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South-america travel


From february to june 2003 travelling around south-america.

  • February: language corse in quito, equador and discovering equador by trekking, excursions, biking
  • March: flight south (terra de fuego)
  • March-June: biking northward along the andes in argentina and chile
  • June: back to europe from santiago on



finally i managed to find some time and moreover an internet-cafe with the possibility of transfering my pics to the web! yeah! So here they come, the newsletters from southamerica.

Just a little remark on the orgnisation of this web-page. On this page, i put,  besides the newsletters, only some thumbnail-images, for people with slow internet access. (Nearly) all my digital pics are stored in subfolders named in function of the theme, all under, quito, banos, pichinchas) , so if you´re interested and have fast internet-access ;-) , you might want to check them out.

Moreover, I'll put the newsletters in inverse chronological order. So you can start reading the newest one without having the old ones to load (and it makes editing easier for me ;-)

So, enough of administrative bla, bla, let's go.

Viernes, 20 de junio 2003

So, this will probably be one of the last newsletters here on this page. But just before flying back home, i could not resist the temptation to put some winter-images on the web for all you back home in that heat you have;-). As i think said, i tested the andinan snow the first season-weekend in Portillo, Chile: perfect powder snow, great weather & nearly no people! it was perfect (pics below or here).

Img 446: Perfect skiing/boarding conditions!

Img 447: This is the view down towards the hotel Portillo.

So, after this very nice bike-break, i cycled down (2500m) to Santiago, where i pass my last couple of days in southamerica (pics below or here). After several month of quiet Patagonia and Cordillera, i still did not get used to this busy town! Somehow i'm looking forward to fly out;-) even though this means the end of my vacations:-(, but it seems that i'm just not made for cities as big as this one...

Img 452: The last morning in 'nature': somewhere below the smog (aeh, mist) is Santiago.

Img 456: And so does it look down here.

Img 457: Evenings in Santiago can be charming too.

Sabato, 14 de junio 2003

Hola again! I finally managed to leave Mendoza for a last bike-loop northwards, throught the province San Juan (pics below or here). Even thought the first couple of days i had to notice that different muscles are used for biking than for wine-tasting, i started enjoying myself again with beautiful weather and only 2 out of 10 days with the wind from the front! However, these two days were though, because there were little events, besides bush-land and an endless road.

Img 361: Mental training: with about 10km/h against the wind - and no end to see...

But after 4 days, the two parks i visited (Valle de la luna and talampaya) were well worth the effort. Only disadvantage: both parks were only to be visitid with guide, which implies unfortunatelly high costs and visiting in a group (which is not always fun...)

Img 376: After 4 days, finally the first hightlight: Parque Ischgualasto (Valle de la Luna).

Img 392: And already the next day parque national Talampaya.

After those two highlights (and an extra 200km north/south - because no road went straight west), my journey started to go south for the first time. It's true: the wind blows mainly from the north, so this part of the trip- to Uspallata, above Mendoza - was quite easy (even thouth it went up and down between 1000 and 2600m a couple of times).

Img 419: On the way back towards Mendoza (i.e. Uspallata) - the morning out of the tent.

From Uspallata on, towards Chile, the weather was not always as nice as before. On the first uphill-day, whilst the pass over to Chile was still closed, i got to Puente del Inca (and all without trucks and buses - remember, pass closed). The morning of the next day: snowstorm and pass still closed. So, perfect weather for thermal bath. As there were no tourist-buses arriving, i enjoyed the old hot springs underneath the natural stone-bridge without 'visitors'.

Img 433: On the way up the path towards Chile: Puente del Inca...

Img 435: ... and i even took a bath in the thermal pools underneath - cool

But, surprise, during the afternoon, although it was still snowing, the pass opened and i could cross over to chile. Up to the tunel at ca. 3200m by bike, throught the tunel in a pickup-truck (just before the pass closed again), down to the Customs in a road-cleaning truck, and finally another 2km by bike on snow to the hotel Portillo, were i stay right now. I decided to switch from bike to snowboard and enjoyed already a nice powder-day (even thought the sun did not (yet) shine;-) We'll see what comes tomorrow! But anyway, in one or two days i'll have to drive down to santiago, to catch my plane back home...

