Tungurahua....towering over town...

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Apr 08, 2008

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Sunday, March 23, 2008

Out of Quito...off to Banos, an Ecuadorian vacation destination...and as it's Easter weekend, it's a busy town.  But immediately it feels like a good place to be.   Right at the base of a towering and active volcano...Tungurahua.......this little town of 12,000 seems to have about 20000 this weekend.  We get in around 4PM...the bus station is loaded with sugar cane sellers and chocolates for Easter.  We wander thru town, find our hostel, and get engulfed by a Canadian family of ex-pats.  And sometimes ex-pats (those deciding to live in a country other than their home) can be pretty weird with their conspiracy theories and their world-as-we-know-it-is-coming-to-an-end ideas.  And these folks are no different.  Super high strung and just busting out with thoughts about Banos, they engage us with stories of their experiences.  They're moving to Ecuador because all hell is breaking loose in Canada - no actually according to them it's breaking loose in the USA and since our government RUNS their gov't, we're going to take them down with us...no actually we'll "kick down the Canadians first before we go down".  They start talking how messed up Canada is (which I'm surprised to hear anyone, esp a Canadian, say),  about paying 70-80-90 % income tax - which I find very hard to believe and how Ecuador is perfect - except for the fact, the only problem fact, that Ecuadorians will eat any animal they want.  Dogs, cats, pumas, bears, whatever...whether they're endangered or not.  As you can see, this is a pretty entertaining conversation...ex-pats always seem to have some outrageous story line about why they're leaving their home forever to find salvation at the hand of some other wonderful country.  Anyway, they gave us a bit of info about Banos and we finally excuse ourselves from their paranoia. 
The night continues as a series of contiguous but totally unrelated events.  There are the taffy makers on the street, pulling taffy with their hands - no sanitary gloves or anything - but when they give us a hunk to try, we gobble it down like it doesn't have every germ from under their fingernails in its stickiness.  There's all sorts of cool stuff to buy here and we do our part, but then work up such a hunger we have to have a meat on a stick appetizer in the night market, which consists solely of chicken bones, fat, and skin and some unidentifiable parts....I swear there was no meat on mine.  But I slurp down the salty tasting crunchy outerwear...only makes me crave real chicken for dinner.....we find a chicken place and split a half of a bird.   And then as we're finishing, the old street guy playing some random notes on his Andean flute comes by - and he plays the thing about as well as I do - we end up giving him the rest of our chicken and spoon the leftover rice into his greasy little plastic bag he pulls from his pocket.  Glad to put the leftovers up to good use.
We head out into the crowded streets...buy a few Virgins and saints at the religious tiendas that line the streets around the church.  And then we find out the Resurrection Mass starts in 15 minutes.  Of course after my Resurrection experience at Tierra Santa, I really want to check out this mass.  I have visions of a full choir singing the Allelujahs and a model larger-than-life Jesus rising up into the sky.  So we squeeze into a pew, it's jammed crowded, the lights go down and the service starts....no Allelujahs, no rising....just candles and that call and response singing.   Some woman in red is persistently squeezing me out of my space, so I decide to give it up to her.  We leave just in time to catch the Barney mobile that's cruising by in the streets.  It's this exceedingly long multi-carred vehicle that snakes around town in the name of a city tour.   It's wildly painted like a Flintstones vehicle with flashing lights and loud salsa music.  Great ride...the thing serpentines thru the streets and, in one wide intersection, starts going in circles, following its tail, whipping all the riders around.   Fun in the streets of Banos. 
I'm tired now, no more money, too much chicken (thirsty beyond belief from its saltiness), Lisa's still shopping... time to call it a day.  This town is pretty cool, opportunities for canyoning (I'll explain that later), white water rafting, checking out the active volcano (with a disco-stop included), to renting big sort of go-kart to drive around in - an option that's tempting us at the moment.  Lots to do here...may have to stay a few extra days to get it all in....

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