Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Oriente (Jungle), Ecuador

The great thing about Ecuador is that it's a relatvely small country compared to other countries in South America and has lots to offer adventuring tourists. I'm talking about the mighty Oriente, the Amazon!
Dad & I just recently returned from our awesome 5 day adventure to the Cuyabeno Reserve in The Oriente of Ecuador through Samona Expeditions. We went fairly deep into the jungle. Just to give you an indication we took a bus from Quito to Lago Agrio (7 hrs), then a van to the Cuyabeno River (2 hrs) and then we took a motorised canoe on the beautiful river to reach our naturally beautiful Samona Lodge(2 hrs).
Even though it took a while to reach our lodge the canoe ride over the river warmed us up for the adventures that awaited us in the jungle. Dad and I took a motorised canoe up the Cuyabeno River (the boat about 25m length) manned by two men, Dario (18yrs, the Captain of the boat who was in control of the engine) and Frederico (about 30s up the front of the boat).
Only 5 mins into our trip oer the river we came across our first obstacle, a fallen tree which went right across the river. I thought we'd have to turn back to get a chain saw to cut the tree because the boat couldn't go through. After Dario and Frederico had a quick 2 minute examination of the tree, Dario reversed the boat and the next thing I know he is telling us to hold on to the boat it's going to be rough! WHAT?!
Dario cranked up the engine and the next thing I know I'm clinging onto the boat and screaming as we skimmed over the top of the fallen tree! lol It was so exhilarating! I was all smiles after that! Cheering and woohooing! What a start to our trip! I wish I took a video of us flying over! :)
The first 2 days were pretty hot and the humidity was of course very high, kind of like Cairns in Quensland, Australia. The temperature was 32 degrees. But with that sort of weather we were able to cool ourselves down by taking a nice relaxing swing in the Lagoon close to our lodge. Yes I can't believe we actually swam (more than once) in the waters of the amazon amongst the pirrahnas and whatever else lye in the water!

I was a little reluctant to at first but when our guide, David and Dario were the first to go I felt safe. They have never been bitten by anything in the water any time year round, however of course only swim in the daytime. Caiman (crocadiles) come out at night to feed.

The Caiman watching was another thrilling adventure for us as our search for them occured in the darkness, the only light coming from our torches in search of the Caimans' reflective red eyes near the banks of the river.
Dario and David were quick to find them too! The first two we saw were small and the boat was only one metre from them! The caiman lie still in the water almost as if they were stunned by the lights beaming on them. My digital camera died on me though and I wasn't able to take a great shot of them! We also saw two large Caimans, one of which we were only 2 metres from! It made me a little nervous but very excited at the same time!
Walking through the jungle was also just as adventurous! We trudged through the muddy swamps in our boots which were provided and spotted monkeys in the distance insects of all kinds, birds, flowers, termite nests and a poisonous snake (called Fur de Lance) asleep coiled on a log.
We also went pirrahna fishing and I was the lucky fisherman that caught most of the fish! David the guide also caught one. I caught two pirrahnas and one small cat fish which flew into the canoe.
Playing card games in the evening was also a lot of fun. We played a game called Donkey where the loser had to do a punishment (kind of like a dare).

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Galapagos Islands-Ecuador

!Buenós dias¡ Today dad and I finished our 5 day trip through the beautiful Galapagos Islands! We went on a boat cruise that took us from Santa Cruz island to Bacha Beach, North Seymour Island, Santa Fe, Española Island, Floreana Island and then back to Santa Cruz Island.
It was a fantastic trip even though I feel like I´m still on the boat from all the swaying over the last 5 days. The flight over to the islands went smoothly and I remember my first reaction when we first saw the islands as we flew over. Is this the Galapagos Islands?! It looks like a desert! I had expected the place to be overwelmed by luscious fouliage and trees!

We entered Baltra airport which used to be used for US military base. However most of the islands we visited were quite barren as this time of the year the trees lose their leaves even though the rain was well and truely present almost everyday we were there.

Some of the best highlights on this trip would first and foremost be witnesssing nature and the beautiful animals that can only be seen in the wild there. We saw blue-footed boobies, magnificent Friggate birds, many sea lions, land & marine iguanas, hawks, penguins, mockingbirds and much more!

