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Trip Report Exploring Quito And Tena Ecuador .... In 6 Days!!!!!

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The Plan .... First Night In Quito... Then Drive To Tena For Two Nights... Then Whatever Happens ... Leave Quito 11PM On Sixth Night. Comments, Suggestion And NICE Criticism Welcomed. Trip Report To Follow.

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    A setting golden sun peeks thru gray mountainous clouds as American 931 begins our arrival descent for Quito. Suspended between towering black mountains and twinkling city lights I am experiencing a fascinating view of Ecuador.

    Three hours and forty eight minutes after leaving Miami, with a gentle vibration our flight touches down in Quito. An onboard passenger medical emergency slightly delays our gate arrival but the immigration and customs process is the most efficient that I have ever experienced.

    Leaving the customs area, on your right side taxi and transportation stands can arrange pre-paid travel from the airport. Taxi's are cheap ... less than $10 to the city. American dollars are gladly accepted in Ecuador.

    Bypassing the taxis outside, a brief walk and I am at Advantage Car Rental. I am hoping to pick up a car I have reserved for tomorrow but the office is already closed for the day ... it's only 7pm!

    Practicing my limited spanish with the office worker, we arrange a taxi "barrato"... $5 to the old city. Headed to Hostel Revolution ... Los Rios y Julio Castro cerca el parque Alameda ... my Ecuador exploration and adventure begins.

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    HOSTEL REVOLUTION... WWW.HOSTELREVOLUTIONQUITO.COM

    Is a very well run Backpackers Hostel located in the Historical Centre Of Quito. The area is relatively quiet and has easy access to local transportation and Old Quito. Revolution has three stories, hot showers, free wireless and desktop internet, a small bar and rec-room along with a full kitchen and balcony for great city views.

    Shared and inexpensive private rooms are available that are quite comfortable.

    The owner and staff are friendly and more than helpful with local info and advice. I highly recommend.

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    After checking into Hostel Revolution, I unwind in the bar/rec room with a large $1.75 bottle of Brahma Beer. It's cold and goes down smooth. With local maps and tour books from the receptionist/bartender, I begin to get the lay of the land.

    A few games of backgammon and I am ready to explore Quito at night. I am given safety warnings about the area and advised to take a taxi nearby. My sights are set on Mariscal ... a "touristy" part of New Quito but the only area that holds promise for a vital nightlife.

    A $2.00 taxi ride and fifteen minutes later the air is filled with city noise, music and the sounds of Saturday Night In The Big City.

    Neon lit bars, full service restaurants and local fast food joints line the streets along with "cigarillos and chiclet" vendors. There is also a small but hardly noticeable police presence that's comforting.

    To get a good feel for the area, I manuever off the busy streets and soon I am sitting at a round plastic orange table having dinner in someone's front yard while watching TV on an old fashioned set with rabbit ears. I have stumbled on a night food stand in front of a local home offering "Secos Pollo + Cola" for $2.00 ... How can I resist?

    A fire is lit under a large pan and I am soon served rice, yucca and a large chicken wing with a mild sauce. The food is tasty and the ambiance is just right. As I leave, I avoid tripping over the homemade wiring that's powering the TV from somewhere in the darkness of the yard.

    Although it's near 11pm ... I am still in the local food sampling mood and a $1.50 Sharwma seems appealing. Chicken, lettuce, french fries and salsa wrapped in a warm tortilla.. muy deliscioso!!!

    Criss-crossing the bar and music zones, I am drawn to with I preceive to be the local Ecuadorian rhythm. A $2.00 cover charge and I am experiencing the energy of La Casa De La Cervesa ... My limited spanish is useless but the beat of the music does well compensating. My hips and legs cannot resist and they start moving without warning. I am relieved to hear a mix of "I have got a feelin tonight is going to be a good .. good night". The room is hot and packed, soon the sweat is pouring.

    Sometime around midnight an announcement is made and the house lights go up. I am thinking "wow" they must close early here .. then a surprise! A single Ecuadorian "Chippendale" appears from the back of the room and begins entertaining the ladies. This last about 20 minutes ....

    Later, the men are afforded equal opportunity... As Forrest Gump would say ... "That's All I Have To Say About That".

    The outside air is cool and refreshing about 16C/61F as I leave La Casa but I am drenched in sweat even the back of my knees. A Good... Good Night. I had a feeling it would be.

