Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Puerto Lopez to Banos and Puyo

As some of you know, we will soon be leaving Ecuador because Travelin' Geezers must be travelin'.  We will be travelin' back here in the future, though.  Still much more to see and many friends to visit.

We decided to take another road trip in Ecuador before jetting.  There were two more things I reaaaaaly wanted to see before our next trip - a monkey rescue in Puyo and the Nariz del Diablo train ride.  So, we took a week and drove to each.  We had planned it the week before, but a pipe in our house in Puerto Lopez sprung a leak, so we hung around to get that fixed.  Once we were convinced it was fixed and the concrete walls just needed to dry, we took off.

The drive out to to the monkey rescue was beautiful.  The GPS took us an interesting route.  As we got further and further into the mountains and farther from any towns, the road became a dirt road again.  That wouldn't have been a problem if it hadn't been along the side of a mountain with a steep drop-off on the outside.

Visibility was good, though, and the views were excellent.

Bruce was not happy about the road.  Definitely some tight switchbacks, and the dirt shifted under us reducing traction.  At least there was no asphalt falling away, though sometimes there was barely enough room for our little spark between the side of the mountain and the cliff.  In this picture, the brown squiggle down there is the part of the road we've already passed.

Just as we started seeing pavement, we also turned a curve and saw this breathtaking view of the volcano Chimborazo with it's glacier.

There were lots of abandoned buildings on this mountain, too.

After finding pavement and following the road heading toward Chimborazo, the GPS turned us back off the main road.  Again, lovely scenery.

About 30 km down the road, we came to this:

End of the road.  So, we turned around and went back.  Picked up some folks going to bring their livestock back.  I never expected to fit 4 adults, one baby, and a small dog in the Spark with all of our travelin' stuff packed in, too.  But we did.

We had some pleasant conversation and dropped them off by their animals so they could herd them back home.  I just love the way livestock grazes by the road here - except when they stray out into the road.

We got to Banos just before dark and spent the night at the Hostal Rossy.  Comfortable, clean room with good wi-fi and scalding hot water in the shower.  The water was so hot, I had to turn on some cold, and that's not a common occurrence for me.  Garage across the street for our tiny Geezermobile.

Puyo is a little town in the Orient (Amazon basin), just outside Banos.  We had been to Banos before when our daughter came down to visit two years ago.  Bruce wasn't feeling well during that trip, so Chrissy and I did most of the sightseeing.  This time, Bruce felt good enough to check out the waterfalls, so we did the Ruta de Cascadas and on to Puyo.

There are seven tunnels between Banos and Puyo, and Bruce hates every one.  In most of them, the tunnel walls are left natural with some bracing periodically.  They are vented for the water to come through.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in Banos, but dark and rainy in the tunnels.

Yet another dirt road leads to the Rescate de Monos in Puyo.

In Ecuador, it is illegal to own wild animals.  If they catch you, they confiscate the animal.  If the animal can be released back into the wild, that's what happens. If not, the animal is sent to a zoo or rescue.  Even while at the zoo or rescue, they try to release the animals.  Here, at the Puyo rescue, many of the rescued monkeys roam free and simply stay because they want to.  Only the ones that cannot be released for some reason are kept in pens.  If you happen to come at a time when the released monkeys are close to the pens, they will often come up to you and initiate contact.  That didn't happen to us.  Only two monkeys were by the house, and they were a little shy and standoffish.

It was a lovely enclosure.  The pens, as a general rule, were large and lush.  Some of the smaller pens had mesh tubes that allowed those monkeys to travel all over the place.

In one of these tubes, a family with a baby was playing around.

Daddy didn't seem to be very pleased about our presence.  He followed us all the way to the end of his tube.  Every time we turned to look at him, he showed us how big his teeth were!

I definitely recommend going.  The cost is $3 per person, and you might get lucky and have some monkeys to play with.  They say they are thieves, so be careful about carrying things in your pockets.

After a day of looking at waterfalls and monkeys, you have to eat.  Cuy (guinea pig) is considered a delicacy in the area, and I had to try it.  I was highly underimpressed.  What little meat existed was stringy and kind of tasteless.  The skin was too tough to chew.  I was glad Bruce got a larger than his usually chicken meal, with soup salad and rice.  I have friends who tell me it just wasn't prepared right, but I don't think I'll give it another try.

By the time I got around to booking our train tickets, the day I wanted was all booked up, so we had an extra day.  I had done the Swing at the End of the World and the Paillon del Diablo with Chrissy the last time we were here (feel free to view the pix on our Facebook page), but I had not seen the zoos in San Martin, kind of like a suburb of Banos.  So, we decided to check out the zoo.  There are actually two zoos, across the street from each other.  One is exotic animals that have been brought in from other continents.  This zoo has poor recent reviews, talking about the poor enclosures and sores on the lion's face.  The other is animals indigenous to Ecuador.  Not being from here myself, the animals indigenous to Ecuador are pretty exotic to me, and I hate seeing animals not held well.  I also don't want to contribute to their poor treatment.  So, we opted for the Ecuador animal zoo.  It was awesome.

The first major enclosure we saw was the Andean condor.  I have seen many condor enclosures, and always wondered why they don't want to let these awesome birds fly.  There is NEVER enough room for them to spread their wings and fly.  All I have ever seen captive condors do is sit on a perch or walk/hop over/down to food they are given.  Maybe a short little stint back up to the perch.  Not so at this zoo.  They have a large gorge walled off on two sides, retaining walls on the top of the gorge, and fencing over the top.  This enclosure is DA BOMB! The birds had plenty of room to hide from people if they were feeling a bit shy, to jump around and play with each other.  While watching one hop around from rock to rock, I turned on the movie function to film the other who had been mimicking him.  Instead of hopping, this bird turned and flew in my direction.  It is AWESOME to watch this bird fly!

Almost all of the enclosures were in good shape.  Some of the monkey enclosures could have used more grass instead of concrete, but they did have lots of enrichment activities, and the animals all looked healthy.  Like most Ecuadorean zoos, the emphasis is on care of the animal, not providing the public with good photo ops, so most of my photos are through wire mesh and aren't very good.  The zoo is built on the side of a mountain, though.  So we got our exercise for the week and then some.  Plus, some awesome shots of the Rio Pastaza and a bear hug!

It's getting late, and I still have lots to talk about on this trip, so I'm going to split this post in half.  Sleep well, and maybe I'll get you to Alausi and on the tren Nariz del Diablo in the next couple of days.  It is an amazing ride!

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