Cheers & see you soon!

Viernes, 30 de mayo 2003

So, after a couple of relax-days in Malargue i continued my trip towards Mendoza, deciding to go for the old routa 40, along the cordillera (pics below or here). Unfortunately, the oilfield-access routes were better than the 'official' route, so that the first day i promptly took the wrong route at a crossing and got some extra uphill and biking hours. Fortunatelly, i finally found some oilfield-workers which could inicate me the right way to go... The weather was so far good, and the views imazing, during 3 days with the cordillera to the left and some kind of pampa to the right.

Img 330: Shortly after Malargue, on the way to Mendoza.

Img 340: Heavy biking on those sandy roads, but with beautiful views!

It's now a little more than one week that i'm in Mendoza and enjoy some life without bike. With some hostel-mates we're still working very hard on tasting the wines of the region... dont know, if we'll make it through all of them, though ;-)

Besides, it's really nice to get some culture after 3 month of nature, and there is a great choice of good music, theaters, ... around here. Since a couple of days we're always postponing the check-out day in the hostal on tomorrow...

Img 345: Mendoza, good music and argentinan folklore.

Img 355: We concluded one week of argentinan wine-tasting in Menoza with a real visit of a winery.

... we'll see, if i finally leave tomorrow for a last little biking-loop north of Mendoza and the Andes-crossing over to Santiago. So far, the weather is nice and the temperatures would be perfect for bicycling!

Martes, 20 de mayo 2003

After a couple of days relaxing (and partying;-) in Bariloche (see here), i started biking again along the very popular bike-route 'los 7 lagos' to San Martin de los Andes. But due to the off-season, i was the only cyclist on the way and had the beautiful campgrounds in the National Park  for me alone. Again, all the region reminded my quite a lots of Switzerland (pics here).

Img 284: Beautiful camping spot along the 7 lagos.

From San Martin fruther north, i (after long reflexion), decided to step over to Chile again - besides the fact, that it was raining again pretty heavily one day (well, the pacific is damn close...), a definitely worthwile decision. The two national parks along the Argentinan-Chilenian border (Lanin & Villarica), with volcanoes, 'strange' trees and a lots of 'remote' nature were very beautiful (pics here and pics here). 

Img 290: The entrance into parque natinoal Lanin.

Img 298: Inbetween Cunco and Paso Pino Hachado, after a heavy uphil.

Img 300: Very cold mornings...brr...

Img 301: ...but above the mist, the view towards Chile from below Paso Pino Hachado was very nice.

Img 310: From infront of my tent, a beautiful sunset, somewhere before ChosMalal.

Back in Argentina, over the 1850m hight Paso Pino Hachado, followed a lonely part throught the pre-cordillera. Cool sceneries, very nice 'rural' people, and (apart the last day...) nice weather made it an unforgettable experience! (pics here)

Inbetween the biking, i had also a rest-day for my back and climbed volcano Tromen, just besides Chos Malal.

Img 318: View from the top of volcano Tromen (4114m)...

Img 320: ...and that's the volcano from below!

Img 323: The farm, where i could sleep one night, even got dinner!

Img 326: Going to sleep under the stars, and this next morning...

So, as you see, winter started here, and i wait here in Malargue for nice weather to drive further to Mendoza (about 4 days of cycling). If it continues like that, i might be able to do some snowboarding or skiing here in the andes, we'll see! 

Hasta luego!

Sabato, 03 de mayo de 2003

So, inbetween Coihaique and San Carlos de Bariloche, where i am right now, i learned to know what the patagonian weather can be other than sunshine... On the chilenian side close to Puerto Aisen (300 raindays/year), my weatherluck was without chance:-( But this is already nearly forgotten with again good weather in one of Argentinas biggest tourist-towns, which could be located in the swiss alps, would there not be the contrast of luxury-boutiques in the center and the slums only a 10 minutes walk away.

