Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bathing In The Therapuetic Waters......Of Baños

Yesterday we woke up to a sunny day and felt more acclimated to the temperatures since we're no longer freezing. After taking Jethro for a long walk in the park we packed our backpacks and set out to find the town of Baños. Our trek began by hopping into a taxi that would take us to the main bus terminal in Ambato.  From there we found the long line of people waiting for buses to the touristy town of Baños. Once on the bus we settled in for a 45-minute ride through gorgeous vistas which allowed us to see a different side of Ecuador.  The winding roads took us by fertile farmland that climbed high into the clouds and through tiny villages of cement homes.  The majestic mountains surrounded us while an onboard guitar player entertained the passengers with various tunes hoping for some money.

Which Bus Do We Take?

Notice The Live Chicken In Storage

Andean Woman With Crates On Her Back

More Live Chickens In The White Case

Entertainment On Board

Man Collecting Our Fares Of $1.20 Each



Eventually we climbed off the bus into the tiny town packed with tourists from all over the world.  Yet we were still among the few white faces in the crowd and those we did see were young, backpackers seeking outdoor adventures. Since it was nearing lunchtime we looked for a place to eat.  A gringo lady approached us to hand us a business card for her restaurant, singing it's praises and Clyde nicely said that we might stop by later.  Although we both knew there was no way in hell we'd eat food made by gringo hands when we had such choices of unusual foods to temp our palate.

Waterfalls Off The Mountains


We Made It To Baños

Plenty Of Shops



More Waterfalls In The Distance


A Church In The Plaza




We stepped into a large marketplace that was full of various restaurants that were mostly serving up the same type of typical Ecuadorian food. A few young ladies waved us into their table and we sat down next to strangers for some local food.  The menu was under the clear plastic tablecloth and included pictures of the food.  The descriptions of each plate was in both Spanish and English. I choose a plate of llapingachos, which are potato patties filled with cheese then topped with a fried egg, salad, beets, avacado and rice for $2.50.  Clyde had a chicken plate that was also served with rice, salad, avocado and mixed veggies for $3.00.  Clyde ran to a nearby stand to get a batido of mixed fruit that was large enough to share as our drink.  Strange thing about the fruit drinks here is they don't add ice when they blend them up which leaves them rather warm. 

Large Mercado


 


In case you don't already know this, the word "baños" in Spanish means "bathroom or bath," and the town shares this name because of it's thermal baths.  Sitting in the shadow of the Tungurahua volcano hot, mineral water flows down and is said to have healing powers. Although there was little to no information in the town on the baths, Clyde stopped a local man to ask him in Spanish.  The man explained that there are several hot baths but the best is El Salado, and said that we'd need a taxi to get us there. En route I asked the taxi driver if this was the best bath to visit and he agreed that it was.   Located on the outskirts of Baños the parking area was filled with cars as we approached the building. Admission price was just $3.00 each but then we were told that everyone was required to wear a "gorra," or hat while in the pools.  The attendant pointed us in the direction of a small gift shop where we got to choose from a pile of assorted hat colors for the one we wanted. We both choose a black one that set us back another $1.25 each.

 Entrance To Thermal Baths
 
River Running Nearby

Parking Area


Views From The Pools
 


Next we followed the crowds into a changing room where we waited in line for a tiny cubby to open up.  Clyde and I went into the small, wet room together and managed to change into bathing suits and tuck our clothes neatly into our backpacks where everything would stay dry. Our backpacks were then put into large, plastic milk crates and then stored in a cloak closet for safe keeping......or so we hoped?  The attendant gave Clyde a number attached to a wrist band to wear which would identify which cubby our stuff was in when we were finished for the day.





Nice Brown Water
 
 
 
Notice How The Hotter Pools Are Browner
 


Views Of Pools




We followed the others into another room that had rows of showers, one side with hot water and the other only cold. Each stall was open and as I waited I watched a man clearly cleaning his private parts under his bathing suit. People came and went and even though we didn't have soap we showed off like we were supposed to, despite being clean already.

A Chilly Pool Full Of Kids With A Swimming Area Around





El Salado had an assortment of six different pools all of varying temperatures from hot to chilly.  The water was brown and muddy looking, the color of poop and the germaphobe in me thought, "oh my gosh imagine the germs in there." As we entered the first overly crowded pool we made our way to a slight clearing.  Soon we were trampled and stepped on by people passing by, hanging onto the side railing for dear life. We seemed to be the youngsters in this particular pool of ancient looking, dark skinned people.  Seriously though they looked so old we had to wonder if they were even still breathing? Perhaps they were here for the healing powers of the baths?  Whatever the reason the people here certainly weren't a pretty bunch!





We went from pool to pool, some hotter, some cooler and a few with families of splashing kids and toddlers in swim diapers. Our favorite was the first as it was hotter and felt more therapeutic despite having been climbed on by shriveled up, leather-skinned Ecuadorians.  When we had enough we showered again, picked up our stuff from the storage locker and waited in line again to get dressed.



Once outside we walked down the street and stopped at a bus stop.  A nearby store owner came out to tell us there would be no buses coming anytime soon.  I asked why and he explained something that I didn't quite understand.  Thinking we were stuck here I asked the man if he could call a taxi for us and he said that he didn't have a phone. Contemplating what to do I had the idea to walk back up the street to the entrance to the thermal baths and ask someone that worked there to call us a taxi.  So that's just what we did.  The parking attendant called a taxi who came to get us in five minutes or so. But it turns out that this being Friday was the start of a long three day weekend for the locals.  What this meant for us was lots of traffic as Ecuadorians had a day off to celebrate Independence Day from Spain for Guayaquil, one of the largest cities in the country.

By this time the day had warmed up nicely and for the first time since we landed in Ecuador, we wore short sleeves with no jackets.  Back on the streets of Baños we roamed around through the hoards of tourists taking it all in.  We passed by one large barbeque restaurant that had plenty of "cuy" roasting on the spit. While cuy or guinea pig is a common food here in Ecuador us gringos think of it as more of a pet for kids. Clyde wanted to try some but these things were huge and came as part of a whole meal.  And since we were still stuffed from lunch we passed on it but will try to find some another time.

Cuy (Guinea Pig) Anyone?


 Guinea Pig On The Grill
 
A Living Statue

Bicycle Vendor With Drinks Waits In Traffic
 
 
 Tourists In Matching Shirts Wrapped Around The Waists
 
Highlands And Farming

Lovely Views

Clouded In Volcano

Tungurahua Volcano
 

 


We made our way by bus back to Ambato and went for our nighttime walk in the park.  The park was full of kids, people and dogs running freely and enjoying the splendor of the evening. We sat a while and watched as Jethro interacted with about five other dogs, running up and down the hills and jumping over people sitting in the grass.

View Of Rainbow From The Apartment
 


Back in the apartment I looked forward to showering off the minerals of the baths and feeling clean once again. Today was a good day of exploring this beautiful country and submerging ourselves into the mineral baths at Baños.  Perhaps tomorrow we'll wake up ten years younger after being rejuvenated by the healing powers of the waters, or maybe it'll be just another day in Ecuador.......along the gringo trail.

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