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    Up early, I stroll down Julio Castro to Av Colombia .. I am headed back to the airport to pick up my 5 day car rental. Before hopping a taxi, I purchase a fresh peeled starch white coconut the size of a softball from a street vendor for $1.00. The coconut wrapped in plastic is served with a bright blue straw that gives me ample access to the cool refreshment inside. Afterwards, I free the coconut from the plastic and enjoy the crunchy white flesh ... Breakfast on the go!

    Just outside the airport is a Supermaxi grocery store that I visit while I wait for my rental car. Fresh baked empanadas, pan de yucca, cookies, juice, a six pack of local beer and I am ready discover more of Ecuador by car.

    I leave the airport with a general sense of where I want to go but it's not where I end up. A few times circling a round about ... a brief adventure in a "BUS ONLY" lane and I am still somewhere in Quito.

    Driving along Av. Amazonas I pass a huge park filled with people and lots of activity. I find a parking spot at a local mall and walk back to the park. Soon I am participating in an outside group exercise program ... Uno, dos, tres ... cinco seis, I am spinning and moving out of sync with the rest of the group although I do get the clapping part right.

    I am at Parque La Carolina where there is a nice collection of all sorts of outside activities. Families are enjoying swings, teeter tooters and local clown entertainment. Others play outdoor racquetball, volleyball and basketball. So far, I am resisting the urge to show my Shaq moves. For a few minutes I watch a soccer match as gray clouds loom overhead. The views of Quito and the surrounding mountains are quiet vivid from the park.

    Yo puedo jugar contigo ... My Shaq resistance falls. I am playing two on two basketball that soon turns into a full court five on five. Both teams contain a few girls that can play and shoot "muy bueno" from downtown. Seis y siete .. at viente (20) game one is over. Senor una mas! We win game two and then it's "Senor una mas", again. Estoy muy cansado .. I am tired but survive a third game.

    On the road again but with a better sense of direction, I am headed to Mitdad Del Mundo. 13km North of Quito and I am standing on the Equator as the sun begins to disappear over the nearby mountains. There is a $4.00 fee to enter the tourist area but well worth it. A large band entertains and soon a few of us are dancing around the Equator. Lots of shops, restaurants and even a chapel is available if dancing does not suite your fancy.

    Nightfalls as I head back to Quito and I take in the lights of the city from my mountain highway. Back in Quito, I enjoy a light dinner at Cafe Colon(Open 24hrs) at The Hilton Colon. Sancocho Quitena an Ecudorian soup with meat, yucca, sweet white corn and plantains is delicious and only $6.00.

    I am exhausted returning to Hostel Revolution but I am looking forward to tomorrow when I try to find my way to Tena.

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    Rest assured there at least five or six Ecuadorians that won't be recording ... "Do You Know The Way To Tena" anytime soon. Leaving Quito along Av 6 Diecembre, I am initially headed in the right direction for Tena, however my inquiry to a toll-booth worker adds the first bit of confusion. She's not sure if I need to go "Norte" or "Sur" for Tena, the less than helpful map tells me its "East" then "South"... I think.

    I head "Sur" but with an uncertain feeling. Frequent stops to easy my uncertain feeling does not help until 30-40 minutes into the drive at a Petrol Station I am told to do a 180 and "mano a la derecha" in about 15 minutes.

    Although somewhat lost, I am enjoying the scenery of huge towns in the valleys below me and homes that populate the mountainsides. Through small towns I witness the hustle and bustle of everyday Ecuadorian life. Children unload in colorful uniforms from school buses even as cars and other buses belching black smoke manuevers nearby. Somehow it works without crossing guards and requiring all other vehicles to stop.

    About 4 hours into my journey, I get my first real confirmation that I am headed in the right direction ... A huge road sign with "Tena" and a pointing arrow. I must admit that during the previous 3 hours I was continuously distracted from my dilemna. Huge twin mountain waterfalls, single lane bridges, curving gravel roads, light rain and rainforest like foliage with various density of greens provide a natural escape from a feeling of being lost.

    The rain slows and finally ends shortly after I arrive in Tena about 6 hours since leaving Quito. A bit more direction finding and I am at Hostel Los Yutzos where I will call home for the next few nights. A bit more expensive $20.00 per night than other alternatives but it is a nice facility on the river in the quiet part of town.

