Friday, April 30, 2010

Cuenca Ecuador Mancora Peru

Cuenca: Currency US $
Bus Banos to Cuenca - $10.00 - 8+hours - 1 transfer
Hostel Cuenca: $12.00
Bus Cuenca to Machala - $4.50 - 4 hours
Having to watch yet another Claude Van Damme movie in Spanish - Priceless
Bus Direct Machala - Ecuador to Tombes - Peru $4.00

Peru: Currency Sole - $1 US = $2.83 Soles
Collectivo Tombes to Mancora - $6 Soles - 2 hours
Hostel in Mancora: $32 Soles
Surf Board Rental: $10 Soles
Bus Mancora to Trujillo $35 Soles - 10 hours

South America: On a ShoestringI left Banos on the 11am bus, you know you ask if it's direct and they always smile and say yes. A nation full of professional poker players in the making. Surprise, not direct and our driver got lost twice, the locals had to tell him were to go. My pet peeve about Ecuador buses is not the crazy driving, the getting lost or the constant stops.. No it is that they love Claude Van Damme movies, Patrick Swayze bad ones are also a favorite. The one that he plays the trucker in and of course Road House. I guess it is partly because there is not a lot of dubbing or acting talent needed. But really, did Knock Off really need to be seen by a wider audience?

The bus change went rather smoothly, myself and a British Couple who have been on the road for a year were in it together. Our next bus arrived in 10 minutes and off we went, again really nice scenery while it was daylight, it gets dark pretty early in the Andes, 5:30ish, we got into Cuenco at around 7pm. I decided not to do the night bus and try to get to Mancora early in the morning. I had heard that Cuenca was a nice place so I decided to spend a night and check it out, the center of the city is a UNESCO world heritage site. I did check for tickets out to the border before I left the bus depot and there were several going out in the morning, good I had choices.

I read in the Planet about a hostel called El Monastario that was right in the town square block, it was cheap and convenient, the taxi from the bus depot was $2.00 and took about 25 minutes. The taxi dropped me at the door which was in an alley, the door was a gate with a buzzer, the hostel is located on the 6th floor. Yea an elevator! Haven't see one of those in a long time. I dropped my stuff off and I went for a walk went around the corner and to my horror discovered that the hostel was part of the church, you would think I would have figured it out with the name and all but I can be a little slow sometimes, I had nightmares about nuns all night.

I check in, get a private room, with bathroom and TV, kitchen and with free WIFI and coffee at a cost of $12.00 US. I drop my stuff and off I go to check out the town, found a coffee shop deli place right on the town square so settled in for a Latte and fruit crepes with chocolate, em em good. I then went for a wander around the 5 block radius about the town square, I was also searching for non itch stuff, on my hikes in Banos I forgot to use the insect repellent and I got a few bites that were driving me crazy. Forgot to look up the word for itchy before I went out and left my dictionary in the room so had to pantomime the whole thing out for the folks at the pharmacy, unlike ours everything is behind the counter and you have to ask for it.. Look out Academy, but got what I needed in the end and it worked so what is a little humiliation? Cuanca is an old colonial town, got to say they are nice but I have pretty much hit my limit on colonial towns. They are in a rivalry with Quito old town, as Cuenca is smaller I think it has the edge, more of a village kind of feel to it, some really great buildings. That was pretty much the extent of my time in Cuenca, the impression I got was clean, safe and interesting.

6:30am my alarm goes off, a coffee and I'm off to the bus depot to catch the 7:45 bus which should get me into Mancora at 6ish. I have to make a transfer in Machala for the direct bus into Peru to Tombes. This time a double feature the Patrick Swayze classic were he is the long haul trucker & the Claude Van Damme futuristic one were he is up against the big weird eyed guy, what a treat. This bus driver is suicidal, steep cliffs, sharp corners and he is playing to win. The locals were terrified and yelling at him, calling him loco, I actually watched both movies in order to avoid watching the road. If it's your time to go may as well go out watching bad B movies.

