|Posted by Artesia Irawan on December 24, 2010 at 11:00 AM|
Ok I have decided to post all my stories today...
Another little hide out ( uuhh I love hide out ) Mindo is in the middle of a cloud forest, 2 hours from Quito, by bus. The town was so small with only 4 blocks. The town is packed with restaurant, café and hostels. More hostels than the place itself needed. First night we stayed in town as we arrived late and couldn't find the hostel we wanted to stay.
15 minutes walk from the center, we found another 'hide out' beautiful cottage like with wooden rooms in the middle of huge garden with lots of plants and flowers. The place is wide enough to play all afternoon, billyard, ping pong table, hammocks facing the trees. Sometimes the smell of the wooden building excite me rather than the hostel with concrete in the middle of the town.
Leo the caretaker of the place was such a pleasant dude, with two kids who lives just next door to our 'wooden house' always around to help or his smile is enough to brighten our day in the hostel.
Patrick, hammock and trees...
Around the area there are enough waterfalls for us to enjoy, forest, orchid garden, birds ( especially hummingbirds ) very quite place, perfect to hang out and enjoy the scenery. We went to the orchids garden, and I thought of my mum who loves plants and orchids. I took too many pictures of them for mi mama!!
At the end we stayed there for almost a week and heading back to Quito to do trekking. But we had to cancel it since it was raining a lot the day before we wanted to do the trek. So once again I wrote this post from the beach, much better weather today and hoping for nice sunset.
One of many waterfalls
Mindopus Ecuadoripus hokuspokus endesbreng endesbrong ( at orchid garden )
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on December 24, 2010 at 7:40 AM|
Oh my.... what should I say about this place, let me try. I came here first time on my way to Colombia and it was on saturday when the famous Otavalo market held. I was there for 2 nights because the next day on Sunday, there was censos in whole of Ecuador. We shouldn't leave the place until 5PM. But it was raining anyway so we just watched movie the whole time we were there.
I'm not talking much about the market, since Otavalo only famous about that one market. I think the area has more to offer than just the market. Although I hate shopping but the idea of buying little things to bring home, can't think of any other place better than the market
Jack, the victim of Otavalo Market
I stayed at this hideout far from the city, with view worth every penny for paying the hostel... the dorm house was so beautiful there's little kitchen, little colorful living room with TV and DVDs, the chimney to warm us at night. Our 'bedroom' aka dorm are so cozy, the bed cover was colorful. The hostel is right on top of the hill, that gives you pleasing view. I could stay here forever if I wasn't alone. The last night I was here, I was alone and I was scared haha... damn it was a complete dark out there. The next morning I told Paulina that I will come back here.
Cabanas Rose Otavalo, place I stayed more than a week.
Sunday, rains, movie marathon
Fair enough, I came back after one week, just right on time for another saturday market. Paulina was shocked to hear my voice on the phone that I'm back again. Too bad that Jung Mi, the Korean girl I traveled with from Colombia didn't really enjoy the place cause it was too far from the city and too cold for her. But the next 4 days I was in Otavalo I spend my time with wonderful Patrick, el chico de Suiza I met in Popayan. We checked out the rest of the place. We went to the laguna Cuicocha.
The laguna was formed from the erupted volcano and made a 200M deep crater. For us, after days of rains, mud and miserable weather, we were blessed with perfect weather during our time in Laguna Cuicocha, beautiful sunny day, the color of the lake turned intense blue in the afternoon, the flowers reflect the color of the sun, the green grass sometimes sparkle from the sun too but the cold breeze complete all the elements enough to call the perfect day.
We came back to the dorm house and had a fun night with the girls Jane and Suz who managed to persuaded us to stay another night and later on they cooked for us and we all had some red wine. Yeah the ups of my traveling time.
