We decided last minute to take an overnight trip to the Inca ruins of Ingapirca. It is said that Ingapirca served as the religious and political headquarters of the Incas. The ruins were quite interesting — as was the museum. The Incas had attempted to take out the Cañaris, a people native to the area (and who still exist!). The Cañaris supposedly helped the Spanish take out the Incas because they were so unhappy with how the Incas treated them (destroyed their temples, etc.)
Of course, Ben and I couldn’t just take a bus to the ruins like normal people.
We hired a guide through Terra Diversa… and we biked about 4 hours to get to Ingapirca. IT WAS SO HARD! First, I’d never officially learned how to operate a 10-speed bike, as I’d grown up using beach-cruiser type bikes where you just pedaled back to brake instead of using the hand brakes. And I did not understand how the gears worked at first. Once I figured that out, it was a lot better.
There was a lot of downhill riding at first, and there were a lot of rocks to dodge on the path. And mud. I finally figured out how to “stand” a little bit so my tail bone wouldn’t hurt so bad going over the bumpy path.
Going uphill was a different story. At the lowest gears, which is supposed to be “easy”, it was still ridiculously hard. Pedaling so furiously only to get virtually nowhere got frustrating. A few times I hopped off and just walked the steepest parts. Riding a bike at 10,000+ feet above sea level isn’t a cakewalk, either, that’s for sure 😀
We ate the best lunch (we were really hungry) at a local place before heading to the ruins.
Llamas live in the ruins — they just hang out there. One even let us near him while he ate. The rest just ran away.
After we visited the ruins, there was a hike nearby we could do — we were sooooo tired by that point, but we did it 🙂 Then we had to ride the bikes up another hill to get to our hotel.
The hotel was so cool! It was an old plantation, but with its huge trees, gardens, lamp posts, and the large wardrobe in our room, it reminded me of Narnia! There were pathways through the grounds and llamas + alpacas were hanging out, too.
The restaurant in the hotel was very nice — we had brought a bottle of wine with us and we drank that with dinner. We enjoyed talking to our guide and driver. Our guide spoke English but the driver did not. It was a great opportunity to practice Spanish.
It was freezing at night, and the hotel actually gave us hot water bottles to put near our feet while we slept, which was absolutely heavenly. There was a radiator-type heater in the room, which was only warm if you stood near it, ha. After a long day biking and hiking, it sure felt good to take a shower and hop into one of the coziest beds ever!
A rooster was outside our window and crowed constantly from about 3:00am until well past sun-up. And I hadn’t brought my earplugs because I thought it’d be nice and quiet! In the morning we got up and went to find this rooster to see if he had reason to be crowing … but he was just alone outside, crowing away. A mystery.
After breakfast we headed back toward Cuenca, and we stopped in Cañar to see the markets briefly before heading home.
The bike ride was one thing I’m glad I did, but one thing I’ll probably not do again 🙂
Click here to see our Ingapirca photo album (82 photos).
Baños de Agua Santa
Last Wednesday the plan was to meet at the bus station around 1:30 to take a bus to Baños for the holiday weekend. It’s not a holiday in Ecuador, but it is in the US, so it was a good opportunity for Ben to take time off from making phone calls.
But on Tuesday night, Ben started barfing.
I know, poor little Porkchop!
I ended up meeting our friends, Pete and Rachel, at the bus station alone about an hour ahead of schedule — without Ben.
Now before anyone gets upset that I left poor little Porkchop home sick, it was his idea to stay behind and go the next day, so that’s what happened.
Plus, Porkchop has been sick before, and he knows how to take care of himself.
The bus ride from Cuenca to Baños was grueling — 6.5 hours to Ambato, then another 45-minute ride to Baños. It was a twisty-turny, windy ride, too. I took motion sickness meds, myself — something I haven’t done before, but something I wanted to do as a preventative, because while I don’t tend to throw up on buses, I do get queasy and sometimes get painful tummy aches that last for a while. With the motion sickness tablet, I didn’t feel a thing.
We were also lucky we got to the bus station when we did — buses are a lot scarcer than we expected and if we’d arrived at 1:30 as originally planned, there wouldn’t have been a bus until 8:00pm! It would have been a nightmare.
We finally got to Baños and checked in at our hostel around 9:15, and we were all really hungry, so we found a restaurant open downtown and chowed down. On the way, I started getting a migraine — a second one in just two weeks. Really not cool. I know it was because of dehydration, though. I really try not to drink too much on such a long bus ride. The bus did not stop, and as a general rule you want to avoid the on-board bathroom. I DID have to use it once, though, and found it in much cleaner conditions than restrooms I’d visited OFF the bus, so that was a pleasant surprise.
