Day 10: Latacunga to Banos:
After a hot shower (interrupted by a brief period of ice cold water), and an okay breakfast, we pacekd up everything and checked out of the hostal. When they heard we were taking a bus to Banos, they told us we shouldn't go to the Terminal Terrestre liked we'd planned, taking one bus to Ambato then another to Banos. Instead, we were told to take a taxi for one dollar to the Puente de San Felipe bus stop to get a direct bus to Banos. That definitely made things easier for us. The taxi driver was very friendly, so we gave him two dollars instead. Within minutes, we boarded the bus to Banos, paying two dollars each. The bus didn't stop all that many times, but we still had to listen to 10 or 20 people sellling something along the way. They sell anything from movie DVDs (probably pirated) to candy, to books of poetry. They pretty much all avoided us, recognizing us for the tourists we were, that probably didn't think we speak or understand Spanish. We let them think that way.
After a somewhat prolonged stop on the edge of Ambato, with
another 10 or 20 people selling food and drink while we waited, we were on the last leg of the trip. The stop on the edge of Ambato was high enough that we pretty much decended most of the way to Banos. It was pretty impressive to see this big town/village, situated in the middle of a canyon surrounded by high mountains. The bus pulled into their terminal, we grabbed our luggage, got oriented, and started walking to our hostal for the next three nights, Hostal Chiminea. We saw a lot of other hostals, interspersed with stores and restaurants the whole 9 blocks. Hostal Chiminea was pretty impressive right from the start, with a nice front courtyard with trees and plants. They had no problem finding our reservation, made online, and ushered us to our room, number 8 (for the second time this trip). The room was clean and modern, with a twin bed and a double bed, along with a nicely appointed private bathroom. In fact, the whole hostal looks more like a hotel, with a terrace cafe two flights up and a smallish swimming pool on the ground floor. All of this for $9.50 each per night, one
of the cheapest of our trip so far. After settling in, we went out for a nice long stroll around the town, stopping at the recommended Casa Hood restaurant for lunch. Manoli had a chicken soup which she didn't care much for and I had Pad Thai we I thoroughly enjoyed. I also indulged myself in a capuccino, my first in a while. Everything added up to just over ten dollars. After lunch, we strolled around a good portion of the town, but I think we barely scratched the surface. There were a lot of different restaurants serving everything from local dishes to Italian, Mexican, Thai, and even Argentinian. Shops both large and small sold an amazing variety of souvenirs and such, and a goodly number of tour/adventure agencies offering canyoning, bridge-jumping, 4-wheeling, bike rentals/trips, jungle trips, and chiva tours to go to the top of the nearby mountain at night to see Volcano
Tungurahua lit up from volcanic activity. Manoli bought a few small souvenirs along the way, plus we found the largest supermarket in town and went up and down every aisle.
About 6pm, we returned to the room and hit the terrace to chill while
I write this blog. Around 7pm, we went out in a slight drizzle to look for something light for dinner. After a few blocks, we found this "carry-out" place selling hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries combos called Hickory. I ordered a Tropi Dog (hot dog with mozzarella cheese and pineapple) and Manoli ordered a sausage and fries plate, along with a large Coke. The total cost was about 6 dollars. We carried our dinner back to the hostal to eat while we watched another NetFlix movie, but alas and alack, we couldn't get a movie to load well. Must be having troubles somewhere between here in Banos and the NetFlix server in the U.S. Oh well, Manoli decided to sleep and I finished and published this blog. Tomorrow, we hope to maybe rent bikes for the day and try the waterfalls route down towards the jungle and then ride a bus back. We'll see.
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