An Adventurous Week in Ecuador – Quilotoa

10 May 2014 – 17 May 2014

The Adventure Week AKA Ruta de los Volcanes

The Leap promised its Leapers an “a week of adventure and expedition, taking the famous “Ruta de los Volcanes” (Volcanic Route), biking to waterfalls, white-water raft, climb Chimborazo volcano and kayak over Quilotoa crater lake”, but it was much more than that, exceeding all of our expectations. It was a crazy week, finally getting EVERYONE out of their comfort zone, with loads of unforgettable memories, and loads of work for me as a leader! Here follows a great story, enjoy the ride!

Adventure Week Quilotoa The Leap Group

LAGUNA DE QUILOTOA

After having breakfast in Quito and giving my group an orientation about this week, we left by private bus to Quilotoa. It was a horrible temparature shock going straight from the warm Galapagos Islands to the cold Laguna de Quilotoa. I felt quite calm, although I knew I could expect a crazy week when it came to organizing, leading, transporting, arranging meals and making many many invoices in hotels, travel agencies and restaurants. But I was more ready then ever before and started to feel more and more comfortable with my job and the group.

The Quilotoa Loop is a bumpy, ring-shaped road that travels from the Panamericana far into the backcountry of Cotopaxi province. Along the way tourists encounter colorful indigenous markets, a crystal-blue lake that the locals believe has no bottom (!!!), and ancient trails that meander in the shadow of snowcapped volcanoes. The isolated location brought us in contact with Kichwa-speaking indigenous people and some lamas.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

After paying a 2$ entrance fee to Quilotoa, it was not hard to find our hostel as there were only a handful in town. We had a typical lunch, warmed up near the fire place where we met other travellers and watched how the clouds got ticker and ticker, until we could not see the end of the road anymore and finally watched how it started to rain. We felt quite stuck in the building, went to our room and collected wood for the fires at night. It got colder and colder, so freezing I had never felt before!

I went souvenir shopping in my raincoat with the girls as real fashionistas, we bought some drinks and food to keep us warm and strong, and spend the night making fire and more fire until we finally had de-frozen our fingers and toes, played “never have I ever” (my all-time favourite game!) and finally got to sleep. Some alone, some together… To keep each other “warm”?!

Well yeah, it was a lovely evening even though I was really disappointed in the fact that we did not managed to hike down the lake because of the weather. We agreed on having breakfast at 6h30 in order to leave for the hike early in the morning at 7h30 because usually it does not rain in the mornings.

And oh yeah, I woke up and the sky was bright blue and clear. We were very lucky and because there were no clouds, the reflection of the sun showed all kinds of colours of blue and green. We enjoyed the lookout on the top where we had stunning views of the mirror-green lake about 400m below and the snowcapped peaks of the Cotopaxi volcano in the distance.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

When you ask the locals how deep it is, they always say it has no bottom at all, they said in the Lonely Planet. So I did the test and asked some locals. Some could not even reply to my Spanish, because they only spoke Kichwa, and does who did speak Spanish confirmed: no bottom. Well, geologists say 250m…

After an hour going down, we rented kayaks to see more of the lakes surroundings. The alkaline lake water is not potable, and I assume it is too cold for swimming, even though it was clearly warmer near the lake then in the village during the day.

Adventure Week Quilotoa

With an altitude of 3914m, it is really hard to hike around the volcanic-crater lake of Laguna Quilotoa. You have no air in your longs, and it literally feels as if you had just smoked a package of cigarettes in 5 minutes. Impossible to walk back up, was what I said after giving it a try for 30 meters. I stopped a local, and continued by horse (or was it a donkey?!)

Adventure Week Quilotoa

I felt really sorry for my ‘animal’ which did not only suffer itself from the hike up carrying my weight, but apart from that he had some serious diarrhea and stopped every once in a while, refusing to walk further. Pobrecito,  I will never do that again but I have to admit it was way easier and enjoyable to get up like this.

Some of my group members took the challenge and hiked all the way up, arriving sweaty and tired, while I was already chilling up there for half an hour. Because of that, we were a little bit late for our private transfer to Baños, but it was definetely worth the delay and we had been so lucky with the weather after all.

If you ever plan on going to Ecuador, make sure you do not skip Quilotoa. Truly recommendable and one of the most beautiful places in the whole country, in my opinion.

Adventure Week quilotoa

Then it was time to head further to Baños, another 4 hours by bus away. Everybody slept as a baby during the transfer, preparing for “the thrill town” of Ecuador!! And every now and then I opened my eyes to enjoy the amazing views along the road. The Andes is fascinating!

