I had just come back to Ecuador from Peru.
I checked in the same hostel in Quito as before. Later I set up a meeting with Karla for lunch. It wasn’t that great. She told me she wants to split up because we have to anyway so she just wants to be friends for the last three weeks. Clearly I was a pissed off at the suddenness of the decision, especially since I had thought we would spend awesome three weeks together, but I couldn’t do anything. I had started planning my trip back to Ecuador to live here. I loved the country (and Karla) so much!
Karla had invited me to a familial bbq the day before, so I went to it and stayed over at hers, just as a friend.
Karla got very ill.
I left in the morning to a hostal and worked there the whole day. In the evening, I met Karla and a couple of friends of hers, had a lovely evening, but I felt very awkward treating Karla as only a friend. We said goodbye that day because I told her that I would need to travel a bit (in truth, I was so sad that I just needed time away from her... I had already planned to return back to live in Ecuador for her).
Changed hotel rooms but otherwise was working most of the day. At lunchtime, I met Gonza, the brother of Karla, and we went to buy some computer programs near his University where they are the cheapest. In the night, I forced myself to go out dancing with the people I had met the day before.
During the meeting with Gonza, it turned out that he wanted to go study in France, but hadn’t researched properly the prices of Europe, and especially France where he wants to go studying. After having told him that he will need to work at the same time because his parents would not be able to afford to pay his stay in France, and that it was very unlikely that he would get a studentship that would cover all of his costs, we worked out that he would probably need a work and study visa for France. I had no idea if it was possible to get them both at the same time, so we would have to go the embassy. I had told him therefore that we would meet up the next day in order to go both of us to the French embassy. I looked up in the evening where the Embassy was and when it was open. I determined that it would be in the morning
I met Gonza in the morning near the El Ejido and after some searching we found the embassy, just to be told that apparently visa information is only given out between 12 and 12.30. We agreed to meet up the next day at 12 at the embassy. Gonza could not do it that day because he had to go to a presentation of his computer program to a hospital. It does something to find out another thing.
I just worked the rest of the day at the good hostal “El cafecito”. I had internet there as well as a place to sit so I found this an awesome place to work.
I continued working at the stuff during the morning and then met Gonza at lunchtime. Weirdly enough, I was not allowed to enter the French embassy (they must have thought that I was a hustler, helping the Ecuadorians get Visas against a fee). However, Gonza got the information he wanted: he can indeed get both work and student visas at the same time and they even require more or less the same paperwork. I said goodbye to Gonza and then returned to my working post at the “El cafecito”. I reckoned I didn’t have enough time to travel to the small city of Misahualli (pronounced mi-sa-uayi) that night however I wanted to go in the morning.
In the morning, I travelled with the Trole towards the terminal Quitumbe (round about an hour travel time) and then took a bus to Tena (6 dollars, and guess what! 6 hours).
The journey went through the valley where Papallacta lies, and the valley is absolutely beautiful. High, dry mountains and at the bottom, in the valley (well at nearly 4000 meters height), runs a small stream. It is really a route worth to have a look at.
We then reached the lower reaches of Ecuador and I was greeted by a very familiar sight, actually a sight that I have been living with for almost 6 months. Jungle!
As I was to find out, the Amazon jungle is not all that different from the jungle in Asia. It is really quite interesting at first but after a while, one just takes it for granted that everything is green, overgrown and weedy.
I arrived in Tena which is just a shabby town however I only really saw the bus station. As always, when I asked how to get to Misahualli, the first couple of people had never heard of that town (although it is at barely 30 Km from Tena), the next two gave me superb directions (“Para ya! Para ya!” while waiving in a 180° arc) until I asked the guy who was at the stall to the public toilet who indicated to me that it was indeed in the direction the 180° arc-guy waved out but that the bus was not stopping at the terminal but rather at a private station (well actually, rather the middle of the road) just in front of the bus terminal of Tena.