    Whitewater rafting and a jungle tour is planned for the next few days. Tonight, I will see what happens after dark in Tena.

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    Tena after dark presents the opportunity for a “no sweat” relaxing evening. A short distance across the lighted foot bridge and I am at Chuquitos Cocteleria Bar. A local hangout with a large selection of mix drinks, stereo music, cheap beer and relaxing views as The Pano River flows below. The town is closing up for the night as I walk back to Los Yuztos except for a local karaoke bar that fills the night air with music.

    HOSTEL LOS YUZTOS

    A recommended stay located on a mostly quiet street within easy walking distance of all the town has to offer. Comfortable rooms with hot showers starting at $21 per person (breakfast included) plus 22% in taxes along with 7% credit card surcharge. Free and mostly reliable wireless and desktop internet services also provided.

    Nicely landscaped mix of fruit trees, flowers and hammocks with bunches of free bananas nearby. Primarily Spanish speaking friendly staff that provide local information and also can help with arranging various Tena tours.

    Hard to believe lower rooms that are about 6-8 feet above the river were recently flooded and are in the process of being repaired. Coincidentally, this flooding along with two floating houses was also responsible for destroying the bridge that provided access to Parque Amazonico. Expect at least a 6 month delay before access is available to the park which promised good hikes and animal sightings.

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    WHITE WATER RAFTING

    It's around 9:30pm when I return to Los Yuztos and start making a few phone calls to arrange a rafting trip for tomorrow. A little bargaining and $50 is an agreed price. There is no rain this evening so I open my room window and fall asleep to the sound of a gentle breeze.

    Ring... ring … ring... ring... I am awaken around 8am by my room phone and head to the hotel reception to pay for my rafting trip. I will be picked up around 9am so I have time to enjoy a quick breakfast of fresh papaya juice, bread and fresh fruits. After breakfast, I relax in a hammock with the sounds of the Pano River and chirping birds in the background. Life is good!

    Disrupted from my short nap and dream, I am in a Toyota pickup truck headed to Hostal Limoncocha. There we pick up a few other thrill seekers. After about a twenty minute drive on a mix of dirt and paved roads we pass thru some small villages and arrive at our launch site. We are at a cool wooden bridge that crosses the Misahualli River to Serena.

    Distant mountains, dense green jungle vegetation against blue skies with a few gray clouds, the temperature is about 22C mid 70's as we prepare for our trip. Sunscreen and bug repellent is applied as we learn about each other and our travel adventures. I am put to work inflating the raft and I am glad to “Pump It Up”. My work done, I stroll across the bridge to take in the views and discover a few planks missing. I dangle my leg between them as the river flows rapidly about twenty feet below.

    Bright orange long sleeve shirts, helmets and life vest are handed out to rafters along with an individual paddle. Even after I remove my T-shirt, I feel like I am wearing a chest girdle in my one size fits all life vest. I suck in and change my breathing pattern.

    Bladimir, one of our tour guide continues with the raft preparations as we wait for his cousin Herado to join us from Serena their home community across the Misahualli River. With the raft loaded, we carry it to a natural ramp and with a gentle push it disappears below us. Herado arrives and we take a small hike down to the river where we must finish recovering the raft still about six feet above us. Bladimir pushes from above and we land the raft on the gray sand without putting it in the river.

    Bladimir conducts a safety briefing with an occasionally joke thrown in. I lean side to side to laugh as I am still working on my new breathing pattern. Part of our safety also includes Herado following along in a rescue kayak. The river is high today and our trip will be faster than normal because the river is flowing at a fast pace. I guess at least 10 mph or more. With the safety briefing complete, one more raft lifting and we will be on the river.

    An alarming scream goes up from one of the rafters as we lift the back of raft and she rapidly jumps in the front. A small snake has appeared from under the raft and slivers away I guess now frighten into the water. I lean side to side as laughter burst out among the rest of us. Our journey begins.

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    MISAHUALLI RIVER

    It's not long before we are excited by our first dousing. The river promises more of the same with it's Class 2 and 3 rapids. The water is cool to cold but with the sun and our excitement it is quiet refreshing. A smooth portion of the river approaches and we are invited to swim. I take the plunge. Once overboard, Herado paddles over and with a smirking smile warns us to watch out for anacondas!

