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The Epic Jungle, The High Andes In Ecuador

After leaving our hostel in Salvador at 1 pm and arriving in Quito at 2 pm the following day after four flights, we made it. Yes, 25 hours in transit, landing at altitude, and we felt knacked. This journey involved flying from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro, flying from Rio to Buenos Aires and landing there at 1 am. Our next flight was supposed to leave at 6 am for Guayaquil and then onto Quito. This itinerary was not our fault. We booked through Webjet, who foiled our first itinerary and then failed a second time. They compensated us for the 3rd itinerary, 25 hours of transit hell and cost about $AUD200 more than the original itinerary. This journey soon eventuated into our worst 25 hours in transit.

When landing at the Buenos Aires airport at 1 am; Our first task was to track down some drinking water before finding a makeshift bed. We were really in for it. We exchanged some Brasilian Reals for some Argentinian Pesos. We then pushed a coin into the first drink machine to have the drink fall and break the door rendering our drink safe from our consumption. After battling with the drink machine with a security guard's help, we moved on to find every other drink dispenser broken.

View of Quito from a spire of Basílica del Voto Nacional - Ecuador
View of Quito from a spire of Basílica del Voto Nacional - Ecuador

We found an information desk and told them the story. Who kindly gave us a token for another drink machine. Bronnie went off in pursuit of this machine as I watched our luggage. Soon after she had left looking confident, she was already on her way back, looking frustrated. My heart sank. "Aggggh, the machine ate the token and didn't do anything", said Bronnie. We went to the information desk and told our story. In the end, we bought some water from a cafe after changing more money because of the extravagant prices they were charging. It was now close to 3 am when we gave up looking for a comfy bed and settled for a metal bench seat with mettle arm wrests. Half sleeping on high alert isn't fun.

View of Quito from a spire of Basílica del Voto Nacional - Ecuador

Our new Ecuadorian mother, Marianna, picked us up from the airport in Quito and drove us to our new home for the next month.

We had started a 2-week course of Espanol and stayed with Pepi and Marianna as our host parents and family. These two weeks quickly turned into three weeks. The deal was that by living with Pepi and Marianna that we could soak ourselves in Espanol. We ate a healthy three meals a day, our room cleaned daily, and our washing occasionally collected and processed. Bronnie and I were most pleased not to think about a thing except what we had learnt that day.

The first weekend we were in Quito; On Saturday, Pepi and Marianna took us to Old Town to show us some sights, including old buildings and old churches. On Sunday, we travelled to the middle of the world and the Pululahua Crater.

After a week of learning Espanol, we were looking forward to the weekend. We used this weekend to travel to Baños. A place to see beautiful scenery, relax in hot pools that looked very similar to sewerage treatment ponds. And see waterfalls. We fear after seeing Foz Do Iguacu that any cascades from then on will be pitiful. Nonetheless, there are plenty of activities to do and an active volcano nearby.

Each day after school, we would discover new parts of this beautiful city and explore for hours more.

The weekend before our last week of Espanol, we travelled up the Teleférico; we then trekked up Rucu Pichincha to the top. Without choice, we turned around close to the summit because of heavy rain and low vision. Because of the altitude, it took us 3hours to where we were, and it took us 1 hour to return. It is a feeling to experience when struggling to breathe and move on a climb and then running on the descent.

Barbecued cuy in Selva Alegre - Ecuador
Barbecued cuy in Selva Alegre - Ecuador

The same weekend as the Teleférico, we ventured to Selva Alegre on 'The Bus of Death.' Dubbed this because we nearly flew through the front window if it wasn't for the seat beside the driver stopping us, for which we hit after catapulting through the air. On our return from Selva Alegre, we joked about catching the same bus only for it to be the same bus with plenty more excitement for the trip home. Our main objective for visiting the town Selva Alegre is to quench our lust to try cuy. Cuy being the guinea pig. We hopped off the bus in this town when we saw the street lined with cuy barbeques, which are little guinea pigs on wooden stakes for barbequing—quite a rich taste and a site to be seen. The hardest part of eating cuy was finding the meat with your teeth and hands through all the tiny bones.

When we first sat down to eat cuy, Bronnie looked at me and said, "Ollie, can you please turn the head of your cuy away. I can't bear to eat mine with yours staring up at me." I turned to Bronnie and said, "Why? You're the one chewing on the head back of the head." Bronnie then turned to me, laughed and said, "Sure, I am." This moment is when Bronnie placed her cuy down on her plate upside down and could make out the narrow jawline and tiny teeth she had been precariously close to chewing on. The neck muscle is about the most significant part of a cuy to eat.

Cuy in Selva Alegre - Ecuador

Before embarking on our journey to the Amazon Jungle, we ventured to Cotopaxi, one of the world's highest active volcanoes. We walked to the glacier, and at 5000 metres, we were thankful that we couldn't go any further. On the way down, we rode some bikes cross country, which was easy going.

Our next adventure took us into the Cuyabeno Nature Reserve, part of the vast Amazon basin. After doing a bit of research in Quito, we found a fantastic four-day tour with Guacamayo Ecolodge. We ventured 10 hours from Quito to a small and ugly looking town, jumped in a minivan and drove 2 hours even further into the sticks before jumping into a small motorised boat that would take us another 2 hours deeper into the jungle. We typically are not fond of any tour and would instead go at it ourselves. In saying that, this tour is a must-do in the Amazon. It is our favourite tour to date. We were lucky enough to have the lodge owner to be our guide, whom we dubbed "Rambo" or "The Ecuadorian Rambo."

We saw many animals, insects and birds. Thankfully I didn't experience anything swimming up my penis and lodging itself there. We went on many jungle walks during light hours and at night. Swam in the river not far from where we had been piranha fishing and cayman spotting. This immersive experience was a surreal feeling being apart of this extraordinary ecosystem. On our 4th and last day here, we decided that it was too good to leave and that we would kick on for another day to enjoy paddling around the river system in a canoe. This decision brought us closer to some friends we met on this trip called Hanne & Jelle, a brilliant couple from Belgium.

There were many giant spiders' stories, and we mean BIG spiders found in the guest's rooms. Surrounded just in the dark with a lot, we mean many angry-sounding wild pigs chomping their teeth. Rambo being a gardener and using a piranha as secateurs. These are just a few bites from the many endless stories, and the feelings for all of them are warm.

We spent another three nights in Quito with our lovely host parents Pepi and Marianna before embarking on our mission for the surf. First, stop on the coast Atacames.

Playing in Cuyabeno (Amazon) - Ecuador

Ollie jumping from a tree and swimming in Cuyabeno Amazon - Ecuador
Ollie jumping from a tree and swimming in Cuyabeno Amazon - Ecuador

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