Adventure Week the andes road

NEXT POST / STOP: BAÑOS

Hasta pronto,

Julie

My Galápagos Dream Journey – 6: Isabela

6: ISABELA

The 3rd of May it was time to head further to the biggest island of the Galapagos archipelago. In order to survive the 2 hour ‘lancha’ boat trip, I took an anti-seasickness pill, as many other travellers adviced me to do so. It wasn’t that bad, too be honest. I enjoyed the sunrise and was warmly welcomed by my tour operator on the peer. As it was the first time in my life that anyone was waiting for me with a personal nametag, I was super excited! Lol 😛

Just some advice for any Galapagos backpacker reading this post: Isabela has no ATM so you have to take enough cash with you from either San Cristobal or Santa Cruz. Upon arrival at the peer you will be obligated to pay an additional $5 entrance fee to Isabela, helping the island’s conservation.

I felt like ‘a real tourist’ with my super cheap all-inclusive package deal, checked in at Hotel Coral Blanco, got meal coupons and excursion vouchers. I paid $185 for 4 nights in a single room (airco, wifi, hot water), 2 diners, 2 lunched and 2 breakfasts, a city/flamingo tour, the full-day trekking to Sierra Negra & Volcano Chico and an excursion to Las Tintoreras.

Islas de Galapagos isabela beach

However, the first day on the island I decided to take it easy and I headed to the beach for some tanning and sleep. Every once in a while a crab or marine iguana passed by next to my towel, but apart from that it was a very enjoyable morning at the beach.

After lunch I had a very short city and flamingo tour, which was not so impressive as Puerto Villamil is a tiny beach village with only unpaved roads and everything is in walking distance. But it was pretty cool to see the wild flamingos chilling in the lagoon.

Islas de Galapagos isabela flamingo

After the tour I wandered around some more but got quite bored soon as Puerto Villlamil is an undevelopped and tiny village of which you can count the bars and shops on one hand…

I did another nap (siesta) and went to the restaurant with my food coupon for dinner. I felt quite lonely and bored, so headed to the Iguana Bar on the peer in search for some new friends and cocktails. I chatted with the bartender, told him about my job and found out some adresses and contact persons for new volunteer projects for Yanapuma. Lovely how working, enjoying cocktails and watching pinguins can go all together here! This is the life!

Islas de Galapagos isabela iguana bar

The next morning I felt like a new person and totally ready for my day excursion to Sierra Negra & Volcano Chico. With a lunchbox and loads of water packed, I left for what turned out to be a SICK day! Apparently, they ‘forgot’ to inform us that the hike was 16km in 2 difficult phases: a muddy and rainy hike uptil the Caldera of Sierra Negra, and a climb over lava rocks to Volcano Chico. And that everything, the same road as we went to go back. It took our group 8 hours of non-stop struggling through very changing weather and landscape types.

Islas de Galapagos sierra negra isabela

After walking for 3 hours in the rain, mud and mist we finally reached the top of Sierra Negra. Here we could see the caldera partially, but it was still pretty impressive to see this black sea of lava floods.

Islas de Galapagos isabela caldera sierra negra

Then as we walked further the green and lush landscape changed into a dry desert of volcanic rocks…

Islas de Galapagos volcan chico

We reached volcano Chico and already left half of our group behind somewhere because they could not handle it. The hike was a real stuggle and adventure. I thought it was a good excercise if I would ever go climbing the Mount Everest, lol :-p

Islas de Galapagos volcan chico

Me, the guide and two other tourists climed all the way up to Volcano Chico, where we had the most spectacular views at +/- 1000 meter above sea level.

Islas de Galapagos isabela volcan chico

We took half an hour to eat our lunch box and then we headed back. On our way we put our hand in some lava rock and it was very hot, so that means – yes yes – that this volcano is active! I was told that the last eruption was in 2005.

On our way back I thought about ice cream and home, that way the time went faster and I tried to forget about the rainy part of the hike that was still coming. I ended up making jokes and good chats with the other tourists and by the time we all arrived, we were friends and could only smile about this insane day. We headed back completely soaked, full of mud and exhausted, ran in the sea with clothes and walking boots to get the mud off and had a good time.

Islas de Galapagos isabela

Later in the night, after a good shower, I went to see the sunset at the peer, felt a little bit lonely and had dinner. The next day I woke up early again for the next excursion, I really wanted to make the best out of my stay here and see as much as possible. So I went to visit Las Tintoreras.

