A Travellerspoint blog

Ecuador

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…
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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…
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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…
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We have our own little house, our own maid and waiter, and we even have a friendly cayman in our pond…
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We are surrounded by stunningly beautiful plants…
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Fabulously patterned butterflies…
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And, of course, the ever present mischievous monkeys just waiting to grab something off our plates…

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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)

Quito in the Sun

sunny 23 °C

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Quito is the highest capital in the world and, although its suburbs actually brush the equator, it occasionally gets a powdering of snow. None of the white stuff for us though. Despite the Met office predicting two days of rain, the sun came out and showed us the sights of this Andean metropolis ten thousand feet in the sky. This is the Presidential Palace…
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Nearly three million people live in the rarefied air of this capital and, it appears, almost all of them have a car. Despite the government introducing a scheme, similar to both Bogota and Athens, where car owners can only use their vehicles on alternate days of the week according to their licence plates, we saw little evidence of this at work. Devious drivers simply take off their plates and calculate that the police will not catch them on the narrow clogged streets. Fortunately, some of the streets in the historic centre are pedestrianised, though getting through this crowd took some fancy footwork…
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The historic city centre, (one if the first designated as a World Heritage site), is entirely colonial Spanish and is said to be the most authentic of all the cities founded by the conquistadores in the 16th century. This is the vast Plaza de La Indepencia…
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The Plaza itself simply bustles with life. The majority of the population are distinctly indigenous and their Inca ancestry is very obvious…
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People-watching is one of our favourite activities; however, these young Ecuadorians were on the lookout for us. They had been tasked by their English teacher to find foreigners to practice on – not a difficult mission in Quito…
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Quito, with its low coast of living and year-round temperate climate, is a very cosmopolitan city and the foreigners have brought their food with them. Indian, Italian and Mexican restaurants rub shoulders with The King’s Cross pub, The Toronto bar, The Quebec restaurant, and numerous American steakhouses and burger bars. Foreign hotels are equally invasive and we are staying here in the Turret suite of the Cuba Vieja, (The old Cuba Hotel)…
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The hotel is actually quite new, but the designers have done a great job recreating a bit of old Havana. While Quito has a large number of modern office towers and apartment buildings it also has more than its share of abandoned, part completed, buildings like this…
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Despite its numerous parks and green spaces, Quito is a crowded city which is hemmed in by mountains on all sides. We have no idea why such valuable real estate has been left to rot – maybe we will find out in the next couple of days.

Posted by Hawkson 16:00 Archived in Ecuador Comments (7)

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