hun | eng

1-18th March 2015 Cuenca, Baños - Ecuador

  • Ecuador is very lively and colourful, has a bit of everything: some well-developed places and some very remote ones; grilled guinea pigs (also in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia!) and fried worms!, incredibly tasty cacao; cloud forests and volcanoes; very cheap transporting, and so on. Yet, for days I couldn't connect with it too much. I felt that am overloaded with all I have experienced so far and felt less enthusiastic hanging around. 
  • But first back to Argentina, 2 weeks earlier. I had to take 4 flights from Salta to get to Ecuador and 1 bus within the country, but still, it was the cheapest way and it took only a day, a long day. Exactly 4 months after my arrival to Santiago, Chile, I was there again...different in every way, with lots of experiences, meetings, good-byes behind me, as if years had gone. I had to sleep at the airport of Lima or at least I tried...does anyone know why do they have to cool airports like crazy? I bet it was not more than 10 degrees. But finally I got to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Heat was waiting for me outside of the airport and also colourful birds, right at the exit. These birds were the size of a small blackbird, but as if they were falling into a paint bucket, they had high green and yellow colors. A nice welcome.
  • I was heading to buy my bus ticket to Cuenca and there I met the local's transporting style...It makes you feel like being in a busy market place where they are shouting names of cities.  This also happened to me: I was followed by people repeating the names of cities...first it felt really pushy, but then I was just laughing at them, later ignored -this I had to learn already in Peru. Do they seriously think that doing this I will suddenly change my mind and travel to another direction!? Well, there is nothing you can do about it, this is how they are, their way of working or feeling important. Also, at least 3-4 employees are running up and down excitedly until the bus finally leaves. Really entertaining how they deliver their big project of the day :). Once you are on the bus in most of the countries in South America, especially here and in Argentina, sooner or later the bus stops and a small group will get on the bus selling their sanducho (= sandwiches), snacks, drinks the same way they sell the bus tickets. Oh yes, and 3 different people of the company comes to check your ticket. They surely trust each other’s work, right!?! :)
    Otherwise travelling is cheap. A bus ticket within the town is usually around 0,25 cent, taxi is around 1 USD/EUR for a 5-10 mins ride, 5-6 hours journeys are in 5 dollars/ EUR; and they also like to honk, often. You get used to it too.
  • Most of the places where I have been in Ecuador were lush and evergreen moist cloud forests, a relaxing view during your bus trip and a reconfirmation that you are still in South America. So, it could be quite a nice touring, if people here were not looking at you all the time as if you were an alien or a fairy. Many are forcing to meet you, talking to you, wanting to sit next to you, also on an almost empty bus, or just observing every mm of you. And they don't care that you ignore them or literally show him not too nicely the seats to sit somewhere else.
    Ecuador is South America's smallest country... still three times bigger than Hungary. The Equator runs through the country that is how it got its name. Also here is the exact latitude and longitude of the world at 0' 00" and this is why it is also called as the "Center of the World". It is popular there to stand on both hemispheres at once; I was not that excited about it. Checking on the internet, I found out that the memorial is actually built on the wrong place. At the time they announced this place to be the center, measuring instruments were not as precise as today. There are several ways to check if you are on the Equator or not: the water is swirling down in a clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere, and in the Southern Hemisphere the opposite direction. On the line of the Equator without swirl, simply flows. They also say our weight is less and our sense of balance is worse + the person will lose its strength there. So why go there? ;)
  • 1st stop: Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador, (received the title of World Heritage as well as Quito did). It has a friendly atmosphere with beautiful colonial buildings (all with balconies ♥), cobbled stone streets and squares with flower beds and palm trees. Very clean streets and organized system of operation of the city. The traffic lights are making sounds of tweeting birds and cuckoo, telling you when it is safe to cross...funny, but I would definitely go mad listening to it under my window lifelong :)
  • I was visiting the Panama hat making shop and museum. The straw hat was produced in Ecuador first in the 17th century. The hats were shipped first to Panama before sailing them to America, Asia and Europe...So that is how that the hat is named 'Panama hat' instead of sombreros de paja toquilla, or “hats of toquilla straw" or by their place of domestic origin. The process: 1. they collect the toquilla palm from the plantation (the hats are made from its leaves). 2. divide the fibres, then they 3. cook and 4. dry it. 5. after that they begin to weave, then 6. wash it again, 7.dry it, 8.iron it, it and ready. 
  • Baños de Agua Santa, "Bath of the Holy Water" is named after the hot springs located around the city which have the reputation of having healing effects thanks to its content of various minerals. Well, I hope so because the water was hot (heated by the active volcano Tungurahua) and opaque yellow...
    The not too pretty town has a stunning location in a valley surrounded by steep green hills and waterfalls and is only 8km from the active volcano Tungurahua, 5,016 m which you can see from the Bellavista lookout. It was a steep, but less than 40-minute-climb up to see the panorama over Baños, the Volcano and the Pastaza valley. And I met some never seen and HUGE insects on the way! No photos, sorry, we are still not best buddies with insects.:) In town several 'escape route' signs can be seen, and the "what to do in case of a volcanic eruption" is on the tourist map of Baños...after the last week's eruption of the Villarrica volcano in Chile, I was reading it carefully… I took it very easy in Baños, mostly enjoyed the relaxed days, had lots of delicious food (Mexican and Indian though) Baños is also known for its production of toffee made from cane sugar. You can see locals on the side of their shop pulling it again and again; then they cut it in small pieces. I didn't try this either, seemed extremely sweet. So after trying the bath, eating, having Skype with family and friends.
  • I managed to get on the local bus to get to the Pailón del Diablo waterfall, means in English “Cauldron of the Devil”. It was worth the visit, was a magical place! Otherwise the city is full with adventure-offices offering cycling, canopy, climbing, canyoning tours, rafting, exploring the jungle, bungee jumping, etc., but I saved energy and money for Tena.