Ecuador – Quito, Otavalo, Amazon, Banos & Cuenca

Ecuador is the smallest country in South America but it really packs a punch. Our 31 week South America overland tour starts and ends in Quito, which was convenient as we found super cheap flights from Boston to Quito ($220 one way on Copa Air, including 2 checked bags each). With one free day before our tour started, we got up early and took a taxi to the health clinic to get our yellow fever jabs. As reported by other travelers, the shots were free! Thank you Ecuador, you saved us over $300 each from the pricey shot in the US. Quito was a picturesque city and we enjoyed our walking tour, although we were on guard as other travelers had warned us about the tourist scams in the historical district. That evening, we linked up with the rest of the Oasis group for a pre-departure meeting and group dinner. The next morning, it was a scramble to choose a locker, unpack, and get to know each other as we made our way to the middle of the world (Ciudad Mitad del Mundo). Then it was our first truck lunch, followed by a drive to Otavalo, which is famous for its weekly market. No market today but we did enjoy wandering the streets and checking out the compact main square which transformed into a night market selling cheap street food at night. Hiking around Lake Cuicocha the next day was well worth the effort, especially since we were able to negotiate a ride to the top of the volcano! From Otavalo, we made our way to Tena, the gateway to the Amazon jungle. For the next 3 nights, we made the Arajuno Jungle Lodge our base as we hiked, swam, tubed, and enjoyed our time in the jungle. Next up was the adrenaline town of Banos, where we camped 18 km away. We had high expectations for Banos which did not disappoint with excellent waterfalls, hot springs, canyoning and swings on top of the world. Beer pong champions emerged (Rob & Robby) and six of the guys defeated the worm challenge and won themselves a bottle of rum and coke. From Banos, it was home sweet home as we drove towards Cuenca. Our apartment was in good shape, and we took advantage of a washer/dryer to do a much needed load of laundry. On our last night in Cuenca, we hosted a pizza party at our apartment which was a fun way to say farewell to Ecuador. Next up is Peru, and we are looking forward to it!

