In Ambato, we took the cutoff for Banos which actually made us head a bit south again. We had already passed a few impressive volcanoes along the way, but we were anxious to see the one we came to see...the one that's been having indigestion lately. Tungurahua, (throat of fire) stands over 15,000 feet and has been actively erupting since 1999. Most of the time, it is shrouded in clouds, unable to see the whole thing. But, as we approached Banos, there it was!! We looked for signs of life. Nada. Wait...WAIT!!! It PUFFED!!!! IT PUFFED FOR US!!! YEA!!!!!!! Cameras in the car went wild.
We arrived in Banos in the early evening after an all-day drive from Montanita. We checked into our hotel, located smack-dab in the middle of the Banos village. Perfect location. The hotel name? Hotel Eruption, of course!! When we were making our reservations a few weeks beforehand, Granny did NOT want to stay at the HE because of its name and the fact we had two teenagers with us. Good Grief!!! The two teens might get giggly over the name and go back to their schools and friends and make a big deal out of it. ARRGGHHH!!! But, that's where we stayed.
The next morning we were ready for adventure, which is what Banos is all about. We took the waterfall tour, which I've done before. Granny stayed in her room (or so she claims). The tour bus was a 'Chiva'. Chivas are basically a truck with a flatbed with benches and an overhead canopy, colorfully painted. No windows, no seatbelts, just hang on.
The first stop had options to ride in a metal bucket and be flung across the river gorge in front of the waterfalls, then back. The TN gang did that. $1.50 Next, came an opportunity to do a zip-line. Both Maddy-mae and Opie were chomping at the bit to fly through the air (with the greatest of ease). This zip-line was the mother of them all....a full kilometer long from high on a ridge down into the gorge, crossing the river, then re-crossing the river again, to the end at the bottom of the gorge. In the past, you had to hike back out, but this time they had a vehicle waiting to drive them back up to the top. $15.
The last stop on the waterfall tour was to die for. It was something that one could almost say made the entire trip to South America worthwhile if that were the only thing you did. We walked a trail, parallel to the river, to a point where the water fell into a big pool of a semi-open cavern. Wow. heh-heh...that was nuttin. Further down the trail, we came to a suspension bridge. These are NOT my favorite because they swing and bounce and you wonder if you're going to step on that one rotted board and...... Crossing the suspension bridge, you got a full view of the huge, roaring waterfall. Looking outwards, was a beautiful gorge with the river at the bottom, a house dwarfed in the jungle-like canopy and another suspension bridge leading to it. Now I know where the Garden of Eden is located!!
Across another suspension bridge and down a trail carved out of the side of the hill, we descended to a point where we could stand behind the waterfall! The word 'amazing' doesn't serve justice. It boggles my mind that people had the idea, motivation, and perseverance to carve steps out of a sheer rock cliff to bring visitors to this point. The stairs and outlooks were pure works of art. A couple of men were working on the trail railings, laying brick and mortar, precariously clinging to very little footing and a sheer drop below. All the materials (brick and concrete) had to be hand-carried down the trail to their location.
That night, Maw-mah and Maddie-mae opted for a spa treatment for their feet. For ten bucks, they soaked their feet in a de-ionizing machine filled with water. It's supposed to be a detoxifying process where toxins in your body exit through the bottoms of your feet. By the time they were done, their water was darker than root beer! Toxic people them folks from Tinnissee!!!
The next day, the TN family went horseback riding. Granny stayed in her room once again. Or, so she said. I stayed in my room to write my blog.
Later, after they returned, Opie and I rented Quads. I'd never driven one before, but he had. They are like motorcycles but with 4 wheels and they're great for going off the road. The rental lady was a bit intrepid about renting to Opie because he didn't have his passport with him. He convinced her he knew how to ride one because he had one back home. I noticed the sign said minimum age 16. Opie was 14, but looked and acted much older. I was nervous because I was essentially the adult, responsible for him. We got our quads, but Opie kept killing the engine every time he tried to start. The battery was a bit pooped, so the staff had to keep pushing him to get it started. Then he would kill it again. Rinse/repeat, Rinse/repeat. I asked him 'I thought you said you knew how to operate these things!!' Well, he did, but not ones with clutches. He had an automatic back home. DOH!!! I thought the staff was going to recant on the rental, but they gave him an automatic and off we went.
Opie and I took a cobblestone road and climbed waaaaaay up to the top of a hill on the opposite side of the volcano, looking waaaaay down on Banos. The views were amazing. After goofing around on various dirt roads up at the top, we headed down....as were the clouds...heading down. Once we stopped to take a photo but by the time Opie got the camera out, the clouds engulfed us and obliterated the view.
That night, I took the gang up to 'Luna Run Tun'....a fantastic resort high on the hillside looking down upon Banos. We walked a bit of the grounds and checked out the stunning infinity pool built right on the edge of the cliff. We had dinner in the restaurant where you can sit next to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and look straight down onto Banos.
