Archive for the ‘Places to Visit in Ecuador’ Category
After three years of absence Ecuadors famous Nariz del Diablo train has finally returned to Riobamba!
Here you can check out the routes as well as the Train Timetable and Prices
It has taken years and billions of dollars to renovate the old train tracks designed at the turn of the 19th century for steam engines.
Unfortunately being able to ride on the roof of the train, one of the biggest drawcards for tourists, is no longer possible with the new modern carriages. The reason may be due to why the Nariz del Diablo train closed down in the first place: the deaths of two Japanese tourists whose heads were accidentally severed when some thoughtless dumbass installed a cable over the train tracks.
The interesting thing about the inauguration was that the governor of Chimborazo Province gave the speech instead of the mayor of Riobamba, Juan Salazar, who is widely perceived as corrupt. This sparked a rumour that Juan Salazar is “quemado” or “burnt” and other politicians now consider it to be a liability to associate with him as well as the belief he may be removed from power soon.
This is fantastic news for the people of Riobamba who believe the mayor has plundered the city for too long, and it gives kudos to the innovative social media campaign against him called Caos en Riobamba Sr. Salazar.
Think cockroaches are creepy and disgusting creatures?
Well check out this extremely rare bioluminescent race of cockroaches that look like they come from one of the reactors of Chernobyl. Dubbed the Lucihormetica luckae, the only known specimen of the species was collected in 1939 in the Andean Forest surrounding the Tungarahua Volcano, which was unfortunately damaged during a volcanic eruption in December 2010. Another is unlikely to be found.
What other rare and amazing plants and animals are yet to be discovered in Ecuadors lush and prehistoric ecosystems?
Want to try your luck to find another one of these insanely cool looking critters? Here are some directions and photos for an independent day hike to the Tungarahua Volcano.
Plastic is both a blessing and a curse. The invention lets us create cheap and durable goods that can be shaped into anything from furniture to water hoses and every year we fill untold tonnes of the material into cargo ships that are carried across the globe.
The problem however is that plastic does not break down and decompose like other materials. If you bury that water hose in your garden you can be sure that your great great grandchildren may one day discover it in pretty good shape.
In fact plastic has become such a huge blight on our planet because it is so cheap it is easier to replace than repair which means much of the stuff ends up in landfills – or if you are in Ecuador and other places in the third world with poor waste management – in the rivers or on the sides of roads.
Now for some good news.
A fungus called Pestalotiopsis Microspora has been discovered in the Ecuadorian Amazon that eats plastic. Not only that but the fungi can also live without oxygen making it perfect for breaking down plastic at the bottom of landfills.
The only other natural way to decompose plastic has previously been to expose it to Ultra Violet Light from the sun which break down the molecules that bind petroleum based plastics in a process called photodegradation. But that decomposition process is painfully slow and no use to all that waste at the bottom of landfills.
If the team of scientists studying the fungus are able to develop it into a commercially viable product it will mean incredible advances in waste reduction and recycling!
What other amazing things are bound to be found in the Amazon before we destroy it?
Here are some pictures of the Galapagos Islands from a trip I took with my dad for two weeks for my birthday. After living in Ecuador for over 2 years and hearing so many stories about the Galapagos my expectations were very high and im pleased to say the trip lived up to them.
The following photos are from the islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Santa Isabella, and Bartolome. As you see, the diversity in the wildlife is incredible…
The Problem with Paradise
The Galapagos Islands is not only the most famous tourist site in Ecuador but also one of the most well known and visited vacation destinations in the world. Those that have visited the Galapagos will have no doubt in their minds the reason behind its popularity.
If you’ve never been and want to know if these islands live up to the hype, well lets just say the one word that I hear time and time again from people coming back from the Galapagos is this – Paradise.
However the problem with paradise is its easy to exploit.
One of the reasons the islands have such an amazing and diverse array of plant and animal life is that for hundreds of millions of years they have never hosted the worlds most deadly predator – the human being – until now.
