Last few days in Ecuador

Vilcabamba Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 26 › view all entries
Chimborazo from the roof of the train

Another week, where is time going and what have I been doing! I got the train last Wednesday from Riobamba to Alausi and rode on the roof - it was great. I heard people say that it wasn´t so good but both Tara and I enjoyed it, it was certainly better than travelling south by bus because we went right through the countryside and got to see people going about their business in some really remote places. Riding on the roof was fun too. We got on the roof at 6am but it didn´t leave until 7, we endured an hour of vendors trying to sell us scarves and gloves, although everybody was already wearing them! When we eventually pulled out of Riobamba we had the most amazing view of Volcan Chimborazo, it didn´t look real and sadly my photos don´t do it justice.

The train ride to the Devils Nose
It was really difficult to take pictures from a bumpy train, with little to cling onto! I thought we would get bored of the journey because it was so long but we didn´t (although we had stops, we didn´t actually get off the train until after 1pm) the countryside kept changing and there was plenty to look at and lots of people to wave to. There was a group on the train, who tied lollipops to balloons and threw them to the children in remote areas, so we cashed in on the idea and bought some too. I let Tara do the throwing after I hit one girl on the arm!

After the train journey, we took the bus to Cuenca which took about 4 hours. We were so tired when we arrived that we settled for staying in the worst hostel I´ve been in yet.

It was very dirty and noisy, so we got up and moved immediately the next day. Cuenca is a lovely Colonial city but apart from museums there isn´t a great deal to do there, I could have taken a trip to the nearby National Park but it was an expensive walk. We took a taxi out to a hotel that had a pool and steam room and spent an afternoon relaxing, whilst deciding where to head to next.

Tara has gone to Bolivia and I made the journey south again to Loja. I stayed in Loja for one night and really regret it. I was the only white person in town, the hotel was even worse than the one in Cuenca and I was on my own for the first time in ages. I was planning to take the bus from Loja to Piura in Peru but didn´t want to do it on my own and with no chance of meeting anyone, I decided to head further south to Vilcabamba, which  has turned out to be one of the best places I have stayed in Ecuador.

Aviv and Nafie playing drums
It isn´t completely remote but certainly is a different way of life down here, the town has a small plaza and there are some great walks around here.

As soon as I arrived I felt better. I made friends with an Israeli girl, Aviv, who had just done the journey in the opposite direction and said that the border crossing was fairly straightforward, which was reassuring. We went into town in the afternoon because they were celebrating something or other, with stalls and music. I met a clown and his wife who is obsessed by Sinead O´Connor, both her and her 4 year old daughter have their heads shaved and she even performed a Sinead song, its so surreal! Lovely people though.

Yesterday I went on a walk with Aviv and a local guy called Nafie. He took us on a trail just outside of the National Park Podocarpus, named after the tree, which went along a river. We learnt alot about Ecuadorian  life and the plants. It was great to see people passing on horseback and driving mules up the hillside laiden with stuff. Our friend/guide, Nafie, kept stopping to pick some fruit, we had maracuya and something else which tasted like roses! He even brought along the coffee, which he grows at home and the biscuits. We are trying to convince him to become a tour guide because he is so good at it. He also took us to a stall which sold the juice of sugar cane, I was a bit dubious at first because it was a very green colour with bits in it and I heard that they have a drink round here which is hallucenagenic. Despite the colour the sugar cane mixed with Lemon was delicious and I checked with him first but its actually cactus juice which makes you hallucenate and have flash backs for years afterwards - he´s never tried it! On the walk we also stopped at a house where a guy was making drums from tree trunks and goat skins to sell at the market, it was really interesting to watch him work and we had a go too but its not as easy as it looks.

The hostel I am staying in here in Vilcabamba is amazing. I am paying the same price, 6 bucks, as I did for the other dumps but I am surrounded by beautiful countyside. The hostel has a dorm with comfy double beds, there is a pool, steam room and games etc, such a contrast. Today is hopefully my last day in Ecuador, I am making a run for the border tomorrow. I feel more confident now that I have spoken to others who have done it but have the added bonus of travelling with a handsome dutch guy I met in the hostel this morning. I am sure that others will get on the bus in Loja too.

So hopefully next time I mail I will be some way down the coast of Northern Peru, I don´t plan to spend much time there but there are a couple of Inca sites that I want to see. I will then need to get on my way to acclimatise in Cusco before doing the Inca Trail. I am also meeting up with Peter and Kate as they will have just completed the trail before I start and it will probably be the last time I see them. 

Boughtonbetty says:
Hi Helen,
Just returned from our China trip (fantastic) and thought I'd catch up with your travels. Wow, haven't you been busy! Thought we'd had a hectic two weeks but it was easy at the side of yours. Hope you reached Peru safely and look forward to reading more of your adventures.
B and T
Posted on: Sep 30, 2006
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Chimborazo from the roof of the tr…
Chimborazo from the roof of the t…
The train ride to the Devils Nose
The train ride to the Devils Nose
Aviv and Nafie playing drums
Aviv and Nafie playing drums
photo by: Riz7