Baños, Riobamba and Alausi, Ecuador Oct. 29 to 30
Oct 30, 2005
|Saturday, October 29, 2005:
We arrived in Baños last night just before night fall. Baños is closer to the jungle, so the climate is a little more temperate than in the mountains. Baños is a very popular tourist destination for Ecuadorians. Some of the main tourist attractions are the hot springs, active volcano (the city was evacuated during 1999), rafting and waterfalls. Of course there are plenty of restaurants and bars to waste away the night in as well.
We decided to visit the hot springs last night to relax our sore and tired muscles. The springs were nice but a little different than I was expecting. The water from the hot springs was directed into outdoor jacuzzis where people socialized. The clear night sky and nearby waterfall made for a pretty setting.
Today, since we didn't get our fill of mountain biking already, we rented bikes and rode about 12 miles to the nearby Pailón del Diablo waterfall. At the waterfall, Mary and Miles climbed down to lookout point where you could better see "la nariz del diablo" (see picture where Miles is peering over).
After visiting the waterfall, we got a ride back into town and caught a bus to Riobamba. The ride to Riobamba was very pituresque, especially since the sun was setting. The mountains and volcanoes were a beautiful backdrop. When we arrived in Riobamba it was already dark, so rather than catching another bus to Alausi, where we were planning to ride the "Nariz del Diablo" (nose of the devil) train on Sunday, we decided to stay the night in Riobamba.
After checking into a hostel, we decided to see what the local nightlife was about. We started out at a karoke bar just off the main drag. Now I had seen numerous karoke bars throughout Ecuador but I was always hesitant to go in them, since the windows were always tinted opaque and you could never see past the doorway. For the longest time I was certain a karoke bar was sinomonous for strip club but I was proven wrong. We thought we might catch some Ecuadorians singing American pop songs but Spanish ballads were far more popular, both among the men and women. Miles and I held back from torturing the crowd with our less than pleasant singing voices.
Once we had our fill of Spanish love songs we stopped at the popular pizza joint for a bite to eat. Luckily, we managed to snag the last available booth. Shortly after we arrived, a group of three women (probably in their late 30s) came in looking for a table. Since we weren't using our entire table we offered them seats at our table. None of the women spoke English so we were forced to communicate through our broken Spanish. We enjoyed sharing a few drinks with the women and another couple at the pizza joint. Afterwards, they took us out to club with them. The funny thing was that there was absolutely no one else in the club except for our group. For awhile I thought we just arrived early and more people would show up a little later. Well by midnight there were about two other couples besides us. I wouldn't call it a happening place! The one man in the group, who spoke a little English, wanted Miles to stay and help him finish off the bottle of Bacardi Limón but we decided to leave and try and manage a few hours of sleep before leaving for the train in the morning.
Sunday, October 30, 2005:
We had considered getting up and catching the train in Riobamba instead of Alausi, but our late night out eliminated any plans of getting up early. Instead we caught a bus at 9:00am to Alausi. I wish we had managed to catch the train instead...the bus ride was the worse ride yet. As usual, the bus was not full when we left the train station. A woman on the bus spent about 15-20 minutes going on and on about some bottles of "medicine" she had passed out to everyone. I could not understand most of what she said since she spoke so quickly, but I was amazed at the effort she was putting into to selling the "natural medicine" for curing stomach ailments. It was hard to believe anyone would buy the product from a stranger on the bus who was obviously trying to make a buck...but there were some who did. After ranting and raving about the medicine, she proceeded to pass out pamphlets on "natural medicines in your home" which had home grown recipes for curing everything from alcoholism to impotence. This was not the first time someone was allowed to solicit passengers on the bus. In actuality it happens on every ride, whether its food, drinks, cheap jewelry or medicine in this case.
The bus filled up shortly after the sales woman got off. At one point the bus was so full that the man collecting fares had to literally step over people in the aisle to get to the back. Thank goodness we had seats! Midway through the ride, a man a few rows up, who was standing in the aisle threw up over a woman sitting next to him. Thankfully, the woman was wearing a hat. She didn't seem to get very upset and almost acted like it was not that surprising that someone threw up on her. Several men tried to force him off of the bus, but he only stood there with a smirk on his face. Sunday mornings are apparently not the best days to travel by bus since the drunks from Saturday night are finding their way home too!
Once in Alausi we made our way to the train station. For some reason I was surprised to see that the train was a real train and not just a "tourist" train. We climbed a ladder to the top of the train and found an empty place to sit next to the hundreds of other gringos. I was a little disappointed by the view, since I thought I had seen much more interesting landscapes in Ecuador. We heard from others that the views between Riobamba and Alausi were better. With that being said, it was an interesting experience to ride on the top of a train, rather than in a train. I guess the experience of the ride is a large part of the draw. I wouldn't recommend standing and walking around on this train, since there was only a short barrier to prevent you from falling off.