12.03.2013 - 31.03.2013
12.03.2013 - 31.03.2013 24 °C
Time has been flying, hard! It’s time for my last 2,5 weeks of traveling already and for my last country, I have a local guide. My cousin Inti has lived in Ecuador for about 7 years and knows the places to go. As I have been here myself (over 10 years ago) I don’t have to do the typical tourist places either and we can focus on exploring national parks.
We meet in Loja, where I arrive one day before Inti does. It’s a small city, which I find very charming. There is not much to do and that’s what makes it so nice. It’s always fun to walk around the streets and have locals watching you again with weird eyes, not being used to too many tourists. When my cousin arrives we head straight to Podocarpus national park. We spend a lot of time in the clouds as we are above 3000m and it’s rainy season in many places in Ecuador. Luckily we stay almost dry the whole day and now and then the clouds disappear and we get an amazing view of the high jungle, the treeless highlands and the surrounding mountains.
The next day we get up early to catch a bus to Zamora, where we stay in a lodge owned by Belgians. We are accompanied by a ton of hummingbirds in all colors and sizes while we spend two days there hiking in the rain forest. It’s absolutely spectacular how many birds, insects, plants,… you can find here. Inti spends a lot of time taking pictures and I just look around, being amazed on the hundreds of different things to see without even moving one centimeter.
After Zamora, we head to Cuenca. It’s one of the nicer towns in Ecuador, with many churches and some charming streets. We wander around one day, being a little unlucky as all museums are closed on Sundays. Thank god there is a great ice/cake saloon where we get ourselves served. The other day we visit Parque National Cajas, yet again a completely different landscape. It reminds me a little of Norway, with wide views over highlands and many lakes all around.
We make one more stop before heading to Quito: Baños. It’s quite touristy, but still very charming. First on the agenda is rafting. As it is more or less rainy season in the Ecuadorian mountains, the rivers contain a lot of water: perfect for some good rafting. In the afternoon we have some energy left to make a hike to a viewpoint over Baños. The very next day already we already head to Quito, where were are staying with my uncle and aunt (Inti’s parents), who live there for 15 years now. In Quito we also meet up with Sylvia, a Colombian friend of Inti. She’ll travel with us for one week, also my last week of traveling.
That first day we spend relaxing: sleeping longer, playing cards, having some of my uncle’s great home brewed beer,… The next day we take off early to spend the weekend camping at my uncle’s coffee farm. It’s a 4h drive, half on gravel, to the middle of nowhere: Junin is a town of some 20 houses… From there, it’s another hour by foot until we reach the coffee farm. There is nothing more than a hut on the top of a hill, having a magnificent view and no other sign of life kilometers around. We put up our tents, cook on fire and play some cards in the candlelight. The next day we harvest some coffee beans, which is a hard job especially because it’s no harvest season and ripe coffee beans are very hard to find.
Next stop is Mindo, where we stay in the cheapest hostel ever. The comfort is proportional to the price. The water is brown (rain water) and you hear any noise, both from the neighbor as from the bathroom. In Mindo, we do some canyoning down a series of waterfalls and visit a butterfly ‘farm’. It’s full of butterflies, obviously, in all colors and sizes. The biggest ones are my friends and stay on my finger when I catch them.
We have been extremely lucky so far with the weather, but because as it has been raining all night and morning this time, we decide to leave to Quito. I spend 2,5 more days there with the family, visiting a place with once again a looooot of hummingbirds, relaxing in the hot springs of Papallacta (forever changing between the ice cold river water and the hottest pool) and making a beautiful hike in the highlands. During a wonderful sushi dinner, I say goodbye to my family, to Ecuador and to the 3 months of traveling.
It’s a hell of a trip from Quito to Moyobamba, the place where I’ll volunteer now for 3 months. Because my flight to the south of Ecuador is delayed by 2 hours, the rest of my trip there is a mess too. In total it takes me about 40 hours, 1 plane, 5 buses, 8 taxis and a way to short overnight stay to get me there. In the bus from Tumbes to Piura, we pass a crowd of people at the side of the road. They gather around a dead motorcyclist who’s lying on the street, his brain some 30cm away from the rest of his body. A sight I’ll unfortunately never forget…
But this is it… Time has been going só fast and it’s hard to realize this beautiful 3 months have already come to an end. It’s been such a great experience and I’m grateful for every place I got to visit, every person I got to know, every culture I could experience. I’m grateful for every joyful moment and for every difficult situation I managed to get through. And maybe most of all, I’m so glad I didn’t only have my guardian angel with me on my road trip, but I had two more back in Belgium, who got me out of trouble more than once. I can’t say it enough… Thank you!