Quito and The End of South America

WP_20170612_12_44_46_RichAuthor: Mariza

13 June

After the initial rocky start, Quito turned out a lovely city. Our new accommodation was great and we enjoyed delicious breakfast in the restaurant below us every morning. We went on a four hour walking tour of the historical centre with a great guide who taught us a lot about the city and the history of Ecuador. We’ve learnt that is the best way to find your feet in a new place.

Over the last few days we saw many beautiful cathedrals (Quito has seven in one street!), visited the presidential palace, visited the Middle of The World museum and had our feet in both the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time.

Quito marked the end of our South American adventure. And what an adventure it has been! Loved it!

We were up at 2 this morning and left our hostel in the back of a truck at 3am. This was organised by our hostess and cost us an arm and a leg. We were piled into the back of a cooler truck and driven to the airport with the one back door open for oxygen. It ended up being mostly exhaust fumes. Maybe a good thing as we needed something for the nerves. Jarik nearly fell out the back when we made a sudden turn. We had a good chuckle about our interesting transportation in the past three months and going in and out of Ecuador on the back of a truck.

We are on our way to Miami now. By plane. Very civilised. Then to Atlanta. This is going to be a long day! But the reward at the end of it will be more than worth it. America here we come!

– Mariza –

Horror introduction to Quito

Author: Mariza

11 June

After two hours by motorised canoe and another two hours by bus, we were back in Lago Agrio. We only just made the 2pm bus to Quito. No time to buy food and hardly enough time to go to the bathroom. Six hours and only two quick toilet stops later, we were in Quito. Starving and exhausted and without accommodation. While we were on the bus, the owners of the apartment we had a confirmed booking for, decided it was inconvenient to come into the city and simply cancelled our booking. Nice! We managed to find a 10 out of 10 rated apartment in the historical part of the city on bookings.com, a little over our budget, but oh well.

The taxi driver nearly killed us on route from the bus terminal to this “great place”. And then… we get dropped off in a dark alley in front of a dodgy building. We ring the bell and the small iron door buzzes open. We climb through the small opening to find an ugly passage leading to a dirty staircase. On the second floor we meet an unfriendly man who speaks no English at the reception desk. It takes a long time to establish that we have a booking in a part of the building he has no keys for. He phones the owner, who promises to be there in fifteen minutes. More than an hour later, a slick (or is it slimy?) man walks in. Both Eulain and Esto have fallen asleep on a dirty couch. The owner leads us out of the building, onto the street and unlock the doors of a shopping area. He leads us to the back of the building and into our “apartment”. Oh my! We nearly passed out from the smell. Mouldy basement mixed with the overwhelming scent of toilet block (the ones we used to have in the bathrooms in primary school). We say nothing, but we are all in shock. The man promises to open the doors at 7am and lock us into the building. It is very late and we are very tired. Jarik and I “settle” on bunk beds in the kitchen and the kids in the only other room. No hot water in the disgusting shower. Only Kali and I brave it. The rest promise to face it first thing in the morning. We climb into the dirty beds. Our skins crawl and we itch all over. I pray for sleep to rescue me, but it takes a long time, despite my exhaustion.

We could not get out of that place quickly enough. The breakfast, which was included, consisted of one dry bread roll and a small plastic cup of weak, black coffee. We should have known when we saw the sign in reception the night before that reads: “breakfast – one bread only per person”.

We leave our bags there and go in search of a place with wi-fi. Our 10 out of 10 place’s unlimited wi-fi proved to be nonexistent. The first few places we try send us away telling us that there is no wi-fi in this part of the city. We’re not giving up! We stumble upon a lovely restaurant with wi-fi. The breakfast is fantastic and we manage to find an apartment not too far from where we are. After ten minutes the owner emails to say he is out of town, so the apartment is not available. Just before this, one of the friendly ladies at the restaurant tells us that they have accommodation above the restaurant. We all feel this is meant to be, so the email confirms it for us.

We go back to our horror “apartment” to get our backpacks. Hugely relieved to file it away as a bad experience we survived. All of a sudden we feel a lot better about Quito. Bring on the next chapter!

– Mariza –


Baños to The Amazon Jungle

Author: Mariza

11 June

Our time in Baños was really special. We ended up meeting wonderful people and had a great time hanging out with our hostel staff and guests. It’s amazing how every encounter with another person enriches your life and adds to your adventure.