    Before the next rapid appears we are hauled on-board and paddling commands are given …. “Forward (Adelante)”, “Back”, “Paddles ...En” (Bladimir pronunciation of “In”), “Hi Five”. Ahead, Herado is having fun battling the rapids and occasionally loses as his world is turned upside down.

    About an hour after launching, we beach for lunch. It is now hot as we come to a stop with a mild river breeze providing some relief. We are asked to wait at the beach area as Bladimir and Herado disappear down a path to prepare our lunch. A call is made and we are surprised to find a buffet set up on a table covered with banana leaves. We have all the ingredients to make vegetarian burritos. Fresh peppers, onions, tomatoes, beans, cheese and guacamole. For dessert, galletas(cookies), fresh pineapple along with an Ecuadorian favorite …. 2 liters of warm Coca-Cola.

    After lunch the fun continues as we hit a churning rapid and only my feet and legs remain in the raft. Along the way we past families on the banks also enjoying the river even a group of kids tubing with miniature yellow paddles. Soon we past a motorize contraption on the river that we are told is used in the process of mining gold.

    Although the river speed is changing the scenery rapidly, at times it is smooth and peaceful as I enjoy waterfalls, birds singing and a great jungle landscape. This peacefulness is soon broken by a noise and object overhead as Bladimir does a flip from the rear of the raft and lands in the river with a huge smile. Our journey soon ends with lots of wet memories and no regrets.

    If you want to experience your own white water rafting adventure while in Tena, Ecuador... You can reach Bladimir at bladimireluhico@hotmail.com or thru Hostal Limoncocha.

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    BACK TO TENA ..... FAST

    We have exited the Misahualli River just beyond what the locals call the “6 Year Bridge”. This bridge replaced an old shared bridge (still in use) on the way to Banos but it took six years to build. A short wait and we are in the back of a pickup truck with Herado headed back to Tena .... Muy Rapido! I almost lose my hat as we hang on for the roller coaster ride. Herado informs us that driver does not want to miss a televised soccer match involving Germany so he is driving like a madman.. Muy Loco!

    Our return is to Hostal Limon Cocha where indeed a few men are gathered around a large flat screen television watching futbol. The Hostal is decent with inexpensive accommodations overlooking Tena. You can also directly book 1-5 Day Jungle Treks and Whitewater Rafting Trips with Hostal Limon.

    A walk down a gentle hill and I am on Main Street visiting “Mi Panaderia”. I have taken a serious liking to their “Dos Leche” bread and enjoy it with a local Limon drink all for less than a dollar. The weather is nice still in the 70's and I take another stroll towards the “Footbridge” to explore another part of Tena.

    Beyond the Town Square, I pass through a school yard with many specialty classrooms including woodwork and machinery. I share a bridge with a taxi cab, motorcycle and other pedestrians as I cross another river and enter a small village with dirt roads. Village chicks are all around being followed and chased as they peck the ground for food.

    I pass a yard of girls playing who stop and with curiosity watch me continue walking down the street. About a hundred yards pass them I hear giggles and then .... “Hola”. I smile and yell back ... “Hola”.

    Back at Los Yutzos, I do a quick online search for dinner restaurants. Asadero Safari, Cositas Ricas and Chuquitos are my choices with caution. Apparently, Tena does not have many highly recommended restaurants but “The Big Shots” dine at Chuquitos.

    Half carafe of fresh melon juice ($2.50) and fried yucca appetizer with fruit salsa are both delicious. However, the main course of Stew Fish lacked flavor and was disappointing. Maybe I need to be a “Bigger Shot” to enjoy the food at Chuquitos although I did enjoy the atmosphere and views.

    On the way back to Los Yutzos, I encountered some friends I met earlier in the day on my whitewater trip. They are on their way to enjoy a beer down at the river and extend an invitation. I am beer less but stop at a local convenience store just before closing. With a promise to the store clerk to return the empty bottle tomorrow when they open, a $1 buys me a 32oz Pilsener.

    My evening dining experience is redeemed along the river sharing stories and talking politics with new friends while enjoying a cold brew. Tomorrow, I leave Tena for Banos.

