Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

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Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby mountaingirl13.1 » Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:35 pm

Hello,
I am looking for anyone who has been on the Ecuador Multisport trip to find out how it is. I also want to know the best time of year to go. Any help would be great! I was thinking end of December/January
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby vermontcathy » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:05 pm

I'm gonna bump this because my husband and I are going in September (30 days from now - woohoo!) and I just wondering what other people who have gone on it have to say. Any advice? Things to bring that we might not have thought of? Good things to do on our occasional free morning or afternoon in the various towns?
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby texasamazon » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:28 am

I just returned from the Ecuador Multisport tour a week ago, and I'm happy to provide you with any additional information. So ask away if you have specific questions.

Overall, I was really disappointed with this tour, particularly compared to the Machu Picchu trek I took with G Adventures in 2011. The description provided did NOT match the actual itinerary, and a lot of important information (that might have made packing easier) was not included. Granted, the hotels were better than expected, and I enjoyed the three major activities (biking, rafting, and trekking). But the rest of the trip wasn't the same quality I expect from G Adventures.

For example, you definitely need a backpack to carry all of your belongings in -- not just a daypack. That is, even soft-sided, wheeled luggage is a huge pain as you're actually staying in a lovely jungle lodge with muddy paths leading to your room. But there's nothing in the tour description to hammer home this point. You don't need a knife or water-purification tablets, but a rain poncho and a huge amount of waterproof gear is critical. There are laundry facilities in Banos very close to the hotel -- so had I known this, I would have packed HALF of the items I actually brought on the trip.

Also, almost all transportation is via public bus. The itinerary only includes mention of one day in which public transportation is used. For example, the very first day of the trip includes more than 7 hours on a public bus without stops (unless the driver has to pee). And theft in the buses is rampant. We personally saw pickpockets in action ON the bus. Lunch is often "snacks" bought in a bus stop or wayside rest -- not something remotely healthy.

I'm not saying I didn't find joy on the journey. You find what you look for. But it was not at all what I was expecting, and I wouldn't chose this trip if I'd have known then what I know now. Again, feel free to ask me more specific questions. I'm happy to help make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby vermontcathy » Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:48 am

texasamazon, in which town is the stay in a jungle lodge? From what I can see of the tour description, we stay in Quito (Hotel Quito) 1 night, 2 nights in Tena, 1 night in Banos, 1 night overnight hike, another night in Banos, 1 night in Lasso near Cotopaxi, 1 night back in Quito.

Are you saying the above doesn't match where you actually went (you said the itinerary didn't match)?

Also, I'm not sure why you say you don't need water purification. The tap water, even in Quito, is not potable. I guess you could get by buying 100% of your water, but that's a lot of plastic bottle waste.

You say the description only mentioned public bus on 1 day, but in researching G adventures, when I read the FAQ about how they keep prices low, they say they often use public buses. That, plus them saying "bus", "public bus", and "private van" in the trip description, I assumed that both "bus" and "public bus" would be on public bus. I figured if it was private, they'd mention it, as they did that one time.

What was the food like on the overnight hike? They provide tents, sleeping bags, and pads, and you don't have to carry this during the hike, right?

You mention a lot of rain. Which places are most rainy? I'm guessing Tena and Banos.

On the long bus ride to Tena, is there a restroom on the bus? I can't imagine they'd expect passengers to go 7 hours without peeing. I'm planning on bringing extra baggies and snagging some stuff from the breakfast buffet at Hotel Quito for the bus. :) We'll also have Clif bars, peanuts, dried cranberries, etc.

I have an L.L.Bean carry-on sized wheeled duffle bag. It has a shoulder strap, so I think I'm going to stick with that. But perhaps I'll see if my husband wants to use a duffle bag with a shoulder strap instead of his small rolling suitcase. We're doing just carry-on - no checked luggage. We're packing very light. Our flight is 3-legs, and so the wheels help a LOT in the airports. It's just a matter of deciding which we want to deal with - schlepping long distances through airports without wheeled luggage, or having to carry our small wheeled bags by hand on the path to our room. I'm thinking we'll stick with the wheels - especially since you only mention one hotel with a muddy path, and according to the itinerary, we never stay in one place more than one night.

Thanks for your review and any additional info you can provide!

EDITED TO ADD: How FAR would you say the muddy path to that room was? I don't think my husband will mind carrying his carry-on rolling suitcase in his hand for a short distance, but it would be another story if it's a quarter mile or more.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby texasamazon » Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:30 am

The jungle lodge is outside of Tena. You take a 7-hour public bus ride to Tena, then you grab your bags and walk across a bridge and through town, to where you take another public bus. Then that bus drops you off near another bridge, where you load all your luggage into a pickup truck. THEN you walk some more to the lodge. So the closet town is Tena, but once you make it to the lodge, you can't actually get back to Tena without a bus and a lot of hassle. Translation: You never spend time in Tena – just at the lodge and at the tour locale where you pick up the rafting crew. There were a few activities to do at the lodge, but if you wanted to explore outside the hotel, you were out of luck.