I got some prescription migraine medication over the counter at a pharmacy at 10 o’clock at night. It says on the box “only available with a doctor’s prescription” which I did not have, but the pharmacist gave it to me anyway. And the best part? IT WORKED! Second best part? It was less than $12 for a box of 20 tablets. I’m going to keep taking my herbs, but I’ll be stocking up on this stuff before I leave Ecuador. I usually take Excedrin which doesn’t work at all, whereas this stuff seemed to stop the thing dead in its tracks.
Pailon del Diablo (The Devil’s Cauldron)
Two other friends, Victoria and John, who are living in Ambato right now, came to meet us in the morning to stay for two nights! Victoria is a proofreader and is a celebrity in the Proofread Anywhere world because she was the last person I trained before launching PA. She’s been proofreading for almost a year now and is earning a handsome sum per month as a proofreader. It was super cool to meet her in person!
Ben was planning to get on the 1:30 bus to Baños that day, which meant he would miss out on the day’s activities, but we still had three more days to enjoy.
We organized a tour to the famous Devil’s Cauldron waterfall in Baños for 1:00pm on Thursday. We had some time to kill, so we visited a cute little zoo around the corner. It wasn’t nearly as nice as the Amaru zoo here in Cuenca, but it was still fun for the $2.50 entrance fee.
We grabbed some lunch and met our guide at the hostel for our tour. For $6 per person, we were driven through the city and given explanations about the buildings, and we stopped for some lovely viewpoints along the way.
For $1 per person, we (except Pete :-)) hopped in a rickety cable car (made of wood and metal, but I saw some of the metal had rusted through!!) and took a trip across a large river canyon. It was spectacular!
Here is a video:
The main attraction for the day was the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. It’s the #1 thing to do in Baños according to Trip Advisor. The hike to the falls was about 25 minutes, mostly downhill. The hike back was pretty tough, and we rewarded ourselves with ice cream at the top of the hill!
The falls were breathtaking. You got soaked just standing there. See what I mean:
To get up higher, you had to get into this tiny crawl space under the mountainside — kind of scary, especially for people with enclosed-spaces issues. We did it, though, and it was so worth it!
Ben arrived late that night, after we’d eaten dinner. Luckily he was feeling better, had gotten some medication, and survived the bus ride. Rachel wasn’t feeling well the next day, so she opted to stay in and rest. Victoria and I went for a massage (which was one of the best massages I’ve ever had, and only $25/hr!), and Ben and Pete went back to the Devil’s Cauldron. Ben also ziplined, which he raved about.
We had dinner out at a neat place in town. Victoria and John were not going to the jungle with us, so we said our goodbyes that evening before bed.
Puyopungo Jungle Trip
The next day we were picked up by our guides at the hostel at a bright n’ early 8:30am. For $90 per person, we’d planned a 2-day, 1-night trip into the Puyopungo jungle, near Puyo, Ecuador.
We were gonna rough it.
And rough it was, but it was also a lot of fun!
We received a pair of mud boots, to which I thought um, my shoes are waterproof, why do I need these!? I soon found out why (you’ll see in the pictures!).
We weren’t sure how the weather would hold up. We’d had FABULOUS weather in Baños the last two days, and the day so far in Puyo had been rainy.
Our first stop was an animal sanctuary, which was really neat! They had Amazonian animals, such as capybaras, tapirs, caimans (small crocodiles, I think), pumas, ocelots, and leopards. Really cool. We saw one of the pumas stalk this little girl through the fence. One of the monkeys was really animated and protective of his family!!
And another fun one:
We made a short trip to an indigenous village but unfortunately were unable to really check it out due to the large bus of tourists that had arrived just before we did.
We got to take a ride in a wooden canoe, though!! That was the best part for me of the whole weekend. It was really scary at first because the canoe would hit rocks and jolt us to the side. It felt like we were about to capsize! We never did, though. I’m not sure how our captain (?) stayed standing the entire time.
We even saw some wildlife:
We got a little wet…
After that, we ate lunch at a local place, and the vegetarian lunch was fantastic: fresh beet salad, stewed lentils, avocado, rice, fried plantains, and some yummy homemade ají, or hot sauce. Ben had an entire fish (a tilapia) on a big leaf with rice and plantains. I kept daring him to eat the head and tail of the fish, but he wouldn’t. I know I certainly enjoyed the lentils, beet salad and avocado much more than I would’ve enjoyed picking all the bones out of a non-fileted tilapia … but hey, I’m just the weirdo vegetarian who “doesn’t know what she’s missing,” right?! 😉
Next stop was the JUNGLE!
We saw some neat plants:
We realized what the mud boots were for … it was MUDDY. Many times we were traipsing through mud up to our shins.
Ben ate some bugs — ants and termites. He would’ve eaten a grub (beetle larva) if our guide had been able to find one. Yet I couldn’t get him to eat a fish tail… he’s a peculiar one, that Porkchop!
The hike through the jungle was to the Hola Vida (Hello Life) waterfall. Ben went swimming, but the rest of us did not — it was VERY COLD!