Our journey from Baños to the amazon jungle entailed an overnight bus journey as well as a very memorable stopover in the town of Lago Agrio. We arrived at our accommodation at 6:30am and spent an hour resting in hammocks before devouring a scrumptious breakfast and many cups of strong, black coffee. A quiet day in and around the pool was just what the doctor ordered. Bliss!!
In the afternoon a lovely British family arrived. Mom, dad and a nine year old twin boy and girl. We spent the rest of our day and night chatting and swimming and falling in love with these people.

The next day was the start of our amazon jungle adventure. After breakfast and big goodbye hugs, we got on a bus for our two hour journey to the jungle. At the bridge we enjoyed a lovely lunch before getting into our canoe for a two and a half hour trip to our lodge. What an experience! Incredible, breathtaking, life changing, indescribably wonderful. We saw many different kinds of monkeys, birds and other animals and my personal favourite (to see only!!), an anaconda!
Arriving at our lodge by canoe was such a treat! It is the only way to get there, by the way. The first thing you see is the “resting area”, which is a stunning space consisting of bamboo furniture and colourful hammocks on a wooden plank floor and under a palm branch roof, surrounded by bamboo railings with “BAMBOO LODGE” crafted out of thick pieces of bamboo. Behind and to the side are wooden walkways leading to the kitchen and dining area on the left and the rooms to the right, all in similar style. We have arrived in paradise.


Over the next four days we had the adventure of a lifetime. I had to pinch myself several times. There I was, in the heart of the amazon jungle, with my precious family, experiencing things I never even dreamed of. Wow, wow, wow!!!
Among the highlights were our daily sunset swims in Lake Grande and watching the most spectacular sunrise from a boat in the middle of the lake. I will never forget this. It has topped every experience I’ve ever had.


We also rowed in smaller canoes, searching for pink dolphins and caimans (crocodiles) and went on walks in the jungle and swamps in rubber boots and covered in insect repellent. On our night walk we encountered the mother of all tarantulas. Bigger than a big man’s hand and fat and hairy and everything a tarantula is supposed to be. No other spider will ever scare me again. I’ve experienced the ultimate. Up close and personal. And I didn’t even scream. I wanted to, though!
Bamboo Lodge can host 20 guests. We had it all to ourselves. We had our own personal chef (who produced amazing meals!!) and our own personal guide, Diego, and a captain driving us all over the amazon in a motorised canoe. Both our guide and captain were unbelievably good at spotting animals. We saw two anacondas, nine types of monkeys, the elusive pink dolphin, caiman, many different species of birds, beautiful, brightly coloured butterflies and so much more. Diego went out of his way to ensure we had the best possible experience. And he is VERY knowledgeable. We learnt a ton of things and enjoyed every minute of being with this friendly, warm, wonderful man.

We bumped into our British friends three times. Once in the middle of the lake during our sunset swim (where all the guests from all the lodges gather in canoes every day), once in the jungle and once exploring the river by boat. Every time we all went wild with excitement. We also saw a few other familiar faces from various places across South America. Always such a nice surprise.
We were rather sad to leave the amazon jungle. The kids said we should have stayed longer, but we all knew it would never have been long enough. With very full hearts and the most beautiful, precious memories, we said our sad goodbyes to the place and people we would never forget. The amazon jungle was everything we hoped for and so much more.


Mariza –

Entering Ecuador

Author: Ruzow

We woke up early, to start our trip to Ecuador. We had been staying in Chachapoyas, Peru and had quite a few bus, mini van and motor taxi rides ahead of us before we would reach the border.
After having been on rough, windy mountain roads, with numerous land slides, places where the road had given way to the cliffs and many more hazards, for nine hours, we arrived at the border. We had a late lunch / early dinner, before getting ready to cross the border. After about twenty minutes in customs on the Peruvian side, we were allowed to cross the bridge into Ecuador. In Ecuador, the customs took only about ten minutes. At long last we had arrived.

We walked over to a truck, that had been turned into a people mover, by adding benches. We climbed aboard, securing our bags to our legs, as the truck was crowded and had no sides to keep anything inside, just the benches!!! We had one and a half hours on this thing. About an hour into our ride, Eulain went to sit next to Dad so another man could have a seat. She was still standing on the ground, when the driver started going! She just jumped onto the side and held on, till she could be seated again. That was the only exiting happening of the ride. A while later, we arrived at Zumba, the small village where we were going spend the night, before going to Cuenca the next morning.

