January 2020
  • Day17

    Heading Home

    January 30 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ -3 °C

    Contacted my driver Edgar from my initial visit to Quito who brought me to the airport again. Such a sweet guy. He was so happy to see me and wants me to keep in touch. Hope to see him again someday.

    Just about every asian at the Quito airport was wearing protective face masks from the coronavirus outbreak, plus some of the airport staff.

    ......

    The following is a complete transcript of my interaction with Toronto customs:
    Me: Hi !! 😁
    Customs: Have you been to China in the past 14 days?😐
    Me: No.😬
    Customs: Welcome back.😶
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day16

    Quito - Swan song

    January 29 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Took a 3.5 hour bus ride from Banos to Quito and booked the same hotel from my arrival. Rained all day which is too bad as i was hoping to get some good shots of massive, snow-capped Cotopaxi Mtn on the way.

    The couple i met in Cuenca (but live in quito) were very kind to invite me out for dinner, but are quite far from where i am staying (Cumbaya), so i opted to stay close by my hotel and keep it an early night. Splurged a bit at a large nearby market and then hit up a few microbrew locations that my american friend David in banos recommended, which was a nice finale. Bandidos brewery was pretty impressive.

    In 17 days, I saw so much of Ecuador but i really want to come back to see and do so many other things. Galapagos islands, Quilotoa crater, the amazon jungle, more Banos adventures, northern coast of esmeralda, Cotopaxi, and even peak one of towering mountains surrounding Quito. Would probably need at least another 17 days to do half of that. For a tiny country, it remarkably has a lot to offer.
    Read more

  • Day15

    Banos - Day 3

    January 28 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Canyoning is what i signed up for today. Which in pictures at the tour operator showed images of rappelling down a waterfall with ropes.

    It was a bit more involved than that heh. The entire excursion was making our way through a narrow canyon with fast moving waters gushing through it. Sometimes it involved swimming through sections, hopping over huge rocks amongst the whitewater, jumping off the top of small waterfalls into the pools below, shimmying across rock walls with ropes and of course rappelling down huge cliff walls alongside the waterfalls.

    One of the jumps was pretty intimidating. A 30 foot drop into the pool in front of where the waterfall splashed down with sheer rock walls on both sides and then needing to grab a rescue line that the tour guide would toss and hauling yourself in against a strong swirling current.

    We all had wetsuits for the cold waters, life jackets to not drown, and harnesses to rope ourselves in for all the shimmying and rappelling. Plus helmets.

    For the first rappelling, we had to climb up a rock wall and wait on a small ledge over top of a large waterfall while the guides set up the rope system. This really unnerved me. I was harnessed in, but i felt so exposed at the same time. And then to rappel down, you have to lean yourself backwards over the cliff and have your body perpendicular to the cliff, facing upwards to the sky. But its a lot easier than it sounds once you get past the initial fear of dying that your brain screams at you repeatedly haha.

    The rope goes through some tight loops in your harness, making it very easy to control your speed. You can slowly walk your way backwards down the cliff wall, or push off the rock wall with your feet and release a bit of rope at the same time to drop yourself downward in a hopping motion. Once i got past the first waterfall, i was excited to do the rest of them.

    Started at 9am and didn't finish until 4pm. Which was immediately followed by some survival celebration beers. What a day. Capped off the night at another brewpub i stumbled upon with some new friends.

    I couldn't bring my phone into the canyon today so i got a few images off the internet of the same falls we rappelled.
    Read more

  • Day14

    Banos - Day 2

    January 27 in Ecuador ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    The plan was double the adventure today. Whitewater rafting in the morning and repelling down a waterfall in the afternoon.

    Took an hour to drive to the rafting location, 30 minutes of wet suit integration plus safety instructions on what to do if anyone should per chance get tossed from the raft. In the oft chance, but longshot of course 😉

    These rafts were much smaller than my previous experience and i immediately thought how we are going to get tossed around like rag dolls. I was sitting in the "captain" position in the front with an Irishman and we were taking class IV rapids head on. Total tidal wave experience lol.

    A huge frenchman decided he wanted to sit in the front with us and sure enough, we nearly capsized from the weight on the first major rapid, tossing both the irishman and the frechman. Our raft nearly folded in two and i somehow held on and kept the front from getting completely sucked down into the rapid. I hauled the huge Irishman back into the raft thanks to the pre launch lessons and the Frenchman got hauled in by the second raft in our group. A third raft nearby completely flipped. And a bit later, 5 people got tossed from the second raft. My eyes were wide open haha. This was new territory for me.

    We got better at it as a team, with no one else getting tossed and hit huge rapids head on for sport the rest of the way. Hilarious fun. Unfortunately i couldn't bring my camera for pics and i wont receive pics from the tour company for two more days.. so all i have is a wetsuit pic for now.

    Didn't get back until 2:30pm, so walked over to the tour company and re-booked my waterfall repelling for the next morning. Took a nap from exhaustion, checked out the basilica, a market and some more brew pubs, an awesome supper, plus a cool bar/club with a huge bonfire in the middle. Sweet day. I love this town!
    Read more

  • Day13

    Banos - Day 1

    January 26 in Ecuador ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    The day started officially at 8:45 when the bus from Cuenca to Banos departed. Seven hours of following winding roads across mountain tops with spectacular views and hollywood movies dubbed with spanish voiceovers. And the odd local briefly hopping on the bus selling bags of fruits, peanuts and other stuff i cannot begin to identify.

    After finally descending the mountain tops into banos, i could see what the fuss was about. There's mountains on all sides of this tight valley and a massive volcano looming over the town. And a large waterfall literally 3 blocks from my hotel. Its a town that consists almost entirely of restaurants, hotels, shops and tour operators. I have 3 days booked here, but i think a week would have been ideal. There's so much to do.