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    TENA TO BANOS VIA PUYO

    With reports of friendly monkeys in Misahualli town center, I make a brief stop there as I leave Tena. Unfortunately, the town center is only filled with a gathering of uniformed students. Apparently, the monkeys have skipped town.

    The initial road to Banos has it share of wild guava trees and I make several stops in hopes of enjoying a fresh guava. You know what's worse than finding a whole worm in your guava? Half of one! I continue hoping.

    The roads signs from Tena to Banos are almost as bad as from Quito to Tena although in general the roads are much better. Colorful buses with “Puyo”, “San Francisco” and or “Banos” give me some assurance that I am headed in the right direction. Passing through many small towns and villages, I am surprised to see one with an “Escuela JFK”. I guess some Ecuadorians are as fond of the former US President as others around the world.

    Another surprise comes further down the road where there is a police check point. Dressed in gray camouflage the officer is nice as he requests my “licencia” and inspects my rental car car papers. “Gracias and buen dia” as he sends me on my way.

    A lunch stop at Amarillo De Corazon in Puyo and again I am disappointed with the the main course, a shrimp fried platter. The shrimp are covered in a large salty batter and served with luke warm fries. As always, the juice ... this time “jugo de pina” was excellent. A short walk after lunch to visit a “Turista Foto Site” which turns out to be closed leads to a nice discovery.

    Across another ever popular footbridge and down a sort paved path, I am at the entrance to Parque Etnobotanico (www.fundacionomaere.org). A $3.00 fee and I am on a guided tour with Chris the husband/coordinator of this private Amazonian Preserve. The tour begins in a replica of an indigenous Indian home with a nice presentation of their everyday life including a blow dart demonstration. Next a hike around the preserve with an explanation of various plants and their medicinal uses ... from the treatment of diabetes to fertility issues.

    A stop at one tree and I am told to prepare for a little quiz. I am given a piece of the tree leaf and told to to identify it by putting in my mouth. Wow .... I am chewing on a natural “Big Red Gum” or “Red Hot Candy”. It's the leaf of a cinnamon tree ... Historically, cinnamon was an important spice exported and traded from Ecuador and part of the reason it was once called “The Land Of Canela”.

    Inside another hut and I am learning about the life style of the Shuar Indians, the most interesting of which is a man (Saint) can have up to fifteen wives. His first wife is arranged when he is about 18 and she is about 6 years old although the marriage is not consummated until after she menstruates. Outside the hut a few berries are found and my arm is tattooed in natural bright red, orange and purple colors.

    Kids laughter can be heard in the distant as our tour ends. The birthday party has began for Chris's 2yr old step-grandson. Chris a “Florida Gator” biologist demonstrates at the end of the tour one of his latest projects an ecologically friendly bathroom system that includes hand washing using captured rain water. I am impressed.

    Before long I am singing “Happy Birthday” and clapping hands with family and friends. I view a few natural medicines that Chris's wife has prepared along local Amazonian items that they have for sale. I am offered birthday which I share with the family parrot that gently eats it from my hand.

    On the road again, I leave Puyo and make a gradual climb along mountainous roads to Banos. The scenery is amazing although there are few spots where you can stop to take it all in. Off the beaten path, I climb a dirt road in search of a “La Casacada” (Waterfall) and come upon a local lady walking up the hill. I offer her a ride and drop her off at her home. I never find the waterfall as the road soon turns to mud from local rain showers and I am afraid of being stuck. I do a 180 back to the beaten path.

    I do manage a visit to Diego Falls, passing through communities that make their home along one of the many rivers in Ecuador. It is not uncommon to see signs reminding us that ..“El Rio es La Vida”. The River Is Life.

    As Banos approaches, I am driving through lengthy mountainous tunnels that still show natural tunnel walls that are dripping with water. I arrive in Banos about 7pm in the evening and park across the street from main bus terminal.

    Soon, I am checking into Hostal La Cascada where I am given a room with a view for $12 per night.

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    BANOS AT NIGHT

    Leaving La Cascada for a an evening exploration of Banos, I am approached by a young man who is offering a night tour to “Bella Vista” for $3.00. It seems like a reasonable thing to do. I have an hour before the tour departs at 9pm. For $1.00, I dine on grilled chicken, boiled potatoes and red onions covered with salsa. I have come across a grandmother type that is mastering a grill just outside a store front.