Made it to Machala and had to kill 2 hours before the direct bus over the border. There are other buses that just go to the Ecuador border but I had heard it was a pain in the ass and 3.5 km between it and the Peru border that you need to get a mototaxi for so I figured I would save myself the hassle. The bus stops at the Ecuador border, you get off it waits, you get back on it goes to the Peru border, it waits and off you go to Tombes. I have to say it was one of the largest market borders I have seen, the Ecuador side was just tons of street stalls and so many people selling stuff they were blocking the road to the border. If only I had a bigger pack sigh...

I did have a bit of a problem, a couple of guys on the Peruvian side tried to tell me there was a $20 charge to enter Peru. They station themselves in the actual immigration building and dress up in "official" outfits, but they are not officials they are scam artists. There is no charge to enter Peru, it is FREE which I knew, they dropped the price to $2.00, I declined their assistance. Then there are the money changers who are also located in the immigration building but they are not official. I had checked online and knew the Sole was at $2.83 soles to $1 US dollar so I figured I would change $5.00 over so I would have cab fare and to pay the collectivo to Mancora. The guy offered me 10 soles, totally unreasonable and I tire of people thinking I'm an idiot so I didn't even try to negotiate, told him I knew what the exchange was and walked away while he was yelling out his new rate. So I had no Soles and they don't take US $'s in small towns in Peru. The bus company has it's own depot (CIFA) and that is were the bus drops you. I caught a mototaxi and had him take me to the ATM then to where the collectivo's are that go to Manocra, I was in luck one was leaving for Mancora right away and was it ever packed. 14 of us in there for the 2 hour ride. The driver knew where my hostel was so he dropped me off right in front of Loki.

I had found Loki Hostel in Mancora online, it is new and looked good, a bit of a party place but I didn't really care, it had WIFI was on the beach and free coffee, I am such a whore for the gratis caffeine. Little did I know what I was getting myself into, champagne backpackers. The kind that have suite cases with wheels and they have truck loads of makeup, blow dryers and they dress up for dinner, a new outfit every night the smell of Axe wafting through the halls. Totally not my kind of place and the average age was about 23, but the people watching was great. Unfortunately by the time I figured it out it was too late, I had committed to 5 nights, lesson learned. It was clean, there was a pool and the staff and the guys that run the place were very nice. It is like a Club Med or Sandals for backpackers, lots of organized fun, again not my thing but the kids seemed to like it. That being said I need to mock.. A different bikini every day, really? At a beach town but never leave the side of the pool? Huge suite cases with wheels, and some of them were guys. These people wouldn't know a chicken bus if it ran them over. Okay I feel superior now. If you are not the type of person described above then the Loki is not for you. There are 2 other hostels on either side that are 1/2 the price both looked very nice.

There are lots of street stands for artisans, I bought a few things from the artisans and the prices were reasonable, I didn't even try to bargain for a better price.

I did meet some artisanos and hung out with them, more my kind of people, got to love anyone who juggles fire. Mancora is a nice town , they are doing some major renovations on the waterfront so at the moment it is not looking so good but give it a few months and it will probably be beautiful. They do have an issue with trash, as in they just toss it where ever they want so the beach would be much better if they stopped doing that. The locals at the stores, artisano stands and restaurants are great, very nice people.

The town does attract some bad people, lots of the folks on the beach are looking for anyway to scam the tourists. I got nailed, a local surf instructor that I had talked to in passing for a few days sat down at my table on the beach, I was having a beer. He helped himself to it, there wasn't much left in the bottle so I didn't really care. He left and came back with a couple of more bottles and told me he bought them. Turns out he didn't he put them on my tab so surprise when I went to pay and he was gone. Live and learn. Next up the mototaxi dudes, they quote you a price that is double what the locals pay which I am okay with. I don't expect to pay the same as they do, why should the fact that they have tourists drive up their cost of living? Most of them don't make much money so for me $.50 doesn't make much difference. But when they go to drop you off they want to charge more money. I had heard about this from other tourists so I made sure I had exact change if I need to take a mototaxi. I only took 2 my whole time there and both times they tried it. I handed them the amount we agreed on when I got in and just got out and walked away. It is really not worth arguing with them, you would be there for hours. This only works if you have exact change, if you need change from them you are screwed.

