A Travellerspoint blog

Amazon Jungle

We took a five day trip into Ecuador's slice of the Amazon to an area called the Cuyabeno Reserve. The journey to our camp was very long and involved an overnight bus, a two hour shuttle to the entrance of the reserve and then a two hour boat ride down the Cuyabeno River to our lodge.

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Our first taste of the Amazon began as soon as we started down the river. Within the first hour we saw monkeys, caimans (similar to a crocodile), sloths and other countless birds and butterflies. It's difficult not to be a little starstruck by this place as it seems almost unreal to be surrounded by so much wildlife in such a big, green, beautiful place.

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Our lodge was very rustic with grass roof huts and walkways on stilts to keep us up off the ground which harboured a lot of water and more insects and critters than we cared to know about. Our cabana even came with its own tarantula who we named Tito after the second day. Tito stayed with us the whole time we were there....

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The jungle itself is absolutely beautiful. It's difficult to relay the feeling of the place in this blog but there really is an energy to it that is undeniable. The jungle wakes up at dusk and with the sounds of all the insects and animals at night, it's amazing that you can sleep.

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We did several day trips including canoeing down some of the tributaries off the Cuyabeno River and a few different jungle treks (we paid homage to the makers of Off six times a day).

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Our guide took us to visit the local village for the Sioni people in our area. They showed us how they use the manoc root to make bread which was very tasty.

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They also took us piranha fishing and Jared managed to catch one. However, our guide was the one to take it off the hook as these fish are feisty and one of them managed to take a good bite out of another one of the guides.

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We would go every evening at dusk for a sunset swim in a lagoon near our lodge which was definitely one of the highlights of our trip into the jungle.

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On our last night, we did a nightwalk behind our lodge. We were very creeped out by all the critters lurking mere meters behind our sleeping quarters!

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Despite being dirty and perpetually damp (it rains a lot in the Amazon), we were sad to say goodbye to our lovely lodge in the jungle. We both hope to be able to visit the Amazon again sometime.

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Posted by ReneeJared 14:05 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Quito

Quito is the kind of place that takes awhile to appreciate its charms. We had been warned that Quito was a dangerous place and so were wary visiting it. However, it has proven to be very charismatic as long as you use your street sense.

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Quito is at an altitude of 2800 metres and so takes some getting used to. While we huffed and puffed our way around the city, the locals cruised around with ease.

One of the best things to check out in Quito is the Basilicia del Voto Nacional. It's an enormous gothic church built in the early 1900's and you're permitted to climb to the tops of the steeples (open stairways hundreds of feet up...liability?....pshaw!).

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The Basilicia itself has a very ominous feeling with its gothic facade. However, the views were well worth the trek up the stairways.

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Another surprising thing about Quito is that they have a fair amount of downtown space dedicated to green spaces. This is a very good thing as the air quality is so poor in this city that it rivals Hong Kong. Your lungs hurt after two days in this place.

Just a few kilometres outside Quito is the official Equator line. Although it may seem a bit silly, it was really cool to stand on each side of the hemispheres.

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The visitor's centre had lots of scientific experiments to play with to show the effects of the magnetic fields at the Equator. The best one was balancing an egg on the top of a nail to show the central pull of the Equator which was very cool!

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The people in Quito are quite guarded which is a big change from Colombia. That said, once you break through their guard they are a happy folk.

We've spent a few days in Quito chilling out in the city and checking out options for visiting the Amazon Jungle. We've found a great ecolodge to visit in the Cuyabeno Reserve and so will be heading into the jungle for a week to experience the chaos of the Amazon. It should be amazing!

Posted by ReneeJared 16:27 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Otavalo

We headed into Ecuador to a small town called Otavalo. As soon as you cross into Ecuador, the landscape changes from the steep mountains in Colombia to rolling hills dedicated to farming.