The lodge, however, is awesome. Here's the website: http://www.tomas-lodge.com/ Watch out for the toucan, who loves to bite ankles. Seriously. I love animals, but he's evil.

In terms of the itinerary discrepancies, we stayed in the towns indicated. However, here's where things went awry:
*The itinerary only uses the words "public bus" on one day. In fact, we were on a public bus almost every day of the trip. Was it horrible? No. But it's a different experience from what the itinerary led me to believe. And it's difficult to bond with people on your tour when they're scattered all over a public bus.
*The itinerary says we would trek into Sangay National Park. According to our guides, we were never actually in the park.
*It also says that on day 6 you'll go to a refuge on Tunguragua Volcano. The volcano is a LONG way away from where you camp. In fact, you can barely see the volcano most of the time. Point is, we definitely didn't visit a refuge on the volcano.
*On day 7, it says you can explore around Lasso. Um... no... you can't. The hotel is nowhere near the town (It's actually on a remote road right off the freeway) and there's no transportation to get to the town. So the only exploring you can do is on the hotel property, which is very limited.

I understand when issues arise that prevent the tour from going as planned. In fact, a mudslide meant we all had to trek an additional two hours uphill in mud just to get to the START of the trek. And when we left the lodge in Tena, they were doing construction on the bridge, so we had to wait for a good hour while the driver and guide tried to negotiate our passage over the bridge.

I understand this, and it's fine. But the other discrepancies I mentioned were not discussed at all. It was like the tour was intended to be this way, and that's not what the itinerary led me to believe. And the whole Tungurahua experience seemed "off." Nobody told us anything about the volcano, and unless you were walking next to a guide, you weren't even sure which peak was the volcano. They all looked pretty much the same.

As for the water-purification tablets. Indeed you can't drink the tap water. But unlike some locales, bottled water was readily available. And even if you didn't want to use all the plastic, almost every hotel had purified water available via water coolers. My advice is to buy a large-ish bottle of water and then keep refilling it at the hotels. There's no need to bring your own bottle or purification tablets.

Regarding the bus, I figured that since they used the words "public bus" on a specific day, that that would be the only day when a public bus would be used. To me "bus" and "van" are different than a "public bus."

You camp at a fish hatchery. So you actually catch fresh fish that the people living there cook for you. And yes, they set up the tents, provide sleeping bags, etc. You don't have to carry this stuff.

As for the rain, let's see...
Day 1: Rained off and on
Day 2: Rained off and on while in the bus, rained all night at the lodge in Tena.
Day 3: Tena/Rafting – Beautiful day of rafting – rained all night.
Day 4: Bus to Banos – Rained off and on
Day 5: Trekking – Rained all morning, part sun in the afternoon, rained all night.
Day 6: Back to Banos – Rained most of the morning.
Day 7: Banos – Sunny in the morning and while on the bus
Day 8: Snowed on Cotopaxi, then rained for most of the ride.

There was a restroom for women on the bus, but our guide told us we shouldn't use it and that in fact the driver would only stop when he felt like it – not necessarily because someone had to pee. She also said that a restroom on the bus was really rare.

There was one point when the driver made an unannounced stop and a few people in the group got off and ran to the restroom. But the guide cautioned us that he very well could have left them there for doing so. At one point, a local person got off the bus, peed next to it, and then got back on. So yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but that was exactly how it was. That said, the condition of the buses was better than expected.

The muddy path at the lodge isn't that far, but it feels like a long distance if you have a heavy bag. ;-) I was in the last cabin at the end of the path and staying alone, so a big backpack would have been much easier. And keep in mind that you'll be stowing it under buses, in pickups, etc. So you really can't put anything breakable in there. And you'll need to drag it through Tena when you switch buses – and through Banos when you catch the bus to Lasso. And remember... these are mostly wet cobblestone streets, not smooth pavement.

Feel free to write again if you have more questions. ;-)
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby vermontcathy » Thu Aug 29, 2013 12:44 pm

Interesting. Thanks for all the info. That lodge does seem pretty cool.

Technically, the itinerary says (regarding Lasso), "Free evening to explore the area on foot", it doesn't say you can explore Lasso, but yeah, it kind of gives that impression.