I rented a surf board from the Loki surf shop, the reception folks told me it was $10 Soles for 1/2 a day, they charged me $10 Soles for 2 hours and I am pretty sure he just pocketed the money, I didn't fill in any paperwork. Mancora is know for it's surfing not that it would make any difference in my world, I am not good enough to know the difference but I did notice there is only the 1 break and it is very crowded. I've since talked to a few real surfers and they said unless you are out there at 5am not much point in going as it gets too crowded and you can't catch many waves.

The other bad experience was my bus out of town. I got a ticket from an agency the day before I was leaving for a night bus that left at 9:30pm. At 8pm (an hour 1/2 before my bus was to leave), I stopped by the bus depot to drop off my large backpack so I could go to the store and get some bus munchie food. There were 2 women there, neither of which sold me the ticket, they get all confused and check my ticket (which is actually a receipt) and then one runs out and comes back 15 minutes later. Turns out they forgot to buy my ticket from the bus company, but they assured me that everything was fine. The ticket that I paid for was for a semi-cama (reclining seat), this is not what I got, I got the back of the bus where the seats do not recline but by the time I got to my seat the bus was already on its way. So I got 9 hours of sitting up totally straight with the person in front of me's seat in my lap, oh and no bathroom. Screw ups happen but these evil people sat and smiled and joked with me the whole time they knew they were screwing me over. Not an offer of this is the only seat do you want it or would you like to take another bus? No offer of any kind of refund.. So don't buy bus tickets from the agency across the street from the church in the green & white building, they are bad bad people.
The bus I thought I was getting. Not to be

All in all I did not like Mancora, the scummy element was too much for me. I don't want to treat locals like they are going to rip me off and I don't want to be mean to people. Basically I don't want to be the kind of person you have to be to not get ripped off in that town, it's like you have a target on your back and everyone has an ulterior motive for talking to you. If you want a beach town I am in Huanchaco and although touristy there does not seem to be the same scammer feel to it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Banos Ecuador

Currency - US $'s
Bus Quito to Banos - $3.50
Hostel Banos - $8.50 per night

The South bus terminal (Quitombe) in Quito is very nice. The Trolebus drops you right off at the terminal (it is the last stop on the line), you walk over to the building, up the ramp to the 2nd floor where all the tickets are sold. The ticket offices are grouped together so all the companies that sell tickets to Banos are in one area and they all yell out their destinations so it is hard to miss. Unlike Colombia the bus companies in Ecuador post their routes and the times, a much better system. There are tons of companies that go to Banos, a bus leaves pretty much every hour and they are all about the same price so just check and see which one is leaving 1st an buy a ticket. I caught the 4pm bus, but I would recommend catching an earlier one if you can (I couldn't as I had a Spanish lesson that day), the ride takes about 4 hours you don't have to change buses but they do stop alot to pick up people.

The bus routes take you through the avenue of volcanoes, I have never seen anything like it, truly a spectacular sight. I have no pictures as I have found that trying to take pictures from a bus doing 90km around corners rarely turn out so I didn't even try, just sat back and enjoyed the view, Ecuador has a lot of volcanoes. I did miss out on some of the scenery as it gets dark at 6pm, not a problem I got to see it when I left Banos and the night version was pretty nice, volcanoes and stars a pretty good show.