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on December 24, 2010 at 6:47 AM|
Only 3 hours away from Quito by bus, Banos was originally well known for the thermal baths, but more than that, Banos become a place for holiday during holiday for some people. With rafting, cycling, trekking, . you will never run out of any activities while you're there. The nightlife is another highlight of this place. During the weekend, the locals and tourist blend in one place to dance and drink.
I actually I came here for none of the above. I came to Banos for another spanish course. Lucky enough I found one good school in Banos which only one block away from the hostel I was staying. One week was good to refresh my memory for the things I learned in Arequipa and to practice my spanish, since the teachers was so eager to talk in spanish all the time, even during the break.
At Mayra Spanish School, Banos
But one weekend I managed to hang out with some people at the hostel, I bumped into people I met before again in Banos and we went for horse riding, lunch, dinner and night out. And we came up with 7 Bs, Banos, Beer, ( thermal ) Bath, Bisteck, Beer, Black Machine, Breakfast in one night . I got drunk, the first time in 4 months.
There's a volcano just 'right there' and made a scary noise one night. And the next 4 days I was in Banos, we had to deal with the ashes or sometimes sounds of thunder that was pretty much coming from the inside of Tungurahua. Me and Bruce the Canadian fellow I hang out at the hostel most of the time walked up to one of the view point to get 'closer' picture of the volcano, sure we had a great afternoon on my last day in Banos. Only a week after I left the place, part of Banos was evacuated due to the intensity of the volcano become a concern.
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on December 2, 2010 at 10:18 AM|
It took me days to pronounce it right, a jewel in northern highland of Ecuador. Latacunga reminds me of Huaraz in Peru. Basic, small, definitely not a tourist place and used by the visitor aka tourists to do Quilotoa Loop, climbing Cotopaxi or just to visit National Park. The city is a sleepy town, there's no bar/nightlife, the most happening place in the weekend is the coffee shop with some music where are the locals came to play some cards.
There are lots of agency running a tour to Cotopaxi or Quilotoa. Very limited hostal, there's only Residencial Santiago and Hostal Tiana. There's only one laundry near the hostel, which is about 4 blocks away. The market is just around the corner selling beautiful fruits or pretty much everything just like any other market.
I love Latacunga, although first impression wasn't very nice when I was here during the Mama Negra Festival. I was in Riobamba ready to go to Banos when there's a couple told me about this festival in Latacunga. I thought I might as well go there first and visit Banos later, it's only 45 minutes detour anyway. So me and Peter, Australian guy I met in Riobamba headed to Latacunga only just to stay in the worst room ever or seeing the most overwhelming scene on the streets of Latacunga. At least 30.000 thousands people are on the streets, drunk. Wherever you go, you see ocean of human. So many people passed out on the street, some were fighting, cars with blaring music from their mega super huge speaker at the car booth just a bit too much for me. We got there a bit too late, it would probably different if I was there a night before and prepared for this kind of scene.
First day I was so depressed and the same hour I arrived here I wanted to get out and go to Banos. But after three days in Banos, I came back to Latacunga to do the Quilotoa Loop. I stayed at different hostal, this time is Hostal Tiana...the pretty little hostel of Latacunga. Run by Dutch, all rooms are very bright, simple but a wonderful place to stay. I end up staying in Latacunga more than week including my trip to Quilotoa for three days and 2 days Cotopaxi. 10 minutes walk from the bus station, 2 blocks away from the square and Café Tiana inside is just a pleasant place to stay.
Dorm in Tiana
I won't call it easy to find a place to eat here, but you always find something when you're not looking for it. Me and Peter found a pizzeria, the only place that was open during the festival without people got drunk inside. One dollar for a big slice of pizza or 1.50 for 2 slices of pizza. It's huge and taste so good. So when I went back to Latacunga again, I took the residence of Tiana dorm to that pizzeria for a cheap dinner. And everyone who went there once they came back for the second time, third time or fourth time. Chifa restaurant with Tallarin and Camaron is just yummy!! If you walk couple of blocks away from the center, you'll see more restaurant with cheaper price.
