Pic of the day no.7 – volcano cloud

when we saw this cloud formation today, we joked that it looked like Tungurahua was erupting…imagine our surprise when we learned it actually was!

It seems there have been 5 explosions at Tungurahua today, the initial one sending a 2km plume of smoke into the sky.


Just as well we’re heading to Guayaquil tomorrow!


Our hostal in Quito – Colonial House

We´ve left Quito now but thought we´d give a shout-out to the first hostal we have stayed at, Colonial House, in the San Blas barrio of Quito.

We were welcomed by one of the volunteer staff, Pete, on our arrival, who along with the other vols was helpful & friendly. The hostal is owned & managed by an unassuming Ecudorian woman.

The hostal location provides easy walking access to the historic old town (5 to 10 minutes), the not-so-new-at-all tourist district of Mariscal (20 to 30 minutes), as well as a choice of public transport, a local market, plenty of shops and cafes, and much more.

P1000126The hostal occupies an old house reputed to be about 200 years old – like many Quito houses it shows signs of having been added to and/or adaped over time. The house is brightly painted internally, mainly wooden, with a fair bit of art on the walls and a few murals – in some ways it reminded us of a better West Berlin squat in the 1980´s. So Colonial House is 3 storeys tall with a large rear back addition. This creates space for 13 rooms all holding at least a double bed, and many several beds. In addition there are 2 communal kitchens, communal dining areas, a lounge with tv, and a chilled & shaded garden featuring two busy rabbits.

P1000129We paid $25 per night (£16.50) for a double room with bathroom. We usually had their excellent breakfast for $3.50 each – fruit salad-yoghurt-granola, juice, coffee or tea, bread/croissants with butter & jam, and scrambled eggs. In addition there was plentiful free tea, real coffee & good drinking water; decent wi-fi, 2 pc terminals and a printer, and beers to buy in a fridge.

As our first place to stay this was ideal. There was a real mix of international guests of all ages, who were all pretty friendly and sharing info. Leaving there we felt pretty set up for the next step of our trip. Cheers to Colonial House! More info/booking at http://www.colonialhousequito.com

Lastly a pat on the back for CarpeDM tours, who ran a great free walking tour of Quito, and the day tour we took to Otavalo ($25), check them out if you are in town. More info at http://www.carpedm.ca/tours

Pic of the day no 6

We have made it to Banos de Agua Santa! At an altitude of ‘only’ 1820 metres, we can breathe a little easier after Quito’s height of 2800. This small waterfall, visible from our hostel, is only a ten minute walk away. It feeds the thermal baths of ‘La Virgen’. Tomorrow we hope to hike up one of the many hills surrounding this beautiful town after having a morning soak in a thermal bath heated by Volcan Tungurahua.

Pic of the day no. 5

Street food in Quito-this particular portable grill had been temporarily abandoned by its operator so we took a quick cheeky photo. The combined smell of grilled bananas and corn is gorgeous! We haven’t had the courage/confidence to buy any street food, for fear of falling ill, but it is so tempting. There is such a variety of street food cooked on a range of equipment, including a frequently seen combination of a large white bucket with stainless steel bowl on top (often cooking potatoes)… We’ve yet to figure out what fuel is actually being used…
Quito is filled with street vendors, mostly selling food, but also nail clippers, incense, coca candy, even mops. It seems fair to say that many street vendors (most of whom are women) are working hard to get some much needed cash in a city where economic disparity is pretty blatant. The sound of street vendors calling out prices (usually only one dollar), mixed with car horns and police traffic whistles, will ring in our ears for some time after we leave this amazing city.

Pic of the day no.4

We’ve taken to spending late afternoons in the garden of the hostel and this beautiful hummingbird has made an appearance each afternoon. It has an amazing call: if you’ve seen Pan’s Labyrinth, just think of the noises the faeries make and you won’t be far off…
The hummingbird appears to be a hugely significant symbol here in Ecuador, not only for indigenous peoples: we’ve seen the bird in several murals and even a church that is built to look like the most giant hummingbird ever!
We haven’t seen much wildlife since coming to Ecuador, though we saw chicks painted blue, green & purple at the Otavalo animal market yesterday (the whole event was an animal rights nightmare!)…as we move to a lower altitude in a couple of days, we hope to see more.

Pic of the day no.3

IMG_20140125_205137We saw this enormous wall mural at the entrance to a barrio (neighbourhood) outside the centre of Otavalo on 25 January. We took a day trip to Otavalo, an interesting town famous for its markets – animals (bit of a shocker for any animal rights people that one), local food produce, and above all arts and crafts produced by local indigenous communities that are stunningly colourful and beautifully made.

Otavalo is around 2+ hours north of Quito in the northern sierra of the Ecuadorian Andes. We now understand why coach journeys of just a few hundred kilometres in the Andes can take many many hours – plenty of steep climbs on narrow roads ranging from 2500 to 4000m high. The breathtaking views are worth the journey though!

IMG_20140125_204431This mural, and the small pic here, was one of many excellent pieces of street art/graffiti around the town, many of them with a political, social and/or cultural message. (If we can sort out some ongoing techie problems we will put more up!). We would recommend a trip to Otavalo, and make sure you explore beyond the markets as there is so much to see. It was also interesting to note that the population here was less Spanish and much more dominated by local indigenous people and their native culture and history.