    A walk around town and I find many businesses that offer $5 daily mountain bike rentals. Part of my plan for tomorrow. At 9pm, just outside the main bus terminal with others I board an open air tour bus decorated with colorful lights. A 10 minute drive through town and we are down shifting uphill towards Bella Vista. It has cooled down a bit and the night air is refreshing.

    Arriving at Bella Vista, we look down at a fog covered Banos with its city lights twinkling below us. A brief history of the area including information about a nearby volcano that recently erupted in 2006 is given. We are then served warm canela tea with the option to add a little Ecuadorian “Firewater”.

    The fog lifts and the view of Banos below sharpens on a moonless night. A bonfire is built and we gather around to be entertained by a comedian magician. Although his jokes are in Spanish, the laughter and his performance translates well.

    The smoke of the bonfire is competing with two nearby grilling food vendors. Another $1.00 well spent and I am enjoying a tender and flavorful beef, sausage and potato shish kabob.

    Back at La Cascada, I hear my neighbors next door and street conversations below well into the night as I await to fall asleep. All a part of my $12 per night hostal experience.

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    BANOS DOWNHILL

    My blood sugar spikes 6000% as I begin my second day in Banos.For $1, I have just purchase a glass of 100% pure sugar cane juice that I watched being freshly made.

    With a $5 per day mountain bike, I am about to embark on a downhill ride from Banos. The complete route is 60km to Puyo but I will make my return from Machay about a 16km ride. Leaving Banos, both brakes are vibrating as I control my building speed. I stand up crossing speed bumps and parts of my body are very happy. A short stop at Banos Dam and I take in the scenery that I have seen before but this time from a whole new perspective.

    In a slow gradual climb from the dam, I hear a rumble from behind. I must now share the road with an approaching yellow dump truck. I move …. a la derecha. On both sides of this two lane highway there is a mix of densely covered mountains, streams and waterfalls. I have the advantage to freely stop and absorb it all. A deep valley with a snaking river lies hundreds of feet below to my right fed occasionally by a single, double or even triple flow waterfall.

    The only tunnel that I must ride through approaches and I plan my transit strategy (peddle very fast). Alone in the water dripping tunnel, I celebrate the midpoint zig zagging across the yellow center line and letting out an echoing “Yahoo” … No cars, buses or yellow trucks to worry about.

    As I explore my next stop, I find a man sitting in a truck with it's engine running. However, this truck has no wheels, no doors, no windshield, and no windows. The driver seems confident and comfortable sitting in the shade, he is the cable car operator at Manto de Novia. $1 and I am accelerating rapidly along the edge of a cliff towards the valley floor a thousand feet below. The cable car operator becomes a speck above as the wind whistles by my open air, secure yourself, three cable gondola. An exhilarating experience with indescribable views. In a trance, I am brought back as the cable car comes to an abrupt stop and knocks me around.

    De Novia towering twin waterfalls is accessed by an expansion bridge with rubber footing. I bounce on my way across as De Novia's thundering sound increases. Navigating slippery rocks for a closer look, I am soon completely moisturized by 50 foot plus sprays from where the waterfalls end their descent before streaming to the valley floor.

    A tunnel bypass and I play with a little waterfall from an overhang along the bike path. At a nearby road bridge, I meet an enterprising Ecuadorian that tries to convince me to take a thrill ride. For $10, he will swing me under the road bridge suspended about 60 feet above a rock populated stream. Afraid to leave a stain in his “Safety Harness”........ I keep on biking.

    My guava hope is somewhat fulfilled at my next stop. A huge roadside guava tree and I pick a fruit. A bit green but I munch away happy at not finding half of a worm.

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    MACHAY

    Machay is in view and turns out to be a good place to stop. At M'Fanny's restaurant, I place an order which will be ready when I return from my hike. I say goodbye to another single green back and the friendly restaurant manager accompanies me down a well graded clean path flanked by guava trees, lush vegetation and trickling streams. A set of well maintained steel steps with posted health and safety signs descends us steeply to the jungle floor. I am dreading the return trip as the first glimpse of Machay waterfalls comes into view at a welcomed platform stop.

    Far removed from the highway, my world is filled with only the sights and sounds of the jungle. Birds soaring on the local winds, rich blue skies, isolated white clouds and the surrounding jungle landscape delight my senses. Descending further, we reach the area where jungle canopy rides are offered during the weekends along with other ecotourist activities.

