A Travellerspoint blog

Our Time With the Animals of Galapagos

Starting our travels through Ecuador

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We got up early in Pasto because we had plans to catch the morning bus to the Colombia/Ecuador border, and we were more than ready to leave our not so clean hotel room. The ride from Pasto to the border town of Ipiales in Colombia takes about 2 hours and was the most beautiful bus ride we have had yet. We drove up and down through the Andes, passing waterfalls and farms along the way. Once we arrived in Ipiales we then had to take a short and crowded taxi ride to the border. Even though we have crossed more than a few country lines already, I still get a bit nervous of what to expect when entering a new country, but fortunately the crossing into Ecuador was relatively painless and also free. They even had signs posted telling people not to bribe the customs officers.

Once across the border, we took another taxi to the closest town in Ecuador called Tulcan. Then we got on yet another bus for a 5 hour journey to Quito. We were ecstatic to be in Ecuador, back where busses are cheap. (Especially compared to Colombia) Our ride to Quito only cost $4.50 and I was able to try a new delicious food that a woman was selling at the bus station. She was selling Bananna's covered with cheese and then fried, and they were fantastic. Anyway, we arrived in Quito in the Early evening on the 25th. My parents had a flight in the next day and we already had reservations to stay at Hotel Quito for when they arrived, so we figured we would try to just stay there the day before as well. Unfortunately, much to my surprise they were completely booked, so we ended up staying down the street at a nice boutique hotel called Stubel Suites. The Stubel Suites and all the accomodations following there have been very luxorious by our standards, but that is just one of many nice perks of having family come to visit. I will say Hotel Quito is by far the nicest place we have stayed on this trip, and we have now spent a few nights there on two seperate visits to Quito. They have a huge pool, nice spa and gym, a great restaurant overlooking the city and very comfortable beds. In fact, while we were staying in the hotel, Ms. Ecuador was staying just a few rooms downt the hall, so I imagine it must be one of the nicer hotels in the country.

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After checking into our fancy hotel in Quito we headed out for some dinner, and turned in early after a full day of traveling. The following morning we got up, had breakfast, and moved over to Hotel Quito. My parents flight wasn't arriving until the evening so we spent the day exploring the city and mainly the old town. Quito is very picturesque in a valley surronded by clouds and mountains. There are over 40 churches in the city and we did our best to explore them, as well as the rest of the architecture in Historic Quito. Our family arrived that evening with no problems on their flight, we had a happy reunion and went out for a nice dinner. We used the next day to explore Quito some more (and try out the new camera that we got), before heading to the Galapagos Islands the day after. We saw some more of Quito's churches and had a local lunch in a small restaurant downtown. There is also a cable car in Quito that we took up to an elevation of 4,100 meters giving us a nice view of the city and surrounding mountains. After a fantastic dinner and desert at Hotel Quito, we were off to bed all excited to head to Galapagos early the next morning.

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We flew to the Galapagos Islands through Guayaquil the next day, with high expectations because of all the good things we have read about the Islands. We were definitely not dissapointed with our time there. I will not go into too much detail on everything we did on the Islands, because we were there for 6 days and stayed very busy. But to quickly summarize, we visited 3 islands, Baltra (very briefly), Santa Cruz, and Isabella. We hiked a volcano, went snorkeling a couple times, diving, kayaking, swmming, and more. The animals were definitely the highlight of the Islands, although Isabella had a fantastic and long beach as well. We saw a huge variety of animals, which you can see pictures of in the gallery, and got to learn a lot about all the preservation and conservation efforts going on in Galapagos. I think the snorkeling and diving were really the highlights for us, as we saw penquins, sea lions, rays, turtles, white tipped sharks, hammerhead sharks, and huge schools of fish. Plus the animals here have not developed a fear of people, so in most cases you can watch them from just a few feet away. The Sea Lions in particular I think were interesting because they are just as interested in watching us as we are in watching them.