Sculpture near the Quito airport Hornado (roasted pig); Quito market Houses of Quito as seen from the Virgin of El Panecillo Cute kittens; Quito La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in Quito Pretty intersection in La Ronda; Quito Santo Domingo Plaza; Quito The Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito Carved door detail on a church in Quito Detail on the Compañía Church, one of Quito's most famous churches because of its gold leaf The Jesuit church of Compañía de Jesús, Quito Colonial street of old Quito Interior view of La Iglesia de El Sagrario; Quito A view of Quito as we stop for a break on our walking tour Basílica del Voto Nacional, the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas Check out the heart detail at the entrance to Basílica del Voto Nacional; Quito Interior stained glass windows of Basílica del Voto Nacional Climb the tower of Basílica del Voto Nacional for an amazing bird's eye view of Quito View looking back towards El Panecillo from the top of Basílica del Voto Nacional Llama at Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) mueum Standing at the equator! Shrunken head; Ciudad Mitad del Mundo Our Oasis group at Ciudad Mitad del Mundo Balance test on the equator Keith and Burt demonstrate a strength test on the equator; Ciudad Mitad del Mundo Beet stained hands after grating for lunch! Our colorful first truck lunch Otavalo tourist market Souvenirs for sale; Otavalo Street art; Otavalo Becky next to street art in Otavalo Otavalo down town A stray dog sleeps at the butcher shop Lion carved doors; Otavalo Piscina Neptuno, a public swimming pool in Otavalo Hummingbird house (Casa de Colibri); Otavalo A stray dog begs for food; Otavalo Massive statues at a roundabout near the entrance to Otavalo We loved the street art of Otavalo Hats for sale; Otavalo Market Otavalo market scene Riding the public bus to Cuicocha The public bus only took us part way, so we had to ride an ute the rest of the way to Lake Cuicocha Hiking trail around the volcanic rim of Lake Cuicocha Crater lake of Cuicocha Wild flowers in bloom; Lake Cuicocha Stunning scenery on our hike around Lake Cuicocha Group selfie - Rebecca, Keith, Burt, Becky, Robby and Amanda Lake Cuicocha Cows resting at the rim of the crater lake Wild flowers; Lake Cuicocha Street meat at the night market; Otavalo A typical drive day on board Spong Bob Road wash out somewhere between Otavalo and Tena Road works in progress on our drive towards Tena; gateway to the Amazon Clown garbage cans plus Robby! Robby poses next to the Tena sign River bank where we will catch our boat ride to the Arajuno Jungle Lodge Will, our South African driver for the next 31 weeks We are in the Amazon! First glimpse of our home for 3 nights; Arajuno Jungle Lodge View from the top floor of our jungle room; Arajuno Jungle Lodge The common area of the jungle lodge where all shared meals and communal activities take place; Arajuno Jungle Lodge Taking a dip in the Amazon - Robby, Izzy, Brad, Burt, Hanna, Keith, Jason, Becky, Rob, Will, Danny & Leonardo Maracuya vodka is not supposed to glow fluorescent yellow! Drinking games; Arajuno Jungle Lodge Pineapple Jungle dog Keith and a piranha Check out those razor sharp teeth! Tom holding up an oropendola bird nest; Arajuno Jungle Lodge Mushrooms Locals use this as a comb or brush for their hair Enjoying our Amazon jungle trek No idea how our guide spotted this tiny frog! We survived our 3 hour hike! Fish for lunch; Arajuno Jungle Lodge Riding up to a village upstream Ladies demonstrating how to make fiber strings from a plant Showing us how to make chicha, the chew-and-spit alcoholic drink made from fermented yuca Becky about to chow down on a grub Burt shows off his best blow dart move Turtles sunning themselves at AmaZOOnico animal sanctuary Woolly monkey mother feeding her baby This woolly monkey showed no fear in our boat as we cruised down the Amazon Butterfly and beetle share a flower in the Amazon A tasty lunch at Arajuno Jungle Lodge Floating down the Amazon in a tube with a beverage or two Robby and Keith enjoying their tubing ride down the Amazon Pretty flowers outside our room; Arajuno Jungel Lodge Saying goodbye to the jungle dogs Cook group shopping at the Tena market Camping at Pequeno Paraiso; 18 km away from Banos Poppy, the camp puppy at Pequeno Paraiso View as we hike towards Pailon Del diablo (Devil's Cauldron) Waterfall at Devil's Cauldron Drenched in a matter of seconds at Pailon Del diablo Robby striking a pose at Devil's Cauldron Cook group 2 (Lisa, Leonardo & Becky assisted by Danny) making a tasty lasagna for dinner Group photo as the Las Piscinas de la Virgen thermal baths in Banos Tourist shopping section of Banos Tasty and cheap cheese empanadas for sale at the Banos market Fruit juices blended right there on the spot; Banos market Swinging over the edge of a mountain at La Casa del Arbol; Banos Robby's turn for an unforgettable swing ride; La Casa del Arbol Riding in the back of an ute from Banos to our campsite Pretty flowers on our hike to Machay waterfall Staircase down to Machay waterfall Machay waterfall - well worth the short hike! Purple flowers; Machay waterfall A caterpillar munching on a leaf; Machay Waterfall Riding the bus to our canyoning adventure No experience, no problem - our adventurous group heads for the first cascade; Ulba Waterfall Becky getting ready to abseil down a waterfall Piece of cake after air assault school; Ulba Waterfall Group photo at the base of Ulba Waterfall Hands free as Robby takes the leap of faith, a 50 meter jump into the abyss Burt and Keith prepare for the beer pong tournament Rob and Robby emerge the victors after several rounds of beer pong matches A delicious meat BBQ put on by our Argentinians hosts; Pequeno Paraiso Camp puppy saying goodbye; Pequeno Paraiso View on our drive from Banos to Cuenca Playing games on board the truck to kill some time Sign at the Beer Factory; Cuenca Our happy group enjoying a night out in Cuenca How many overlanders can fit in our sun room? 17 apparently! lightbox flash jqueryby v6.1


17 Sep: Otavalo
Loaded onto our home for the next 31 weeks, Sponge Bob, and departed Quito for the town of Otavalo. Stopped at the “La Mitad Del Mundo” museum straddling the equator for a quick tour. Free afternoon in Otavalo so walked around the city, took photos of the colorful murals, and had street food at the night market. O/n at Hostal Valle del Amanecer (WiFi, hot showers, tiny double beds, breakfast of pancakes or fruit/granola/yogurt included)

18 Sep: Otavalo
Joined the majority of the group headed for Laguna Cuicocha (public bus and ute). Rode to the top of the volcano for an additional $2 for a phenomenal view of the lake. Hiked back to the visitor center before taking an ute/bus back to Otavalo. Hot shower at the hostel before packing a day bag for the Amazon jungle trip. Street food for dinner. O/n at Hostal Valle del Amanecer.

