Banos (3 nights)
Action packed 3 days!!!
After my near death experience in Quito I headed for Banos. Should have been 3 and a half hours but traffic was terrible because every man and his dog was heading to Banos for the 4 day national holiday, so it took 5. Explored when I got there. Really nice small town with main square, church, market and thermal baths surrounde by lush steep green hills and an active volcano which last erupted in 2007.
Went to the thermal baths and got chatting to a middle aged local couple (Jorge and Esmeralda) in the 50 minute queue, who took me under their wing. The baths were rammed with Ecuadorian families! Esmeralda didnt have her bikini so Jorge spent an hour pointing out all of the women with nice t*** in the pools.Dirty dog!! lol They left so I got chatting to a couple of girls (Sophie (English) and Lisa (German) - the only two other gringos there) who had been doing volunteer work in the Ecuadorian jungle. After we went for dinner and met up with the rest of their volunteering group. (Cara & Stuart (Scots on honeymoon), Wislon (English) & Lucas (German). Hit a few more bars and the dance the night away witha quality group of Ecuadorian lads who turned out to be a right laugh. Random night that turned out to be one of the best so far! Shame they were allleaving the next day.
4 hours later I was up for the perfect hangover cure,white water rafting with Geo tours (owner - Oscar-legend!). 6 of us in the boat. Me & Georgia (29 year ols German/Yank/Eniglish/S.African), the two El Cap¡tanos and an Ecuadorian family (Margaret & Ismile). Georgia didnt want to fqall in so obviously Andres the guide spent the whole morning trying to flip us. At one point he made us all stand up, Georgia refused so Margaret tried to persuade her by telling her how safe it was, at which point we hit a rapid and I flew into the river! lol All had lunch togethr and they gave us a insight into Ecuador.
In the afternonn me, Georgia & my new roommate Christene (LA) trekked up to the mountain that overlooked the city. Christen was well unfit (doctor!) so us two left her at the cafe and acrried on for another hour through mystery farms which turned out to be tomatoes not weed to view the volcano but unfortunately it was cloudy up there. On the way down we forgot how slow Christene was so massively misjudged it so it was pitch black half way down. Luckily doctors are prepared and she had a couple of lights. Would have been screwed!
Was supposed to be doing Canyoning the next morning but 3 Ecuadorians were still drunk from the night before and bailed so I ended up doing rock climbing instead with just me and the guide Paulo. Awesome but bloody hard!! The most challenging Ive ever done. The rock was Basaltic not granite so was slippy and there were hardly any hand holes plus it was just me so I didnt have much rest time! Ate lunch at a food stall in the market. A quid for a full plaet of potatoes, eggs, suasage and sald -tasty!) Hired a mountain bike in the afternoon and did the 24km road stopping at 7 waterfalls and viewpoints along the way. Highlight was Devils throat and Makoy where you could swim in the poolat the bottom of the waterfall. Lots of climbing down and back out of the valley so couple dwith the rock climbing I was knackered!!! JUmped in the back of a truck to get back to town which picked uploads of locals on the way including some cute kids and a mother who proceeded to whack out her baps for a breast feed! Gave my body a well deserevd thermal baths session and a massage at night. Didnt get offered a happy ending for the first time tomy surprise!
Finally got to do canyoning the next morning (abseiling dwn 5 water falls). Good fun and met a couple who wnet to Lancatser uni 2 years after me (knew A.PAyne) and knew James McGlaughlin from Urmston. Small world!! Lunch and then bus back to Quito.
Galapagous ( 5 nights)
Route - flew into Baltra -North Seymour -Rabida - Santiago, Puerto Egas -Sombrero Chino - Bartolome - Soth Plaza - Danta Fe - Santa Cruz
North Seymour - Snorkelled first (Cold!!) and saw a samll white tipped reef shark and loads of fish including Razor Surgeonfish, KIng Angelfish, Blue-chin parrot fish, Azure parrot fish & Surge Wrasse. Then we did a walk around N.Seymour and saw bluefooted boobies, friggate birds (males puff out their red puch to attract the females and then flap and make noise when they fly overhead), land iguanas (95 % of diet is cactus), marine iguanas and sea lions. Watched the sunset - gorgeous! All of the animls except the fur seals in the Galapagous have never been hunted by humans so they arent scared and let you get very close!!
