Saturday, April 29, 2017

Baños day 3 and going home

We leave IN TWO DAYS for our next big vacation. I told myself I would get the Ecuador posts done before we did that, so here, just under the wire, is the last Ecuador trip post.

Our main task for our last full day in Ecuador was to get back to Quito on public transportation.  The bus didn't leave until early afternoon, so we got out for a very steep hike on the trail behind town. Our destination was a place called Mirador Bellavista. 

The trail was steep and slippery in places.  We met few people, mostly what appeared to be subsistence farmers who tried to farm this very steep hillside.

This half finished shell of a house, perched precariously along the trail, was for sale.  There was no road to it. The new owner will get in good shape commuting to and from work!

The mountain was shrouded in clouds but an occasional break allowed us to see to the valley below. 

Baños from the trail to Bellavista
Our destination turned out to be a bit anticlimactic.  There was some sort of look out or church-y thing.  The clouds prevented too much of a view.

the destination of Mirador Bellavista
 We returned the way we came, packed up our bags, drug them across town to the bus station, dealt with the necessary confusion of what bus to board, then waited for a long time for a late bus.

Once on the bus we rode in relative confidence that we would end up in Quito. We did, caught a cab to our hotel near the airport, and chilled out.  The hotel was a house with some additional buildings out back. Our last meal was at the tiny hotel on tables set up in the living room because the nearest restaurant was a 40 minute walk through an industrial park.  Ecuador!

I'm always a little sad to be going back to regular life after vacation.  Even doughnuts don't always chase the blues away.
So that was our exploration of Ecuador.  It was a great vacation. We improved our Spanish mucho. We loved Quito with all the old buildings and busy friendly city life. We saw animals on the Galapagos Islands that I never thought I would get to see.  Living on a small boat in choppy seas was a huge experience that I'm glad I did but probably will avoid from here on out. Staying near active Cotopaxi volcano in a hippie lodge was our favorite part, partly because the mountains feel like home and partly because the hippies made it not feel like home.  Baños was a fun excursion in big hydrology, especially for desert dwellers like us.  The town itself was a bit touristy, but at least that made for multiple pastry shops and good restaurants.  All in all, a good variety for an 18-day vacation!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Baños Day 2: Big Waterfall

Hey, I figured out how to type ñ! Call me gadget girl.

For our big tourist day in Baños, we chose to rent horrible mountain bikes and ride the waterfall route.  Lots of people do this. So many that the country should make a proper bike path along side the road so somebody doesn't get run over by giant trucks using this same route to move goods between the Amazon Basin and the western part of the country. But that's just my rich American infrastructure habits talking. It was fine; we didn't get run over.

Essentially, the Rio Pastaza flows through a deep canyon of volcanic rocks, most from Tunguragua, the volcano behind town, to the Amazon Basin. Along the way it flows over various more resistant lava flows to create spectacular waterfalls. The Ecuadorians have capitalized on the falls with a variety of tourist attractions.

Twin waterfalls of the Rio Pastaza. The green scaffold is one end of a zip line.

The rental bikes.

You can see the waterfall eroding the base of the fall back under the resistant layer.
 About 4 or 5 of these waterfalls viewed from the road, we made it to the big tourist attraction, Cascada de Paílón del Diablo, or Waterfall of Devil's Cauldron. 

After checking out the other falls on the route, I was a little bit skeptical that this one would live up to all the hype I had read on Trip Advisor.  I needn't have worried. It was AMAZING.

We locked up the bikes at the entrance station on a rack with about 100 other rental bikes, paid our entrance fee, and headed down. Of course there was a myriad of booths and shops selling tourist trinkets and ice cream near the top.  There were also a lot of other people hiking to the falls, mostly Latino family groups.  The path was really steep and very wet and slippery in some places, but very young children and grandparents equally were navigating the trail.  This in not something you would see in America!  

After about 20 minutes of walking, we reached the most elaborate and rock steep viewing platform imaginable.
The viewing platform. I kept wondering how many workers plunged to their deaths making this incredible construct of stone and mortar.

Part of the waterfall.  It was loud and very misty on the platform.

When amazing waterfalls are part of your country's geography, tall, white Americans become the tourist attraction!  The adults were getting their picture taken with Drew before I snapped this picture. 

Carved into the cliff is a passageway to the waterfall that small people can negotiate without much difficulty. Large Americans have more trouble.

But it's so worth it!  What a funky trip.  It smelled like pee in one spot (GROSS!) but totally understandable as there are no facilities anywhere and there is a giant waterfall next to you.

A small passageway for a 6'3" guy!

Holy columnar jointing!
After the wet and misty viewing platform and the slippery low crawl to the passage behind the waterfall, we took the drier view across a swinging bridge.

I love this picture because not only can you see the size and power of the waterfall, but the truely spectacular columnar jointing in the lava flows above.
 Damp and thrilled we decided to save our lungs from inhaling diesel fumes and pay a few bucks for a ride in a big truck back up the road to Baños.

All that scrambling made us hungry.  We went to the #4 rated restaurant in Baños on the east side of town called Cafe Hood. It was one of the best meals we had of the trip.  Super vegetarian options and good coffee.

I don't remember the dish I had, but it was super fresh and delicious

We checked out where the hot springs are so we could return later after returning the bikes.
Then explored town a little bit.
Not really a doughnut.

We didn't take a camera in to the hot springs because there was really not a place to lock things up well. It cost more than I thought necessary given that the place is run down and pretty industrial, but we had to try it.  The best pool had just been drained for cleaning, so we were forced into either a sort of warm pool packed nearly shoulder to shoulder or a scalding hot pool with about three people in it and 50 people around it.  We did both. At the later, I worked up to having ONE FOOT in the water; meanwhile, Drew went all the way up to his shoulders. He was a lobster when he came out!!  I don't know how he could stand it.

We splurged a little for our last official dinner of the trip on a patio of a good restaurant.

All in all, Baños and it's big waterfalls made for an splendid last fun day of vacation. The next day would be making our way back to Quito to fly out the following day.