But as said, shortly after Coihaique, there was a lots of rain - and thus only some pics (as usual some below or all to get here).

Img 258: In between Coihaique and Futaleufu - there is some rain coming...

However, there have anyway be some highlights, as the amazing 'hanging' glaciar Ventisquero Colgante, located in the Queulat nationalpark. The hike up to the viewpoint went through some kind of 'tropical' forest (called 'cold jungle'), which indicated that the weather is seldomly good in this region...

Img 260: Parque national Queulat: it cleared up for the visit of Glaciar Ventisquillo Colgante...

Img 261: ... but the next two days were bad and it was difficult to enjoy the vegetation.

After 3 raindays, where one day (i just sat around a campground) the only variation in the weather was the passing of a thunderstorm inbetween continuous rain, the weather got again better and i approachted the argentinian border at Futaleufu on a very sunny day. Tip: The region seems to be worth to come back in season for promising rafting!

Img 262: On the way up to the argentinian border (futaleufu) all was nice and dry again.

After a 'bad road' day down to Trevelin (Argentina) i was quite disapointed that absolutely no hostal in this 'touristic' town was open! Me being not in a camping mood at all, i sat again on my bike to go 30 km further to Esquel, to pass the night not exactly in a dream-hotel - but at least is was cheap.

Img 266: The landscape changed quite a bit in argentina (here close to Trevelin).

But my mood and motivation got again better and the cycling through the argentinian national park 'Los Alerces' was very nice, with some beautiful camping-spots. All the region reminded me a lots of back home (see pic. below...)

Img 268: If the cow had a bell, one would think to be back home, no?

After 3 days i arrived finally in El Bolson, a very nice little 'touristic' place, specialised in natural and handmade food, arts, ... They brew a good - even thought expensive - local beer and there are some amazing 'heladerias'. So exactly the right place to stay a couple of days and fill up with new energy. There was good company in the refugio patagonico, where i stayed and i got introduced to 'argentinian eating habits', like: lunch with a cordero patagonico from 4 to 8pm, dinner with pizza at 1 am the next morning, and coffee and 'pan dulce' at 3!

Img 271: View from El Piltriquitron, above Bolson.

So, i went burning some of this new energy on a 2 days hike up to El Piltirquitron and some other peak just above El Bolson. Finally there was just one day paved road to arrive in Bariloche, where, after nearly 2 month of remote south-patagonia, i get gently used again to the 'classical' backpackers atmosphere in the hostal...

Next to come: Ruta de los 7 lagos up to San Martin (and hopefully further towards Mendoza).

Miercoles, 16 de avril de 2003

Again good weather, Moreno glaciar, Fitz Roy, 3 hours pushing the bike uphill through mud, 2 days waiting for the ship crossing over to Chile (with rain...), Tortel with 'pasarelas' and no roads, ca 700km of cyclable and uncyclable gravel road, and now in Coihaique, a 40'000 people town - this the short description of what happened the last three weeks on my side. But lets go one by one...

As said, i stayed a couple of days in El Calafate, including two days of 'active recuperation', 2x80km easy driving to the Moreno Glaciar. Even thought the national park entrance fee of 20 pesos (approx. 10sFr) is very expensive for what you get... a 30 km gravel road (with lots of tour-buses and thus dust), due to off-season all the camping facilities are closed (but at least camping is still possible - and there were only 3 people on the camping with glacier view (!) ... i think it was worth the trip, at least with the perfect weather (see pics below or here ).

Img 220: Perito Moreno Glacier

The next thing was waiting for the ATM machines in town to work, because i run gently out of money, and for the next 700km there would be no bank around... 2 day's more of relaxing did not hurt. But finally i was again full of energy (and had money) for the drive up to El Chalten. Fortunatelly, the weather was still good, but the road was a big mess (10km/h was sometimes the big maximum without being shaken off the bike...) But i got some compensation with a gread camping spot at lago Viedma and perfect views of the mountains around El Chalten (seems to be 'not so normal'). Pics below or here.

