Beautiful Banos

P1000314Was in Banos during the 7 day ‘blog blackout’… No internet steady enough to post.. Took the above pic of a poster displayed in a shop window. Recognize the ‘floating rock’ idea? Ever see the film Avatar? There are scenes in Avatar that are very much like this poster. Banos reminds one of that mythical, far away, (Pandora)place in the film.

internet everywhere(Photo credit: Where’s my damn signal… one bar… zero bars… wtf…

The good: makes me focus on what is actually in front of me… the actual terrain, people, food and how it all affects the real me. The bad: Feeling ‘out of touch’ with the people who know me and who (I am happy to report) are interested in my whereabouts and my experiences.  The ugly: Not much of that to report except for the feelings (inside me) of frustration that were the result of MANY attempts this week to be faithful in the updating of this blog. Latest instance of that frustration came in the form of two electricity failures in my new digs. The other frustrating part of not being able to post regularly is that it breaks up my sense of momentum. I miss the ‘feeling’ of steady movement/motion when it’s absent.  Makes me feel ‘out of control’.  OK. I get it. Lesson learned. I’m NOT in control.

Despite the fact that the connection here (now in Loja) shows all five bars!… I was in the process of posting when the power went out, not once, but twice. The first time, no one was in the office to whom to report the outage . Had to shout (politely) and wait. This prompted a young lady (under the guidance of an Ecuadorian gentleman guest) to flip the MAIN breaker back on. It worked… for about an hour and a half.  The second  time, also just as I was about to post… no electricity.  I went downstairs again (three flights) and saw the gent who checked me in supervising two men who were (apparently) replacing the ‘faulty’ main breaker (for all the electricity in the entire hostel). I was told it would take ‘media hora’ (half an hour). Two hours later electricity seems to be holding steady. Internet  connection strength showing five bars!

What do I learn while traveling? Lots. About specific differences in specific locales, about ‘cultural contexts’, about how environmental factors affect the specifics of a particular culture, about how there are numerous different ‘cultures’ within the boundaries of so called ‘national borders’, and about how my own internal environment (personal thought life) is affected during the course of my experience of traveling.  Travel can and often does, make me feel ‘crazy’ one minute and ‘wise’ the next.  Sometimes I feel lonely and other times I feel connected to everyone. Travel (my brand of it) is a way of experimenting with/testing  one’s personal ‘beliefs’.  Travel, to me, is simultaneously challenging and personally edifying.

The more I do it, the less I can be ‘sure’ of anything and the more I realize that the world of ‘certainty’ is an illusion, and the more I realize that to go through life being ‘uncertain’ is perfectly fine. To understand that I live in an uncertain world is to gaze unflinchingly at  life and to recognize myself as a man who is daily surprised at the complexity of the process of ‘disillusionment’. Be careful what you ask for. Ignorance, it is said, is bliss. Maybe; but you can’t ‘dis-cover’ anything if you choose to remain ignorant. The process of ‘dis-covery’ is the process of knowing yourself and your relationship to the world you inhabit.  Such as it is.  (P.S. There is no ‘is’… your world and everything in it, including you, is always changing)

BANOS – (supposed to be a mark over the ‘n’…  Spanish pronunciation is: Bon-yoce)

P1000185(my pic) Painting in museum inside the ‘Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water’.  Yep.  In the painting is the local volcano, Tungurahua (pronounced: toong goo raw wah, emphasis on ‘raw’). Last time I was here it was actively spewing ash all over town. This is not unusual around here. It is the heat from Tungurahua that heats the water that fills the public mineral baths. Zero cost to ‘heat’ the water. Nice, huh? (if you can tolerate the uncertainty of being buried in hot ash some day) The painting also shows ‘the Virgin’ who is reported to have been seen by a few local believers in times past. There have been many ‘miracle cures’ attributed to the baths.

I say; let those who will, believe what they want, long as they don’t make me a ‘bad guy’ for believing what I want. What I know for sure is that it makes me feel great sitting in the water of these mineral baths. I know from past personal experience that ‘transdermal uptake’ of minerals is (for me) real.

Banos has been a ‘tourist destination’ for many decades. On weekends the place is packed. It is a destination for Ecuadorians from all parts of the country as well as people from other parts of S. America and the world. It is considered a major ‘extreme adventure’ destination. You can hire guides from any number of scores of different companies that specialize in adventures that include: 3 to 4 day trips in the jungle,  ‘canyoning’… (get in a wet suit and helmet and rappel into deep gorges with water gushing down around you) ‘swingjumping’ (Jump off a bridge in a harness, without the ‘stretch’ of the cord) paragliding, horseback riding, rent a quad or a motorcycle or a bicycle and traverse the ‘rutas de cascadas’ (route of waterfalls).  Competition is abundant here so it tends to bring costs down and variety/quality up. That include the restaurant fare.

P1000231Cuy (guinea pig) being cooked over a charcoal fire directly in front of a restaurant, as seen from the sidewalk. (my pic)

Hard not to like the place. Very easy to get comfortable here; not conducive to continuing the travel process. Only complaint (as noted above) was  internet service. The story was that there was this one special person who understood the mysterious workings of the internet (The town’s ISP guy) and that he was away in Quito and would not return for at least 48 hours. (…six days later, the internet was iffy everywhere in Banos). I tried to post while at a restaurant that advertised wi-fi. The service was interrupted every 10 minutes. Frustrating to the point of quitting or throwing a fit. I opted to accept it as a ‘local condition’, and no longer bothered myself by attempting to log on to that frustration.

P1000310Lots of waterfalls to experience here

After a 25 minute hike down to bottom of the trail I was winded. The 35 minute hike back up kicked my butt. I’m in need of a physical overhaul.Sitting on my butt watching the world go by from the seat of a a motorcycle for a year and a half was not like roller blading across the country.  Bottom line: I need more exercise to feel good about myself.

P1000305(my pic) Pristine pool formed by the falls

The hike comes at the end of the ‘chiva’ ride from the town. You view several falls along the ‘ruta de cascadas’ along the way. A ‘chiva’ is a tarp covered bus/truck with rows of seats for tourists. The route takes you through about 3 tunnels carved through solid rock. You can rent a bicycle (all downhill) and traverse the route (about 30km). P1000258(my pic)Yes, that rock is directly over the chiva and the roadway.

There is a stop where you can allow yourself to be harnessed up and connected to a cable that will zip you (hence ‘zipline’) across a gorge to a lower station on the other side. The drop below is about 300 feet. The span is about two football fields long. This is NOT Disneyland, nor is it an online game. Some folks hang upside down all the way across. No kidding. I chose to sit that one out. Obviously works great for a lot of folks. I didn’t have confidence in the equipment.  I did get on a cable car that whisks across a span further along on the route.

P1000279(my pic) View of Manto de la Novia falls taken from a cable car spanning the gorge

Drop below is about 200 feet.  There were 9 other folks on the cable car. It shudders to a stop in two places for folks to take pictures. Once near the falls (here) and once directly in the middle. You can see parts of the cable car in the lower left and right of the pic.  Manto de la Novia means ‘the Veil of the Bride’.

P1000287(My pic) View of Manto de la Novia from other side of the gorge





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