08/12 thru 08/15
of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 through 08/11/09 have been published on the
website. We continue with the
latest edition, which is the 10th in our Series covering our Peru and Ecuador
2009 #29 08/12/09 thru 08/15/09
last update, we had just arrived yesterday in Baños,
Ecuador from the capital city of Quito.
We awakened to low clouds and a cool, misty rain.
While Judy was able to sleep a little later this morning, I enjoyed a few
cups of coffee in the rooftop dining and guest kitchen area.
I had the place all to my self. The
Hostal Grand Rio is very comfortable, quiet, and has great facilities for
the budget traveler.
The rain subsided but the low-lying clouds still shrouded the surrounding
mountains. Lots of people were enjoying the pools at Termas La Virgen.
There are three pools of differing temperatures.
The hottest is must be more than 110 degrees F; the coolest is just plain
Judy, by an adjacent chute of La Cascada Cabellera de La Virgen del
This beetle seemed to glisten more like a piece of jewelry than a bug…
Numerous small waterfalls dropped into the river below.
The town is renowned for the “Melcocha”
(hand pulled taffy candy) made here. There
was no shortage of shops with young men stretching the long strands of candy
from wooden pegs mounted in the doorways.
Wanting to see more of the surrounding area, we shopped around for a “Chiva”
trip. A Chiva is a bus or truck that has been modified to be an
open-sided sightseeing transport. Prices
for similar trips vary greatly from place to place.
We were able to take our trip in this 50+ years old Ford model,
affectionately nicknamed, “Israelito”.
The Chiva trip traveled along the “Ruta de las Cascadas”
(waterfall route) and visited numerous “miradores”
(view points). Following a portion
of the roadway that parallels the Rio Pastaza, we visited scenic viewing
points at several spectacular waterfalls.
The main road passes through tunnels hollowed through the mountainside.
Our Chiva took a scenic detour along the old road that offers magnificent
opportunities to see the river, mountains, valleys, and waterfalls.
On one section, we had the opportunity to ride on top of the Chiva.
Of course, we had to duck down under the cliff overhangs and were
occasionally doused with a downpour of water running off the rocky cliffs.
The bridge crossing, at the village of Rio Blanco, provides an
excellent platform for intrepid bungee jumpers.
For a small fee, you too could make the giant leap.
No one from our group braved the challenge, however, there were several
other tourists there for the express purpose of an adrenaline rush.
We zealously guarded and defended our choice seat positions in the Chiva.
La Cascada San Pedro…
The Rio Pastaza …
An interesting mode of conveyance across the river and offering the
closest views of the tumbling waterfalls is called a “Tarabita”.
At various places along the way, there are these cable cars available for
about $1 round trip. Our ride
across was great fun and the views were exceptional.
This magnificent flower was seen at the entrance area to Tarabita San
Balancing the forces of gravity and mechanical power, the Tarabita
operator engages the old truck engine controls to haul the basket cars back and
The weather was mixed with sunny moments interrupted by a cloudy, low
mist clinging to the steep slopes.
The Chiva tour involved a strenuous
physical challenge. From the top of
the steep embankment, we followed a rough trail deep into the Pastaza Valley to
view the Cascada Roció
A steep, wooden walkway traversed part of the canyon area…
The powerful cascade of water roared into a blanketing spray as it
erupted at the base pool…
Many of the group quit before reaching the base level.
We persevered to make it all the way down, which, of course, meant we had
to make the arduous hike all the way back up.
She may have felt slightly exhausted, but Judy showed the tremendous
sense of accomplishment and pride in her successful adventure.
From atop the Chiva, I proclaimed my own pride of accomplishment.
It is always such an honor to travel with Judy.
She is willing to try new and challenging things and perseveres to make
it all happen. Thank you, Judy, for
all you do to make our adventures such wonderful experiences.
Torrents of water forcefully funneled through the Agoyán
hydroelectric dam, producing mega watts of electricity.
The recent area rains have swollen the rivers, resulting in the massive
We had been the only travelers from the USA
on this trip and, perhaps, the only ones to speak in English.
