A Travellerspoint blog

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Things we saw on the bus ride from Quito to Banos...


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  • Someone dressed in a really worn out Barney (you know, the purple dinosaur) costume trying to draw passing buses and pedestrians into an ice cream shop.

  • Another macho-man movie on the bus! This time it was ´Black Dog´starring Patrick Swayze. We´re still not quite sure about many of the plot elements, but there were lots of explosions and car crashes.

  • A small town whose entire economy seems to center around multi-colored popsicles. Every other storefront was an haladeria (ice cream shop) selling these things.

  • Beautfil mountainous landscapes covered with a patchwork of different crops and trees. This really is an extraordinarily beautiful country.

  • An active volcano (Turunguhua) just outside of Banos. The top was covered with clouds but we could see large ash deposits on the sides.

  • A 20 foot tall statue of a parrot. We have NO clue why it was on the side of the road.

  • A colorful array of food vendors who hop on and off the bus seemingly at random, wander down the aisles trying to sell steamed plantains, freshly fried potato chips, sodas, and many other mysterious looking food substances that we´re not brave enough to sample.

Posted by jtlande 17:31 Archived in Ecuador Tagged bus Comments (0)

The Hills of Baños


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We got up early this morning to go to the thermal baths (yes, again). It was VERY nice, and this time not very crowded at all. Basking in the hot mineral water watching the watefall cascade down above us...not a bad way to start the morning.

After breakfast we walked to the edge of town and began our day of hiking. We walked up a very steep path to an area called Bellavista, where there´s a nice lookout point over the town of Baños. There we met a rather drunk Ecuadorian fellow who insisted on chatting with us...he was mildly entertaining but after a few minutes we moved on. He did a little "San Francisco" song and dance for us:

After Bellavista, we hiked up to another lookout point, even higher up, called Runtun. Along the way we ran into a nice fella from Portland named Bryan. We´ll run into him again later in Latacunga. It´s a small world when you´re a gringo traveller in South America!

After Runtun, we hiked down a much easier path to a statue of the Virgin, which overlooks the opposite side of town from Bellavista. It was a nice relief to find a long set of stairs down from the Virgin statue, after the hours we´d put in hiking up and down steep dirt and rock trails.

Tomorrow we leave Baños and head up to Latacunga, on the eastern edge of an area called the Quilatoa Loop. There we´ll meet up with son amigo de San Francisco, Tim Theis, and do some hiking at high elevations. The lake we´re planning to hike from, Laguna Quilatoa, is at an elevation of roughly 3800 meters and is suposed to have bright turqoise waters from the dissolved minerals in the crater. We´ll probably stay in Latacunga and then in Chugchilan, at the western edge of the loop. We also hope to visit indiginous markets at Saquisili and Zambuhua along the way.

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Posted by jtlande 18:29 Archived in Ecuador Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Banos, Land of Adventure (Part 1)


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We spent three days in Banos, a great little town that´s about 4 hours (by bus) south of Quito, and which is nestled between several steep mountains. It´s also only 8km from Volcan Tungurahua, which a couple of months ago began to be unusually active.

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There were a few strange sights in town:
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In town they sell a local specialty, a type of taffy. We didn´t try any, but it was mildly entertaining to watch the taffy pullers in action.
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The Termas, or Hot Mineral Springs

Banos is famous for its natural hot mineral springs, which are heated by the nearby volcano. It´s also the adventure capital of Ecuador, as evidenced by the fact that 3 out of every 5 shops offered bike and ATV rentals and canyoning, river rafting, bridge jumping, and jungle adventures. I don´t know how a small town can support so many tour companies and bike rentals, but somehow it does.

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The hostel we stayed in was a remarkable bargain - only $7 a night per person with a large clean room, 24/7 hot water (trust me, that´s a HUGE luxury here), a private bathroom, a private balcony with views of a nearby waterfall, free internet and honor-system beers available upstairs in the cafeteria. And it was merely a 3 minute walk from the hot springs.
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We loved the hot springs so much that we went both Tuesday night and this morning, when it was much less crowded and we could relax, watching the waterfall above as the sun rose. A person could get used to these hot springs! And they only cost us about $1.75 to visit.

Mountain Biking

On Monday we rented a couple of bikes and rode off along the road from Banos to Puyo. The landscape we rode through was beautiful. The steep mountain sides were lush and green, and there were many natural waterfalls along the way.
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The most impressive waterfall was in the small town of Rio Verde. There we locked our bikes up and hiked 20 minutes down into the forest to see the Pailon Del Diablo, or "Devil's Cauldron," an awesome waterfall that roars and crashes down into the rocks below. We walked across a wobbly foot bridge to the other side of the waterfall, where we enjoyed drinks and lunch at a restaurant called El Otro Lado ("The Other Side"). After lunch we paid $1 each to walk up to several viewing balconies where you can feel the spray from this powerful (and deafening) waterfall. We hiked back up and continued down the road on our bikes.

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We rode on past a town called Rio Negro, intending to ride all the way to Puyo. But the daily afternoon downpour began and we found ourselves struggling up some pretty steep hills. All in all, we rode for 30km before the hills and pouring rain wore us out.

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Now what!?! We weren´t near a town, but I finally managed to flag down a couple of locals in their pickup truck. In our broken Spanish we managed to ask for a ride back to Banos, and they were nice enough to oblige...but not without a surprise in store...

[TO BE CONTINUED]

Posted by jtlande 18:40 Archived in Ecuador Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Banos, Land of Adventure (Part 2)

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When we last saw our intrepid heroes, they had hitched a ride to Banos, only to discover that an unplanned detour was about to take place...

Imagine that deep TV narrator voice when you read the sentence above. Right. Anyhow...

So here we are in the back of a pickup truck with two nice guys who were trying hard to ask us questions about our trip to Ecuador, in spite of the fact that they spoke no English and our Spanish was rather meager. When they asked us if it was okay if we ran a quick errand, Joanna and I glanced at each other, shrugged our shoulders as if to say "yeah, sure, what the hell" and told them, "no problema".
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At the next intersection, in the town of Rio Negro, they turned off the main road and we found ourselves slowly bouncing up a rocky, bumpy dirt road. The two men didn´t seem to know exactly where they were going. They told us (in Spanish of course) they were going to pick up some fish. After stopping to ask a passing truck for directions, we decided to join our "hosts" for a walk down a sketchy looking dirt path.

To our complete surprise, we were at a catch-em-yourself trout farm! How random! Our new friends waved us over, and in a few moments there we all were, with bamboo sticks in hand, digging under rocks for worms to use as bait. Shortly, I had caught two trout!
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In all, we caught four fish, which apparently these guys were going to cook for dinner that night. Grinning, they paid for our haul and we hopped back into the truck, and were back on our way to Banos.

On the way back we experienced the small-town way of refilling the gas tank.

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That night, after drying off and cleaning up after our biking adventure, Joanna and I got massages in town, from the folks at Stay in Touch, for only $25 per person for hour-long massages. They were great massages. Why would we ever leave this town?!?!

Posted by jtlande 19:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hitchhiking Comments (0)

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