| Entry 16 of 77
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For $2.50US we travelled to Latacunga on the same road we almost died on but this time without incident and with no rain. We woke up to beautiful sunshine and a even more beautiful view form our balcony which had been cloud covered the two days prior. Elise and Eliane sat together on the bus and I alone. I wanted to be as close to the mountain side as possible and did not want to look out the window. I got talking to Greg after a while, 28, IT engineer, lived in London 5 years, Irish passport and on his way to NZ and OZ. He was really lovely, normal, a gentleman, adventurous and ...just maybe gorgeous. It made the journey very pleasant.
We were quickly thrown off the bus somewhere in Latacunga and compared to the highlands, Latacunga was roasting. We all started to strip off once we found a safe place for our bags on the side of the road and also started to lather up with suncream as the sun was beating down and there was no shade. We said goodbye to Izy and Greg who went to Quito and waited for our bus. After much yelling from passing bus sprukers we found the right one (even though they all insist that it is the right bus) and we were on our way. Elise was still a bit quiet from our hairy bus ride but once we got talking about accommodation and direction for the next couple of days we were back on track. I was in charge of accommodation for Banos and chose a two (one super cheep and one super nice) depended on how each turn out.
Elise and I were chatting away when a foul smell enveloped us. It was permeating every space and everywhere I turned (more importantly, Elise turned) the smell was unescapable. The source was an old man, pissed, who was walking down the isle, who, in a bad but funny turn of events, chose to sit next to Elaine (who was behind us). With the speed of light and without a word spoken between us on the matter, Elise wrestled with her bag for mints. We were saved for the moment but we were worried for Elaine who was sound asleep. We were sure the smell would wake her up but that girl slept right through it. Elise looked over the seat in amazement at Elaine who has still not been aroused by the smell ..and exclaiming with wide eyes she sat back down and rummaged for her camera..i thought she was documenting the moment (as we like to do) but in actual fact she was documenting Elaine's face .."she looks exactly like Jesus". I explained that maybe it was Mary she was reminded of and she shrugged ..in the same genre at least. We did document it for the record and joked while downing another 3 or 4 mints each to cover the smell that someone must be looking after her to sleep through that.
Thankfully the man got off the bus and once we were over our giggles we got back to organizing our trip. The options had got us on a roll and we were both very excited. But again we were interrupted, this time but Lee a few seats back, I was happy to entertain his question for a few moments but he asked if Elise and I had been watching the volcano. WHAT!!! Yes the smoking volcano that the whole bus has been watching for a good half an hour. WHAT!!!
We plasted our faces to the window like children and searched for the volcano..how caught up we had got with our planning that we missed an Active volcano..searching, searching and then as we rounded a bend the valley opened up and there it was..we both looked at each other in wonderment, smiled and went straight back to it. It was an enormous mountain and an active volcano...my first. Thick black smoke was thundering out of the top of it and once the picture sunk in the brain kicked in and I started to wonder if heading to Banos was such a good idea.
Banos is a small vacation town at the base of an active volcano and is completely surrounded by mountains (which we were now traveling between). Banos was evacuated in 2006 because the volcano was anticipated to erupt and sure enough in July there was an enormous eruption. The bus started to lean to the left and then rattled and bumped over something ...we were passing over the lava flow that had traversed the road and continued further down into the valley. It was so exciting and fascinating. I felt like that blonde haired lady from "Twister" (you all know I don't know the name of any of those actresses). Many of the houses were lost on the outskirts of town and people died but Banos itself was not directly affected. But the expanse of lava with denuded burnt trees was absolutely surreal. I kept thinking of mum and how much she would love this (natural disaster movies are her favourite and so the real thing would be mind blowing for her). Interestingly, many tourists have stayed away from banos because of the volcano...I wonder why and I wonder why this never crossed our mind...strange isn't it.
The local bus is basically like a tour of the lava field, it was so great. Everyone on the bus was pinned to the windows and passing around information about the volcano. First of all we wanted to know if the area was actually safe (considering all the black smoke and ash that was flying high into the sky). But noone had an answer.
We arived in Banos (very touristy town, unlike anywhere else in ecuador) on Presidential Election day. This was surprisingly painless and the day, at last was quite. Due to the "Dry law" that applies 2 days before and on the day of elections there can be no campaigning and no service or drinking of alcohole...so we were in peace.
