October 5, 2019
Danny was up bright and early to participate in La Selva or the jungle marathon. The Guayaquil Marathon was canceled so the running club had decided they would host their own. They made their own running tags with their names and measured the distance from the lodge to Misahualli and back. For a full marathon they would have to do this track twice.
The race started at 6:30 am with two rocks banged together. I stayed and watched the water and snacks table at the lodge while one of the ladies went up to get some other things. Danny returned after just under an hour and a half. He had reached the 5 km point and the sun was starting to come up so he decided it was time to turn around. He was happy to finish the 10k especially since the sun just kept getting hotter.
I had breakfast at 8:30 am and then a man showed up at our table to ask us about what we wanted to do with all the protests going on. We determined after a few minutes that he was Santiago, the guy our original driver had mentioned. Santiago was a manager at Suchipakari Lodge. He had been stuck in Quito the last couple of days helping some other travellers get to Quito and then to the airport. He told us that the southern route in to Quito was where the main blockades were located. The cab and bus drivers had been appeased with a raise in fairs, but the Indigenous continued their protests south of Quito. He told us we could make it to Banos, but we may not be able to enter Quito from the south. If this happened, the plan would be to go back towards the jungle and get back to Quito from the east. We agreed to head to Banos and see what happened from there.
Following breakfast, we made fresh chocolate. We took cacao beans fresh from the jungle and roasted them. After a couple of minutes they were hot enough that we could roll them to get the peel off. After the beans were put through a grinder until it was a sticky powder. Next the ground cacao was put in a saucepan over the fire and milk and sugar were added. We ate it with some fruit like a fondue.
Cacao beans were originally found in the Amazon of Ecuador and now can be found on the coast as well. On the coast they grow very well and can be exported. In the Amazon, the cacao is more for family use. The cacao are harvested twice a year and inside a plant there are 50-60 seeds.
After chocolate making, we packed up our bags to get ready to go. Santiago drove us and another couple at the lodge to Tena. From there, the other couple would be heading northwest towards Quito with another driver. Santiago continued driving us southwest to Banos.
He told us how there are lots of towns named after oil companies such as Shell and Texaco. He was saying that nowadays the Shuar, an Indigenous community within the Amazon, are not part of modern society. They live on land where oil still remains. Ecuador believes in protecting the Indigenous culture and have created Reservation de production de Fauna Cuyabeno. However, many oil companies choose to go through Peru to get to this area.
Electricity has changed sleeping patterns. Roads have made the cities more accessible. Young Indigenous people feel stuck between two worlds. This has led to an increase in youth suicides.
We had lunch just outside of Banos. Banos was named after all of the waterfalls in the area. After lunch we walked out to Pailon Del Diablo. It is the second tallest waterfall in Ecuador at 80 m. There is one higher waterfall in the northern Amazon at 120 m. The waterfall was very powerful and the view was spectacular.
Next we visited Agoyan Waterfall where we were given the option to do a $15 USD zip line across a canyon, over the waterfalls and to the other side. Danny chose the sitting up version and I chose the Superman version. We were put into harnesses and taken up to a platform.
I watched as Danny was attached. They took the rope from the harness and looped it around a T-bar on the line. I expected something to be fit on the ends to prevent the rope from coming off, but then Danny was sent down the line just like that. I watched as they attached me the same way. I was freaking out. If the zip line were to sway a bit or I were to move too much the rope could slip off the ends and splat. I did not enjoy the zipline. I was basically praying the whole time over the waterfalls that I would not slip off. Thankfully, I made it to the other side. I guess that’s what you get with a $15 zipline.
Our next stop was La Casa del Arbol, Swing at the End of the World. There were a bunch of swings there with a view of Tungurahua, an active volcano whose peak is at 5023 m. The way the volcano opens, eruptions go the opposite way of the valley of Banos. I very much enjoyed this place. Apparently it is usually very busy there, but due to the situation in Ecuador we only had to wait a bit to get on a swing.
We walked around and there was a cow with mountains in the background. It looked very similar to pictures we took in Switzerland.
