Last stop before home

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Where I stayed
La Floresta Hotel Banos
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Sunday, December 22, 2013

After saying goodbye to Isabel, my lovely host at The Lava House and to Lenny who dropped by very early in the morning to say goodbye I was off in a taxi for the 1hr trip back across the island going through the beautiful highlands one final time. Then I joined a few tourists but more locals on the 5 minute ferry across the channel and then waited for the airport bus to take us to the terminal. By mid-morning I had taken off from the Galapagos and was making my way to Quito with a stopover in Guayaquil.  There is not a plane to or from the Galapagos that doesn't stop here.  Finally arriving in Quito mid-afternoon I had to find my way to the southern bus terminal in order to catch a bus to a little town called Banos in the central highlands of Ecuador.  I was directed to take the blue bus which I thought was a good idea at the time but when it took almost 1.5 hrs to get to the bus station I was second guessing my decision.  More or less being ordered off the bus from the airport on a large 4 lane street I had to make my way across and into the terminal.  There as I was making my way to the ticketing area, people from booths were calling out destinations and so followed the word "Banos" and asked for a ticket.  The ticket had Ambato as the destination but through Spanglish I got the idea that when I arrived at that bus station, I would be transferred to another bus which I thought was weird and then thought well the worse  thing would be I’d have to buy a another ticket.  Getting on the bus, the driver and crew knew my destination was Banos and after we had arrived and departed the Ambato bus station close to 3hrs later and they hadn’t kicked me and others off, I figured that they were continuing on to Banos.  Well that was wishful thinking because what really happened was a few kilometers outside of town in the direction of Banos they pulled over by the side of a road near a gas station and everyone got off and told me to get off.  I quickly surmised I would have to flag down another bus going to Banos. I definitely wasn’t alone (but the only gringo) as there were crowds of people flagging down just about anything to see if they were going in the direction they needed to go.  I confirmed in my limited Spanish that I would indeed catch a bus to Banos here with a lady with lots of parcels and quickly learned she was going to Banos as well, so I kept my eye on her and her husband who was trying to flag down a taxi willing to go to Banos.  They did find one, and not knowing when this bus might come and thinking they had room as I was approaching them to ask she made eye contact and said “Banos” and more or less welcomed me to join along with them and one other passenger. Another 45 minutes later and a wild ride endured through the mountains we arrived at the bus terminal in Banos with an incredible cost to me of $2USD.  Relieved to have arrived after more the 12hrs of travel, I made the short walk through town to my hotel, La Floresta ( ) looking for a place to have a decent meal and well wanted beer and walked by the Stray Dog pub  ( ) which I had read about and was told to go to. So after checking into my fancy room (splurging here as the birthday is coming up) I headed back out and up the road the two blocks to Stray Dogs to try one of their micro-brews and chow down on a pulled pork sandwich.  It was a quiet little place but a good vibe, potential for my birthday in a couple of days.

Options of things to do the next day were vast but honestly knowing I was going home in a few days I really didn’t want to do anything.  Another hike up a mountain to see a cross or another up-close and personal moment with a waterfall at this point in my trip was not going to make or break the experience. But going to a hot spring pool might be interesting, so after a walk around town during daylight and noticing slightly more life around the main square, I went and joined mostly the locals and perhaps a couple of tourists in the hot spring pools, complete with mandatory shower caps.  I confess I didn’t spend much time in each of the respective pools mostly because they were quiet warm and not that particularly clean.  Instead I enjoyed sunning for a while by the pool, and cooling off a couple times in the 36C water.  I whittled the afternoon away lounging in the garden of the hotel again enjoying the rays of the sun and then passed the evening in Casa Hood a popular restaurant serving quality Mexican food. 

