Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Drivin' Miss Terry.....And Chasing Waterfalls In Banos, Ecuador......

Baños is a rather touristy town in Ecuador about 45-minutes by bus from Ambato where we're house sitting. If you remember a few blogs ago we've already been there, walked around and took a plunge in the mineral waters of the thermal baths.  Hence the name Baños which means "bath" or "bathroom" in Spanish, the town is known for it's thermal hot springs. Since there's plenty more to see there we decided to head back that way for another day of adventures.

We arrived around lunch time on purpose since Clyde's been wanting to try a local delicacy called, "cuy" known to the English speaking world as "guinea pig." Last time we visited we walked by a large bbq restaurant that specializes in grilling the cute little rodents.  But since it was Monday the restaurant was closed so we had to look elsewhere.  Clyde stopped a taxi driver to ask if there were any other restaurants that cooked up the creature but the answer was "no."

So instead we stumbled into a restaurant featuring typical Ecuadorian food and other stuff which is what we ate.  We both choose chicken fajitas which were served Ecuadorian style.  A combo of cut up chicken with beans served alongside avocado and French fries with two tortillas rolled and balanced on top.  Our Mexican friends will cringe when they read that fries are served alongside fajitas here. But not to worry friends as we both left our fries behind to be fed to the street dogs or whoever gets the leftovers.  The meal was ok but took over thirty minutes to get to our table.  It seemed that everyone else was eating the special of the day which was a typical rice, chicken and salad combo served with soup.

Chicken Fajitas Ecuador Style
 


As we waited for lunch we had the perfect spot to people watch on the street in front of us. Hoards of school kids all dressed in a variety of school uniforms went by.  From the regular plaid skirts with white shirts and knee socks to matching sweat suits and sneakers.  Most of the school uniforms here include matching sweaters too since the weather is chilly. One school dressed the girls in dark blue skirts with waist length jackets to match but instead of the normal flats for shoes these young ladies wore black heeled pumps.  They looked as if they were going to the office instead of school.  The boys from that school wore business suits with white shirts and jackets and black shiny shoes.

Back on the street Clyde had a list of things that he wanted to see this time in Baños.  But our feet could only take us so far so our option was to book a tour through a gringized tour company that would probably cost too much, or take a taxi. Clyde has never met a stranger and is not afraid to approach just about anyone on the street to strike up a conversation. He walked up to the first taxi he saw and explained where he wanted to go.  Clyde's list included going to the mirador or lookout point near the Tungurahua Volcano, and something else called "Casa de Arbol," or "tree house." The driver quoted him a price of $20 which would include waiting for 30-minutes while we looked around the tree house area. Clyde agreed and off we went with our Spanish speaking driver.

Our first stop was "Casa de Arbol" which I had never heard of and Clyde wasn't telling me anything about.  The driver stopped at what looked like a steep, long driveway and explained that we had to walk the rest of the way.  It was really steep and offered a rope along the side to pull oneself up the hill.  We made our way to the top and what I noticed in the distance was a just as I'd expected.....a tree house overlooking a gorgeous view of the mountains.  We paid a whole dollar to enter the grounds and proceeded to climb up into the tiny house to take in the breathtaking vistas around us.
Two swings hung nearby for those brave enough to swing out over the edge and they even included a safety belt. I'm brave and not afraid of heights so I had to be the first.  But I do admit it was scary as I looked down and realized there was nothing keeping me from plunging to my death except the ropes on the swing.

Headed Up To The Tree House

Casa de Arbol

Balcony Of The Sky

At The Top

Miss Terry At The Top


Wheeee.......He's Just A Swingin' Over The Edge

It's A Long Way Down There 

Lovely Views From The Tree House


 



Once we'd had enough excitement at the tree house we headed back down the hill to find our driver taking a nap in the car.  Back inside he told us that we would not be able to see the volcano because it was clouded in.  He suggested driving us along the, "ruta de cascadadas," or "waterfall route," along with an overlook of the city at Bellavista for a price of $40.  Our first stop was the overlook which featured a large cross overlooking the town. Leaving Baños we crossed over the Agoyan hydroelectric dam and continued along the way.

