Monday, May 3, 2010

Ecuador II

We left Quito late in the morning, it was overcast and we couldn´t see any volcanoes around us. We took a bus to the nearest town of Tambillo on the Panamericana. We started hitching, but somehow we got disoriented and when the car stopped the driver informed us that we were heading back to Quito! We felt stupid, turned around and walked to the other end of town. Again. There was no good take off spot, so we kept walking. It started drizzling, turning to rain later on. It started raining heavily as we were passing a truck scale station, complete with a two-storey building for the the police to watch over traffic. There was a porch on the backside of it and we sat down there waiting for the rain to stop. It didn´t. George was practising his flute and Anastasia was making bracelets. A security guard came up to the sound of music and chatted with us. The building was sort of abandoned but the guard used it to store his things in it. The key to the door was a piece of wire laying on a nearby sill. Anastasia picked the lock in under 30 seconds and we looked around the place. It was empty, had a locked toilet, an empty kitchen and a second floor with a 360 degree view of the landcape and the highway. However, we decided not to trespass and to sleep outside under the cover of the roof. Don´t mess around with the police, man!
It was getting dark and as we were boiling soup for dinner, the same guard came back, showed us how to pick the lock and invited us to spend the night on the second floor. We had a comfortable night as it rained outside.In the morning we walked a bit more and got a lift to Latacunga. There is a very high and beautiful volcano Cotopaxi near it, but the clouds were still hanging low. Another lift to Ambato, with an extremely polite and interesting Colombian, Ivan. How nice it was to get the feel and hear the expressions of that beautiful country once again.
From Ambato we headed to Baños, which we believed to be a beautiful resort town. Anastasia planned to sell some of her bracelets there. Well, Baños wasn´t beautiful. Ten years ago an eruption of the near-by volcano leveled the old town, and the new one was ugly with half-finished disproportional buildings, most of them hotels. 150 of them in a town of may be 10 000 people. Everything for the rich tourist. Lots of offices offering horse-back riding, rafting, waterfall excursions and so forth. We found the cheapest room in town, without even a window. In the morning we felt sick and didn´t feel like partaking in any of the wonderful opportunities which were offered on every corner. There was no traffic heading out of this hole, plus a walk to the hitching spot was up a very steep and long hill. We chickened out and instead boarded a bus to Riobamba and then to Calabamba for a buck. How lucky that we did!
As soon as we plunked our bags on the shoulder and did not even have time to raise a hand, a pick-up pulled over, driven by a Russian-speaking ecuadorian Luis! The ride was long and spectacular, with steep drop-offs on one side and tall walls on the other. In the meanwhile, Luis told us about his university years in Odessa back in the 80´s, his ukranian ex-wife Svetlana and we discussed traditional Russian dishes at length. What a good feeling it was to speak Russian half-way across the globe! Luis was very excited to treat us to a local specialty - cuy, which is a coal roasted hampster. To his dissapointment, we told him that we were vegetarians and therefore could not accept his offer. Instead, he treated us to a spinach soup followed by a big portion of rice with potatoes and an egg at the roadside eatery. Very tasty indeed!
After 4 hours of going throught the mountains, we rolled into Tambo, where we got off to see the Inca ruins, the most important ones in Ecuador. As we were exchanging e-mails, phone numbers and saying farewells, in his excitement George forgot our camera in the truck. Damn.
Anyway, it was raining when we got out so we decided to postpone our visit to the ruins until tomorrow. There was a train station in town with a big roof over the platform. It was the only dry spot we could see so we decided to settle there for the night. Luckily, it was quite boring to just sit and watch the rain fall, so we went to a near-by internet cafe to kill some time. When we asked the owner of the cafe if it was allright for us to sleep at the station, he invited us to spend the night in an empty room in his house instead! So we spend another dry and comfy night indoors.
When we got to the ruins early in the morning, they were just opening up. At the entrance, the lady initially asked us for $6 per person to enter. We made long faces and said that we could not afford such a huge entry fee. She then agreed to let us in for a dollar each. What a difference! It was our first taste of the perfect Inca stonework, but other then that the site left us unimpressed.
Later in the day we got to Cuenca, another beautiful colonial town, and tried to call Luis, who was in town, but his phone was off. So we had nothing else to do but to go to a hostel and wait until tomorrow to meet our friend again and to retrieve our camera.The next evening we met with Luis and he treated us to a superb drive around excursion of the town, complete with an authentic dinner in an authentic ecuadorian eatery, the type that fries its goods on a coal stove out front to lure in customers. A great finale to our stay in town, we head out tomorrow!


  1. I hope you get your camera back! and I hope your luck with dry safe sleeping places continues :)

  2. Maybe, it's time to buy a new camera:))

  3. Hesi: we got the camera and thank you, we hope our luck continues as well!
    Kate: no, not yet, it came back to us. Which means it likes us.

  4. Guys you're amazing :) I forgot to breath during the reading :)

    (nice map on the right, cool) :)

  5. Adding a Google map was a nice touch!