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We rented a very small cabana (called the Hobbit House for good reason) on the outskirts of town. The property was on a hilltop surrounded by three volcanoes and our instinct when we arrived there was to sing something from the Sound Of Music...

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Otavalo is known for hosting the largest crafts market in South America on Saturdays and it was outrageous! The entire town turns into one big outdoor market and even the most steely of shoppers can't help but blow a decent amount of cash as the deals are just too good. Everything is handmade and the vendors are great to chat with.

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However, before we hit the market we stopped by the local animal market that goes on in the early hours of every Saturday. This was definitely a local affair with only a few wide eyed tourists such as ourselves checking it out. Every kind of animal from kittens to cows were for sale and there was certainly no regard for animal rights (many a PETA member would faint at the sight of this place).

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The locals casually walk about checking under tails or looking in the ears of the animals they might buy. The most bizarre thing we witnessed was folks smelling guinea pig breath. Guinea pigs are a common food in Ecuador and I guess if they had bad breath, they weren't tasty?

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A comical contrast of the market was the fact that there are food vendors selling things like roast chicken and pig right beside the actual animals for sale themselves. What a horrible fate it must be to know what you smell like once you're cooked!

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All in all, a pretty grassroots experience. We enjoyed Otavalo and ended staying a few days longer than expected to enjoy our little house before heading into Quito.

Posted by ReneeJared 11:50 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Popoyan

Popoyan is a beautiful whitewashed mountain town. The historical center has been restored after earthquakes several years ago and the result is fabulous.

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It was a bit surreal walking around in this pristine little town where so much energy is put into its upkeep. Everywhere you looked things were being painted, cleaned and renovated. To top it off, the town is in a lush green valley so the contrast of white and green was quite striking.

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The town was very relaxed (aside from its affinity for endless reconstruction) and was a great place to unwind after a few days of partying in Cali. We headed up into the mountains to enjoy some hotsprings and a bike ride back into town. The hotsprings and surrounding scenery were great but the hotsprings had some serious algae growth that took some getting used to...

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We spent more time than anticipated in Popoyan as it was so peaceful and lovely but finally decided the time had come to head into Ecuador.

We both agree that Colombia has been one of the best countries that we've visited so far. All we've ever heard about this country has been that there is nothing but civil war and drugs to be found here. While there may be some of that, there is definitely more! Colombians are friendly and kind, the cities are boomin' and the countryside is beautiful. We had a great time and hope to come back someday.

Posted by ReneeJared 13:47 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Cali

Cali is known for three things....its zoo, plastic surgery and salsa!

The drive from Bogota to Cali took nine hours but it was through big mountain scenery that made it bearable. The Colombian landscape is absolutely gorgeous.

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The city of Cali is pretty enough with lots of lovely boulevards and neighborhoods.

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However, the reason to come to Cali is to check out the salsa clubs. There is a huge strip in the middle of the city that is dedicated to more salsa clubs and bars than you can shake a stick at. They are open every day from 11 til 2 in the morning and always have customers in them. The feeling you get walking down this strip (known as Avenue Sexta) is that you're in a mini Las Vegas.

The best part is that the locals can drink and dance like nobody's business but do so with such casual flair. First they warm up by drinking mini kegs that are brought to their tables (at least six liters of beer!) and then they hit the dance floor. The dancers have such groove that Jared and I were too intimidated to try for fear of looking like we had three legs.

Second to the clubs, Cali is known for being THE place to have plastic surgery in Colombia. We stayed in the Zona Rosa area and there are plastic surgeons on every block. Needless to say, we saw a lot of big boobs and botox'd smiles walking around.

Cali also has the largest zoo in South America. We were a bit wary of checking it out as we thought that the standard of animal care might be lower than in Canada and we didn't want to be horrified. As it turns out, the zoo was great and had a very unusual collection of exotic birds that we've never seen before. The coolest birds we saw were the giant Condor and a Toucan. Hopefully, we'll get to see them in the wild during our travels...

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Posted by ReneeJared 12:49 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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