So I finally made the break and left Colombia - definitely one of my most favourite countries. Before arriving in Ecuador I made a quick stop in Salento (a must-see according to everyone) where it proceeded to rain on my head all day long while I hiked for what was supposed to be 4 hours but turned into 6.5 hours through muddy fields, cloud forests, and raging rivers across bridges made of WOBBLY and often rotten, broken logs. The only consolation of being completely on my own for the whole ordeal (wasn´t the plan - just bad luck) was that at least there were no witnesses as I pathetically crawled on my hands and knees across some of the ´bridges´. The day proceeded to become more challenging as I got hopelessly lost (at which point the locals tried to charge me for entering private property), I had to wade through parts of the river as the bridges were missing or it had been raining so much that the rocks were now under water and to top it all off decided, rather than heading back, to take the ´Mountain Path´ route as the easy 4 hour route to a mirador that I had originally chosen to find the wax palms (whole purpose of the trip) seemed to end in the middle of nowhere. When I finally reached the top of the hill, slipping and sliding in the mud with wet shoes and socks (yes they did advise wellys), the view was unsurprisingly completely obscured by white cloud. Even though I knew this would be the case at the bottom of the hill I had made the decision to climb it and wasn´t going to go back as had the tiniest glimmer of hope it would be clear at the top!! It wasn´t until afterwards that I realized that the trees I was looking for were the trees at the very beginning of the trail that I had seen first thing!! Don´t even say it... However, overall the whole trip was worthwhile when eventually 6 hours and 15 minutes into the walk when I was heading down hill on the road (thank God I didn´t have to go via the river again) I met a Spanish guy (jogging down the hill because of the rain), the sun finally broke through for 15 mins (before the rain started again), and we saw a brief glimpse of the beautiful valley below with the tall wax palms everyone raves about. My opinion - they just look like palm trees, I don´t get it but yes they are tall and nice! At the bottom, instead of being stranded for another 2 hours (freezing, soaking and starving at this point) the nicest Colombian car load of people popped us both into their car and took us home for free - thank you! To top it all off I decided to head to Ecuador that evening on the overnight bus only 14 hours, how hard can that be?! Well, first of all the bus was 3.5 hours late from Bogota. One hour into the journey we were stopped by the police who proceeded to search the bus, all the bags, toilets - where they found some brown packages and then took a couple of guys away to search. Nearly an hour later we were back on the road in the torrential rain. At 4am more police on the bus. This time we all had to show our ID and again lots of clambering on and off the bus. I eventually arrived 19 hours later, caught a taxi to the border via quick detour to see a neo gothic church Santuario de las Lajas built on a bridge - absolutely stunning, followed by another ´5´ hour bus journey to Quito which meant 7 hours and found a bed for the night at 10.30pm absolutely shattered after 28 hours of non stop travelling - argh!
My first day in Quito I met Catherine (UK) and Mike (USA) in the hostel. Mike headed off to El Mundo (equator) and I decided to head a couple of hours south (because I love the bus journeys so much) to Otavalo where they hold a huge market on Saturdays. We decided to each lunch from one of the stalls. I choose soup thinking it was vegetable but quickly found out it was intestines and liver - why would you cook that?? It was horrible but all part of the fun! That evening we all met up again and found out that Mike had been mugged by 5 men with knives. So, solely in order to cheer him up, we bought some red wine and headed out to some of the local bars - I almost felt like I was in Medellin again, although got home at a very respectable 2am!
A few days later and I am now in Baños a beautiful town, home of natural thermal spas, 4 hours south of Quito in the mountains. I went on a jungle trek today which was absolutely brilliant and one of the highlights of my whole trip. First we stopped at a monkey sanctuary where the monkeys clamber all over you. Was a bit scary when the first one decided to chew my eyebrow - ouch. It got worse though, another monkey decided to suck my neck and I now have a great bright love bite on my neck - perfect! There was a tiny baby (6 months old) who climbed onto me and wouldn´t let go, it was so adorable. The photos are really funny and I will try and upload some when I find a computer with a better connection. After the sanctuary we drove down to the jungle and had a trip down the river in a shallow canoe over rapids which was absolutely terrifying. The guide bought his dog - stupid idea as everytime the dog moved we nearly capsized! We hiked to a viewpoint and saw the forest laid out below us. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and only a few white fluffy clouds. Lunch was delicious and after a jungle trek, which was really amazing to see all the plants and learn the medicinal purposes etc, we arrived at a waterfall and went swimming. It was the perfect day, and as the sun started to set, all the clouds had disappeared, and you could see a snow capped volcano in the distance glowing pink from the sun. It was truely incredible!
In a couple of days I am heading to the Galapagos islands for a 4 day cruise which is really exciting as it is supposed to be amazing...then I only have a couple of days left before I head to Brazil. Where is the time going?!!!