Exploring Ecuador, Part 2: From Baños to Puerto Lopez
Tuesday, June 13th - Baños, Ecuador
Today Michael and I had separate mornings. He went ziplining and I went to El Refugio Spa in town. The spa is set up to where you begin with a very relaxing walk through the grounds around the spa. You are meant to walk barefoot through the grass, mud, rocks, and more to help massage your feet and release the toxins. The walk is also meant to be a release. You are told to walk up to the top of a hill and then scream as loud as possible into the mountains surrounding you. When you get to the river, you are to remember the experiences in your life and forgive whomever needs to be forgiven. This is totally my thing. Some would say its a bit cray, but I thought it was totally relaxing and I enjoyed all 45 minutes of my walk. The views were stunning and I felt so relaxed, even before my hot stone massage.
I had a 60 minute massage followed by a 20 minute hot stone massage. It was lovely and very relaxing. I was also served rose water and pineapple and enjoyed it while sitting in the inside greenhouse area. I would highly recommend this spa if you're looking for a relaxing time in Baños.
Michael's ziplining adventure was a blast. He loved all of it and was glad he wasn't afraid of the heights. The first step was to zipline across a canyon valley and then cross a very rickety bridge. Then they climbed 90 meters up the side of a rock using rung ladders. He then ended it with ziplining back to starting area. He says he would definitely recommend it! It was $20 and he says its was worth every penny.
Michael and I met up again at our hotel and then went horseback riding! We used the company José & Two Dogs, which is located in the heart of Baños. I'm not going to lie, I've never ridden a horse and the thought of doing it totally freaked me out! I was very nervous before but I had a blast! My horse's name was Carlitos and Michael's horse was Mariachi. They were both males and were apparently jealous of each other because they both wanted the female horse Pinta. This allowed for some pretty scary moments. For example, whenever our horses would get close to each other, they would both take off and try to race! Or my favorite time was when my horse bit Michael's horse's tail! Men. Anyways, we took off and rode through town before starting up the mountain. We rode for about an hour before stopping at a nearby stream to learn about the Tungurahua Volcano and it's eruption in 2006. This volcano is active and José talked about how if the volcano seriously erupted again, it would only take 1-2 seconds to cover the surrounding area. We then continued to ride up the mountain and then back down the other side. We saw some stellar views and it was definitely worth the sore bum!
After horseback riding we met our G group at our hotel and went out for dinner and drinks. We had a great time!
Wednesday, June 14th - Baños, Ecuador
We slept in a bit today and started our day by reorganizing and repacking all of our stuff. One thing I've noticed about us is if we staying in a place for two days or more, we tend to get comfortable and unpack a lot of our stuff. When you're traveling and moving around a lot like we are, it's just nice to not worry about leaving all of our stuff in your pack every single day. It's nice to get comfy in a place and leave your stuff around your hotel room. BUT, if you do this, you will eventually have to repack and when you do, it's going to take you a little while. We repacked for about an hour and a half this morning. After repacking, we went into town to walk around and get something to eat. Of course it was raining pretty steadily the entire time but we still went anyway. We went to the Nuesta Señora del Rosario de Auga Santa Church in the middle of town and paid the $1.50 to visit the strangest museum ever. The museum was on the second floor of the church. There were so many different types of things in this museum--clothing, paintings, statues, toys, even an entire room dedicated to the worst taxidermy I've ever seen. It was strange and disturbing. Michael said it was worth the $1.50 just to see the look on my face.
We continued walking around Baños and stopped to have two delicious cups of coffee at a local shop and we visited the Amore Chocolate shop and stocked up on delicious Ecuadorian chocolate. We also went to the Mercado Central (central market) for lunch where we had a stunning meal. I had a bowl of chicken soup (which was lovely because it was rainy and cold out) and llapingchos which was served with chorizo, rice, a fried egg, a mashed fried potato, and a salad. I also had a fresh fruit juice. Michael had Yaguarlocro which is potatoes, beef intestines and sprinkled with cooked blood. I did not try it but Michael said it was delicious.
After lunch we caught our first bus from Baños to Río Bamba and then we caught our second bus from Río Bamba to Alausi. Our journey took about 4 hours but we were able to sleep and read on the bus so it wasn't that bad. We dropped our bags and went out to dinner at a local place that was pretty touristy. It wasn't bad though. I had grilled chicken and Michael had lamb.
