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Nikki and Andy :-)

View South America on Ford and Bates's travel map.

Apologies all for the delay in posting- internet has been so on and off throughout Peru and Bolivia..... but will be worth the wait :-) More pics as Brazil internet is great.

Hooray Nikki and Andy arrive.......

Day 88- Thursday 30.5.13
Bogota/ Cali/ Quito
Pack Up and head to the airport. We have connection in Cali as no LAN flight seems to fly direct to Quito. All OK, check in, go through security. We check our bags all the way through.
We head to the gate and then sit there for over an hour as there is no plane docked for us to board. Over an hour later we finally start boarding; luckily we have a lot of time in Cali so our connection should not be a problem. We then get to Cali and look for the connection lane, but we are going from domestic to international so we have to come all the way out of the airport and find the LAN desk to make sure our bags are OK and to change our seats. It all gets a bit confusing. We are at the desk and the lady is saying something we don’t understand in Spanish. She sends us over to the check in desk, where a guy in the queue tries to help us as he speaks a little English, it then transpires that we have to go and pay tax, so we go over to the desk and the lady just stamps a bit of paper and tells us to go back to the original lady we were talking to. All very confusing but gets sorted in the end and our bags are OK as they have been checked through.
Buy a new camera at duty free :-) so for Galapagos there is no fear the old camera will break. Always good to have a spare. 
Arrive in Quito and back at our home from home Aleida’s and wait for Nikki and Andy to arrive. I know they are not getting in until 10.30 or so and then it is an hour drive, I am determined to say hello. I am in my PJ’s drifting off when I hear a ring on the bell. I pop my head out and it is Nikki and Andy, how lovely to see them. We have a quick half an hour chat and then go to bed as they have been up for 24 hours or there about.

Day 89- Friday 31.5.13
Nikki and Andy have brought out a mini laptop and old iPhone brought off eBay so hopefully I will soon be up and running again :-) 
Back in Quito we decide to show Nikki and Andy the sights. We first walk around the Marsicle and take them to our favorite hot chocolate shop.
We then decide to head over to Old town as we have time and if we see it now we can possibly do a trip somewhere for the last 2 days of the holiday. We all jump in a cab to Grande Plaza and show them the sights that we saw about a month ago now. After too many churches we go to a café for some lunch, one that Loll and I had been to previously and we thought was very nice.
Unfortunately for us it turned out to be a wrong decision. As I went to the toilet and left the table, a lady came up and started saying something inaudible in Spanish. She soon left and I arrived back at the table and asked where our rucksac was to use the antibac! It then transpired that she must have had someone with her who as she spoke to Loll, Andy and Nikki that her accomplice swiped the bag. We could not believe it, it was only 30 seconds that neither of us had a hand on the bag. We must have been getting too comfortable.
Andy and Laurence ran outside to see if they could see the lady, who was wearing a very attractive purple shell suit. They could not see anyone and came across 2 policemen. Laurence's now famous catch line said "distracto robbo" and came back to the cafe. Nikki and I had also found some policemen and were waiting for they guys to return. We were then escorted to an office off the old square where we spoke to a policeman who said he had to take us somewhere else. We were all a bit confused but jumped in the police car, and soon realised we were being taken to new town where there was a larger office for tourist police. There we had to give a statement and describe what had been stolen (bag, both our rain jackets, Laurence's Prescription Ray ban sunglasses, a scarf, a small medical kit we carried around and a few other things that were nominal)
At this time Andy decided to draw a picture of the robber, which all set us into a fits of laughter. I am not sure how the tourist police took this, but we found it hilarious.
The tourist police basically said we would not get anything back but the report was for our insurance claim. So fingers crossed they will pay out.

As we were going to the jungle the next day though we then needed to get some new jackets and a bag, we head back to the hostel to get my credit card and have some lunch before we head out for some retail therapy. As we are at the hostel we start realising that there were other things in the bag- Laurence's other pair of prescription sunglasses were also in there. So no sunglasses now, only wearing contacts :-(

It is amazing how few outdoor shops there actually are in Quito, and we knew them quite well after our sleeping bag buying previously. We hunt in all the shops and end up settling for a couple of rain macs. They are not as good as our other ones and we are both feeling a bit down by the whole experience. I then go to pay with my credit card and they ask for passport ID, of course I do not have my passport on me, oh how can this day get any worse! Nikki luckily has a credit card and driving license- to the rescue.
All the day pack rucksacks are either too small or just too expensive, we stumble across the shop where we brought our bargain sleeping bags. They have a great rucksack. Happy all round now. What a day.
We then have a few drinks in the square before we head back to Aleida's for pizza and beers. Laurence is never going to have a dirty martini again, wrong choice on drink!
What a day. So many ups and downs, but don't think we could have got through it so well if Nikki and Andy hadn't been there helping us through. We still managed to laugh a lot although we were very upset. We are going to be extra cautious now!

