Ecuador, February 27, 2012: Macas to Baños
Today was a great day. It started off a bit rocky, as we encountered some difficulty finding our way out of Macas – apparently it is the Bermuda triangle of Ecuador. After two attempts that lead us down the wrong roads and at least three stops to ask strangers (two of whom has no idea how to leave town), we finally managed to exit and get on our way. The roads to Baños, today’s destination, were much better and straighter than the ones we’d traveled the day before, so it was an easy ride. Along the way we stopped to check out two different waterfalls. The first, Pailón del Diablo, was off the road by a tiny town called Río Verde. It required a short hike down into the jungle and then up again, looping all the way behind the falls — very cool. Also rather wet! We were all happy to stretch our legs, though, after spending so much time in the car over the last few days.
After the hike we were ready for lunch, so we ate at a small place at the head of the trail that was grilling up fresh trout, plucked right out of the pond in the back of the restaurant. Best decision of the day. For a grand total of seven dollars we all got our own whole fish, fried plantains, two salads, rice and beer. Such a tasty lunch! It fueled us up for our next waterfall stop, Manto de la Novia, another beautiful waterfall that split into two powerful streams pouring off the mountain.
From pond to grill….
Getting to Manto de la Novia required a cable car ride across the deep canyon over the river that separated us from the falls. It was a high and wobbly ride, alarming because it only set us back one dollar each. The three of us were laughing and snapping photos like idiot tourists, probably to the amusement of the three locals in the car who likely made the trip on a daily basis. Once on the other side, we were able to get very close to the base of the falls on the floor of the canyon, and after a bit of exploring and a few photo opps, we walked across a long, not so high, Indiana Jones style footbridge (although in better repair) to begin our ascent back up to the road. The hike was short, but it was up all the way, so it left us (well, at least me) winded. Next stop: Baños.
The view of Manto de la Novia from the $1 cable car
We arrived in town around 5pm after an enjoyable day on the road. Initially we had hoped to hike on the Tungurahua volcano, which loomed above town, but with dusk nearing we opted to drive up the mountain instead and walk around a bit at the top. This proved to be an excellent choice. Chris was the first to see the top, as he scampered up ahead of me and Carlos, but the excited exclamations and screams we heard coming from his direction spurred us on – and what a sight awaited us! As the peak came into sight and the clouds cleared we could see a fresh plume of smoke snaking out of the volcano. Nature is truly spectacular. It was a fitting end to an enjoyable and active day in Ecuador.
A fresh plume of smoke over Volcán Tungurahua, on the outskirts of Baños
We spent the evening in Baños, eating in a local restaurant and playing cards, our usual nightly routine. I was the first to go to bed, completely exhausted.