Terrible Bus Trip And Beautiful Baños

I woke up very early for the notorious bus ride to Chugchilan. The ecolodge called the trip ‘an adventure by itself’. Travelling in South America by bus is more common than by trains because buses are faster. I didn’t believe it too at first. Anyway, my plan was to stay at an ecolodge there. It’d be my first time to stay in such a place.

The bus ride from the old town to the south of Quito was good. I was glad I had met the two German volunteers who happened to be working in the south of Quito and I happened to be so curious that I visited them so when I arrived at the bus terminus at the south of Quito where I needed to transfer to another bus, I had no trouble at all. Things did happen for a reason and I really thanked God for that. (For those who are not religious, sorry that I have mentioned and will mention God several more times because I really did and do think He was guiding me the whole time.)

The only challenge I had was I didn’t know which company was ‘Latacunga’. I could only find two booths with a big posters saying Latacunga. Fortunately, I managed to buy the bus ticket at 8:15 am for the bus that was going to depart at 8:30am. Perfect!

The bus to Latacunga was comfortable and there was even entertainment onboard too. It showed Leonardo’s movie. Black Diamond I think. Anyway, when I arrived at Latacunga bus terminus, it was still very early (at 10am) and the bus to the ecolodge was 11:30am so I waited.

And that was when the ‘adventure’ started to begin.

It was very chaotic. The booth of the bus company was not open and so in the end I had to look for the bus itself. There were a lot of people who tried to sell me tickets but I insisted on going with a particular company because that was what the lodge told me.

Finally, I got on the right bus. I saw a woman milking her baby again. Yes. It was very common. The mothers were quite young. She just showed her nipples as if there were no one on the bus. She looked like a villager. Her baby was cute though.

Some street vendors came on the bus selling all kinds of stuff. I guess that’s very common for developing countries regardless of which continent they are in.

The bus ride was horrible. It was crowded onboard and it smelled bad… very bad.

I told the driver I needed to get off at the ecolodge. As the bus stopped at different places, more and more people got on.

I slept for the first hour and then woke up, checked the time and then slept again. I think at around 2pm or something, a group of students got on the bus. They were standing beside me. I wanted to give them my backpack’s seat but my backpack was just too big that it couldn’t fit in the overhead luggage compartment. I don’t remember why it wasn’t put in the luggage compartment under the bus. The smell of the people on the bus reminded me of the monastery I stayed at in Tibet. I don’t think they drank butter milk tea though. I wondered if they took a shower in their villages.

This whole area was like the villages I visited in Yunnan in China. The farming method was terracing. It was hilly and the altitude was high. It was supposed to be a good ride with all that beautiful landscape but the condition on the bus was just awful – the smell, the live chicken on board, the crammed space, the bumpy ride… – at that moment, I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to travel like this anymore.’ Little did I know that I would do this kind of uncomfortable travelling again and again after this trip. In retrospect, I might have altitude sickness without realising it.

It was raining. The bus stopped a few times because of the reconstruction of the road (or something else). I was anxious.

Finally, the bus stopped at the sign of the ecolodge. I walked in the rain for a while before I reached the entrance of the lodge.

The lodge compared to the bus ride was so comfortable. It was like home. The dining room had a fireplace and a sofa. My bunkhouse was vacant. Three storeys. All by myself. The top level was excellent. I wanted to sleep there but there was a big spider and its web so I chose the lowest floor in the end. It was convenient in case I needed to go to the loo at night. The shower and the toilets were outside like the one in Tibet. With this kind of cold and rainy weather, it meant I could only take a shower in the morning.

The top level
My backpack could be carried to the second floor using a rope outside the lodge. What a cool design!

The lodge resided in a small village. The staff raised llamas and planted many trees and herbs like mint. He pulled some leaves from a mint tree and made me hot mint tea after I arrived. It was so refreshing.

I had my Thanksgiving dinner at the lodge that night. I did need to be thankful for I safely arrived there. Normally, the lodge served vegetarian food but because of this special occasion, they served a small piece of turkey.

I was not the only one in the lodge. A Canadian family was there too. After talking to them at dinner, I realized they would leave the following day. They planned to go to Lake Quilotoa and I was too. We could share the cost. But the point is they were not returning to the lodge. They’d go directly to Baños. Baños! It was not in my agenda but it was recommended to me by the German volunteers and an Argentinian family that I met in Quito. Maybe I should go and check it out. The mother told me she had booked a place in Baños. All she needed to do was to see if the hostel had a spare room for me. So, I decided to go with them. I also checked the availability of the hostels there after dinner.

While I was surfing the internet, the hostel staff came and discussed with me my travel plan. He then played the guitar and sang two songs for me. The first one was about a woman. She had beautiful eyes. Her eyes wanted to look and see things but she didn’t want to see them. The second one was about living. When one died, everything was finished. He played the guitar so well and he sang very well too. People were very kind there.

Can you see the guitar on the chair?

I started to get used to the pace and the travel style.

The most obvious thing was, date and time meant nothing to me… well, at least not when I didn’t need to rush for the bus.

The bed was very comfortable. It was warm in the lodge. The heater worked very well and the blankets were very warm too. I had a very nice hot shower in the morning. It felt like Tibet but it was much cleaner.