The weather in Latacunga has been so miserable since I got here, I went to Quilotoa with Sam, the other dorm resident from UK. We took a bus at 10AM to go to Quilotoa. And later on I realized I didn't bring memory card for my camera, don't even imagine my feeling that day. So I told Sam to do whatever he wants to do since I don't care anymore about my surrounding without my camera. We stayed in Quilotoa for a night and met wonderful couple of Mitchel and Adriana, we played card games all night next to the heater inside the dining room. We hired a truck to go to Chugchilan and stayed in Mama Hilda's, amazing place. The next morning, we took the bus at 5.45AM to go to Shigcos? The bus was full with locals going to work or the children going to school. So to answer your question why we wondered around with bus or truckin Quilotoa, cause the weather was miserable, cloudy, fog and we couldn't see anything really. So we just couldn't be bother to do anything.
* Bus to Quilotoa from Latacungavia Zumbahua at 8:30 and 10:00 for 2 dollar
* The truck from Quilotoa to Chugcilan 25 dollar, but we managed to pay 18 dollar between 6 of us.
* The bus at 5:45 from Chugcilan-Shigcos 50 cents.
* The bus from Shigcos to Latacunga, another 2 dollar.
I have posted the story about climbing Cotopaxi
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on November 16, 2010 at 4:30 PM|
Before I talk rubbish about climbing Cotopaxi, let me tell you quick facts about Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcano in the world, it lies 60KM south of Quito the capital city of Ecuador. When we're in the museum in Cotopaxi National Park, the guide told us that the volcano can errupt anytime now, since the last eruption was decade ago and then since 2001, they started to record some activity from Cotopaxi.
Ecuador is expecting a disaster when Cotopaxi finally erupt. The lahar will get to the city of Latacunga within 30 minutes since there are at least 6 river/canyons leading to Latacunga (where I am now) and the city is sit nicely below Cotopaxi 25KM away on the west. The guide told me, the authority has no plan whatsoever when Cotopaxi finally erupted. I just hope the volcano will stop 'living', it's too beautiful to erupt.
Anyway, after the museum, the car dropped us at the the parking area at 4500M and we walked for about an hour to the refugio Jose Rivaz where we stayed for half a night before we climb to the summit at midnight. There are at least 70 bunk in that refugio, very basic mattress enough just to lie down and relax before the climbing. It's a very noisy refugio, as you can imagine at least 70 climbers walking up and down with their plastic boots and some practicing the crampon or the rope inside the refugio since the weather was shitty outside.
In my room there were at least 40 people sleeping and there were only two people snoring in that room, one on my left the american guy and one on my right my guide. I got headache not from the altitude, but from them.
I started at midnight since I'm always slow, so we're the first one to climb. It was snowing when we started, my guide had to make a new trail up to the glacier and it's very hard for me to walk since the trail/snow still not steady enough to be stepped on but it's good for others to follow behind me. I walked with extra weight of snow on my bag, my jacket or hat, didn't really help me to walk up.
The trail was a bit difficult for my level, it was steep for most of the time. But I learned from Chachani climb, the guide told me that I had a very good and positive mind and it's more important than just physical fitness. So I kept telling myself I can do this, I can make it. And I keep mumbling the whole way up, "I can do it".
There are scary path we had to do, it was a very small path made out of the scree slope of snows and If I actually did see what's down there I won't be able to see the bottom. I knew about this cause Joris the Belgian guy I met in the hostal told me about this path, so when I actually got there I didn't even wanna look down.
On top of the weather, I had the worst guide ever, he's trying to persuade me to go back from the beginning. In the first hour of climbing, he told me that if in the next 2 hours the weather still bad then we should turn around. I thought it's fine, but no one else turning around why should we? He turned around one time and told I'm too slow and it will be too late by the time we get there. But there are still lots of people still climbing way behind me. He said we're at 5400M (which Is bullshit, sure it was more than that) He lied about the time too, just to put me down.