On our drive into Banos we stopped for a view overlooking the city. The hotel we stayed at had a thermal bath. We enjoyed some time relaxing there before supper. Santiago took us to a restaurant where we had mojitos and steaks. It was amazing! After we went up the street to a bar where we had some more drinks and did some dancing before heading back to the hotel for bed.
October 6, 2019
We had a bit of a sleep in before breakfast at the hotel. We left Banos at 10 am to head to Cotopaxi. Santiago informed us that we would not be able to make it Quilotoa, a water filled caldera volcano, that was supposed to be part of our itinerary. The way there was blocked by the Indigenous protests.
Our drive to Cotopaxi was interesting. We took some back roads until Santiago believed the way was clear back on the main highway. We returned to the highway and then saw a bunch of vehicles heading the wrong direction towards us. The highway must have been blocked further up. We ended up taking back roads all the way to Cotopaxi. We drove past remnants of blockades on those roads as well. There was burning ash and trees and rocks pushed to the road side.
At Cotopaxi National Park, we checked in then a guide drove with us to the visitor centre. She explained that the trees in the National Park were from Canada, California and Chile and used for export. Cotopaxi means “throat moon” in the Indigenous language because the way the moon sits in the volcano at night makes it look like the throat of the moon. Cotopaxi volcano started to be active again in 2000, but it’s last major eruption was in 1817. History shows that it erupts every 100 years. It is the second highest active volcano in the world. Technology is able to give 20 minutes for people to escape the volcano. They have found that horses will leave the area 15 days before.
Our national park guide left us and we drove on to a nearby place within the park that had horses to ride. Santiago had called to arrange in the morning, but when we arrived there were no horses. He explained that the Indigenous people bring in the horses, but they were away protesting. We drove out of the park and further up the road to a little resort which had its own horses.
We were given an explanation on horseback riding that was much more extensive than when we were in Mongolia. The horses we had were quite calm. We were given furry chaps and a traditional poncho to wear. It started to rain not five minutes into our ride. Rain jackets were put over us and the rain did not stop.
We rode for about 45 minutes to the top of a hill. There was supposed to be a view of Cotopaxi and some of the other nearby volcanoes, but it was much too cloudy. We could just make out one of the smaller ones closest to us. My horse and I were very happy when we started heading back.
We had some locro de papa, potato soup for lunch which was very enjoyable. We added avocado, cheese, seeds and corn on top. At this point it was already 4:30 pm. We left the resort and continued on a back road until we reached the main highway. From there, it was clear all the way into Quito.
We stopped at a place to have a burger for supper then Santiago dropped us off at our hotel where we were supposed to start our GAdventures tour. We were a day early, but they had room for us to stay there. Santiago left us to relax and we planned for him to pick us up the next morning at 10 am. He asked if he would be able to bring his son as well because school was canceled for the next day. We agreed and planned for us to go to the Quito Cable Car and out to the equator line.
October 7, 2019
We had breakfast in the hotel then saw a message from Santiago telling us we would not be able to go to the equator line as the Indigenous had blocked the route. He asked if maybe we could move this day until we returned from the Galapagos. He phoned the reception at the hotel and she printed us off some maps to show us places we could go within Quito.
We started by taking some laundry to the nearby mall to get washed then we walked up the street to the Ethnohistoric and Crafts Museum of Ecuador. We saw a bunch of ceramics and textiles.
We had lunch right beside the museum then walked up the street to the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal. They had all sorts of knitted clothing, t-shirts and other souvenirs for sale. All the stalls seemed to blend together after awhile. We think we got some good deals though.
We returned to the hotel to chill a bit before we met our GAdventures tour group at 5:00 pm. This tour was set up a bit differently. We had a GAdventures representative meet with us to explain the airport procedure for the next day, but she was not going to be the guide with us for the whole trip. We would meet our guide when we arrived in the Galapagos.
A bunch of us met for supper just up the street. It was a fancy meal, but we enjoyed it. We returned to the hotel to pack our stuff to leave for the Galapagos the next day.
With the situation with the protests in Ecuador we have been very lucky to avoid any issues. We were unable to see Quilotoa which was a bit disappointing, but we were able to make it back to Quito in time to start our Galapagos trip. We are excited to be on our way to one of the most unique places on earth.