Day 90- Saturday 1.6.13
Quito/ Lago Agria/ Cuyabeno Reserve
We leave all our electricals at the hostel in Quito after our luck with water we don't want to take any risks. Not had time to sort out phone or laptop. 
Up to get our flight to the jungle. All goes OK and arrive in a tiny airport that has the funniest bag carrousel ever. It is so hot and humid as soon as we step out of the airport. There is a clapped out old bus there to drive us the 2 hours to where we get the Canoe from. We all drift off in the heat and wake up at the entrance of Cuyabeno reserve where we sign in and have to get in a canoe for another 2 hours!
"first time in the canoe"

"first time in the canoe"

"fun times ahead"

"fun times ahead"

What amazing scenery and wildlife we saw just on the way to the lodges. We are all a bit apprehensive getting in to the canoe but that is soon forgotten. We saw Monkeys, Birds , an Anaconda, and some owls. The one thing Andy wanted to see was an Anaconda so first tick off the list. As the canoe is going along there are hundreds of butterflies flying around the canoe and our heads, it seems so magical.
"spot the monkey"

"spot the monkey"

We arrive for a late lunch, meet our guide, Rom, and the rest of the group who we are spending our 4 days with who had arrived the day earlier, Ryan, Jasper and Roy all from Holland, who are out in Quito on internships.
It is hot, hot, hot in the jungle, and we go out for an afternoon on the boat to spot some wildlife and to the lagoon. The scenery is amazing. A total contrast to anything we have seen so far.
We all go for a swim in the middle of the lagoon, what a great way to cool off. We watch the sunset at the lagoon.
"beautiful Amazon sunset"

"beautiful Amazon sunset"

We go for a short night walk round the camp, but don't see much. There is quite a lot of noise and I am sure the animals can hear us a mile off!
We head back to camp where we see the resident caiman. Lurking in the swamp water under our huts.  Not a nice thought that we are going to sleep above it!

Day 91- Sunday 2.6.13
Cuyabeno Reserve
I sort through my day bag, to discover that our snacks gave been eaten by something! I check the bag but can not see anything in it. What I don't understand is that the zip was shut somehow something got in- it is a mystery?? I throw everything out and Nikki puts her snacks into the fridge as Rom suggested on day one, but I didn't hear. 
After breakfast we head off in the canoe again for a morning of animal spotting. It is still really hot and had no rain yet. We then go to a local community to learn how to make yucca bread. We look around an area of the village where they grow the fruit and veg and medicinal plants. Rom picks something and says it helps a lot of different illnesses and asks for a volunteer. Stupidly I say yes and he starts tapping this plant on my hand it is quite prickly and doesn't feel very nice . Then about 5 mins later my hand has had a red allergic reaction, apparently this is meant to happen and it is the plant seeping into your body! Oh well at least it is meant to be doing good! 
"spiky plant"

"spiky plant"

"sore hand :-("

"sore hand :-("

We also learn about a plant that the indigenous use for face painting and get tribal markings drawn on our faces!
We then harvest the yucca from the garden and see how it is prepared, grated, and then cooked. It has nothing else added it is only yucca. Very interesting to see. We all have a taste of it and Andy gets nominated to have a go. He does pretty well.
We then have lunch and we all buy a tribal bracelet and jump back in the canoe for more animal spotting. We see monkeys and birds but not a lot else. It gets a bit frustrating.
We head back to camp for dinner. We walk into our hut and there is a massive tarantula on the curtain! Arghhhhh!!! It is quite ironic really as our hut is called tarantula hut! Ryan comes in to try and catch it but it crawls out the hole in the wall (window) and disappears for now! 
"arghhh- I hope it doesn't stay the night"

"arghhh- I hope it doesn't stay the night"

We then go out in the canoe again, animal spotting and the lagoon, another beautiful sunset.
We are due to do a night walk after dinner, but the rains comes in which we are all quite pleased about. An evening of cards, chatting, drinking and fun!
I have started feeling quite sick here I think because nothing is clean. Our bathroom is just horrible. All a bit much after a couple of days. 

