We are spending our final day in Banos, Ecuador, for tonight we will be heading off on our first night bus ride (11 hours) back up north to Lago Agrio for a 5-day jungle tour. We are travelling along with some new friends we met along the way in Quilotoa, Maya and Rob, from Scotland(and England). It´s been nice to have some English speaking companions for the last week...plus it´s fun to hear all of their little sayings - like ¨having a wee bit of a hairy skage¨ (spelling?!)
Laguna Quilotoa was breathtakingly beautiful! We took off from the town of Quilotoa thinking we were going to camp at the bottom by the lake, but after having our breakfast of crackers taken from us and given to their child 2 minutes into the walk, and then being subsequently followed for the next 45 minutes by the father, we decided against that. Here we met up with Rob and Maya and continued the remainder of the 5.5 hour trek down into Toachi Canyon and then back up to Chugchilan. The hike was pretty tough going at times, especially because we were carrying our packs and enough food and water for two days (thinking we were camping). Some places in the Canyon were so narrow that we barely passed through with our packs. However, the views the entire trek were incredible. The ¨very straightforward path¨as usual, was anything but. Local guides, hoping to make a buck off lost gringos have removed most of the signs leading the way, so we were left asking local indiginas and guessing all along the way. But like I said, it was well worth it.
In Chugchilan, we took one more hike up into the Cloudforest, which again was a ¨straightforward route¨ that we missed! After backtracking uphill a half mile or so, we found our turnoff that was missed because of some pretty aggressive dogs on the way down. A large portion of the trees in the area we walked through had been cut down, lending to a pretty depressing scene. But, what did remain was beautiful and worth the hike. The remainder of our time there was spent hanging out in our ¨splurge for the month¨hotel - an ecolodge called Black Sheep Inn. Aaron was pretty psyched because they had dry composting toilets in every room...something I´m sure is in our future! The last day Aaron came down with some kind of flu or something but at least we were in a nice place to read and relax.
From there we arrived in Banos, famous for its hot springs and proximity to an active volcano, Timboragua. We, being the tourists we try not to be but are, signed up for a ¨Eruption Tour¨set for 9pm. When we arrived at the pick up point, we looked over to see that we would be taking a ride on the `party bus´. Blaring dance music and colorful lights were the highlights of this chiva (bus with upper deck seating)...pretty amusing! We did get to see the volcano spew three different times during our tour, but that wasn´t even the exciting part. We soon learned that sitting on top of the chiva was quite the daredevil activity. Low lying powerlines and tree branches were all part of the ride...¨Duck!¨ was about all the warning you got!
The next day we went on a bike ride to the local falls withe Maya and Rob. The bike route led you through one tunnel (the remainder had bypass routes) that was the fright of my life. I am not exactly known as the most coordinated bike rider so the conditions in which we entered this tunnel were a recipe for disaster! About a third of the way into the tunnel there was absolutely no light and we were forced to just ride as straight as possible. Needless to say, I was relieved when I finally reached the other side! The other adventure of the trip was when Aaron had to turn MacGuyver on us in order to try and fix the circa 1970 bike pump they lent us in case of emergency! He puled out Juicy Fruit, Lubriderm, a zip tye, and went to work...let´s just say we were relieved when another group of bikers roled through 45 minutes later with a slightly better pump!
This past couple of days has definitely been pretty interesting in terms of meeting people...from the Indian guy who spoke of Dehli Belly and described India´s traffic as a ¨gang bang¨ to meeting a woman we began calling ¨Tennesee¨ that was a real hoot, we certainly have had some good laughs. Oh yeah, I almost forgot the German stalkers...
It´ll be a while before we write again since we will be in jungle territory for the next six days...mosquitoes, here we come! Talk when we return!