Banos from our Breakfast lookout
All day with just a hoe till the day is done.
I’m up at my usual sixish and ready to tell you of our yesterday: our last day in Quito. After a difficult night of trying to sleep with an accompaniment of banging, chiseling, pounding and no water, hot or cold, we preceded to check out. We had also been in need of clean clothes and had given our two bags of dirties to the front desk lady when we checked in yesterday morning.
In such a circumstance, no water, no sleep…I would expect some sort of price reduction for our troubles but all we got was a “I’m sorry” and “OH, you also owe Twelve dollars for your bag of laundry”. Well, we paid it, mainly because I was sorely in need of clean undies being on day two of the last pair. Robin did get a two dollar reduction to her total because she did her Doe Eye look and it worked.
If I didn’t mention it, part of our laundry is also waiting for us in Cuenca due to a misunderstanding of the hours and days open of the recommended lavendaria across the street from our Posada del Rio Hostel. They agreed to hold it for us till our return (in just a few days now!!!).
I will add another David Strength: Super packer…Dave has been in charge of loading our many suitcases each morning and he uses the small back area of our wonderful Suzuki to its optimum capacity. Remember we also are carrying a large bag for Alex full of his hats. See him in Lithia Park on the fourth to purchase one. (Another innocent plug for local commerce…).
Alex and his hats…
David had also done some map research and had figured out an efficient path for our exit from Quito. Once out of the city we would be on the Panamerican Highway, which evokes thoughts of four lanes, signs, lines, etc. And much of it is but some spots are under constructuion from two to,four lanes, have no lines or are dirt.
The town we are looking for is called Latacunga. Now isn’t that a fun word to say!? Let’s all say it three times right now: Latacunga, Latacunga, Latacunga!! North of Latacunga we will take the Quilotoa Loop and venture into the high Andes and indegineous villages for a look see.
Unfortunaltely we encountered a detour (one of several today) and although the entry into the detour is VERY clear, once in there are no signs OUT and so we follow the crowd but the crowd is not always going to Latacunga.
At one point, in need of a bano we stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and Rene suggested I ask the motorcycle cop ifs we are on the road to The Loop. In my best Spanish, I asked and he replied that I needed to go left up ahead, Largo, which we now know means LONG not slow as in a musical sense..and then hang a right. I repeated the directions back to him with hand gestures justo to be sure and thanked him and headed back to the car.
Afer settling into my seat, I noticed that he had moved his cycle right in front of our car. Could he be offering a Police Escort!? Yes, Indeeedy! I quickly explained that we needed to wait for David who was still in the bano and then we were ready. Off we went, with Rene staying right on the tail of our Angel.
Police escort near Lasso
Police escort near Lasso
As we followed in close pursuit, we noticed he would use his cycle siren to tell people to move along quickly or Get Out of my way for the transport of Lost Gringos. after several twists and turns he pulled along side and motioned for the final right turn and we Thanked Him Profusely and continued on our way to the loop,turnoff at Lasso Ecuador. which of,course we missed due to lack of,signs. after a bit of backtracking we discovered we had been in Lasso and contined with a bit of trepidation up the road into the HIGH Andes.
What we discovered on this barely two lane road was the villages and farming practices of the High Andes. Hillsides covered in crops. Hillsides so high that my neck ached from looking up. And up those hillsides are farmers and their families, planting, harvesting, tilling the earth as they have for thousands of years. By hand, one row at a time. Incredible. and the cows who must graze these hills should have two legs shorter than the other two but don’t..We also saw cow herders tending their crew of 1-5 cows alongside the road. Highway maintenance is accomplished in this way. Very efficient.
My favorite Cow herder
Roadside Maintenance with no herbicides
My 2nd favorite cow herder
Roses under these tents
Slides a plenty
Road crew working on a sheer dropoff
Back to the road. One to two lanes if we are lucky with washouts and landslides. As they slice thru these mountains they do not fortify the sides so down they come tumbling down and it all must be cleared by hand, mostly. we saw road repair crew dangling over sheer drop offs and said a little prayer for them and hope they are earning a good wage.
Along the way we see mountain lupines, Shasta daisies, pine forests put in due to reforestation efforts, farms, kids getting out of school in colorful uniforms, and villages.
Lunch in Sigchos
We stopped for lunch in Sigchos, which actually had a big sign. We found an eatery with people in it and orderd our soup and meal..all for $1.50 per person. Hearty, filling and good. In the square women are selling barbecued chicken necks, corn and plantains All from their grills right on the street. Even after a full meal it smells wonderful.
Chicken necks and feets roasting in the town square
High Schoolers coming home from Band practice
Quilatoa loop church
After our meal we decide not to proceed past Sigchos but to backtrack. The road in the map turns from orange to gray to dotted gray…We head back 1.5 horas to the main road and Lasso still making one wrong turn but it wasn’t too bad.
Now we are back on the PanAmerican Highway and it is wonderful. New pavement with lines and more construction a happening. Ecuador is spending it’s oil money on….Roads, Infrastructire and FREE education for everyone. No war involvement here.
Now we are headed down the road to Ambato where we will make a turn to the east and our stop for the night in Banos Pondoa with thermal springs fed from the local Volcano Tungurahua. We won’t make you say that three times…Each town seems to have their specialty…Salasaca is jeans. Yes jeans. Trucks of skinny jeans. Every shop filled with jeans.
Salasaca. the Jean town
The next town is seedlings. Trays of veggie starts, flowers all ready for planting. And winding down we find our weary bones in Banos. We pick a hostel from TLP and check for rooms. Hostal Chimenea and they have rooms and hot water. This is a very nice place, clean with white walls, wood floors and bright artwork on the hallway walls to our room. At $8.50 a person per night we are blessed.
Hostel Chimnea in Banos…My fav at $8.50/night
Waterfalls near the back of Banos…at the bottom of the falls are some Thermal Springs
View from the top of the Chimnea Hostel breakfast room
They even have off street parking for us in a bamboo covered area. We unload, meet the folks hanging out in the lobby, a young man from France who wants to know about Cuenca. We unpack and head to dinner after getting a recommendation from a couple from New Zealand. They have just spent four days in the hospital due to Salmonella that they picked up in Colombia. This evening, after taking their malaria meds, they are heading into the Amazon with a tour company. They take time to show us two dinner spots both mentioned in the handy TLP.
Now it is 8:45 and I am hungry so off this blog for vittales and adventure. We hope to do the thermal springs today, hike to a waterfall and have a massage. The life, eh??