First we went to take our snorkel gear and drove to the boat dock where we started our tour. Las Tintoreras is a small archipelago of volcanic islands near Puerto Villamil.

On your way to the islands, you can see sea lions chilling on boats, pinguins chilling on rocks and so on…

Islas de Galapagos isabela penguin

Once we got onto land, we walked around a little bit. We saw a colony of baby iguanas, which was very cute to see. They all sit on top of each other and it looks like some of them are hugging each other. Big love, babies!

Islas de Galapagos baby iguanas

Then we were on a beautiful beach were sea lions lived and played, which was absolutely paradise!

Islas de Galapagos las tintoreras

And after that we walked on some more volcanic rock material and enjoyed the views and the sun.

Islas de Galapagos las tintoreras isabela

We encountered another colony of marine iguanas, this time it were the mommies and the daddies I suppose… And last but not least, we found granddaddie, but I think he did not survive it …. 😉 RIP

Islas de Galapagos skelet iguana

We headed back to the boat and jumped in the water to cool off and enjoy some snorkeling. To my biggest surprise this was one of the best snorkel trips so far, as I saw gigantic sea turtles of over hundred years in the water. At least 7 of them!

galapagos turtle snorkel

There were also sea stars and other fish types that had not seen before so far on the Galapagos trip. Recommendable!

Islas de Galapagos snorkeling isabela

In the afternoon I went to visit the tortoise project on Isabela, in order to find out whether they can receive volunteers for Yanapuma. I decided to walk via the 20 minutes trail, which turned out to be a beautiful walk. I had to pass some crossing iguanas every now and then, but it was peaceful and quiet.

Islas de Galapagos turtle project

Upon my arrival at the project I registered and introduced myself to one of the guards. I got a private guided tour through the whole area and got to feed the turtles, which is normally strictly forbidden for tourists. The advantages of working in the industry, I guess!

Islas de Galapagos tortoise

It was a rehabilitation center for tortoises that were rescued from an eruption of a volcano on Isabela, and over 2 years they had already made over 200 baby tortoises. I can only say it was a very nice experience to feed the tortoises, but in order to get more information for Yanapuma I had to go back to the village to talk to the people of the Ministerio de Galapagos, which I managed to do, but with all these restrictions it was quite hard to get a deal out of it.

So I made another appointment in the evening to visit another project the next day, and finished my day at a bar with some cocktails and met some French volunteers from Hacienda Tranquila, with whome I turned out to have dinner with. We ended our night near a campfire and a bar, drank Tequila Sunrise and Piña Colada, felt like hippies and went to bed tipsy. Love life!

isabela camp fire

The last day in Isabela was fully booked with ambitious plans: snorkeling in Los Tuneles and project visit to Campo Duro… I noticed that waking up at 6 o’clock became the weirdest holiday habit ever, but I enjoyed it as I could make the most out of my days. Although I have to say I was also happy that it was the last day of doing excursions and snorkeling, because after 3 weeks of die-hard travelling, you really have enough of it. No matter how much paradise factor this place has.

Oh yeah, last night I dreamed that there was a volcano eruption which caused a tsunami wherefor I escaped on a zodiac and I had saved my photo camera in a mysterious way. I was one of the only persons that survived on earth and when I woke up, I did not realize it was not happening for real. Was it the alcohol? Or had I just been to much fascinated by the stories of the guides on this island? Lol 😛

The tour started, I met a Dutch woman on the boat, who became my buddy for the day and we sailed away… On our way we passed by Union Rock, which is full of Nazca Boobies! Sailed around it up to very close, and then went further.

Islas de Galapagos isabela union rock

It was difficult to sail between the tunnels of Los Tuneles, as they are all volcanic erosions in the water. But it was a beautiful walk with nice views.

Islas de Galapagos los tuneles

We could also see some tortoises swimming and later we had the chance to snorkel with them and literally chased some sharks out of their tunnels. It was pretty pretty adventurous, and I was exhausted from doing this excercise snorkel around under and through the tunnels.

Islas de Galapagos tuneles isabela

After two snorkel trips, a lunch on board and seeing some gigantic manta rays jumping out of the ocean, it was time to head back.

I called a taxi to go to Campo Duro, which was a fantastic project I found on the island. This ecolodge does not only offer camping sites, but has its own tortoise refuge and organic farm where they harvest food for the animals and the community. Their grounds are massive and I have never before seen the tortoises living so happily in natural surroundings.