As we walked through the Islands it was amazing to witness how natural everything is, we saw a baby sealion that was dying from a shark attack and it will be left to die in order to keep up with the circle of life. It was very saddening at the time since it was only a baby.
Snorkelling was also fantastic! Marine life we saw included many colourful fish, star fish (yellow, red, blue), sting ray, white tip (vegetarian) shark, turtle, jelly fish, and the best of all the playful sea lions at Española Island at Gardners Bay! I hope the photos we took come out! I really regret not buying another underwater camera on the boat we took because the last time we snorkelled it was so shallow and the colours of the fish and the coral were breathtaking! I´m going to try and get some shots from the people we toured with.
The tourists on the boat were really nice and many were again from Australia! More than half in fact! There were 5 that were about 18 years that were volunteers staying in Ecuador. They worked in local schools and one worked in a juvenille prison as a baker! Unfortunately he got his headphones stolen as a going away present! :(

We also played soccer on the 2nd last day but unfortunately the boat crew were too good. We played pretty hard on the sandy soil and didn´t do too badly condsidering we´d only got the team together that day. I was the only girl on the team.
Today the last day of our trip we visited the Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz Island and saw the Massive Galapagos Turtles in captivity as well as the breeding programs with all the tiny Galapagos turtles that were only 2-4 years! So so cute!
The weather was quite warm and mostly cloudy on the last three days with patches of rain and shine coming through parts of the day. The average temp was 30 degrees.
The food on board the Floreana boat was yummy all round! With the crew being very helpful and friendly.
All round we had a great trip and met some friends on the boat and our animal friends on land too! Absolutely amazing! I´ll definately be returning again soon! I hear May is the best time to go, according to our guide since it´s in between the two seasons.

Tulcán-Ecuador and Ipiales-Colombia


Hóla once again. It´s been a while since my last entry and I´ve been quite busy touring Ecuador and a very small part of Colombia.
Dad and I visited a small town north of Ecuador called Tulcán for it´s large and well known cemetery there. I hear you saying....Cemetery?! Yep, cemetery.

The gardens are the main feature there as the cemetery is lined with giant hedges that are sculptured into geometric shapes, pre-Colombian symbols and various animals. It was such an awesome sight to see! The figures were very cute, especially the animals. The graves were equally beautiful as the burial places are above-ground tombs stacked atop of one another so that they resembled a mini apartment complex rather than a final resting place.

The entrance of the tombs are heavily adorned with shrines and beautiful fresh flowers.

The day after visiting Tulcán we crossed the border into Colombia to visit the famous church Virgin de las Lajas. A magnificent church built against a cliff face!
Absolutely awesome! However interestingly at the border crossing we met some school kids who wanted to practice their English with us! So we agreed and also met their teacher who we later went to visit that night for a cup of coffee! It was wonderful chatting about our cultures, we also met another man from France who joined us that night as well.

He´s doing a walking trek for 2 years for the Aneascode (I think that´s right) following inca trails and finding ones that need preservation. We´ve met quite a few volunteers here and just recently some very young ones on our cruise through the Galapagos but that´s for the next entry....till next time. Chao!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Baños

Hi Everyone! In the last few days in Ecuador, Dad and I have been visiting some of the local cities near Quito, Ecuador. Our family have been showing us around to many beautiful places.
Yesterday Dad and I went to Baños which was about 3 hrs drive from Quito. My uncle Marco, his wife (Lucia) and his son (Mauricio's) family invited us out for the day. It was difficult to wake up in the morning because the previous day we went to my cousin's son's Baptism celebration which was in the evening and went through till early hours of the morning. We did manage to wriggle out of bed though.
On the way we passed a volcano that errupted 3 months ago, Tunguragua. The whole city had to be evacuated at the time. We stopped to have a look at the destruction that it caused which was incredible. Many tourists were there picking up some of the rocks that were left there.
We also passed a town (forgive me for not remembering the name) where they mainly manufacture jeans clothing. There you can find them very cheap, about $7 a pair of jeans!!! I´ll put the name up of the place as soon as I can for all you shop-a-holics! :) Whilst we were there we also saw roasting ginea pigs on a rotisary!!! We stopped to take a photo beside it! I smelt delicious but we didn´t try it. We have tried it though when we were in Peru, it tastes really nice! SOrt of like chicken!
Baños is a beautiful small city where a lot of tourists come for many different tours and adventures like bungy jumping. We were really just passing through.
We went into the beautiful local church there, ate some beautiful hand made candy which we saw being made, chewed on some wonderful refreshing sugar canes, ate a local dish called liaguarlocro and beautifully cooked trout and chicken.
The day passed very quickly and unfortunately we didn´t visit the hot springs in Baños...hopefully we get another opportunity to visit Baños an dthe lovely hot springs which await us.