Cloudy. Occasional rain.
I think that was what the weather was like at that time of the year.
I decided to do some hiking at Rio Verde to see the waterfall which was a bit far from the Baños town centre so I took a bus which cost nearly nothing.
Rio Verde was beautiful. The best part was to walk through a ‘small cave’ on my way to the waterfall. The cave was even better than the one in Terelj National Park in Mongolia. It was much narrower so I needed to squeeze myself through the exceptionally small gap to go inside the cave. Worse, the crowds kept coming into the crammed cave. But in retrospect, that was actually the best part of this Rio Verde walk.
The sense of achievement is particularly strong especially after you have experienced something difficult.
Rio Verde was really for someone who loved to climb up and down like a monkey. After the small cave, I continued to walk to another section of the trail and climbed through a narrow crack. It was even narrower than the previous one. With my day pack on my back, it was really hard for me to squeeze through it. I unbuckled my day pack, held it in one of my hands and then squeezed through it. A local girl saw me and stretched out her hand to help me to get up.
I walked behind the waterfall. It was so fun! But I think I got sick because of this. I got wet but didn’t dry myself so I became quite cold but at the same time, I was walking around and sweating. I think my body was not used to this. Prayed that I would be fine. I didn’t want to be sick on the road.
This trail was very popular among travelers. While I was there, I met tourists from different places. One English couple I met were having an 8-month honeymoon! They biked to this place and then walked down the waterfall. I don’t remember if they would extend their honeymoon but it was sweet enough.
I took another walk nearby but it was a bit boring so I went back to the bus stop. No luck. No bus. The locals told me I had to wait for 40 minutes so I took a short walk and went back to the bus stop again but, still, there was nobody at the bus stop. Two cyclists waiting at the roadside told me they hadn’t seen any sign of public buses. They were actually waiting for another ‘bus’ that could carry both their bikes and themselves but it cost USD2 per person. I kept waiting while talking to them. One of the cyclists told me he was cycling around South America. When I gave me the ‘wow! impressive’ look, he supplemented, ‘No, I sometimes let the engines do the job.’ LOL!
The public bus finally came. I bid farewell to them and took the bus back to Baños.
I didn’t let myself stop. When I arrived at the town centre, I took the walk up to Bellavista (The Cross) but I gave up after walking for a few minutes as it was getting dark and I was by myself.
When I came down to the start of the trail, I saw two American girls. They were going up too so I asked if I could join them. It turned out one of them worked as a volunteer in Baños. Wow! There were so many volunteers. In retrospect, it was probably a sign for me that one day I would become one (and I did in 2019).
It wasn’t an easy hike according to my journal. I think it was also because I didn’t take a rest after the Rio Verde hike in the morning. I kept walking anyway and the girls kept encouraging me. With their encouragement, I reached the top with them! I took a few pictures. We met a local guy at the hilltop who told us about the place but I didn’t understand Spanish so I couldn’t join the conversation.
It was getting dark and I wanted to leave. The two girls and the local guy accompanied me. It was so nice of them. I made it. We made it! As we were finishing the walk, the volunteer told me about a concert (a Mexican singer) that was going to be held that night and she also recommended the public bath to me. I wanted to go to the concert but I also wanted to try the thermal bath. She said the bath was nice and inexpensive so I took her word for it.
A thermal bath after two hikes – what more could I ask for!
Of course I didn’t jump into the bath with all my dirt. We all had to keep the place clean so we needed to take a shower before we jumped into the thermal bath. Everyone followed the rules strictly unlike in some places.
While I was soaking myself feeling comfortable, a mosquito bit me. At first, I didn’t realise it was a mosquito. I felt something sting me. I thought it was a thorn. When I touched it with my hand, I saw a dead mosquito and its needle! OMG! My skin where it bit me became swollen! At the same time, I could feel that I was getting a cold. I stayed in the hot pool for 15-20 minutes only because a local explained to me it could be harmful for me if I stayed for too long. When I finished, it was already late and I still hadn’t had my dinner. So between dinner and the concert? I chose dinner.
That night, I was so tired that I hit the sack without even having brushed my teeth.
The next day, the weather remained cloudy and again it rained intermittently like yesterday.
I visited the local market and took some photos but mainly, I needed to buy some water and snacks for my long bus trip to Cuenca tomorrow. After doing all the chores, I walked to the Basilica. I then realised it was Sunday when I saw the Mass going on. Date and time meant nothing, really. I didn’t plan anything today so I waited for the Mass at noon.
After lunch, I walked to Virgin. The trail was short but there were many steps. I had to stop to catch my breath. It could be because of the altitude or my age. There was a cemetery nearby. I had always loved visiting cemeteries. It felt so peaceful. Some of the empty tombs in the cemetery were reserved for other family members who were still alive.
