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Leaving Quito

Written on: Monday September 10th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Author: Julie

 
Hola!

 
The time has come to say good-bye to Quito. At first glance, it?s not a very beautiful nor exciting city but with time its charm has been revealed to us. Of course, all of the great people we have met and our nice hostel had a lot to do with it. 

We checked out this morning with long good-byes with friends, the hostel puppy which we would take with us if we could, and last glance at what had become our first home away from Canada. 

We boarded a bus to Banos, a small town south of Quito know for its thermal baths, a looming active volcano and adventure sports. Unlike North American bus travel, Ecuadorian buses are a non-stop hive of activity. During the 4 hour trip, the bus frequently stopped to pick up people who seemed to be waiting for it anywhere along the road; there are no designated pick-up or drop-off areas. At every stop, a vendor would get on the bus and walk up and down the aisle selling his or her wares in a sing-song voice. There were ice cream/popsicles, fruits, desserts, empanadas, water, juice, soft drinks, etc. We bought an ice cream and some empanadas for the total cost of 1$!  We even had a musician get on and play us three songs from his CD which he was selling. He was very talented but unfortunately, we don?t have any room in our bags for CDs so we gave him a tip in appreciation. 

When we arrived close to Banos, we had gorgeous views of steep mountainsides, lush green vegetation, and clouds that seem to hover over our heads. At one point, the bus had to go over rough gravel, the remnant of the slide from the currently active volcano Tungurahua, which had a major explosion in December 2006. The explosion caused its glacier top to melt, causing massive landslides and throwing ash in the air. The city had to be partially evacuated for months and activity is only now returning to normal for the local inhabitants. Luckily for Banos, it is located on the opposite side of the mountain from where it is likely to spew hot lava, so it managed to avoid damage. At this time, it is active and the indicator is set to orange with red meaning an eruption is imminent. 

Our first view of Banos as we stepped down from the bus was of a small town surrounded 360 degrees by mountains that one could almost swear you could touch with your hands. One of the great things about staying in hostels is that you meet new people all the time and you get great tips about places to see, things to do, and hostels to stay in. Our directions to our hostel, from a traveller we met in Quito, was to ?look for the waterfall, you can?t miss it.? Well, being new to the city, we did it gringo style: we paid a taxi to take us. At arrival, we realised that Christian?s instructions were perfect; the hotel is located one street down from a beautiful waterfall. La Chimenea (The Chimney) is a great hostel: brand new, clean rooms and fantastic hot water, all for 15$ a night. 

We quickly checked-in, dropped off our bags and went out looking for food along the main street filled with restaurants, stores, travel agents, tour operators and internet cafes. Banos is famous for its melcocha taffy which is sold in stores all over town. You can see the makers pulling it on wooden pegs from their doorways. We finally decided on a Mexican-style restaurant named Pancho Villa. The interior is cozy with only 5 tables and the walls are decorated with dozens of postcards from travellers and photos and articles about the revolution, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Frida Kalho. We ordered chicken chalupas and chicken tacos with rice and home-made guacamole. It was very good and we ate till there wasn?t a crumb left in our plates.

That evening, we returned to our hotel for the first of many nights here in Banos and fell asleep to the sound of the waterfall. Tomorrow we plan on visiting the various tour operators to see what there is available and at what price.