The next day was my birthday and though I wasn’t celebrating in near the fashion as I did the previous year (Taj Maha)  I still wanted to mark the day somehow, aside from choosing to be here in Banos instead of the humongous metropolis of Quito.  So I had made plans to have a spa day using the recommended spa from my hotel.  It was nothing fancy but for a mere $90.00 USD,  I had 3 body treatments including a 1 hour massage and a mani/pedi.  You can’t get even one of these at a spa at home. So after spending the morning at the spa and feeling rejuvenated I decided to go to one of the coffee shops in town and treat myself to a piece of cake but of course I picked the one coffee shop in town that doesn’t serve any sweets or dessert so opted for a decadent Mint Latte. Back at the hotel I was in the garden reading and had a conversation with the lady at the desk in which I mentioned it was my birthday and she came to me later with a plate of chocolates and a flower and wished me a Happy Birthday.  Very sweet and I was touched.  Seeing as my birthday fell on a Friday night I had some hope that there might be something happening around town but I could not have been more wrong.  I returned to the restaurant from the previous night as I enjoyed it and while I was one of at least a dozen the night before I was one of a handful tonight.  Not to deterred, as I enjoyed my meal I strolled over to the Stray Dog pub and I walked into a completely empty bar. Having met the owner Jason a couple days ago I popped right into conversation about the fact the place, the town was so empty and he 100% agreed but didn’t have an answer.  Ordering a pint anyways we continued chatting and came to find out that his waitress Johis, was also celebrating her birthday and they were going to have a bit of a fiesta at the bar and was certainly hoping for more people to show up, friends or otherwise.  In the meantime they were baking a cake and invited me to stay and stay I did.  I can’t say that any other tourists came to the bar that night but a few locals did and some of Johis’s friends showed up including another birthday girl.  What a coincidence, at least in my books.  My limited Spanish and their limited English didn’t seem to put a damper on the festivities and it turned out to be a great night with some dancing and of course Happy Birthday was sung and I finally got my piece of birthday cake. 

Saturday was a travel day back to Quito and I wanted to leave fairly early in order to arrive in a decent time to perhaps explore some of the city.  Thankfully the 4hr bus ride was relatively uneventful (except for the throw-up kid) as it was much easier to catch an express bus from the terminal to the terminal in Quito.  Once in Quito, it was a taxi from another 45 mins to my hotel in central Quito by the Parque El Ejido.  I did a little bit of a wandering around my hotel and did some last minute shopping but on the whole was not too impressed with what I saw and definitely got the vibe around dusk that it was time to get indoors.  With a very early wake up call to get to the airport for an 8am flight it was an early night, but not before exploring the TV channels on the first big screen TV I’ve seen in a very long time.

The day I was due to arrive back home, Toronto was enduring some major weather with two storms colliding with each other resulting in a freezing rain/ice storm.  It was thought that there would be little chance that I would make it home but with both my flights originating from outside the storm area, the only delay was from air traffic control in Toronto delaying our arrival time by about 30 minutes.  Finally being able to use some of my points on this trip, I splurged and booked business class to fly home thinking it would be nice to enjoy the benefits on my return trip.  And enjoy I did but it was only a few hours later, after arriving at my parent’s house to no power and heat (result of the ice storm) that I feel ill with food poisoning that lasted much longer then the 27hrs without power.  The irony of both the storm and falling ill on the day I arrive home from a 16 month trip around the world and not experiencing anything remotely like this, keeps me smiling and thinking it was an adventure to the very end, and perhaps beyond.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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Kit Eaton on

Well you have had a fabulous trip Molly and kept a lot of those you have met in your travels entertained with you excellent observations on the new places you have been to and given us a different slant on the places we've seen together (for me it was the 3 months in India). Certainly your further adventures have inspired me to look for more places to visit - the Galapagos have been on my list for a long time and your experiences have fired me to stir myself and do something about moving them from the "to-do" list to the "done that" list.
Enjoy things at home, although I see from the news reports you are in for another set of stormy cold weather, however please, please write us a postscript summarising your travel experiences and telling us how you are getting accustomed to life after travel and when you pass through the UK again remember to give me a call so we can enjoy another beer or 3.
Take care - Kit

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