I was warmly welcomed by the owner, Don Michui, in his restaurant. Again I was offered a guided tour, got the chance to ask a lot of questions and felt very professional, lol. No, I’m serious… I really enjoyed doing this visits and negotiations and I really hoped that Yanapuma would be able to work with them because I could see volunteers coming here…

Islas de Galapagos campo duro isabela

I took a taxi back to the hostal and met my French friends again for one last goodbye dinner and cocktail on the beach. The next day I would leave very early to take 2 ferries and having a long travel day…

Next stop: SAN CRISTOBAL (7) –> Keep following for the last destination of my Galapagos Dream Journey

From Julie with Love

Pululahua, Camping & the Shamans

Life is full of surprises and serendipity, that’s the least I can say about this weekend. Being open to unexpected turns, brought me wonderful opportunities. I slowly start to realize that if you try to plan every step here, you might miss those wonderful twists and turns. And so I founded my next adventure on the dining table Wednesday evening… Celebrating the solstice festival with my host family in the crater of Pululahua, a – fortunately – passive volcano.

We weren’t quite sure where and when exactly we would be able to celebrate with the indigenous Ecuadorian people, but there were rumours going on and so we left Quito for the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) on Saturday morning. My host father, Francisco, and another host in the house, Nicolas, decided to go camping somewhere around that evening. I took some cash in case I would find a hotel, and just for in case if not… I prepared a small back to go camping too. This would be the first time!

And so we left, for a new adventure, crossing the Equator by bus and by foot. On our way we passed San Antonio, a small town near la Mitad del Mundo, where people were already celebrating the arrival of Spring!

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We had lunch in Rumicocho, where we visited the Ruinas de Rumicucho. This is an archeological site near San Antonio, constructed by the Incas between 1480 and 1500 for military and religious goals. It is also called Pucará de Rumicucho. There are 5 terraces from which you have an amazing view over the surroundings. Apart from that, it’s not that spectacular, too be honest.

Pululahua 015

We had lunch in a local restaurant near the ruins, and I ate what I got offered (vegetarian option). I could recognize mais and cheese, but the beans I had never seen nor eaten before in my life. Miraculously, it tasted quite well and the meal filled me up entirely!

Pululahua 010

Then we headed further to Pululahua, where the celebrations would continue until late at night… We had to take  a bus and walk a while, but it was okay for my unexperienced hiking-legs. 😉

We hiked up the mountains until we walked literally into the clouds at more then 3000 meters of altitude. Amazing!

Pululahua 076

Once over there, we entered the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun). Around this monument, all the indigenous people gathered together to make a wonderful time. We were not even inside the temple, or we were invited to participate a guided session. Here the woman explained the magnetism of the equator (the temple is exactly located on the equinoctial line).

Inside the temple, people remember the importance of the sun for the original folks. The buildings consists out of 3 levels, in which they show paintings and sculptures that help to maintain the balance with the cosmos,  regarding the guide.

Pululahua 108

After a while, we were invited to experience the relaxing spirit of medicinal herbs and aromatherapy, combined with Andean music. We were also given a piece of Jade to improve our balance. And believe it or not, but after some random examples, we got proof that this worked.

All stones had a different meaning, and when I asked the woman to explain my stone, I was convinced that this was mend to be MY stone. Therefore, I decided to keep it and never to take it out during my trip through Ecuador. The energy would help me feel balanced. (I know, sounds a little bit crazy…)

Pululahua 124

Before we knew it, it was 7PM and time to start participating in the ceremonies. We didn’t even had time to figure out where to sleep and it was already dark. And as there were no affordable hostels nearby, I had no other choice than to camp too. But secretly, I found it exciting!

As the sun set down, the Shamans arrived for the TEMASKAL (purification with plants and stones). The indigenous were making music in a mystical way, like I had never heard before. Everybody got in a sort of trance and we all started to dance around the fire. Yes, even we, not being part of them and the only white ones here, were kindly invited to participate in the circle.

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The Shamans drunk a lot of alcohol, we noticed, but they spitted it out all the time and made a sort of mist passing through our senses that stimulated our emotional state of being. This was awesome!

Pululahua 132

A little bit later the head Shaman asked for fuerza (strength) and alegria (happiness), as they were about to start the ZAPATEO POR LA PACHAMAMA (the fire walk). One by one they ‘danced’ over the fire on their naked feet. And in the background the indigenous kept playing the trance-styled music. After the Shamans all walked over the fire for various times, the public was invited to do it too.