   In Zumba, we walked down the small main street for about a minute, then we spotted a hotel. We went in and got two rooms. We were all really tired and straight away got ready for bed. We were ready for a good night’s sleep.

– Ruzow –

My First Real Zipline Experience

Author: Ruzow

2 June 2017

I was very exited as we walked towards the men handing out equipment. The men fitted me into a harness. When we started walking up the metal stairs to the platform, I felt adrenaline surge through my body. I stepped out onto a tiny platform with railing around it. Kali, Mum and I got hooked to the metal line. The gate opened, my eyes closed, nothing happened, I opened my eyes just as … whoosh (video)……….. we had left the platform.

Kali closed her eyes and started screaming from that moment, until her feet touched the ground at the end. Meanwhile, Mum and I were gazing at the river and forest bordering it, drinking in the scenery. It was over within half a minute.

The highlight of my day!!!!!

– Ruzow –

Introduction to Ecuador 

Author: Mariza

3 June 2017

Ecuador, beautiful Ecuador! We have lost our hearts in this gorgeous, green country. Crossing that border from Peru into Ecuador was like driving over the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Worlds apart.

We spent our first night in the town of Zumba in an old fashioned hotel with rock hard beds and dirty linen. We were exhausted from two excruciating days on the road, so we didn’t even care. The shower was lukewarm and flooded the bathroom, but that was fine too. We only spent a few short hours there before hitting the road again, this time busing it to Cuenca.

As the road snaked up and down the green mountains, Jarik and I took turns hanging out the windows to try and capture the beauty surrounding us. As crazy and uncomfortable as these bus rides are, they are totally worth it for the view. If you can manage to keep your head up and not vomit all over the bus or wet your pants as they never stop for bathroom breaks, you actually get a pretty good view of the country. Not that you can capture it on film for sharing with anyone afterwards, though. It’s way too bumpy for that!!

Once again we were the only non-locals on the bus, and once again we were the only ones begging for toilet stops. To be fair, the locals hop on and off in different towns, so quickly the bus never stops moving, but we were there for the entire journey. I marvelled at the poor old ladies, who could hardly walk, being shoved on and off the bus at the speed of light. “Vamos!” and off we go again.

It is winter in Ecuador, and even though it is shorts and t-shirt weather, the locals on the bus wear long sleeves and shouts “frio!!” (cold) when you open a window. You can at most get away with opening that blessed window for thirty short seconds before getting reprimanded. Even when it’s just a slither for some oxygen. First world problems, I know!! But for someone suffering severe motion sickness on the best of rides, this gets a little rough.

We arrived in Cuenca late at night and walked a few kilometres from the bus station to our hostel. The streets close to the town centre where we stayed are lovely and interesting with ornate, colourful buildings. Quiet on weeknights. Tramlines are being constructed in two main roads. That will ad even more charm to this lovely little city.

All six of us absolutely loved Cuenca. We spent three nights in a gorgeous old building with beautiful wooden features and old fashioned pressed ceilings. Stunning, stunning, stunning!!! Breakfast was included, which is a rare treat for us.

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We spent our first day exploring the city and it’s beautiful cathedrals. We found our way into beautiful, old buildings and interesting markets. I seized the opportunity when we stumbled upon a cheap hairdresser/ beauty salon. It took quite a bit of convincing to have my eyebrows tinted. The lady could not for the life of her believe that I wanted my blonde eyebrows dark. I think she’s still in shock.

The next day we had an early start to do a big hike in a nearby national park. The staff at the registration office tried their very best to deter us from doing the longest, most difficult track. That’s the normal reaction to our four young children, so we know exactly how to deal with it by now.

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The walk was spectacular! I loved every minute of it! WP_20170530_11_57_53_Pro (Small)We had it all, clouds, mist rain and a brief moment of sunshine. I discovered my favourite wild flower. It’s called Andean tulips and it is everywhere along that walk. We veered off the path several times only to discover more of these beauties hiding in the grass. I find it amazing that most of these will never be seen and enjoyed by anyone.

We never saw another human being the whole way. We did, however,  cross paths with a bunch of lamas. What a great experience!

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By the time we faced our next bus journey from Cuenca to Baños we could happily have stayed another few days. So far Cuenca has been our favourite city. It keeps getting better and better!

– Mariza

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