Banos is a very small town nestled in a valley between volcanoes, very pretty and cozy, however one of the volcanoes is very active, Tungurahua Volcano erupted in 1999, 2006 and in 2008. There are signs all over town pointing to evacuation routes should it go again. The signs gave me a giggle and I used one on my facebook profile during my time there, very well done and they are clear and get the point across but kind of funny. After the 1999 eruption the residence of Banos were evacuated and only 1/2 of the them chose to return. From what I could see the town was packed with locals and the smaller villages on the side of the volcano have people living in them so some of them must have changed their minds. Banos is named for the thermal baths that are located there, they are heated by the volcano Tugurahua and the mineral water comes from the river running down it, so not such a bad thing having a live volcano in the hood. In the 4 days that I was there I only got a clear view of it once when I hiked up the mountain across from it, you can see it in the top picture of this post, it is the one in the back behind the town

I had found Hostal Chimenea on and had directions to it so I decided to walk rather than take a cab, it was about a 5 minute walk. The hostel like most in smaller towns in Ecuador is more like a hotel. For $8.50 a night I got my own room with a bathroom and free WIFI. There is a kitchen upstairs that you can use anytime after 11am as it is used as a restaurant and they serve breakfast. The top deck has a great view of the town waterfall La Virgin and I could hear it from in my room. It was a very soothing sound to go to sleep to although I think I made 2 extra bathroom trips during the night because of it.

Banos is a town that is defiantly geared for tourists, tons of shops, markets, and restaurants most of which seem to serve Italian food, pizza, lasagna etc. There are tons of cheap burger and chicken places as well. A local dish in Ecuador is Guinea pig, up until I hit Banos I had not seen any but right by the artisan market just up from the church there are 2 food stalls that serve it. Not something I would ever try, I don't like my food looking at me while I eat it, I can't even do fish if it still has the head on it but I was curious about the preparation. It seems there is very little, take the fur off an roast they look like crispy bald guinea pigs. Feel free to use the pictures to traumatize your children into taking care of their pet guinea pig. Some of the backpackers were giving it a go, much braver folks than I. They also make a kind of toffee there called melcochas, it is made of sugar cane and they pull it off of the door stops of their shops. There is a wooden hook kind of like a coat hook that they wrap it on and pull. I did buy some but haven't tried it yet if I open the package I don't think it will last and there is a lot of it, so guess what everyone I go camping with this summer is going to get to try until it is all gone? No not the guinea pig, the toffee.

I did indulge in the local thermal baths, for about $2.00 (I forgot how much it was but it wasn't over 2) you can soak in any or all of the 3 baths that very in temperature from luke warm to really hot. I gave them all a go and liked the medium one best, it was a cloudy rainy day when I went so a good time to just soak, if I was going to get wet anyway I was going to be warm doing it.

I also went for a couple of hikes, 1 up the mountain across from town and 1 up the ravine leading up to the volcano, both were free. At the start of the trail to the volcano there is a monument made of lava rock. I also hiked up to La Virgen Mirador, after the ravine, there was a trail that said it was 20 minutes up, you can also take the million stairs route up. I was disappointed, all that effort and all that was up there was a statue, if you are really ambitious you can continue hiking another 2.5km to La Virgin waterfall. I wasn't, I had already done about 8km that day. I rented a bicycle one day as well $5,00 for the day and you get a map of the area, lock, air pump and helmet. There is a bike ride you can do that will take you around to all of the waterfalls in the area. The entire route is 60km but I did the 20km one. Most of the route is down hill and the scenery is beautiful, I saw 5 waterfalls. There is some car, truck, bus traffic on the roads and there are tunnels, you only have to go through 1 of them the rest have bike paths to the right of them that you use instead. In most cases if you want to get close up the the falls you will need to do a little hiking, there is also the option at a couple of them of doing the bucket across the ravine, okay not really a bucket more of baskets. As far as I know no one bikes back to Banos, Once you have had enough you find a bus stop on the other side of the road and take the bus back, they put the bike on the roof. I got picked up by a tourist bus, it was going by saw me and stopped, they put my bike on the roof and off we went back to Banos at a cost of $2.00. A lovely trip with a bunch of Ecuadorian tourists who thought it was pretty funny that anyone would want to bike when there is a perfectly good bus to take. Gringo's we are a stupid bunch.