Encouraged to finally meet someone who does know something, I headed in that direction. I got told that the next bus to Misahualli is going to be leaving in round about 45 min. I therefore had a nice stroll around the couple of market stalls right next to the bus terminal.
After another 45 minutes of bus travel (70 cents), travelling through the jungle countryside sporting huts very similar to Asia, and with everything being similar to Asia, I arrived in Misahualli. To be fair, I didn’t really know what to expect from the jungle in the Amazonian basin but I had thought that it would be in some way different from the jungle I had already met in Asia. At least in some visible, and easily spottable way...
Turns out that it was not like that. It did look very much like any other kind of jungle. I was foolish to expect anything else. At the surface, and to the uninitiated, I guess it is difficult to tell the difference in between the jungles. If I got dropped in the middle of the jungle, I wouldn’t know if I was in Asia or in the Amazonian. Jungle is Jungle...
The town of Misahualli is incredibly touristy. It is one of the touristy station which I don’t mind all too much, however which still go on my nerves: Ecuadorian tourism. Everywhere I looked after I got deposited by the bus at the tiny townsquare were hostals, hotels or tour agencies.
The main attraction of Misahualli was happily toiling around on the main plaza: a group of annoying apes that I could have lived without.
An interesting thing however, that I haven’t seen yet was that it was located next to quite a junction of two quite big jungle rivers. It did look quite beautiful.
A guy in the hostal in Quito had given me an advice of where to stay. Apparently the hostal Sacha, near the beach was one of the cheapest and also one of the best. It turned out he was right.
Another attraction of Misahualli is that it has a beach. It is situated on the “outskirts” of the little town (about 100 meters away from the town) and allows access to one of the rivers. When I went down there at the end of the day at around 5, there were still people bathing in the clear (for a jungle river) waters. As soon as I checked in, I had a walk around the town, which took me the whole of 5 minutes. After that I just sat down and worked.
That day, a Friday, it was actually relatively dry, however I had to sit down and work. During the day, a lot of Ecuadorian tourists arrived and were all on the beach. However, more annoyingly, with them came the monkeys and were jumping around on the terrasse of the hostal were I was sitting and working.
Although they didn’t annoy me at first, I couldn’t leave anything outside because the monkeys would steal it. At one point, I left my sitting place to walk the 4 meters to the other end of the terrace and those awful things unscrewed the cap of my 5 L water bottle and then pushed it over. I was furious and from then on, I had a war going on with them.
During the afternoon, it started to rain and rain hard. I just worked on until the night. In the evening, I went for a bit to one of the two local bars where I met some german-ecuadorianos with whom I spent the night until the whole town shut down at about 10.
During the night, the river had risen quite drastically and covered completely the beach. I was starting to get a bit of fear that the river may damage my computer and other electrical stuff that was inside my bag by entering in the house but the owner reassured me that this was very unlikely to happen.
Although it rained, the whole morning, it really didn’t happen.
I didn’t do anything really interesting again apart from wandering a bit around town and working.
I went out again to the nearby bar where I met a couple of volunteers from nearby Baños who were also here during the weekend.
At night, I had agreed to meet the volunteers the next day to go together to a nearby attraction, a massive tree. I was there on time, however the volunteers didn’t show up. After some time, I lost patience and just started to walk towards the tree. The walk took me along a dirt road to a small town situated at a bridge of one of the rivers of Misahualli. There was really nothing special about the town, just a small jungle town like I have seen a lot of.
However, as soon as I crossed the river I could already see the massive tree. It stood at least ten meters above the other ones. After a few more minutes of walk I arrived at the base of it. It was absolutely gigantesque. Look at the photos for an impression of its true size.
I measured roughly the size of the tree trunk with outlying roots (a feature of really tall trees is that they have outlying roots, hence increasing the area on which they can put their incredible weight.) [Here I had forgotten to put in the measurements that I measured out on that day and now, in 2015, I cannot remember exactly how much it was...]
As I was walking back, it started raining again. As soon as I was back at my hostal it really started to rain... I worked the rest of the day and well into the night.
