Just like our stay in Colombia, our time in Ecuador has been cut a little short due to weather, along with some other factors. We had a 12-hour bus ride to the coast from Banos,which involved four buses, two taxis and $50. We checked into a nice hotel for a few nights, but the weather has been bad, so we are moving on.
We are in Montanita at the moment, a crazy, bustling surfer town with a lively atmosphere and dreadful hostels. That said, we have just enjoyed playing around in the surf, which is fun even if you don't have a board.
But Ecuador will always have a pair of fans in the shape of Stacey and I. There can't be many countries that are so varied and welcoming. Plus we spent one the of the best New Year's Eves ever in this fine country.
We have uploaded some new pictures, but highlights since the last blog include:
A great big crater lake that takes about 5 hours to march around. The views on the walk were stunning and it gets extra points for a fear factor – the path was sometimes only a couple of feet wide with steep drops on either side. Due to the altitude, both Stacey and I nearly expired on the final mile as we rushed up the mountainside to catch our 1pm bus. We met a farmer trying in vain to collect his cows from the steep hillside and wondered why, when there are hundreds of miles of flat fields around the lake, would he choose to graze his cows on a treacherous cliff? Perhaps he is an adrenaline junkie but can't afford a mountain bike.
We shared a bus into the national park with a bus-full of marginally annoying Germans, but that couldn't ruin our trip. We saw snow and a mountain wolf. One of the aforementioned Germans said: “It's not a wolf, it's a dog” and refused to take a picture. I wasn't sure it was a wolf, but it definitely wasn't a dog. And if it was a dog, surely a dog which has made its way up to 4800 metres is worth a snap, he took plenty of other crap pictures. Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world, which we thought was a cool fact. It also looked very volcanoey, which it scored extra points for. We aren't actually keeping a volcano league table, maybe we should though.
We found a Chrismtas turkey! And a turkey tin, for that matter. I introduced our American friends to bread sauce, which they either loved or they hated and were very polite. Who can hate bread sauce? It's like hating a lovely old woman with a warm smile and a faint whiff of cloves. In return our American friends introduced us to a festive band called Mannheim Steamroller, who do covers of Christmas classics. Half of them sound like you should be in a banquet hall drinking mead and chatting with Oliver Cromwell while the other half sound like tracks from the Mad Max soundtrack. Odd.
We also had Christmas presents via the 'White Elephant' method, which, if you haven't heard of it, is like a cruel version of Secret Santa. I was given a lovely Smurf hat while Stacey will forever remember her trip to the equator thanks to a fetching extra-large red T shirt.
We spent 11 days in Banos and thanks to a deal at the supermarket we drank 45p beers for most of the nights. In fact, if Volcan Tumbaruhua, which lurked over Banos, erupted while we were there and created a latter day Pompeii out of the town , we would have most likely been the haunting shells of bodies which were found clutching a bottle Pilsener and playing cards.
We also went up to see the volcano spewing red-hot lava from its guts. Unfortunately we didn't see any lava, so instead the tour agency offered us a shot of tequila Spanish-language clown show, which had homophobic undertones. We probably would have preferred the lava.
A last-minute change of plan saw us spent New Year's Eve in Banos and we were glad we did as it was brilliant. The whole town creates effigies, some of which are several metres tall. They are on display all day and at midnight, they rip them down and burn them in the streets. It would have been a health and safety executive's nightmare. Everyone also dresses up so we joined in with $2 masks from the local shop. I opted for a Saddam Hussein mask meanwhile Stacey looked haunting and scary... then she put her mask on! Her mask was of a freaky goofy girl/axe murderer. I didn't like it. At midnight we had to burn them in the fire, which was sad because it was the best mask I had ever owned.
It was a great night, albeit a little blurry, but that is what New Year's Eve is all about.
We're setting off to Peru on Thursday and we'll spend a fortnight working our way down to Lima, where we'll meet my Dad. Stacey's parents are due in early February. Parents eh, you fly half way round the world to get rid of them and you just can't! Seriously, it'll be great to see them, both for the comfort of having loved ones around us once again and for the comfort of having brand new underwear 'around us' once again.
Happy 2012 everyone!!