    A failed test of my “Slippery Rock” footwork and I am glad that I have a little extra cushion. A little embarrassed but with a nice memory scratch on my camera we continue the tour/hike to an outdoor rock jacuzzi. Built along the river, it takes capping of pipes and adding filtered water to get the jacuzzi going. Relying on the sun for heating, the water is initially frigid. Given directions for my return I am left alone and relax on the warm rocks.

    The moment I dread has come as I begin my thousand plus step climb back to M'Fanny's. I am doing a jungle stair master routine that could earn me millions if I can capture it on DVD. But wait you also get ….. Just $19.95!

    “Esta aqui”, I hear as I approach the restaurant. I grab a jugo de fresca from a beverage cooler and at last I am not disappointed with a restaurant meal. The “Trucha Frita” is excellent along with the views from the outdoor patio. I am shocked and question the accuracy of “La cuenta” when it arrives .... drinks including a few for the road and lunch for less than $9 … Wow!

    An inadvertent left instead of a right turn towards the nearest bus stop and I am freely rolling back towards Banos. I know this won't last long as I have been “Down” this road before. I ride to the next bus stop where I engage in a conversation with a local. A bus approaches and stops momentarily before the driver realizes I have a bicycle and continues on leaving a non-bicycle passenger behind.

    About fifteen minutes later another bus comes along steps off to help me load my bike. Finding no room, he hurries back on-board. This time just me and my bike remains. Not too much longer another bus comes along, my bike is loaded on the roof and I am headed back to Banos for $2.

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    BANOS TO QUITO

    Feeling a sense of road confidence, I set out for Quito. With proper timing I might get a glimpse of Cotopaxi, the world's highest volcano which is on the way to Quito. Through mountainous farmland, across bridges and rolling hills I head toward Ambato. Dust fills the air as the pavement disappears and I follow buses and cars that I think are going to Quito. Signs for Quito appear but are missing as I approach a circular intersection. In a new neighborhood I find a delivery driver and inquire … “Que via a Quito?”. Another 180 then … a la derecha, again!

    Rain is falling and the weather is deteriorating. At times the rain is heavy and I am driving by braille hitting a few potholes along the way. Road construction delays and detours adds to my dilemma and my visit to Cotopaxi is scrubbed.

    It's around 7pm as I enter south Quito. The traffic is crazy but most drivers are courteous. A drive to Mariscal and I have a single “Happy Hour” beer with kebobs before heading to the airport although for $5 I can have 3 beers ... "The Special".

    I return my car to Advantage and discover that my braille driving came at a cost. The front driver side rim is bent. The staff checking the car is friendly and professional but the expression on his face concerns me. He makes a few calls and I prepare to do battle against excessive charges. For $50, war becomes unnecessary as “The Chevy Spark” and I have taken a code of silence about our 5 Day Ecuadorian Road Adventure.

    I am surprised Ecuador is not talked about much as a vacation destination except for expensive trips to The Galapagos. However, if you enjoy the great outdoors and want an affordable vacation, mainland Ecuador should be high on your list.

    LEAVING QUITO

    The Quito Airport is a modern well run operation and the $41 departure tax seems to be well spent. Security, Customs and Immigration personnel are courteous, friendly and efficient. It's a late evening departure and the lights of Quito twinkle “Adios” as Delta 680 accelerates and heads north. Buen Viaje!

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    Kacenka ... You are welcomed. I wish I had more time to see Otavalo and Cotopaxi. There were even last minute offers to Galapagos Island. Hope you enjoy Ecuador, I certainly did! More of my other trip reports at: www.dmbtraveler195.blogspot.com

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    DMB, Tantalizing report, travel writing extraordinaire!! Enjoyed your journey vicariously!! Friend and I are heading to Quito in a few weeks, but our journey will be along the beaten paths. It's nice to know what's down the other roads! Deb

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    Wildebeestus, thanks for your kind comments. Maybe you will get to explore a bit outside of Quito. Otavalo to the North and Cotopaxi to the South are not too far from Quito. I hope you will at least visit Mitdad Del Mundo (15km North) and step on The Equator! DMB. www.dmbtraveler195.blogsspot.com

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