Saturday, February 17, 2007

Off to Baños

Maria Cecilia got off work early, so we are going to take advantage of the 4 day weekend. Since she did not have her car yet we thought we might rent one....HAHAHAHAHAHA..... 2K USD deposit on a rental, and for a sub-compact ~140 per day.... called a few more places, nothing under a $1,500 USD deposit. Plan B, lets take the bus. In for a penny, in for a pound. We cab it to a smaller bus station, and look at the schedule, nothing grabs our fancy. The ticket agent recommends we go to the main bus terminal. We cabbed it back to her flat, packed for the weekend (the driver was awesome he waited for us to pack) and headed to the main bus terminal.

We entered the bus terminal (OK it was the friday of a 4 day weekend but....) it was like being on Whyte Ave during the Stanley Cup Finals. What a bloody zoo!!!! We decided on Baños and just needed to pick a carrier and time. People shouting, trying to convince you to use their carrier, others shouting trying to sell you what ever wares they had to peddle, still others shouting at each other over any number of issues. We pay for our tickets, and try to make our way to the bus. Ooooh, 'nother couple bucks to get on to the loading platform, sort of a gate tax...hmmm ok, get on to the platform. More people shouting, kids crying, ohhhhh, I can feel my blood pressure rising. Finally, we get on a bus. Geeze man, here we go again, lots of people shouting and complaining, everybody off the bus. Sigh. Poor driver/conductor has 20 people beaking at him, he gets everyone calm, we walk across the parking lot to a new bus. Its smaller and people are not in their assigned seats, but we manage to sort it out. More people start beaking at the driver/conductor, everyone off the bus (I think I've seen this picture already... what's with the musical transportation....) Finally get on another bus, and yeah we are departing the terminal.

After travelling ~30 minutes, we were at the edge of quito the bus slowed down and the conductor hung out the door and started shouting the buses destination. The bus stopped, and a bunch of people hopped on, not a biggy greyhound does have satelite stations, and in the stix, greyhound could be the local gas station or post office. People give the conductor some cash and we pick up speed. (Everyone sing ... Hey bus driver speed up a lil bit, speedup a lil bit...) Just start making headway, and the driver starts slowin' down again conductor sticks is head out the door, and no one gets on. Off we go again.... and nope we slow down again, people hop on, people hop off.... Sigh and I thought the Edmonton to Calgary Midnight Milk run was tough.... nope, that's now a piece of cake.... this repeated for what seemed like every 10 minutes. At some of the larger towns, people would hop on the buss and sell you drinks, candy, helado (ice cream), pop corn, and of course home made potato chips... and just before the bus got too far, they'd jump back off. At least the bus was playing music.

About half way, we had a major pit stop, the bus refueled and people ran to the restroom for a pee-break. Maria Cecilia was going to have a helado and convinced me to get one for myself... some of the travel guides warned about icecream since they often used unpasteurized cream, and so you could get bugs. I was feeling a little more brave and obviously with the number of people snarfing these down and no-one keeled over. Una Helado de Ron con pasas (rum raisin ice cream) for the crazy white guy. OMG!!! The texture was incredible, the flavour. No artificial flavour, no preservatives.... It tasted like golden raisins that had soaked in a good dark rum. You could taste the hint of molasses in the rum....lordy lordy lordy....gone. Next vendor with helado, I had a Mora y Coco. ( Mora and Coconut...mora became my flavour of choice for the rest of the trip. It looks like a Blackberry, but the flavour is sort of a cross with rasberry and thimbleberry). Every bloody 10 minutes people boarding and leaving. In one of the towns, someone tried to cut inside of the bus as it turned wide trying to avoid someone that was double parked and Ssssscccccrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeetch. The wonderful sound of metal scraping against metal. My bus was in a three car accident, and the jack ass was driving a custom gmc suv, which is now minus some paint and in dire need of body work. The suv owner was freaking out trying to get the bus driver to reverse the bus in an attempt to minimize the damage to his precious suv. Serves him right for being a dumbass.

Finally Baños!! It's ~19h00, we need to find a hotel/hostel for the weekend. OOOPS, did I forget to mention we are in a resort town, on the eve of a 4 day weekend and no reservation for a hotel. We try one, no vacancy... then another and another and told try someplace else... we went to Pantalones Blanco a highly recommended place, and bzzzzzt no go, but the manager made some calls, and this nice lady in her 50s tells us to follow her. We follow her for a couple blocks and Voila a room, she quotes us some amount but we don't care we have a room. We were in the night manager suite of the Hotel Nuevo. Ironically a newly built hotel, the proper guest rooms were quite nice, but not an option. The night manager got to sleep in a hamock in the court yard for a couple of nights, while Maria Cecilia and I got his room. Didn't care we litteraly got the last room in town... whew.

Feed me, or feed me to something, make me part of the foodchain, was now my mission. We start strolling around and notice several tour operators offering a night run up to the Tungurahua volcano. The operator of Adventure Equatorland seemed quite personable, we chatted with him for a couple minutes, the tour leaves at 22h30, so enough time to eat and off we go. We found this nice little italian place, I had a spaghetti carbonara that was amazing for only a couple bucks, the bacon.... lordy lordy lordy... and a glass of an nice chilean wine was great. I was finished wolfin' down my eats, Maria Cecilia was savouring hers, I ran back to the hotel to grab my camera gear. I wanna take pix of a volcano erupting at night after all. Maria Cecilia stayed at the resturant and finished eating, and settled up the tab. The poor lady that owned the place was mortified when I bolted out half way through dinner, Maria Cecilia had to explain to her about the crazy white guy, the volcano and cameras.

We get on the Chiva (bus, and I'll use that term loosely) and start driving our way up to the volcano view point. About halfway up we stop and some of the more adventuresome types hopped onto the seats on the roof of the chiva. And off we go somemore, me being nuts at the best of times hopped up on top. Then I got to laugh at all the poor people freezing ( was ~ 13C) and the chiva was moving at 40 clicks so I guess if you are accustomed to +30 and 90% humidity it was an issue. Me as a polar bear was loving it, t-shirt and cargo shorts. Couple of people asked me why I looked so happy and I told them I was enjoying the quite comfortable evening.... they looked at me in great dis-belief. Hey, when I left it was around -18, +13 is bloody fabulous.... so one of the guys tried to be macho and impress his girlfriend. He took his jacket off, and after 5 minutes, re-thought his actions.... the crazy white guy is nuts. We made it up to the view point, sigh, the volcano is ~5000m we were at ~3200m, the clouds ~4000m. The guide gave me a quick run down in english and then I beatled off to set up my tripod and at least take the snaps of Baños. Everyone huddled around the fire, and a couple of snorts of a warm alcohol laced punch, and returned back to Baños.

lots and lots of water and time to call it a night.....

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