A short lived guided tour

Trip Start Jan 07, 2010
Trip End Jan 28, 2010

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Where I stayed
the Banos "Hilton"

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Friday, January 15, 2010

I woke up at 4 a.m. with an upset stomach to discover that the power had been cut and the toilet leaked. Neither deterred me from enjoying breakfast at 7:00.

An upfront payment of 500$ (we forgot to ask for a receipt) got us on the road with Nadia and Christian. We stopped at the Cotopaxi park (a popular 5897 metre high volcano climbing park) which required an additional guide for 45$ to enter. Since the park required more time that we were prepared to provide, we drove on.

While on the road, I noticed many geographical features in the cuts in the hills formed by the road construction. I ended up instructing our guide how to notice the layers of deposited clay-like soil and how the rounded rocks were suspended in the layers. She was not a geology student. However, she was able to point out things regarding native culture that I would have missed.

Farming is mostly done by native people in Ecuador. Over the years, they have farmed manually on the hillsides which don't lend themselves to the mechanised farming that we are used to. They also herd their livestock manually without even the use of horses as far as I could determine. Irrigation ditches efficiently transported the water along the sides of hills for the farmers but I couldn't see how they managed the distribution.

Lake Quilotoa, a well known tourist stop, run by the local natives, is a body of water in a volcanic crater. We were offered the opportunity to go down to the shore and back on horseback but, feeling sorry for the horse, and enjoying the best view from the top, we declined.

At the next local village, we stopped for lunch. Not only were the empanadas good, it was my first opportunity to photograph a native woman with permission. The brown fedora hat is a very distinctive sign that this woman is native Quechua (I think). Our guide told us that women wore feathers in their hats and men didn't, but this turned out to be incorrect. They wore blouses, sweaters, and colourful wrap-around skirts. A large scarf was used as a coat as well as a sling to carry sacks of potatoes and children. They were almost always well dressed and usually colourful. Generally they were good farmers and the Alpaca has been bred over the years for its wool that they use for making textiles that rival the best in the world.

Nearby, a Llama (note the banana shaped ears) posed for a photo. Cute huh?

A washroom at a roadside garage had a shockingly bad (pun intended) electrical setup for those who wanted a shower. Conductors from the ceiling light led to a knife switch with a broken cover to an inline water heater at the shower head. Let me count the code violations.

Our hostel in Baņos, booked by the guide's boss, was below standard. The broken window and awful view matched other aspects inside. We started to question the driver and guide arrangement. We were paying for the room and board of the driver and guide, but it didn't cover our room and board which we hadn't understood when we made the arrangement. We reviewed the notes on the paper that we had received when we negotiated the deal, and the details were not written down. The driver could not speak English and although the guide could, and she was very sweet, she wasn't very knowledgeable. So we had an awkward discussion with the guide pointing out the misunderstanding and left them some time to think about it. We went to the bus station to confirm that bus prices were generally about a dollar an hour per person. In the mean time, they went to the baths in Baņos and drank beer. When we met again, we agreed to terminate the arrangement. We would go on by ourselves, and they would head back to Quito. We hoped that we would get some of our money back.
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