Img 225: Camping at Lago Viedma, between El Calafate and El Chalten

Img 228: The approach to El Chalten - sunset with Fitz Roy and co.

A nice Youth Hostal 'Alberge Patagonia' with helpful owner and good restaurant and local brewery just beside waited in el Chalten. It took me a day to repair my bike-rack, which broke again, and to find out that the ship which should bring me over to Villa O'Higgins in Chile and goes every 2 weeks would be "most probably the 7th, possibly already the 6th or maybe the 8th of april". This left me with (possibly) no extra-day to hike around mount fitz roy.

Img 232: Camping place besides the Carabinieros at Lago del Desierto (North of El Chalten).

Img 234: From Lago del Desierto up to the border to Chile was hard work (pushing), but the following downhill was worth it!

So i started quite directly the 'adventerous' border crossing (pics above or here) with 40 km biking with great views, very expensive ship over lago del desierto (but it seems if you walk around it's one day, with a bicycle 2-3 days...), a nigths camping besides the very nice carabineros argentinos, 2 1/2 hours pushing the bike through mud up a pass to the Argentinian-chilenian border, a nice downhil to Lago O'Higgins (i would have prefered doing this without luggage and my full-suspension bike, yeah!), and then the waiting for the ship over to Villa O'Higgins. The ship arrived the 6th and the capitain told us that, in function of the weather, he would go back somewhere inbetween midnight and seven in the morning - he would wake us (me, a canadian couple and two french hikers) up, and let us put together the tent. Finally, we left at 18h30 in the evening (but at least as predicted on the 7th of april)...

After one night in Villa O'Higgins and buying food for the next couple of days, i started the first part of the famous carretera austral northward (Pics below or here). With globally still very nice weather, it was a pleasure to visit the surprising 'pueblo' Caleta Tortel, even thought that day i had very bad luck with my bike - all my spare inner tubes used and already repaired...

Img 242: Caleta Tortel: a little 'pueblo' all on 'pasarelas'.

One other thing: the road quality is very unpredictable. It can go from 'very nice gravel road' with easy 20km/h to nearly uncyclable 5km/h, from slight up-/downhill to very steep (i.e. pushing) within seconds. Sometimes quite heavy for the 'mind'...

Img 245: Carretera Austral towards Cochrane.

Img 253: Was nice, having some paved road for the approach to Coihaique (98km of about 700)..

So it was nice to know that there would be some paved road for the last 100km to Coihaique (it will even continue for the next 100km after!)... but surprise: once the pavement arrived, the first pass as well: from 300m up to 1120m - and this in the late afternoon, ouff! But i was again rewarded with a nice camping-spot just behind the pass - and the downhill the next morning!

So, right now a relax-day in Coihaique, with internet, sleeping, eating, sleeping, eating, bike-service (i've bought new spare-inner tubes...) , again eating ... and planing the next part of carretera austral: up to Futaleufu, then over to Argentina, Trevelin, Esquel, San Carlos de Bariloche, where i should get again some internet-access.

Cheers, and enjoy springtime (here, it's getting colder and colder...)

Viernes, 28 de marzo de 2003

Hola! Que tal? Here on this side of the atlantic quite a lot happened (even though probably of minor 'global' importance compared to what is going on the other side).

As you might remember (else, read below;-), i stayed in Puerto Natales, waiting for better weather and doing a bike-cleaning and service. Doing so, i remarked, that my rear rim was broken. This implied a bus ride to Punta Arenas to get a the wheel fixed. By bus, we passed very close to where i camped a couple of nights before, even thought this time there was a big snow storm and a couple of centimeters of snow lying around (seems that i was lucky with the weather).

Img 188: Southern approach from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine N.P.

Even afterwards, the good weather came, so that i drove of to Torres del Paine Nationalpark. For cyclists, there is an 'unofficial' southern park-entrance, with a adventurous river-crossing - but you avoid paying the park entrance fee + the approach is very nice, in a remote valley, with good views uppon the torres-mountains.

Img 191: Nice weather whilst hiking towards the Valle Frances

In the park, i decided to leave my bike for a while and go for the circuit-trekking. Out of 7 days, 6 were with good weather - which seems to be very seldom. But, from the week before, there was still a lots of mud left - and i somethimes wondered, if it's worth bathing 7 days in the mud just to see some mountains quite similar to what we have back home...But globally, i think it was still worth the effort, and i got to knew a couple of nice people.

Img 205: ... and finally, los torres (sorry, but you have to turn your head;-)

For more pic's of the trip into the park and the trek, go here!

So, two days ago i crossed finally the argentinian border. Argentina greeted me first with some rain and then two days of clouds (but dry) and 'good' wind-conditions, i.e. from the back. This was the reason i drove up to El Calafate in only two days (instead of three or four), where i arrived yesterday, very tired after a 200km day... and after 10 days of pasta or rice with tuna or tomato-sauce, the 'bife argentino' with salad passed perfectly yesterday night!

Next on the program are some days of relax here, including a visit to the Moreno glacier. Hope the weather will stay as it is today - about 15C, sun, nearly no wind... too bad i'm so tired and don't really feel like cycling...

But anyway, i'll get some sun outside - don't want to pass all the day in front of the computer...

Cheers & greets, Thomas

Ps. Would be nice to get some news from you as well ;-)

Domingo, 16 de marzo de 2003

After nearly one week without civilisation, i'm now in Puerto Natales, which is the gateway to the Torres del Paine Nationalpark and has a good infrastructure, including quite fast internet-café's (even though the net gets more and more expensive).

Though, a little more than a week ago, i landed in Punta Arenas, a 150000 peoples town in the south of Chile.

Img 160: Punta Arenas

After a first excursion on my bicycle (but without luggage) to the Pinguine colony at Seno Otway i knew what the weather and roads might be here in Patagonia: the people from the hostal, where i camped in the backyard, said that it would clear up in the afternoon - in fact, the rain just got heavier - and the dirt-road leading to the pinguins was more like a swamp than a road. At least, i had not to pay the entrance fee to see the pinguins - the guard just meant: 'tu eres loco, pasa' ;-)

Img 165: Magellanes Pinguins at Seno Otway

So, after this 'rainy' experience and the following bike-clearing i decided to wait in Punta Arenas for better weather and plan a little bit for the first real trip with luggage. On thuesday, i took then the ferry to Porvenir (2hrs), with Dolphins jumping around the boat, and started cycling along the coast of Tierra del Fuego towards the other ferry at 'tres puentes'.

Img 185: The itinerary for the first biking week: Porvenir, Pali Aike, Puerto Natales

Img 170: Starting in Porvenir, cycling along the cost of Tierra del Fuego...

After about an hour, the frist 'bike-problem'. My lowrider broke - some araldit and tape helped to fix that - and it still holds. With a camp stop in the mittle of nowhere, i got to the National Park 'Pali Aike', where the Guard let me sleep in the Hut and even cooked for me - all for free - this is the advantage of travelling off-season, i think. The very little park consists of some extinct volcanoes to visit and a historical cave. From Pali Aike to Puerto Natales, not much to tell. A lots of pampa, wind, rain, sun, animals, a friendly field-worker, who let me sleep in his hut (even thought it was less impermeable than would have been my tent: result, my sleeping bag got wet and i did not sleep a lots. But again, the guy cooked a good stew and insisted, that i wont use my food i carried along. Moreover, a good spanish-practice (pretty hard, this chilenian spanish...)

Img 179: ... and further through the pampa, with winds of approx. 80km/h, often from the front

So finally i've - tired, but quite happy - arrived here in puerto natales. Again i'm waiting for better weather to continue up northwards into Torres del Paine. Anyway, one or two days of rest won't hurt my legs and my 'ass' (i miss my full suspension bike;-) So far for now. By the way, there are some more pics of this first week (mostly pampa ;-) here.

Cheers, thomas.

Miercoles, 5 de marso de 2003

Hola! As you can see, i also passed well my last week here in equador. I checked out some classical tourist spot's close to quito. Moreover, it was carneval, here, which means to get soaked a couple of times per day...fortunatelly, i got at least only pure water and no eggs or foam like some of my friends;-)

Img 135: Pig's on the way to the Otavalo market.

Last weekend, i spent in Otavalo (pics here), a small town about 2 hours (spectacular) busride norht of Quito. Upon arrival on friday afternoon, i was wondering, what one could possibly do in such a small town. However, saturday morning every street is filled with the market and it was really hard, not to buy anything...

Img 143: Otavalo market: Woman work hard as well.

On sunday, i visited a volcanic laguna - well, for a swiss it's just a mountain lake... but the scenery was nice anyway!

Img 144: Surrounding of Otavalo.

Img 152: The Laguna Cuicocha;volcalic origin.

Finally, the last two day's i left the mountains and went down to about 1000m above see level, into a so called Cloudforest (pics here). Mindo, a little town, lies within this tropical forest and is a paradise for bird watching. Unfortunatelly, the climate in this season is not nearly as nice as it is in quito - i finally know, why this time of the year is calles rain-season...

Img 157: Cloud forest close to Mindo.

Well, so far for the news! Probably, those will get a little bit more rare whilst i'll travel by bicycle through the far south, away from big cities... Anyway, i'll try to keep you up to date as soon as possible about an other part of this great continent.

Jueves, 27 de febrero de 2003

Buonas Dias! ¿Que tal? 
Nearly one week has now passed since i have finished my spanish classes. The three weeks of  school were good and we managed to see nearly all the gramar, so that i should now just start using my spanish - which is not so easy here in Quito. In particular, i'm back at the Centro del Mundo hostal, where english dominates (but the hostal is cheaper than the family). 

I really started to enjoy myself here in equador the last couple of day's. First, me and Kees (the dutch climbing friend) went finally for an acclimatisation hike to Iliniza norte (pics here). 

Img 89: Kees on the way up to Iliniza Norte

Against the indications from the Andinismo club and climbing shop, where i got my equipment from, there was no snow (well, we found a spot just sufficient for a snowball;-)
The hike (with some 'nearly' climb in the last part) from 3900m (up to there we got with Kees's 4WD car) up to the 5126m Iliniza norte) was nice and interesting- even thought the weather was not that great (fog, fog, fog...). However, we got some sun at the top - just for a couple of seconds, but the view above the clouds was great - even though there is no was just a couple of seconds. 

Img 92: Iliniza Norte, 5126m at the top and in the clouds

Oh, just one 'warning' about the climbing equipment rental. I got my boots and harnest from Moggley climbing (it's also a tour operator). Of all the shop's i checked out, this was the only one with realy good (and nearly new) boots for rent and Morgan,  the shopkeeper (a swedish guy married with an equatorian woman), is cool! Here the warning: I was supposed to go to a birthday party that night, but once i got back from Iliniza and brought the equipment back (even without having a shower and food before, to be on time), Morgan proposed a little 'glenfiddich'. All ended three hours and a magnum bottle later with me getting a 'moggley climbing' T-shirt and the possibility to shower in the shop - so that i won't miss my friends birthday party completely...

Last thuesday and wednesday we went then for the first 'real' volcano climb, the Cotopaxi (pics here ). It's supposed to be the highest active volcano in the world with 5897m (thought some sources say this is not true). 
We got up to the refugio at 4800m on thuesday afternoon by 4WD,  equiped with climbing gear and ski's, because we heard that there could be some skiing possibilities. Kees and his family are in Equador for a couple of years, so they brought all their equipement and i could use the climbing equipment and ski's of Kee's wife (thanks a lot!). 

Img 103: On the approach to the refugio of Cotopaxi.

The refugio is very nice and new. They have water available (even for the toilets!), cooking possibility and friendly gardians. Only negative point: 15 dollars the night. Where the night means the evening,  because you get up at 12 for the climb. 
So we started to hike up, ski's on our backpack, at 1 and got with nearly no problems (just breathing hard!) up to the top just before the sunrise, yeah! As the sun got up we had some great scenery and it started also to get warmer. 

Img 112: On the top of Cotopaxi, just before the sunrise...

Img 113: ...and here the sunrise

Img 114: The view into the crater

On the way down, we had some spectacular glacier scenery (there are a couple of realy big crevasses to get through). A couple of times we could put on our ski's and the snowconditions were realy good! My only problem was skiing quit steep, crevassed terrain in hiking boots... so i got my ski's of and crampon's on quite a lot's of time to get through the crevasses. But anyway, for a skiing/snowboarding addicted, it was worth carrying up some additional kilo's (my ´touring´ ski's were a nice but heavy Voelkl P9!)

Img 127: On the way down on one of the 'unskiable' parts of Cotopaxi...

Img 131: ...and on a skiable part (Yeah!)

Img 128: Some glacier scenery on the way down.

Back at the refugio, both of us were quite tired...and just in the right mood for a cool beer (enven thought this was more expensive than in switzerland) in the sun, before heading back to quito, were we arrived at 3 in the afternoon. 

I plan now to stay one more week in equador and visit otavalo and maybe some cloudforest. The 7th of march, i'll then head south (flight to Punta Arenas, Chile), where i plan to start my cycling holiday's. 
To be continued... 

So then, have a nice time! Hope to get some new's from you too. Cheer's.

Martes, 18 de febrero de 2003

Hola, again! Another week has past for me in Quito. Last friday, we had a school-excursion up to the Virgin of Quito. This is a statue on ‘el Panecillo’, a hill besides Quito’s old town. The statue itself is not very nice, but there are some good view’s upon Quito (Images here).

Img 64 : Quito, view from el Panecillo (virgen)

Img 69 : Quito, the virgen statue on Panecillo

Img 71: Class photo of Beraca spanish school.

Last saturday,  I was shopping with my family on one of Quito’s biggest markets. Very good atmosphere there! (images here). Else, I have been doing a trekking with ‘Club andinismo’ of the Catholics University in Quito. It figured out to be a very easy hike in a 13 people-group – so not exactly what I like…but at least I has some possibilities to practice my spanish. 

Img 73 : Quito, southern market.

Because there was too much snow (i.e. because most people were not equipped for snow),  we did not climb Illiniza Norte, as planed, but just hiked besides this volcano, mostly cross-country over a  couple of hills (Images here).

Img 77 : Hard work,  this cross-country hiking…

Img 82: View south from the 4000m ´peak´close to the Illinizas

Before returning to Quito, again a good view upon Cotopaxi. I plan to climbe this volcanoe next week, together with Kees, a Dutch guy I knew by the South America Explorers Club. So I’ll keep you up to date as soon as possible.

Img 87: View of Cotopaxi from near Machachi.

Have a nice week and cheers!

Lunes, 10 de febrero de 2003

It's now two weeks i've been in Quito, Equador, and already one week of spanish-school behind me (though, i won´t yet start to write the reports in spanish ;-)

The start in quito, at hostal El centro del mundo, was very good (thanks christian, for the tip!) It's a great place to meet people and for parying (3 times a week, 12 litres of free ron and coke help to get things moving ;-)

Besides classes, i've had some time to discover some parts of equador. Besides strolling through Quito (imgs here), I've passed one weekend in Baños, a small turistic town, about a 4 hours busride south of Quito. On the way (imgs. 8,9), we had a view onto Cotopaxi, the wolds highest active volcano and one which i'd like to climb in a couple of weeks. With two travel-friends, we biked towards the amazonas and visited Devil's fall (imgs. here).

Img 29 : Quito, view form Instituto Geografico Militar (IGM) upon town.

It's at the IGM, where the equatorian topographical maps can be obtained (2 dollars). Moreover, it's located on a hill with great view upon the new town.

Img 31 : Quito, view similar to the one above.

Img 9 : On the way to banos - view upon cotopaxi

Banos is a little, nice town, the entry to the oriente. Even thought it's very touristic, i liked it better than quito (well, seems that i'm not the city-type). We rented some bikes (they were not in very good conditions, but well, for 4 dollars a day...) with the aim to bike to puyo (75 km, nearly all downhill).

Img 12 : biking from Banos to Rio verde

Img 14 : biking from Banos to Rio verde

One planed intermediate stop was at rio verde and the devil's fall. A quite impressing water fall. Unfortunatelly, this was also the end of our bike-trip, because a little further on a bridge had been destroyed due to heavy rainfalls, so that there have been no busses between puyo and banos (for the planned way back). Thus, instead of biking all the way to puyo, i decided to bike back (uphill :-( to banos.

Img 16 : Devil's fall

Img 18 : Hanging bridge at Devil's fall

Img 19 : Hanging bridge at Devil's fall

Img 24 : On the way to rio verde (by bike)

On sunday, an easy day was planned. After breakfast, a little hike up to the virgin statue above banos, and then some bath in the volcanic hotsprings. Finally back to quito, because of mondays spanish classes. I'll probably have to come back to climbe Tungurahua, the volcano dominating banos...

But well for now, i.e. from this sunday on, i stay within family medina at 10 de agosto y roca and hope to improve (or aquire) my spanish. The place is very nice and anita is a great cook!

Img 26 : Above Banos, on the way to the virgin (statue)

Img 27 : View upon Banos, from the virgin

Last weekend, I went with some guys and girls i met at South American Explores Club (a really great organisation!) to hike the Pichinchas, the two volcanos (Guagua, still active and Rucu) just besides Quito (imgs here ).

We started early on saturday morning, with a busride to Lloa, a small town south-west of quito. For the one hour drive, the price was 75 cents/person. Then, on a 4wd road it went 5 hours up to the refugio de guagua pichincha at 4550m. The refugio was very primitive but expensive (5 dollars/person), but at least there was unpurified water available. After some pasta and an attempt to get a fire burning in the fireplace, we diappeared very early in the (warm or not) sleepingbags.

Img 63 : The equatorian 1:50'000 map with our itinerary around the pichinchas (in blue)

The region is really nice for hiking. A lot's of cross-country is possible. It's fun, even tough the equatorian maps are not as precise as swiss ones. In particular, they just forgot to put the rocks and cliffs on it...

Img 35 : On the way up from Lloa to the refuge of Guagua Pichincha

Img 36 : Some plants around this region

Img 40 : View towards Quito on the way up to the refugio

Img 42 : Men, that was f... cold, at the refugio

The next day started, after the breakfast, with the hike up to guagua pichincha. The weather was getting better, so we decided to change the program and not to hike down to Lloa again, but to traverse over to Rucu Pichincha and then down to Quito directly. By walking towards the very north of quito it was possible to hike around the very dangerous parts just between quito and the pichinchas. The 8 hours hike was really great with a lots of crosscountry hiking and good views as well in remote valleys as on quito.

Img 47 : The next day, mixed weather, some sun, some clouds, but we reached the summit (4780m)

Img 50 : On the way down from Guagua Pichincha

Img 51 : and on the way towards Rucu Pichincha

Img 55 : still on the way up to Rucu

Img 58 : View towards Quito, form Rucu Pichincha


Img 62: And finally on the way down to the very north of Quito (unfortunately, the straight way back to the center of Quito is far to dangerous...)