Richard Watts

Janner gone Westerer!
Living in: Plymouth, United Kingdom
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  • Day166

    Baños

    October 7, 2018 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We headed here to go on a swing. Simple, but that’s what I knew of Baños. Oh, and also that the name means ‘Baths’, or toilets if you are asking for one.
    It has some hot springs in the centre of town which have been made into pools, one freezing, one hot and another at 44 degrees hot! It’s pretty cheap, so obviously that was the first thing we did on arrival!
    Baños is also know as a real extreme sports place. Loads of rafting, mountain biking, hiking, climbing and any other sort of tour you can make money from. I really liked the place!
    Our first night at the hostel, there was a beer pong tournament, we didn’t play well, but got to meet a big group, of mainly Ozzie’s, that had just finished a winter season in Banff, there were 10 o them, but some taken out with dodgy bellies. The ones still standing went out for a few more beers and had a great night. There was a salsa club in the bar, which was empty, so me and Kirsty took it upon ourselves to ‘teach’ everyone else how dance. Was a lot of fun!
    Next day, a few sore heads at breakfast, but raw hostel had some good food, so could have been worse. I don’t think we did too much the next day apart from walk around the town and play with he hostel dog. There was a national holiday over the coming weekend, so lots going on. We just hung out and ate some food.
    Next day was a slow start and we decided to head up and have a go on he swing at he end of the world. It’s not mega impressive, but you can get a good picture!
    Following day, we took some bikes and headed off to see another big thing about Baños, the waterfalls! The Pailon Diablo is tbe one everyone takes pictures of, it was mega busy, so we didn’t manage to get ‘the shot’ by crawling through a hole, but was good all the same. There are about 8 waterfalls dotted along a 20km stretch of road, which is mainly down hill, so you can coast most of the way. The traffic is crazy busy and a deep drain lines the side of the road, so not your ordinary ride. There are some tunnels too, Kirsty was over taken by a bus in one tunnel, super dangerous! A day later, a guy in the hostel had a real bad accident. He doesn’t know what happened, he woke up on the road thinking he was just getting home from the night before. A broken cheek and some other road related injuries. We know this as we bumped into the Banff guys later in Mancora and one of be girls had taken him to hospital! Anyway, after the last waterfall, we really good epinadas and then loaded the bikes into a truck to take us back to town. That night, some more drinks with the Banff crew and all went out to watch the Colin Mcgregor fight. Everywhere was packed so we ended up drinking in the street and watching it through a bar window. A much better idea in my book, and cheaper! After, we headed back to the same club, but this time it was packed!! More salsa action, but the place was full with locals, so no room at all. I ended the night sat on the street drinking with some lads from Quito. They had a band and we were talking in pigeon English/Spanish about music until 5am, lovely stuff!
    Nothing much happen the following day! We planned to get the night bus out to Montanita at 11:30 the next night, so we thought we could use the day to go rafting. Good idea!
    We went in the afternoon after packing to the river, there were 4 of us including two girls from Quebec, then two guys, so 6 in the boat. I’ve never done it before, so didn’t quite know what to expect. I was made to be at the front on on side, Kirsty on the other. We had our briefing and headed done to the river with the raft. The idea was to launch n an Eddie and cruise out into the river, avoiding the massive rock with water rising over it. Now, this was a grade 3 river, with two grade 4 sections, so not tame by any means.
    We all get in the raft and head off. All of 5m later, the raft has gone up the rock backwards and flipped us. Possibly the worst place on the river! I can remember looking down at Kirsty, 2m bellow me, thinking, ‘shit, I’m gonna land right on you’ and I did! Cold water shock straight away, I was under the water with someone on top of me. I manage to struggle them out of the way and then I had the raft on me. I managed to fight my way out from under it, still holding my breath, and find the surface. I took a massive breath and got slightly worried about he lack of buoyancy. Scary stuff! Sea water is way more predictable than that! I jut about still had hold of my paddle, but was fighting to get myself going feet first. I lost a shoe fighting the current and was still struggling to breath. I caught back up with the raft, at the same time, my lost shoe appeared beside head. The guide flipped the raft over and we all got hauled back in. One missing, a Canadian girl. Where? We could see her clinging to the rock that flipped us, few! The safety kayaker went and fetched her, put her back in the boat and we pulled over. Everyone was quite shaken up and the guide was mortified it has happened. The girls thought he’d done it on purpose to start with, but I knew he didn’t as it was really dangerous! We headed off down stream and I started to really enjoy it. Kirsty was screaming at everything thinking we’d flip again, but we didn’t. It was really good fun and I’m ready to have another go later in the trip.
    We headed back into town, stopping for the guide to buy us apology beers on the way, and got some food.
    We collected our bags, said good bye to the Banff crew, it was Matts 30th Birthday, so gutted to be going; then headed off to catch the 11:15 bus to Montañita. We should have stayed...
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  • Day161

