Feels like we haven’t posted for ages so here is how our last week or so in Ecuador went.
Ingapirca is the biggest known Inca site in Ecuador and is sometimes billed as their Machu Picchu. Perhaps not as dramatic and definitely not as well known but interesting and a whole lot emptier than MP! The site is actually on the original Inca Royal Road which linked Cusco to Quito back in the day. Although much of the road has been buried or built on there is still a 40km stretch of Inca Trail in Ecuador.
Clever mortarless Inca building technique.
The Inca Temple of the Sun.
There was a small car park with nice loo’s and security guards so at $3 dollars pp entrance fee including an English speaking guide and free camping it was a bargain excursion.
We were heading into Cuenca which is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador but on the way wanted to spend a couple of days in the Cajas National Park. We only lasted one night, the weather was so cold, wet and gloomy. The plan was to do some trout fishing in one of the many lakes but it really was miserable weather although still very pretty scenery.
Cuenca is pretty and after a day walking the city we found a really nice Indian restaurant, what a bonus! Boy have we missed curry.
The main reason for our visit here was some van enhancements. John had sketched some roof bars and a basket and we found a recommended workshop to make them for us.
Juan and his team (with some supervision from John ?) did a great job. We are now ready to carry fuel for any shortages and long stretches without fuel stations that we may encounter, especially in Bolivia.
It turned out another modification was needed as John’s only pair of glasses snapped clean in two across the bridge. Glue didn’t work but we found an optician who managed to drill both sides and pin them back together. A pretty sturdy fix, fingers crossed it lasts until we get home.
Negra was our campsite pet, very friendly and like most Labs constantly on the look out for food. We camped under an advocado tree and she liked to eat the skin and fruit then crunch up the stones and leave them for us to step on!
We were heading towards the most easterly and smallest border crossing into Peru at La Chonta.
It was a Sunday so on the way we stopped at the small town of Saraguro, it was market day which is attended by local Kitchwa people.
John had been looking for a machete and managed to get the size and type he wanted at the market. I really should have taken a photo of him with it then but forgot. So this is him today unfortunately suffering from a bit of a tummy bug. He doesn’t usually sleep with it next to him I just placed it there for effect!
A simple, strighforward, no fuss, no queue and no Welcome to Peru signed border crossing.
We have loved Ecuador, the scenery, wildlife and great people we have met. They will shortly be going through the 2nd round of a General Election as the 1st round didn’t give a conclusive result. Elections here are notoriously corrupt but we hope for the sake of the people the current ruling party are not re-elected. At the moment the citizens pay ridiculously high taxes on goods and property, areas that have been effected by natural disasters are not prioritised for regeneration and huge amounts of cash disappear from public funds. We wish them luck.
After a few days back at the campsite where we had left Juanita while in the Galápagos we had sorted through the hundreds of photos, cleaned the van and caught up on admin.
We headed into Quito’s Historico Centro to take a look around, neither of us were in the mood for museums but wanted to get a feel for the city. It was a 25km journey and involved a couple of buses, we enjoy it when we use public transport as it takes us out of our own little travel bubble and forces us to use our meagre Spanish/sign language to get around.
Local musicians, and people watching in the main square.
A day walking around the city was enough to make us realise we are ready to get on the road again.
We did however want to meet Carlos who had been introduced to us by Harry a fellow motorbike traveller who we met on the road in 2011. John had met Carlos very briefly at the Goodwood Festival of Speed a couple of years ago when Carlos visited Harry in the UK.
Carlos and Paola were great company, we ate, took in the views over Quito from Cruz Loma and shopped in a huge craft market. They did the bartering so we got much better prices than a couple of Gringos would have done on our own!
The view of Quito from Cruz Loma (4,100 metres).
The Teleferiqo took us up the 4,100 metres, just a bit of walking at the top luckily.
Carlos has raced motorbikes for many years and has been Ecuadorian national champion in several different classes, the championships are held at the racetrack in Ibarra that I had fancied taking Juanita round a couple of blogs ago.
Hopefully we will all meet up again sometime, the Isle of Man races maybe?
We headed south east to Misahualli a small place in the Oriente region, jungly, hot and humid. We camped in this beautiful spot in a little eco resort run by a group of local ladies.
We headed off in 30c+ temperatures on foot to explore, this is another way of saying “not spend money”. A lot of the activities here revolve around guided river trips and jungle walks and they are pretty pricey. After Galápagos we need to be making our own entertainment for a while.
After a few sweaty miles we found the giant Ceiba tree, it is approximately 1500 years old and very tall (not quite sure how tall!) there were no signs, no real path and in fact considering it is one of the things “to do” locally it is pretty hard to find!
Very cheeky Capuchin monkey. A lady who was enticing it with food so her companion could get a good photo was rewarded by it peeing on her arm!
We carried on heading south but more centrally through the highland areas and camped overlooking the peak below just outside the town of Banos.
Chimborazo is the highest peak in Ecuador at 6310m and due to the earth’s equatorial bulge it’s peak is the furthest point in the world from the centre of the earth. Unfortunately it was rather cloud but spectacular anyway.
These are Vicuña, a smaller, daintier version of llamas.
We drove above the snow line and up to a refugio where we planned to camp for the night, it was going to be a chance to test out Juanita’s insulation and the clothes and bedding we currently have. If we were freezing we would need to go shopping well before Patagonia.
As you can see we weren’t suitably dressed to start with!
As the GPS above shows we were going to be camping at close to 16,000ft. We have been up to 14,000ft fairly regularly and apart from maybe the odd slight headache and the need to take it slow when climbing hills we’d been OK.
So we snuggled up in the van watching some downloaded BBC TV! John had taken some pills to get rid of a slight headache earlier and by 7pm it was already down to 3c outside so we thought it was likely to be a pretty cold night. A little bit later I asked John how he felt, his headache was back and quite frankly I felt pretty awful with a headache and was finding it hard to breath deeply. We decided it was probably not a good idea to fall asleep feeling as we did so packed up the van quickly and set off to a lower altitude. Not sure if it was the exertion of packing up the van quickly but within a few minutes of setting off both my arms were going numb and breathing was a real effort! Poor John he was trying to drive down a rutted muddy track in the dark and keep talking to me in case I passed out!
Anyhow we got down to about 14,000ft and the numbness started to wear off and breathing got easier. We carried on descending and slept at about 11,000ft which was fine. Big lesson learnt, we need to take longer to acclimatise to altitudes above 14,000ft.
The next day we went back to Chimborazo, only to 14,000ft I hasten to add! Unfortunately it was shrouded in thick mist that didn’t look likely to clear. Still, we visited these ladies and bought nice hand made woolly hats and gloves for the next time we’re in such low temperatures.
We stopped at the very small village of Salinas, there were milk churns everywhere as the village is famous for making cheese and chocolate. After our experience the day before we treated ourselves to a good supply of both products (any excuse!)
Rather gruesome! The rest of the pig was being butchered round the corner.
The last weekend of February is Carnival all over Ecuador, it’s a huge party that seemed to go on from Friday to the following Tuesday.
This young lad and his friend were having a foam fight in a fuel station, his parents didn’t seem at all concerned about the amount getting into their truck. Within a couple of days we would realise how messy carnival can get.
On Saturday there were small parades along the way as we were travelling to the town of Alausi. We had picked this town basically because it was in the direction we wanted to go, it’s in a pretty valley and a campsite just outside the town had been recommended to us.
Sunday started with a colourful parade but……..
then the fun started.
We were “encouraged” to join in by some local ladies, they were great fun and very friendly.
Alcohol, a horse and a machete, could be an interesting mix!
We headed back to the campsite, the foam, paint and raw egg made for some cleaning challenges especially on camera lenses!
A fun time and great memories. Continue reading “Quito and Carnival – Day 260 (17940 miles)”