Day 92- Monday 3.6.13
Cuyabeno Reserve
After breakfast we all jump in the canoe for a trip to the other side of the lagoon for a jungle day walk. We have sprayed ourselves with tones of Mozzie spray but just hear them around us all the time, we have hoods up, trying not to touch anything. It is quite a funny sight!
What an interesting walk, I spot the best thing we see a rainbow boa snake. We see spiders and lots of other small creepy crawlies. Rom is telling us all to watch our footing and then totally steps in the mud up to his knee :-) very funny! We all take even more precaution.
We then have to hand paddle all the way back to the lodge, across the lagoon and up the river! It takes ages. We are not very good rowers and keep knocking all the paddles together, half the time it is just Nikki and I rowing.
"row row row your boat"

"row row row your boat"

We stop in the lagoon for a morning swim and then continue on paddling, lunch feels a long way away. It takes ages, Rom keeps saying it is round the next corner but it is not, about 7 corners later we finally see the jetty for the lodge, hooray we made it finally. All feeling very knackered we have lunch and laze in the hammocks till the afternoon activity.
"chillin' out"

"chillin' out"

A new group of people arrive, we all jump in the canoe- it feels a little more precarious with 6 more people in it! 
We sail around in the canoe looking out for animals. What a great afternoon. We spot a sloth (Nikki's most wanted to see) river dolphins (my most wanted to see) lots more monkeys.
"sloth, and it moved for us"

"sloth, and it moved for us"

We then go to the lagoon for another swim. We are kind if over it now and as we are going on a night walk decide not to go in. We watch an amazing sunset and head across the lagoon for our night walk. 
We arrive the other side of the lagoon for a long night walk. We see snakes, spiders and bugs, and a lot of darkness!
Then we all hop back in the canoes for dinner. It is pitch black driving though the rivers in the dark. Wouldn't want to capsize now! 
Another night of drinks, laughter and card games.

Day 93- Tuesday 4.6.13
Cuyabeno Reserve/ Lago Agria/ Quito
We are up early for a morning boat trip at 6 as it is our last morning here. 
Unfortunately we don't see anything. I think we are all over the canoe now and ready to head back to a bit more civilization.
Nikki, Loll and I decide not to have a shower as we have had enough of swamp water showers and we can have a lovely hot one this evening back at Aleida's for the night.
As we pack up after our last breakfast it starts to rain, Oh no we have 2 hours on the canoe going back to the reserve entrance. We hope it stops by the time we set off. No! We all pile in to the canoe in our Samona lodge ponchos feeling cold and wet! After about 10 mins we are done, but have another 2 hours to go. At least we finally get to use our new rain macs!!!
"it rains in the rainforest! we were so lucky it wasn't like this for 4 days"

"it rains in the rainforest! we were so lucky it wasn't like this for 4 days"

We have a different driver who is a bit kamakazie, it feels like the canoe is going to go over a couple of times! We arrive OK to dry land thankfully and have lunch and jump on the bus for another two hours. Our flight is not until this afternoon so we get dropped off in Lago Agria as there is nothing at the airport, for a drink and snack. We drop Ryan, Jasper and Roy at the bus station for their 10 hour Bus journey, say our good-byes to Rom and go and get a drink and a snack. There is not much going on.
Journey back was fine, apart from heavy traffic back in Quito as it was rush hour.
We arrive at Aleida's and get a nasty shock to find out there is no water! There has been an oil spill in the jungle and it has affected the water in the neighborhood we are staying. Oh no, all we wanted was a nice shower after a dirty few days in the jungle :-( we now have to wait til the boat tomorrow! Can't even flush the toilet properly! We have to poor buckets of water down the loo not fun :-(
We get pizza dinner and sort out the next few days after Galapagos and re pack and to bed as we have a very early start. 

Day 94- Wednesday 5.6.13
Quito/ Guyaquil/ Baltra Island/ Santa Cruz Island
Up early at 4.30am and to the airport for the Galapagos
It is all quite confusing, we go to check in but then need to get our bags checked to make sure we are not smuggling anything in! Get them checked and passed and tagged.
Check in finally. Flight is OK with a stop over at Guyaquil.
We arrive to a warm Galapagos. Lovely :-) but have to wait for the rest of the group who are on a later flight. We all jump on to a clapped out old bus heading for the boat. There is a nice American family, an Australian couple, a Dutch couple, 2 Spanish brothers and Milan a Serbian/ American viola player. What a varied group. 
Nikki sees the boats in the harbor and points to the most shabby one and says I hope that is not our one. We get in the dinghies and surprise surprise that is our boat. It looks much better once on board, inside and cabins are great. Pure luxury after jungle basics! We set sail and all jump in the shower as soon as possible. 
There is a lovely lunch set out and we set sail to Black Turtle cove. It is so warm, it is lovely. We all hop in the dinghies and sail into the cove.
"in another boat"

