In Mindo-still trying to catch up with my entries!

Trip Start Jun 27, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Again I am still in Mindo but I am trying to catch up on my travels over the past couple of weeks!  This is an entry from July 31st 2008- Banos Ecuador
Banos: My physical challenge.
I awoke to the crowing of a few roosters. After a couple of weeks in Cotopaxi and the Quilotoa Loop the roosters good morning has become a welcome wake up call. I brushed my teeth and quickly changed into my bathing suit- hoping to get to the town's mineral baths as early as possible... beating the crowds. As I grabbed my keys I checked the time to discover it was merely 3:15am! Yikes!!! Stupid roosters I grumbled to myself as I crawled back into bed. I lay silently for an hour- enjoying the stillness of the morning. Finally around 4:30 I quietly snuck out of the dorm room to the bath house to enjoy the natural hot springs. I knew that today was going to be a great day.
I had heard that one of the best things to do here in Banos is to bike the 61 km from Banos to Puyo. 4-5 hours to Puyo and to return all you have to do is hail a bus- the majority of the 61 km was said to be downhill. I thought "4-5 hours- mostly down hill- no problem!" I rented a mountain bike- checked out the map... one road- thought "thank goodness- I can't get lost!" I departed at 9am and quickly calculated my return time to be between 2 and 3pm. (incorporating frequent stops along the way.) PERFECT!
The sun was shining brightly and seemed to promise a rewarding afternoon. I had the road almost to myself because the other tourists seemed unable to roll out of bed early while on vacation.
I was the first person to arrive at the first main waterfall. The sky tram operators were just arriving for the day. I looked at the yellow sky tram that was suspended from the metal wires- checked out the distance to the ground - checked out the distant destination and decided to pay the $1 fee for the ride across. I recalled passing another sky tram that was now a relic of rusting parts... tram suspended in the middle of the track- teetering back and forth in the wind... not a good thought!
I watched as the worker shut the gate- the latch didn't work. Hmmm... that probably isn't good. Peligroso? I questioned. No, seguro. He replied. As the tram started to whirl across the ravine I decided it would be best to switch sides and so I stood on the farthest end from the gate! J I quickly forgot about the safety or danger of the equipment as I looked at my surroundings. Surreal. Simply surreal.
I hiked and took photos for about 30 minutes before taking the return trip back. By now there were a few other tourists on bikes.
For the next couple of hours I stopped frequently. The views were amazing as I was surrounded by lush green mountains- and it seemed as if there were waterfalls at every turn. Mariposas danced along side of me and birds sang cheerfully in the distance.
There were many tunnels that cut through the mountains- and thankfully bikers only had to make it through one. The map and bike shop both failed to mention the one tunnel! Although it was the shortest tunnel- and you could clearly see the exit- it still was a heart stopping adventure. Heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel had never had such meaning! I pedaled my little heart out in the eerie pitch black of the tunnel that was obviously not reinforced. My ears were on high alert for the sound of an approaching vehicle. Luckily none passed while I was in the pitch black tunnel!
I approached the largest waterfall right before noon and hiked the one hour round trip up and back. I must be well over half way I thought happily. I watched as the majority of other bikers called it quits- placing their bikes into trucks and paying the $2 ride back. Glancing at my watch I wondered how people could throw in the towel before 1pm.
I bought a water and as I cheerfully slugged back the cool liquid I inquired as to how much further it was to Puyo. I almost choked when the woman answered 45 km! Gadzooks! I figured it must be all downhill if everyone says it takes 4-5 hours total. I better get a move on I thought as I began peddling. I was bound and determined to make it to Puyo!
Every 30-45 minutes there seemed to be another "look out" point- side roads that lead to various waterfalls... I rode every single one. In the beginning I took photos of every waterfall- "oooh'd and awwww'd at the beauty of each- being totally enamored by the sounds, smell and awesome force of the water. I was intrigued to see how the Rio Negro grew larger and larger as it gained power- and contemplated the greatness of it all. I think it was somewhere around 2:30pm that I started to lose interest in the waterfall sites, although I continued to off road it at every signage that instructed me to do so.
I lost ALL interest in these turn offs after I rode for 40 minutes on a rocky road to a look out that couldn't actually be considered to be a waterfall so much as it could be called a run off of some sort. The road was up and down- up and down the entire way. I was so happy when I finally approached the bridge- but to my GREAT dismay the bridge had not yet been completed! Disaster! I had to turn around and trek the 40 minutes back! THAT was the LAST time I rode one of those "look out" roads! And after that every waterfall I passed- I would appreciate it as I whizzed by- and in my head they would register briefly as "yup- another waterfall. Cool. Whatever. Where the hell is Puyo?" J
I huffed and puffed- pedaled and pushed- walked and rested throughout the remainder of the road to Puyo. I started to have an absolute HATRED for these STUPID yellow road signs that pictured a car going uphill- reminding me that the "practically all downhill" was highly misleading! I found myself playing the same game that I did while hiking up to the Cotopaxi refuge... picking a number between 10 and 25 and forcing myself to pedal that many revolutions before being able to take a brief break.
I physically hugged the green sign that announced Puyo! I MADE it and it only took me 9 hours including the one hour bus ride back!
What a rewarding day! One of my best!!!
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