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ECUADOR | Monday, 1 September 2014 | Views [265]

This is getting a bit boring for you but another country has seen us enter and leave - Equador. The hurry is to get to Cuzco to do the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichuu starting 8/9. We entered Equador at the land border just a few kms from Ipales,colombia. This one we did ourselves and it was no hassle for us. We just got our exit stamp on the Colombian side,walked across a bridge to the Equadorian immmigration,waited in a queue to get our entry stamp and that was it.There seemed to be no customs to go through so we just followed others to catch a mini-bus(collectivo) to the nearest town - Tulcan (about 1/2hr away) to get a bus to Quito. The bus within 30mins of getting to the bus station for a 6 hr trip to Quito.However fate played a different hand. We were travelling along nicely when we hit traffic (like peak hour) about half way there.The bus had the radio on and we knew something had happened but not what exactly it was to cause the delay. So a 6 hour trip turned into 9 hrs before we actually reached the hostel  around 9.15pm. There had been an earthquake in the northern area of Quito(a very big city) and roads etc were closed and diversions in place. Anyway after dumping our bags the hostal showed us a pizza place round the corner that was open til 10pm so raced down there for a pizza. It was midnight before we hit the pillow - a long day. Anyway Quito being big had its good and bad. We were in the Centro Historico area so lots of old buildings/churches to see. Quito is also in a valley with mtns all round. One day we went to the cable car nearby to get up to a lookout on Volcan Pichincha (cold and windy at 4,100m) and then hiked further up for better views.About  2.5 hrs round hike which saw us huffing and puffing a bit with the altitude.Great views of Andean mtns. After coming down from there we stopped off at the Basilica del Voto Nacional where for a fee you could climb on the roof,up to a spire and in a bell tower. It is a traditional gothic style church with vaulted ceilings etc.Has lovely stained glass windows.But walking acroos the top of the vaulted ceiling and up onto a spire was a great experience.Poor Gary had vertigo and had to sit down to look at the view. Also went up a bell tower to the top for great views of the city and thru to Volcan Cotopaxi with its snow capped peak.In the bell tower there was a coffee shop,toilets and souvenir shops - surreal. From Quito we bussed it to Banos - a colder climate in a green valley and peaks all around. There we did a couple of hikes around ,saw nearby Volcan Tungurahua spewing grey clouds as well as rumbling. We also went on tour around all the local waterfalls and even got in a cage to go over a valley to view the waterfall on the other side. The cage zoomed over and back and it was a long way down. Banos was cold at night something we had not experienced for a while. But as we had crossed the equator coming into Quito we were now in tune with Oz's seasons - winter in Equador. After Banos another bus to Cuenca and another hostel in a Centro Historico area. Nice old buildings again and cobblestoned streets. This town has 4 rivers running thru it and had a nice feel about it.  We went to the Las Cajas national park for another 4 hr hike. We had a driver take us up to a lookout at 4,500m. The 50 odd steps up to the lookout took some doing - Altitude again. The driver then dropped us at the start of the hike and we walked down to the agreed meeting point. The walk was thru grasslands with plenty of lagunas.Great mtns views again.Cuenca was also cold at night. After 3 days there,in the bus to Guayaquil just for a stopover to get the overnight bus to Peru. So we didn't really see anything of this city.  However the bus trip there was fantastic. We were heading down to sea level and coming down thru the mtns it was like being in a plane on top of the clouds. At one stage all we could see was fluffy white clouds with mtn peaks poking thru. Next the descent was thru that cloud and we could hardly see in front and the road was twisting and turning all the time. We hoped the driver was very familar with the road and we of course made it safely. Guayaquil was warmer but now in Peru it is colder and so the thermals are coming out. All of them will be on my body during our 4 day/3night hike. Down to low single digit figures. So that's all for now. Next time I'll be able to tell you I survived the Inca Trail

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