"in another boat"

Seeing loads of wildlife straight away, can't believe it. Turtles/ birds/ stingrays/ pelicans. After a few hours on the dinghies we head back to the main boat.
"turtles in turtle cove"

"turtles in turtle cove"

We all have a chill out and set sail waiting for dinner.
We then sail for a few hours, we all decide to take a sea sickness tablet for safety and all feel OK. 
As we are sailing there are sharks swimming around the boat. Loads of pelicans and fish. Fish/ sharks/ pelicans.
We have a welcome drink and dinner, with lots of fruit which our diet has been lacking so it is lovely.
This place is amazing we have seen so much today if this is anything to go by we will see loads. Very excited about the next few days. 
Early bed as early start. 

Day 95- Thursday 6.6.13
Santiago Island
Early start. Up and breakfast. Ready for a wet landing on the island of Santiago- Puerto Egas.
A wet landing is one where the dinghy goes up to the shore but you have to jump out into the shallow water and walk on to the land. We all manage it OK, but I seem to get half my trousers soaked!
We are the only group on land and walk along the beach and rocks.
We see so many animals , Sealions/ marine iguanas/ crabs/ seals/ turtles/ booby birds/ yellow birds/ blue footed booby birds.
There are hundreds of marine iguanas. Never seen anything like it.
"marine iguana"

"marine iguana"

After a couple of hours walking and spotting things, there were a few other groups who also landed, but it seems very well organized that there are not too many people at any one time. Every boat has it's specific schedule. 
We then get back to the boat to get wet suits on and go snorkeling along the reef. The dingy takes us out and we jump off the side- the water is freezing and the wet suit is not helping much. Amazing underwater scenes. Snorkeling- freezing but amazing lots of fish/ turtles different sea life.
After about half an hour we get out for a well deserved lunch, what a packed Morning.
The afternoon is an expedition to the other side of Santiago - Espumilla beach/ buccaneers cove for a walk. It is another wet landing and we all get on the beach OK but go to the rocks to get our shoes on. Heather, the American kid has her iPhone in a shoe and a big wave comes up and gets it wet. I tell her I have a bag of rice in my bag she can have!  and hand over the bag of rice when we are back on the boat with instructions
The Afternoon walk up hill terrain. We see turtle nests and continue into the foliage of the island. We see a lot of landscape, but on our way back to the beach there are hawks in the trees. Again, amazing!!!! There ends up being about 6 to 8 hawks on the beach at certain spots. They do not seem bothered by us at all and are all just chilling out. 


Again after a few hours in the island we head back to the boat. 
We set sail again and forget to take the sea tablet before, hopefully we will feel OK. We pass a rock called 'priest' rock it apparently looks like a priest, we struggle to see it but at one angle it actually looks like a priest. 
I give Heather the famous bag of rice, at least it goes to another good cause. I certainly don't need it, it didn't save my phone :-( 
Before dinner we have a talk with our guide Williams to tell us what is going to happen the next day. 
We start to feel a bit worse for wear so decide to take a sea sickness tablet after dinner. It helps a lot. 

Day 96- Friday 7.6.13
Bartholomew/ Santiago/ Santa Cruz
We are Up early and before breakfast go penguin spotting. It takes a while, but we spot a few. Back in the boat for Breakfast.
"penguins :-)"

"penguins :-)"

Then we have a dry landing to Walk up Bartholomew island which has walkways and stairs to the top. Every island we have been on has such different landscape. We can see why the Galapagos is a place everyone should see. 
We then have another snorkeling expedition, it feels colder today. But we are hoping to see penguins swim so jump in. Loads of starfish and fish, eels. But no penguins :-(
I have to get out after about 20 mins as I am too cold. 
Have lunch and a chill on the boat. Then another dry landing on a different part of Santiago. We see more penguins as we approach the island in the boat. We are walking on dried lava. It looks like something unreal. Apparently the island next to it looked like this so many years ago. You can see the evolution from one island to the next. The lava is black and just radiating heat. We have about an hour walk on the lava and see where the lava and earth have met. 
"an island"

"an island"

"crazy lava island"

"crazy lava island"

Then there is a snorkeling opportunity for the afternoon, but we are feeling a bit cold now so Andy is the only one brave enough.
We then set sail for about 6 hours. We take a tablet in time today, but it wears off after about 4 hours, 
There is a world cup qualifier on today. Ecuador and Peru. The boys watch but  Nikki and I sit on deck. It gets quite choppy at times and the boat is really swaying. We just long for the dock. 
We finally arrive in Puerto ayero where we are allowed off the boat to explore. There is one main street but apart from that not a lot. A few souvenir shops open but for a Friday night pretty dead. We go for a drink and wait til 11.30 when the dinghy is picking us up.

