A Travellerspoint blog

March 2015

Our View of the Andes

overcast 18 °C

The Andes stretch the full length of South America and we have yet to reach the higher elevations. However, for the past few days we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride through some spectacular mountain scenery. Unfortunately, photographs simply fail to convey the sheer scale and beauty of the terrain as it unfolded beneath us, but this old guy could tell you how steep it is…
A_heavy_load.jpg
And this llama, (or is it a vicuna), knows how to keep a grip on the high pastures…
Llama.jpg
As we sailed across the mountain tops we would glimpse farming communities far below us in the sub-tropical valleys. This small town was dominated by the most enormous statue of Christ…
large_Andean_town.jpg
For much of the time on the switchback road we were above the clouds, ascending and descending peak after peak and coasting across high barren plateaus…
arid_landscape.jpg
… and crossing valleys on vertigo inducing bridges…
scary_bridge.jpg
At other times we had zero visibility as we dropped precipitously through dense layers of cloud to arrive in some barely visible village. Without our faithful GPS we would never have found our hotel in the town of Chunchi and it wasn’t until the clouds cleared in the morning that we saw that we had been perched on a ledge several thousand feet above a steep gorge…
large_Chunchi.jpg
Between Chunchi and our next stop – the ancient city of Cuenca – the mountains took on new heights and it was here that we had our first encounter with the Inca empire in the ancient ruins at Ingapirca. The mountaintop settlement of Ingapirca, the most extensive Inca ruins in Ecuador,was decimated by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century as they sought to ‘educate’ the savages in the ways of the Bible and this is all that remains today…
Ingapirca.jpg
Ingapirca was actually built by the Canari – a local tribe defeated by the Incas in the 13th century as they spread their territory from Peru across modern day Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile as well as parts of Colombia, Brazil and Argentina. Following the Spanish invasion little was left of the Ingapirca settlement apart from this fortress-like tower- The Temple of the Sun..
large_Temple_of_the_sun.jpg
We will be exploring many more Inca settlements in the next few weeks, but our next stop, the pretty city of Cuenca, owes its architecture solely to the Spanish colonists.

Posted by Hawkson 16:12 Archived in Ecuador Comments (6)

Tungurahua - Lost in the Clouds?

overcast 20 °C

Following our lonely ‘expedition’ deep into the Amazon jungle we have climbed a tortuous route back into the high Andes and we realise that anyone reading this sentence might think that our travels are both dangerous and exhausting. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although the Amazon rainforest is classified as the most deadly place on earth because of giant anacondas, ferocious jaguars, piranhas and dozens of poisonous snakes, insects and frogs, we came away completely unscathed with some fabulous photos of the flora and fauna…
3A4385AAABEBD48A0F01E5C10EF73BAA.jpg
Once we had left the steamy jungle we quickly rose into the clouds and saw little of the mountains until we arrived at our hotel in the hot spring resort of Banos. This touristy town lies in the shadow of an active volcano, Mount Tungurahua, and is a backpacker’s paradise; offering canyon zip-lining, bungee jumping, whitewater rafting and waterfall climbing among the numerous scary activities that we were unlikely to enjoy. However we did enjoy the sights, especially the numerous waterfalls…
large_P1130733.jpg
and the street where every shop is a confectionary. Hand made sweets of every kind are on sale along with glasses of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice…
P1130747.jpg
But we are sticking to our diets so we just admired the many laden fruit trees in the gardens of our expansive hotel….
P1130785.jpg
There were lemons, oranges, pomelos and avocados just ripe for picking, and we liked the fact that this time we were not alone – there were two other guests (we were told), although we never saw them. Tungurahua volcano proved equally elusive, with its head in the clouds all day. However, we are beginning to believe that there is a god of lucky travellers because, just before sunset, the clouds evaporated and gave us a grandstand view of the vapour plume spewing from the caldera…
large_3A4917F59E9481EC2DB15738E9E4CAA7.jpg
Tungurahua, is considered the most dangerous volcano in the world because of its unpredictability and the huge numbers of people who live within its striking distance. So, with that photo in the bag, we quickly set off higher into the Andes, and although many of the high passes took us into the clouds there were times when we could see for miles…

There is an astounding amount of production in the high mountains because of the temperate climate. Farmer’s fields stretch right to the peaks on near vertical slopes and have to be worked entirely by hand…
P1130805.jpg
Small towns and villages nestle in almost every cranny and from our lofty highway we could see them in miniature thousands of feet below us…
large_P1130801.jpg
Like its neighbour, Colombia, there is much in Ecuador that is familiar to anyone from Europe or North America, but occasionally we find ourselves thrown back a century or two by the sight of a laden donkey or an ox-plough. While young Ecuadorians would not seem out of place in Vancouver or London, the older country folk still wear traditional garb…
P1130811.jpg
Perhaps the most striking feature of the locals is their diminutive size – we are giants in this lofty land.

Posted by Hawkson 15:27 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

Amazing Amazonia

semi-overcast 33 °C

Once the the road from Quito has crested the 13,000 ft summit of Papallacta Pass it barely pauses for breath as it snakes down the precipitous eastern face of the Andes to the steamy jungles of Amazonia. The three hour drive was spectacular thanks to the lack of traffic and the excellent state of the highway. The mountain views were stunning. The Amazon River discharges more water than the next seven largest rivers combined. It accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world's total river flow and when it enters the Atlantic Ocean its estuary is 150 miles wide. And it all starts here in the foothills of the Andes where thousands of babbling tributaries like this begin their lengthy journey to the ocean…
large_amazon_headwater.jpg
Here in the Amazon basin we are completely immersed in the exotic sounds, smells and sights of the jungle. The days are hot and humid but nightly thunderstorms cool the air -and keep us awake - as do the many monkeys who swarm us during the day whenever we sit down for a meal in our restaurant…
large_Juan.jpglarge_male_monkey.jpg
We call it “Our restaurant” because, dear reader, we are the solitary diners. The totally empty car park at our extensive eco-lodge gave us a clue when we arrived – we are alone in the jungle with enough rooms and staff for a hundred or more guests. We have the fabulous pool to ourselves…
D1FE4552D8730288F19A87B4B871F8ED.jpg
We have our own little house, our own maid and waiter, and we even have a friendly cayman in our pond…
cayman.jpg
We are surrounded by stunningly beautiful plants…
large_maracca_flower.jpgornamental_leaves.jpg
Fabulously patterned butterflies…
butterfly.jpg

And, of course, the ever present mischievous monkeys just waiting to grab something off our plates…

large_capuchin_monkey.jpg
This is Lucas, a young capuchin who has learnt that onion juice is an effective insect repellent. He grabs one from the kitchen whenever he can and rubs himself all over. We can always smell when Lucas is near.

Now our few days in the jungles of Amazonia are coming to an end we are heading back into the mountains to soak in the volcanically heated thermal springs of Banos.

Posted by Hawkson 14:49 Archived in Ecuador Comments (5)

(Entries 16 - 19 of 19) Previous « Page 1 2 3 [4]