Environmental Issues on the Galapagos Islands
The 18th century socioeconomist Thomas Robert Malthus stated that the increase in human population will eventually outpace the rate in which it can feed itself. That if the human population is left unchecked then famine will become a global epidemic and consume us silly humans.
It was Malthus’ essays on Population that inspired the two grandaddys behind Evolution and Natural Selection, Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace, to come to their own theories. If Darwin knew that today the fittest animals on the Galapagos are the Goat, Cat, the Rat, and the Human that are flourishing at the expense of everything else – he would no doubt be tossing in his grave.
- Now 200,000 humans visit the islands every year which left unchecked will rise to 400,000 by 2021.
- Now 30,000 humans have immigrated to the islands (and many more illegaly) a figure that has doubled in the last ten years and sees no sign of slowing.
- Now invasive species of rats, goats, cats, mosquitos and fire ants as well as an increase in human sewage and motor boat oil threatens the existence of the islands fragile ecosystems.
- Now “artesenal” and industrial fishing, the former to feed the large immigrant communites and tourists on the island and the latter used to sell on overseask markets, have completely wiped out fish stocks threatening animals like the Sea Cucumber that sells for a fortune in Japan and Korea with extinction
- Now introduced plants outnumber indigenous ones and 180 of the 500 native plant species are on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) of Nature Red List of threatened species.
- Now 95 species of reptiles, birds, penguins, sea lions, seals, snakes, and mammals that live on the Galapagos Islands are endangered animals.
- Now Lonesome George, the last remaining Pinta Island Tortouise, is the rarest creature on Earth and a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galapagos.
Galapagos Governmental Policies to Protect the Galapagos
New regulations created by Rafael Correas government to protect the Galapagos meant in July 2010 the islands were removed from the “List of World Heritage in Danger”
This happened in despite of a strong recommendation from the International Union for Conservation of Nature to urge against removing the Galapagos Islands because it was “premature.”
The Galapagos Government now has the power to ban commercial fishing on much of the islands except for designated areas.
The Government has also tightened rules for immigration for residents from the mainland which means now at the airport many Ecuadorians en route to the islands are profiled and interrogated – Why they wish to travel to the Galapagos? For how long they are going to stay? And what happens if they find work there?
Answer any of the above wrong and they are denied travel.
All this happens while hundreds of thousands of tourists with big fat wallets pass onto the plane unimpeded – and don’t hold your breath if you think they are going to restrict foreign tourists any soon.
so how can we visit the Galapagos without feeling guilty?
Volunteering on the Galapagos Islands
The great thing about volunteering in the Galapagos is it lets you visit without leaving such a big dirty footprint. The problem however is the price.
We spent a long time researching different Galapagos Islands Volunteer Programs to promote here on Ecuador Eco Volunteer but finding that perfect program that neither breaks the bank nor compromises on quality was very hard.
There were quite a few dodgy operators running volunteer programs on the Galapagos as well. One program wanted to charge a $200 fee to “consider” the application and another wanted a full body shot of prospective female volunteers. We worked with another volunteer program that had won awards from some big names but quite a few volunteers complained and when we confronted the program administrators they claimed everything was fine and that our volunteers were lying.
In the end I decided to go there myself hoping to find some idealistic people that had the infrastructure and resources in place to set up a new Galapagos Volunteer Program from scratch. I found them!
Lets Fight to Defend the Worlds Most Vulnerable
If the cause to save the Galapagos resonates with you then you should consider checking out our new Galapagos Volunteer Program. It will take time to refine a few of the rough edges and make it great but with your help we can do that.
The future for the Galapagos Islands looks brighter than five years ago but that should not goad us into complacency. We must continue the admirable work of all the volunteers and environmental activists that have come before us to ensure our children can look at the Galapagos with the same wonder as Charles Darwin 200 years ago.