Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, August 1, 2006

With Jason's altitude sickness improved, we decided to move on from Quito. We left in the morning, catching a taxi to the bus station. Getting a bus to our destination - Latacunga was easy! We are starting to love the ease of catching a bus in South America!

It was nice to sit on the bus and watch the world go by for a while. Although the bus driver was a total maniac, and we were wondering at some points whether or not we would make it to Latacunga alive. We were soothed by the tunes of C&C Music Factory, bringing smiles to our faces, and with Jason singing along (a bit too loudly bro), we were thinking of our big bro David - wishing he was here with us to enjoy some of his old "pumping iron" favourites.

We had asked how long the trip would take, and being around that time along with suspicions as to whether or not the bus was actually terminating at Latacunga we suddenly pulled over in the side street of a town, with some people getting off. Glenn jumped up to ask if we were at Latacunga. Yes! Hurry! The guy jumped off, opened the hatch and pulled out all of our big packs, all before we could comprehend what was happening. Glenn jumped off to get the big packs, while Christie and Jason tried to gather all the things (including Glenn's daypack) from the bus. Glenn was waiting with the big bags when the bus started to drive off - with Christie and Jason still on it! No!!! Stop!!! Glenn banged on the side of the bus, but it kept going.

The bus turned the corner before Christie and Jason managed to stop it and get off the bus, and relieved, we saddled up (appropriate description for how we carry our packs) and walked into town.

We looked at several places for accommodation - Jason was not overly impressed with the first few (the first one being quite a scary experience), even asking (with a worried look on his face) "Do you guys normally stay in places like this?" Yes, they were a bit basic. We finally found a decent place - really quite nice actually, and set out for lunch.

We spent the afternoon looking at the tour places to see what was on offer around here. The key interests were Cotopaxi volcano (a snow-capped, perfect conical volcano) and Lake Quilotoa, and aqua lake in a volcano crater. Glenn was keen to climb Cotapaxi (5897m), but was worried about enough time for acclimatisation and we were concerned that Jason may not do so well after suffering from altitude in Quito - this was, after all, much higher.

We decided to have a bit of a think about it over a coffee, and found a cute little cafe nearby. The hot chocolates that Christie and Jason had seemed a little weird but we just couldnīt put our fingers on it at the time. The waitress was lovely and very accommodating to our lack of Spanish. She decided that she needed a photo of us to put up on her wall, and Jason was sure that she was trying to pick him up! (hehe).

We weren't overly captivated by the tours on offer, and with common sense ruling out the volcano climb (with Jason suffering altitude sickness before), and with us all having seen beautiful aqua lakes before, we decided to move on the next day. It was a bit disappointing as there was potential for some good activities here, just nothing that sounded appealing enough for the time that we had.

It was back to the same cafe for dinner, and we had a great time with lots of laughs at how crap our Spanish really was. Although Jason was a little disappointed that 1) our photo hadnīt made it onto the wall yet, and 2) that the waitress was married with a daughter! (hehe again).

Rising early, we set out to get some breakfast, and bought some breads at a local bakery, and they were amazingly cheap. We ate as we walked, but Glenn insisted that he needed a coffee hit. We found a little place, which seemed busy with locals and so tried to ask for coffee. The conversation was a lot longer than it should have been to order coffee, but eventually it seemed as though we were understood, so sat down to wait. Out came cups of boiling water... ok, where is the coffee? The lady pointed to a container and opening it, it was filled with instant coffee powder. Raising an eyebrow, we made our coffees, and started drinking them. It was crap coffee (yes, no other way to describe it), but it still had caffeine, so it would still do the trick.

Then we had a surprise. Out came a dish with something on it that didn't look so appetising. We all looked at each other, wondering what we should do - we hadn't ordered this, or at least we didn't intend to! We decided that we probably agreed to them accidentally, so decided not to cause a fuss. They looked disgusting and Christie refused to try them. Glenn & Jason had a go - they were very oily empanadas (very likely yesterdayīs leftovers), and we hoped like mad that we wouldn't get sick from them. That was coffee with a surprise!

Returning to our hotel, we grabbed our packs and then made the long walk back to find a bus to our next destination. We had been given basic instructions from our hotel (in Spanish!) and so asked as we went, receiving further directions and funny looks at our poor attempt at speaking the language.

While almost there, but unsure which road to take, we tried asking some locals - and their blank looks told us that our Spanish was poor, when out of the blue, a guy walked past and spoke in perfect English - where are you trying to go? He pointed out the direction, and seeing our faces, continued to walk us down to the road where we had to flag a bus down. We are still amazed at the generosity of some people.

We waited by the side of the main road for a bus to Baņos. Every bus that came past stopped to ask where we were going, and eventually one pulled up that said yes to Baņos, so we jumped on. We made it a fair way toward Baņos, before we pulled in at Ambato bus terminal, where we found out the bus terminated! With rain coming down, they took us and our packs off the bus and led us onto another bus. We were worried that we would have to pay the fare for this bus again, even though we had paid the full fare to Baņos on the previous one (no receipts - just pay on the bus). Yet, to our surprise, they had organised it with the new bus, and we didn't have to pay again - we were impressed.

Baņos, here we come!
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