Latacunga was only about 2 hours and since it was too dark to look at the scenery outside the bus, we watched a random movie in Spanish on the bus tv.
+ After arriving in Latacunga, there was some discrepancy with the hostal we had booked online and the actual room the manager was trying to give us. After much discussion, we left and walked a few doors down to Hotel Central,a much older but perfectly sufficient place for the night with super friendly staff.
5/4
Rest Day in Latacunga
+ We decided to check out of Hotel Central because the internet was not working and we had a lot of work to get sone before we left for the Quilotoa Loop.
+ As we were checking out, the owner asked us to wait one minute. She came back into the room carrying 2 Ecuador handmade bracelets. She gave us each a big hug and wished us well on our travels. So friendly!
+ We decided to only walk a few doors down to a café in a pretty open courtyard.
+ Had coffee and bread for a few hours while doing work on the tablets.
+ Went to Gringo y Gordo and had unique food and drinks, including a craft beer, some free shots of a special Ecuador drink, and fancy sliders. The head chef was a friendly American who used to work with Emeril in the US.
+ Headed over to El Templario and sampled their homemade craft beers. Then decided on a coke/ice cream float because the beers were gross but we felt we had to order something.
+ Got information from tour agencies about Volcanoes Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. Because of revent activity, Cotopaxi is completely closed to visitors and Chimborazo was going to be out of our budget.
+ Took a taxi to our next hostel in the city, Hotel Sendero de Volcanes. Checked in then headed out for food.
+ Ate at a fast food type chicken restaurant with lots of funny statues of cartoon characters (like Mickey Mouse, Scooby-Doo, etc.). The copyright infringement things in these Latin American countries are hilarious.
+ Did work back at the room and watched some Kimmy Schmidt before bed.

5/5
Rest Day in Latacunga
+ Today was another work day so we spent most of the morning/afternoon doing stuff on the tablets.
+ Walked 15 minutes to the mall to check out stores for a new headlamp and get food. Ate at a burger place that was cheap but had a tricky menu, we weren’t full so we had another snack at the KFC in the mall.
+ Shopped around a hardware store for headlamps but because they were of a foreign brand, they were super expensive! So we didn’t buy them.
+ Then went grocery shopping to get breakfast food and snacks for the next few days, as well as some new craft beers they had we’d never tried before. Afterwards we caught a cab back to the hostel.
+ Hung out in the hostel’s computer room and updated the blog and uploaded pictures onto Facebook.
+ Corey watched some Dragon Ball Super before bed.

5/6
Rest Day in Latacunga and finally got the blog up to date!
+ Originally we were going to leave for the Quilotoa Loop today, but with more necessary work left to do online, we chose to spend another day at the hostel.
+ We did venture out for lunch back to the chicken restaurant from 2 days earlier. We got each got their special of the day and Corey added on a whole extra meal!
+ The afternoon was spent checking stuff off our to do list. Then we took a break and watched some Kimmy Schmidt.
+ For dinner we cooked at the hostel! But we only cooked Ramen, lol. Then Liz worked more on the computer and Corey ordered some much needed supplies on REI’s website.
+ We got to reply to some emails to friends and family before retreating back to our room. Then we packed our bags for the Quilotoa Loop the next day and watched another episode of Kimmy Schmidt before falling asleep.

Click here for more photos from Ecuador!

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