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Arrival in Baños

Cuenca and Baños


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No time to wait for our free breakfast in Cuenca this morning because we had a marathon journey to Baños ahead of us. The first leg, from Cuenca to Ambato, started at 8.10am and took just under seven hours; the scenery was even more spectacular this time than it was yesterday.

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On our way into the centre of town we passed some restaurants with whole roast pigs hung up outside. The one in this picture is just out of sight.

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Instead of Ambato bus terminal we were dropped off at the side of a road on the outskirts of the city instead, something I was momentarily slightly concerned about. Dave got a nosebleed just then as well. Luckily it stopped after a minute and then I noticed Baños buses passing by so I knew we were in the right place. We had to cross the road but only two minutes later the right bus came and we got on with no problems.

The Ambato - Baños leg took one hour. At one point we passed through Pelileo, a small town full of jeans shops - many of the shop signs had an apostrophe where there should not have been any ('Pelileo Jean's' instead of 'Jeans'), something I point out because this type of English mistake is actually so rare here. I see it much more often in the UK!

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The scenery continued to be fantastic right until we got to Baños.

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We arrived at Baños bus terminal at 4.10pm. Since then we've spent our time playing free games of pool and having a couple of cocktails at the hostel, going out for dinner at a restaurant (we had half each of both a shrimp ceviche and a Pizza Continental; I also had a blackberry yoghurt shake and Dave had a Coke and some iced tea) and looking inside the Basilica briefly just as the last service of the day ended.

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We also took some photos of the Basilica from the other side of the main square.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:39 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains basilica hostel buses dave cocktails banos andes ceviche ecuador cuenca ecuadorian_cuisine ambato Comments (0)

Carnival, Day 3: Bus frustrations and a night out in Baños

Ambato and Baños


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After leaving the main square in Ambato I realised that time was getting on and I really needed to get on the bus back to Baños before it got dark. It turned out there are three bus terminals in Ambato and the one I needed to go to was not on the Ambato map in my guidebook. Luckily I quickly found a local bus which said it went to the right terminal... it went back to the roundabout where I'd arrived originally, so I got off there, but I couldn't find the terminal anywhere. I walked around for ages looking. How I wished I had a smartphone!

Never mind, I thought, I'll just get on a Baños - bound bus going in the opposite direction to the one that dropped me off earlier; however this thought turned out to be futile. I stood around for a really long time, feeling increasingly apprehensive because it had got dark quickly and the area didn't look the safest, and stressed because none of the Baños buses would stop for me! There was only one every 20 minutes or so. In the end I gave up and flagged down an official-looking taxi. It cost $20 for the hour's journey to Baños but by that point I didn't care, I just wanted to get back!

Once I finally arrived back I had only twenty minutes or so before we went on our night out. We went to an Irish bar called 'Leprechaun' that had a large courtyard with a bonfire in a stone container in the middle. Every now and then the waitresses would go up and throw pieces of wood onto it to keep it going. Some of us had some food; I had chunks of juicy, tasty medium-cooked steak, grilled slices of red, green and yellow pepper, baby potatoes, some barbecue sauce (which I passed on to someone else) and mayonnaise with drizzles of tomato sauce on it.

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After a while we went inside to the dancefloor and apart from a trip upstairs at one point to have a sit-down and get some fresh air on the balcony, we danced almost nonstop for about three hours until the place closed. Although the place was an Irish bar and had quite a few foreign tourists in it, there also seemed to be a lot of locals or local tourists. The DJ only spoke Spanish and although several Western songs I mostly didn't recognise were played for the first hour after we arrived, then the music changed to salsa. All the Ecuadorians around me started dancing specific salsa steps. Luckily there were others who were dancing in a general way apart from me, so I didn't feel too shown up at not knowing how to dance salsa... ;-) Then after a while the music changed again and 'E' leaned forward and told me it was merengue.

The only drink I bought was a Pisco Sour and very appropriate it felt too, for the contrasting flavours of lime juice, pisco and sugar combined with the Latin music and the flashing coloured lights dappling the darkened dancefloor to create quite a heady, energised atmosphere and a thrill that I recognised from the atmosphere at the nightclub in Montañita I went to last June after the Queen's birthday party hosted for expats by the British Consulate.

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We did flag a bit by the end and I had to sit down for a while because my feet had started to hurt. After all the Latin music, the last couple of pieces before the place closed were Western. We left at either two or three a.m. and walked back to the hostel.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties hostel buses carnival salsa cocktails banos andes ecuador ambato Comments (0)

Carnival, Day 3: Baños, tree swing and Ambato

Baños, La Casa del Arbol and Ambato


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Breakfast included a bunch of mini bananas hanging up for people to pick from! I've seen these in the supermarket before and they're not baby normal bananas; they're a separate type altogether. As soon as I saw them I really wished I liked bananas. I stuck to rolls with blackberry preserve in them, coffee and some scrambled eggs.

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After breakfast we took a taxi up one of the nearby mountains to a popular tourist attraction for Ecuadorians (I only saw a couple of non-Ecuadorians apart from me).... a swing that hangs from a tree placed so that when you get pushed, you swing over the edge of the mountain. There's a little treehouse in the tree branches that we climbed up into - there were spectacular views over forested mountains.

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The seat hung from a very long rope and it also had a rope that came round the front of the seat and clicked in to help prevent the person from falling out. One nod towards Health & Safety along with the metal support that helped keep the branch steady and unlikely to break. The go on the swing and climb up into the treehouse were both free. Needless to say, the experience of swinging so high felt like flying and it was absolutely exhilarating.

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On the way back from there it was fascinating to walk through town.

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Baños is filled with sugar cane stands, as well as traditional sweetshops selling sweets made from sugar cane and other things. At the doorway of each shop there was what looked like a wooden hook for coats or hats, but was actually for kneading and pulling what looked like a very stretchy rock or taffy that they pulled out and then cut into sticks. I didn't buy any this time, having decided to buy some in June when I come back here for longer, but there was a chap handing out free samples outside his shop so I tried one of those. The texture and taste was quite a like a chewit.

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After that I left the others in town and took the bus to Ambato with the intention of watching the Festival of Fruits & Flowers processions which Ambato is famous for holding at Carnival time every year. Unfortunately it looked like I had missed them, but it was still interesting to look round Ambato for a bit. Although I had missed the processions, when I arrived in the main square I could see and hear a concert going on right in front of the cathedral. That part of the square was absolutely packed.

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I walked through the main square, looked round a small and quite disturbing modern art exhibition and went into Ambato's modern cathedral. On the 30-second walk between the exhibition and the cathedral I bought something from a street stall - a soft batter bubble with sugar on top. It was only 25 centavos and it was delicious. The woman and her assistant did all the preparation in the street, kneading and shaping the dough-like batter before dropping the results into a large metal pan on the grill.

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The inside of the cathedral was quite light and spacious, with the inside of the main cupola and behind the altar painted sky blue.

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Near the altar there were pictures of the current Pope made out of what looked like rice grains, maize and other things stuck onto a background (maybe clay?)

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After I'd left the cathedral I was still hungry so I went back to the batter stall and bought another two. This time they had added a couple of small chunks of white cheese to the middle of each, but surprisingly (considering the batter was sweet) it still went well with the batter. Then I had to start thinking about getting back to Baños so I walked back through the main square, passing a stall next to the concert stage where a man was stretching glass bottles by melting and pulling the neck of each to make vases.

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Posted by 3Traveller 12:54 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art cathedral hostel carnival banos andes ecuador procession explorations ecuadorian_cuisine ambato traditional_customs Comments (0)

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