Ecuador

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Another great place. A bit more developed than Peru, but still very basic away from the capital Quito. The Andes mountains run through the middle and the amazon jungle starts in the east. If you want to be shot, hang around in Quito at night - as one of our friends witnessed.... Ecuadorian Marks & Spencer (fewer overheads)

Day 141: Banos - Quad biking

There was a mountain to explore. The girls took horses, me and Ricky took quad bikes. Minor disaster struck when one bike broke down. We were on a deserted mountain road, 20km from civilisation so we had to

They may not be as good as bikes but they don't break down...

improvise a tow rope from an old sack we found. Then major disaster struck when the second bike broke too... We ended up having to abandon one bike and push the other to

More fun to ride than push

the top of the hill from where we could freewheel 7km back to the main road, where we abandoned that bike and got a lift back into town. We were dissappointed not to get a lift in the back of a truck full of chickens...

 

Cold and wet, but for some reason quite fun.

Day 142: Canyoning

Basically making your way down a river canyon, abseiling down the waterfalls. The big one we did (pic right) was 50m high and scary enough to make you wish you had stayed in bed that morning.

But that turned out to be tame compared with the afternoons level of scardyness... scardiness? Look, it was really scary...

Going over the edge was fairly grim, after that, easy.

Bridge swinging. Be scared. Be very scared.

Ricky and Dan contemplating their certain death...

You cant get any more scared than this...

You're not going to believe this one. You tie a rope onto one side of a bridge, loop it loosely under the bridge, tie it to yourself and then jump off...

You fall for 10 meters towards the rocks 40 meters below, and then the rope becomes tight and yanks you underneath the bridge in a giant swing.

It wouldn't have been so bad had it been a permanent set up run by a company worried about their insurance, but as usual for South America, it wasn't.

It's to be hoped they remembered to shorten the rope again after the last person got lowered down

Click for bridge swing video

Click for bridge swing video (150kb)
Click for bridge swing video

The ride back was classically south American too. There wasn't enough room in the jeep for all 14 of us so 3 had to ride on the roof rack. Brilliant! Best £5 I've ever spent on scaring myself...

Not easy taking a photo of yourself while trying to hang on...

They can open zips...

Day 143: Misahualli

We're heading into the jungle and this is the last stop before you have to jump into a boat. There's a pack of monkeys that live in the town, attacking and pilaging anything that comes their way. One of them stole a cigarette lighter and could actually work it.

Very clever, and yet very foolish monkey

give me that...

10 minutes later it had lots of singed fur and had burnt fingers... I tried to steal it back, but they got really aggressive and I ended up with two of them biting my arm. Luckily they didn't pierce the skin so hopefully I won't have introduced the latest version of HIV into the human race...

I didn't manage to get a photo while it was biting my arm.

 

Day 144 -145: Jungle expedition

Ecuador is at the western end of the Amazon jungle. We took a boat down one of the huge rivers, at least as big as the Thames. (There are many hundreds of these rivers which join to make the Amazon.) We then went up a small side tributary, getting out to push when the boat ran aground. When we could go no further we walked the remainder to a lodge in the middle of nowhere.

Venturing up river into the middle of nowhere

I hope there's no piranhas in here...

We travelled light. I only had the clothes I wore. So when we got caught in the most enormous rainstorm all my clothes were soaked and as it's about 90% humidity they didn't dry. The only dry clothes anyone would lend me was a pink blouse... but the photos strangely went missing... The boat takes 2 men 2 months to carve from a tree trunk

It's what we went to the jungle for...

The tarantula

As you'd expect, the bugs in the jungle are crazy. There were scorpions, ants an inch long, tarantulas, poisonous snakes, poisonous frogs and cockroaches that sit on your toothbrush.

The best encounter was the tarantula the guide found in the roof of a hut. He knocked it down with his stick, and it landed on his back. After a while plucking up courage we handled it. It was amazingly lightweight for such a robust looking creature.

She took some persuading!

Actually quite cute

It was remarkably placid and when you got used to it on your hand it wasn't even creepy (except when it scampered quickly and tried to go up your sleeve!) I wouldn't want him up my sleave...

Not to be messed with

Left, a very poisonous snake (Common Lancehead) that was at the side of a river we had to cross in the dark. Death within a few hours apparantly...

Right, termites

Termites, tickly but dont bite.


Eating ants

Our guide knew a thing or two about what you could eat in the jungle - he'd spent 2 years living in the heart of the uncharted jungle with a tribe of completely wild people (they had words, but not conversation.) He'd eaten monkey brain many times so a few 'lemon ants' were relatively unexciting for him...

I did try them - the ants were like easily crushed sand in your teeth and they were indeed quite lemony.

The black dots are ants, the white is ants eggs

I'll just put the fire out in your hair and you're cured...

Medicine man

One evening we went to see the medicine man of the local tribe. He could hardly walk because he'd sprained his ankle playing football, but apparently he can cure anything. Hmm...

Call me skeptical, but if I do end up with rabies from the monkey bite, the last place I'd go is to sombody with a racoon skin hat who probably thinks the earth is flat and who cures people by summoning on the power of the anaconda, hits the victim with a bush, and fills their hair with cigarette smoke while singing a bad version of Kylie's "I should be so lucky..."

visibility in the water wasn't great...
One afternoon we floated down the river on tyre innertubes. A bit tame considering there were no crocodiles or pirhanas in this area...

Apparently he tastes of strawberry... and then you die.

Poisonous frog

This little frog (< 1 inch long) contains enough poison to kill 100 people. However you do need to crush it up and inject it. (Which would be hard to do by accident...)

The hunters use it to tip their blowgun darts for shooting monkeys.


Random self abuse

They have a plant which is a cross between a cactus and a nettle which they use it to hit children with as a punishment. Our guide said the pain only lasts a few minutes... so we foolishly gave it a try. This photo was 3 days later. The pain had only just subsided...

The worlds worst nettle rash
Click for video

 

Yours for 140

Day 146 - Otovalo market town

The locals come here to sell their goods. I've not been to an animal market in the UK for 25 years, but I don't think that the farmers just stood around, grouped by what animal they were selling and waited for someone to buy it. Using my now quite fluent Spanish (Oh-lar. Qwanter costa?), I found the going rate for a cow was $250 (£140). Unfortunately I didn't have enough money on me at the time. And there probably wouldn't be enough room in my backpack.

3 little piggys went to market...

I think he was really tired as he was always yawning...

Dinner was pork. And there was absolutely no doubting that it did come from a pig.


If you need a cows head, this is the place...

 

Oops. Not in the right place!

Day 146 - 148: Quito

Capital city, right on the equator. They've drawn a big line on the ground, put up a giant monument and built a whole village on the equator. Or so they thought until somebody turned up with a GPS unit and pointed out that it was really 200m down the road!

Flippin liars propogating myths!

I'm in the southern hemisphere having a nice Autumn day, Michelle is in the northern hemisphere having a very similar spring day.

There is of course absolutely nothing interesting about the equator. So they make stuff up! (and 'prove it' with fake experiments). They claim you're not as strong at the equator, you can balance an egg on a nail easier at the equator, and the old classic, water swirls down plug holes in different directions on either side of the equator. All complete lies. (Cue big debate in your office...)

As most of you know, nothing gets my goat more than charletons propogating psuedo-scientific myths. The 'fact' that water swirls down plug holes in different directions in each hemisphere is total tripe... see here if you believed that old chestnut.

Anyway, that's quite enough ranting...Galapagos Islands next, 600miles off the coast of Ecuador. Full of fearless wildlife.

 

Next country - Galapagos