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Next, after midnight, was the TOMA DE MEDICINA SAGRADA (taking of medicine), called Ayahuasca. Here came the seriously wicked part. People start to pass bowls of this psychedelic brew of various plants, and drunk it in order to get spiritual relevations regarding their purpose on earth, and to get deep insight into how they can be the best person they possible can be on this earth. In reality, I have just seen most of them getting into another state of consciousness (hallucination). However, you have to drink sufficient before having this effects, because my host companion Nicolas tasted some, and didn’t feel any effects. It might be also important to know that the preparations made of these plants (Ayahuasca) are not under international control and are legal ‘drugs’ here.

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Anyhow… The main purpose of all this celebrations was the new Andean year, which starts when the sun aligns with the earth. This causes ‘maximal energy’ and is the day of flowering, dreams and new projects. Natives celebrate it with big parties, music, dance, food and Ayahuasca drink. The party here was called PAWKAR RAYMI, fiesta of the Flowering of the Maize. They thank the bounteous provisions of PACHA MAMA, or Mother Earth, on this day in particular.

And so we went at night to set up our tent and slept shortly near the fiesta. I woke up every hour because of pain in my back and various noises, but after all I really enjoyed this experience. And so I also did enjoy having breakfast with a view in the nature the next morning. (And I even pipi’ed in the wild!!) 😛

Pululahua 143

Early in the morning there were no clouds and we walked into the crater of Pululahua, one of the reasons why we came here.

The views were amazing and I founded them even more beautiful than on the pictures I’ve seen on Google before coming here. Lol.

Pululahua 146

It was a pretty steep hike down into this passive volcano, but the views were UN-BE-LIEV-ABLE!

Hiking up was something else in this altitude and steepness. I had to hold breaks every once in a while to control my breathing and heart rate, but it was all worth it! Definitely!

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By the time we returned to the Temple of the Sun, the celebrations started all over again. Or actually, did they ever stop? No, because a group of guitarists kept playing all night through…

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Now arrived groups of children in typical clothing to perform some dance and celebrate with their families.

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Unfortunately, it was time for us to break up the tent and pack our stuff. We had experienced lots of amazing things, but the lack of sleep made us longing for home and shower. And the way back was still long…

 Pululahua 086

Next trip: Santo Domingo y los Tsachilas! Read about it soon here 😉

Riobamba, La Nariz del Diablo & La Llama

Saturday it was about time for my first weekend trip, with colleague Michel – Dutch guy, who is also an intern at Yanapuma – and Max, German guy – and English teacher volunteer who I’ve never seen before the trip. We doubted between going to the coast to catch some sun and visit Isla de la Plata or to go for culture & adventure at Riobamba and La Nariz del Diablo. And as the title of this blog post says, you know what it became…

Zaterdag was het dan eindelijk zover, tijd voor een eerste weekend uitstap met collega Michel – Nederlander die ook stage loopt bij Yanapuma – en Max, Duitser die vrijwillig Engelse lessen geeft in Quito en wie ik nooit eerder voor de trip had gezien. We twijfelden even of we naar de kust zouden gaan om wat zonnestralen op te vangen en Isla de la Plata te bezoeken, of dat we naar cultuur en avontuur op zoek zouden gaan in Riobamba en La Nariz del Diablo. En zoals de titel van deze blogpost al verklapte, weet je wat het is geworden…

The Travel Team

Travel Companions: Michel, Me and Max

So Saturday morning I left with a small bag for one night to Riobamba. I was going to meet the boys in Parque El Ejido to catch a one hour bus to the terminal of Quitumbe where we would take the bus to Riobamba. I decided again to let go of my fears and took the public transportation with my camera and stuff. And thanks to God that went well!

4 hours later, around noon, we arrived in Riobamba. On our way we enjoyed spectacular views over the Cotopaxi volcano and other beautiful landscapes, as we were driving along the Panamericana highway. And as always I also slept good on that bus… 😛

Dus vertrok ik zaterdagochtend met een kleine tas voor één nacht richting Riobamba. Ik zou the jongens in het Ejido park ontmometen om daar een één uur durende busrit richting de busterminal van Quitumbe te nemen. Daar zouden we de bus richting Riobamba nemen. Ik besloot opnieuw om mijn angsten te overwinnen en maakte gebruik van het openbare vervoer, ondanks dat ik mijn camera bij had. En God, dat ging even lekker!

