Friday, May 15, 2015

'I travel because my legs have to follow my heart"

Next, we arrived in Baños (meaning baths of sacred water), a small town located in the valley of an active volcano. After locating our hostel we walked across town to baths where we soaked in the hypothermal springs. There was a cold pool, warm pool, and super-hot pool.  It was busy, filled with locals on this Saturday morning, but it was cool to be able to hang out and not be surrounded by tourists, as well as soak in the views of the surrounding mountains and volcano.

We explored the small town, walking all around.  We chilled in a cozy cafe with hammock chairs, sampled some melcocha (sugar cane taffy). sugar cane juice, exotic fruits from the market, and listened to live music in the square for some event that was going on.
We ventured to "The Swing at the End of the World" with a new friend we met at our hostel.  It was a bit intense looking but totally incredible! After splitting the cost of the taxi up we decided to hike the couple hours back down.  It was quite steep at times, and we got rained on a bit, but it was worth it! The scenery of mountains and views of the town were stunning.

From Baños we took a couple buses
down to the village of Alausi where we would ride the Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose) train.  It has the steepest descent of any section of railroad track in the world as well as two switchbacks. The views of the Andean highlands were beautiful!

After the train ride, I headed up North back to Quito, while my temporary travel buddy headed to another city in the South. It's such an experience to travel alone and end up meeting people to travel with for a little bit! I arrived back to the city that evening and spent the following day there as well; enjoying the tasty food and juices of the mercado again, and exploring a couple places I missed the first time in the city.  The next day I went on a day trip south to Quilotoa, a water-filled caldera and the most western volcano in the Andes.

On our way there we stopped at an indigenous market.  It's unique to see markets not in the city, or catering at all to tourists in any way, a truly locals' market.  We first went to the livestock market where we saw llamas, sheep, cows, pigs, guinea pigs, chickens, etc for sale followed by the produce/other goods market.

After a while later we arrived at Quilotoa, formed by an enormous eruption of a volcano that collapsed about 800 years ago. It was quite spectacular!! We drove through gorgeous scenery and villages and stopped at the home of a local Andean family.  We learned a little bit about how they live in the highlands in their hut in the freezing weather, no electricity/hot water, very isolated, no transportation and the children walk miles to school because they are in the middle of nowhere.

The next day I took a bus to Otavalo, a small town famous for its indigenous population, the Otavalos.  Many of them travel around the world to sell their handicrafts or play Andean folk music. Every Saturday they have a mercado artesanal, a massive outdoor market that is so vast and extensive it feels like it takes over the whole town as it fills up the plaza and spreads throughout several streets.
The following night I caught a night bus for the long journey down to Puerto Lopez.
After arriving at this small village I walked around the town and just chilled out.  The following day I went on a day trip to Isla de la Plata (Silver Island) also known as the "Poor Man's Galapagos."  On the boat ride there we saw humpback whales (a mom and her baby), and as we arrived to the island we saw giant sea turtles.  Once hiking we observed blue footed boobies, frigatebirds, and lizards.  We hiked around the island seeing the blue footed boobies several times, even doing their mating dance which was too cool!!  When we departed we spotted several species of bright colorful fish.  The ride back was the most frightening time I've ever had on a boat.  They waves were ginormous; I was seriously hoping our boat would not be toppled over by the next smash.  We slammed through the waves, water sprayed up and rocked our boat repeatedly.  It was definitely a ride I won't forget.

After about 12 hours and 4 bus rides later... I arrived in my final destination in Ecuador, Mompiche where I would stay for a week doing workaway (it's an amazing site, also did one in England a few years ago).  I was alone for the first couple days, just doing general cleaning of the 4 story house completely open made of bamboo.  When a few more travelers came we started working on the bamboo by cleaning, sanding, scrubbing, and varnishing it.  This town was extremely tiny, so during my free time I usually read, strolled about the dirt roads, walked on the beach, and people watched from either the cafe or bakery I frequented. The life in a small surfer town is something else! It was quite intriguing to watch the daily goings on of people.
It was so great to be in countries where I could communicate and practice/improve my Spanish again. It's so different than traveling anywhere else in the world.  I am looking forward to more South American adventures in the years to come!
finally got a clear sunset on our last night

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