19 Sep: Jungle
Departed Otavalo and drove to Tena for lunch. In the afternoon, drove towards the Amazon and parked near the riverfront. Took boats to Arajuno Jungle Lodge, our home for 3 nights. Our hosts were Tom and Charo and they welcomed us with Guayusa tea before allowing us to choose our own rooms. We shared a top floor room with Keith. Our room had a gorgeous view of the river, property and a private balcony and ensuite bathroom. Common area at the jungle lodge had hammocks, library, and tables to play drinking games. O/n at Arajuno Jungle Lodge (hot showers, super comfy beds, food all included).

20 Sep: Jungle
6 piranhas from Tom’s pond died last night so one of his workers was gutting them by the riverside to sell after smoking them. After breakfast, had a 3 hour jungle hike through the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve with Octavio, our local guide. Cooled down in the river (piranha free we were promised) before an afternoon visit to the village of Kichwa Mirador Kallari. Ate grub worms, witnessed a wedding between Jeremy and Lisa, and used a blow dart. O/n at Arajuno Jungle Lodge.

21 Sep: Jungle
After breakfast, visited AmaZOOnico, an animal rehab center in the Amazon. Returned to Arajuno Jungle lodge via the Napo and Arajuno River. After lunch, tubed down the river for an hour while drinking from our stockpile of alcohol. Played Jungle Speed after dinner. O/n at Arajuno Jungle Lodge.

22 Sep: Banos
After breakfast, said goodbye to Tom/Charo and took the river boat back to the landing near the truck. Drove back towards Tena where the first two cook groups had to do shopping at the local market. From Tena, drove towards Banos, our home for the next 3 nights. Set up tents at our campsite and hiked to Pailón del Diablo waterfall. Finally had a chance to sort out our truck locker. Enjoyed Cook Group 1’s dinner of veggie/cheese pasta and garlic bread. The boys (Leo, Danny, Jeremy, Keith, Robby and Bert) did the crazy worm challenge and won a free bottle of rum and coke. O/n at Pequeño Paraiso (intermittent WiFi, kitchen, hot water showers, camp dogs/cat, bar)

23 Sep: Banos
After breakfast, took a bus into town for the Virgin thermal springs. Ate lunch and met up with part of the group at “La Casa del Arbol”, the famous swing in Banos. Rode an ute back to our campsite and hiked to Machay waterfall. Becky’s cook group (cook group 2) made lasagna for dinner. O/n at Pequeño Paraiso.

24 Sep: Banos
After breakfast, the canyoning rep showed up and we rode into Banos to pay for our tour ($25 each). Got a wet suit, water shoes, and harness before riding out to Ulba waterfall. There we were given instructions on how to abseil down the waterfall before giving it a go. Lots of fun and the grand finale was a 50 meter leap of faith down a massive waterfall. Had a brief stop in Banos before our ride back to Rio Verde’s “Aroma & Sabor de Mercedes” for her lovely empanadas. Relaxed at the campsite before our BBQ dinner put on by our Argentinian campsite hosts. O/n at Pequeño Paraiso.

25 Sep: Cuenca
After breakfast, packed up for the long 320 km journey from Banos to Cuenca. Had a truck lunch enroute and reached Cuenca by early afternoon. Brought our extra bags to our apartment and got settled in for the night. O/n at our apartment.

26 Sep: Cuenca
Free day. Pizza party at our apartment for the Oasis group. O/n at our apartment.

27 Sep: Cuenca to Waltako Beach, Peru
After breakfast, linked up with the truck for the drive to the border with Peru.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *