“Squeaaaak!!” “Squeaaaak!!” That is the sound of the brakes squeaking on the bus, running straight through my body giving me shivers every 5 seconds. I’m currently sat on a 8-9 hour (well according to our tour guide it could be anything from 6-7-8-9 hours so who knows) bumpy bus ride to my home for the next month – Peru. Leaving beautiful Ecuador behind I want to give a bit of a summary of my time here (I’ll TRY and keep it brief) and tell you how awesome it was.
My trip began in the 2nd largest city of Ecuador – Quito. Before arriving I was pretty damn nervous about getting here because it was all new to me and I was pretty clueless about the country to be fair. My thoughts changed rather quickly however when I was greeted warmly by a cute little old Ecuadorian man, smiling at me holding up a sign saying, “Ms Hannah Grace Rattue” – that would be me !
Quito was nice. I met my Icelandic room mate Anna who had been in Argentina for a year and was fluent in Spanish so she took my hand and gave me a tour of Quito’s Old Town. She was also my personal translator and threw me straight into South American backpacker life by taking me on a local bus, which was ridiculously cheap by the way, and just made my time in Quito so much more enjoyable. Speaking Spanish here is pretty essential if you want to get around the city as a solo traveller so if you come to South America be sure to scrub up on your ol’ Espanol!
In Quito’s Old Town my personal translator found us a great place to eat (by asking the police officers where does vegetarian food) which was a roof top hotel restaurant overlooking the Town – incredible. Great way to start the trip.
Next stop was…
Amazon Rainforest – Tena.
Wowza migowza. All I can say here is that despite numerous unidentified flying insects, it was pretty amazing! We spent four days with a native host family, sleeping in a wooden tree house with my very own princess canopy (OK, it was a mosquito net but we can pretend right?), learnt about their culture, hiked through the rainforest, climbed waterfalls, learnt about the local food (pretty much every leaf in the Amazon can be made into a herbal tea to cure any sort of illness, disease or infection INCLUDING the use for a sexual contraceptive. Now I won’t be trying that for myself I can say that right away!) and spent my mornings being woken up at 4am by the very beautiful and colourful King of the Jungle – the cockerel.
After a 4 hour bus ride leaving the Amazon behind we entered the town of…
Banos – the adrenaline junkie paradise (apparently).
I kind of fell a little bit in love with this small colourful town. The streets were full of excitable school children running around between siesta periods, blaring native music being played from every left right and centre, more screaming children riding the rides at the local adventure park and numerous stray dogs barking until their parents came home (aka, unfortunately, never).
Despite all the sounds and chaos of this town it’s character won me over. It’s super relaxed vibe, colourful graffitied walls and numerous cafes and vegan restaurants (which only 1 of 4 was open I must add) has a small place in my heart. I failed to mention that during my time here I was actually quite ill so I didn’t get to delve into the adrenaline junkie part of this town, however I did get to experience the “swing at the edge of the world” which was incredible ! And from what I heard from friends who explored the zip lining and canyon swings, it was pretty awesome. Oh, but be careful of crazy horses when going horse back riding, I heard they can get a bit wild…
Take note: the sun here in Ecuador is pretty powerful so do be warned – suncream, suncream, suncream !!
After Banos we headed to…
Just when I thought Banos was pretty awesome, after pulling into a very dirty (imagine thick black smoke exiting every vehicle exhaust you can imagine – that is Cuenca) bus station and being very disappointed about this “oh so beautiful colonial town”, we thankfully take a taxi 10 minutes out of the industrial polluted centre and enter the oh so beautiful city of Cuenca *phew*.
The third largest city of Ecuador, Cuenca is a beautiful, colonial city with so much cuteness I had to ask my friend to slap me each time I mentioned the word cute! There are numerous small gridded streets full of colour and character. Lots of cafes serving great coffee and pastries (I bought a brown roll which in fact turned out to be a white roll with jam filling, language barrier, but when starving and desperate who’s going to throw that thing away, right?), gelato and ice cream shops to satisfy the sweet tooth, numerous bars serving cheap beer and cocktails and awesome live music.
The city has an open air outdoor activity centre full of all types of people ages 0-100 getting in their daily workout from running around the outdoor track, dancing on a handstand (breakdancing to you and I), shooting their way to the back of the net (basketball) and shaking their thing Zumba style in their spandex. It was pretty damn awesome and I did join in with the Zumba workout – who can refuse to shake their thing to salsa, especially outdoors at 830pm on a Friday night with a group of about 50 others AND outside McDonalds of all places?! It was a kind of fingers up to McDonald’s, on my behalf anyway.
Also, check the beautiful flower markets 🙂
Cuenca’s National Park
The following day a group of four of us took a taxi to Cuenca’s National Park. Wow. If you ever go to Cuenca you HAVE to go to the National Park. You DON’T need a guided tour despite what some people may say (by some people I mean tour guides trying to get you to pay $40 for an all in tour when you can do enough of it yourself for a $10 taxi ride in which the driver will wait 2 hours for you whilst you walk around the beautiful lake and bring you back – that’s still half a days’ activity for just $10). Did I mention that the taxi drivers will also happily stop the taxi and let you get out to take photos during the transit there and back when you spot wild Lamas for example?
You totally need to do it. The lake is stunning with incredible backdrops, all I say is that be prepared for altitude as it is 3,900m above sea level so you will be breathless. Take your time during the walk, take lots of beautiful pictures, drink plenty of water, wear bug spray as there were a few mosquitos and like I said earlier (if you have kept up through this “brief” summary – apologies there) WEAR sun cream!! 3/4 length legging burn marks are NOT a good look! Kate Moss couldn’t even pull of this look so I have no hope what so ever. I wondered why everyone was staring at me in the city afterwards when I was wearing my shorts, I just thought it was because I was so white… Awkward.
And on that note I will end it there. I will continue with my very noisy bus journey into Peru, listening to the oh so annoying breaks squeaking on the bus as we continually drive down hill, and put up with the extremely loud Spanish music blaring through the speakers above me. I hope I haven’t bored you and if you kept up through this very long Post I thank you and I appreciate it very much 🙂
Lots of Love, until next time.
Adios my friends x