    Cotopaxi & Lake Quilotoa

    October 2, 2018 in Ecuador ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    A big volcano!!! One of the highest active volcanos in the world. I knew about this one from my days at Snow + Rock, but didn’t quite know where it was. I do now!
    You can summit thee beast, but it’s full on winter mountaineering and needs proper kit, and a night or two acclimatisation first.
    We got in to Lacagunga just after sun down, found the hostel, and Malvin, and headed out for some food. He was supposed to be leaving the next day, but we convinced him to stay one more night and come to the volcano the next day. He had been to the lake the day we arrived, so he gave us the heads up and we would go the day after the volcano.
    It’s good travelling with people that have the same outlook as it not one to pay for a tour when you can go yourself and discover things. Cotopaxi is not a place to wander around without a car, but heading to the park on a public bus and getting a guide there works out almost half the price of a tour, so that’s what we did.
    The public bus drops you by the side of the highway and you can just walk 100m along a slip road and find a guide. Our guy was really nice, he spoke no English, but we all managed to get by, so was all good. We jumped into the cab of his 4x4 and headed off to the park.
    We registered and got some snacks at the entrance and headed to the first stopping point. It was a gulley left by the last eruption in 2015. Next, we moved on to a small museum to learn a bit about the volcano, lake, park and the sounding volcanos.
    We got back in the 4x4 and headed the lake which in the park. It would be a nice walk, of about an hour, to get round it, but we just stopped to say hello to the ducks. Time for the main event...
    We started to climb up the road to the start of the hike, a car park sat around 4500m. We passed a couple of cyclists on touring bikes, which would be something I’d love to do, but it’s high and those bikes would weigh about 50kgs. Not today!
    We got out of the 4x4 and the weather does not look good. It was spitting with rain and we were in the clouds already. Heading up the easier route the altitude is very apparent . Kirsty and Malvin are in trainer with not much grip, which is not great as it starts to snow. We would walk the kind-of path up to the the lodge at 4800m, before then heading up to the edge of the glacier at 5100m, the furthest point before you need crampons.
    On the way, it’s apparent to me that we are in an electrical storm, quite dangerous to be out on a volcano, but what can you do. Kirsty’s hair was sticking up like she was attached to a Van der Graph generator. The guide didn’t seem too bothered, neither was i, but it’s quite cool hearing the sound of thunder bouncing around in the clouds.
    We got to the lodge, had a hot chocolate and chatted to a few people coming down off the summit. One guy from the US was 76, a legend, saying how his guide had to go slow, but 76!!! He said he was slowing down, but had clearly been to a lot of places. He gave me a bar of chocolate and they headed on down as we head on up.
    Coming out of the lodge it was still snowing and thundering. The path to the glacier was a bit more challenging, even more so for Malvin, who’d never been on snow before and had bad footwear on. We headed on up to a ridge and that was about us. We took some photos and then headed back down. The quick way this time! From the lodge down was a scree path, my favourite! I ran pretty much all the way back the 4x4, great fun! The others were quite a way behind, but turned up on the end, then we headed back to the park entrance. We stopped to take some photos of the volcano just as the cloud was breaking, I also spotted a wolf, more of a fox/coyote, but cool all the same, then we saw some condors, which completed the wildlife set for the park. The guide dropped us back into town, which saved a bus wait, then we headed out for 2 for 1 burgers. 2 for me of course! Malvin then left on a night bus.
    Next day, we got up, then jumped on a public bus to Quilotoa Lake. A volcanic lake sitting quite high up. There’s a big loop the a lot of people walk, about 4/5 days, but we opted for the bus due to time.
    We reached the edge of the town, found the big old creator and got a hot chocolate and cloud empanada. We then decided to walk on down to the lake, a big old hill! I found a dog and convinced him to come with us. He followed us all the way to the bottom. He hing back with Kirsty as I marched on. We hung out at the bottom for about 20 minutes then, the ominous hill back up. I managed to get up in 47 minutes, big effort, good exercise though! We got back just in time for another hot chocolate and got the bus.
    That night, we moved on to Baños.
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  • Day157

    Quito

    September 28, 2018 in Ecuador ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    That capital of Ecuador and the Andes! It’s also, the the second highest capital in the word.
    We arrived here from the boarder crossing of nightmares, late, but we had booked in to a hostel called Masaya knowing we could get some sleep. Luckily, after getting to the Ecuador side of the boarder, we got he right buses to get us to Quito. The taxi ride across the city at 1am was rapid, the Nissan Bluebird did not sound healthy!
    We woke up late the next day to find that Malvin, after going back for his hard drive, was in the same dorm as us and had got there 12 hours before us. Ha!
    We went out for some lunch and made a Vaughn plan. That afternoon we’d go and do the standard walking tour of the city.
    Quito is a really interesting place, it’s main reason for being is that it’s the highest point on the equator, thus making the closest point habitable to space. The early settlers here fast became the best astronomers on the continent and learnt much about how the seasons work, this leading to many visits by the French to ‘discover’ the same things, a few hundred years later.
    The walking tour taught us about how many presidents Ecuador have been through and assassinated, the financial troubles and how they are now stuck with the US dollar. Also, how Cacao used to be their main export until they found oil near the Amazon. We saw many of the churches here, one absolutely dripping in gold leaf, and ended up in the famous old alley, which was right behind our hostel.
    Later that night, there was some live music in the hostel, which was great to hear, but headed to bed earlyish ready to go see the Otavalo market the next day.
    The market is the biggest of its kind in South America, apparently, and it’s more of a craft market. It seemed to be full of stuff made in Mexico and Alpaca closes, which were not fully alpaca, but all looked nice. Malvin bought a shirt, but nothing bought by me or Kirsty. It was good to see, but not the most impressive market of Latin America so far.
    The next day Malvin was heading off somewhere and we we planning to get a late bus to Latacunga to climb Cotopaxi, so we decided to have a big night out. Malvin got his phone stolen, he got it back for $5, very lucky; and we ended up in an illegal bar in a block of flats. Win!
    Waking up, we had a full day and I really wanted to go to the equator park, which is north of Quito, and took ages to get there in a taxi. It was worth going, even though it’s in slightly the wrong place, we bounced around for a couple of hours, then headed back to Quito. Jumped on the bus and headed to the next adventure!
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