I paid a visit to the local church, Basilica de Nuestra SeƱora de Agua Santa it is right by the hotel I stayed at and has a museum attached. They have some weird pictures there, disasters, car wrecks, horse and buggy accidents etc. All of the people in the events were saved (miracles) by The Virgin of the water, all of the pictures have the story printed under them. From what I could figure out they think the Virgin Mary is the guardian of the waterfall and the town.

I did make it out to a couple of bars while I was there, 1 in particular was different, it is called the Leprechaun, 2 floors and an open air back yard that they have 2 bars and a bonfire in. Very nice slurping girlie blender drinks in front of a fire. If you are there you can't miss it, most of the bars are on 1 street and there is road signage on the street with a little cocktail glass and an arrow pointing the way.

On the way down from my hike down from La Virgin statue I got a view of the town cemetery and I noticed that it looked like a little town. There were streets and the crypts all looked like buildings, there was the nice ones and then there was the apartment building ghetto section. I have never seen a cemetery like it, not that I hang out in them much except on full moons when a sacrifice needs to be made :-)

I met some more nice folks while I was here, a couple of Brit's and a few Germans, one of which owns a hostel in a beach town on the Pacific Coast, I think he is in Manglaralto, Peter if you see this feel free to post info in the comments section. He and his friend Alvin were pretty darned amusing, German humor :-)

At the bus depot on my way out of town I was asked to do a survey on my time in Banos, what I liked, how was my hotel, the people etc.. I totally enjoyed my time in Banos, the people were great, even the tourist agency folks they told me the cheapest and best way to see the sites. They have rafting, bungy etc as well which I passed on but the bike trip was because of the tourist guy, he said not to take the bus tour and bike it instead it was a better trip. One of the cheaper stops I have made on this trip. My one comment to the guy doing the survey was not to sell out to the tourists, I don't think he understood what I meant and my Spanish is not good enough that I could explain it. The town is already pretty touristy, I don't think they need to do anything more to cater to us. Nothing will wreck a perfectly good place like a bunch of tourists.

I have been writing a little more descriptions lately in my blogs as well as putting links to more info. My Aunt and Uncle who are the nicest people I know are printing these off for my Grandfather to read so he does not have access to the links for more info. He is 95 years old and legally blind so it takes him a long time to read these. In the 1930's he rode the rails during the depression and I grew up listening to his stories. Just before I left Panama for Colombia his wife died (my Step Grandmother), they had been together for over 30 years. Rest in peace Roseanne. I hope these stories of my adventures are keeping you entertained Pops, I am not 1/2 as good at story telling as you are. Love You!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Otavalo & Quito Ecuador

Currency: US $'s (some of their own coins, .50, & $1 coins)
Bus Popayan to Ipialses $28.000 - 8 hours
Collectivo Ipialses to Rumichacha $1,000.000 (Colombian) - 10 minutes
Collectivo Ecuador border to Tulcan .75 cents - 1/2 an hour
Bus Tulcan to Otavalo $3.00 -3 hours
Taxi Pan Am Highway to Hostel (Otavalo) $1.50
Bus Otavalo to Quito $2.00
Tolley/Trole Bus From Bus Depot to Hostel (Norte - Carcelen to Old Town Quito) .25 cents

I got up early to leave Popayan, it is recommended that you not take night buses on the Ipialses route due to holdups so I caught the 7am bus out as I wanted to get to Ecuador in 1 day. The bus makes a stop for lunch and I was in Ipialses by 3:15. I had wanted to go to see a really cool church there called Las Laja, however the bus gods were not going to let that happen. There is a luggage check at the bus depot where you can leave your big pack, which I did. The lady there told me the bus for Las Lajas leaves from the bus terminal, my Lonely Planet said the buses run frequently, like every 15 minutes. I figured I could get up to the church and back in 1/2 an hour (it is 7.5kim from town) spend an hour in the church and be on my way. Well I waited for 45 minutes for a bus and no sign of one, I guess as it was towards the end of the day they were probably up there and in most cases they won't leave until they have enough people to cover the costs so hence no buses at the town end. I gave up on that plan as I didn't want to arrive in Otavalo after 10pm and I didn't want to stay in some weird little town in between the border and there so I collected my backpack and caught a collectivo van to the border.

