A Travellerspoint blog

January 2012


Ecuadorian and Peurvuian border crossing


I had spent one night in Cuenca and then I got a bus to a place called Villacabamba. This is where I had met Michael, Marc & Hojar. The hostel that I had stayed at was out of this world – again lost in the middle of nowhere filled with rock made walls, interesting flowers and amazing views. I went for a long long hike with Hojar. The hike had more and less lasted the whole day – at several parts I caught myself walking alongside paths that where only wide enough for my feet! Scary as there was no safety barriers apart from sheer steep drops! So there was no turning back once we had started. All you could hear was the odd cow or sheep in the distant and the soft gush of wind.
I remember waking up at like 6am and walking to a serene place around the hostel and watched the morning rise, the sun beaming through the clouds and the smell of sandal-wood incense stick burning.

I travelled towards the Ecuadorian/Peruvian border with Michael (Sano), Marc and Hojar and the journey was not your typical crossing. Two out of the 3 border crossings are your typical route but we decided to go through La Balsa which was through a mixture of many forms of transport, we headed towards Zumba, crossed the boarder which was so remote the office was closed then we saw this man runnin towards us apologising as he was at the gym – the boarder official lol. We were passed on like yo yo from one place to another. There was a restaurant which was also a money change bureau and a laundry service all in one. Finally we got our passports stamped we headed towards to San Ignacio (which was just a dusty, dirt little town – there and in fact all over South America there are diff bus stations for diff routes) so the minute we got off the collectivo all you could hear are men and women shouting out for your attention then to Jaen. Four hours later we got to our 1st destination Chachapoyas. Here we went to check out Kuelap which stood at 3,000m and it is know to be ruins of pre-inca time. The actual area was like most ruins that I had already been to but what made this day hilarious was our tour guide. First of all he stunk of ‘night before’ alcohol and it was just the way he had gave the tour he had put on a weird American – you just had to be there bare jokes!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 15:03 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Rio Negro

Villa Vrindavan


Close by to Puyo we came across Rio Negro…I remember the driver forgot to tell us to get off so we had to walk at least a mile towards this bridge which would have led us to Villa Vrindavan – this was a Hare Krishna farm where we decided to volunteer for a few days. We (Kate & Ida) hitched a ride with this dude along this long road which was just filled with loads of trees deep…a mini jungle.

Here I had stayed for a few days but the girls had left after a day as the yoga classes were put on hold…anyways every morning (this was not compulsory) there were prayers from 6.30am I had sometimes attended or I would just go for a stroll in the middle of this massive jungle. Breakfast would be served on the sound of a horn from 9am…for the rest of the day till 3pm we would help out by cooking, chores around the farm or anything that need to be done.

I had an amazing experience in a man-made steam room at the farm – made out of mud and straw and covered by a massive plastic sheet. Most of the afternoon the left over volunteers headed out to collect loads of wood for a massive fire where in the centre they had kept at least 2 dozen volcanic rocks, once the fire and all burnt out (this must have been late evening 10pmish) we carefully took out all of the rocks and placed them in the mud/straw steam room. Once everyone was in the plastic sheet had covered the entrance there was a huge jug of hot eucalyptus water thrown on the hot rocks – the outcome??? The most mind blowing experience I have ever had the heat was so strong that I could only bare a max 10mins in there 0nce I came out with another girl we rushed to the natural waterfall dunked ourselves in there and it was COLD but much needed. The overall experience lasted till midnight – amazing!

The last lunch at Villa Vrindavan I and Martin had to cook a 3 course lunch for everyone (10+ volunteers) but we had to make it pure vegan with what was already in the kitchen – it was a challenge but we nailed it with a help with the main chef towards the end. Back to Banos, this time I travelled with Martin where we chilled there for day, hired a motorbike and went for a spin around the town in and out of the valleys – saw some amazing views of never ending landscapes full of greens :o) and not forgetting the security dogs that had chased us till we lost sight of them. I and Martin parted the next day he went towards Quito and I was heading towards the border.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 14:51 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Banos, Ecuador

aka Toilets lol


Banos is a tourist area for both Ecuadorian and foreign visitors. They come for the Basilica, the famous hot springs, the scenery and the accessibility to the jungle via Puyo and Misahuallí. This small town is renowned for its Hot springs! The baths, baños, are located within walking distance of the center of town. The water is colored by the high mineral content, and the temperature varies by the amount of cold water mixed into the bath. I spent an evening in the Thermal Springs in town at Baños de la Virgen, by the waterfall. It was so cool to be chillin in a hot bath …ok the water was very murky looking but this was only because it has loads of minerals and the good stuff in it…looking above were bright sparkling stars and the temperature was just right! There were 3 diff types of baths. The 1st was so hot that you could literally boil an egg in it and the 2 other were just right. The deal is to have an ice cold dip in the natural waterfall (which is freezing) and then jump in the hot bath. This was impossible for me to do, so I opted to have a warm shower and then jump in lol.

