A Taste of Ecuador

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Quito was a surprise as prior to our arrival we had heard how we would most definitely be robbed there. It was not the case. It is one of the most beautiful and alive cities we have been in, with a great buzz to it.

We set off for Banos. I found the route from Quito to Banos to be tough due to a combination of factors: dodgy stomach, heavy pollution and cycling at high altitude, in excess of 2,500 meters. The altitude is good training for Peru though! I don’t think catalytic converters have made it to Ecuador just yet!

The road is never dull and everyday is different with roadside activities and views

 

Here we found several people hard at work making carbon from old bits of wood, a truly impressive sight, and the carbon usually goes towards grilling meat in one of the many roadside cafes and stalls along the way, and you will see later just what they grill!!

We made our way to Banos in 2 days from Quito along ‘Avenida de los Volcanos’ and the scenery was stunning.

Baños has been our base for the last few days, with the main attraction being Tungurahua, the active volcano and the thermal baths which feed off the volcano. We have been studying our Spanish, hiking in the surrounding hills, watching the world cup and taking leisurely cycles along the Rutas de las Cascadas. It is a spectacular setting to take a break.

Travelling in Ecuador, like many other countries we have been lucky enough to visit to date, is a feast for the senses and there is never a dull moment on and off the saddle. In the remainder of this blog entry, I will include some of the highlights in picture form so far.

An indigenous Otavaleños wedding which we passed on the road on the approach to Otavalo. There was singing and dancing with traditional Inca-influenced music and musicians and they looked like they were having fun.

The Otavaleños are famous for weaving, hat making and farming and they sell their wares at the famous Saturday market in Otavalo mainly around Plazas de los Ponchos which is jam packed daily with stalls, animals, tourists and children.

 
Many still wear traditional dress which I have read dates back to pre-Inca times. Women are dressed in white embroidered blouses, with flared lace sleeves and black skirts with layers of necklaces of predominantly gold beads and red coral bracelets. Men wear white trousers, dark blue ponchos and plait their hair.

Food at the market was unbelievably cheap and we got a full meal with delicious fish for $1.50 each.

It is not uncommon to see pig carcasses, "Hornado", hanging from hooks along the roadside. At first, I was pretty shocked by this sight but is now just what you come to expect in South America. And here is what the aforementioned carbon can be used for!

If you’re feeling really courageous, (I haven’t got there yet!) you can sample the roasted or grilled cuy or guinea pig, which apparently was once an important part of the Andean diet.   

…..or, easier on the stomach, roasted corn at this street side family stall

A typical stall selling fruit, mochacho toffee (which Banos is famous for) and sugar cane at the front.

Here is a typical local doing her shopping!

We did a wonderful cycle from Banos to near Puyo, a town on the edge of the Amazon jungle. Along the way we passed waterfalls, sheer cliffs and winding valleys.

Martin going through a waterfall on the roadside

El Pialon del Diablo Waterfall

Getting closer to the Amazon!

Leisurely hike in the hills around Banos

We leave Banos soon and head further south through the mountains. We are hoping to get to Peru in 14 days, but there is a lot to see in between. And in Peru we are looking forward to a friend of ours, Hannah, coming out to join us for who knows how long. The long road through the Andes continues!

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