Thursday, June 15th - Alausi, Ecuador
Today we got up early to eat a delicious breakfast at a local cafe. We had the desayuno americano (American breakfast) consisting of coffee, toast, eggs, and juice. It was pretty good. We then caught the train that traveled out to Nariz de Diablo (the Devil's Nose). This mountain got its name during the construction of the railroad due to the 2,000+ workers that died. Apparently the mountain looks like a nose but I don't really see it. The train ride lasted for about 2.5 hours with a short stop for coffee and a traditional dance performance from some locals. The train ride offered stunning views of the surrounding mountains. We even got a passport stamp (this is super exciting if you love to travel!)
After our train ride we walked around the city of Alausi. This is a very small town (only about 20,000 people, according to our guide) and most of the people are dressed in typical Andean fashion. We walked through the local markets with people selling fruits, vegetables, clothing, and more and we decided to stop for lunch at a small food stall with a giant roasted pig out front. The stall was very small with room for only two tables, put together, and about 6-8 stools for sitting. We were served the roasted pork with a small side salad, hominy, and a bit of fried pork skin. All for $3. It was absolutely delicious and the pork was so tender and juicy. I loved it. After lunch we had about an hour to rest before hopping on the next local bus headed for Guayaquil.
Our bus ride to Guayaquil was long. And I mean really long. We stopped many times to pick people up and let people off. We were riding all through the mountains down some winding roads and the bus did not have A/C. After the 6 hours on the bus, we also had to take a taxi to our hotel in the middle of rush hour traffic, which took another 30 minutes. I'm not trying to sound whiny, but I'm just being real with you. Traveling is an amazing experience, one I would NEVER give up. BUT, there are moments during travel where you just want to rage quit or pull your hair out or drink until everything is awesome (sadly, I didn't end up doing any of these things.) We did eventually make it to our hotel and then went out to dinner. Michael and I both had carne aside (grilled steak) with arroz con gandules (our favorite!) We then went to the Iguana Park (yep, you read that right) where we saw a ton of land iguanas just chilling. Apparently the park is full of these iguanas and they are fed and taken care of. It's so weird but also so cool. It reminded me of the Cat Park in Lima, Peru. Almost all of the iguanas were sleeping so we're going back in the morning before our next long bus ride (yay.)
Friday, June 16th - Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
We went back to the Iguana Park this morning and it was awesome. Most of the iguanas were up and moving about, waiting to be fed. We got some pretty good pictures of these guys.
We caught our bus to Puerto Lopez at 9:15 AM and we arrived at 1:30 PM. This ride wasn't nearly as bad, thanks to the A/C. I got a ton of reading done (I'm still reading A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas). One thing we've noticed that is super popular here is people will get on the bus during the journey and try to sell you food. Foods of all kinds: fresh potato chips, fruit, empanadas, breads, and our favorite-warm, delicious banana bread. A guy jumped on the bus this morning with this stupendous treat and our group went nuts. Many of us bought some and it was amazing.
When we arrived at Puerto Lopez, we threw on our bathing suits and immediately went down to the beach. I had a Piña Coloda and then we decided to walk around this small, lazy beach town. It is your typical beach town full of fishermen. There isn't much to do in the town itself, but we do have plans to visit a few popular places outside the town in the next coming days. We're staying here for the next three nights and we're all pretty excited about that (yay for not having to have everything packed constantly!) Now we're sitting in a local coffee shop drinking a delicious cup of coffee. Life is good.
After our coffee, we chilled until we went to dinner at a local place called Carmita. Our tour guide Maria suggested the Sopa de Marisco (mixed seafood soup) and the coconut shrimp. Michael had the soup and I had the shrimp and it was AHHHHMAZING. So good.
We ended our night at a local bar enjoying caipirinhas, mojitos, and music.
Saturday, June 17th - Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Today we woke up pretty early and had a simple breakfast of toast, eggs, and coffee before heading to Machalilla National Park. This national park is located along the coast of Ecuador and it was about a 20 minute drive from our hotel. We rented a van for the day to take us there. We started by going to Playa de los Frailes, a beautiful protected beach that is so pristine we just wanted to stay there all day. It isn't like your typical beach. It was quiet with little to no people and amazing views. We walked up a trail to a viewpoint and were blown away by the amazing views.