Returning to Baños
at 5:30pm, our four and a half hour excursion proved to be lots of fun and a
Just across from our hostal, the Plaza Central is beautifully landscaped.
At night, blue lights brilliantly illuminate the twin spires of the Basilica
de La Virgen del Agua Santa.
We were very tired from all the exertion of a full day of activity and
adventure. A light dinner, at the
rooftop eating area of the hostal, consisted of some fresh sliced tomatoes and
cheese. A few glasses of red wine
helped us to relax in quiet comfort.
The weather has turned favorable this morning.
We started with a light breakfast in the rooftop guest kitchen/dining
room. By 10am, we were renting a 4-wheel buggy.
There are numerous places to rent these sporty vehicles.
We chose Alexander Tours based on the quality of their equipment and I
was able to negotiate for the favorable, bargain price of $7 per hour.
After our Chiva tour yesterday, we had lots of ideas for places to visit
along the “Ruta de la Cascadas” (waterfall route).
One of our first stops was the gorgeous “El
Manto de la Novia”
waterfall. We took turns riding
across in the “Tarabita” gondola car so we could get better pictures of each
Together, we crossed a second time to walk the “Sendero
de Los Contrabandistas”
(path of the smugglers). Many, many
years ago, smugglers from Puyo in the Amazon Basin used this path to transport
illegal liquor made from cane sugar. Judy
pretended to be jumping off the “Puente
Colgante” (suspension bridge).
NO! NO! “Don’t jump, I need you too much…”
I loved the beautiful flowers that lined the pathway…
The roadway parallels the downward flow of the Pastaza River as it races
toward the Amazon Basin…
We took the opportunity to experience several more of the “Tarabita”
cable cars along the route.
Although cars are restricted from the scenic road, we were able to zip
along in our little, two-seater “Buggie”.
We took turns riding under the cliff side water runoff.
We traveled all the way to Machay before returning to the town center.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our 4-hour adventure.
What a difference a day makes… The
raging flow of yesterday had greatly subsided at the Agoyán
Dam and hydroelectric plant.
Someone had recommended a wonderful bakery located near the bus terminal.
It lived up to the expectation and we bought some goodies for our dinner,
a couple of excellent donuts, and a chocolate croissant for tomorrow’s
At the Plaza Central across from our Hostal Grand Rio, the fountain
sparkled with the multicolored illumination.
Once again, we took full advantage of the nice guest kitchen/dining area
at the hostal to prepare our own dinner. We
had everything all to ourselves, so we were able to have our own candlelit,
There was some early morning mist as we enjoyed breakfast at Café
Good. My cheese, bacon, and
onion omelet was excellent and Judy enjoyed her fresh fruit plate.
The previous few days of clothing had gotten quite dirty from our
adventures. We located a local
laundry that would have everything washed, dried, and folded by afternoon. With a senior discount, we were able to get about 20 pounds
of laundry done for $3.50. Is that
a bargain, or what…?
The weather was clearing nicely as we visited the small chapel and area
of sacred spring water near the local waterfall.
They sell gallon jugs of the special, spring water from their shop.
Local villagers were busy washing their own clothes in the public,
concrete basins of the “lavandería
The natural mineral water takes on its yellowish color primarily from the
magnesium and sulfur content. The
water analysis includes components of Calcium, Sodium compounds, Magnesium,
Clorine, various acidic compounds, potasium, sulphur, and numerous others.
The healing properties are widely believed to relieve or cure the
symptoms of various health problems such as Arthritis, Reumetism, Varicos Viens,
circulation, Liver ailments, Stomach problems, and numerous skin conditions.
they look somewhat uninviting, the pools are drained and cleaned at least twice
a day. The larger pool is of
mid-temp at 100+ and the smaller pool has got to be 115+ degrees F.
They claim it is 54 degrees C, but I don’t think it was quite that hot.
Termas La Virgen has been in operation since 1928.
They provide showers, changing rooms, and a check room to store your dry
clothes. The clear water for
the cold pool and the outdoor showers is piped directly from the falls.
Now that’s what I call, HOT, HOT, HOT!
