Carnival Holiday – Limón Indanza & Baños
I some places spring is coming and in Romania is the Mărtișor Day on 1st of March. But not here. All I can wish you is Happy Carnival, ‘cause this is what people celebrate in Ecuador. I heard now is the Carnival in Venice too, but it’s a total different thing. Here is really a national holiday (free days included). And it is not with masks or parades and samba like in Rio, but a big color and water blast. We fight with snowballs in the winter, the Spanish with tomatoes, the Russians with water on Ivan Kupala’s Day, here it’s a bit of everything – fun, fun, fun for everyone and very important, nobody gets upset. There is no snow, but “cariocas” (kind of foam tubes), flour, paints and water of course, are the most popular. Some use pig blood or eggs 🙂 So, I took advantage of a mini vacation – 4 days for travelling. I didn’t get away without being smeared ‘cause there was a total multicolor mess in the Friday school bus. They transformed me into an Avatar. The backpack is ready, I wash the blue and go to Macas for the classical provisions of crackers and fish cans. I have time just for a fruit yogurt for lunch ‘cause the bus has started the engine. Destination: Limon Indanza, a canton in the same province, Morona Santiago, but about four hours distance. Besides the fact that the bus is going slower and stops often, in this little country you shouldn’t calculate the distance just by the number of kilometers like most of us we are used to, ‘cause even if the roads are quite good, they go through mountains and forests. I have enough time in the car for a nap, some empanadas and movies (Mission Impossible and half of the last Terminator). So happy I was when the first film started in English, unfortunately just for three minutes. I hate dubbing. I really miss watching a normal film. I’ve seen just one so far, at an English teacher’s house. All the way I am fascinated by an amazing landscape and at around 5 P.M. I arrive in Indanza (6.25$). I chose this pace for the famous Inca rock drawings (Catazho petroglyphs). But not here, in a further place, in the San José community, Miguel de Conchay parish, at a pretty walking distance ‘cause it seems to be no bus and I don’t want a pick-up taxi. After a walk of an hour and something, impressed of the splendid green surroundings, I find a pretty good place to camp ‘cause soon it will be dark – it is the only flat spot I’ve seen; I’ve been walking downhill so far, towards the Indanza valley. Even if it’s close to the road, not so many cars pass by anyway and there is a kind of shelter nearby in case of a big rain (an unfinished house, just with roof and foundation). I have a small waterfall not so far, there are plenty of fireflies and how couldn’t I sleep well when the crickets and froggies sing? Even on the back, ‘cause I didn’t mention what I’ve got after my last trip: the biggest blister on one foot from the rubber boots, which I got rid of pretty soon, and a little Chimboratzo volcano on my back, a huge kind of furuncle, red and painful. I was impressed not to pay anything at the hospital, also receiving free prescription. Coming back to my tent and to my sardine dinner, the sounds of the night are disturbed at one point by the song the rain. It doesn’t scare me, but it soaks me a little. And it goes on in the morning, not too much, enough to half-dry the wet things inside the shelter. I wash my face in the small waterfall, eat some crackers and continue my journey – dozens of birds and a nice view, especially because the clouds are going up. After a couple of hours, I arrive in San José – a few houses, a school and a church. It goes further up, where I have to walk for another half an hour. Surprised how could I travel alone, some locals offer me fresh sugar cane juice made on spot on a device pulled by a horse. The people are nice, but not the dogs. I think they were four of them surrounding me, but I’m lucky to get away just with a very small bite. I find the rocks with the ancient carved drawings: helixes, anthropomorphic figures, crosses, even a scrawled Diana. ARGHHH, what a fool!! I appease my hunger with guava for lunch, but not the appetite for adventure. Too bad I have to take the same road back so I don’t say no to a minibus on the half of the way. And because my feet are still eager for walk, from Indanza I keep going further on, following the national road, hoping for a lift or bus. But a car seldom goes by; half of them are taxis and the rest don’t even stop. There was a family who would have picked me up, but their kid was sleeping in the back … At least the landscape is nice. Some trucks pass by, but they are so slow that I dare raising my hand just for a friendly salute. A kind woman whom I’m asking water from also offers me a “bolo” (iced juice in a plastic bag; in Malawi they called it “freezer”) and it cheers me up. I savor just a half of it; the rest is melting in my hand in the undertaking which is to be happen: a bitch (using all the meanings of the word) doesn’t just bark at me, but IT simply attacks me. I bawl at her in Spanish with no use, I keep away from the bites and get