I left Misahualli in the morning. To be fair, due to the really bad weather and because I had to work, I really didn’t see very much of the whole town but I still didn’t like it very much. The monkeys are really cute, at least that what the tourist find, while they steal, break and annoy all the locals. In the main plaza are people with tamed boa constrictors as well as a little caiman which they let the tourists hold. All in all a very touristy town. I therefore decided to leave that town in favour of Baños, a town which is far more is actually far more touristy. The thing though that I really needed was a change of place as well as WIFI because I needed some stuff from the Internet.
I first took the bus back to Tena and then from there another bus directly to Baños (4 dollars, although I think the guy on the bus cheated me by 1 dollar). Once there, I checked in to the Plantas y Blancos hostal, the same one that I was in the time before when I was in Baños. I arrived quite late in the afternoon and used a bit of the rest of the time to work. In the evening (I had already had dinner beforehand), I went out with two Germans girl as well as three Americans (out of which I didn’t like two) out for dinner. It turned out that we did one of the steps-in-shit that sometimes happen when you choose a random local restaurant: the food was pretty awful...
Afterwards, we still went out to a bar and had a nice conversation. I went to bed at around 10ish.
I wanted to work practically the whole day, however was distracted by talking to the other travellers who were also staying at the hostal. In the end, working in the morning didn’t really work however I worked the whole afternoon.
During the previous night and the morning, as well as the evening, I struck up a friendship with one of the Americans, Karly, as well as one of my roommates, Anja, a German, and in the night we played cards while drinking a beer. I did find out that I can drink the local Ecuadorian beer. In the night, we did have to say goodbye to Anja who was leaving to Guayaquil that night.
I still went out with the other guests of the Hostel (the American girl went to bed) but I soon realised that I didn’t really like them, that I was drunk enough (I had my three beers...) and then I went back home.
In the morning, Karly and me went out to go for a hike up to the viewpoint of the Virgen del Agua Santa were we had a superb view over the whole valley of Baños. As always, I will not describe the view. Have a look at the initial trip to Ecuador where I put up photos of the view.
The walk led us all the way along the mountain on one side of the mountain and took us about 4 hours. It was really relaxing and is counselable to anyone who hasn’t yet seen too many Andean views. For me, having seen so many things, it was beautiful however not that impressive. Karly found it amazing.
Upon coming back, I started working again, however realised that I was nearly finished so I gave up on working until the next week.
I was free to roam the market (my preferate place) of Baños as well as the streets.
I left with Karly at around 11.30 with a bus that went straight to Quito (3, 50 dollars). On the bus, Karly and me met a woman, Sharon, who was also travelling, however was at the end of her travel and was spending money. She said she would take anyway a cab so asked us to negotiate the price for a taxi to the Mariscal and proposed to take us along. For the taxi down to the Mariscal Foch from Quitumbe, we paid 9 dollars (although I could have driven it down to 8 I think, but Sharon was even OK with 9).
I stayed at the usual hostal Veintemilla for 10 dollars. In the evening, I met the superbly dressed and very pretty Karla for a dinner at our (her) preferate Japanese and we had a nice dinner as friends (yes, she only wanted to be friends, although we really liked each other. I have not understood that until now but hey, that’s what she wanted).
We agreed that I would come the next morning to her house to pick her up so that both of us could go to Otavalo together. It was my plan to put a closure to this half-half relationship and stay in Otavalo. I had asked Karla to stay with me in Otavalo and we would turn ourselves loose upon Otavalo on Saturday night (as in go dancing), but she wanted to sleep over that.
Karla had decided the previous week, while I was in Misahualli watching apes having sex, that she wanted to move out of her parents house into the little house that is at the other end of the garden. She wanted to renovate that one so decided not to stay with me in Otavalo. When after some evaluation, I told her I was going to stay and help her, my fate was sealed: I was going to be a painter tomorrow.