The border crossing was relatively easy once I figured out where the crossing were. The rest of my bus passengers were from Ecuador, I guess they have an agreement with Colombia on not needing to go into immigration so my driver dropped us all of on the Ecuador side, when I asked him where immigration was he pointed at the building across from us. It was Ecuador immigration and I needed Colombian immigration as I needed an exit stamp. Ooops in the country illegally, luckily not a big deal. Colombian immigration is on one side of the bridge, Ecuador immigration on the other so a short walk and I had my exit stamp back over got my entrance stamp and I'm all legal.

The buses in Ecuador are way cheaper than Colombia, I paid .75 cents to get to the bus depot in Tulcan, there was a bus getting ready to leave for Otavalo so paid $3.00 and I was on. The bus did take longer than the advertised 2 1/2 hours due to the many many stops it made and we went through 2 police check points were you have to show your documents/passports and if they feel like it they go through your bags. We lost a couple at one of the check points, a Colombian couple, seems they didn't have their documents. Not sure what happened exactly but there was much excitement on the bus. My bus did not take me into Otavalo, it was going through to Quito so it dropped me on the Pan Am Highway, lots of taxi's waiting there so no problem getting a lift to the hostel.

In Otavalo I stayed at Ricon del viajero hostel, I had my own room with a shared bathroom for $10.00 a night with breakfast included. It is in a great location a few blocks from the bus depot and a few blocks from the main square and markets. Otavalo is know for it's markets, there is the grocery one where you can get any kind of meat, vegetable and fruit you want, including some weird red spiky fruits. There is also an artisan market that is jewelry, hammocks, cloths etc. and a ton of stores that sell them as well. This area is know for it's alpaca clothing however be warned that much of it may not be alpaca but in fact may be synthetic as my amiga V pointed out. I purchased a couple of pull overs at a store and I think I got the real thing, both of them make me itch, synthetics don't usually do that to me, just natural materials so I think I am good, I paid $20.00 for 2 long sleeve pullovers with hoods. So before you go shopping make sure you know what alpaca is suppose to be, I didn't and just lucked out but I should have done some research before venturing out. I also found a used bookstore with English books, it is listed in the Lonely Planet, good thing as I had read the 3 I brought with me and had somehow managed to loose them all so I couldn't do a book exchange @ a hostel I had to buy one.

Unfortunately I did hit this area in the rainy season, there is lots of hiking and things to do in the area however the twice daily downpours (and I mean it really comes down) at noonish and 5ish tend to put a damper on outdoor activities. I didn't stray too far form the hotel when the clouds moved in to ensure I could get back before getting soaked. There was a really cool rainbow the one day, the picture is at the top of this post. It stayed totally bright for over an hour and went over the whole town, sadly I keep meaning to figure out how my panoramic setting works on my camera but to date have not done so. I stayed in Otavalo for 3 nights, it is a nice town and I enjoyed wandering the streets and checking out the shops and markets. I would recommend going during the dry season in order to take advantage of the hiking opportunities in the area. I come from Vancouver so the last thing I want on my travels is rain, I could stay at home for that so off in search of drier pastures for me, on to the capital of Ecuador Quito.

