Dawn broke early in Otavalo. We packed up our bags quickly and dashed to the station to catch our bus back to Quito. Two hours later we arrived back in that sprawling capital, then hopped into a cab that would take us the hour’s journey all the way across town to the station that served all locations to the south. We were bound for Banos, a city another three hours away that’s popular with both gringos and Ecuadorians alike.
With the congested, polluted streets of Quito rapidly fading in our wake, we entered a verdant valley teeming with smaller towns and fields full of crops and cows as far as the eye could see. The highway ran due south though “Volcano Alley”, and along the way Cotopaxi and Chimborazo stood tall, snow-capped and guarding the route like two silent white knights.
These would not be the last volcanoes we saw though. Upon finally arriving in Banos a couple of hours later, we got a good look at one of the things it’s famous for. High above this little town sits another mountain of fire called Tungurahua, and unlike its peaceful cousins to the north, this volcano is stirring. Just six weeks or so ago it had a bit of a spasm and shot a few bus-sized chunks of rock into the air and onto the town below. It was quiet on this day though, and we were grateful for that upon seeing all the signs throughout town marking the various evacuation routes and learning that folks there have a whopping three minutes to get out should the mountain show its anger.
Undeterred by this threat, we made our way to what would be our home for the next three days. And what a home it was! La Casa Verde is a charming guesthouse run by the Aussie/Kiwi combo of Douglas and Rebecca. They’ve created a true oasis in the mountains, a welcome respite for the weary wanderer. Spacious, clean rooms, hot water, fantastic food, and (saints be praised!) the ability to actually flush toilet paper instead of having to deposit it in the trash can provided. We were overjoyed. We spent the next few days strolling through the streets of Banos, doing various hikes to check out the many nearby waterfalls, soaking in the hot springs, and in general just relaxing and enjoying ourselves in the beautiful surroundings. It was difficult to pry ourselves away, but we knew a long road still lies ahead, so we once again packed up our bags and caught the next bus out of town. Our next stop is Puyo, a town an hour and a half away in the low lands on the edge of the jungle. We’ll check back in soon, so stayed tuned…