Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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(Coming soon)

After more hours asleep than awake for two days, I join my fellow hostel guests in our shared dining room for a $0.60 breakfast. Two eggs, steaming croissants and hand-made marmalade, piping hot milk and cool fresh-squeezed orange juice later we hop into our proprietor's/chef's/tour guide's Jeep and head for the back country. Our first stop of on the way out of Quito is "El Mitad del Mundo" (the center of the world) -- a grand monument set 800 meters north of the equator (the French explorer's weren't quite as accurate as the buried Incan ruins 800 meters to the south).

From there we turn off a big road to a small road, and then to a dirt road used only by mining trucks and us. Up and down we cut back across the steep sides, encountering a wild fox as a reward for our troubles. As we press on, the dirt quarry road narrows to be a muddy single lane, and then to what's little more than a wide mountain path requiring all four wheels, though rarely at the same time. Enduring ceaseless joste... [more]
Overnight bus ride: 10 hours
Wait in scary border town: 2 hours
Jeep down jungle roads: 3 hours
Dugout canoe through twisting river: 4 hours
Seeing the Amazon jungle: a lifetime

Ahh the jungle. What can be said? Well I'll start with this.

Set back in the northeast corner of Ecuador is the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, a huge section of remote Amazon land jungle surrounding a large flooded lagoon. I learned of this place when an extremely enthusiastic and friendly man named Luis promised me atleast two species of monkies, six of butterflies, and countless flowers if I toured with him. After spending the afternoon touring the countless Quito travel agencies, his excitement is infectious. Thus I drop $160USD into the bucket and boarded an all-night bus ride to the seedy town of Lago Agrio, dangerously close to the Colombian border. There we (the other adventurer's and I) are taken under the wing of Sonia, our beautiful jungle guide. After a long ... [more]
Located high in the Andes mountains surrounded by cloud forest sits Banos, a peaceful city sits under constant threat of destruction by Volcan Tungurahua. Named for its nutrient-rich hot springs, tapped by many public bath houses sprinkled throughout the city, Banos is a tourist haven for locals and foreigners alike.

I arrived in Banos after another overnight bus ride, this time with someone experimenting with a cell phone ringer for much of the trip. Not only did this not seem to bother anyone else, but the ring on which she eventually settled (and had to try a thousand times) is the exact same ring that I had on my cell phone for a number of years. Beep........ beep beep........ beep-a-deep-a-deep........ beep-eep. Arrg.

I step off the bus and walk into the local tourist agency to figure out what to do with myself. It turns out there's quite a lot to do, actually, ranging from relaxing in the baths of natural spring water to horse-back riding on an active volcano. Af... [more]
Everywhere I go in Banos people tell me that I must do the bike-riding tour of the waterfalls. Some people say that it's about an hour of a half trip and it's all downhill. Others say that it's five or six hours and only partially down hill. Regardless, one day I wake up bright and early and manage to get out on the road a the brutal morning hour of 11am.

Mind you, I haven't ridden a bike in a long time. The last time I can recall riding a bike, even momentarily, was in high school. Thus, I climbed onto the newly-rented bike not without some trepidation. However, I'm happy to report that it's just like riding a bike... er, something like that. Once you learn, you never forget. Within moments I had the complex controls worked out and I was whizzing out of town.

My first stop was to get a bottle of water and some bananas for the road, which were immediately ground to a pulp in my bag and eventually were thrown away. My second stop was when I realized my bag was cove... [more]
The greatest part of Quito is, I have to admit, "Gringoland". Given the demographics of the average vistor being a late-twenties adventurer, and seeing as how they pump a ton of money into the local economy, there is a large section of town devoted to pleasing people exactly like me. There are a number of swank restaurants and bars, cybercafes and coffeshops all jammed together with cheap hostels and hotels in a safe area of the city. Walking the street can be heard much more German and English than Spanish, and everyone seems to be young, fit, and carrying a backpack around the world.

Copyright 2021 - David Barrett -