4 uur later, rond de middag, kwamen we aan in Riobamba. Onderweg genoten we van spectaculaire uitzichten over de Cotopaxi en andere prachtige landschappen, terwijl we over de Panamericana autosnelweg reden. En naar goede gewoonte deed ik ook een aardig dutje op die bus… 😛

Riobamba & Nariz del Diablo 046 !!!

We booked a cheap hostel for $13 a person but as they did not provide us the expected room, we bargained until we paid just $11. The Ecuadorian way! Overall, we had not to complain about this place, except that the WiFi signal was poor and there came more water from the shower on the floor than over my body… The Ecuadorian way too?!

We started of with a walk through the small city of Riobamba, where we were happy to find the Saturday markets. One market was full of artesian products, and the other with fresh vegetables, fruits and meat.

We boekten een goedkoop hostel voor $13 per persoon maar gezien ze niet over de gereserveerde kamer beschikten, brachten we de prijs tot $11. Op z’n Ecuadoriaans! Over het algemeen hadden we niet te klagen over deze plek, afgezien van het slechte WiFi signaal en het feit dat er meer water uit dan in de douche liep… Ook op z’n Ecuadoriaans?!

We startten even later met een wandelingetje door het kleine stadje Riobamba, waar we tot grote vreugde de zaterdagmarkt terugvonden. Er was één markt vol met ambachtelijke producten, en een andere met verse groenten, fruit en vlees.

Local market in Riobamba on Saturday

I can’t get used to seeing Cuy (guinea pig)… It’s a typical Andean meal, but I’m not really a fan of it!

Ik kan alleen maar niet wennen aan het zien van Cuy (cavia)… Het is een typische maaltijd uit de Andes, maar ik ben niet meteen fan!

Cuy Ecuadorian specialty

We also had the chance to see a lot of indigenous people in this town.

We zagen ook heel wat inheemse mensen in dit stadje.

Indiginous people

And we enjoyed a $0.25 icecream on one of the beautiful plazas in town. Couldn’t taste better, and sunny weather!

In the late afternoon we had seen about the whole town and decided to turn back to the hostel as it just started to rain out of nowhere. Yes, this is also typically Ecuadorian: sun and rain are unpredictable and you can easily experience the 4 seasons in one day: freezing at night (winter), sunny in the morning (spring), hot around noon (summer) and rainy cloudy afternoons (autumn). That’s one of the reasons why should always wear clothes in layers and take as well your sunglasses as your umbrella! “Una locura” = craziness, regarding locals…

En we genoten van een ijsje dat slechts $0.25 kostte op het centrale plein. Kon niet beter smaken, en wat een zonnig weertje!

In de late namiddag hadden we heel het centrum wel gezien en besloten we om terug te keren naar het hostel. Het begon ook plots te regenen. Tsjah, dit is ook typisch aan Ecuador: zon en regen zijn onvoorspelbaar en je kan makkelijk 4 seizoenen in één dag ervaren: vriestemperaturen in de nacht (winter), zonnig in de ochtend (lente), heet rond de middag (zomer) en bewolkt in de namiddag (herfst). Dat is één van de redenen waarom je hier altijd kledij in laagjes moet dragen, en dat je zowel je zonnebril als je paraplu moet meenemen op uitstapjes. “Una locura” = gekte, zoals de mensen hier zeggen…

Walking through Riobamba

We decided to play some silly card games in the hostel until it stopped raining, and even watched the most stupid tv programs on a small retarded television, but no… It didn’t stopped raining for that evening, and so we headed around the corner and spoiled ourselves with some delicious pizza and a cup of Sangria before heading to bed. The next day we had to wake up in 4 o’clock in order to get the bus at 5AM to Alausi, where our main goal of this weekend trip was waiting for us… La Nariz del Diablo!

Around 7 in the morning we arrived at the small village of Alausi, another 2 hours more southwards from Riobamba. Here we could find the train station to La Nariz del Diablo. Luckily we bought out tickets ($25 a person) in advance, because places are quickly sold out at the station as many touroperators include this trainride in their itineraries.

We besloten dan maar om wat eenvoudige kaartspelletjes te spelen in het hostel tot het zou stoppen met regenen, en we keken zelfs naar de meest belachelijke tv serie ooit, maar nee… Het stopte maar niet met regenen die avond, en dus besloten we om snel het hoekje om te lopen om onszelf te verwennen met een heerlijke pizza en een glaasje Sangria voor we naar bed gingen. De volgende dag moesten we om 4 uur al opstaan om de bus van 5 uur richting Alausi te kunnen halen, daar wachtte het doel van onze weekend trip op ons… La Nariz del Diablo!