away just with a fright; if I had been fatter I would have lost some kilograms after those ferocious growls! Of course there was no car in all this time or any person passing by. After more than one hour walking to the next village, I meet the road which comes from Cuenca and hope for more cars; and indeed, after less than ten minutes I catch a bus to Macas; I’m not yet in the hitch-hiking trip so I don’t make a fuss even if I don’t have a seat for a while. In a 20 minutes stop I have time for a coconut milk and a soup with fries in it (something new for me but tasty). As it is already late to go to the next destination, I decide to spend this night at home and go on next morning to Baños. The English have Bath, in Romania we have plenty of Băi, Ecuador has Baños. In the morning I’m at the terminal where there’s no bus for me … just one for Puyo in one hour; so I go to Santa Ana without more ado to try my luck with a lift. So far I taught hitch-hiking is working pretty good here, but this trip told me I was wrong … or at least on the national roads. So, one hour passes and I take the bus to Puyo, where I have a direct connection for Baños. It costs me 7.5$ in total. So here I am in “Bath”, so uninspired to choose one of the most popular touristic attractions of Ecuador as a destination for Carnival. Full of tourists!!! I don’t really have time to lose searching for a place to camp outside the town, so I start the adventure of looking for a cheap hostel. I said well ‘adventure’, ‘cause all the rooms are full or there is no vacancy just for one person and for sure not cheap this time of the year, in high season. There are also lots of policemen on the streets. After searching and searching, I reach a small side street where I see a graffiti on one wall indicating a backpacker’s hostel. I try my luck and find room in a 12 beds dormitory for 12$, breakfast included and a dinner on the house. Why could not be direct proportional and pay 1$ for a single? But I don’t miss the chance and take two nights. It is full of foreigners here too, even the receptionist is not local, but Russian. After the classical 2.5$ almuerzo (lunch) at one of the local cafeterias, I go for a hike to get out the crowd. I visit Mary, the virgin one, for a view of the town from above. I find a path up there and I start following it; I don’t regret it ‘cause I find no one but two persons whom I overtook and probably went down. After a while I reach a place which was in the plan for the next day: Casa del Arbol. Bingo, I kill two birds with one stone! But because this is a place reachable by car, imagine how many people I find here. I wait at a huge queue but it’s worth that minute in one of the popular high swings above the clouds. On my way back, I follow the main road until Bellavista La Cruz, another spot to admire Baños de Agua Santa from. After a canelazo break (with trago) and some snaps, I take the trekking path to the town ‘cause it is almost dark already. And what I find in town? Carioca battlefield. It’s snowing foam!
A bit overrated this Baños! The surroundings are nice, indeed, ‘cause it lays at the feet of Tungurahua Volcano, but the trails and the attractions are not so impressive. Maybe it’s different for those (with some money) searching for adrenaline, ‘cause here is the capital of extreme sports – canopy, rafting, canoeing, biking, climbing etc. Nor the next day’s hike to “Las Antenas” is very amazing – a road for cars (2 hours walk) up to some antennas, a viewpoint of Baños and surroundings. I catch a lift on the half way back, a nice couple from Quito. I finally enjoy a nature trail towards some lagoons/lakes, but unfortunately it’s a bit late. From Vizcaya village (1 hour by bus) there are 2.5 h to Valencia Lake and 4h to Limonturo. At about 16:30 I reach a forest with too many (muddy) paths, so I return, also because I have to catch the last bus; I missed it anyway, but there is always another chance, this time a 0.50$ pickup. To be in the back of the truck during the carnival it’s not a very bright idea. I got three buckets of water! But I’m going to the pools anyway. I’m queuing like in Vatican or Louvre and with three bucks I have access to the thermal baths with holy volcanic water :). I think there was a saying with the fish. I think the sardines have more space in the can than us in the pools! There are three different ones with varied temperatures. After boiling myself in the first one, I squeeze my way in the wormish one and in the last pool, full of kids, I really have to take care not to step on bodies. The water being ankle-high the people lay down. What a swarming! But it was fun! In the morning, I have time before the check-out to go to Pailon del Diablo, the most famous waterfall in Ecuador. And it’s really worth it! In translation, The Devil’s Cauldron has something different from an usual one – the path leads you straight under it, you get wet, there are suspension bridges, stairways, narrow tunnels, viewpoints and great landscape. There are actually two trails (1,5$ & 2$ entry fee), both spectacular! Too bad the school starts the next day, so I catch a direct bus back to Macas.