The shower and the washroom
The shower room, apparently. I like how they made use of the used wine bottles to cement this wall. When the sun shone on the wall, I could see different colours. It was really nice to look at.

One thing I really liked about the toilets was the treatment of the waste. Don’t laugh but I loved playing with it. There was a bag of soil in the washroom which you could use to cover your own waste in the toilet bowl. There was no flush. The waste was just covered by the soil. Then somehow, it’d be transported to the plants grown inside the washroom. It was quite a nice place to do small or big business. It wasn’t smelly and there was no fly. Amazing, wasn’t it?

I walked around the lodge the next morning. Here’s the yoga room.
The view from the lodge in the morning
The cat in the lodge. Meow!

I started the day, refreshed.

However, I had to leave with the family today even though I really loved the place. Otherwise, I would have to pay a lot for the return trip back to this lodge from Lake Quilotoa and the trip to leave this place.

During our breakfast, I learnt that the 10-year-old kid had nausea last night because of altitude sickness. Poor little kid. So, on our way to the lake, the kid was very quiet. I told him some stories to cheer him up (he was an adorable boy).

The staff packed our lunches. He didn’t need to do it because we checked out in the morning but he still did it for us. That was so kind of him.

The altitude of the lake was even higher than the lodge – 3,800 metres. The kid shouldn’t have gone but I heard that he drank some tea which helped him ease the altitude sickness. While we were walking the trail around the lake (we had only one hour as we needed to go to Baños and we didn’t want to miss the bus), the kid and I did some jumping shots. He was very happy. It is so much easier to please a child than an adult. Grown ups are so complicated. 😛

Lake Quilotoa. A crater filled with water
It was still in the morning. The clouds were still at the mountain.

The car stopped at a ‘bus stop’ in Latacunga in front of a video shop (pirated CDs again). It wasn’t the bus terminal I went to yesterday. It was somewhere in town but there was no sign of a bus stop. We were a bit confused but the kid’s father confirmed with the driver that it was the right stop so waited and waited for 30 minutes and the bus finally appeared. Phew.

The road to Baños was really beautiful. No wonder tourists liked it. The weather was very nice that day.

When we arrived at Baños bus terminus, a helpful policeman took us to get a taxi. The family had already booked a hostel but when we got there, there was no reservation. It turned out there were two places of the same name – one was a hostel and the other one was a motel. They booked the latter one. I followed the family to a quiet residential area to look for the motel and found out that they had a spare single room at the price of USD15 per night including desayuno, so, without a second thought, I checked in.

The family and I split and I headed to the information centre to ask about the bus to Alausi, another town recommended by other backpackers I met in Quito. I was glad that the staff could speak English. I really needed to learn Spanish. 

It was a little town. It was as small as Queenstown in New Zealand or Reykjavík in Iceland. I found a church – the Basilica. After I took a few pictures there, I saw some staff putting speakers up and adding some extra chairs in the church. As curious as usual, I asked them what the occasion was. It turned out they were preparing for a free concert that night and the orchestra was from Loja (another nice town) so I decided to go there after dinner. Since it’d finish late at night, I walked back to the motel and tried to remember the directions.

The town centre
Was she Miss Baños?
The Basilica
The interior of the Basilica
I don’t remember where I was.

I couldn’t use the wifi at the motel so I asked the reception if I could use their computer. While I was struggling to understand the Spanish commands on the computer, another guest in the motel came to help me. I asked him to teach me a few more words in Spanish. That was how I acquired more and more Spanish words.

Before I went to church for the free concert, I went to grab something to eat. Just as I was looking for food, I bumped into the Canadian family so I invited them to the concert. We decided to meet up at the Basilica. As I said, Baños was a small town but I found two Chinese restaurants there and they were just a few streets apart. That was so funny. I remember seeing only one Japanese restaurant in Reykjavik in Iceland. I wondered if the Chinese restaurants were popular in this small town. Well, I’d find it out later.

When I arrived at the Basilica after I ate some snacks, I saw the Canadian kid at the entrance. He squeezed through the crowds and took me to where his parents were. It was really interesting to see that some dogs joined their owners for the concert too. They were wagging their tails as they listened. Honestly, it was my first time to see dogs inside a church.

The orchestra

After the concert, as we walked back to the motel, we saw an artist painting a big painting on the ground. He sprayed some paint on the paper, and then put some fire to finish it off. I said to myself, ‘I wonder why he puts fire on the painting.’ The Canadian kid heard me and answered, ‘to dry the paint’. I was really impressed. Gradually, the images on the paper began to emerge. It was an animal drinking water in front of a waterfall. The crowd gasped and clapped.

22 – 23 November, 2012

P.S. I wonder what my readers think about this blog. It’s long and it’s just describing plainly what I did in Ecuador in 2012. Things I describe in this blog are just things that we do almost every day – no surprises at all. But that’s what life is. We don’t need to have surprises every day and yet, we know that we are blessed just by having a normal life. In 2020 and 2021, we started to learn that a ‘normal’ life shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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6 thoughts on “Terrible Bus Trip And Beautiful Baños

    1. According to the locals, trains are not fast at all. Buses are faster and they go to more places. It is pretty safe in South America. Common advice from all backpackers: exercise your common sense. That’s all.

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