Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chiva Ho

Got up and had desayuno (huevos, jamon, cafe negro, y jugo de mora con leche)... Jugo con leche (juice with milk) became a breakfast staple.... in effect what an Orange Julius aspires to be. We decided to take another tour with the guides from Adventure Equatorland.

The chiva was a lot fuller than for the volcano run, and I quickly realized most things here are built for midgets. I don't mean little people, born with genetic disorders, I mean people smaller that me. I'm no giant, but man.... when people were my height the were of much slighter frame. If they had any meat, they were much shorter.... and unlike for the volcano run sitting on the roof rack really wasn't an option. I was able to sit on the outside of the bench so I could at least lean out a tad. But my knees were around my ears. Fitting the camera gear was a touch of an adventure as well.... but I managed.

There were several several families that were with us, and most notably a set of grandparents with a gaggle of grandchildren. Most everyone had a camera or video camera so things were tight. The chiva got on the highway, they cranked the music, a mix of salsa, merengue y cumbias, and the noise began. The noise of the wind, equalized the music, which meant I didn't quite hear the kids jacked on sugar cane, and assorted candy. Yup I love squealing kids .... If I'd have known I would have tried to get some ear plugs, even just for the wind noise while driving. We passed a hydro project and I was surprised to see the artwork on the spillway gates. I think it's cool that they brought some colour to their industrial complex.

As we were zipping down the highway I was in awe of how much work the farms had to do, unorder to cut little farms into the mountains. Mazes of terraces and steps, into the mountains. Our first stop was an observation point, where hordes of other chivas, motercycles, and assorted other vehicles pulled off, to view a waterfall on the rio blanco. I don't mean to sound jaded, but at the distance we were it reminded me of the falls between Twin Lakes in Waterton. It didn't help that we were about half a click across the valley from it and that there was a hazy rising out of the valley.

We travelled beside the river valley for a bit, and came to our next spot. Again, every assorted vehicle was pulled over into this rest stop. There were a number of little booths selling fruit, beverages, and snacks. This time there was a twist, there were a couple of parallel bridges, so guess what.... uno...DOS.... TRES .... Bungee!! It was only about 40 feet to the river from the bridge, but it was still enough. The line up was quite long, and several people would get strapped up, over the edge of the bridge, and then chicken out. The rigging looked fine, but there were no scales, so pretty much everyone, regardless of weight used the same sets of cords. There were two sets of jumpers going at any given time. Never found out the cost, but I can head to W.E.M. for a 50' bungee. Our 30 minutes is up, back to the chiva, and away we go ....

We motor on a little more, and pull into the next turn out. This one was a little more full featured, there as a "resturaunt" roasting a pig, and corn, and making some amazing smelling stews. At this stop there as a little tram, that for a couple of bucks took you across the rio blanco river valley, to another little set of shacks on the otherside. Maria Cecilia and I, as well as several others got in the queue, and in groups of six....whiiiiiizzzzzzzzzzz across the river valley. We were only ~150 feet up, ~15 stories. The view was quite amazing. We got to the otherside and a group of people were having cock fights, and since we were at the end of the queue, our time was almost up, so we zipped back across in time to catch the chiva for the next stop.

Off we go, music just a thumpin' the couple with the grandkids, I wasn't sure who was more exhausted the kids or the grandparents, but at least the sugar buzz had worn off. We get to our next destination rio verde. This was like going to any of the numerous provincial parks, with full camping and recreational facilities. Since this was a four day weekend, lots of people were splashing and playing in the river. We headed a little farther down river, to a private area and let loose. We have about 90 minutes to hike down the trail to the falls and make our way back. Off we went down ... down.... down into the valley ~250m or 300m vertical on a well defined but rocky trail. As we start to descend into the jungle the humidity and temperature start to climb. I really didn't have much to complain about temperature wise until now. I have about 2 litres of water and 10 kilos of camera gear on my back, and I'm still not fully acclimatized to altitude yet. Going down wasn't too bad. We get to the rest area, there was a strategically placed cafeteria, where the trail splits in 2. You can go seen the "major" falls or continue on to another camping/ hiking trail. We chose to go see the falls, so for another 2 bucks we pass the tollgate and make our way, up to and then down into "Le Casa de Diablo." This was a nice water fall with lots of spray, similar to the main falls at Waterton's Redrock Canyon. There were 3 levels of observation decks carved into the mountainside. Everywhere was crammed full of people taking pics and getting thouroughly soaked. I snarfle down my water, and buy a couple more bottles sin gas, and start hoofin' it out. I have to remember what goes down ... must come up.... I started running out of steam.... I really need to get doing more cardio again. I finally make way back to the chiva with a few minutes to spare, so I thought I'd use the restroom. Sigh, was a private, pay for facility, and the kid doesn't want to make change for a fiver. I've noticed that even if they have the change, most people seem very reluctant to make change. Not really an issue, the chiva is headed back to the town of baños, so I'll use the baño when I get the hotel.

While I'm not totally short of breath, I'm really noticing the dehydration. Get back to the hotel have a little siesta, and then lets stroll around baños and enjoy carnival. Maria Cecilia, and I headed towards the main square, first thing we noticed was the "Silver Man". This d00d would stand in a single pose until someone dropped a coin in his can. Then if you were a kid he would do the robot, touch his cheek, then put a silver mark on the kids face for luck and prosperity, then back into his statue mode. If it was an older man, he "stabbed" you with his dagger. There were line ups of kids trying to decide should we put a coin in the can or not.
We strolled up and down the streets. Kids running, people laughing and dancing. There were peddler and artisans from all over selling their wares. One lady was crocheting and selling hats, while trying to keep her eyes on her kids. There were even the sidewalk charater sketch artists practicing their craft. About every block or so there were little candy shops. In these shops guys were doing hand pulled candy. Just in the door way they had a hook, and they would work the candy on the hook, slapping against the wall, to mix the colour, flavour, or just to airate and cool it... Cam (a friend and co-worker who had been in baños some years earlier called it paint chip toffee)... My sweet tooth was being used on fresh tropical fruits so I didn't grab any.

Hunger was starting to set in. I was feeling pretty good, and a little more adventurous. We picked an asadero that looked busy and clean. Someone at the door, shewed us away, trying to decide if he was closing for the day or what, sometimes it's been hard to tell whats what with the ecuadorans. So we went to another one. We split a half chicken, with trimmings. A nice soup, rice, salad and fries. Swiss Chalet eat your heart out. This is what rotisserie chicken is supposed to taste like.

Foam!! OMG some part of the tradition is cans of the coloured spray foam called Carioca... sigh!! The hoards run around and spray each other and who ever else they feel. We listen to a band that was playing salsa and cumbia for a bit, and then strolled around town a little more.

I haven't had a clear sky yet. I want to see the difference in the skys at 0o compared to 56o. I know I can download the bloody star chart, but I wanna see it.

This people not wanting to make change thing is getting really really old. I went into a store to buy more water, and Maria Cecilia a chocolate bar, and didn't want to make change for $10. I was warned about $20's, so I had broken most of them to $10s, but nope... the store was busy and on a 4 dollar purchase you think that 6 bucks back would be a big deal ..... HAHAHAHAHAHA....Sigh....

I have to remind myself to grab a mit full of smaller coins. The little kids begging are so hard to resist. If I get some coins, then I can atleast have them pose for me for a couple shots, instead of doing candids. Tomorrow we are going to try to head to Puyo.

Buenas Noches.....

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