Well first of all I have to get the rant over about Quito and there nasty dirty theiving gypos. We hadn`t been outside of the bus terminal on our way to Banos for more than 5 mins before the little b%&tards hit. Fair enough we were dumb gringos not chaining ourselves to our bags but we did think that it being only a meter above our heads would have surficed - obviously not! they certainly are professional at it thats for sure. I spent the remaining 3 hours down the Andes cursing every single one of them and their families and by dinner time had still barely lost the red mist.
But on a positive note Banos was lovely, we`d dropped back down to 1,800 from 3,000 that Quito is at and while it still rained quite a bit it wasn`t as cold and damp as the capital, we met a German headteacher lady who said she knew of a good hostel and as she had that air about her we just got in line and followed on quickly behind her; it was really nice though and had a health bath on the top floor where we got pampered with steam boxes and hot and cold water treatments for less than 3 bucks each! I did scream a couple of times though when the little man with the cold power hose went straight for all your wobbley bits with it - I guess to break the fat cells down or something. Chris just got the giggles every time it hit his feet, I didn`t know he was so ticklish.
Inbetween trips to the police station with a guy from our hostel who could speak spainish we also hired out a dune buggy to carry on down the mountain side along the road to Puno (which is where you enter Ecuadors amazon region) to visit all the "cassadas" or waterfalls to you and I. It was a great day out, the tracks are muddy and hanging on to the side of mountains and old lava columns and we finally got to get behind the wheel and drive as badly as they do out here.
The whole valley from Quito down the centre of Ecuador is known as the Avenue of Volcanos and you can see clearly why there are volcanic peaks on every turn and Tungugara is still active today. Its meant that the hillsides are constantly changing and the landscape suddenly opens out in to big gorges with waterfalls tearing down them in to the jungle. I got a little vertigo though by the biggest waterfall we went to "the diablo" as like most things out here health and safety is non existant and they just let you climb up the rock faces so that you`re practially overhanging the thing and so I had to head back down and breath slowly while Chris swung about trying to get inside the waterfall.
Tungugara that I mentioned is the volcano that sits over Banos and last fully erupted in August 2006, so we went on a night visit to a viewing spot of it, as others had said it was active at the mo so we thought we`d give it a go - worst that could happen is you look at a grey nothingness for an hour. But luckily we got a clear night and you could see all the ash blowing up in to the sky but then we got a real treat as it suddenly puffed a big red cloud in to the sky and a steam of flurosent red lava came spewing out! everyone stood there gasping while the guide was jumping up and down screaming "feugo de volcan, feugo de volcan" at the top of his voice - as if we need to be told! It is truely one of the most amazing sights Chris and I have seen while we`ve been away as you suddenly realise the power of the volcan and nature out here that we`ve seen in so many different ways and how tiny the town of Banos and us suddenly looked! unfortunately the pictures of it didn`t come out as we were still about 2,500m from the cone but we won`t forget that feeling for a long time.
Our last activity here was of course the champions league final but I won`t say anymore about that as Chris feels truely robbed. so we comiserated in style with a group of other poms and then the next morning had to get back on the bus to Quito to head off on to our Galapagos trip, this time we did have all our bags on our seat so we got back to the damp, cold, grey city of Quito uncomfortably but unrobbed. Hurrah.