Ahhh, but it was time to leave Banos and head home. Our last stop would be the town of Alausi, the starting point for the Devils Nose Train. When we got there about 11:30am, the station attendant informed us 'yep' there were tickets still available. For the 3pm train. ACCCCKKK!!! Granny got her brain cells twisted around thinking there was a 1pm train, when in fact it was 11am. We were not going to wait 3.5 hours for the next train. Granny wanted to get home to her babies (a couple of wiener dogs). There wasn't anything in Alausi to see other than the train station itself.
Back in the car for our final 2.5 hour leg of our week-long trip. Everything was fine until.....
Just as we were approaching the outskirts of Cuenca, a rattling noise started coming from my engine. Hmmmm....that doesn't sound good. In less than a quarter mile, as I tried to ascend a minor slope, my car wouldn't have anything to do with it. No OOMPH. I pulled to the shoulder and the motor died.
I lifted the hood and checked for any obvious signs of the source of the problem. Nada. The car wouldn't restart and stay running. I called my friend Marcelo, who's bailed my ass out before, and asked him if he could send a tow truck and also pick us up and deliver us home. He knew a tow truck owner.
We waited on the shoulder of the autopista. It was rather comical as our luggage was lined up on the shoulder and 5 white Americanos were lounging about waiting for salvation. Granny had to go potty in the brush. Countless people drove by and toot-tooted their horn. HI!!! Bye!!! We think they were honking at Maddie-mae. One guy stopped and asked me (in Spanish) what our problem was. I told him it was the motor and it was 'un problemo grande'. He said 'I check'. Nooo....nooo...not necessary, the problem is very big, not something that can be fixed alongside the road. 'I check'. He asked when my friend was coming and I said he should be there any moment. 'I check'. GAWD!!! So, he climbed under the car and looked all around. He had a friend who's a mechanic, he would call them. Noooo...not necessary. Finally, after much back and forth, I convinced him we were alright and he left. Then, a man and woman stopped and asked the same questions. They wanted to be sure we were okay before they went on their way. Very nice.
After a few hours of waiting, Marcelo swooped in and the tow truck right behind him. The car was loaded up on the back of the truck and we crammed ourselves into Marcelo's car (with Opie stuffed in the back with the luggage) and we were on our way home, a mere few miles away.
So close, yet so far.
The car has been at the mechanic now for over 2 weeks. A piece of metal disintegrated in the area of the camshaft chains and it appears fragments traveled around in the engine as other places showed signs of gouging. Many, many parts are being replaced and thus far, the bill is hovering around $2,000. I'll almost have a new engine by the time they're done!
So, let's check the leader board shall we?
- $250 police extortion
- $375 car registration fees
- $2,000 repair bill
* does not include accommodations, food, beverages, or entertainment
** fuel costs paid for by Granny
Enjoy the photos!!!
Cast of Characters:
Granny was played by Manon S.
Maw-mah was played by Kimberly S.
Maddy-mae was played by Madison W.
Opie was played by Alex W.
Cameo by Dano
|SNOW on the road.....in ECUADOR????|
|Maw-mah, Maddie-mae, and Opie being flung across a gorge in a steel basket.|
|Opie getting readied to fly down a zip-line.|
|Too bad he finds it so boring.|
|It's a good couple hundred feet down to that river.|
|The first cascade falls into a semi-covered cavern.|
|This suspension bridge is very, very, very high up!!!|
|Notice the house in the upper right and the suspension bridge leading to it. This photo is taken from the suspension bridge I'm walking on. It's HIGH!!! Also, notice the stairways on the lower left.|
|Can you believe such a thing was built??|
|Again, notice the worker in tan clothes working OUTSIDE of the trail wall.|
|The stairs remind me of the Great Wall. Observation area on the upper left.|
|See what I mean by....the word 'amazing' doesn't serve justice???|
|One of the workers mudding the wall along the trail.|
|You can see the road in the upper part of the photo, with the utility poles.|
|Hmmmm.....did OSHA inspect this?|
|Notice the worker on the outside of the trail wall.|
|Two suspension bridges.|
|Yeah, yeah...yours truly. Rare sighting of Sasquatch.|
|Sasquatch, Opie, Maw-mah, Maddie-mae|
|Look mid-way down the photo and to the right. Two people. Gives you a perspective of size, no?|
|Town of Banos. Notice the waterfalls along the cliffs in the lower left, and another in the upper left.|
|Opie and our Quads....looking across at the flanks of the volcano.|
|Now you understand why I dubbed him 'Opie'?|
|Opie showing off his new Alpaca sweater.|
|I spotted this guy leaving Granny's room. Maybe he's from Housekeeping???|
|Inside the church in Banos.|
|So close....yet so far.|