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Although it was really hot on the Islands and they are a bit difficult to get to, it is a trip everyone should make at least once in their lifetime. There are many different things to see and do in Galapagos, and there are plenty of activites and tours to keep you busy and happy while visiting. Anyway, after a packed 6 days there we flew back to Quito and headed off right away to visit Mindo for the last couple days of my parents vacation. But I will save that for the next entry, because I have yet to get all our pictures uploaded. Bye, until next time.

Posted by Drifters 08:44 Archived in Ecuador Comments (3)

Still Enjoying Colombia

sunny 30 °C
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We arrived to Manizales in the evening. The trip took about 5 hours and we spent them very well talking to a fellow traveller from Michigan (The fifth Michigan traveller we met in Columbia). The road led through beautiful mountains and was full of great sites. Manizales is a great college town, where everything is super convenient and easy. We stayed in a hostel called Mountain House, and our first day in Manizales was spent just eating dinner and going to bed. The next morning we went on a much anticipated coffee tour at Villa Venetia, and it was spectacular! We arrived at the finca and the tour started with our guide explaining to us about coffee origins, its geography and the differences between coffee growing in many regions of the world. After, we got a chance to select our own coffee beans, that were subsequently roasted and brewed into an excellent beverage for us. Also on the tour we spent some time outside learning about coffee plants, local flora and fauna, and the specifics of coffee processing. The highlight of the tour, besides coffee, of course, was the owners plantation house, filled with beautiful antique furniture and overlooking great gardens with peacocks and gorgeous plants. We loved the tour and ended up having a fantastic lunch and way too much coffee there! The evening we spent playing cards and listening to a nearby student party. In the morning we had to press on to our next destination - the town of Salento, which is the closest town to the legendary Cocora valley, home to the only one in the world wax palm cloud forest.

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It took us about three hours from Manizales and we ended up staying in a great hostel called Tralala with a beautiful black cat. Salento is a bit of a tourist trap, but a nice one. Since we arrived on a Sunday, it was full of visitors and was very lively. We had a fantastic lunch of trout for $3.5 and strolled the main street filled with little art shoppes and cafes. We also climbed up and went to the lookout of the valley, which was absolutely stunning. In the evening we watched Big Lebowsky on the big screen TV they had in the hostel and reminisced about life at home. The next day we put a pair of rubber boots on, took a jeep, and started for Cocora. The hike was pretty strenuous, even though not as strenuous as climbing a volcano. It started off with a trout farm, went trough the pastures in the valley, on to the jungle in the slopes of the mountain, where we crossed several creeks by suspension bridges and went up to a ranger's station and then slowly descended into the valley again, which was filled with spectacular views of the wax palms, grazing cattle and surrounding mountains. On the way we befriended a dog and he was a terrific companion, especially during snack times. Upon descent from the mountains, we had a great cup of coffee at a neighboring finca and went home to change and hurry up to the bus station for Cali. Unfortunately, we ended up having to skip Cali, for not having enough time, and bused through the night all the way to Pasto, the provincial and industrial city with a rich colonial history. We stayed in a not so great little hotel in Pasto, but the price was right and they let us check in at 5 o'clock in the morning after our night bus. Oh, the bus was the best we have had so far - it had a WI-FI connection, great movies and was pleasantly airconditioned without being freezing!

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We stayed in Pasto one full day, walking around and visiting all the great churches in the center of the city. It was considerably cheaper than the north and we thoroughly enjoyed our dollars going a long way, since Colombia proved to be generally more expensive than was expected. In the evening we dined on pizza and went in for the night, since we had a whole day of travelling ahead of us going to our next country - Ecuador. Overall, we loved Columbia and were sad to leave this beautiful country so soon. The only downside for us was that it is just a tad bit pricey now days. Do not miss it for the world! These last two entries were written on the plane flying to Galapagos, courtesy of Ryan's parents, who kindly lended us their laptop.

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Posted by Drifters 11:11 Archived in Colombia Comments (3)

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