The sun came out (finally!!!!) so we had a swim in the clear blue water. It was so lovely. After lying on the beach for an hour or so, we went back to the van and drove to the local tourism town community of Auga Blanca, which is still a part of the national park. We had a very inexpensive lunch of empanadas and corviches and then took a trip over to the sulfur pool to rejuvenate our skin (or to just make ourselves smell like rotten eggs.) We covered ourselves in medicinal mud and then went for a dip.
After our sulfur bath, we hiked through the forest with a local guide from the community. He showed us plants and talked about their use in the community. We then stopped by the museum to listen to some of the history of the community. For a $5 entrance fee, I'd say this place is worth a visit.
After returning from the national park, we walked around the town and had some coffee before going to dinner. We went to a great place for dinner called Danica. Whatever you ordered at the place came with large portions of rice, beans, and a salad and your choice of grilled meat (pork, steak, chicken, fish, or shrimp.) Michael got the steak and I got the shrimp. It was so delicious. The shrimp was cooked to perfection in some sort of Barbeque sauce and the beans mixed with the rice was a stellar combo.
After dinner we went out to celebrate a fellow tour member's birthday. We went to a local discoteca and had a blast dancing to techno/Spanish infusion music.
Sunday, June 18th - Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Today we had a delicious breakfast at a local French bakery. I had a salt crepe filled with cheese, ham, and topped with a fried egg and Michael had a sweet crepe with chocolate and fruit. Heavenly.
After breakfast, we boarded the Luz de Luna boat headed for Isla de la Plata (the Silver Island). This island is known as the "poor man's Galapagos." If you've ever looked at traveling to the Galapagos, you know how expensive it is! You can spot wildlife on this island that is similar to the wildlife found in the Galapagos. I was the most excited for this day trip to Isla de la Plata and I definitely was not disappointed! The journey to the island from the mainland lasted about 1 hour and it was a bumpy ride. Before even getting off the boat on the island, we spotted sea turtles in the water! I instantly fell in love with this place. We arrived at the island and began a two hour hike up and around to see all of the wildlife. We spotted crabs, snakes, and so many lizards! The Blue Footed Boobies and Frigate Birds were some of the coolest things we saw! Jairo and Ernesto were our guides for the trip and they were very knowledgeable about the island and the different species that live there. They taught us all about the mating of Blue Footed Boobies and how they mate for life and share the child-rearing responsibilities (#equality). They also taught us about the male Frigate Birds and how they inflate their throats to attract a female. They are also known as Pirates of the Sky due to their thievery of food from other birds. They are also known to steal food from each other.
After our hike, we headed back to the boat for a light lunch of watermelon, tuna sandwiches, cheese and jam sandwiches, and juice. We also were able to see four massive sea turtles that were circling our boat while we ate! So cool. We then hopped in the water to snorkel. We saw all different types of colorful fish including pufferfish and we even swam with a sea turtle! It was such a cool experience. We changed on the boat and headed back towards the mainland, stopping along the way to try to spot Humpback Whales that have migrated from Antaractica. We spotted two cirlcing around! We had a really difficult time getting a good photo but the experience of seeing these huge creatures in the wild was the real kicker!
After our hike, we headed back to the boat for a light lunch of watermelon, tuna sandwiches, cheese and jam sandwiches, and juice. We also were able to see four massive sea turtles that were circling our boat while we ate!
Monday, June 19th - Puerto Lopez, Ecuador
Today is our last full day in Puerto Lopez and we're taking it super easy. We slept in until 9, which is really a big deal! One thing you might not realize about these types of trips is that we're always waking up early for our next adventure so we rarely get the opportunity to really sleep in. We took advantage of our free day today to do just that. We walked to the local French cafe and had two cups of delicious coffee and then came back to our hotel. Now we're just chilling in hammocks by the pool in our hotel. We have to take an overnight bus back to Quito tonight and we're all a bit worried about it. Hopefully all will be fine and we'll be able to sleep on the bus!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post! Keep your eyes peeled for my next and final exploring Ecuador post!
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