Okay it rains in Quito too, pretty much just as much as Otavalo so puts a cramp in going anywhere far away from the home base. My bus dropped me at the Norte bus station, there are 2 bus depots the north for buses coming and going from Northern points and the South terminal (Quitumbe) for buses coming and going from the southern routes. I grabbed a bus to the trolley bus, it runs about every 15 minutes and drops you at the airport where the trolley is. The trolley runs all the way through the city from North to South in a designated lane so traffic really isn't an issue. it costs .25 cents to get from one end of the city to the other. It gets pretty packed and people don't get out of your way if you need to get off so you need to do some pushing and shoving to make it out. My stop was about 15 down the line, found it with no problem and got to the Secret Garden Hostel without getting lost. The cost is $8.50 a night + 12% tax for a dorm room with 6 beds, there is no kitchen but they serve breakfast for $2.80 and diners range from $3.50 to $4.80, the food is really good and there is a lot of it. There is free coffee, tea, water and WiFI and best of all they have hot water in the showers. The hostel has an awesome balcony on the top level with a view of old town and the mountains, it is partially covered so even in the rain you can sit up there and admire the view. Old Quito is very beautiful and with the backdrop of the mountains/volcanoes it is one of the nicer views I have seen on my travels.

A word of warning, there are lockers in the dorms, use them a couple of people had money stolen out of there packs while I was here to the tune of over $200.00, it was not the staff it was some slimy piece of shit backpacker who probably ran out of money and should have gone home months ago. Funny, people on the road think that one of their own would never steal from them and sort of as a show of trust lots of them don't use lockers and leave their cash in their bags. News flash folks not everyone who travels is nice, in a perfect world they would be but in the real world not so much.

Old town Quito is awesome, lots of old buildings and tons of twisty streets, a great place to get lost for an afternoon. There are tons of churches some of which come with nuns. The really devoted kind, they only get to talk and watch TV for an hour a day, ran into a few on the street, I think they are in league with the Colombian nuns in the plot to get me. Despite my paranoia I did go visit a few churches and the convent, the art work and craftsman ship in these things amazes me. On Sundays in a lot of the city they close the roads down to cars and everyone is encouraged to ride bicycles. In old town due to the hills there were not many takers but in Mariscal tons of locals were peddling down what are normally very busy roads. I found they do this in a lot of Latin American cities, including Mexico City, perhaps us North Americans should give it a go. We talk a good game when it comes to the environment and health time to show it folks.

A lot of the hostels in Quito are in the new area of town Mariscal but I really prefer staying in the old sections of towns if I can do it and this hostel was in old town. Great location, I could pretty much walk to everything including Mariscal. Due to the rain I stuck pretty close to the hostel, I did explore old town and Mariscal but I did not venture out of the city to the surrounding areas nor did I choose to do any hikes. There are a ton of churches in old town, a market and some really old buildings. I did take a walk to new town on Sunday and there was a market in the park and an artisano market a little up the street. There seemed to be more restaurants & bars geared to backpackers but the buildings were not as nice and the whole feel of the place was a little ghetto like.

To be honest I have had more than enough rain, I signed up for 10 hours of Spanish courses otherwise I would have booked it out of here after day 2. On the upside the Spanish course is going pretty well, I seem to be getting better at it so perhaps the rain factor is making me study more. The class is 1 on 1 for 2 hours a day, I set it up through the hostel and the cost was 10 hours for $70.00, the teacher comes to the hostel and lessons are on the top terrace Tomorrow is my last class and we have a field trip, we are going to go to the market so I am looking forward to it. I am going to get bus food as right after the lesson I am heading out of Quito to a town called Banos. It is located right below an active volcano and they have hot springs.. Warm at last and if not I just won't get out of the hot springs until it is time to head to the Pacific coast of Peru.

I did meet lots of nice folks at the hostel and I got some great travel tips on Peru, my Spanish has improved marginally and I enjoyed my time in Quito. On my way out of town I again caught the trolebus for .25 cents, the C4 going South which dropped me off right at the Quitumbe bus station which is it's last stop. Love the transit in this city.