    Booked my adventure for tomorrow, and then tracked down the town's brewpub as a well deserved reward from the very long, but picturesque bus ride. Really looking forward to tomorrow.. stay tuned :)
    Read more

  • Day12

    Cuenca - Day 3

    January 25 in Ecuador ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    Until today, i had really good fortune with weather. It only rained while i was sleeping or while in transit. But it rained pretty much all day today. I also felt like i was coming down with a cold so it was the perfect day to be lazy in bed and catch up on some zzz's.

    But i did get to check out a really nice restaurant called el mercado that had been recommended to me. The food here in cuenca has been amazingly good.

    Otherwise, it was early to bed to rest up for a big travel day tomorrow. A 7 hour bus ride to banos.
    Read more

  • Day11

    Cuenca - Day 2

    January 24 in Ecuador ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Last night ended up being a bit late and i got up today feeling tired and non social. Figured today would be a nice quiet one to myself. Wrong :)

    I had been recommended Los Tiestos for a meal in cuenca so i wandered around the cute colonial streets until i found it. The head chef Juan took my order so of course i asked him what he recommends. It was the best steak ever!!! When the waiter delivered it, he demonstrated how he could cut it with a spoon, and easily. Wow! Amazing.

    I asked the girl at the table behind me to take my picture and that snowballed into her and her husband (Lino and Vero) asking me to join their table, drink some of their wine bottle, eat some of their food, plus dessert. And as we chatted they offered to also take me some places when i return to Quito. So sweet. I was very quick to insist they stay with me if they visit Canada. Every single food item was incredible. This place is an absolute must-visit for any foodie. I told lino how ouzo turns cloudy white after adding water and he became obsessed ordering different anise type alcohols to reproduce the affect. Yikes, we were feeling good when we left

    I also got to know Juan the chef and another local, Ben who took me to his partially constructed food venue at the main plaza. I was being treated like long lost family. Even the couple, Lino and Vero invited me to a private function for later tonight. So touching how they all made me part of their circle. I am hugely touched.
    Read more

  • Day10

    Cuenca - Day 1

    January 23 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Today was mostly a travel day. Drove the rental car back to guayaquil in 2.5 hours. Then got in a commuter van for 3.5 hours to cuenca. That was a pretty crazy drive through the mountains on super windy roads. I slept through most of it, but at one point i opened my eyes to see we were driving through a cloud and the driver had maybe 20 feet of visibility! I decided this was an experience i didn't need to witness and went back to sleep.

    Woke up as we were being dropped off in some outskirt area of town. No hotel booked yet. I needed to find a restaurant to get wifi and figure things out, but nothing like that around. So i asked a taxi to take me to the cathedral... and from there parked my backpack in a cool restaurant, ordered a beer and started figuring out where to stay.

    Got in a bit late, so haven't seen much yet, but the little I've seen is gorgeous. Cobblestone streets and pretty much every single building is deserving of its own photography moment.

    Found my way down towards the lively area near the river and a very popular micro brewery where i met matias from Uruguay. Interesting guy who travels all over south America selling plumbing pieces he buys in china.
    Read more

  • Day9

    Montanita -Day 4

    January 22 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Last night i went back to the place with the pool table and played against a bunch of locals for hours, including David who i hung out on the beach with the night before and also became buddies with Nicolas originally from Peru. Starting to get to know the staff at certain restaurants here and a bunch of locals. Its nice to walk around town and hear my name called out or being greeted with huge smiles and fist bumps. A bit sad its my last day here. And i am casually curious about looking into properties here too.

    Woke up today incredibly sore all over. This surfing experience is having a serious physical impact. I actually feel 48 for a change haha. And no matter how much sun screen i put on, my nose gets redder and redder. I was very close to not surfing today but i don't know when my next opportunity will be, so it was time to suck it up and get back out there and enjoy the moment.

    Today went worse than yesterday. My timing was awful. Balance sucked. I read the waves poorly. And my pop ups were lazy, often going to one knee before standing up. I'm worn out and it shows. I really should go back to the 12 foot board until i get better.

    Three hour drive tomorrow morning to get the rental car back to guayaquil, so made it an early night. One thing i won't miss is all the mosquitos. My legs are covered in bites. Chao montanita.

    Edit: surfing pics are me
    Read more

  • Day8

    Montanita - Day 3

    January 21 in Ecuador ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    Lets start with last night. I *wanted* to sleep, but there was a loud private party of 10 at the establishment next door, so I figured it made more sense to check out montanita's nightlife than be annoyed in my room.

    Found a club that has a permanent resident cat on the bar every night. Then destroyed some local guys in a game of pool. And then some beer on the beach out with one of them. Got in at 4am and the private party next door was still going strong argh! Now i know why there are earplugs in my bathroom.

    Next morning i took my second stab at surfing. Dear diary, surfing is hard! The end. Lol

    I can't pinpoint exactly what went wrong.. i had an 8 foot board today instead of a 12 foot board.. which was less forgiving. But when i caught a wave, i was able to zigzag all over with it. Felt amazing. The downside is not being as easy to get up. Plus all my muscles were tight and sore.. so i felt less energetic and a bit lazy with my pop ups. Timing was poor too. So hard. I can do better.

    After surfing, tried a bunch of awesome craft beers at the place next door to the surf school. Paul from alaska eventually joined me and we did our best to provide the restaurant with some valuable empties for the recycling depot. IPAs were an endangered species by the time we left haha. Off now to see if that club cat is still sleeping on the bar.........
    Read more