Rond 7 uur ‘s ochtends kwamen we vervolgens aan in Alausi, nog eens 2 uur zuidelijker van Riobamba. Hier vonden we het treinstation naar La Nariz del Diablo. Gelukkig kochten we onze tickets ($25 per persoon) op voorhand, want de plaatsen waren al snel uitverkocht omdat vele touroperators dit treinritje in programma door Ecuador verwerken.

Alausi town

As our train departed at 8AM, we had still plenty of time to enjoy the Sunday market in town and grabbed some breakfast at the station for $2,50 (including cheese sandwich, eggs, coffee and fresh juice). Not bad!

En omdat onze trein pas om 8 uur vertrok, hadden we nog ruim de tijd om de zondagse markt te verkennen en om te genieten van een heerlijk ontbijtje t.w.v. $2.50 (broodje kaas, eitje, koffie en vers fruitsap inbegrepen). Niet slecht!

Alausi station

Then it was time for boarding… But oh, wait. Let me tell you what exactly is this Nariz del Diablo… Well, La Nariz del Diablo (also called Devil’s Nose in English), is the “MOST DIFFICULT TRAIN IN THE WORLD” and is one of Ecuador’s most famous attractions. The railroad was originally built to connect to Andes with the coast, and the route goes up and down steep slopes, along river valleys and has to negotiate a wall of rock called Nariz del Diablo.

Dan was het tijd om in te stappen… Maar oh, wacht. Laat me even vertellen wat die Nariz del Diablo nu eigenlijk is… Wel, La Nariz del Diablo (ook wel Duivelsneus genoemd), is de ‘MEEST GEVAARLIJKE TREIN TER WERELD’ en is één van Ecuador’s meest populaire attracties. De spoorweg was oorspronkelijk gebouwd om de Andes met de kust te verbinden, en de route gaat op en neer doorheen diepe ravijnen, rivier valleien en gaat dwars door een grote rots, genaamd: Nariz del Diablo.

The most dangerous train ride in the world

People used to be able to choose to sit inside or ride the roof for a better view, but you can imagine how dangerous this was. And yes, eventually some people died so that now it is no longer allowed.

But the real reason why this train is called the most difficult train in the world is because many people died building it, and when you take the ride you understand why. The terrain is precarious. At times the train is so close to the side of a mountain that if you stick your hand outside the train car, you’ll lose it!

Mensen konden vroeger kiezen om binnen of op het dak te zitten voor een beter uitzicht, maar je kan je voorstellen hoe gevaarlijk dat was. En ja, uiteindelijk zijn er doden gevallen (letterlijk!) en is het nu niet meer toegestaan.

Maar de echte reden waarom deze trein de moeilijkste trein ter wereld wordt genoemd, is omdat er zoveel mensen stierven tijdens de constructie ervan. Wanneer je de treinrit neemt, begrijp je waarom. Het terrein is woest en soms komt de trein zo dicht bij de bergen dat als je je hand zou uitsteken, je je hand kwijt zou zijn!

Nariz del Diablo

A round trip train ride from Alausi is only 2,5 hours but we had plenty of time to enjoy all the beautiful scenery because the train goes only 12 km / hour.

Een heen- en terugreis vanaf Alausi duurt slechts 2 uur en half, maar we hadden wel ruim de tijd om al dat moois te aanschouwen want de trein rijdt slechts 12  km per uur.

Riobamba & Nariz del Diablo 220

The tour includes a short stop in front of the famous mountain, where of course everybody wants his pictures with the Devil’s Nose in the background. And so did we!

Bij de tour hoort ook een korte stop vlak voor de beroemde berg, waar iedereen natuurlijk een foto wilde met de Duivelsneus op de achtergrond. En zo wij ook!

Me in front of the Devil's Nose

The tour also includes a 50 minute stop in the town of Sibambe for lunch. Here we could see some indigenous people demonstrating an authentic Ecuadorian dance. You can imagine that this was quite touristic, but it was really nice done and so we could enjoy it to the fullest!

Bovendien was er een stop van 50 minuten in Sibambe om te lunchen. Hier zagen we inheemse mensen aan het dansen. Dit was vrij toeristisch, maar wel leuk gedaan en dus eens leuk om te zien!

