Thursday, September 19, 2013

Banos, Ecuador!!

Yeah! Our bus trip here was so uneventful it was boring! Well, it's never boring but....

Things did go like they should though. A quick breakfast next to the bus station in Alausi and we were off to Riobamba to change busses to head east to Banos. I have to say that we're very happy we didn't go to Riobamba as planned for a day. Not a whole lot pleasing to the eye there. A big city with so much under construction and half finished buildings like Salinas. 

Got a pretty good city tour since we had to get off our bus on the side of the road and catch a cab to the bus station that handled the busses to Banos. This is normal by the way. Many towns and cities have multiple stations for the busses. Makes for an interesting transition. Make sure you get all your luggage off FAST, pull back from the bus or it'll run you over, look around fast to find a cab, then hold your ground or the cab will get taken away faster than you can blink! The only code of courtesy here for getting on or off busses and taxis is to push forward and cut in line to be first. Like I said, I've gotten very good at standing my ground. This isn't rude and they don't take it that way. It just is. 

So after seeing a lot of town, no offense, but am very glad we didn't cut our trip short in Alausi to stay in Riobamba. The town is almost totally under construction between many, many roads torn apart and buildings and homes not completed or abandoned. And, it is quite dirty with garbage everywhere. So when we arrived at the bus station and could get right on the bus to Banos, I wasn't unhappy. 

The ride to Banos was beautiful !  The scenery breathtaking !  And, we got a good view of the actively spouting volcano Tungurahua, although the top was covered in steam and clouds. The skies were gloriously sunny with puffy clouds.


 





 
Tungurahua Volcano with clouds & steam.

 
Upon being deposited in Banos, we finally found a cab after walking in a full circle to get our bearings. As this is a backpacker party town, I had booked on the fringe if town by the waterfall and hot springs that is supposed to be the quieter side. So off we went to Hostal & Spa Casa Real. No disappointment here!

Upon checking in, we found the room we reserved is a "double room". In the rest of the world, bobble means 2 twin beds in a room. You MUST reserve a matrimonial bed to have a bed of at least double in size. I have always known this but when making reservations on line through a booking site, you don't always get this choice. I then always make the request in the notes or special request section. Somehow this didn't get conveyed but since it's low season, we had no trouble making it right for $4 a night more. No. If deal at $30 a night. Oh, and our room has a private balcony overlooking the magnificent waterfall!

It was now about 2:30 and we hadn't eaten since 7:30am, so we just dumped our bags and headed out to explore town and find a bite to eat.  But, first we saw where the spa was and went to make our reservations for massages. This is a MUST here in Banos, which means baths/bathrooms and all things soothing and warm.

We were able to schedule 90 minute massages for that evening at 7pm. Plenty of time to eat and explore beforehand! So that's what we did. As it had started to rain pretty hard, we actually had to use the umbrella I've been carrying around for the first time. This is their rainy season. But here that means sun, a bit of rain, then more sun or at least no rain and the pattern goes on all day - on and off. No big deal since it's a nice temperature here in the low 70s. 

Right in the heart of town, which is only 4 short blocks from us, we found Pappardelle Ristorante, a beautiful gourmet pizza and bar restaurant. A terrific lunner with drinks!

 

From there we just meandered in the way we do. If something looked interesting, like the park, we would linger for awhile. We found the grocery store and bought wine and beer at decent prices here to take back to our room. Then a stop in a travel agency, which is only one of a whole lot in this town, to ask about a day trip into the Oriente province. This is the Amozan jungle region.  Decided not to book.

Over by the center square and cathedral, there was a taxi stand where they were marketing taxi tours. One was a 2 hour waterfall tour that was only $20. So we put that into our thought process. From there we walked back toward our place and walked up to the waterfall and hot springs. A beautiful spot!

 





Pulling taffy.



A replica of the volcano Tungurahua.

An odd looking hostal.

The view from our room balcony.

We had about an hour and a half left before our scheduled massages, so we stopped into the restaurant across the street from our place, El Cedro. To our delight, the owner came to greet us and said we could stay for "just drinks". He then proceeded with very good English to give us a tour of his beautiful establishment. He built it with money that he earned while working in the US. We have found many who have worked in the states and speak good English when we least expected it.

The upstairs of the restaurant.

Beautiful woodwork staircase around a beautiful ceibo tree in the middle of the restaurant.

Trout pond for fresh trout at the dinner table.

A view of the outside of our place, Casa Real, from our table.
 
It was then time to make our way home for our very anticipated massages!  We were each ushered into our room and we both had a blissful 90 minute experience albeit, we both had kinks that were worked on hard that was not so blissful. But, in the end, we were both like jelly and it was great to just walk down the stairs and into our room - wine and beer waiting !!  So we ended th evening sitting on our terrace watching the lit waterfall and having our night caps. Ahhhh!!

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny but we took our sweet time and lunged in our room and enjoyed the terrace and our breakfast in our room. We decided we were going to take the taxi waterfall tour today, so when our shower wasn't working properly, we called Vinicio Delgado. He came within minutes and we were off on a fabulous experience!

