Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Baños with Tungahua looming behind

Way down to the jungle

Looking back towards Baños

nice hotel in the forest

Waterfall and Ecuadorian tourists enjoying cable-car expereince with much shouting

Cloud forest lodge by Devil's Cauldron Waterfall

Devil's Cauldron, Rio Verde

Cloud forest tree above Baños

Sugar cane stall

Tungahua doing its stuff

So I woke up in Valhalla feeling a lot better, though not totally recovered. Weird how such a severe condition can go so quickly when there is sufficient drop in altitiude. Pato gave me a lift to a good spot on the Pan American, and I picked up a bus there all the way to Banos. And here I am in Banos, a very lovely little town nestled in a steep and jungley valley on the slopes of the Tungahua Volcano, a live volcano that was only downgraded to yellow alert just recently. And everyone was evacuated a few years ago when it was blowing a lot more than it does now. It is a genuinely tourist town, like several I have been in around the world, and the first on this trip. But like most such towns, the local tourists outnumber the gringos ten to one. My hotel is really rather lovely too. Very unfortunately, I remembered just now that I have left my USB cable in an internet place in Quito, so uploading pics could be hard for a will just have to use your imagination or do searches for other peoples pictures, which may be better anyway. So I explore the whole town, which does not take long at all as it is tiny, and go for a walk on the other side of the canyon. The idea is if the volcano really loses it, we all run over this big bridge over the canyon, where all the lava will go. Reassuringly, the fine local church is full of pictures of miraculous survivals of numerous previous volcanic episodes. As its about thirty seconds from my hotel, I may run there instead. All in all though, this is a very nice place to be, sort of jungly but not too hot and sweaty.

15th Sep: After a bit of deliberation as to whether to do it with a guide or a group or on my own, I decided for the latter, and hired myself a pushbike. Heading out of town further down the big ravine we are in is the main way to the Ecuadorian Amazon, the gateway to which is a town called Puyo 60 kms away. Down this increasingly tropical route there are many waterfalls, so I rode off to explore them. All in all I went about 30 km, mostly downhill thankfully, and really enjoyed myself, which was necessary as I woke up feeling a bit glum. Not enough human contact I think. Best of all was the last waterfall, which was very dramatic and powerful and involved crossing over the wobbliest bridge I have ever been on. I also met some nice Americans when we were sheltering from particularly heavy rain. Having got as near to the jungle as I am going to for a few weeks, I got a pick up truck to drive me and this english couple who had done the same thing all the way back uphill to Baños. And then I went and explored the other side of the river a bit, up the hillsides their, hoping to be able to actually see the volcano whose flanks we rest on. I met this german guy walking down from the top who said you could see the ashclouds but nothing else due to the ever present rain clouds...and it is raining a lot.

Talking to the English couple has made me rearrange my plans again, so I am going to stay here for a few days. Really I should probably be leaving today for Riobamba, but I booked two nights in my hotel already, and if the weather clears I may get to go up the volcano after all. And later, I am buying some DVDs, and who sees me, but Jascha and Nina, the german couple from Puerto Lopez. So we have dinner and catch up. Nice to have pals again. An interesting conversation about latin versus european catholicism, and how the emphasis in latin america on the Santa Maria rather than Jesus is threatening to the catholic establishment, hence a European Pope.

16 Sep: Its stopped raining! And I have found a way to upload my pics, as you can see. I also had a real time conversation by e-mail with Erica. This was interesting also because she was in Bath, and I was in Baños, which is Spanish for Bath! So then I went for a nice long walk on the mountain opposite. I could finally see the ash clouds belching out of Tungahoa above the town, but by the time I got to the height I wanted to take a photo from, it was back behind clouds again, and has been there ever since! And it started raining again. But I waited a while, and then walked further up the Tungahua side of the valley and then just sat and watched the volcano belching clouds of ash. It was great, I have never seen a volcano that active before, though photographically they look a bit like normal clouds. I love watching nature in motion, like fires, waterfalls, surf, and so on. All in all it was rather a fab day, and I even discovered somewhere nice to eat tonight! Had a meal with Jascha and Nina - a rather nice curry, Ecuadorian food is a bit oriented around chicken, eggs, rice and chips and gets boring quite quickly - and then went to a bar, it being Friday night. This was more interesting than fun, and the few Brits there were hammered, reinforced when some came back to my hostel at 3 am and made mucho noise.

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