Banos and Cuenca
Trip Start Jul 15, 2004
27Trip End Jul 15, 2005
Well the last week has been a bit crazy, with some highs and lows for the people in the group. But nothing we havent been able to get over.
We spent five nights in Banos, a spa town south of Quito, which is famous for its active volcano, and its thermal baths. Banos is a very cool little town, very chilled and relaxed but at the same time offering lots to do. The travel to Banos was long, because we left the jungle very early in the morning and didnt arrive in Banos until 7pm, but a good meal and a impromtu concert by a local band (full on Andean music...pan pipes and everthing!) and we were all in good spirits. The hotel was so lovely...lots of hot water!
We had a very relaxed first day and did some shopping and walking around town. That night however we had a very large one...lots to drink, we ate at a great mexican place and then full of margaritas we hit the town. Maria took us to this bar called the Leprechaun Bar, and we arrived and found ourselves behind the bar drinking Bob Marley shooters for free...I later figured out why. The bar was pretty quiet when we arrived, and then suddenly every guy town was there! Byron even got thanked by the manager for brining along so many girls! Anyway, it was a fun night...these guys know how to dance...so it was salsa dancing the night away. So good to go out and actually dance with people instead of just standing by the bar. Memo to western guys...LEARN HOW TO DANCE it is so sexy! The guys were all around 18...so it was all just a bit of fun and very friendly. Of course there were some very sore heads the following morning.
Despite another day of relaxing and hot springs (tough life I know) we spent the next two days doing some more adventureous activities. I did a four hour horse ride on Thursday, which was brilliant. We rode up mountain trails and had stunning views of the town. Banos is nestled in a valley, and it is very beautiful. I had a great horse (go Russo) and it was agreat horseriding experience.
Not content with the horseride and sore butt effect, the next day I went on a 20km bike ride from Banos to Rio Verde...it was raining and cold and I could so easily not have done it, but I am so glad I did...it was fantastic. The riding wasnt too bad, and the rain wasnt heavy. We rode above the river, and so saw lots of waterfalls and rapids. In some places the road had collapsed and the ride took some concentration to not end up having a much bigger adrenaline rush. For some reason the movie Romancing the Stone came into my head...the bit where the road collapses. After 20km, we reached Rio Verde and had great lunch...I wasnt as sore as I expected, which was nice. We then went for a walk to another waterfall...15minutes down the canyon...but wow, was it worth it. The energy from this place was incredible, and we could all feel it. My skin tingled all over just standing there getting wet by the spray. It wasnt a massive waterfall, but the volume of water was significant and the whole river was being pushed through a small opening. Just brilliant, even if the walk back up nearly killed me! Walking uphill at altitude is still hard work.
Well, to our dramas...two of our group Clare and Sze-Fe got quite sick and ended up in hospital on IV fluids and antibiotics. Not nice at all. They were the only ones to get sick like this and we were able to work out where they ate, that the rest of us didnt...the mad Danish womans place. Seriously, this woman is scary...she stalks tourists through Banos telling them about her cafe, and is quite intimidating...quite bizarre. We suspect we now know why the cafe is not getting business. So if you are Banos, beware the mad Danish woman (you will know her if you see her).
So, with two recoving we hoped on a bus and started our trip to Cuenca, a colonial city with amazing architecture in the old town. The trip was long, about 9 hours all up, but the scenery along the way was just so unexpected. We saw green lush mountains, to barren and dry areas. We climbed steep mountain passes with sheer drops and were at very high altitudes for some of the time (even here at Cuenca we are still 2500m above sea level). At one point we werea above some clouds that had settled in a valley, with a volcano cone poking through the top. Takes your breath away when you see things like that. We saw locals working in the fields, men, women and children, and the bright clothes that indigenous people where here make a lot of sense...you can see them from miles away
So, Cuenca is lovely, and yesterday I went to a football game...fantastic, I was so excited to be seeing a game here. It was Cuenca versus one of the Quito teams, and the atmosphere was great. Everyone was friendly, and the game was good (Cuenca won 3-1) and I now have a Cuenca team cap (for $1 you cant go past it!). One guy had a radio with the commentary going...hilarious...the commentator was going nuts, and all that had happened was some fairly straightforward passing.
Well, I too have been hit by a stomach thing...but not too bad, and I think it had to happen sooner or later. I am hoping to get some photos up soon too...finding a USB connection is tougher than anticipated but will happen.
Thanks for all the emails, please keep them coming and I will try to reply soon!
We are off to Peru tomorrow and so it will be a sad goodbye to Ecuador. But I think I will be back...