Views Of Baños From The Cross Lookout

Baños, Ecuador


 
 Agoyan Hydroelectric Dam
 


From there we proceeded along the 38-mile route that drops 3300 feet in elevation along the Pastaza Valley to the edge of the Oriente. There are a dozen or more waterfalls, six tunnels through the mountains and several "tarabitas" or cable cars that cross the valley. Our driver explained that the cable cars were originally built for locals to cross the ravine.  But soon tourists began to offer money to be able to ride them so now one of them is offered to tourists at the low price of $1.50 a person. For another $2 they sold us a photo that we didn't even know they were taking.  Our driver was with us onboard the cable car and had to tell us to turn around and look at the camera.


Heading To The Falls

Our Driver Takes Our Photo


Our Driver





Known as "Manto de la Novia," or the "brides veil," the cable car stopped directly over the waterfall giving us a scary but awesome view.  The gorgeous views are also sad as our driver explained to us the following story.  In 2010 there was a huge landslide here that killed 5 residents and swept away several homes.

 Wave To The Camera.....
 
 
Our drive continued and included a roadside stop at the natural image of the face of Jesus in the side of a mountain.  We continued to the town of Rio Verde where we were taken to see, "El Pailon del Diablo," or "The Devils Cauldron." By far the highlight of our day this is a dramatic, powerful waterfall that cascades down into a deep pool of water. Again we had to pay a $1 to enter the area that started with a dirt path.  From there we had to cross a scary, slanted suspension bridge over the ravine below us.  There were many stairs leading down and up to a series of platforms to view the waterfall and area around us. We followed behind our guide as he showed us exactly where to go and pointed out what we were seeing often with explanations.

Natural Rock Formation Of The Face Of Jesus
 

Another View Of Jesus
 
Another Waterfall


 Another Tarabita Over The Falls
A Sirena Or Mermaid Had Come For Clyde 
 
 
Long, Slanted Suspension Bridge

Are We Going Down There?
See The Tiny Stairs?  And Yes We Did Go Down There
 




View From The Suspension Bridge
 
 
 Clyde Went Down Further And Stood Near The Falls
 




Let Sleeping Dogs Lie......Street Dogs 



 

On our way back to Baños he pointed out a rock formation that looked like a bulldog in the mountain.  Clyde could see it and took photos but I couldn't make out the image.  We drove by a police blockage around a landslide that had just happened covering part of the road.  A bit sobering since we had just driven by this area and could have been buried under rock and rubble.

We caught the bus back to Ambato in rather easy fashion from Baños.  Immediately after disembarking the bus somewhere on the edge of town we jumped into a taxi. While most taxi drivers that we've met here have been nice, others not so much.  While many of them regard stop signs as just part of the landscape, others actually use their suggestion and pause briefly.  The one we had last night was ok until we exited the car in front of the apartment.  Clyde asked him how much and he said, $3.50, to which Clyde said NO......how much does your meter say?  The driver said, "oh no that doesn't work," and Clyde said we'll I'm not giving you $3.50. We've taken taxi's everywhere since we've been here for the past few weeks.  A typical ride has cost anywhere from less than a dollar to about $2.60, never three something.  The ride to pick up the bus for Baños yesterday morning cost us $2.50 so the ride back should have cost about the same.  But we might have been dropped off further away since the buses don't take passengers here back to he bus stations. So anyway Clyde ended up agreeing to pay the driver $3. Upset that he wasn't able to screw the gringos the driver backed up and plowed into a neighbors parked car that was on the other side of the cul-de-sac and went storming down the street.

Despite the ugly driver we had a wonderful day exploring this beautiful country. A private taxi ended up being a great way to explore the area around Baños and not pay a crazy price to a tour company. Thanks to my wonderful husband who's not afraid to talk to the  locals, practice his Spanish and be brave enough to go out exploring with me in tow.......along the gringo trail.





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