Above the changing rooms, a signboard lists the mineral content of the
waters. The facilities open early
in the morning, are closed for several hours in the late afternoon, and reopen
for evening bathers. For us, the
evening air temperatures were much too cool for us to enjoy a late session.
Near the central market section, a street side vendor was grill-roasting
a South American favorite,
Cuy (guinea pig)(pronounced like “kwee”.
Although we haven’t tried it yet, these crispy critters looked the best
that I’ve seen. Are you tempted?
Is your mouth watering yet?
Perhaps the most famous are the falls of Pailón
del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) and the suspension bridge below.
It is about 30-minutes walking downhill to reach the base of the falls.
The wondrous spectacle and the deafening roar of falls are awe-inspiring.
The base pool explodes into a foaming mist under the immense force of the
A cave-like tunnel through the mountainside allows a closer view of the
falls. Unfortunately, they have closed off the portion of the
pathway that led under the falling waters.
I would have enjoyed doing that.
Judy chose to enjoy the rush from the lookout balcony rather than chance
the muddy, slippery rocks.
El Pailón del Diablo…
Emerging from the mist of the falls runoff, a beautiful rainbow suddenly
A wood and cable hanging bridge crosses to “la otra lado” (the
The steep cliffs are of a volcanic rock that has been geologically
tortured into a twisted and variegated mass, and then deeply carved by the
relentless river forces.
The upward climb takes about 45 minutes of strenuous exertion.
Moving over to the other side of the village of Rio Verde, we
hiked another 20 minutes to the Cascada El Eden.
The smaller falls of Cascada Eden joins to combine with the massive
Cascada El Pailón del Diablo
before crashing deep into the valley and the Rio Pastaza below.
Our aching legs tell us that we sure did a lot of walking today…
We had come to the falls by a bus that dropped us in the village of Rio
Verde. To leave, we had to walk
out of the village to the main roadway to catch a different bus back to
Baños. From the bus, we got
our first glimpse of the huge Tungurahua
volcano. Previously, it
had always been shrouded in the clouds.
Watching them pull the “Melcocha”
(taffy) is such an interesting process to watch.
I would have liked to try some that was still a little warm, but the
pre-wrapped package that we bought was a bit crunchy and very sweet.
From the rooftop of our hostal, we were treated to a magnificent, double
rainbow that arced across the sky to rest in the mountains beyond the twin-spire
cathedral. Seeing a double rainbow
means “muy buena suerte”
(very good luck). Just the good
fortune of seeing it is luck enough in itself.
After dinner in the “cocina”
(kitchen), we headed over to the “Café Good” for wonderful coffee
and mocha drinks. Although we should have been exhausted, we somehow managed to
walk around the town until after 10pm. Even
though the hostal was mostly vacant, there was a small group of weekend guests
with wild kids that were very noisy. When they finally settled down, these two very tired
travelers were more than ready to get some much-needed sleep.
It was an absolutely clear and beautiful morning when I awoke at 6am.
Judy could sleep until the 7:15am alarm.
We packed up our day things and it was a good thing that Judy remembered
to pack our water shoes. At 8am, we
were having our breakfast at the Café Good.
If you get to Baños,
I recommend this place for good, economical meals.
At Adventure Equatorland, we had booked a whitewater-rafting trip for a
9am departure. The guides were
already busy loading up the rubber, inflatable rafts.
About on time, we departed in a Chiva loaded with mostly young European
travelers. There were about 35 of
us on today’s roster.
The rafts and equipment was unloaded and carried to the edge of the Rio
The senior guide gave instructions on river safety and overboard
The company supplied wetsuits to help keep us from the chill of the cold
From this put-in point at the Puente San Francisco suspension
bridge, our exciting trip would traverse Class III and IV rapids. We
were fortunate to have the senior guide in our raft.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t take my camera on this wet and wild ride.
I would have loved to get some of the spectacular photos of opportunity.
Our group was either good or lucky.
We did not loose anyone overboard. Two
other rafts had the misfortune of dumping members into the frigid waters in some
very rough sections of rapids. One
gal from Holland got a deep cut on her foot that must have hurt.
