Day sixteen: Sierra Negra Volcano

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There’s a team from REI staying at the hotel – they’re here to make a promotional video. They’ve brought a load of staff with them and are fully kitted up with cameras, GoPros, drones – the lot.


We befriend the creative team and they took the children out to the beach and help them to navigate and land their very first drone.

Here’s a film of them flying the drone.

They are a really lovely group and at the end of their trip we corner their guide and negotiate a private tour to the top of the Sierra Negra volcano the next day. It last erupted in 2005 and you can walk to the top and peer inside. It’s a 16km, pretty muddy hike – we’re warned that good walking shoes are important. Hmmm… the Clarks girl velcro trainers in green leopard skin, Adidas Absolados and F5 TRX Turf Juniors are going to be put to the test!

We get up early and are incredibly unlucky with the weather. It’s been a glorious clear week, yet today it’s overcast and drizzly. The visibility is terrible so we travel there knowing we won’t get the best experience, but our fingers are crossed that the fog may burn off as the morning develops. It doesn’t. Not really.


It does stop raining at least, so most of the hike is dry – and for about ten minutes the fog passes and we find ourselves at the top of a volcano peering in over the top. We can see the stark contrast of the green grass that we’re standing on and the black lava rocks inside – they’ve formed visible flow formations from the last eruption. Our eldest son takes great pleasure in the fact that it last erupted in the exact month he was born.


We don’t really get to see across to the other side of the crater, and before you know it the fog rolls back in and covers it all over again. Ready for another group… on another day.


Back to the hotel and we find ourselves cleaning thick sticky mud off all our trainers (they are caked) with free hotel soap and a complimentary airline toothbrush – believe me, there were several WTF moments.

IMG_7635Our time on Isabela has come to an end and we head back to Santa Cruz via a two-hour-three-boat-ride (joy) – our flight to Guayaquil leaves tomorrow morning.


– our second children’s refillable water bottle (it probably fell out the side pocket of a backpack when all the luggage was being thrown between the various taxi boats). Gutted.

Day five: Equator, Ecuador


Today we head to Mitad del Mundo – Middle of the World – The Equator. There are two equators here, the original one and a second more accurate one (since the invention of GPS). Rather than real and not-so-real one, they prefer to be called old and new. We head to see both.

Mitad del Mundo

Mitad del Mundo

At the new equator (red line), the tour includes Ecuadorian culture and traditions – we learn how men in amazon tribes tie their bits up high with string to help avoid penis fish swimming up their urethra, how they shrink the heads of their enemies, how their spears have one end for animals and one end for humans (still used today in some parts of the Amazon where they are fighting with miners and poachers), how there are two doors in all Amazonian huts, one to come in and one to go out, to help keep bad spirits away, how the tribe wives were buried alive (dosed with sedative) alongside their husband on the male’s death.



The most alarming thing I learnt today was that the tradition of shrinking heads is still carried out today – but today it is practiced in order to fulfil international collector’s desires rather than because of any cultural tradition. Rather than wait for someone to die of natural causes and then cut the head off, remove the skull and shrink the skin, they will still choose to kill someone that has wronged them in order to fulfil the order. The middle man profits the most – heads are sold within Ecuador for $25,000 and then for more than triple around the world. The tribes, apparently, get very little. (We were told not to worry, we wouldn’t be targeted as the collectors want strong Amazonian facial features for authenticity.)

Shrunken head (right), shrunken guinea pig (left)

Shrunken head (right)

The tour includes several experiments that take place both on and around the equator. The tour guide was full of facts and the experiments were brilliant. It’s safe to say today’s trip pretty much nailed science for the kids this week. They learnt all of the following with no dramas, no negotiating, no bribery and no planning or research on our part:

  • What are northern v southern hemispheres.
  • The effect of the Earth’s rotation on the direction of wind and storms in both hemispheres.
  • The position of the sun and its effect on the depth of shadows at the equator. (In two weeks time, if we returned at midday and stood on the equator we would actually have no shadow at all.)
  • How tornados and cyclones spin in different directions as one is in the northern and one is in the southern hemisphere.
  • Forces – how it is only possible to balance a raw egg on a nail if you are exactly on the equator as it’s the only place where the force is entirely downwards with no sideways pull.
  • How easy it is to pull down a person’s raised arms when they are on the equator compared to if they stand either north or south of the equator, where they are able to resist.
  • How the equator in Ecuador is the highest point on the equator around the world.
  • How Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is 2.1 kilometres further from the earth’s core than Mount Everest.

And then… there was the sink experiment! Does the water spiral down the plug hole in different directions if you are a) on the equator, b) in the northern hemisphere, and c) in the southern hemisphere. Watch this videoyou could probably win bets with this.

Oh and here is the video of our ‘balancing an egg on a nail’ experiment.

On the way back we hiked down into Pululahua Volcano, which is now green fields, inhabited and farmed! Well… when I say hiked, what I really mean is skidded down on a lot of loose stones, desperately hoping that no one took a tumble as I had forgotten to bring any form of first aid supplies. It appears that Clarks girl’s velcro trainers and two sets of Nike’s football/astroturf boots may be an inadequate choice to hike down a volcano. To top it off, as we hiked back up, trying to cope with the effects of being altitude novices, a lady who lives down in the valley literally sprinted past us on the same rumble we’d been skidding all over twenty minutes earlier.

Later at Notavalo Market (Cuicocha Lake) we met this gorgeous couple selling pots:


Gorgeous couple we met at the market.


  • The visitor experience at the new equator is significantly more impressive than at the old one. From our experience, people get their photo taken at the old one, but you actually learn stuff at the new one. They are very close so you can easily do both – both have entry fees.
  • Trips into the Amazon must be taken with a guide/company to avoid areas where miners, poachers and tribes are in conflict.
  • You can arrange to stay with one of the tribes – just be aware, you must wear the same dress as them.