On the way back, our guide took us to a rope swing and the guys tried it out:
and here’s our friend Pete (of whom we are very proud!)
Our guide also showed us some interesting insects:
and these hard working ants:
We hiked back and the next stop was our “camp” — it was a set of treehouse cabanas situated on the river. We actually canoed by them! No hot water, no electricity. There was running water and showers, but I am serious when I tell you it was just cold water coming out of a hose attached to the ceiling. The toilets had no seats and were quite gross. Wasps liked to hang out in the water! It was quite the experience!
For being non-outdoorsy people (except for Ben), we were really good sports — there was a large group of girls from Belgium at the camp, also, who seemed to take over the place. They were pretty loud and moved in to the hammocks underneath our tree house.
I’m actually pretty outdoorsy during the daytime if it’s not raining, and if I’ve got sunscreen and bug repellant. I had a great time hiking in the jungle.
It was sleeping in the treehouse that was rough for me, though… especially after we found a roach IN our suitcase!! I later found a dead beetle in our toiletry bag, too. The pillows on the bunks were just chunks of foam and my sheet was covered in debris (like a roach’s missing leg) and other people’s hair. I didn’t ask questions, just brushed it off, haha. All part of the experience! 🙂
It got pretty cold at night, so I suited up: long pants, socks, long-sleeved shirt, plus my earplugs, eye mask, and my thick headband to cover my ears. Let’s face it, I didn’t suit up because of the cold, I just didn’t know what’d be trying to crawl on me all night! While I do appreciate hearing the river and crickets, what I didn’t want to hear was the mosquitoes flying around my face at night, so I tried my best to cover up to keep them away. Doused myself in bug repellant, too. I didn’t get any bites!!
We survived the night — I had to get up, no kidding, like five times to pee. Luckily I could just pee off the side of the treehouse using my nifty “pee-anywhere” device (which Victoria thought was soooo weird!! Haha. I said, maybe it is weird, but it’s sure better than having to hold it because you have no access to a bathroom in the jungle, or squatting over a nasty toilet or having to avoid peeing all over yourself in the woods. It’s so easy and clean!)
(I know, Mom, I always talk about peeing — but hey, if I can make outdoor activities more comfortable and convenient for other women because I shared my experience, then it’s worth it!)
The next day, after breakfast, we headed out for another hike to a different waterfall. This hike was much more challenging than the last. It started out with a hike through a field, then we were in a less muddy, more humid part of the jungle than before.
It was harder, but also more fun. Some of the descents were really steep and muddy. Then, to get to the waterfall, we had to balance on felled trees submerged in water, all the while wearing our mud boots. That part was fun!
I actually got in the water here, ’cause I lost my balance and fell. To no one’s surprise, Ben did this:
We were getting REALLY hungry by the time we reached the waterfall, and we still had over an hour’s trek back to camp for lunch. That was probably the hardest part, but we just pushed through. Rachel still had her cold and was a trooper for sure!
Click here to see our Epic Jungle Trip photo album (142 photos).
Lunch at camp was simple — veggies and rice and avocado and salad. We packed up and headed back to Baños — we were staying one more night before returning to Cuenca on Monday.
We were soooo glad to take hot showers back in Baños!! And we went out for pizza for dinner, which so far was the best pizza I’ve had since being in Ecuador.
It started to rain that night, and then the next morning it was really raining, so I’m glad we didn’t plan to stay another day (we’d thought about it). We got so lucky with the weather all four days we were there.
We got on a bus at 9:00am and were in Riobamba, our connecting spot, around 10:30 only to find out that the next bus to Cuenca wasn’t until 1:00pm! We bought tickets for that bus, but then found out from some Argentinians traveling to Cuenca there was a bus company down the road that had buses every half hour … we discussed it and decided it was worth it to call it a wash with the tickets we’d already purchased (and were not allowed to return) to get to Cuenca sooner. It was quite the adventure once we got to that office, too — first they told us there were only two spots left on the next two buses, but after some phone calls we were somehow able to get seats. The bus ended up leaving with lots of empty seats, so that was weird. The bus ride was sllloooow and it seemed to stop a lot — we rolled into Cuenca at 5:30, about 6 hours after we left Riobamba, making our total trip time about 8.5 hrs. We speculated we may have gotten to Cuenca at the same time had we taken the 1:00 bus, but oh well.
The bus ride for me wasn’t so bad this go-around — I took a motion sickness pill and so was able to read (I am not usually able to read on a twisty-turny bus ride) — I got through almost an entire novel! Last time I didn’t read, and I should have. A good book makes the time fly. I need to do more reading on my iPad — there are lots of free books on iBooks, and they’re quite good!
All of us are really glad to be back home! Ben and I did laundry last night and wow, did I sleep great.
Our next adventure is to the nearby towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg. Ben and I are staying in the presidential suite at Hostería Santa Barbara in Gualaceo. Let’s just say this will be quite the step up from a treehouse 😉
Till next time,