A word of warning, if you loose you paddle, you must pay them the cost of
$40. We hung on tight…
The takeout was swift and rocky. It
was a good thing we had our water shoes. Some
of our fellow “river rats” were unprepared for the land portage part and
suffered greatly on the rock-strewn shoreline.
Thanks to Judy’s foresight, we were well protected.
After a thrilling river experience, we had a great meal arranged by the
rafting company. Well-done kudos to Adventure Equatorland…
As the Chiva pulled back into the office area, the driver misjudged the
height and position of his vehicle and crunched the overhead sign.
I’d be willing to bet that the storeowner was very upset at the damage. Fortunately, no one was hurt…
We were back in Baños
by 2:30pm with lots of time left to maximize our sightseeing.
After switching into clean, dry clothes, we took a bus headed for the Ecozoologia,
the animal zoo at the outskirts of town.
Seeing a sign with an arrow about the zoo, I mistakenly had us off the
bus at the wrong stop. We had
gotten off with lots of other people at the village of El Saltado, where
there is a hot springs pool. Oh
well, we took a quick look around and walked back to catch the next bus that
would continue to the zoo at the village of San Martin. In addition to the zoo, there is a serpentarium where
visitors can see snakes and reptiles.
We climbed the stairway to the zoo entrance.
Hidden from view in the picture, the zoo covers a large area on the back
hillside. The animal and bird
collection is very well founded and represents a well-rounded selection of
We were unexpectedly impressed with the extensive collection of unusual
and colorful birds…
If you happen to know any more about what kind of birds these are, please
let me know…
From the zoo grounds, the views of the Pastaza River and Pastaza Valley
At first, they look just like rock boulders in the field.
You soon realize that they are giant Galapagos tortoises.
How many can you count in this picture?
Capybaras (the largest rodents in the world)…
At San Martin, a tarabita crossing the Rio Pastaza...
For the really intrepid, they offer a “zip-slide” that runs across
the river from the other side.
How is this for a great marketing idea?
This little shop sells all kinds of pigs and pig parts.
As a boost to the revenue stream, it has a bar, it has a snack stand, it
has soda pop sales, and, best of all, you could even buy some creamy, frozen ice
cream. Wow, what a range of
commodities… I guess you might
say, “...this is a place where you can really pig-out…”
Featuring an extensive menu of Swiss specialties, The Swiss Bistro
restaurant in Baños
tempted Judy with their item called “Berner Rösti”.
Rösti is a classic savory dish of Switzerland made with potatoes,
cheese, and onions prepared in a cast iron skillet.
There are many different varieties incorporating the addition of meats
and vegetable ingredients. Berner Rösti,
or Farmer’s Rösti, develops much of its hearty flavor from bacon.
Many years ago, when we traveled in Switzerland, we fell in love with
this Swiss national favorite. From
the time earlier in the week that we first saw their menu, I think Judy has had
a “hankering” for the treat. We
enjoyed a great dinner and relaxed with cups of Café con Leche (hot coffee with
scalded milk) and a delicious hot fudge sundae for dessert.
Trying to make it a little more romantic, I presented Judy with a
perfectly formed, single red rose…
As is often typical in Baños,
the town fills to near capacity on the weekends. Tonight, the Hostal Grand Rio was full with Ecuadorian
visitors. By the beginning of the
week, many of those folks will return to their home cities and the town will
return to a more tranquil environment.
UPDATES IN THIS SERIES ARE IN PROGRESS…
WATCH FOR THEM, COMING SOON…
We sincerely hope that you will review the previous
years of compilations to give context to the current editions. Please let us know if you have any special suggestions and
REMEMBER: The website
is now fully active and you can visit it at any time.
You can also review any of the previous logs from the years 2006, 2007,
or 2008 and learn more about the crew and their many adventures.
You may contact us via email anytime.
for allowing us to share our life and adventures with you.
Reed and Judy Law
is pronounced "AM-ARE-SAY".
website is: www.amarse.net .
Fred H. Reed
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