Rabida - snorkelled off the beach and saw shed loads of fish and a turtle. Julio (the guide) dived down into an underwater cave where there was 5 sharks and got 1 massive white tip to follow him out. We then explored Rabida on foot and saw blue footed boobies diving into the water to hunt - impressive!
Santiago - Puerto Egas - We should have snorkelled but the captain cancelled it because the sea was too rough.Bloody good job!! We explored on foot and saw iguanas, sally light foot crabs, fur seals, kestrels up close (unique predator of iguanas except imtroduced cats, dgogs and rats). When the crew picked us up in the dinghy it was tres choppy!! I went in the first boat which turned out to be a mistake! We legged it,jumped in and turned round to see a massive wave about to hit. The dinghy went vertical, 2 crew members fell in and ran to shore to escape the next 2 massive waves which nearly sank us. One of the guys ran back and grabbed on for dear life. Boat flooded, everyone drenched,boat ripped. Lucky to be alive but hilarious!!! GAP adventure!lol Apparently it was the worst landing conditions Julio had seen in 4 years and the captain is going to cancel all activities tomorrow if conditions dont improve! Back on board the yacht we chilled on deck and saw a Pelican who landed and friggate birds flying overhead.
Sombrero Chino - Saw Galapagous penguins on the approach tothe island. Walked round which wasnt great but the snorkelling made up for it. Wasbrillinat! Crystal clear water, visibility perfect and colourful fish! including rainbow runners, panamic sergeant majors and a penguin!! Very luck considering there are only 500 left in the world!
Bartolome - Dry landing. Craters that look like the moon. Can´`t support much life. View of pinnavcle and other islands. In the afternoon we snorkelled from the beach but the visibility was terrible bar 2 places. But more than made up for by the sea lions that came and played with me and Chris and a white tipped sharf which swam within centremetres of us. BAck on board we sat on deck and saw sea lions and a dolphin swimming in the ocean.
outh Plaza - Up early at 5.45 so we could snorke at low tide so conditions would be better. Dry landing. SawLand Iguans eating cactus fruit and the Hybrid Iguana, a cross between land and marine iguanas. Only 3 in the whole world. W & B striped like a Zebra. Goes against Darwins theories as it sattes that different species should not be able to breed togetehr. Waiting to see if the offspring are able to reproduce. Also saw swallow tailed gulls and an adult and baby red billed tropic bird in their nest. Then "bachelor" part of the island - when male sea lions are 5 or 6 they go out to sea for a year to eat and get massive. They then come back to land and fight the "king" sea lion which they win because the king has been living the high life with all the girls and looking after the babies for weeks. The new guy will only stay king for a few weeks before he gets defeated and then he goes off to bachelor part of island to die at 10. Also saw "Nascar" boobies-black footed boobies and a new born sea lion that was only hours old.
In the afternoon we snorkelled round the coast and into the bay which had crystal clear blue water. Class! -loads of fish including Black striped Salema, Giant Damselfish, Moorish idol, Searbin (bottom dweller), Mexican GOatfish, Guineafowl puffer and a turtle,a diamond sting ray and a white tipped shark!
Sat round playing cards on deck and then went out on the mainland palying pool with the locals. Due to Chris splashing out on Jagerbombs all round and then Cigars and obviously whisky because "you cant have cigars withoit whisky!" it got very messy and we didnt make it to be until half 3. Not a great idea since we had to be up 2 hours later!
Santa Cruz - the last day was rubbish!! Went round the Charles DArwin museum which was a massive let down and then flew back to Quito.
Quito - BAck to Quito for a chill out day. Gym, watched teh derby and MOTD and then met up with GReg and Gemma for a few beers.
Next stop Otovalo!