He slowed me down during the climb, I had to stop from time to time to catch my breath but only for seconds. He would fall asleep or took a big rest and slept. I waited for couple of minutes and told him 'vamos!' I literally climbed alone that morning, I kept motivating myself and asked him how is he doing instead. Cause by the end of the day, I need him in this bloody over 5000M something.
He tried so hard to changed my mind, but he sensed my determination and eventually gave up and pushed me to the summit.
At the summit (5897M)
He told me that I won't be able to see anything on the summit, but then I chose the climb not the summit and continue regardless. About 300 meters to go to the summit, we could see the stars and we saw Latacunga sleeping from where we are. The view was amazing but I didn't take any picture. But approaching the summit the clouds came back and fair enough I didn’t see anything on the top just couple of minutes of other mountain and then disappear again in the cloud.
Going back at 5600M there's a blizzard and for the first time in a long time I was scared. The trail was gone due to wind and snow, the guide had to look for the trail. It snows almost the whole time until we get to the refugio and all afternoon.
Do I look like a real climber,compare to the fake ones in the background?
The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times... the best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. 'Mihály Csíkszentmihályi'
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on November 13, 2010 at 7:48 PM|
We don't ask this kind of question between travellers. We all know everybody has different reason why they're traveling. Leaving their friends, family behind, quit their job or risking their carrier for taking long holiday is already in the package they carry while they're traveling.
And you ask this kind of question to people who's traveling for weeks, months or years sure you'll get so many different respond, some will say 'I need a break", or I want to see the world, I want to know or learn other people's culture, some had to leave because home doesn't provide them jobs and look elsewhere. Some are more adventurous to do more than just their 'home' can offer.
But this morning when I read the news about Aung San Suu Kyi was finally freed after total of 14 years of house arrest, brought my memory back to almost 2 years ago when I was there in her beautiful country I was so happy for the people of Burma, was so happy to the taxi driver I chat with in Mandalay who maybe now he already bought his own taxi like he always dreamed of or the young man who's working in the hostel who maybe one day he can get to work as an engineer like he always wanted and not to waste his study.
There was the 'connection'.. you had more passion to the country you've been. You had the interest. ( well at least for me ) You want to know about them. The reward from your journey will last long. Although Burma only just remind me of everyone's nightmare which is losing my moleskine journal, most trips and the encounter with people only written in my memory...
There are some people who interested in history eventually will travel to see the country with her own eyes or the traveller who become interested in history.It's all somehow make sense.
Traveling not always fun, there are times when you feel lonely ( when you're traveling alone ), when you're sick or things don't go your way. But I'm telling you there are more fun than those sad times.
There are times you'll witness something so beautiful which beyond your expectation or imagination. You could feel even your heart is smiling and thanking you :-)
The new question would be, "Why don't you want to travel?"
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on November 7, 2010 at 3:09 PM|
I did the downhill climbing from Chimborazo first refugio near Riobamba at 4800M. Almost at the end of the trail we bumped into locals who's taking their animals back. Some of them are beautiful funny looking Alpacas and Llamas.
I took some pictures of Llamas and Alpacas in Arequipa, so I thought I put them all together in one album. And put some more of them if I found another super cute Llama or Alpacas.
My favourite Alpaca below Chimborazo
Vicunas is hard to find since they're not domesticated animals, although I raced with them down from Chimborazo with my bike,one of my best day ever.So basically Vicunas were on the other side of the dirt road and when they saw me they started to run and trying cross the dirt road but I catched up with them along the road until I slowed down and let them cross the road in front of me.
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on November 4, 2010 at 6:20 PM|
Thanks to the festival I was stuck in Vilcabamba ( not that I'm complaining staying longer in Izhcayluma ) there are no room available in Cuenca because of the fiesta. I met Franc in Vilcabamba who's coming from Cuenca and he actually went to 8 hostels and no room available, he ended up staying in a dodgy room for 15 dollars a night.