Death is not a terrible thing. We all die one day. I like the idea of their empty tombs. It means these people are not afraid of death and they understand that one day it’ll be their turn. When the day comes, they know, it’ll just be a reunion with their family members.
After visiting the cemetery, I saw the sign saying ‘panoramic shots of the volcano Tungurahua’ (I think that’s the name of the volcano. In my journal, I wrote ‘Turuhu something like that’ so I guess I didn’t get it right then). As a hiking fanatic, I walked uphill.
But at nearly 5pm, I still didn’t see the lookout / view point of the volcano. As it got dark quite early, I decided to walk until 5:30pm. If I still couldn’t see it, I’d just leave. A few locals who went past me told me I could go the lookout point to take pictures. But I had no idea where it was.
It was getting dark.
I guessed I should leave.
Just as I was about to give up, I saw a local running up the hill. I asked him about the trail and the lookout but he didn’t know English and I didn’t know Spanish so the only think we could do was to guess what we were trying to say to each other.
On our way, I started to sing hymns for no reason and explained to him in simple Spanish. I didn’t really know the Spanish word for Praise so I translated it to gracias Señor. (I learnt the word in the restaurant in Quito and in some churches. But the proper one should be Dios. Well, I guess. That’s what Google translate says) He asked me if I was Católica. I understood this word! That was easy to guess! I nodded. I was learning some more Spanish words! And I asked him if he was Católic too. So, we started to teach each other simple English and Spanish words.
He took me to the viewpoint (close to the viewpoint I think, not exactly there) and then I said I had to stop. I was catching my breath again. So, he continued to run while I took a few photos. The sky was clearing but some clouds were still covering the volcano. It didn’t matter.
I walked down after taking a few pics. The guy finished his run so he ran downhill too. We saw each other again and started chatting again. He taught me a few more words like ‘tired’ – casanda. Si! I was! And a few others but I forgot. I started to sing again. This time, I sang my favourite song, ‘Here I am, Lord’. This was the only phrase I could say in Spanish in a complete sentence – Aqui Estoy Señor. (Hopefully, I didn’t get it wrong)
I felt really grateful that I had this stranger as a companion as I hiked up the hill by myself. When we said goodbye (it happened that he lived in a house on the foot of that mountain with his father if I understood him correctly), I could tell from his eyes that he was grateful too. He was an angel sent to me by Señor. 🙂
I decided to try the Chinese restaurant because these restaurants usually served hot noodle soup and that was exactly what I needed. It was still quite early when I entered into the restaurant. I greeted the receptionist with ‘Ni Hao’ which means ‘hello’ in Chinese. She was surprised and her eyes brightened up. She then sat down with me and then started chatting, ‘why did you travel here by yourself?’ was her first question. I shared my travel stories in Ecuador so far with her, and about my cold (that’s why I went to her restaurant), and I showed her my mosquito bite. What I didn’t expect was she immediately went into the kitchen, came out with a lime and then handed it to me! Wow! She taught me how to use it for the mosquito bite. That was so kind of her! She said, ‘you are just like my daughter. Don’t worry. It will go away soon. Your skin is sensitive to the mosquitos here. That’s why you have this reaction.’
It turned out my friend who was a pharmacist said the same thing to me when I sent a picture of that swollen area to him afterwards.
Two experts told me the same thing so I shouldn’t worry. I had been worrying about malaria.
The chef (her husband) personally served me the noodle soup and sat down and joined our conversations. I was so surprised! People from northern China are really kind and friendly! We chatted about everything until more and more customers came into their restaurant.
I went back to the B&B and asked the receptionist if he could help me reserve a room in Cuenca. The wifi didn’t work on my phone again. He didn’t know English and I didn’t speak Spanish. Good that I bought a dictionary in Quito so he wrote down the words and I looked it up in the dictionary.
The Canadian family came back after I finished doing all these chores. I told them about my plans for tomorrow. They looked a bit sad. I guess, we all have to move on. It was really nice to have met them. If it weren’t because of them, I wouldn’t have been in this place, met all these friendly people and done all these things.
The next morning, I woke up early to pack my stuff. A centipede came to my bedroom to bid me farewell. Thanks for that. I asked the B&B staff to handle it. Then I said goodbye to the Canadian family at breakfast. (Their kid should be 17 or 18 now this year in 2021). I gave a postcard that I brought from home to the B&B as they were very very nice to me (when I did research before my trip, a guy who had travelled to South America suggested I do it as a gesture of appreciation which I think was a good idea). The staff were all delighted.
I took a bus from Baños to Ambato and then to Cuenca. It took 11 hours to get here. OMG. I was so tired after the bus trip. Even though I was just sitting, it was very exhausting.
The hostel in Cuenca was a bit disappointing. It was not as clean as I expected but the shower was hot and the pressure was really good. It was my home temporarily and it cost only USD10 per night in a big city. What more could I ask for?
24 – 26 November 2012
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