At the first double waterfalls, Agoyan, we were mesmerized by the beautiful double falls. Turns out that it was one large falls two years ago when a huge landslide, that killed 4 people below, happened creating he now 2 falls. There was a cable car that would take you across the river canyon, stop close to the falls, then go all the way to the other side before bringing you back. We decided to do this for $1.50/each. An exhilarating event!









The next stop was at Manto de la Novia (Veil of the bride).  Gorgeous once again! Everywhere we looked there was mountain and river beauty.



 
And further on down the mountain road was Rio Verde and the Pailon del Diablo!!!  OMG!!!!!!!!!!! We walked down and down and down. One breathtaking  view after another!!  Until the ultimate waterfall via the suspended bridge. Please enjoy the videos and photos!  No words to describe!

Videos: https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6120926
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6120920
https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D646513_67028128_6120923









330' drop to the pools below!

Suspension bridge.  Hold on!



 
Mike & Me waaaay down there!

It was thunderous!
 
The most wonderful 2 hours!  If you're in the area, I highly recommend this private tour by Vinicio Delgado. 0997446167

Back to our place for nice hot showers, leftover lasagna lunch, some down time on the terrace, and soon we were out and about to explore the town at night. Ended up going to the Stray Dog, a local brew pub, so Mike was a happy camper but so was I!




Wednesday dawned with lots of rain, so off we went by bus to try and find warmer, dry weather.  Decided to take the bus to Tena, the beginning of the Amazon and explore the town.  When we arrived at the bus terminal, the bus had just left so we hopped into a cab that then ran the bus down about 5 blocks away and we were quickly seated, but not together! A 3.5 hour ride with many stops along the way.

I was fortunate to sit with a lady who was very chatty and very patient with my Spanish.  But, we were able to converse a bit, which was really good for me and she gave me a "tour" of what we were seeing along the way.  I was able to express to her about our trip to all of the waterfalls the day before.  Love being able to do this!!

Once past Puyo, to the bottom of the canyon from Baños, we were able to finally sit together for the remaining hour and half trip into Tena.  Once there, we caught a cab to the Malecon down by where 2 rivers converge around an island.  The original bridge to the island, which is a 22 hectar (approx. 50 acres), was washed out in a flood in 2010.  They are now building a new one but for now you must take a canoe across the river to get to the island.  So that we did!



The new bridge.

The canoe with no seats.  Just climb in and squat!



A gorgeous flower that we have no idea what it is.  If you know, let me know.


A stunning BLUE neon butterfly (blue morpho?) that kept flying around me. 


Aww, let's cuddle! NOT!



Mr. Stinky!! EEWWW!


My favorite color!



A giant Ciebo.

The trunk of the tree.

 
We enjoyed the time in the "Amazon Jungle" and then crossed the river and had lunch overlooking the river.  And, then the heavens opened up after being so sunny and gorgeous! So we waited until it passed, which it did pretty quickly.  Then because the next bus back wasn't leaving until 4pm, we had time to walk around town a bit in this area.
 
Love these planters! Made from a full tire! 

I think I got on the wrong boat. Isn't this the Alps??

Street Bridge.

Bridge and rivers around island.

Let's just cross through the river to the other side.

The restaurant terrace where we ate.

Art work in the restaurant.

City park

Old Cathederal

Tire planter beautifully painted!

Center of park.

City square.
 
We caught a cab to take us to the bus terminal and off he went.  When we passed through town, I nudged Mike in the front seat to tell him we were way past the station! Sure enough, for the second time in our travels here, the taxi driver was off and running trying to take us by cab to our destination!  NOT!!  We made him turn around and take us back to the bus terminal.  They think that if he's gone too far that you'll just say "OK" take me to my destination for BIG bucks.  Neither time did they get to take us.  The bus is the way to go.
 
While at the station, the heavens opened up again only this time it really came down!! What I call a gulley washer.
 


 
We then boarded the bus and off we went.  Only about an hour and a half into the ride, we were stopped and everyone was made to get off the bus by very well armed soldiers.  The women and the men were separated.  For us women, they asked for papers and to frisk our handbags.  When it came to me, they looked at the copy of my passport but didn't frisk my bag.  The soldier said "lo siento" to me, which is I'm sorry.  Mike had his body frisked and they looked into one pocket of the backpack but no papers asked for.  The next thing we knew after several soldiers had inspected the inside of the bus, we were back on and on our way again.  This is nothing to be alarmed about, it just is the way it is in many Latin countries.  I think they were checking for drugs coming in from Colombia.  Oh well, all in a day's worth of traveling!  LOL
 
Enjoy some of the sunset pictures Mike loves to take!
 




 
 
Back in time to have a drink at the brewery and dinner at Pappardelle Ristorante again.  We got serenaded by Bolivian musicians and they were awesome!
 

 
Today, we both had massages again but at a different place and loved it, of course!  Lunch at Café Hood, a gringo owned place with fabulous real café mocha!!  Worked on the blog and tonight we met a fb friend, Bob Inman, whose been living in Baños for almost 3 months.  What a fantastic evening!! THANK YOU Bob for a great fun evening spent getting to know each other!!  Know we, too, will be seeing each other somewhere else in this universe! 
 





 
And now to sign off as we catch an early bus to Quito and then on to Otavalo!!  Stay tuned for how this journey unfolds....
 
 

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