UPDATE#29 08/12 thru 08/15   

Howdy Everybody,

The adventures 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 adventures.

 UPDATE 2009 #29  08/12/09 thru 08/15/09

At 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 cold.


     Judy, by an adjacent chute of La Cascada Cabellera de La Virgen del Agua Santa


     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.  We were told that there are more than 60 major waterfalls along this route.


     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 Pedro.


     Balancing the forces of gravity and mechanical power, the Tarabita operator engages the old truck engine controls to haul the basket cars back and forth.


     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 at Machay.


     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 flows.


     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 real value.


     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 other.

     Judy's turn...

     Fred's turn...


     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 breakfast.

     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, culinary extravaganza.



     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 publico”.


     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.

     Although 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 tumbling water.


     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 appeared…


     A wood and cable hanging bridge crosses to “la otra lado” (the other side).


     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.  WOW!


     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 Pastaza.


     The senior guide gave instructions on river safety and overboard retrieval techniques.


     The company supplied wetsuits to help keep us from the chill of the cold river water.


     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 Ecuador’s wildlife.


     We were unexpectedly impressed with the extensive collection of unusual and colorful birds…


     Scarlet Macaws…


     If you happen to know any more about what kind of birds these are, please let me know…




     Andean Condor…






     From the zoo grounds, the views of the Pastaza River and Pastaza Valley are spectacular…


     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)…


     Calla lily…


     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.





       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 thoughts.

     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.  Enjoy.


   You may contact us via email anytime.

Thanks for allowing us to share our life and adventures with you.

Lotsa Luv,

Fred Reed and Judy Law




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