The Sangay thing sounds disappointing. The itinerary clearly says we'll trek "in" and "into" the park. Sleeping next to a fish hatchery doesn't exactly sound like a wilderness experience. I was picturing sleeping out in the wilderness in a national park, not sleeping next to a family's house and a fish hatchery. Was the G Adventures CEO (guide) with you on the trek, or just a local guide? My husband is vegetarian, and I don't eat a lot of meat, so I hope they'll have something other than fish to eat... And the trip description does clearly say we'll visit the refuge...

There was a restroom for women on the bus? But not for men? If my husband wants to pee, he'll do it even if it says it's for women. Did the guide not want people to use it because it's filthy? What are the alternatives? Possibly being left behind if you use a restroom at a stop, or peeing next to the bus? I will actually pee next to the bus if need be, and so will my husband. If the bus company isn't civilized enough to provide pee stops during a 7 hour trip, then they shouldn't mind some public peeing.

Sorry to hear about all the rain. I had the impression that the rain forest of course could be rainy, but that the highlands (Cotopaxi, Quito) would be more likely to be dry.

I guess you've adequately lowered my expectations, so that if things turn out good, I'll be pleasantly surprised.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby texasamazon » Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:29 pm

I didn't mean to bust your bubble, but it really wasn't the experience I was expecting. And I didn't even tell you about the horse with the big gash in his side that our guide thought was appropriate for horseback riding. Don't get me started.

But the bottom line is that you WILL have a good time, and it's an inexpensive trip so it's not like we're paying for five-star service. It just wasn't quite what I expected. And I think I was unfortunately biased because my trip to Peru with G Adventures was absolutely amazing. So I went into it with fairly high expectations.

The good parts are that the hotels were better than I expected, with the exception of the last one in Lasso. And the three main activities are run by quality companies, so they were quite decent. I think I got more info on the country from the activity guides than from our CEO.

As for the trek, I'd say 75 percent of it is on a road. Granted, there's basically no cars on it, but it's a dirt road – not a scenic path – for most of the way. The fish hatchery isn't the wilderness by any means, but it's pretty, and the people are nice. I can't recall what else was served with the fish, but they have a kitchen there, so I'm sure they can whip up something.

The CEO was with us for all of the trip except the rafting.

And yes, the restroom was clearly labeled "women only," and the CEO said it wasn't clean or safe to go in there. After the pickpocketing I saw on the bus, and how crowded it was (they pick up people all along the way – literally on the highway – and they just stand in the aisles until the bus is full), I just decided it was best to listen to her without trying to understand her advice. Also, before leaving Quito, the police came on board to issue a stern warning about keeping all of your belongings in your lap and to not place them on the floor or in the overhead bins. Apparently, some of the kids on the bus crawl around and steal from the bags on the floor, and the people in the aisles take stuff out of the bags over the seats (I saw that firsthand). Again, the buses were cleaner than expected, but you need to be smart and keep your eyes open bigtime.


One more thing, don't be fooled by the nice hotel in Quito, which is AWESOME BTW. And the breakfast is amazing! But a woman was attacked right in front of the hotel when we were there. I was standing at the desk when she reported it. Some guy tried to snatch her purse and then her necklace, but she fought him off. She was with another woman at the time, so not even walking alone. The hotel staff told her to never walk around at night around there, and to never walk alone during the daytime. The area LOOKS very tourist friendly and safe – but you need to be cautious despite how it appears.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby vermontcathy » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:08 pm

What horseback riding are you referring to? That must have been a separate activity you purchased separately (not G Adventures). After the tour ends, we are doing a 1-day horseback riding trip north of Quito (they come pick us up in the city) with a very well-reviewed ranch.

I guess we'll just see what happens when it happens. But I do think I've decided to take my GPS. I wasn't going to, but now I want to know exactly where we are.

On the bus to Tena, do people put larger luggage in compartments under the bus, or no? Even if we packed large backpacks or duffle bags like G Adventures recommends, I can't imagine holding ALL our stuff on our laps.

Well, it sounds like I'll have the fun of telling the tale of peeing in front of a bus in Ecuador! So you really just held it in for 7 hours?
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby texasamazon » Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:03 pm

The horseback riding was in Banos through a company our CEO recommended. While out walking on the edge of Banos, I also saw a horse in distress on the side of the road. Bleeding from the leg, straining, couldn't get up, etc. I ran to a main road and found a police truck, and brought them to the horse. They just drove by and said it wasn't their problem. Point is, I'm sure your ranch is fine -- but people treat animals very differently in South American than we do in the states.

And yes, the main luggage goes under the bus. But be sure to hang onto any valuables. Who's to say someone couldn't snatch your bag from under the bus during one of the many roadside stops? We weren't cautioned against putting luggage under there, but theft from that location is certainly possible.

And yes, only four people in our group got off the bus to attempt to use the restroom. The rest of us refrained from liquids before and during the trip. And when we finally got to Tena we definitely rehydrated with some cervesas.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby vermontcathy » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:37 pm

I was looking at the Tena lodge's facebook page and saw monkeys on the porch! Did you get to see monkeys??? OMG that would be so cool. I could tolerate a lot for that. Not that it's ok for G Adventures to promise one thing and not do it (Sangay) or expect people to go 7 hours without peeing. But wow... I hope we see monkeys...

The horseback riding day trip we're taking after the G tour is at a ranch run by Germans. Extremely good reviews: http://greenhorseranch.zohosites.com/
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby texasamazon » Fri Aug 30, 2013 5:43 pm

I heard some monkeys about 3 a.m. one night, and the lodge owner said that monkeys sometimes perch in the GIANT bamboo at the entrance to the lodge. But we didn't see any, and nobody else reported monkey sounds in their huts (I was on the FAR end of everyone).

There are a ton of leafcutter ants there if you look close enough though. And there are enormous moths the size of your hand -- and various birds -- and a rat-like animal they warned us about. Translation: Do NOT eat in your bed or keep any open food in your hut. ;-) Oh, and don't pee in the water. Those crazy fish that will swim up your hoo-ha are in the water. LOL.

Your horseback trip sounds awesome!!!
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby vermontcathy » Wed Sep 04, 2013 3:26 pm

One more question for you, Texasamazon. How much did you enjoy the overnight trek in general? It does seem (after contacting G Adventures) that it won't go into Sangay. And you said it's mostly on a road, but other than that, was it fun? The reason I ask is that although I can't cancel the whole tour despite their false advertising, I'm wondering whether to just leave the G Adventures tour for those 2 days, stay in Banos (find some cheap lodging for the night) and do something else. If we're going to be miserable just marching on a dirt road and sleeping at a fish hatchery, we should just stay in Banos and perhaps do some activities with another outfitter, like paragliding or biking to Puyo with http://www.imagineecuador.com/. Then we'd rejoin the group when they came back to Banos.

From what G Adventures has told me, after contacting the local office, they haven't been hiking into Sangay because the hike is too long and difficult and the volcano is active enough to be dangerous. But it is total false advertising. They've known the tour doesn't go into Sangay for at least a month (since your trip) and yet haven't changed the web site to reflect this. I suspect they haven't gone into Sangay for several months, if ever.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby texasamazon » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:23 pm

It's hard for me to advise you on this, seeing as one person's five star is another person's one star. ;-) But I think I'd still do it if I were you -- unless it calls for constant rain, and then it's pretty miserable. And by all means, if the guides say you need to rent boots, do it. It's cheap. And worst case you can carry them strapped to your backpack. But you do NOT want to be in traditional hiking boots -- even the water-resistant variety -- if it's raining. There are actual streams in places, and the mud often went above my ankles and splashed up to my knees for sure. Nobody regretted renting them.

Also, I'd inquire about the length of the trek in relation to the road. The extra two hours uphill in the mud (due to the mudslide) was a killer. Pair mud with an incline in the rain at altitude when you can't see much of anything due to the fog and you're walking on a dirt road, and that's a pretty bad hike. But, after lunch the weather cleared some and we started going downhill on a smaller road. Now THAT was decent. We got some good views of the volcano from a long way off, and it's pretty. But I was still cold and wet all day.

But, given the mud and the terrain, we ended up shortcutting through a man's farm to try to get to camp before it got dark. We're talking STEEP hillsides with cattle and such. Actually, that ended up being kind of fun (lots of people went for a slide), but if you want national parks, no people, and trails, it might not be for you.

Translation: Good weather, go for sure. Bad weather, go with boots, rain gear, and a stiff upper lip.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby texasamazon » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:24 pm

Vermontcathy -- I definitely want a trip report when you get back. I'm curious to see if they changed anything and what you thought of the trip after I successfully lowered your expectations. LOL.
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Re: Ecuador Multisport (SEEM)

Postby vermontcathy » Wed Sep 04, 2013 6:43 pm

texasamazon wrote:Translation: Good weather, go for sure. Bad weather, go with boots, rain gear, and a stiff upper lip.


Yeah... or, if it's rainy, for $21, my husband and I can get a private room at a nice hostel with a pool and hot tub (http://www.hostelchimenea.com/), and avoid your mud march. :)

I'm starting to think we could have done this trip on our own for much less money, but I was just too nervous about taking public buses without a guide, when my Spanish is pretty bad... Oh well.
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