Typical Ecuadorian Dancers

The highlight of my trip however were the llamas… This was my first encounter with them and I felt excited like a small little child. Of course, I also needed a picture with them but as you can see I was over-happy and enjoyed it too much.

Het hoogtepunt van mijn trip waren echter de lama’s… Dit was mijn allereerste ontmoeting met hen en ik was zo blij als een klein kind. Natuurlijk moest ik ook even op de foto, maar ik was over-enthousiast en had het zoals je kon zien wel even te goed naar mijn zin.

Me and the Llama

As we had 50 minutes in Sibambe, I had plenty of time to get to know the llama. And I decided to do a small interview with Mrs Llama. (I suppose it was a girl because she was so beautiful hihihi) 😛 :

Tijdens die 50 minuten in Sibambe had ik ruim de tijd om de lama beter te leren kennen. En ik besloot een klein gesprekje met mevrouw Lama te voeren. Helaas sprak de lama enkel Engels vandaar geen vertaling voor dit stukje… 😉

1)      Do you think I could ever keep you as a pet?

Yes, I am loving and cute, and I have many uses. I require less cost yearly than dogs, and am wonderful companion. 

2)      I’ve heard that llamas like to spit. Is that true? Why do you do that?

Yes, it is true. Llamas spit as a way of disciplining young or low ranked llamas in the herd or when they are angry or irritated. Female llamas spit so as to maintain order among the other herd members or when a male llama attempts to mate with her yet she is pregnant.

3)      Are you lazy or do you just look really like that?

Yes, I can be quite lazy sometimes. But if I have to, I can reach a top speed of about 40 miles per hour when running in a wide open area. However, I would only do it if I am trying to escape a predator in the wild. 

4)      If I would ask you kindly, would you give milk?

Yes, but milking me is more difficult then milking a cow or a goat.

5)      Are you strong, like a donkey?

Of course! I am very hardy and strong and can carry loads of stuff. I could also be your perfect hiking companion.

6)      What is your favourite meal?

I love to eat grain and hay, legumes, and vegetables.

7)      Would you ever bite me or use violence?

Some llamas like to chew on you, but we won’t hurt you because we only have teeth on the bottom of our mouth.

8)      If you ever fall in love, how many babies would you like to have?

Oh, I love to love because I am a herd animal. You will need at least two pets. Llama young are called crias, and I would like to have only one cria at a time.

9)      How often do you go to the hairdresser?

Whenever I feel like having to much fiber! (Llama hair is commonly called ‘fiber’.) Did you know my fiber is prized by hand spinners, knitters, weavers and crafters for its softness and warmth?!

10)   What is your preferred climate: hot and humid, or chilly and windy?

I’m used to live in the Andes mountains. However, the climate of a llama may vary. We can live up in the Mountains, on rocky cliffs, but also in ranches, open land plains, and even zoos.

The Llama

Buenos dias, Llama. Mucho gusto…

And before I knew it my 50 minutes were over, and I had to get back on the train.

As I took more than enough pictures during the first part of the ride, I took some time for meditation while I enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

And of course I thought about home, about how much I wished that I could share these beautiful moments with all of the precious people in my heart. I love you and I miss you!

En voor ik het wist, waren die 50 minuten alweer voorbij gevlogen, en moesten we weer terug op de trein.

Aangezien ik al meer dan genoeg foto’s had genomen op de heenrit, besloot ik om even tijd te nemen om te genieten van het mooie landschap dat voorbij gleed.

En natuurlijk dacht ik ook aan thuis, aan hoe hard ik wenste dat ik dit kon delen met al mijn dierbaren. Ik hou van jullie en ik mis jullie enorm!

Meditation Time

Around 10.30AM we were back in Alausi, but as we were awake from 4AM it felt like a long day already. We could use the 5 hours on the bus back to Quito for some serious power nap, and after another bus hour in the giant city of Quito, I finally reached home. Tired but accomplished.

Rond 10u30 waren we weer terug in Alausi, maar omdat we al van 4 uur wakker waren, voelde het aan als een lange dag. We konden de 5 uur slaap op de bus richting Quito dus goed gebruiken, en na nog eens een uur op de bus in de grootstad Quito, was ik eindelijk thuis. Moe maar voldaan.

Ecuador is a wonderful country!

Ecuador is een prachtig land!

P.S.: Michel, my ‘compañero’ made a lovely movie of this trip, which I am happy to share with you:

P.S. Michel, mijn metgezel maakte een leuk filmpje van dit reisje, dat ik graag met jullie deel: