Cusco or Cuszo, an Andean city in South America, was the seat of the Inca empire and is home to world-famous Machu Picchu. I would recommend staying near the city center of Plaza De Armas (“Parade Square”). Most tourist activities are in and around the area.
I landed in Quito and started the journey with Mitad Del Mundo which apart from being a monument near the equator line has some nice short scientific demonstrations. Expect to spend about 2-3 hours there.
Then I headed to Telefrico (“aerial lift”). The ride is nice and gives a beautiful view of Quito city. Highly recommended.
Lastly, I headed to Quito Old Town. Overhyped. There is nothing special about it. In fact, I would recommend the readers to start early in the morning and go to Mindo Cloud Forest first. I had an overnight bus journey from Quito to Lago Agrio afterward.
I wanted to make a single-day visit to Amazon. Therefore, Yasuni, being too deep inside the forest, was out of the question. Cuyabeno was a good choice. Since it is deep enough and at the same time accessible enough for a one-day trip. I reached Lago Agrio early morning where the manager of Cuyabeno River Lodge (not Cuyabeno Lodge) picked me up. This lodge is deep inside Amazon but not close to Laguna Grande. Therefore, the lodge management can adjust for your pickup-dropoff time, most other lodges which are close to Laguna Grande would charge a lot extra for that. I would highly recommend this if you want a custom itinerary.
I reached the lodge at about 6 AM and after having a nice vegetarian breakfast, I joined a few other travelers and went for a boat tour of the Laguna Grande (“grand lagoon”) starting at 8 AM.
We saw a lot of native animals like Serpiente (“snake”), Tortuga (turtles), and pajaros(birds) during the journey. After Laguna Grande, we headed to a native Amazon community, where we learned the process of making Yuca bread by extracting Yuca roots, followed by peeling, grating, drying, and baking them.
While returning, we encountered a baby caiman (“alligator”).
At night, we headed out for a night hike. If you are planning to do this, then I would recommend carrying an insect repellent. Amazon rainforest is full of small crawling creatures.
The third day started with a Pirana fishing session. The goal was to just catch, take pics and return them to the water. They are really fast at eating the food before the hook is pulled in. While I failed to fully get hold of any, another guy on the boat succeeded.
From there, I headed for another long bus journey from Lago Agrio to Baños De Agua Santa with a transfer via Coca. I later came to know that there is a direct overnight bus from Lago Agrio to Baños. In the hindsight, I would say that leaving at night would have been a better option than wasting the third day traveling.
The day started with a visit to Thermal hot springs Therma de La Virgen (“The virgin hot springs”). They are good but don’t spend too much time here since there is a lot to do later.
Then I headed for a Bungee jumping session. 20$ for the jump and 5$ for the photos. Wow. Compare this to the 150$ jump offered in the San Francisco bay area.
Post-lunch, I headed for a paragliding session. At 55$, it’s a no-brainer.
I had to skip Le Casa Del Arbol due to the lack of time. Baños is amazing backpacker heaven. While I only spent a day there, I would strongly recommend, at least two days to fully enjoy it.
Here is the overall map.
- Public transport is pretty good for both short and long-distance travel. So one can skip taxis.
- US Dollar is the accepted currency. Carry cash, credit/debit cards might not be accepted everywhere.
- Cuenca is a nice French town but I could not check that out due to the shortage of time.
- Always carry “papel de higienico” (toilet paper). A lot of places simply don’t have it. And they don’t have water either ¯ \_(ツ)_/¯