Tuesday, November 26, 2013

on towards Quito ...

In Riobamba we looked at the map trying to decide the best way to see more of the country by bus on the way north. Next stop - Baños.

The bus trip, however, took on a life of it's own. The map gave us what looked like a fairly easy ride up  the mountains, through Sangay National Park (in the clouds, it was that high), and then down into Guaranda where we would change buses for Baños. Simple, yes? NOT!

Yes the ride was beautiful, up into the park and through the clouds. It rained all the way which we don't mind as long as we remain on the bus. We drove through many small pueblos hanging on the side of the mountains and then saw herd after herd of llamas up in the far reaches of the park. They were actually grazing on a landscape that looked very much like a moonscape. Then down a bit and once again up before heading down into Guaranda. A fabulous bus ride.

Once in Guaranda is where the fun begins. We can't find a bus that goes to Baños, in fact we can't find a bus that goes even to Ambato where we could transfer again. We couldn't find a ticket agent kiosk even open that sold tickets to these places. We asked. We asked again. We talked with a young man also looking for the same. We followed him out to where another person said the bus would come. We waited there with at least another 30 people. The buses came, stopped, left: None were going our way. We went back into the station where by hook and by crook Danny found a bus going to Ambato in the back of the station and the little guy hurried us along to the bus. We even got seats! Wow! We were off. We went as far as around the corner from where we had been waiting on the street and stopped. People started to pile on, with tickets in their hands. Coming to their seat, they demanded it - others were sitting in it. The bus driver came through and asked the person seated to leave. Oh oh, we don't have a ticket and this bus is filling fast! Every time the driver came down, we waited, expecting at any moment to be ejected. Oddly enough, it never happened. After about an hour, we were finally on our way and we still had our seats. Did the driver think that as gringos we couldn't speak Spanish and he didn't want to deal with that? We will never know, but we had a seat.

We are far later than we had anticipated and the drive to Ambato was one of mountain roads, peaks and valleys. It would have been wonderful, if we could have seen it. Raining and after sunset. Arriving in Ambato, we looked for a bus. What, no buses here as well? They are at the other station in town, on the other side of town. How far to Baños? Taxi it is!

We finally arrive in a small resort town in the rain, but still it looks great, nestled in between the mountains (which we had to come down to). Our hostal is wonderful and the view the next morning is something to behold even if it is overcast.
 from our balcony. We went to sleep last evening to the sounds of the rushing river..

Baños is a resort town as well as the town of many waterfalls. It is a gringo haven according to the tour books as well as being located at the base of an active volcano that spews smoke every so often. This is shown in their patroness within the sanctuary of the monastery, only the volcano is erupting.

The sun shone brightly and it was decided to do the waterfall tour: a little walking, a little viewing and lots of taxi-ing. LOL What better way to cover a lot of miles in not so long a time? Wanted to see the volcano as well but apparently that is an all-day trip. So off we went, sharing the the road, all downhill, with bikes and traffic.  From the road you could see why this is called the Waterfall Trail. Every so often there were waterfalls
Each had it's own character

 Cyclists abounded, all riding the trail

 Here with the volcanic last eruption(only a few years back) one became two while burying a small resort at the base of the falls. Now you ride a gondola over the falls for a more spectacular view or else you can literally hike down into the canyon and get up close and personal.

The mightiest of them all that is available for public viewing starts here:

 As it rushed downward it flows over prepuces made of volcanic rock, forming grottos at the bottom that are very deep. Oddly enough this must have been a volcanic channel at some point as the volcanic rock is on both side of the river but a few feet away, it is fertile soil. As we descended downward we had to cross a swinging bridge. The wind was pretty strong and the cables swayed a little. Still the views were majestic. 

 A recent addition to this walk was the walled viewing areas at points downward, allowing for a refreshing spray to cover you in the heat of the day. The sound was thunderous and the amount of waater unbelievable. Almost felt like I was at Niagara Falls.

 Here you can get a perspective of the depth of the canyon, with the waterfall to the let and walkways and viewing areas at different point.

A tiring but exhilarating climb out of the canyon led us back to the car and back to Baños. Looking out the window of the taxi on our way back to the hostal, we discovered a lovely waterfall right in our back yard, so to speak. 

An afternoon lunch, a relaxing walk along the main streets and then back to the hostel to end yet another perfect day. Tomorrow, Quito ...