Wednesday 3rd of November was the celebration of Cuenca Independence, but they've been partying since weekend, so it's like 6 days of fiestas!! I was lucky to get a bed in El Cafecito (not a hostel I would recommend though )and managed to see what's happening in Cuenca during the fiesta.
I walked around in the morning to catch all the street parade, military parade, street artist, market it's a fine day I must say.
After seeing the parade, on my way to the hostel ( to have lunch ) I saw hundreds of people gathering outside a building. Saw the poster saying 'Bienvenido Presidente' still didn't get me that I'm in Ecuador already that means the 'famous' president that I saw in the news a month earlier is coming into town.
So with my height and my fairly telephoto zoom lens, I managed to get ahead of everyone to take picture of him. But there was a time I don't need my zoom lens since he was right in front of me to shake hand with his people. Lucky there's no tear gas this time, otherwise I could have been the victim too :-)
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on November 2, 2010 at 8:34 PM|
There are buses every 15 minutes from Loja-Vilcabamba-Loja. ( 1 hour - 1 dollar ) we were dropped at the terminal terestre in Vilcabamba. There's taxi or more like a pick up truck and will cost you a dollar for one ride regardless how many people to Izhcayluma.
Izhcayluma Hosteria became another highlight of this trip, amazing hostel with lots of plants, trees, flowers and amazing view overlooking the valley. I stayed here for a week. A bed in a dorm cost you 10 dollars and private room with twin beds 24 dollars. The dorm or other rooms is so cozy made from wooden, hammocks everywhere.
The swimming pool with water
The hostel made lots of hiking trail around the area and amazingly well marked, they give you a map depending which trail you're doing. There's swimming pool, pingpong table, pool table, TV room and wonderful free breakfast every morning.
There is no kitchen, but the price of the food of the restaurant are very reasonable with the portion enough for 2 people. I found my weissbier here, but it's very expensive 5 dollar. I bought one only for my very last night in Izhcayluma.
If you're continuing to Peru, you can go straight to the border of La Balsa without going back to Loja.
Pepsi and Cola hanging out in the garden
|Posted by Artesia Irawan on October 30, 2010 at 5:54 PM|
On the 4th day in Vilcabamba after doing nothing the day before we decided to do the Mandango Loop, supposed to be one grade harder than Izhcayluma. This time we formed a group of 5, since this trail was ruined by robbery in the past. We've been warned not to take camera, but I brought with me anyway. I can always smash some dude with my heavy camera.
Anyway, there's Eloise, Yasmin and America couple Jo and Joyce.
Since the usual entrance was close, we had to go to the houses and jumped on the fence to go to the main trail to the Mandango Loop. We had no problem going around the fence and we hit the trail easily, since it's only couple of meters from the fence.
The trail is start ascending from the very beginning, gradual for the first 30-40 minutes when it's started to become quite steep. We could see the first cross from far down and put off some of us a bit, but the switchbacking made it easier to get to the top.
From the top of the first cross, we could see Vilcabamba town set beautifuly surrounding by the hills. And from there we went down and go around the Mandango before we actually 'climbed' rather than walked up. The trail was too steep that at one stage I had to use my rock climbing skill to go up. But it's only about 10 minutes bad trail before we reached the second cross.
There's prayer flag on the top tight to the cross, which is nice and from there we can see pretty much everything. We stayed there before we walked on the ridgeline for the next hour.
The trail was actually very small but worst when it combines with steep downhill. Your legs felt so weak just to see the trail so small and the idea that we had to walk down on it, it's a bit too much for some us, including me of course the champion of sit and slide.
All of us had to sit and made our way down with our butt on the ground.
The trail to go down was so much easier than Izhcayluma trail that means my knee would be very happy the next day, free from pain.
Worth the hike, bring lots of water if you have your camel bag, trekking shoes is a must.