So we set off to Otavalo at around 9ish. We bought all my stuff at a lot lower prices than are available in Quito (and I bought myself a lot, I will write a report on what I bought and at what prices later), and Karla was, at first, finding my negotiation technique really rude. I have to agree that by European standards, I do get very rude, however this kind of negotiating is totally normal. The motive is: be as rude as you want (don’t be insulting), tell the seller that his prices are too high, if the price is too high just walk away with “Gracias” thrown over the shoulder, do that to a couple of vendors in order to find out the price. It all really doesn’t matter to the vendors, it is part of their lives and as long as at the end of the day they get their product sold, even though with a much smaller profit than they would make of those people who don’t bargain, they still made a profit and they are happy in that case. Selling something is better at a small profit is better than selling something at no profit. The vendors will simply not sell at a profit that is lower than what they want. At the same time, it is important not to overdue it.
If the vendor does not want to sell at that price, then don’t be rude and walk away. Most of the time, the vendors will anyway come after you and sell at that price which you said (as long as it is not lower than their minimum). Take time!
In the end, I bought so much that I had to buy another bag so that I would be able to carry everything. During all my travels I have tried, and succeeded, too travel with a bag lighter than 6 kilograms (without my useless and troublesome Computer without which I would not have been able to write this travelblog) and lighter 10 kg with a bottle of water. I was always laughing at the people who had massive backpacks with 15 kilo or more. Now I knew I should have pitied them. Adding all the stuff that I had bought, my bag must have weighed in excess of 15 kilos and, my God, I could feel them. I found travelling, in the coming days, awful because of the weight of all those cloths and other stuff that I had bought because Ecuador is so much cheaper than Europe (and Colombia, the last country through which I travel).
Anyway, in the evening, Karla and me took a bus back to Quito, to her parents, watched a film and then went to bed (each one to their own).
In the morning, Karla, the mother and me set off to buy paint. It was a Sunday but everything was still open. Ecuador is really quite religious but religion seems to end here, as well as in other countries, were profit starts, meaning that Sunday is not a free day.
In the end, we bought the paint and went back to hers and started cleaning out the whole place. It was quite some work and especially it was very dusty. The cleaning took us hours.
We then started painting first one coat, then another coat, then ourselves... we had awesome fun.
I stayed in Quito that day because I had to work on that stupid OIA stuff.
At lunchtime, I met Karla for the last time and we bought some sandwiches and went to the Parque Metrocentral (or something like that) were we ate our sandwich. It was very beautiful sitting under the trees and speaking.
The goodbye was obviously not easy.
In the afternoon and evening I continued working.
I sent off my emails to the OIA, and felt very relaxed.
I left to Otavalo that day and checked in to the same hostel as before. I love that hostal (called American International Hospedaje), only a 5er but the hostal is very clean, has very hot showers, tiled rooms etc...
I didn’t do anything that day.
That day, Wednesday, was small market day. The market that day is somewhat bigger than other days, however not as big as on Saturday, when the whole town transforms into a vibrant, colourful market.
I just strolled as good as the whole day through the market and couldn’t resist buying some stuff as well, leaving me really quite short of cash for Colombia...
I woke up at 6 oclock and made myself ready to leave Ecuador. Obviously, forgetful that I am, I had forgotten that I had tried the night before if I could pack all the stuff that I bought the last day in Otavalo in two suitcases, including my jacket. I was looking frantically for that jacket, until after 15 minutes of looking absolutely everywhere, i found it tucked away at the bottom of my backpack.
I took a bus to Ibarra at the bus station (45 cents, 1 hour) and then an onwards bus to the town of Tulcan (2,5 dollars, 3 hours). Once at the terminal I changed my money to Colombiian pesos for 1860 pesos to 1 dollar (as I was to find out, at the frontera the better exchange partners charge only 1880 pesos to 1 dollar) and took another bus to the Parque Ayura (20 cents) from which the camionetas (or micros or busetas or combis, depending on where you are from) leave for the short drive of 10 minutes to the border (75 cents).