In Ecuador, we made a few tours into the inner part of the country again. Among others, we visited Bahia de Caraquez, Qutio, Baños, Latacunga, Otavalo, Cuenca, Guayaquil and Montañita. Ecuador has a lot to offer! There are mountains over 5000 meters, volcanoes, rainforest and great beaches! The water is usually around 30 degrees warm! To put it short: We really enjoyed it here.
But first things first: After we arrived with our boat in Bahia de Caraquez we took a closer look at the city. The city is very lovely. A small town with some hotels and some infrastructure for guests, but it doesn’t look very touristy. Maybe also because there were some earthquakes in the past, whose traces can still be seen in many places. The marina is in an inlet and there are sometimes relatively strong currents (depending on the tides). For carnival, there was a stage right on the beach where people celebrated to the sounds of electronic music, but it usually is relatively quiet in the city.
During our tour into the inland, we met with friends (Anton, Katja and Ilia) from Belarus. Together with friends, it is even more fun to explore another country.
We met them in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and joined them on a tour to Otavalo. This place is famous for the market. There are great handmade things to buy. Many of them are made of wool, sometimes also alpaca or llama wool, with great colours and patterns. Later we found out that you can buy these things too in other cities also in an extensive selection and partly at better prices.
Baños de Agua Santa
We also went with them to Baños or actually “Baños de Agua Santa” as it is actually called. “Agua Santa” because of the thermal springs which are said to have healing effects. It is a great place! Not only is it possible to bathe in volcanically heated water, but it also offers many outdoor activities ???. For example, we took our bikes and went on a waterfall tour. Not only do you pass many waterfalls (including the spectacular “Devil’s Waterfall” – Pailon del Diablo), but there are also many zip lines and great views to enjoy.
While our friends went straight back to Quito, we added another day in Baños and went hiking again. From Baños we went to Latacunga. Here we could not only experience a typical Ecuadorian city, i.e. less tourist-oriented, but it is also a good starting point to visit the Quilotoa Lagoon or Cotopaxi. First, we drove to the Quilotoa Lagoon where we hiked around the crater. It took us a little over 6 hours to walk around the crater, which is quite strenuous at an altitude of almost 4000 meters (the highest point “Monte Juyende” is 3930 meters).
From Latacunga we also made a trip to the national park Cotopaxi, but the weather here was so bad that we actually didn’t see the famous volcano. So we drove on relatively fast and back to Quito. There we visited the old town, which by the way belongs to the world cultural heritage and is definitely worth seeing. But for me, the highlight of Quito was the cable car “TelefériQo” respective the hike on top of the mountain. Quito itself is situated relatively high in the Andes and is with 2850 meters the highest capital in the world. With the cable car “TelefériQo” you can get a good 1000 meters higher and start hiking at almost 4,000 meters. From there we hiked up to a height of about 4600 meters. At this altitude, you really feel every step in particular when going uphill. We were only moderately lucky with the weather and not only did it spoil the view at times, but we also had to struggle with rain and hail. However, we were rewarded again and again with spectacular views.
Afterwards, we went back to Bahia to check if everything is OK with the boat. However, we didn’t stay here for long but soon left again. We wanted to meet our friends in Guayaquil again before they fly back to Belarus. However, this meeting was relatively short, because they got a bad sunburn on the beach in Montañita. One should not underestimate the sun here near the equator! Guayaquil itself has pleased us the least of all cities which we have visited in Ecuador. Although there is a charming old town and also a nicely made promenade, it is also a relatively large city.
Cuenca and Cajas National Park
From Guayaquil, we went to Cuenca. This city is also very well known for its beautiful cityscape and very popular with tourists. But we arrived there directly after carnival and almost everything was closed. Only the next day there was some life in the city again. I am writing something here because the “recovery” after carnival in South America apparently takes a few days until everything is running in normal mode again. Shops and restaurants also partly remain closed some days after the official holidays. The city center of Cuenca is really very beautiful and strolling around here is fun. You can also buy jewellery here, which is offered in many shops and also by street vendors.
After Cuenca we made another stop in the Andes mountains. Cuenca itself is already at the height of approximately 2560 metres, but in the nearby National Park Cajas (Parque Nacional Cajas) you can get much higher than 4000 metres. There is pure nature, very beautiful hiking trails, magnificent views and also with many lakes. However, during our visit, it started to rain quite heavily after a while. Then it gets relatively cold at this altitude. So we were very grateful when a bus stopped and took us to Guayaquil and we could warm up.
In Ecuador bus trips are very popular, cheap and usually very comfortable. There are bus terminals for long-distance travel in all larger towns.
The last town on our tour in Ecuador was Montañita. This is a town with a lovely beach on the Pacific coast. Montañita is known for surfing and kind of hippie culture. We relaxed a little bit there, but also took surfing lessons and enjoyed the sea.
Now we are back in Bahia on board and prepare MAYA for the upcoming Pacific passage.