From the bus station we all dispursed and Elaine, Elise and I headed for the two hostel options. First was the cheep cheep option, which was too dodgy for the mood we were all in and so we wetn to Plantas y Blanco (free internet, private bath, hotwater, triple room for $6.50US- AMAZING). But best of all was the café on the roof that had amazing breakfast. We arrived at 2.50pm, had plenty of time for a big lunch before we attended to our chores. At lunch we were showered in ash, food and all. Elaine looked great by the end of it in her white top (again we documented this). We again wondered if being in Banos was a smart thing ..but noone seemed to understand when we asked about the volcano. So we wondered on, attended to our Inca Trail problems at an Internet café and then found a place to get a massage. We were all in need of attention for our aches and pains. For $47 we got a full body massage and a facial (2 hours in total) from Stay in Touch. I had Jeff who I don't think has had any training but has had a lot of experience. When he came across a knot by chance he didn't appear to know what to do with it. So although I was knotted all over, he didn't get to one of them. I was constantly waited for the attention I needed and so attending to my neck was an impossible ask. The I-can't-look-left problem was increasingly bad, we always seem to be sitting on the left side of every transport mode we go on (and even now I continue to have difficulties looking left -3 months later). The facial was good..a bit rough and I was worried what it would do to my terrible skin but the hardest part about the whole things was staying still for 2 hours. The rain was pouring down in Banos while we were in the candle lit rooms which was lovely and I did relax which is always a treat.
That night we went to an Italian resteraunt. I ordered cannelloni, and the girls two different types of lasagna but when the food came out we all basically had the same meal. We didn't make too much of a fuss as weather they told us or not we could only have had the same thing anyway. Playing on the TV in the resteraunt was the results of the Election (we were so happy that they were over- finally peace and quiet). Our pick - Cynthia - came fifth and Correa and Toldos came first and second. However because the top two did not get over 50% they had to run for another month when the country votes again ...NOOOOOO...luckily we were leaving Ecuador by the time the campaigning kicked in again (we found out in later months that Correa won...the richest man in Ecuador surprise surprise). Conversation at the table had completely stopped and all our eyelids were struggling to stay open so we left and had an early night, as always we were buggered.
At 5.30am we were all awake so by 6am we were on our way (walking) to the thermal hot springs located at the base of the Virgin Waterfall ($2). It is best to get there early because all the locals love the place and it gets very crowded. Even at 6.30am they were plenty of people there, but we had a nice time. Elaine had a bit of an issue with her swimmers (ie she didn't have any) and they don't let you in with out them. And like the good girl that she is she would not come in in her underwear (which was a dambed site better that some of the swimming costumes out today! But after she got changed and was about the leave she had a change of heart and we were greated with a little pick and white onsomble which was just fine. Here really began Elises facination with B-grade swimming costumes and the terrible state of some of them. We also noticed that generally Ecuadorians don't know how to swim. There were some young men there who were giving it a go ..like a competition but were absolutely terrible. The wonderful thing was that they were not embarrassed...if anyone I knew in Australia could not swim I would be so embarrassed for them as it is something I have taken for granted my whole life.
After a shower back at the hostel we had an amazing breakfast in the café at the hostel. I had an omlette and the girls had pancakes piled high with fruit and chocolate sauce..it was spectacular food. We got the a post office and offloaded some stuff...my poncho was sent to Clare in England (1kg for $19) and a combined box for EC and myself to Australia (2kg for $34). As usual the post experience took us straight into lunch and after that we started our walk up the mountain (2.30pm). First we stopped at the statue of the Water Saint and then we were to attempt to traverse the mountain and return back on the other side at the other end of the town which was closest to our hostel. But things went a little differently to plan.
walk to Mirrador del Volcan,Mountian story ..TBC...need energy to write this one
We went straight to a resteraunt to get some food - pizza and then dragged ourselves home completely exhausted. But I still had a bit of energy left to go on the night ride to a view point for watching Volcan Tagaranga by night. There was a slight possibility that you can see lava spurting out. What a waist of good sleeping time. It departed at 10pm and in an in open sided bus we drove to a ridiculously distant view point of Banos (from which a side view of the volcano can be seen if you have xray vision. The stupid part was that none of the people on the tour took any interest in the volcano what so ever. They all stood around a fire and watched a torch thrower (which I could see in Manly if I really felt the need). I can't explain how angry i was, Elise thought i was foolish for thinking that i wold actually see something but i would have at leaset liked a chance to sit and watch and see if i could. If it weren't for a distant storm and the intermitent lightning siloeting the top of the volcanoe you would have been looking at absolute darkness and nothing more. It was a great view of Banos by night however. So we froze our bollacks off for an hour and returned back down the mountain. I went o tbed quite pissed off.
Thge next morning we were all geting out of Banos. We said goodbye to Elaine Vickers (who was on her way back to Quito and then direct to Cuzco for the Inca Trail) who we absolutely adored travelling with and i can't wait to see her again in England when i get there. Elaine was an absolute gem and hand delivered our deposit to Cuzco for our Inca Trail as we had exhausted all options for payment. We got our own bus that afternoon to Riobumba after purchasing some heavy duty plastic to line our bags and protect all our belonging from another horrific bus journey (three months on and that plastic was worth its weight in gold. Just brillaint!)
| Entry 16 of 77
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