Day 97- Saturday 8.6.13
Santa Cruz/Baltra/ Guyaquil 
A sad day, we pack up and have breakfast. The group is splitting today. Some people are on an 8 day cruise so they are doing a different thing. The people leaving drive through the island and stop at the twin creators. Again foliage/ landscape is different to any other island we have seen. It is a shame as some people are on an earlier flight than us so we have to get to the airport by 9.30. We feel we don't really have a full morning activity. This is the only negative we have had, and all feel it would be great to have another day, but no :-(
We have decided to stop in Guayaquil for a couple of days so change our flight at the airport. Luckily  we manage to get on the early flight too. 
We arrive in Guayaquil and head to our hostel. 
We chill-out by the pool. It is the first time Loll has been able to look at the computer and download/ update everything that needs doing. So we have a few hours chilling out and sorting stuff out.
We read about the Marcon 2000 a waterfront promenade which is part of the re generation of the area. So we go there for dinner.  We wander up and down trying to find all the restaurants and bars we have read about but there does not seem to be a lot there. We settle on a restaurant we have passed and have dinner. After food we head back to the hostel as it doesn't seem to be a lot happening in Guayaquil.

Day 98- Sunday 9.6.13
Lie in :-) first for ages no schedule, really nice. 
After Breakfast, we have a chilled morning, all sorting out next stages, Nikki and Andy's flight back to Quito, I research buses to Banos as easier to travel from where we are than go back to Quito. Book hostels. Loll sorting computer. And trying to get the iPhone working. It looks however that because it has been jailbroken it will not authorize to my apple account. Oh well :-( no phone for me still!!!! At least the laptop is up and running. 

We Go out for lunch to Cerro Santa Ana one of the few places that seems OK to go to. We climb up the steps of the hill - there are a lot and find a small place open for lunch- it is Sunday there is not a lot open. A very local place with traditional meat, rice, beans for bargain price.
We walk back along waterfront to find tourist info, but it turns out to be only for the train and no info actually for buses. 
We have read about an Artisan market and wander to that, but it is shut. It is so hot we decide to go back to the hostel to chill out and research.
We start to pack and get ourselves sorted for travel day tomorrow. It feels very weird.
We stay local for dinner and Andy has local crab, Loll has mixed ceviche which seems to have baby octopus in it he is not too keen on!
Back to hostel for our last drinks together :-(

Day 99- Monday 10.6.13
Guyaquil/ Banos
Packed up, breakfast, say our goodbyes :-( very sad
I am a total mess today, saying goodbye is really difficult, It has been the best having our mates come out to visit us and we have seen so much in the last 10 days. It will be so weird being on our own again and we now have no plan at all as Nikki and Andy’s trip was the last point of anything organised, really need to get ourselves in order and start sorting out the next stages. I can’t really say goodbye so I jump in the taxi crying.

We head to the Bus terminal, which is a bit hectic to workout. We have read only a few buses go to Banos and some are not good. So are looking out for specific bus company. Some have buses going at night, again don't want to do a night bus in Ecuador as not great either, finally find bus and it goes in about an hour. We get a few bits and bobs for the journey, find somewhere to buy stamps so can finally post postcards we have been carting around and wait for our bus. 
It is a 7-8 hour bus journey and we have read so many horror stories of bags getting stolen we are totally paranoid. We try to take our bags on the main bus, but the driver says no. He puts them in the hold at the back and we hope for the best. No luggage tag given! Every time the bus stops we stick our head out the window to check our bags aren't being taken. There are some very random films on the bus a Kevin Bacon film that is dubbed in Spanish but I can understand the whole story without understanding any of the language, and then a very poor Jennifer Anniston film that has subtitles so I can actually understand it, although it is not really worth understanding as it is such a rubbish film, I can't even remember the name of it.

We arrive in Banos after not much food or water, knackered. But our bags are still there. We get a cab to the hostel that Clara recommended to us. It costs like $1! We had emailed but no proper booking. They have space, great :-) we check in and decide to Book rafting for the next day! 

It has been so great having our friends come out and have an amazing 10 days together. Lots of laughter, a bit of crying, a few arguments along the way (mainly between Loll and I), but most of all having the best time ever. Amazing memories. Love you guys. xxxx

Posted by Ford and Bates 13:37 Archived in Ecuador

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