There are many craft stalls and shops for crafts, handiwork and silver jewelry. The town is also famous for its sugar cane taffy called Melcocha. I saw it being made, they basically beat the candy against a door frame or other sturdy surface it’s so cool don’t worry pictures have been taken lol. I stopped off in Banos 3 times to get to and from my other destinations. It is small but I absolutely loved it here. From here I ventured out to Puyo…

...What brought me to Puyo??? It was not the fact it is so close to the Amazon but Ida was banging on about a thing called San Pedro (and I realised that Madonna has also sung about it lol) and Ayahuasca. Puzzled…well let me educate you. Ayahuasca is a Quechua word for ‘vine of the soul’ it is a brew used by indigenous Amazonian Shamans. By drinking this you will have terrifying hallucinations, profound personal insights and spiritual epiphanies. We did meet a doctor however we were strapped for time as the ceremony and prep would have taken at least 2 weeks so we had allowed it.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 14:47 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Otavalo Market

Biggest South American Market!


The Otavalo Market is one of South America’s most grandest and famous markets. The best day to experience the market is on Saturdays, so we all decided to leave Quito on the Friday just so we can catch all the action early on Saturday. Within five minutes of walking the vendor lined streets, the energy felt while browsing the endless market is uplifting and fun. It evokes curiosity and an uncontrollable desire to shop once immersed in the chaos. To provide an idea of what the Otavalo Market is all about, I feel as though this is one of those cases where you really need to experience the market to know what it’s truly like.

Locals and tourists alike both bargain for the best price of any items they desire. You can find almost anything at the Otavalo Market including: jewelry, Panama hats, movies, music, clothes, live animals, produce, meat, ready to eat food and hammocks. The most intriguing and chaotic section of the Otavalo Market is the animal market. Campesinos and farmers come to either sell or buy cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs and more. The clothing, tapestries, bags and hammocks create a surrounding landscape of endless colors. The market may be the main attraction in Otavalo, but the surrounding snow capped mountains, many restaurants and beautiful streets are enough reason to stay the weekend. I had a great time here but I could not stay in the animal market for too long the sounds of squealing pigs had so put me off! There was an ‘Only Fools n Horses’ moment where there was a man selling load of bric n brac stuff from back of his van on a mic well funny!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 14:44 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Cotopaxi Mountain, Ecuador


We decided to go to an organised trip to one of many volcanoes here in Ecuador (Ecuador is surrounded by loads of volcanoes at least 20 odd). Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft) and which is still active with the last major eruption taking place back in 1877 and the last minor eruption took place in 1940. It was an early start…a very early one! We all met outside the hostel at 6.30am! We finally made it to Cotopaxi around 11am we had stopped several times to either fuel up or take pictured of the Volcano. I remember seeing Cotopaxi from the distance and it looked so big and beautiful with its peak covered in white snow – it was hard to take in as I was standing under direct hot sunlight and all I could see was snow....I saw my 1st (I think) Llama here yay before going in to the small museum to learn more about the volcano and its surrounding vegetation.

Anyway enough of the boring stuff we were give coca leaves to prevent us getting high altitude sickness as we were to climb up to the refuge camp there was another tour which you would climb up to the summit through the night – I would have loved to do that but I know that I would not be able to do it as I would have found very hard to breath! Walking up to the refuge camp was challenging itself as there was nothing to hold on to, the ground was quite slippery. I slipped a few times and my heart pounded as you don’t have anything to hold on to but to go down! it obviously became colder as we climbed further, I did find it very hard to breathe and had to take several breaks which worked brilliantly as you had to take loads of break just to see the amazing view and the snow was so blindingly bright that you needed sunglasses. After taking a break at the café with hot chocolate and sugary snacks we had an option of going back with the driver in his 4x4 or by taking a mountain bike and riding 20km to the restaurant….obviously I took the bike! Did I mention that the last time I got on a mountain bike must have been like 10yrs ago…safety helmet on, a quick lesson on gear changing and off we went! OMG this was the scariest (ok a diff scary-ness from my jump in Guatemala) bike ride! The road…well that’s what hey had referred to it was so uneven, ridiculously bumpy and guess wot NO safety barriers so I was faced with losing control and falling x-amount of feet. During this hr ride I lost feeling in my hands as it was so cold, this had made it hard for me to control the brakes….what else erm…once in the swing of the things the ride was really nice with a fresh cold breeze against the face nothing but nature all around. So as I approaching the last corner, I was in my Nigel Mansel light going relatively fast and it was too late for me to control my bike and ‘BANG’ I fell off on my face! Ouch…1st reaction was to get up and to see if anyone saw me lol. Blood on my hand…got worried that I might have broken my nose or even my teeth – but all was good just a few scratches and that my glasses broke (but fixed by super glue lol). The trip ended on an empty note well the lunch that was provided was SO crap that once the other tour group left we all had their leftovers lol but great seeing Cotopaxi!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 14:41 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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