Friday, April 3, 2009

My Brother, Some Monkeys, and Baños!

A lot has happened in the last week!! I guess that´s what it´s like when you´re constantly on the road!!
My brother arrived successfully last Friday night, only about an hour and a half delayed, but unfortunately without luggage, so our plans to head to the jungle the next day were thwarted. It was so good to see him though, and we had a nice day hanging out in Quito. I had my first real meals in awhile, one at a little café called the Magic Bean, and we had some delicious seafood at a tiny, grungy hole-in-the-wall.
Quito was a much cleaner city than both of us were expecting--an interesting introduction to South America for my bro!! We wandered from New City to Old City to check out the old colonial architecture and the Basilica. It´s a gorgeous cathedral with stained glass just as lovely as stuff I´ve seen in Europe! We also found a few insanely clean parks and markets--Quito must be a rather rich city!! Even the restrooms in the park were nice, with toilet paper--practically unheard of down here!
We were given the run-around for Adam´s luggage, we called several times and were given several different instructions. Finally, we decided to go to the airports ourselves on Saturday, and after fighting a bit with the people there, we finally got his backpack!!
We checked out of our (slightly fancy) hostal quickly and headed to the near-Oriente jungle, Mishuallí via Tena. It was a gorgeous bus ride on typically crazy mountain roads, except these mountains were jungly!
The closer we got to Mishuallí, the hotter it got, and we were rewarded with about a million percent humidity when we finally arrived. It was a tiny, quiet town right on two rivers, surrounded by jungle, and filled with monkeys! The monkeys in the town are a descendant of a local tame monkey, but they of course multiplied to a bunch! They were really entertaining--I actually broke my camera because I took so many pictures of them! Still broken...stay tuned on that front.
Although we wandered and got a taste of the jungle, Mishaullí was mainly scavenging food (we´re travelling during the down season, and very few restuarants were open due to lack of business) escaping the heat, reading in the heat, and watching the monkeys! Our hostal was nice, with a balcony and a weak fan, so we spent many an hour overlooking the square and drinking the local beer, Pilsener (not nearly as good as Cusqueña I´m afraid!!).
From Mishuallí, we took a long, but pretty, bus ride to Baños, a popular visiting places for gringos and Ecuadorians alike. It was a really nice town, pretty touristy, but our hostal was great! Plantas y Blancos, it was called, with a delicious restuarant, free internet, and plants everywhere. We also had some great food in Baños--I´m really enjoying eating out!!--such as pizza, Mexican, local dishes (mostly chicken) and ice cream, of course. Adam doesn´t have much of a sweet tooth, but even he enjoyed the ice cream we tried.
The first day we were in Baños it was freezing, so we mostly wandered around the square. The next day dawned gorgeous, so we set out to find a few local waterfalls. We found an ancient bridge and some rundown trails, caught a glimpse of one waterfall, and managed to find another gigantic one along the way. It was fun wandering around the gorge and watching the river. We stumbled upon our zoo on the way back, and stopped in. It was not nearly as depressing as the zoo in Cusco, although it was no San Diego Zoo for sure!!
We saw tons of local, bright birds, turtles, local cats, and lots of monkeys. We saw capybaras, my brother´s favorite, and we even happened to come across a couple of tapirs, sleeping in a random fence or anything! Those things were not was a freaky moment turning around and seeing a giant pig/anteater thing sleeping a few feet away!! They also let the monkeys run loose a bit at feeding time--weird.
Our last day in Baños we hiked up to a statue of the Virgin Mary--preceded by the same number of steps Christ took with the cross. It was a tough, hot hike--I thought the stairs would never end!--but the views of the town and valley, as well as the local volcano, were worth it. The volcano is active, which was a first sight for both of us, and it basically looked like a mountain shooting steam! Cool sight.
Baños weirdly gets cool in the evenings, so after running a few errands (including sending a million more postcards, although they never actually seem to go anywhere--maybe Ecuador will be more reliable--) and eating yet another delicious dinner, we headed to one of the many hot springs, from which Baños gets its name! They were definitely hot--but so amazing!! Heaven to a bath-addict like me who has been deprived of said joy for the last few months. Although at least I usually have a hot shower on the road...
We left Baños this morning, and actually had to wait in the bus station for a change. We´ve been really lucky since Adam got here--we haven´t waited more than five minutes in a station! We enter, tell someone our destination, and get thrown on a bus. Adam had to stand for a bit once, and he weirdly seems to attract schoolkids on many of the buses, but otherwise, they´ve been pretty smooth.
Today we waited twenty minutes--still pretty nice--and hopped on for a two hour trip to our current town, Riobamba! Riobamba is a bit of a shock after freakishly clean Quito and cute little Baños--it´s much more like the South America I´m acquainted with. Still nice! Currently pouring rain, but we visited a few churches and parks before the torrents hit. I´m still missing my camera, but my disposable will do for now--I even made a friend in one of the cathedrals, a little old nun praying, who invited me to take a picture of her! Odd.
Well, enough random stories for now! After Riobamba, we hit Guayaquil and the coast, I can´t wait!! We leave tomorrow after seeing the famous markets...and I will keep you all posted! I can´t believe I will be back in the states in about three weeks--it´s been a long, crazy, yet quick trip! And my adventure is not over yet :) MISS and LOVE!! xxx

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